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help us to be good and to do good—to glorify God and do good to man; and that end can perhaps best be attained by him whose life is a busy one, whose avocations bear him daily into contact with his fellows, into the intercourse of society, into the heart of the world. No man can be a thorough proficient in navigation who has never been at sea, tho he may learn the theory of it at home. No man can become a soldier by studying books on mili. tary tactics in his closet: he must in actual service acquire those habits of coolness, courage, discipline, address, rapid combination, without which the most learned in the theory of strategy or engineering will be but a schoolboy soldier after all. And, in the same way, a man in solitude and study may become a most learned theologian, or may train himself into the timid, effeminate piety of what is technically called "the righteous life." But never, in the highest and holiest sense, can he become a religious man, until he has acquired those habits of daily self-denial, of resistance to temptation, of kindness, gentleness, humility, sympathy, active beneficence, which are to be acquired only in daily contact with mankind. Tell us not, then, that the man of business, the bustling tradesman, the toil-worn laborer, has little or no time to attend to religion. As well tell us that the pilot, amid the winds and storms, has no leisure to attend to navigation-or the general, on the field of battle, to the art of war! Where will he attend to it! Religion is not a perpetual moping over good books—religion is not even prayer, praise, holy ordinances; these are necessary to religion-no man can be religious without them. But religion, I repeat, is, mainly and chiefly, the glorifying God amid the duties and trials of the world,—the guiding our course amid the adverse winds and currents of temptation, by the starlight of duty and the compass of divine truth,—the bearing us manfully, wisely, courageously, for the honor of Christ, our great Leader, in the conflict of life. Away then with the notion that ministers and devotees may be religious, but that a religious and holy life is impracticable in the rough and busy world! Nay rather, believe me, that is the proper scene, the peculiar and appropriate field for religion,—the place in which to prove that piety is not a dream of Sundays and solitary hours; that it can bear the light of day; that it can wear well amid the rough jostlings, the hard struggles, the coarse contacts of common life,—the place, in one word, to prove how possible it is for a man to be at once “not slothful in business, and “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
Another consideration, which I shall adduce in support of the assertion that it is not impossible to blend religion with the business of common life, is this: that religion consists, not so much in doing spiritual or sacred acts, as in doing secular acts from a sacred or religious motive.
There is a very common tendency in our minds to classify actions according to their outward form, rather than according to the spirit or motive which pervades them. Literature is sometimes arbitrarily divided into “sacred" and "profane" literature, history into “sacred” and “profane' history,-in which classification the term “profane” is applied, not to what is bad or unholy, but to everything that is not technically sacred or religious—to all literature that does not treat of religious doctrines and duties, and to all history save church history. And we are very apt to apply the same principle to actions. Thus in many pious minds there is a tendency to regard all the actions of common life as so much, by an unfortunate necessity, lost to religion. Prayer, the reading of the Bible and devotional books, public worship—and buying, selling, digging, sowing, bartering, money-making, are separated into two distinct, and almost hostile, categories. The religious heart and sympathies are thrown entirely into the former, and the latter are barely tolerated as a bondage incident to our fallen state, but almost of necessity tending to turn aside the heart from God.
But what God has cleansed, why should we call common or unclean? The tendency in question, tho founded on right feeling, is surely a mistaken one. For it is to be remembered that moral qualities reside not in actions, but in the agent who performs them, and that it is the spirit or motive from which we do any work that constitutes it base or noble, worldly or spiritual, secular or sacred. The actions of an automaton may be outwardly the same as those of a moral agent, but who attributes to them goodness or badness? A musical instrument may discourse sacred melodies better than the holiest lips can sing them, but who thinks of commending it for its piety? It is the same with actions as with places. Just as no spot or scene on earth is in itself more or less holy than another, but the presence of a holy heart may hallowof a base one desecrate—any place where it dwells; so with actions. Many actions, materially great and noble, may yet, because of the spirit that prompts and pervades them, be really ignoble and mean; and, on the other hand, many actions externally mean and lowly, may, because of the state of his heart who does them, be truly exalted and honorable. It is possible to fill the highest station on earth, and go through the actions pertaining to it in a spirit that degrades all its dignities, and renders all its high and courtly doings essentially sordid and vulgar. And it is no mere sentimentality to say that there may dwell in a lowly mechanic's or household servant's breast a spirit that dignifies the coarsest toils and renders drudgery divine." Herod of old was a slave, tho he sat upon a throne; but who will say that the work of that carpenter's shop at Nazareth was not noble and kingly work indeed!
A life spent amidst holy things may be intensely secular; a life, the most of which is passed in the thick and throng of the world, may be holy and divine. A minister, for instance, preaching, praying, ever speaking holy words and performing sacred acts, may be all the while doing actions no more holy than those of the printer who prints Bibles, or of the bookseller who sells them; for, in both cases alike, the whole affair may be nothing more than a trade. Nay, the comparison tells worse for the former, for the secular trade is innocent and commendable, but the trade which traffics and tampers with holy things is, beneath all its mock solemnity, "earthly, sensual, devilish.”
So, to adduce one other example, the public worship of God is holy work: no man can be living a holy life who neglects it. But the public worship of God may be and with multitudes who frequent our churches isdegraded into work most worldly, most distasteful to the great Object of our homage. He “to whom all hearts be open, all desires known,” discerns how many of you have come hither to-day from the earnest desire to hold