THE CLAlMS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINlSTRY
ON YOUNG MEN IN COURSES OF PREPARATORY STUDY*
Just a hundred years ago this very morning, behind some half-finished earth-works and a rail fence filled in with new-mown hay, about a thousand undisciplined militia-men undertook to defend Breed's Hill, near Boston, from the attack of two thousand British regulars. It was a hotter day than this has been, and the red-coats, heavily laden with rations for themselves and ball-cartridges for the Yankees, moved slowly up toward the fortifications which these latter had been throwing up during the night. Putnam and Prescott went about among our men, saying: "Aim low; wait till you can see the whites of their eyes!" That waiting was a test of of courage,— it is not easy to wait with a mighty column of troops moving upon you. But the raw recruits did wait till the British were only ten rods away, and then, taking sure and deadly aim, they fired. With that fire, scores of the advancing soldiers fell; the survivors faltered and began retreat. Their officers drove them back, and even pricked them with their swords to prevent their running away; reinforcing columns advanced; a second charge was made, but as before, half of the attacking force fell before the withering fire. If the Americans had only been provided with powder, they might have won the day,— but one round more exhausted their ammunition, and at the third general advance of the British, our men were obliged to retire. The battle commonly called Bunker Hill had been fought, and the inspiration and the lessons of it had become matters of history. Lost though it was, it was as good as a battle gained. It convinced our countrymen that war was upon them, and that they must fight it through. It nerved America for the long and bitter conflict that followed, by proving that British regulars were no more than a match for American volunteers. It furnished the type and seed of many after battles and of that final victory, which was gained by patience and fortitude and trust in God and the shedding of patriotic blood.
Here in these pleasant seats of learning and of religion, and at this quiet hour, there are no counter-signs and sentries and roll-calls after battle, and groans of wounded men, such as were there at Bunker Hill on the evening of that 17th of June, a hundred years ago. But I cannot repress the feeling that we are deciding the future, and planting the seeds of greatness or of shame, as really as they did then. A few men like Warren, who were willing to give their lives for their country, determined that day their country's
* An address written for the Anersary of Peddie Institute, Hiffhtstown, N. J., June 17, 1875.
position among the nations of the earth. And so you, in these preparatory schools, and in these societies that represent and adorn them, stand at the fountain head of coming history. What you are and what you do and what you resolve here, will make its mark not only upon your own lives but upon the character and fate of this and of other generations. We cannot estimate too highly the importance of this early work and of the decisions which are now made. Our philosophers and educators are coming to see that the elementary drill determines the future of the student and of the man. Let the primary instruction be absolutely thorough, and subsequent advancement will be natural and rapid. Let the boy begin his Latin with a listless and indolent and superficial spirit, and all after opportunities will serve him in vain. And so with regard to early impulses and aspirations. The first notions with regard to one's calling in life, and to the honorableness and advantage of the several pursuits in which men's hands and hearts are engaged, have much to do with the forming of the young man's character and the determining of his after failure or success. And this thought leads me to the subject of my address this evening. I wish to speak to you with regard to one of these pursuits in life, which is seldom formally commended to young men, but in which we all ought to be deeply interested. Standing, as I do, in a place where proper thoughts of it are so much to be desired, both for the sake of those who are planning their life-work, as well as for the sake of the church and the world, I feel called to speak to you for a few moments of the nature of the Christian ministry and its claims upon young men in course of study, as a pursuit worthy in itself, attractive in its surroundings, noble in its results.
I do not need to say more than a single word with regard to the nature of the Christian ministry. We all agree that there is a class of men set apart to be special representatives and spokesmen for God — to make known his will, to vindicate his claims, to proclaim his goodness, to win men to his service and love. There have been false priests and ministers, but they have only been counterfeits of the true, and their success has been possible only because there is an instinct in the human heart that bids it hope and wait for a revelation from God. The world has bowed to priests more than it ever has to kings, and that for the reason that the world has always recognized that its highest, grandest interests lay in the unseen and eternal. And now to be a true interpreter of this unseen uerse to men who long eagerly to solve its problems, to be the messenger of forgiveness and peace from this dread yet loving God, from whom men know themselves to be exiled and banished by reason of transgression, to be the divinely appointed helper of all righteousness and herald of immortal life to the sorrowing and perishing,— this is a higher vocation than any other known to men, by as much as it has to do with grander themes and more important destinies. Other callings, however noble, have to do with the finite and temporal,—this with the infinite and eternal. He who is honored with this calling is the partner of the living God in that work for the doing of which the floor of the heavens was laid with its mosaic of constellations, and the curtain of night and chaos rose at the creation.
