« ZurückWeiter »
GOD GLORIFIED IN COMMON LIFE.
SHORT SUNDAY READINGS FOR NOVEMBER.
BY THE EDITOR.
But these sacrificial meals had surely a
wider and more permanent teaching. We Read Exodus xxiv., and Heb. viii.
must not confine their meaning to the ritual WE
HATEVER else the Israelites believed, of which they formed a part, but must try to
they had intense faith in the personal discover what is of permanent value and true nearness of the living God. The life of the for us as well as the Israelites. Whatever Patriarchs was marked by the fresh sense other ends these institutions served, it may they entertained of One who knew them in accordingly appear that the eating and drinkall their wanderings, and with whom they ing before the Lord, the sacred feasts conwalked as with a friend and father. The nected with many sacrifices, and the very teaching of the Exodus impressed the same materialism which entered so much into the lesson ; and however impossible it is now ancient worship, ought to be regarded as a to separate the symbolical from the actual striking witness to the sacredness of everyday in the pictures given us of the Divine life and to the importance of the body as manifestations in the wilderness, especially well as the soul. The hallowed character of during the mysterious grandeur of the such feasts were, so to speak, sacraments of Law-giving, we can have no difficulty in common life, telling how religion has to do perceiving how direct and sincere was the with every interest appointed by God in belief of the people in the Personal Presence human existence. If we are almost shocked of Jehovah, in His speaking to Moses, and by the incongruity of men eating and drinkthat the awful pageantry, now of darkness, ing when under the sublime influences of the now of splendour, which dwelt on Horeb scene described in Exodus, may it not be was the visible token that God Himself had because we have ourselves fallen into an come down, whether immediately or through unreal way of looking at religion ; drawing the Angel of the Covenant, and was speak- distinctions which God has not drawn being to them in the signs and wonders that tween the sacred and the secular, “the filled them with terror.
world” and “the Church ;" having one set Among the many incidents recorded of of principles for Sunday and another for the that time there is one which appears pecu- weekday, and failing to consecrate with a liarly strange. "Then went up Moses and sense of the Divine Presence the ordinary Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the routine of our daily task? It is only when elders of Israel ; and they saw the God of we translate the symbolism of Jewish ritual, Israel ; and there was under His feet as it with its recognition of the religious meaning were à paved work of sapphire stone, and of civil politics as well as ecclesiastical ordias it were the very heavens for clearness. nances- -of the Divine side of national and
And they beheld God, and did eat and family life as well as of individual respondrink.”
sibility—of the holiness of even natural The incongruity is startling. We stumble seasons, and the sanctity of agriculture and on the words with a shock of surprise, when commerce when fulfilled in the spirit of in the midst of an episode so full of awe, brotherhood—that we can learn the lessons and when the actors knew they were gazing which were intended for all time. on the tokens of the Divine Presence, we The striking words, “They beheld God, read: “They beheld God, and did eat and and did eat and drink” suggest three possible drink.”
modes of life: (1) men may eat and drink The meal referred to was doubtless sacri- without beholding God, and in this we have ficial. From the preceding verses we learn A Description of Worldliness ; (2) men may that Moses had sent beforehand young men behold God and refuse to eat and drink, and to offer sacrifices, and as it was the custom of in them we recognise False Puritanism and those who did so to partake of the sacrifices, Asceticism ; and (3) in those who see God we may believe that it was as a religious act and eat and drink, or eat and drink as men —the act of those who wished to identify who see God, we have The Ideal Life. themselves with the spiritual reality of which We will make each of these the subject of the external rite was the expression—that meditation for the remaining Sundays of the they now “did eat and drink” before God. month.
Read Psalm Lxxii. and St. Luke xii. 16-31.
achievements. We heartily recognise the SECOND SUNDAY.
religious side of this stir and bustle of life. For a Christian man “Laborare est orare,”
because common duties rightly done are a Without attempting to discuss what world- true worship of Him who has appointed liness is, we may take as practically a true them. But we now speak only of the danger description of its nature the words "eating which anxiety pressing from week to week and drinking without seeing God;" for all regarding business—in the widest sense of worldliness has its source in the tendency, so the term is certain to bring. The absorbcommon to our humanity, of being absorbed ing pressure of competition and the desire by the temporary to the neglect of the to gain fortune or power create a snare eternal.
