« ZurückWeiter »
THE SALVATION OF THE HEARER THE MOTIVE
OF THE PREACHER.
WHEN a body of men come into a neighborhood to them unknown, as we are doing, my brethren, strangers to strangers, and there set themselves down, and raise an altar, and open a school, and invite, or even exhort all men to attend them, it is natural that they who see them, and are drawn to think about them, should ask the question, What brings them hither?-Who bid them come? What do they want? What do they preach ? What is their warrant ? What do they promise ?You have a right, my brethren, to ask the question.
Many however will not stop to ask it, as thinking they can answer it without difficulty for themselves. Many there are who would promptly and confidently answer it, according to their own habitual view of things, on their own principles, the principles of the world. The views, the principles, the aims of
the world are very definite, are every where acknowledged, and are generally acted on. They afford an explanation of the conduct of others, whoever they be, ready at hand, and so sure to be true in the common run of cases, as be probable and plausible in any particular one. When we would account for effects which we see, we of course refer them to causes which we know of. To fancy causes of which we know nothing is not to account for them at all. The world then naturally and necessarily judges of others by itself. Those who live the life of the world, and act from motives of the world, and live and act with those who do the like, as a matter of course ascribe the actions of others, however different they may be from their own, to one or other of the motives which weigh with themselves ; for some motive or other they must assign, and they can imagine none but those of which they have experience.
We know how the world goes on, especially in this country ; it is a laborious, energetic, indefatigable world. It takes up objects enthusiastically, and vigorously carries them through. Look into the world, as its course is faithfully traced day by day in those publications which are devoted to its service, and you will see at once the ends which stimulate it, and the views which govern it. You will read of great and persevering exertions, made for some temporal end, good or bad, but still temporal. Some temporal end it is, even if not a selfish one ;generally, indeed, such as station, consideration, power, competency, luxury, but sometimes the relief of the ills of human life or society, of ignorance, sickness, poverty, or vice-still some temporal end it is, which is the exciting and animating principle of those exertions. And so pleasurable, so fascinating is the excitement, which those temporal objects create, that it is often its own reward ; insomuch that, forgetting the end for which they toil, men find a satisfaction in the toil itself, and are sufficiently repaid for their trouble by their trouble, in the struggle for success, and the rivalry of party, and the trial of their skill, and the demand upon their resources, in the vicissitudes and hazards, and ever new emergencies and successive requisitions of the contest which they carry on, though it never comes to an end.
Such is the way of the world ; and therefore, I say, it is not unnatural, that, when it sees any persons whatever any where begin to work with energy, and attempt to get others about them, and act in outward appearance like itself, though in a different direction and with a religious profession, it unhesitatingly imputes to them the motives which influence, or would influence its own children. Often by way of blame, but sometimes not as blaming, but as merely stating a plain fact which it thinks undeniable, it takes for granted that they are ambitious, or restless, or eager for distinction, or fond of power. It knows no better; and it is vexed and annoyed, if, as time goes on, one thing or another is seen in the conduct of those whom it criticises, which is inconsistent with the assumption on which, in the first instance, it so summarily settled their position and anticipated their course. It took a general view of them, looked them through, as it thought, and from some one action of theirs which came to its knowledge, assigned to them some particular motive as their actuating principle; but presently it finds it is obliged to shift its ground, to take up some new hypothesis, and explain to itself their character and their conduct over again. O my dear brethren, the world cannot help doing so, because it knows us not; it ever will be impatient with us for not being of the world, because it is the world ; it is necessarily blind to the one motive which has influence with us, and, tired out at length with hunting through its catalogues and note books for a description of us, it sits down in disgust, after its many conjectures, and flings us aside as inexplicable, or hates us as if mysterious and designing.
My brethren, we have secret views, --secret, that is, from men of this world; secret from politicians, secret from the slaves of mammon, secret from all ambitious, covetous, selfish, and voluptuous men.
For religion itself, like its Divine Author and. Teacher, is, as I have said, an hidden thing from them; and, not knowing it, they cannot use it as a key to interpret the con
duct of those who are influenced by it. They do not know the ideas and motives which religion sets before the spiritually illuminated mind. They do not enter into them or realize them, even when they are told them ; and they do not believe that another can be influenced by them, even when he pofesses them. They cannot put themselves into the position of a man simply striving, in all he does, to please God. They are so narrowminded, such is the meanness of their intellectual make, that, when a Catholic professes this or that doctrine of the Church, -sin, judgment, heaven and hell, the blood of Christ, the merits of Saints, the power of Mary, or the Real Presence,—and says that these are the objects which inspire his thoughts and direct his actions through the day, they cannot take in that he is in earnest ; for they think, forsooth, that these points ought to be and are his very difficulties, and that he gets over them by putting force on his reason, and thinks of them as little as he can, not dreaming that they exert an influence on his life. No wonder, then, that the sensual, and worldly-minded, and the unbelieving, are suspicious of those whom they cannot comprehend, and are so intricate and circuitous in their imputations, when they cannot bring themselves to accept an explanation, which is straight before them. So it has been from the beginning; the Jews preferred to ascribe the conduct of our Lord and His forerunner to any motive but that of a desire to fulfil the will of God. They were, as He says, like children sitting in the market-place, which cry to their companions, saying, “We have piped to you, and you have not danced ; we have lamented to you, and you have not mourned.” And then He goes on to account for it: “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones. Yea, Father ; for so hath it been pleasing in Thy sight.”
Let the world have its way, let it say what it will about us, my brethren; but that does not hinder our saying what we think, and what the eternal God thinks and says, about the world. We have as good a right to have our judgment about the world, as the world to have its judgment about us : and we mean to exercise that right; for, while we know it judges us amiss, we have God's testimony that we judge it truly. While, then, it is eager in. ascribing our earnestness to some motive or principle of its own, listen to me, while I show you, as it is not difficult to do, that it is our very fear and hatred of those motives and principles, and our compassion for the souls possessed by them, which makes us so busy and so troublesome, which prompts us to settle down in a district, so destitute of temporal recommendations, but so overrun with religious error and so populous in souls.
0 my brethren, little does the world, engrossed, as it is, with things of time and sense, little does it understand what is the real state of the soul of man, how he stands in God's sight, what is his past history, and what his prospects for the future. The world forms its views of things for itself, and lives in them. It never stops to consider whether they are true ; it does not come into its thought to seek for any external standard, or channel of information, by which their truth can be ascertained.It is content to take things for granted according to their first appearance; it does not stop to think of God; it lives for the day, and (in a perverse sense) “is not careful for the morrow.” What it sees, tastes, handles, is enough for it; this is the limit of its knowledge and of its aspirations; what tells, what works well, is alone respectable ; efficiency is the rule of duty, and success is the test of truth. It believes what it experiences, it disbelieves what it cannot demonstrate. And, in consequence, it teaches that a man has not much to do to be saved ; that either he has committed no great sins, or that he has been pardoned for committing them ; that he may securely trust in God's mercy for eternity; and that he must avoid any thing like self-discipline and mortification, as affronting or derogatory to it. This is what the world teaches, by its many sects and philosophies, about our condition in this life ; but what, on the other hand, does the Catholic Church teach concerning it ?
She teaches that man was originally made in God's image,