But let my position and aim be fully understood. I do not take for granted that it is the bounden duty of all men, or even of all Christian men. to be ministers of the gospel. "No man taketh his honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." The Scripture tells us that "there was a man sent from God whose name was John," and that single sentence, like some painter's first rough sketch of a great picture, expresses, even more vividly than the finished portraiture, the essential secret of his life and work. John the Baptist was great, not only because he was commissioned by God, but because he knew and fulfilled this divine commission. But what was true of John's call may be true also of thousands whose special vocation is different from his. There are other callings, and many of them, in which men serve their generation by the will of God. Indeed, every man is called of God to do some special work for him, whether it be at the carpenter's bench, or on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war, or amid the strifes of the forum, whether by selling goods, or by healing men's bodily diseases, or by extending the area of scientific knowledge. And every man may find out what his calling is, and have the nobleness that comes from working consciously in the line of the divine purposes. Even though you may not be called to public preaching of the gospel, still you are called. As you value your interests for time and eternity, learn what it is for which God has created you and sent you into the world, and then give yourself body and soul to the work which he has for you to do.
But I am persuaded that God's call to enter the ministry is a commoner one than we think,— and that this call is often ignored by those to whom it comes, or if not ignored, at least questioned and resisted. This arises partly from wrong conceptions of the method in which the call is made known. Young men fancy that that call consists in some audible voice, or physical' impression, or supernatural conviction of duty. I venture to say that many men are called who have never known any of these. Let us remember that God's Spirit works from within, not from without. The Spirit does not supersede our own faculties, but energizes and works through them. Himself inaudible and invisible, he makes us hear and see what truth and duty are. But then, if we be naturally timid and distrustful, our convictions of religions duty will partake of this timidity and distrust. We shall have to weigh evidence and act according to the balance of probability. In this matter of determining whether we are called to the ministry, therefore, just as in determining whether we are called to be lawyers or merchants, it belongs to us to consider our endowments and opportunities for culture, our natural and our spiritual tastes, the advice and opinion of judicious friends, the impulses of our hearts when we are most under the influence of the Spirit of God. And as, in the person called, God's work does not exclude but implies a natural process of consideration and judgment, so it does not exclude but implies the cooperation of others. That was a strange notion of divine sovereignty which used to forbid the mother from praying for her own child, or urging him to become a Christian. As if that would interfere with God's work! God's work in turning the sinner involves our work of warning and kindly invitation. And so God's work of calling men, into the ministry of the gospel involves our work of seeking out young men, and laying before them the needs of the world and the claims of the Christian ministry. Of old, the churches selected fit men and laid upon them this responsibility, and when they fled from it, hunted for them until they found them and obtained their submission to the voice of the congregation. And modern times are not without notable instances of men whose first thought of preaching has been suggested by the formal action of the church to which they belonged. Mistakes have sometimes without doubt been made, and the voice of the church is not final and authoritative. There must be the inward feeling of the candidate himself responding to this call, if it does not, indeed, precede it. But this is what I urge — not only the privilege but the duty of Christian people to seek out those who have natural gifts for the ministry and who are providentially situated so that they can prepare for it, and to lay upon them the responsibility of considering and deciding whether God does not call them to devote themselves to the work of preaching the gospel to their fellow-men. It is our business to say to such young men, not that it is their duty to preach Christ's gospel, but that it is their duty to consider whether this may not be their duty, and, as a help to such consideration, set before them the real nature of ministerial work and the manifold arguments which incite a lover of Christ to enter upon it.
