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thy and oneness, the other turning it to practical ends and holding it steady to its work.
Thus service becomes the height and sum of human duty. Servants exalted into friends ; servants understanding the glory of their calling and also the secret of blessedness; servants in the one work of doing good in an “evil world;" such is the name and the vocation of all who are born into the world. Its finest characteristic is steadfastness, the holding on quality, persisting, not by mere force of will, but by sympathy with, and faith in, the end to be reached.
This steadfastness requires first of all, that one should be steadfast in his own moral condition; and of this point we will now speak.
As it is the finest feature of service, so it is the one we are most apt to fail of. Alternations of feeling that find their way into conduct, lapsing away from purposes, the fading out of clear perceptions of truth, the slothful neglect of plain duty; here is the fault of us all. But there are reasons for it that it is well to understand.
1. The high standard of requirement makes it hard of attainment. This is one of the features of Christian service that tends to throw it out of general acceptance; in one way or another men are always trying to escape claims that are otherwise so attractive. Ask anything of me, but do not ask me to be perfect; take much from me but do not require all; leave me some little space where I may be my own master and hold something as my own: so men have ever said, not discerning that a perfect
standard is both a necessity and a blessing. Thus only can God declare his perfect will; thus only is highest effort evoked ; thus only do we learn the perfectibility of character, one of the unique features of the Faith; thus only is the divine element within us summoned to its fellowship with the Spirit. But while the high standard awakens enthusiasm, it also begets discouragement; we are like men climbing some tall peak, who draw strength from its very height, and start afresh as they see the glory of the light that plays about the distant summit, but are also wearied by the same conditions. The greatness that inspires also weakens; the perfection that stimulates our finer qualities presses heavily on our weaker ones. We hold our lives under this two-fold condition of perfect requirement and human weakness, and the result is an experience sharing in the qualities of each. But it is better that there should be fluctuation under high requirement than uniformity under low requirement. For the kingdom of Heaven aims only at the best; it does not concern itself with what is inferior; it is gauged throughout upon the scale of the perfect and the infinite.
The struggle of the ages, the inmost purpose of human development, is to bring men up to the point of enduring the highest motives. It is one of the unique features of the Christ, — a sinless man demanding sinlessness, ending the preparatory stage of inferior requirement, and of winking at the hardness of the human heart, and launching upon the world the utterly new conception and demand of perfection. Yet He makes it in no bare way, but with a corresponding disclosure of motives and with gracious provision in case of failure. In a moment, and for the first time, the world of eternity is thrown wide open, the absolute nature of God is revealed, the assertion of perfectibility and the demand for it laid upon men, destiny lifted out of time into the timeless ranges of eternity; and along with these overwhelming revelations, enough indeed, it would seem, to crush the human spirit, a redeeming revelation of grace and pity and patience and inspiring aid. Such is the miracle in the world of thought and history that Christ presents! Such is the absolutely new conception and method that He inserts into society for its adoption, a method that combines infinite stringency of requirement, with provisions that render them effective in every weakest child of humanity.
2. Steadfastness finds another hindrance in the stronger power of the world, stronger because nearer and always present. We have only to put out our hands and we feel it; our eyes always behold it; its voices fill our ears; it is built into the structure of our bodies ; our flesh is wrought out of its dust; our nerves vibrate in unison with its electric pulsations; our blood is red and vital with the nourishment drawn from its bosom. It is but a short road between our bodily desires and their fulfillment; it is not a long road between worldly desire of any sort and its gratification. It is all before us, near at hand, unmistakable, very real and substantial. It is not strange, that when the claims of this world conflict with those of the eternal world, the former should often win us. For the eternal world, though near, is not visible, nor has it a voice always to be heard amidst the clamor of this world. Its tones are low, its movements are · fine and delicate like the touch of spirits, its rewards and satisfactions are parts of a wide-circling system, the full force and results of which we do not yet experience. Now, it is almost a law of our nature that the nearest motive governs us. That it is not wholly a law is the foundation of religion. That we can reject the nearer motive, and yield to the remoter or higher one, is the basis of spiritual life. The use of this possibility of our nature constitutes character in its higher ranges.
With such hindrances as these, it becomes a vital question how to fortify ourselves in a steadfast habit of spiritual life. For fluctuation is weakness and misery; the heart as well as the judgment protests against this serving two masters. There is no peace nor strength nor success save in steadiness and unity of purpose. How to gain it is the question.
It is evident that the first and main thing to do is to set the whole current and habit of life against these temptations. We must cherish the enthusiasm of the high standard ; we must resist the nearer motive, and hold the two worlds of sense and spirit in their right relation ; we must recognize the fact of human weakness, and treat it accordingly, bringing up fresh reserves of will to fill the place of drooping purposes, inducing higher moods that shall lift us out of the lower. All this is very evident,
but is it not possible to come into some condition, some moral fortress, that shall be in itself fortified against this tormenting fluctuation ? Mere acts of the will, the proddings of conscience, the enthusiasms of the spirit do not avail; the fault is in the will itself, in the conscience, and the flesh-encased spirit. Something is needed to steady the will, to supply the place of an intermitting conscience, to take up the irregularities of the emotions; something to keep the moral machinery in action, when will and conscience and emotion flag or cease to act.
We are driven to that old-fashioned thing called habit, which I shall now speak of under the modern phrase of environment.
It is a point greatly overlooked just at present, that faith needs an environment. Because faith is spiritual in its essence, we are too ready to conclude that it is spiritual in its substance; that because it is inward and invisible, it has no need of an external and visible form. So it is left unhoused, — a spirit without body, a tartarian ghost in this very concrete world.
It is a practical as well as curious question as to the relation of character to the external world. Is character the result of inward forces, — using the world simply as a field of action, a mere standing ground, — or does it actually draw upon external forces ? Does all come from within, or is there an interplay of forces upon the moral nature from both worlds ? Does environment contribute to character? It is a strange feature of an age that deems itself