« AnteriorContinuar »
hell by belonging to your church, it often seems a duty to use every means to bring men in and keep them in. The argument is that if burning alive or torturing a few hundred thousand heretics will keep millions from becoming heretics, and so from going to everlasting torments in hell, you ought to do it. This was what was done by the Spanish Inquisition. It actually destroyed heresy in Spain. The cruelty which burned witches in Europe and hanged them in America was exercised by the most conscientious and religious people. In the same way falsehood has been sanctified by religion. The mediæval theologians laid it down as a distinct proposition that pious frauds were right, and so lying prophecies were invented, lying miracles multiplied, and lying calumnies invented against all who opposed the Church. To convince heretics old writings were interpolated or forged, and this, says Lecky, in his
History of Morals,” continued till, in the Middle Ages, the very sense of truth and love of truth seemed to be blotted from the mind. of Christendom. Thus a perverted conscience and a perverted religion may make a duty of cruelty and of falsehood.
So, too, in our day, what needless cruelties are inflicted on young people by kind and good clergymen who think it their duty to torment their sensitive consciences by pictures of a raging hell and an angry God! Many persons have described to me how their life was made bitter and their heart hardened by listening to such descriptions of the Almighty. These clergymen are quite above the temptations of the flesh or of the world, but yield at once to these temptations of the devil. He knows how to quote Scripture to his purpose, and
says, “Does not the Bible speak of hell and its torments?" So kind-hearted and conscientious young women beat little children cruelly in the schools because they think it their duty to do so. So, once, a
clergyman of high standing and great purity shocked all the mothers in the land by calmly relating, as a great exploit, how he had broken the will of his little child, three years old, who had refused to eat a piece of bread, by keeping her shut up all day till she agreed to do what he ordered. In such cases, the devil of self-will disguises himself as the angel of Authority and Discipline. The devil disguises himself as the Angel of Truth, and so makes men bigots and sectarians. He disguises himself as the Angel of Conscience, and makes men intolerant and merciless to the sinner.
This class of temptations are the worst -- and therefore Jesus was so severe against the Scribes and Pharisees, in order to arouse them to a sense of their hardness and coldness and cruelty and pride.
But there is always a way of escape from this kind of temptations, which beset the noblest and purest minds. Some of the best of men are deliberately gloomy and anxious because they think they ought to be so so much, they say, depends on them. Other good men destroy themselves with work from a sense of duty. These perversions of conscience are hard to cure, but there are ways of escape. Anxiety and care are sometimes cured, and the mind restored to its true balance by leaving all work and going where solitude and nature, or a change of scene and society, can break the rigid associations of habit. God has made the world so wide in order that we may find rest in a change of scene. I do not know any more blessed influence for one harassed by the anxieties of business or the turmoil of difficult duties than the immense peace of nature. Mr. Emerson represents a man going out of a meeting of excited reformers, and the stars looking down on him and saying “Why so hot, my little man?” A month spent among the great mountains of Colorado and the vast
regions of Arizona would be likely to quiet the nerves of most of us. Sometimes disease is sent, as a blessed help, to take us out of our insane activity. But the best remedy for all such anxieties is to believe in the providence of God; to believe that we and all other human beings are in the hands of one who knows how to guide the world.
For this purpose Jesus, in rebuking anxiety, calls our attention to the lilies of the field and to the fowls of the air. If we believe that God takes care of us, of society, of man, of the nation, of the church, of orthodoxy, as much as he does of dandelions and bluebirds, we should not be frightened as we are about them. Panic terrors are peculiar to cities and crowds. State Street and Wall Street are in a panic when Berkshire county and the Illinois prairies are quite calm. You remember the story of Mungo Park and the little flower in Africa. Some one says,
“ When I believe in truth as I believe in nature, I shall not be anxious about heresies and heretics, and not be afraid that skeptics and deists shall overthrow religion. I do not run to the window in the morning to see whether anybody has carried away the mountain opposite, or run away with the river.”
The temptations of Jesus were all of this higher order. He was only tempted by the devil, not by the world or by the flesh. His temptation was to use his wonderful powers so as to convince mankind by an irresistible persuasion of his mission. The devil tempted him to work miracles, to make bread out of stones, to throw himself from the Temple
- and the devil reinforced his argument by ample quotations from the Bible. He asked him to make a little compromise with truth for the sake of doing a vast good ; for the sake of a great right to commit a little wrong ; to worship the devil for one little moment in order to bring to God the kingdoms of the whole world. Jesus surmounted
these most subtle and difficult temptations, and so had nothing else to fear. In each case he threw himself on God. “God will feed me,” he said ; must trust in him and wait his time. I must worship him alone, the Infinite Truth."
These trials are necessary for us. They are the common lot. But there is always a way of escape if we will look for it. Sometimes it is found in solitude, sometimes in society, sometimes in prayer, sometimes in action. Sometimes friendship will help us; sometimes the best thing we can do is to tell our troubles to another, and sometimes the only help is in telling them to God. The higher the temptation, the higher the help. To live in the spirit of trust and submission, of hope and faith and love - this is the surest aid. If we live in the spirit, we shall walk in the spirit. There has no temptation come to any of us but what is common to man; no temptation which is above our strength ; no-temptation from which there is not an escape. All come to try us, and do us good ; to humble and prove us, and let us see what is in our heart; to show us our dangers and our weakness. When we have learned these, then we may pray,
“ Lead us not into temptation,” and we shall need it no longer, and God will command the devil to leave us and angels to come and minister to us.
THE SPIRIT OF FEAR AND THE SPIRIT OF POWER.
“GOD HATH NOT GIVEN US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR; BUT OF POWER,
AND OF LOVE, AND OF A SOUND MIND.” “ WE MAY HAVE BOLDNESS IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT'; BECAUSE
AS HE IS IN THIS WORLD, SO ARE WE. THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE; BUT PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR, BECAUSE FEAR HATH TORMENT. HE THAT FEARETH IS NOT MADE PERFECT IN
LOVE.” « FOR YE HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE SPIRIT OF BONDAGE AGAIN TO
FEAR, BUT YE HAVE RECEIVED THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION WHERE
BY WE CRY ABBA, FATHER.” “ PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU, MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU. LET NOT
YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED, NEITHER LET IT BE AFRAID."
HAVE brought together several passages in order to
show that the spirit of the gospel is not a spirit of fear, that Christianity is not a religion of fear, and that Jesus comes to deliver us from all fear. I will endeavor to show how this is, and how we can experience this deliverance from fear.
But there are some objections to be first considered.
If life is full of danger and evil, ought we not to be afraid ? it may be asked. Is it right not to be afraid ? God has placed us between two worlds the world of life and good, the world of death and evil, to choose between them. Ought we not to fear lest we should fail, through our own folly and sin, of choosing and adhering to the right? Do we not see thousands going carelessly and recklessly on in