Such influence on my part and yours, is needful to counteract false impressions which have become prevalent in our day — impressions which work to the prejudice of the ministry, when its claims are considered by young men in course of study. We live in an age when the outward is all-absorbing. In the rush and noise and show of our money-getting time, the pursuits that are intellectual and spiritual constantly tend to be undervalued. Palpable results are sought, and it is deemed a hardship to spend in study the early years that might be employed in learning a trade or in gaining practical acquaintance with business. And so we have thousands of men successful so far as accumulation of property is concerned, who utterly lack the culture which would enable them to enjoy or to use their gains — men who know nothing but business and have no mental resources — men shriveled and dried up at fifty, when with early education their minds might be green and bring forth fruit in old age. In this over-active time it is forgotten that precocity of worldly development is really narrowing to the soul. Does the time of preparation for work in the ministry consume many years of youth? Well, it only prepares for a more vigorous and broad and joyful manhood — developes internal resources of knowledge and sympathy — opens deeper fountains of beneficent and holy influence. You have one only life on earth to live. Take time to make your preparations thorough. You have one only edifice of character and work to build. Take time to lay the foundations \ solid and strong. Learn a lesson from Jesus. He had the greatest work man ever had to do. Yet he waited calmly till his thirty years of preparation were finished, before he began it. If God had designed you to begin your work before the time set for the finishing of your studies, he would certainly have had you born earlier. Since he has waited so long for your appearance upon the stage, he can wait a few years longer till you are fully ready to serve him.
There are undoubtedly infelicities in the life of the minister of the gospel, and no man can serve Christ in the ministry without making great sacrifices. The ordinary minister must resign the hope of luxury and ease. Even the most successful will find that success is purchased only by care and labor. But is it different in other pursuits? Are not the great fortunes won by prolonged and excessive toil? And what proportion of those who enter upon the professions or upon trade achieve a competence? A celebrated Wall Street merchant told me that not one in a hundred that set up business in the street survived the vicissitudes of twenty years. The vast majority lost property and hope. The great money-marts are strewn with wrecks, if we could only see them. While the ministry offers few golden prizes, it <loes offer as safe and sure a support to a faithful man as business does. As the result of extensive observation it can be said that "they that wait upon the Lord shall not want any good thing." Levi had no portion with the tribes, but the Lord was his inheritance. What David said of the righteous in general is even more true of the ministers of the gospel: "I have not seen them forsaken, nor their seed begging bread."
But since there are popular impressions of the sort I have mentioned, it is no more than fair to oppose to these certain undoubted advantages and felicities of the minister's lot. I do this, not to give a rose-colored picture of clerical life, not to influence any man to enter the ministry from worldly motives, but simply to counteract and counterbalance the false notions insensibly received from others. I feel that I can do this from experience as well as from observation, since I know of one ministry begun with many forebodings and with many inward and outward trials, which proved immeasurably happier than fear had prophesied, and which, now that it is past, fulfils the poet's declaration that "blessings brighten as they take their flight." We may safely compare the work of the ministry with that of other professions, as to the comfort of its outward surroundings, its influence upon the character of him who performs it, the nobility and permanence of its results.
I do not know any calling in life that has so attractive an aspect at the start, as that of the ministry. The young physician or lawyer, after completing his preparatory studies, has to enter upon his work as a stranger in the community and a competitor of those who have had the experience and the success of years. He seldom has the support and sympathy of influential friends. He must first struggle for the acquaintance and confidence of others. His first years are happy if he can secure a bare subsistence. Only in middle life does he reach a generous support. Wealth and position belong to advanced years. But the young minister, on the other hand, begins life with sympathizing friends around him, limited in number only by the membership of the church of which he is pastor — friends who are considerate and patient and helpful. They cheer him in his despondency and lift him over his failures. He has social position assured to him from the very start — access to the most intelligent company which his town affords, and a pecuniary support which suffices for the needs of a man of intellectual tastes. Absolved from worrying cares, and borne along by the consciousness that many a kind Christian heart is praying for him, he throws himself into his work with heart and soul, and gains his first experience of happy and successful labor in the service of Christ and the church.
But mere comfort, whether physical or intellectual, is of little importance, except as it assists the development of character and helps the great aims of life. The attainment of a symmetrical and grandly developed manhood,— is there any pursuit more favorable to this than that of the Christian ministry? Consider the variety of circumstances and experiences through which the minister has to pass. He has the life of the study. It is his business to keep his mind full of the best thoughts of the past. To freshen his public discourse, there must of necessity be a constant pondering of the noblest literature. History unrolls her panorama before him. Science opens her secrets. He has opportunities for general investigation and culture, denied to men of other pursuits. The lawyer can hardly give his time to philosophy or science, without prejudicing his success in his chosen calling. But the minister studies these as a part of his calling. He may learn much of political economy, of geology, of ethics, of art, not only without hindrance to his work as preacher, but with positive advantage to it. And we may safely say that, as a rule, the clergy of the country surpass men of every other pursuit in the variety of their culture.
But, with these intellectual opportunities, there is a peculiar field for the life of the emotions. The minister cannot become a recluse, for he must constantly meet, both in public and private, with hundreds of persons of every age and condition, must know many of their inmost experiences of joy and sorrow, and in this intercourse must have his own sympathies drawn out and developed. This wide circle of association, with its practical calls upon the tenderest feelings of his nature, furnishes a large part of the joy and satisfaction of a true minister's life. The world is full of sorrow; every house has its skeleton. Multitudes of people, even in Christian churches, have no one but the minister whom they can recognize as friend — no other to whom they can speak freely with regard to the things which concern them most. The minister needs only the endowment of sincere interest in such persons' welfare, to find himself master of their hearts,— he has but to keep open ears and they will tell him their doubts and troubles. And the telling is relief. The minister comes back from his round of pastoral work, thanking God that he is permitted to live, and knowing that, if only that one day's work were all he is permitted to do on earth, he has not lived in vain.
The Christian minister is in this way drawn out of himself, and made an open-hearted man. But it is not all a life of sympathy,— there is administration of church affairs to employ him, and the meeting of general needs of the community. The minister is leader of public sentiment on the great questions of the day. His work is to apply the law of God to public and private conduct. The range of his preaching is coextensive with the sphere of human knowledge and of human life. The word of God is inexhaustible, and he is to bring forth from its treasures things new and old. But he is to apply the principles of the word to all human relations. How profound the questions he must discuss! How grand the fields of investigation opened before him! How magnificent the influence he may wield, in shaping the thought and life of a whole community! In the last great war, the northern preachers were chief objects of the curses of the secession press. And the southern press was sagacious. It was northern preachers, quite as much as northern generals, that led us through to victory. They nerved the soldier's arm — they showed government to be God's ordinance — they made defense of country a duty owed to God.—Who that remembers those times can ever lend ear to the sneers of those who fancy the ministerial calling one of narrow opportunities for culture and influence!
A Christian young man, reflecting upon the claims of the different professions, must sometimes ask: Which of these professions will be most apt to make me a truly religious man? The Scripture has a sentence like this: Let not the rich man glory in his riches, nor the mighty man in his might, but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he kuo weth me — that is, kno wcth God. To know God, this is better than to know all things else, for the whole uerse is but a wreath of vapor formed by the breath of God's mouth, or a drop of dew upon the hem of his garment. What life will bring me nearest to God, and keep me there? Now we all know that we grow like what we think most of. Which of the professions makes God the most frequent and constant object of thought? which most drives a man to communion with God? I do not answer without care. I know of such men as Sir Matthew Hale, the keen-sighted lawyer and the Christian judge. His work upon the bench did not prevent his daily hours of prayer. I remember the story of Havelock, the English general in India, who rose for prayer at four o'clock in the morning when the march began at six, and at three when the march began at five. Yet I think it cannot be denied that in the very necessities of Scripture study, and of preaching to the needs of souls, the minister finds a constant incitement to the cultivation of personal piety, such as no other pursuit in life enjoys. Ministers, indeed, may do their work perfunctorily and without converse with God, but such a course is suicidal; in this neglect, they cut the very sinews of their strength. If a man regarded prayer as the business of a life, would he serve his purpose best by entering other professions or by entering the ministry? And should we be far wrong, if we regarded a life hid with Christ in God as prior in importance and order to the outward labors of that life? Life first, and then work! And what pursuit can be compared with the ministry for keeping ever before the eye this need of converse and fellowship with the living God?
I almost reproach myself with having consumed so large a part of your time with the relations of this subject to the personal culture and growth of the man himself. I know it is not our own advantage that most inspires us. Youth has nobler impulses than this. How may I make the most of myself for others? how may I best make my mark on the world? how do most service to mankind? how bring most honor to God ?— these are the decisive questions. And when we come to these, I think many can answer without hesitation: "In the Christian ministry." No other agency can take the place of the ministry. God has appointed it as an indispensable means of perfecting the church and propagating the gospel. No power of civilization or of the press or of the sword can ever accomplish those moral wonders which are brought about, when a man clothed with God's power stands up and pleads with beating heart and living voice that men will be reconciled to God. Who can look upon the vast audiences which in London and New York have recently been moved by the proclamation of the simple gospel, without believing that there are capacities of pulpit power yet undeveloped, and that the calling of the preacher has even a grander future before it than it has seen in the past? To move men in masses by the power of truth — this is the grandest work man has to do. Happy he who is called to engage in it. We may adapt to our purpose the simile of good Archbishop Leighton, and liken the true minister to Amphion with his harp. Amphion charmed the beasts by his playing, and so moved the hearts of the very stones that they followed his music and built themselves into a city. But the Christian preacher, as the Archbishop says, builds "the walls of a far more famed and beautiful city, even the heavenly Jerusalem, and in such a manner that the stones of this building, being truly and without fable living, and charmed by the pleasant harmony of the gospel, come of their own accord to take their places in the wall."
While I deny that the outward infelicities of the preacher's calling are worthy of serious consideration by the side of the compensatory circumstances and satisfactions which are granted him, more attention is due to the inward trials of his life. Here I would not conceal one atom of the truth. The ministry is in its very nature a life of self-sacrifice. The minister is a servant by the very meaning of the word — first a servant of Christ, and then a servant of the church for Jesus' sake. And the servant is not greater than his Lord. The path he treads is the same path his master trod. His power over men is proportioned to the extent to which he enters into their sorrows and mourns over their sins. He cannot fight the evil of this world without appreciating it — and ofttimes being weighed down in spirit by the mass and strength of it. Like John, he will sometimes cry: "The whole world lieth in wickedness." Like Jesus, he will have his Gethsemane auguish over the condition of human nature without God. But all this, my friends, is only evidence that he has entered into the mystery of the uerse, and gained a truer, deeper knowledge of the reality of things. He who knows holiness and God must deeply feel the contrasts which this world's life presents to all that is pure and divine. The soul that never has been penetrated with anxieties, and has never felt the pressure of the great problems of existence, has not yet risen from childhood to manhood. As Goethe once beautifully wrote:
'* Who ne'er his bread in sorrow ate,
Who ne'er the mournful mldnhfht hours
Weepin(c upon his bed has sate.
He knows you not, ye heavenly powers."
And so, too, there will be times when to declare God's whole mind and will to men who hate the truth, will task all his nerve and courage. Many a time he shall go into his pulpit, feeling that he takes his life in his hand. Many a time he shall prepare for his preaching by struggle and tears before God. But these are the experiences that make men great. These are the preparations that make men powerful. The thimderings and lightnings of the pulpit, that have stirred men's hearts like the peal and smoke of Sinai, were made possible by these inward conflicts and victories. The moving and melting appeals of the preacher, in which self was lost sight of, and the cross of Calvary filled the whole horizon with its glory and its beauty, were born of humiliation and supplication in the closet. Better a thousand times know these inward trials, than to float in air like the gossamer, and be blown hither and thither by every random breeze of this world's folly. May God make us men, and men of power in our generation, original forces to mould human society and turn the currents of earthly life into the channel of his purposes,— and with this end, let him fit us for our work by any discipline that he may see to be needful for us. A young and brave Christian heart will find not discouragement but stimulus in this knowledge that the goal of the preacher's life is not to be won without dust and toil.
