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to pass through this experience then, if one has never had it before.
But how much better it is to set in order the house of the spirit, all through our life! Religion, true religion, is to help us to live — nobly, truly, generously. It is to enable us to perform every-day duties faithfully, to endure common trials, patiently. False religions, the religions of priestcraft, offer their ceremonies as a viaticum, to help the soul to escape unknown dangers hereafter, and obtain mysterious joys.
It used to be said, by way of objection to liberal Christianity, that it is a good religion to live by, but bad to die
by. The objection is illogical ; any religion which is good v to live by must be good to die by. No religion can be
good to live by which does not make men live noble and pure lives ; and what better preparation for death can there be than this? When Jesus said, “ The tree is known by its fruits,” and gave this as a test by which to distinguish true teachers from false ones, he referred to fruits which could be known in this life, else his warning and test would be useless. According to this, he is a true teacher of Christianity whose doctrine enables men to live good lives here; not he who merely gives them a ticket by which they may be enabled to enter heaven hereafter. We need religion, we need the sense of a divine presence and a divine love, to enable us to be true and faithful in this world. We need forgiveness for this life, not for the life to come.
Nations are also called on to set their house in order. When a form of government, intended to protect the people in their rights, is abused to put a monopoly of power in the hands of a few, it is time to set the house in order. Our country was called upon, in 1861, in the Providence of God, to set its house in order. If there is a flaw in a
may be fired a great many times, but each time the flaw grows a little larger, the crack a little wider, and at last the cannon bursts. An unsettled question as to the relation between State sovereignty and the Federal sovereignty was the flaw in our Constitution. The Constitution nowhere decided that conflict of sovereignties. Very good arguments were made on both sides, but the fact that arguments had to be made, showed that there was a defect in our Constitution. We fired the cannon eighteen times ; on the nineteenth it burst. We passed through eighteen Presidential elections; on the nineteenth came the Rebellion.
Then behind this difficulty lay the greater inconsistency of Slavery—another fatal defect. There existed the irrepressible antagonism of two contradictory elements—the Aristocracy of Slaveholding, and the Democracy of Equal Rights.
The nation was called upon to set its house in order. It had to put down the rebellion, but in doing it it must also repair forever these two original defects. We had to restore the Union, but in restoring it leave out these two fatal inconsistencies. We had to decide two points whether the States are supreme, or the Nation; and whether Slavery was to be supreme, or Freedom.
Thank God, both were decided the right way. We waited till we were at the point of death before we set our house in order. But how much better it would have been to have settled the question of State sovereignties at the time of the South Carolina nullification, when we had General Jackson for President, and he on the right side! Henry Clay then made a compromise which settled nothing — as, in 1850, he helped to make another compromise of the Slavery difficulty which settled nothing. In neither instance did we set our house in order we merely
patched over the surface of the wall with badly-tempered mortar, so that “if a fox went up, he would break it down.” But by the dread arbitrament of war these two questions have been absolutely settled, and by that settlement the nation is prepared to live. They might have been settled, and would have been better settled, without war ; but better a settlement by war than the nation's death.
Europe looked at us with astonishment and complacent satisfaction, and said, " The great republic has gone to pieces. Art thou become like one of us ? God has said to it, Set thy house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live." But God was really saying to us, “Set thy house in order, that thou mayst live, and not die.” We have risen, through this awful struggle, to a higher national life. We have become one people, one in the supremacy of Freedom, one in the triumph of true Democracy, one in the final destruction of the heresy of State sovereignties. As, when the fiery tide of lava breaks its way through the superincumbent rock, and pours up its liquid raging mass through the limestone or the silex, it changes them as it passes into precious stones and marbles; so this great fiery tide of war, pouring up through the national institutions and habits, changed our barren lives into something higher, - gave to us nobler aims, clearer insights, more generous sympathies, and lifted the whole nation to a higher level of life.
Let us, then, set our house in order, that we may live ! The house of our affairs, that we may act efficiently and usefully ; the house of our thoughts, that we may see clearly what to do, and how to do it; the house of our affections, that we may shed warm sunshine around us, on all the hearts near us ; the house of our soul, that being led by God, and inspired by him, we may have his peace in our souls evermore, and live his eternal life.
THE TWO HANDLES.
“TAKE HOLD OF THIS."
PICTETUS, the wise slave, who was in Greece what
Dr. Franklin was in America, and whose proverbs have the same touch of common sense in them as have the Proverbs of Solomon, gives us in one place a parable of “The Two Handles." * Everything,” says he, “has two handles. By the one it can be easily carried ; by the other not at all. Thus, if your brother has injured you, do not take hold of this event on the side of the injury, for that handle will not support it” (it is, as we say, intolerable), “ but take hold of it by the other handle, and say, 'Well, he is my brother, after all, we were brought up together in the same house.'
Precisely the same idea is expressed, and the same illustration used by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. When the elder son returned from the field, and saw the rejoicing over his unworthy brother's return, he took hold of the fact by the handle of his brother's bad conduct and his own good conduct. “I have always done right, and he has behaved shamefully. You never gave me a kid, and you
have killed the calf for him." But notice how the father presents to him the other handle: “This, thy brother, was dead, and is alive again. All I have is yours ; you and I are doing this together for him.” Observe the value of that little pronoun “we.” He does not say, “ It was meet
that I should do it,” but “It was meet that we should make merry and be glad,” thus assuming that the brother and father were both united in this generous reception of the penitent.
Almost everything has a pleasant and an unpleasant handle; there is something agreeable and something disa-, greeable in all that we see and meet and have to do with. Some take such things by the pleasant and agreeable handle, and others take them by the opposite one.
Many persons, in travelling, seem bent on seeing only what is disagreeable. They go from Dan to Beersheba, and find it all barren. On the same trip, even in a horse car going through Washington Street, you may often meet both classes of travellers. One is complaining of the dust, the noise, the disagreeable people in the car. Everything is flat and commonplace to him. Another cannot go from Boston to Dorchester without encountering some agreeable stranger, or some interesting adventure. I have read books of travels, where the journey led through a charming country and a curious society ; but the traveller saw nothing of it. His book was full of personal annoyances ; how he lost his dinner here, and ate a bad one there; how he was cheated in this inn, and could find no soap in that. He judges the country, its customs, its people, its laws, by the habits of his own village in Connecticut or England. So he sees nothing and learns nothing. He began his journey with a full purse and empty head; he has emptied the first without filling the second.
Washington Irving walks through England, and its villages, its ancestral homes, its rural population become warm with tender and pathetic life. Theodore Winthrop goes to Katahdin, and the rude farmer and patient ox grow fascinating in his sympathetic narrative. The man who travels must learn the art of taking hold of everything by the right