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we will say we have read again and again, of the heroism of facing
danger, and we have glowed with the thought of its nobleness. We.
have felt how great it is to bear pain, and submit to indignities, rather-
than wound our conscience ; and all this, again and again, when we
had no opportunity of carrying our good feelings into practice. Now,
suppose at length we actually come into trial, and let us say, our feel-
ings become roused, as often before, at the thought of boldly resisting
temptations to cowardice, shall we therefore do our duty, quitting our-
selves like men? rather, we are likely to talk loudly, and then run from
the danger. Why ? — rather let us ask, why not 1 what is to keep us
from yielding? Because we feel aright ? nay, we have again and again
felt aright, and thought aright, without accustoming ourselves to act
aright, and though there was an original connection in our minds be-
tween feeling and acting, there is none now ; the wires within us, as
they may be called, are loosened and powerless.

And what is here instanced of fortitude, is true in all cases of duty.
The refinement which literature gives, is that of thinking, feeling,..



XXX.] DANGER OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS. 425

knowing and speaking, right, not of acting right ; and thus, while it
makes the manners amiable, and the conversation decorous and agree-
able, it has no tendency to make the conduct, the practice of the man
virtuous.

Observe, I have supposed the works of fiction, I speak of, to inculcate
right sentiments ; though such works (play books for example,) arc
often vicious and immoral. But even at best supposing them well
principled, still after all, at best, they are, I say, dangerous in them-
selves ; — that is, if we allow refinement to stand in the place of hardy,
rough-handed obedience. It follows, that I am much opposed to cer-
tain religious novels, which some persons think so useful : that they
sometimes do good I am far from denying ; — but they do more harm
than good. They do harm on the whole ; they lead men to cultivate
the religious affections separate from religious practice. And here I
might speak of that entire religious system, (miscalled religious,) which
makes Christian faith consist, not in the honest and plain practice of
what is right, but in the luxury of excited religious feeling, in a mere
meditating on our Blessed Lord, and dwelling as in a reverie on what
He has done for us ? — for such indolent contemplation will no more
sanctify a man in fact, than reading a poem or listening to a chant or
psalm-tune.

The case is the same with the arts last alluded to, poetry and music.
They are especially likely to make us unmanly, if we are not on our
guard, as exciting emotions without ensuring correspondent practice,
and so destroying the connection between feeling and acting ; for I here
mean by unmanliness the inability to do with ourselves what we wish,
— the saying fine things, and yet lying slothfully on our couch, as if we
could not get up, though we ever so much wished it.

And here I must notice something besides in elegant accomplish-
ments, which goes to make us over-refined and fastidious, and falsely
delicate. In books, every thing is made beautiful in its way. Pictures
are drawn of complete virtue ; little is said about failures, and little or
nothing of the drudgery of ordinary, every-day obedience, which is
neither poetical nor interesting. True faith teaches us to do numberless
disagreeable things for Christ's sake, to bear petty annoyances, which
we find written down in no book. In most books Christian conduct is
made grand, elevated, and splendid ; so that any one, who only knows,
of true religion from books, and not from actual endeavours to be reli-
gious, is sure to be offended at religion when he actually comes upon it,,
from the roughness and humbleness of his duties, and his necessary de-
ficiences in doing them. It is beautiful in a picture to wash the disci-



426 ST. LUKE. [Serm.

pies' feet ; but the sands of the real desert have no comeliness in them
to compensate for the servile nature of the occupation.

And further still, it must be observed, that the art of composing,
which is a chief accomplishment, has in itself a tendency to make us
artificial and insincere. For to be ever attending to the fitness and
propriety of our words, is (or at least there is the risk of its being) a
kind of acting ; and knowing what can be said on both sides of a
subject, is a main step towards thinking the one side as good as the
other. Hence men in ancient times, who cultivated polite literature,
became what were called " Sophists ;" that is, men who wrote elegantly,
and talked eloquently, on any subjects whatever, right or wrong. St.
Luke perchance might have been such a Sophist, had he not been a
Christian.