Out from the sorrow and sin of the world there sounds to-day the call for men to proclaim the glad news of salvation. During our late war, the drum was heard through our streets, and the call was uttered from pulpit and platform for men to fight for nationality and freedom. A great wave of enthusiasm swept over the land. Young men were ashamed to stay at home, and gave themselves joyfully to the armies of the Republic. We honor them to-day", and put their names side by side with those earlier heroes who fought and suffered and died at Lexington and Valley Forge. But there is a constant call for men to reinforce the thinned ranks of Christ's ministry. A hundred churches of note are looking in vain for fit men to lead them. And we have the word of the Lord himself, as he ascended to his Father: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"—a word addressed to you and me as truly as to those who first listened to it. I remember well the time when I was first brought to consider that call. It flashed upon me that with every young man of suitable gifts and opportunities the presumption ought to be that he was called to be Christ's soldier and servant, and that the question with him, if he was a Christian, was not: "Are there any reasons why I should enter upon this work?" but rather: "Are there any reasons why I should not enter upon it?" "I have given myself to Christ," I said then to myself,—" why should I not do that work which will most immediately and directly bear upon the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world? I expect to spend an eternity in praising and serving him who died for me,— why should not my life in heaven and my life on earth be all of one piece — all devoted directly to promote the interests and the honor of God? One only life have I to live; can I make that life noble and beneficent in any way so well as by giving it to the ministry of Jesus Christ?" Ought not these same considerations, that had weight with me, to have weight with some of you also?
The other day I stood in that grand Memorial Hall which the sons of Harvard have built to keep green and sacred the memories of those alumni and students of the college who fell fighting for the unity of the nation in our great civil war. On marble tablets beneath carven arches I reud the names of scores upon scores of good men and true who had died for their country. The great painted window shed a subdued light upon the scene, and I trod softly as if my footsteps might wake some sleeper from his rest. My eye wandered upward and caught the words from the Latin Vulgate: "Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvamfacere, pcrdct earn; qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, invenict cam." "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." Was not the legend true? And does it not apply to all selfsacrificing labor for Christ — and specially to work for Christ in the ministry? Those young men whose names are now inscribed so grandly on their Alma Mater's roll of honor gave their lives for something grander than life — their country's unity and existence and honor. It was faith in freedom and free government that carried them through — and these things were invisible realities. But there is another government grander still — the kingdom of our God — a kingdom which shall endure when all earthly governments phall crumble and perish. It is a nobler thing to give our lives to that. Those fallen heroes are joined now, in the nation's gratitude, with others of an earlier day who laid the foundations of our governmental system in their blood. Their reward is fresh and sure. But this reward of human fame is nothing to the reward of him who lives and dies a true soldier of Christ in the ministry. His is the immortal honor that only God can give — and the everlasting thanks of fellow-creatures, whose rescue from the corruptions of earth and whose place at God's right hand are due to his faithful service in their behalf. Dear friends, remember that earthly honors fade. Earthly mausoleums cease to be. To have one redeemed and deathless human soul as the monument of our life's work on earth, will be better than all the fame that has been won on all earth's fields of battle.
There have been men who have heard God's call and who have refused obedience,— but it has been only to lose in character and hope and true success for this world — and we know not how much in the world to come. We cannot safely cheat God. He will have his own with usury. There was Erasmus. Great scholar as he was, three centuries and a half ago, in those troublous times when men's minds were seething with new ideas of faith and freedom, he cared more for ease and reputation than he did for truth. He might have wielded a mighty influence in behalf of the rising Reformation, but he declared that he never was cut out for a martyr. And so while Luther was bold as a lion, Erasmus timidly concealed his sentiments and tried to be friends with the Papacy and with those who attacked it too. He sought ease, but both parties suspected him and denounced him, till he found his position of neutrality a bed of thorns instead of a bed of roses. He sought to guard his reputation, but he blackened it forever. Courting the favor of men, in a time when nothing but honest, outspoken decision for the right would do, his name has come to be a synonym for pusillanimity and moral cowardice. He sacrificed all his nobility of character,— and what did he gain? Nothing — absolutely nothing. He only demonstrated that he that findeth his life shall lose it.