whereby many fall into that one-sided type In proportion as we our common of character termed “worldly." They “eat gifts without reference to the will of God, and drink,” and live their hard, struggling or fall under the tyranny of mere circum- existence—whether rich or poor, successful stances, so that they possess us instead of our or failing-but with such engrossments that possessing them with a full consciousness of they see not God," and give scarcely a our higher destiny, we become worldly. The response to His call. occasion of this worldly spirit is to be found, And there are others who sin equally and in many instances, in the exaction which hard with less excuse, the idle, luxurious, and work makes on body and soul. Long hours frivolous, who scarcely ever allow the thought of monotonous toil; physical exhaustion at the of God to assert itself as a controlling motive. close of each week's drudgery; the ceaseless Self-indulgence reigns over them. It may be round of fretting cares, unbroken by any that the objects which interest them are in bright or ennobling stimulus; the weight themselves innocent. Domestic happiness, a with which things material—the bare necessi- refined society, the pursuits of manly sport ties of existence-press upon the attention, on sea or land, or the culture of the intellect have, on one side, an undoubted tendency to and the gratification of the tastes through banish religion from the interests of what are things beautiful and instructive, these occalled the “ Labouring Classes.” That it cupy them, and that so completely without is not so among a large proportion of these recognition of “Him in whom they live, classes, we know full well; that it should and move, and have their being,” that they not be so with those who more than others become of all men the most worldly—the require to have the hardness of life alleviated most completely under the dominion of the by Christian hope and peace, we keenly visible and transitory. feel; but nevertheless the fact remains that Such a life is blind. With the verities religion, which is intended for blessing, often of existence presented for solemn thought, appears an exaction to men with tired bodies, and with the love of the Father appeal. and who can enjoy home and their children ing in countless ways to the heart-havonly one day in seven. What we may regard ing “eyes it sees not, having ears it hears as the higher things of the spirit appear vague not,” its heart waxes so "heavy that it feels and unsubstantial beside the stern realities not.” Such a life is sinful; for it acknowof food and wages, and rent and clothing ; ledges almost any claim rather than the and so life becomes an oppression, and is claim of God, and seeks its “good things” fulfilled too frequently without the vision of without reference to His will. Such a life God, and the strong grasping of that hand is valueless. Measured by the destiny of which would lift it into rest and joy. our being it is a delusion. When Dives was
But the working man belongs to almost snatched from his purple and fine linen, the every class of society, and similar engross word of Abraham was at once a rebuke and ments must produce similar tendencies among a satire. “Son, remember thou hast rethe wealthiest as among the poorest. In- ceived thy good things.” He had got all cessant toil-toil at high pressure—is the he wanted. He had eaten and drunken, but characteristic of our modern time, and world-“saw not God;" and when all that past liness is certain to follow close upon the was dwindled into insignificance under the exaggerated demand made on our interests light of the eternity on which he entered, by the cares of business or the fretting worries how swiftly would he discover the true from of the fireside. It goes without saying that the false, the precious from the worthless! enterprise and earnest labour have their noble Verily, "what is a man profited should be side, and are the source of all our greatest gain the whole world and lose his own life ; *
that life in God for which he was made, danger rather than a safeguard to religion. and which ought to have been his ?
Puritanism was strong and earnest—would
that we had its strength and earnestness now! THIRD SUNDAY.
Yet the religious history of our country may
teach us that while we are indebted to the Read Psalm cxlvii., and Romans xiv. 14 to end.
Puritans for nearly all that is purest and If, as we have seen, there are persons who healthiest in our national life, yet there has accept the secular to the neglect of the sacred, been inherited from them a certain cramping or rather, who do not make all things sacred narrowness of sympathy which has more by seeing God in all; so there are others than once led to disastrous practical reacwho equally separate the two, and by con- tions. These men failed to embrace within fining religion within the narrow sphere of religion all that has been mercifully apthings conventionally regarded as peculiarly pointed by God for the many-sided require"pious, and frowning on all else as“worldly,” ments of our nature. They indeed “ beheld come short, in like manner, of the ideal of God.” They grasped and loved religious Christian life. “They see God” but refuse truth, and served God with a courage which “to eat and drink.” This is the essence of may well shame us; but so awed were they asceticism and false Puritanism. Both were in those days of “the Wars of the Lord, natural reactions from a disordered condition when each man dwelt as if "under the shadow of society. It was not extraordinary that of the Almighty,” that we cannot describe during the latter days of the Roman Empire, them as "seeing God, and eating and drinkwhen licentiousness was rampant--or that ing.” The “
The “ eating and drinking,” ordiduring the Middle Ages, when Europe was nary social life, with its laughter and its the battle-field of half-civilised clans, men song as well as its more serious hours, was should have sought retirement in the cloister contemned as secular, frivolous, almost proor the cell, where, undisturbed by the fane; and with a sublime firmness the Puritan violence that raged around, they might grasped his Bible and his sword, and sang pursue the calm paths of piety or of sacred his psalms, and checked as “vanity” the learning. Nor was it unnatural that in those giving of time or thought to any less solemn days a form of opinion should have arisen interests. which gave a stern sanction to monasticism. The effect of this was widely felt. It Theology then taught that the flesh, in the made many hypocrites, and it soon produced physical sense, was the source of all sin, and in society the reaction which all such exthat heaven could be best purchased by a tremes inevitably entail
. The licence and literal killing out of every desire or affection indifference of the eighteenth century folwhich could be traced to such a fountain. lowed swiftly on the narrowness and bigotry By fasting and scourging the faithful must, of the seventeenth. When religion was ditherefore, subdue all earthly love and human vorced from common life, common life soon passion, and become literally dead to the became separated from religion, and thus world, a spiritual mummy, heedless of Puritanism played straight into the hands of science and art or politics--except in so far worldliness. as they bore upon the “Order"_lost in Similar pernicious influences are frequently meditation, and so swathed in ecclesiasticism still at work, sapping character far more than as to be no more a member of the great is usually believed. The unnatural rigidity human family, but of this supra-mundane and conventional prejudices of religious society called the Church.