Such are some of the dangers of elegant accomplishments ; and they
beset more or less all educated persons ; and of these perhaps not the
least, such females as happen to have no very direct duties, and are
above the drudgery of common life, and hence are apt to become fas-
tidious and fine, — to love a luxurious case, and to amuse themselves in
mere elegant pursuits, the while they admire and profess what is reli-
gious and virtuous, and think that they really possess the character of
mind which they esteem.

With these thoughts before us, it is necessary to look back to the
Scripture instances which I began by adducing, to avoid the conclusion
that accomplishments are positively dangerous, and unworthy a Chris-
tian, But St. Luke and St. Paul show us, that we may be sturdy work-
ers in the Lord's service, and bear our cross manfully, though we be
adorned with all the learning of the Egyptians, or rather, that the re-
sources of literature, and the graces of a cultivated mind, may be made
both a lawful source of enjoyment to the possessor, and a means of
introducing and recommending the Truth to others ; while the history
of the Tabernacle shows that all the cunning arts, and precious pos-
sessions of this world, may be consecrated to a religious service, and
be made to speak of the world to come. I conclude then with the fol-
lowing cautions, to which the foregoing remarks lead. First, we must
avoid giving too much time to lighter occupations, and next, we must
never allow ourselves to read works of fiction or poetry, or to interest
ourselves in the fine arts for the mere sake of the things themselves ;
but keep in mind all along that we are Christians and accountable be-
ings, who have fixed principles of right and wrong, by which all things
must be tried, and religious habits to be matured within us, towards
which all things are to be made subservient. Nothing is more common
among accomplished people, than the habit of reading books so entirely



XXX.] DANGER OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS. 427

for reading's sake, as to praise and blame the actions and persons de-
scribed in a random way, according to their fancy, not considering
■whether they are really good or bad according to the standard of moral
truth. I would not be austere ; but when this is done habitually, surely
it is dangerous. Such too is the abuse of poetical talent, that sacred
gift. Nothing is more common than to fall into the practice of utter-
ing fine sentiments, particularly in letter writing, as a matter of course,
or a kind of elegant display. Nothing more common in singing than
to use words with a light meaning, or a bad one. All these things are
hurtful to seriousness of character. It is for this reason (to put aside
others) that the profession of stage-players, and again of orators, is a
dangerous one. They learn to say good things, and to excite in them-
selves vehement feelings, about nothing at all. If we are in earnest,
we shall let nothing lightly pass by which may do us good, nor shall we
dare to trifle with such sacred subjects as morality and religious duty.
We shall apply all we read to ourselves ; and this almost without in*
tending to do so, from the mere sincerity and honesty of our desire to
please God. We shall be suspicious of all such good thoughts and
■wishes, and we shall shrink from all such exhibitions of our principles*
^s fall short of action. We shall aim at doing right, and so glorifying
our Father, and shall exhort and constrain others to do so also ; but as
for talking on the appropriate subjects of religious meditation, andirying
to show piety, and to excite corresponding feelings in another, even
though our nearest friend, far from doing this, we shall account it a
snare and a mischief. Yet this is what many persons consider the high-
est part of religion, and call it spiritual conversation, the test of a spir-
itual mind ; whereas, putting aside the incipient and occasional hypo-
crisy, and again the immodesty of it, I call all formal and intentional
expression of religious emotions, all studied passionate discourse, dissi.
paiion, — dissipation the same in nature, though different in subject, as
what is commonly so called ; for it is a drain and a waste of our reh-
gious and moral strength, a general weakening of our spiritual powers
(as I have already shown) and all for what ? for the pleasure of the im-
mediate excitement. Who can deny this religious disorder is a parallel
case to that of the sensualist ? Nay, precisely the same as theirs, from
whom the rehgionists in question think themselves very far removed,
of the fashionable world I mean, who read works of fiction, frequent
the public shows, are ever on the watch for novelties, and affect a pride
of manners and a "mincing"* deportment, and are ready with all kinds
(of good thoughts and keen emotions on all occasions.