But, says one, I am ready to do God's will,— but these feeble powers of mine — how can they accomplish anything in a work so grand and holy as you suggest? Let me answer, as God answered Jeremiah, when he protested that he was but a child, and could not take up the work of the prophet which God had laid upon him. "Say not I am a child; for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee,—and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces, for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord." Do you not remember how Jesus took the five loaves and multiplied them? It was a symbol of his methods in using the gifts of his servants. He takes the few talents, and makes them enough in number to feed a multitude. He takes the weak, and makes them strong enough to confound the mighty. Be sure that he never sends out a soldier at his own charges. He equips the soldier for the battle. None of us have ever yet begun to imagine how much Christ can make of us for his own glory, if we only put ourselves wholly into his hands. Without him we can do nothing, but we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.
But this address is for all. It may be that the work of preaching Christ's gospel, as his chosen and official representative, is one from which by special circumstances you are shut out. Still you may take the spirit and lesson of this occasion with you. The spirit is the spirit of service, whatever the vocation may be. The lesson is that, giving up our life to God and for God, we find it to our eternal gain. We find it in part in this world. There are precious and sacred moments in the history of the consecrated man, when for a little he seems to have found his true self and to breathe already the atmosphere of heaven. A moment ago, all things seemed dim and unreal,— now he sees God and spiritual realities with perfect clearness. I can compare it to nothing better than the change which takes place when you suddenly bring a microscope to a focus. The object is just before you in the centre of the field of view, but your object-glass is not adjusted to it — either you do not see it at all, or you see it very dimly. But a slight turn of the screw, and lo ! it comes out before you as clear and bright as if it had been just created. But, you say, such glimpses of truth are so rare! Well, they they need not be rare. As you go on in the Christian life, the seeing habit will be more and more the habit of your mind — you will endure as continually seeing him who is invisible. All labors and trials will become helpers to you, drawing you nearer to God and strengthening your faith. Even the cannon-ball that brings devastation in its track shall open for you, near the spot whereon you stand, some unknown spring of fresh and living water. What a wonderful prayer-meeting that was which the Christian general whom I have already mentioned held in the idol temple at Rangoon! In the hand of each of the idol gods that lined the sides of the great apartment, his men put a torch, and by the light of these torches in the idols' hands, they held their worship of the Most High. So for all of us who give our lives to the service of God, the dark and trying events that threatened our peace shall be turned into torch-bearers to light up our worship and point out to us his way. But this is but the prophecy of another discovery to come. Only when we reach the city where we need no candle, neither light of the sun, shall we know what it is to "find our life." Christ is our life, and we shall find him, and with Christ we shall find all that we need — all that we were made for. Heaven will be the place, and eternity the time, for the manifestation of the sons of God. Oh, how we shall rejoice there, that we were willing to lose the life that was transient and earthly, for the sake of the life that was spiritual and eternal!
Just one thing more I wish to say, and that is, that this life of service to God may be lived by every young person before me. It is the very nature of the Christian life to implant within us virtues which we have not in ourselves, and to develop and strengthen them thereafter, until we and they are inseparable. You may by reason of certain experiences of temptation and transgression have lost all confidence in yourself. Remember that you may still put confidence in Christ. That is a most instructive example of Bishop Cranmer in the reign of Bloody Mary, the persecutor of the Protestants. You recollect how, in a moment of weakness and terror, he abjured the faith, and assented to the doctrines of the Church of Rome; but you remember also how, when reason and the fear of God returned, he repented of his sin and suffered at the stake, holding out first into the fire the hand that had signed the recantation, till it was entirely consumed. Christ gave his servant strength to put away all his fears, and leave evidence to the world of his saving power that will remain to all after ages. So there is no one of you, however weak he may seem to himself to be, that cannot obtain strength from God to stand even single-handed for the Master. "Act then — act in the living present, heart within, and God o'erhead,"— and no man can measure the ultimate results of your influence.
When John Knox died, a nobleman at his grave uttered over his coffin this memorable sentence : "Here lies one that never feared the face of man." John Knox's voice had rung out like a trumpet through Scotland. Instead of his fearing the face of man, the wicked, even though they held the highest seats in the kingdom, feared him, as Herod of old feared John the Baptist. And what was the secret of it? Simply this,— he feared God so much, that no room was left for fear of man. Let this be my last word to the members of these Societies: "Fear God, and you shall have no other fear. Honor God, and you shall be honored by him. Lose your lives for Christ's sake, and you shall find them to life eternal. And in the great coming day, they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they thatturn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."