schools; the distinctions set up between the Puritanism was also a reaction, for it arose lawful and unlawful, founded on no real in times of great moral laxity; and while we principle, being based on tradition and cusfreely grant that the picture of the Puritans tom rather than on reason or Scripture ; these which serves the purpose of most novelists produce either a rebound whereby those and essayists is often no more than a cari- who have been once held too strictly fly into cature, yet there is undoubtedly a way of the other extreme; or, what is worse, makregarding religion as separate from the fulness ing others take, with a bad conscience, what of interest which belongs to common life, that ought to be enjoyed with a healthy freedom. must be traced back to their influence. The The strait-laced religionist would, forsooth, jealous eye with which Puritanism frowned confine the power of God to the limited circle at all amusement as an ungodly thing, the of things pious and ecclesiastical, forgetconventional barriers it set up to stem the ting how" every good and perfect gift comes flow of natural taste and sympathy, proved a down from the Father of lights ;” that we
are living in a redeemed world; and that all hypocritical, cowardly, and cruel fell back lovely sights and sounds in nature, the joys from that Presence which shed the very of social intercourse, the manifold talents radiance of God's own holiness, yet so bestowed on man, whether shown in the humane was its manifestation that the friendvictories of learning, science, and art, or in less, the weak, the unhappy, the sinful, the the lighter works of fancy, humour, and wit; pained in body as in soul were drawn to Him just because they have a side true to our as to the most sympathetic and tender humanity, as God has made it, so have they brother. an aspect that is essentially Christian. Wher- He was not as John the Baptist—thank ever a man can “ behold God” and recognise God for it !—no mere stern reprover, standa harmony between his interests or his ing apart from life, but one who walked very amusements, and the will of the Father, with us on our every-day paths, entered our he ought to have no bad conscience, but a houses, sat at our tables, and was a sharer of manly, religious liberty. Thus beholding every human joy and sorrow. Like God's God, let him “eat and drink.”
own sunlight, which glorifies the greatest
and most distant star, while it sparkles on FOURTH SUNDAY.
the beaded gossamer, so did Jesus touch the
lowliest as well as the highest interests with Read Ecclesiastes xi. 9-xii., and St. Luke vii. 31 to end.
the same perfect light and beauty. He The ideal life as expressed in the terms revealed God, and yet so sweetly tender was “beholding God, and eating and drinking," the manifestation that the very children in is that which our Lord sets before us by the Temple shouted with joy as He came His teaching and example. He said of John among them. This is our highest example; the Baptist that he came “neither eating nor it is the ideal life, for it shows the sacredness drinking." That earnest man whose eye had of everything when God is seen and realised gazed on the glory of God till all earthly in all. Seeing God, let us eat and drink, but lights had paled under its splendour, came eat and drink as those who verily behold from the bareness of the Desert, an ascetic, a God. Puritan, scorning all social comfort and re- If in this spirit we enter the world we will proving with a voice of thunder the laxity require no code of rules to guide us. The and worldliness of the time. The Baptist mere letter of law is at the best an external was found at no feast or festival. He stood and dead restraint. The spirit of Christ is aloof not only from the sins, but from the the law of Christian life, and where that ordinary interests of mankind.
