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occasional leisure for self-cultivation, and a well-earned holiday; and neither with the rich was he tempted to look upon self-pleasing as the great end of life, nor yet with the very poor to look upon life without hope, as a thing to be lived and done with Duty, probably, would be the idea which such surroundings would write in his young heart as the key-note of life ; regular routine, constant day by day work; yet work and duty tempered with something of refinement and of culture ; work to be done, yet not so exhausting a work as to dry up all the faculties and all thoughts of anything beyond.
And when such a child sets out for himself in life, he would know that his fortune was not made for him, that he had his own way to make ; yet he would have many helps -a good education, for example. No men know better than the professional classes the benefit of a good education; they are usually men of slender capital, and the mind well trained, well stored, is all their fortune. Thus, then, self-help will be his motto ; yet this self-help will be backed by the careful previous and continued assistance of loving parents and friends.
He can advance by no sudden leaps ; he has no money to buy success, or powerful friends to advance him ; he 'must plod on with work, hard, diligent work; yet not with that carking care, that care for the very bread that is to be eaten every day, which harasses the poor.
III. Yet see here one grand factor in the training of that man's soul-routine work. The man of genius, the poet, the man of leisure, the well-bred lounger about town, the large landowner, the man who (as the phrase is) is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, will laugh at the bare idea of routine work in the office, the study, or the shop, being a training to anyone. Yet if the pruning of one's desires and fancies, and bringing one's self under rule, without allowing waywardness and self-pleasing to have the upper hand, be a part of all true training, I think we find it here. The man in business, or in a profession, cannot say when he gets up, “My day is my own; this slight indisposition, this rainy morning, shall keep me by my fireside, poring over an amusing book ; I have nothing to do.” On the contrary, he has to conquer self so far as not to allow any slight cause to keep him away from duty. And what is his duty ? Every now and then, it may be, there is some little novelty in it ; but generally it is of an even character, not absolutely engrossing, and what has to be done, because it is part of our calling in life, not from anything peculiarly interesting or entertaining which attaches to it. The routine of the trade, or the profession, breaks me in to try and do my duty in that state of life to which it has pleased God to call me, and because it has pleased God to call me to it.
(ii.) Then this same thing helps a man to be punctual; helps him to map out his day, and live an orderly life. How much depends on method in living, if we are to please God, no one can say! Want of method makes a man slip his morning prayers, through late or irregular rising. Want of method makes a man drink at odd hours, instead of waiting till the proper meal time, and then, after grace, eating his meal with thankfulness of heart. Want of method makes a man put off doing up his accounts till Sunday morning, instead of coming to church. Indeed, much of our indifference to religion arises from want of method. I do not mean to say that the middle class man is more religious than his neighbours; but I do say that, having to live to some extent by routine, having to map out his day, and abide by such arrangement, he has thus afforded him a very decided opportunity for fixing that that half hour, say before breakfast, shall be assigned daily to prayer and to God; and such routine does suggest, and does assist him to form and to keep regular habits in religion, no less than in business.
(iii.) In this rank, moreover, while there is no lack of bread, at the same time, the income is not such as to lead men to extravagance. Each pound that is laid out has to be considered, in order that the house accounts, the school bill for the children, the life assurance premium, the annual holiday expenses, may be duly met : and where thought as to the best means of laying out the hardly earned income has to go to each single payment, the chances are such payments are wisely made. Perhaps such a family has lived for two or three generations in the same style of expenditure : there has been no hasting to grow rich ; but a sort of even stability has characterized its affairs for years. Extravagance, vanity, eccentricity in expenditure, are rarely met with here ; the tone of mind which accompanies such style of living is sober, well-balanced, and thoughtful.
It was fashionable to satirize the lower class during the years of mineral and mercantile plenty, now over, for their extravagance in eating and drinking during that era. I am not quite sure whether the classes above them do not deserve some reproof for a similar loss of balance at that time, though shown in a different way. Are the middle class free from the charge of reckless speculation, not only in companies little removed from the category of bubble companies; but of extending their legitimate business, perhaps in collieries or the like, in their haste to be rich, beyond what prudence and sober consideration would have shown to be justifiable ? An unusual spirit of covetousness seems to have invaded many at that time. This, however, was abnormal; and perhaps we are paying, and paying bitterly, for it to-day.
(iv.) There is, however, another point to which I wish to draw your attention, as favourable to morality and religion, in this middle rank of life; I mean the restraining force of public opinion. The poor, through their very numbers, and the insignificance individually of their social position, to some extent escape notice; the wealthy and noble to some extent beard public opinion; but the middle class, surrounded by many equals, feel the full force, for good or for ill, of the opinion of society about them. I would not for one moment attach too much importance to the value of this. A clergyman too often finds himself constrained to take a stricter view of moral duty than those around him take, to make him over-value public opinion. Still, in a rough way, the opinion of society, though not nicely discriminating, is for the most part on the right side as far as it goes: and this opinion tells very favourably in assisting men to keep to the right course ; in making them live, if not better, at least not worse than their neighbours ; it does not bow obsequiously to their faults and frailties, or stretch a point in the case of members of its own order, to make black look a little whiter. Many a man has been kept in hours of weakness
from falling into sin by the influence which his own class have had upon him ; and we ought to thank God that such force of public opinion is so often exercised for good.
IV. How does the Church of Christ act upon this middle class ? The Church is a leveller, yet it levels up rather than down ; its tendency is to raise those who are down to a higher level, and thus produce an equality ; rather than to throw others down to a lower level.
(i.) The Church in this country has these many years been engaged in the work of National Education; and the direct result of this has been to cast no one down from his previous place, yet certainly to raise up to a higher place, the millions of this people ; to reduce the distance between the higher and the lower, not by dragging the higher down, but by educating and lifting up the lower.
(ii.) Then again, the direct effect of religion upon the soul is to lift up the moral character of a man ; to make him steadier, more diligent, more attentive: and not only this, but to make him pray, and so get more concentrated in mind; to make him read and understand his Bible, and so grow more intelligent: and thus religion itself, while not directly aiming perhaps at the intellectual improvement of a man, does raise him intellectually, no less than morally, socially, and spiritually.
(iii.) In the early Church, they had all things common. It is not so now in form : but where the Spirit of Christ is really influencing a man of wealth, it is astonishing of how much of his wealth he will divest himself for the good of his fellow-men. Under Christ's teaching, the immense difference between mine and thine disappears ; he acknowledges that all is God's, and he is willing to live a steward