♦ Isa. iii. 16.



428 ST. LUKE. [Serm. XXX^

Of all such as abuse the decencies and elegancies of moral truth
into a means of luxurious enjoyment, what would a prophet of God
say ? Hear the words of the holy Ezekiel, that stern rough man of
God, a true Saint in the midst of a self-indulgent high-professing peo-
ple. " Thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking
against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one
to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and
hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord. And they
come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My
people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them : for with
their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their
covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one
that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument : for
they hear thy words, but they do them not."*

Or, consider St. Paul's words ; which are still more impressive, be-
cause he was himself a man of learning and accomplishments, and took
pleasure, in due place, in the pursuits to which these gave rise.

" Preach the word ; be instant in season, out of season ; reprove, re-
buke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will
come when they will not endure sound doctrine ; but after their own
lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And
they shall turn away their ears from the Truth, and shall be turned
unto fables." " Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you Uke men>
be strong."!

» Ezek. xxiiii. 30—32. t 2 Tim. iv. 2—4. 1 Cor. ivi. 13.



SERMON XXXI.



THE FEAST OF ST. SIMON AND ST. JUDE THE APOSTLES.
CHRISTIAN ZEAL.



John ii. 17.
The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.

The Apostles commemorated on this Festival, direct our attention to
the subject of Zeal, which I propose to consider, under our Saviour's
guidance, as suggested by the text. St. Simon is called Zelotes,
which means the Zealous ; a title given him (as is supposed) from his
belonging before his conversion to the Jewish sect of Zealots, which
professed extraordinary Zeal for the law. Any how, the appellation
marks him as distinguished for this particular Christian grace. St.
Jude's Epistle, which forms part of the service of the day, is almost
wholly upon the duty of manifesting Zeal for Gospel Truth, and opens
with a direct exhortation to " contend earnestly for the Faith once
delivered to the Saints.'' The Collect also indirectly reminds us of the
same duty, for it prays that all the members of the Church may be
united in spirit by the Apostles' doctrine ; and what are these but the
words of Zeal, viz. of a love for the Truth and the Church so strong
as not to allow that man should divide what God hath joined to-
gether ?

However, it will be a more simple account of Zeal, to call it the
earnest desire for God's honour, leading to strenuous and bold deeds in
His behalf; and that in spite of all obstacles. Thus when Phinehas
stood up and executed judgment in Israel, he was zealous for God.
David also, in his punishment of the idolaters round about, and in pre-
paring for the building of the Temple, showed his Zeal, which was one
of his especial virtues. Elijah, when he assembled the Israelites upon
Mount Carmel, and slew the prophets of Baal, was " very zealous for
the Lord God of Hosts." Hezekiah besides, and Josiah, were led to
their reformations in religious worship by an admirable Zeal ; and Ne-



430 ST. SIMON AND ST. JUDE. [Serm.

hemiah too, after the captivity, who with the very fire and sweetness
of Gospel Love set the repentant nation in order for the coming of
Christ.

1 . Now Zeal is one of the elementary religious qualifications ; that
is, one of those which are essential in the very notion of a religious
man. A man cannot be .said to be in earnest in religion, till he magni-
fies his God and Saviour; till he .so far consecrates and exalts the
thought of Him in his heart, as an object of praise, and adoration, and
rejoicing as to be pained and grieved at dishonour shown to Him, and
eager to avenge Him. In a word a religious temper is one of loyalty
towards God ; and we all know what is meant by being loyal from the
experience of civil matters. To be loyal is not merely to obey ; but to
obey with promptitude, energy, dutifulness, disinterested devotion, dis-
regard of consequences. And such is zeal, except that it is ever at-
tended with that reverential feeling which is due from a creature and a
sinner towards his Maker, and towards Him alone. It is a first step in
all religious service to love God above all things ; now Zeal is to love
Him above all men, above our dearest and most intimate friends. This
was the especial praise of the Levites, which gained them the reward
of the Priesthood, viz. their executing judgment on the people in the
sin of the golden calf. " Let Thy Thummim and Thy Urim be with
Thy Holy One, whom Thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom
Thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah. Who said unto his father
and to his mother, I have not seen him ; neither did he acknowledge his
brethren, nor knew his own children ; for they have observed Thy
word, and kept Thy covenant. They shall teach Jacob Thy Judg-
ments, and Israel Thy Law ; they shall put incense before Thee, and
whole burnt sacrifice upon Thine Altar. Bless, Lord, his substance,
and accept the work of his hands ; smite through the loins of them that
rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again."
Phinehas was rew^arded in like manner, after executing judgment.
♦' Behold I give unto him My covenant of peace. And he shall have it,
and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting Priesthood,
because he was zealous for his God."* Zeal is the very consecration
of God's Ministers to their office. Accordingly, our Blessed Saviour,
the One Great High Priest, the Antitype of all Priests who w^ent be-
fore Him and the Lord and Strength of who come after, began his
manifestation of Himself by two acts of Zeal. When twelve years old
He deigned to put before us in representation the sacredness of this
duty, when He remained in the Temple " while His father and mother

» Deut. ixxiii. 8—11. Numb. xxt. 12, 13.



XXXI.] CHRISTIAN ZEAL. 431

sought Him sorrowing," and on their finding Him, returned answer,
'• Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business ?" And again,
at the opening of His pubUc Ministry, He went into the Temple, and
" made a scourge of small cords, and drove out the sheep and oxen, and
overthrew the changers' tables"* that profaned it ; thus fulfilhng the
prophecy contained in the text, "The Zeal of Thine House hath eaten
Me up."

Being thus consumed by Zeal himself, no wonder He should choose
His followers from among the Zealous. James and John, whom He
called Boanerges, the sons of thunder, had warm hearts, when He call-
ed them, however wanting in knowledge ; and felt as if an insult offered
to their Lord should have called down fire from Heaven. Peter cut off
the right ear of one of those who seized Him. Simon was of the sect of
the Zealots. St. Paul's case is still more remarkable. He, in his attach-
ment to the elder Covenant of God, had even fought against Christ ;
but he did so from earnestness, from being "zealous towards God,"
though blindly. He " verily thought with himself, that he ought to do
many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth," and acted
" in ignorance ;"t so he was spared. With a sort of heavenly com-
passion his persecuted Lord told him, that it was " hard for him to kick
against the pricks ;" and turned his ignorant zeal to better account.
On the same ground rests the commendation which that Apostle bestows
in turn upon his countrymen, while he sorrowfully condemns their
unpardonable obstinacy. " My heart's desire and prayer to God for
Israel," he says, " is, that they might be saved ; for I bear them record,
that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. "J They
were guilty, because they might have known what they did not know ;
but so far as they were zealous, they claimed from him a respectful no-
tice, and were far better surely than those haughty scorners, the Ro-
mans, who felt no concern whether there was a God or not, worshipped
one idol as readily as another, and spared the Apostles from contemp-
tuous pity. Of these was Gallio, who " cared for none of those things,"
which either Jews or Christians did. Such men are abominated by our
Holy Lord, who " honours them that honour Him," while " they that
despise Him, are lightly esteemed. "§ He signifies this judgment of
the lukewarm and disloyal, in His message to the Church of Laodicea.
" I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou
wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither

♦ Luke ii. 48, 49. Jolin ii. 15, t Acts xxvi. 9. 1 Tim. i. 13

X Rom. X. i. § 1 Sam. ii. 30.



