« PoprzedniaDalej »
But those who rest in a mere routine of kind and prudential deeds need the deeper life and the inner perception which detects the meaning and gives the sanction to those deeds. Such need the vital germ of morality—the changed heart, the new birth.
And as I have spoken of a subordinate yet somewhat distinct class who may be ranked under the general head of seekers after religion in philosophy, let me here briefly allude to some with whom religion is a matter of mere sentiment and good feeling. Such are easily moved by the great doctrines of the New Testament. They are affected by the sermon; they have gushes of devout emotion during the prayer. But with them, religion is not a deep and steady pulse of divine life. Prayer is not a protracted aspiration-is not a habit. They feel well towards God, because they consider Him a good-natured, complacent being; but they do not meditate upon the majesty of His nature, upon His justice, and His holiness.
From the doctrine of immortality they draw consolation, but not sanctity. They regard it as a good time coming, but it furnishes them with no personal and stringent applications for the present. They need a more solemn and penetrating vision; a profounder experience in the soul. They need to be born again.
Then, again, there are those who may be called amateurs in religion. That is they are
curious about religious things. They like to speculate about it, to argue upon its doctrines and to broach or examine new theories. They go about from sect to sect, and from church to church, tasting what is novel in the reasoning, or pleasing in the manner of the preacher; in one place to-day to hear an orator; in another to-morrow to hear a latterday saint; it is all the same thing to them. All they want with religion is entertainment and excitement. They are Athenians, ever seeking some new thing. They smack at a fresh heresy as if they were opening a box of figs, and are as delighted with a controversy, as a boy with a sham-fight. They have no fixt place in the Church universal. They are liberalists, without any serious convictions, and cosmopolites without any home affections. In fact, to them religion is a sham-fight-a matter of spectacle and zest—not a personal interest, or an inward life. They would seek Jesus by night, because they hope to learn something wonderful or new, and would be started to hear His solemn words tingling in their hearts: “Ye must be born again!”
Nay, my friends, would not these solemn words startle many of us? It may be, we have never made any inquiry concerning religion-have never even come to Jesus, as it were, by night. Such, with their barks of being drifting down the stream of time, have never guessed the meaning of their voyage, or
reckoned their course; nay, perhaps they live as tho religion were a fable, as tho earth were our permanent abiding-place, and heaven a dream. If such there are, they have not even listened to the Savior's words. But there are others among us perhaps, who are interested in the subject of religion, who are in some way or another engaged in it; but who are restless seekers after it, rather than actual possessors of it; who are resting upon insufficient substitutes for it. And I ask, would not these words breaking forth from the lips of Jesus, startle us in our ritualism, our philosophy, our outside morality, our sentimentalism, or our mere curiosity? And do they not speak to us? Are they not as true now as when they struck upon the shivering ear of Nicodemus? Do they not make us feel as intensely our obligation and our religious wants, as he might have felt there, with the wind flitting by him as tho the Holy Spirit were touching him with its appeal, and with the calm gaze of the Savior looking into his heart! Do they not demand of us, resting here awhile from the cares and labors of the world, something more than mere conformity, or intellectual belief, or formal deeds? Do they not demand a new and better spirit, a personal apprehension of the religious life, a breaking up and regeneration of our moral nature, a change of heart?
ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, the English scholar and divine, was born 1815 at Alderley, of which his father was rector. He was educated under Dr. Arnold at Rugby and in 1834 began a brilliant career at Oxford. Having been ordained priest in 1843 he was made Canon of Canterbury in 1851 and Dean of Westminster in 1864. At this date began his career as an ethical preacher. His pulpit became the means of reconciling many to the English Church because of its broad and sympathetic feeling of Christian brotherhood. All of his discourses are marked by a refined literary culture and a catholicity of spirit. Stanley's most famous sermons are those in which he celebrates the life and work of many illustrious men who had passed away during his lifetime. He died in 1881.