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If the British Alpine Club, for scarcely any reason, runs these risks, and goes through this toil, seeking always some new danger to surmount, ought not we all to become an Alpine Club, to climb mentally, morally and spiritually to loftier and still loftier heights of excellence? The Master says to us all, “ Friends, go up higher.”
This is what Jesus Christ has done for the human race. He has told it to go up higher, and it has heard his voice. Christianity has been in the world a principle of progress, moral and spiritual. Jesus said this in his first sermon on the Mount. What was the substance of that marvellous discourse? It was that to enter heaven was to be "pure in heart,” humble in spirit, meek and merciful; that his disciples were sent to be “the salt of the earth” and " light of the world;" that, therefore, their righteousness must “exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees ;” that their goodness must strike in from the action to the motive; that their religion must be in the heart, their goodness heart goodness, and that they must be " perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect.” Wonderful words, uttered at such a time, among such a people! Wonderful confidence, that there was in man something to answer this appeal ! Dr. Channing once said to me in conversation, that the thing which astonished him most of all in the character of Christ was just this, that he had such profound faith in the capacity of men for goodness; that he could say such words to a people so bigoted, so ignorant, and hard. “Why,” said he, “we should have as soon thought of saying to these chairs and tables, ‘Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven,' as to those Jews.
But there is something in man which does respond to this call some chord in the soul which rings in answer to every noble appeal. We are told that when, in a play of Terence, these words occurred, which have a Christian
tone to them, “I am a man, and what concerns man concerns me,” the whole theatre rose to its feet in sympathy. And did you ever notice that, in our own theatres, any expression of generous sentiment, no matter how hackneyed, always brings applause? If the actor says, “I must do right, no matter though I die," or if he says, “There, friend, take my last dollar," the pit and gallery thunder sincerest applause. The sentiment is tawdry and claptrap, no doubt; but it proves, nevertheless, that what every man likes best is generosity, magnanimity, heroism, elevation.
We are all mean enough, and selfish enough ; but that is not what we like. No orator, no writer, ever became widely popular by appealing to low motives. But popularity comes by appealing to this moral sentiment. It was because Charles Sumner was always true to justice, freedom, humanity, progress, that he had the heart of the people with him. Politicians often hoped to defeat him, and wondered they could not do it. It was because he was true to a sentiment of honor and justice, and he had his reward. The
power of Jesus over the human heart has been just here. He saw the evil of man, but also saw his good. He saw that man is a sinner, but knew that his sin is an alien element, not natural to him. Jesus appealed to his better nature. Men of the world assume that man is essentially selfish, and to be moved by selfish considerations. But Christianity has called on him to make sacrifices, and he has denied himself, taken up his cross and followed his Master to the ends of the world, seeking to save souls. Man is sensual, fond of ease, fond of pleasure ; but, at the voice of Christ, he has renounced the world, and devoted strength and life to heroic labors for his Master. Man loves to get and keep money ; but Christ-has taught him to find a higher pleasure in using it generously for great
purposes. Jesus, because he dared to say "Go up higher," has infused a new element into the world, and has been the salt of the earth,
I sometimes think that the old lines which separate religious sects and parties will be obliterated in this country, and new ones drawn. Just as the old political parties of fifty years ago have passed away, and we no more hear of the Federalists and Democrats, with whom the question was centralized government and local administration, but other parties have arisen, and the dividing lines have been drawn anew ; so, I think, Christians hereafter will cease to divide on the question of the Trinity, Atonement, and Depravity, but will group themselves around new issues. What will these be? Some persons say that the new issue will be “ Naturalism” and “Supernaturalism.” I do not quite think so, for that question seems to me rather too scholastic to interest common people. It seems to me that there is now, and will be henceforth, one principal distinction between Christians—between that class which thinks that Christianity is only to save us from a future hell,
and put us into a future Heaven by means of its sacraments, its doctrines, or its mystical experiences ; and that class which believes that Christianity comes to make us go up higher, to make men holy and generous ; to make them magnanimous and brave. The real distinction between Christians is this, that some believe Christianity to be a kind of amulet, to be worn round the neck, in order to save us when we die ; and others believe it to be an inspiration and law to keep in the heart, to ennoble us while we live. In short, some believe the influence of Christ to be magual, and others believe it to be moral.
The best way to escape many difficulties which beset us on a lower plane is to go up to a higher one.
It is sometimes easier to go up than to stand still where we are.
climbing a precipitous rock, if you stop, you may grow dizzy, and be in danger of falling; but if you push upward, you are safe. So, sometimes, if you find it hard to do your duty, try to do more, not less. Adopt a higher standard, go up to a higher ground. Then you have more motive, purer air, better inspiration. If it is hard to be a moderately good Christian, try to become a better one ; you will) often find that easier. To give yourself wholly to what is true and good is easier than to halt between two opinions. When you try to compromise between right and wrong, to be moderately just, to be truthful to a certain extent, and religious without ceasing to be worldly, it is a hard matter. But if we say, “We will do whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble,” it simplifies the matter amazingly. To stand still and be decimated by the enemy's cannon is harder than to charge, and many a lost battle has been retrieved by a leader who knew how to inspire his troops with hopeful ardor, and to fling them on the foe. Everyone who has to collect money for a good object knows that it is often easier to get a large sum than a small one. ^; One thing which caused Christianity to triumph over Judaism was that it was a higher religion, demanding more, but also giving more. The old Jewish system was a heavy work, a task work, a routine of duties and ceremonies, “which,” say the Apostle, “neither we, nor our fathers were able to bear.” But Jesus made it easier to do this by giving them more to do. He did not say, “I am come to give you rest, by giving you less to do;" but he said, "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He said that not a jot nor a tittle should pass from the law until all of it was fulfilled. It is hard to do our duty, when duty is a task, a drudgery, so much to to
done every day. But when it is a spirit inspiring all of life; when it is the love of God and man; the love of all excellence; joy in fighting a good fight; the happiness found in making others happy; when it thus takes in all of life, then it becomes at once a great deal more, and a great deal easier.
And so of religion. If religion is "saying our prayers so many times a day; if it is going to church on Sunday ; if it is joining the church, and "making a profession;" if it is adopting a certain tone in conversation, abstaining from certain amusements, and doing certain works; then, though it does not amount to a great deal, it is not a very easy matter, because it is a burden and a yoke. But if religion consists in "going up higher,” if it is progress from bad to good, from good to better ; if prayer is simply being with God all day long, talking with him when we feel like it; enjoying sunlight and summer the more because he is in them ; bearing trial and sorrow cheerfully because the Heavenly Father sends them ; sure that all things are right which he ordains, and glad to do the smallest service, to any one of his children, however humble, because he loves them all-if this is religion, to trust, to hope, to love ; why, then it is a great deal higher than all the old formalities, but it is also a great deal easier and simpler and sweeter than those.
If we live in such a spirit as this, then life itself will lead us up higher. As we grow older, we shall become better. Men and women of good-will, whose aims are pure and true, do grow better as they grow older. They are like those clear October days, when the air is so pure and so exhilarating ; when the heats of summer are gone, when the grapes are growing sweet on the vine, the apples growing mellow on the trees. Decay has scarcely begun to touch the green leaves with its effacing fingers ; the red