spirit is there is liberty. To do all things as Our Lord puts Himself in contrast to this. those who behold God is the Christian call“The Son of man is come eating and drink- ing. Amid the manifold elements which ing.” For it was His glory to show that the constitute the interest of life let us entrue function of religion is to imbue all duties, deavour to maintain a healthy and happy and to purify and elevate every sphere of life recognition of our Father's nearness and with its own spirit. He therefore did not goodness, and all will come right. Such a stand, like the Baptist, separate from man- consciousness will compel us of itself to withkind, but was identified with our every-day stand the approach of evil as by an instinct, associations of home and family. He did not and will elevate all thoughts, all duties, all live in the desert, but spent His early man- delights into a pure and bright atmosphere. hood in a sweet valley among the hills, where The life of a man so held by the love of God the voices of children at play were heard becomes a continual worship, an unceasing mingling with the sounds of industrious gospel of goodness preached to the world, handicraft. He had enjoyed a mother's care not in spasmodic and exceptional lecturings, and a home life spent with friends and rela- but in the winning language of days well tives. And thus when He entered on His spent, and of a spirit which is manifestly ministry He consecrated things common by consecrated in all things to God through the spirit with which He acted in them all. Jesus Christ. But that spirit can neither be He did not hold Himself aloof from the gained nor maintained by merely seeing its merriment of the marriage of Cana, nor re- beauty. It arises from the vision of God, fuse the feast prepared in His honour by and if we would enjoy that we must, like those who loved Him and took that method Moses and his companions, ever and anon of showing their love. On His bosom the ascend the Mount and be alone with God, sweet innocence of childhood nestled with and under those influences of which prayer confidence, and while all that was base, and meditation are the assured channels.
MAJOR AND MINOR.
By W. E. NORRIS,
ton, nor was it in at all a sanguine mood that CHAPTER XLIV.-MONCKTON IS RATHER
he set forth to walk to Beckton on the followRUDE.
ing morning. If rumour was to be credited, BRIA RIAN spent a very long and very dreary he could hardly expect that Gilbert would
evening all by himself at the Royal look with favour upon his project of buying Hotel, his solitude only being invaded for a back the Manor House. However, the attempt short time by Mr. Petherick, who was re- had to be made; and in any case he must spectfully inquisitive, as before. Mr. Pethe- see his brother, if only to dissuade him from rick hoped he had enjoyed his walk to taking any measures of retaliation against Beckton, and had found Mr. Gilbert—“I the bellicose Mitchell. should say the Squire; but there ! I never He did not, as on the previous day, adopt can bring my tongue to it somehow”—pretty a circuitous route, so that, after mounting well. Might he make so bold as to ask the hill, he found himself close to St. whether Mr. Gilbert felt confident about the Michael's Church and Vicarage, and, being election ? He did hear, but for his part he there, it seemed worth while to ask whether paid no heed to such talk, that some of the Monckton was at home. He had no intention voters was uncommon bitter against the of leaving Kingscliff without having shaken Squire, “through Miss Greenwood being so hands with his old friend : perhaps too he much the favourite, you see, sir, and well thought it would be bracing to exchange a deserved, I'm sure. He trusted, however, few words with an honest man. that there would be no rioting or throwing Monckton was not only at home but alone. of stones to bring discredit upon the place. As Brian entered his study he looked up “And what I always says is, there's two from the papers with which his table was sides to every story, and we didn't ought to littered and exclaimedbe in such a hurry to judge. And as for “ This is better than I expected! I was what has been spoke of in my hearing about wondering when you meant to answer my the Manor House property, and Mr. Buswell letter; but I would rather see your face being determined to get a hold of it, and the than your handwriting any day. Sit down, way as he thinks as it'll come into his hands my dear fellow, and make yourself com—why, I should be ashamed to repeat such fortable, and tell me all about your musical things to you, sir. No, sir, I really couldn't triumphs. I have only heard the most meagre repeat 'em-not if you was to beg me to it." details as yet.”
Brian did not get rid of the exasperating “Oh, well,” said Brian, seating himself man until all that
Kingscliff was saying about sideways upon the table and swinging one of his brother and Miss Huntley had been made his long legs, “there isn't a great deal to known to him, with what Mr. Petherick tell. The opera succeeded, and it wasn't doubtless imagined to be extreme delicacy. much of an opera, and—and that's about all, It was not much more than he already knew I think. At least, that isn't quite all, because or suspected; he had not been able to credit I believe that my success is likely to be in a Gilbert even with the poor excuse of having sort of way permanent. I mean it's open transferred his affections from one lady to me to do the same thing over again ; and another ; but it was painful to him that the people who ought to know tell me that I truth about this sorry business should be shall make money without any difficulty made the subject of clumsy ridicule. Where now. That's something to be thankful formoney is concerned rustics are apt to be as far as it goes.” more cynical than dwellers in cities. It was "It goes a long way, Brian. Haven't you easy to gather from Mr. Petherick's remarks found that out yet? that Miss Huntley was regarded by the “Oh, yes; I know it's useful. In fact I Kingscliffians as a dupe, and that their in- mean, if I can, to make use of it forthwith. dignation against Gilbert for his perfidy was Do you know why I came down here, Moncktempered by a certain respect for his sup- ton? But you would never guess; and I posed astuteness. Not much sleep did Brian expect you'll think me rather a fool when I get in the huge four-poster which was said tell you. I want to buy the Manor House to have given satisfaction to Sir John Polling- back.”