Page images
PDF
EPUB

dom? Because you have not believed rightly the doctrine of the incarnation? No! Saving the soul is learning to be kind. This may not be orthodox; but at any rate it is the teaching of the Bible.

The identification of religion with morality is especially remarkable, when we remember how much God was to Christ. There can be no doubt that Christ did identify the two. We must accept the fact, even if we do not find a reason for it. But we can. At first sight it seems strange that Christ should have reduced all sins to sin against one's neighbour — in one word, to selfishness; and that, where summarising His teaching, He should say nothing of sins against God, of sins against Himself, of sins which men may commit against their own nature. But if you think for a little you may see, on the one hand that selfishness implies and includes all forms of sin; and on the other hand that perfect unselfishness is really equivalent to perfect sinlessness. In the first place, I say, selfishness implies and includes all other forms of sin. For when we sin against our neighbour, we at the same time injure our own moral nature; we displease the heavenly Father, who cares for him no less than for us; and we crucify the Son of God afresh who, so far as we are concerned, seems to have lived and died in vain. And in the second place, perfect unselfishness is equivalent to perfect sinlessness. For he who would never sin against his neighbour must never sin against himself, nor against Christ, nor against God. The very idea of human brotherhood is based upon that of divine fatherhood. Men are brethren because they are the children of a common Father. And just in proportion as they believe in Him, will they realise and fulfil their obligations to each other. Again, personal devotedness to Christ is the best means of fostering a universal devotedness to the welfare of the race. "If ye love me," He Himself said, "ye will keep my words." And no other means will produce the same effect. A passionate enthusiasm for the welfare of humanity will be developed in us, just in proportion as we have learnt to admire and love the great example of self-sacrifice, who sought not to be ministered unto but to minister, and who died, as He had lived, to redeem the world from evil. And with regard to sins against ourselves, we acquire an additional motive against committing them, when we become imbued with a love for others. In injuring ourselves we injure our brethren, both by our example and by our diminished power of usefulness; and just in proportion as we love our neighbour, shall we listen to the voice which bids us do ourselves no harm.

I like Christmas Day. I think it is a more Christian day than any other in the Church's calendar. All the observances connected with the season serve to remind us of the morality, the sociality, the geniality of the religion of Christ, which at other seasons are forgotten or ignored. The Christmas cards which are sent us and which we send to others, the presents which we give and receive, the decorations in our houses and in our churches, the family gatherings, the dinner-parties, the games, the pantomimes, the dances—the very dances this time of year, you know, have quite a different character from the crowded and unsociable balls of the season —the way in which we wish a Merry Christmas to every one, and really feel as if we meant it,—all these things make one love the season of Christmas better than any other season in the year. And it is to-day at once my duty and my privilege as a minister of Christ, to remind you that the spirit of Christmas Day should be, for a Christian, the spirit of every day. Let us try to make it so.

It is said that about the time of the birth of Christ certain prophetic souls—shepherds they are called in the New Testament—heard an angelic song, foretelling peace on earth and goodwill towards men. For hundreds of years, however, peace and goodwill have been conspicuous throughout Christendom by their absence. But there will come a time when the hollowness of orthodox Christianity will be discovered, and when the real Christianity of Christ will take its place. Then, and not till then, will the angel's song be fulfilled.

"It came upon the midnight clear,—

That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth

To touch their harps of gold:
'Peace to the earth, goodwill to men,

From heaven's all-gracious King.'
The world in solemn stillness lay

To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come

With peaceful wings unfurled;
And still their heavenly music floats

O'er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains

They bend on heavenly wing;
And ever o'er its Babel sounds

The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain hive rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;
And men at war with men hear not

The love-song which they bring.
Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing!

And ye beneath life's crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »