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spiritual growth, the human plant needs sunshine. People trying to make themselves fit to become God's children by painful effort, seem to me like the vines in a dark cellar, stretching up their weak and sickly branches to wards the light which shines feebly through a few small openings. But only believe that you are God's children, and that he loves you and will help you to correct all your faults, and grow up into a Christian life, and then you are like the same vines planted out in the summer sunshine, and June air, and fed by the dews and the softly falling showers.
First, the new heavens; then the new earth: this is the order by which life comes down. First, a new earth; then the new heavens: this is the order by which human effort goes up. For our work begins with what is around us, doing good to our next-door neighbor, and widening out the circles of Christian activity. For our inspiration, go at once to the Most High, as the Universal Father, and live in communion with him. So the new heavens will make a new earth, and earth, vivified by this influence, will be developed into the kingdom of heaven.
During the present year, Christ can make everything new in our souls, if we will let him do so. He can bring God so near to us that, instead of seeing a great and awful being, to be propitiated by prayers and humiliation, he shall seem better to us than the best friend, dearer and tenderer than the tenderest. We may come to feel habitually the influence of God in our souls making all things
So, too, in our churches, the same spirit can make all things new. So in society, in the State, in the world, the new heavens may this year make more and more of a new earth.
And thus too in the coming year, our nation purified by trial, disciplined by difficulty, may begin to get clear of the snares and nets of selfish politicians, and learn to do justly, and to love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
NOT TO DESTROY, BUT FULFIL
“I AM NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO FULFIL."
'HESE words are the key to one of the deepest prin
ciples of the Christian religion. Its main purpose is not to destroy anything old, but to add something new. It comes to conquer error by teaching truth, to cure sin by giving an enthusiasm for goodness, to put an end to selfishness by inspiring generosity, to overcome evil with good. This may be called emphatically the Christian method of reform-the method of the kingdom of heaven.
The other way, and the common one, is to attack evil directly, and try to pluck it up or beat it down by force. And if evil were always pure, unadulterated evil, this might seem the best method. But as evil is almost always a perversion of something good, an abuse of something useful, or an excess of something right, the destructive method of reform is often a failure. “I early saw," said the wise German philosopher, Goethe, “that our virtues and vices grow from the same roots.” This idea is also intimated in the parable of the wheat and tares. The servants, when they find the wheat field full of tares, wish to go to work at once and drag them up by the roots. But the experienced master said, “Not so ! lest in pulling up the tares ye root out the wheat also. Let both grow together until
the harvest, and in the time of harvest I will say to my reapers, ‘Gather the tares first and burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” The roots of the wheat and tares become so intertwined and tangled together that you cannot eradicate the one without destroying the other.
In the early ages of Christianity, when luxury and sensuality pervaded all parts of Roman society, the Christians fled into the desert, there to fight against their appetites and passions and destroy them, and so become holy like their master. But this destructive method did not succeed. They ought to have fulfilled their nature, and not sought to destroy it. Jesus said in his prayer for his disciples, “ I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” These disciples wished to get out of the world ; to crush down their rebellious nature; to weaken their desires by lonely abstinence. They did not succeed. Wild passions took the form of fanatic fury in their souls. Visions of temptation assumed a bodily shape before their eyes. The only way to escape the control of low desires and passions is to rise above them in the love of better things. The only way to overcome the world is not to run away from it, but to be in it yet not of it.
Here is a little child, who is a great tease and trouble. He is always asking to do this or that impossible or unpermissible action. He bursts in abruptly upon the conversation of his seniors. He destroys all peace in the house by shouts and screams, imperious demands on the time and attention of others, endless interruptions of every one's affairs. He is an imp of mischief, breaking furniture, overturning inkstands on the carpet, setting fire to valuable papers, driving nails into the furniture. How shall you abate this nuisance? You may try to destroy these bad habits by scolding him, by rebukes, by lectures,
by punishments. That is one way, but not the best. These bad habits often spring from an instinct of activity, an intense desire to do something, which the Creator has given the child as a means of mental and moral growth. In trying to pull up the tares, you are in great danger of rooting out the wheat, also. If you succeed by force in changing his disagreeable torment of perpetual activity into a dull quiet, you have changed a bright boy into a dull one. A better way than destroying this tendency is to fulfil it by giving him plenty of occupation of an innocent kind. Give him a heap of sand to dig, blocks of wood to build houses with, a box of tools and boards to saw. Set him at some work useful or interesting, or, at least, harmless. He will like all this better than he likes mischief. All his irregular activity was a cry for something to do.
The old method of treating criminals in England was the destructive method - it was simply to hang them. Men, women and children were hung for stealing a piece of bread. But this did not stop stealing. Crime increased with punishment. Now we try to cure criminals by turning their vicious propensities into good channels. We do not always succeed in doing it, but we do sometimes, and, on the whole, there is much less crime under the modern system than under the old one.
The old way of treating disease was to try to destroy it by heroic methods. The patient was bled day after day, and his body was searched with violent poisons, so, that while he was being cured of the disease, he often died of the medicine. This was the destructive method in medical practice. But now the wise physician fears lest, while he is thus trying to root out the tares of disease, he
also pull up with them the wheat of life. So, instead, he surrounds the vital power with healthy conditions, and thus encourages naturę to outgrow or grow out its morbid ten