432 ST. SIMON AND ST. JUDE. [Skrm.

cold nor hot, I will cast the forth out of My mouth."* Thus positive
misbelief is a less odious state of mind than the temper of those who
are indifferent to religion, who say that one opinion is as good as the
other, and contemn or ridicule those who are in earnest. Surely, if
this world be a scene of contest between good and evil, as Scripture
declares, " he that is not with Christ, is against Him ;" and Angels who
witness what is going on, and can estimate its seriousness, may well
cry out " Curse ye Meroz, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof,
because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the
Lord against the mighty."!

I do not deny that this view of the subject is different from that
which certain principles and theories now current in the world would
lead us to adopt ; but this is surely no reason that it should not be true,
unless indeed, amid the alternate successes of good and evil, there be
any infallible token given us to ascertain the superior illumination of
the present century over all those which have preceded it. In fact,
we have no standard of Truth at all but the Bible, and to that I would
appeal. " To the Law and to the Testimony ;" if the opinions of the
day are conformable to it, let them remain in honour, but if not, how-
ever popular they may be at the moment, they will surely come to
nought. It is the present fashion to call Zeal by the name of intole-
ranee, and to account intolerance the chief of sins ; that is, any earnest-
ness for one opinion above another concerning God's nature, will, and
dealings with man, — or, in other words, any earnestness for the Faith
once delivered to the Saints, any earnestness for Revelation as such.
Surely, in this sense, the Apostles were the most intolerant of men ;
what is it but intolerance in this sense of the word to declare, that " he
that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath
not life ;" that " they that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the
Lord ;" that " neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor
covetous, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of
God ;" that we must not even " eat with a brother w^ho is one of such ;
that we may not " receive into our houses," or " bid God speed" to any
one who comes to us without the " doctrine of Christ?" Has not St.
Paul, whom many seem desirous of making an Apostle of less rigid
principles than his brethren, said even about an individual, " The Lord
reward him according to his works !"| and though we of this day have
not the spiritual discernment which alone can warrant such a form of

* Rev. iii. 5 ,16. t Judg. v. 23.

I 1 John V. 12. 2 Thcss. i. 8, 9. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. v. 11. 2 Jolin 10, 11
2 Tim. iv. 14.



XXXi.] CHRISTIAN ZEAL. 433

words about this man or that, have we not here given us a clear evidence,
that there are cases in which God's glory is irreconcileable with the
salvation of sinners, and when in consequence, it is not unchristian to
acquiesce in His judgments upon them ? These words were delibe-
rately written by St, Paul, in the closing days of his life, when his
rnind was most calm and heavenly, his hope most assured, his reward
immediately in view ; circumstances which render it impossible for any
one who even reverences St. Paul as a man of especial holiness, to
explain them away, not to insist on the argument from his inspiration.
Such is Zeal, a Christian grace to the last, while it is also an elemen-
tary virtue ; equally belonging to the young convert, and the matured
believer ; displayed by Moses at the first, when he slew the Egyptian,
and by St. Paul in his last hours, while he reached forth his hand for
his heavenly crown.

2. On the other hand. Zeal is an imperfect virtue ; that is, in our
fallen state, it will ever be attended by unchristian feelings, if it is cher-
ished by itself This is the case with many other tempers of mind,
which yet are absolutely required of us. Who denies that it is a duty
in the returning sinner to feel abhorrence of his past offences, and a
dread of God's anger ? Yet such feelings, unless faith accompany
them, lead to an unfruitful remorse, to despair, to hardened pride ; or
again, to perverse superstitions. Not that humiliation is wrong in any
sense or degree, but it induces collateral weaknesses or sins, from unduly
exciting one side of our imperfect nature. Mercy becomes weakness,
when unattended by a sense of justice and firmness ; the wisdom of the
serpent becomes craft, unless it be received into the harmlessness of
the dove. And Zeal, in like manner, though an essential part of a
Christian temper, is but a part ; and is in itself imperfect, even for the
very reason that it is elementary. Hence it appropriately fills so promi-
nent a place in the Jewish Dispensation, which was intended to lay the
foundations, as of Christian Faith, so of the Christian character.
Whether we read the injunctions delivered by Moses against idolatry
and idolaters, or trace the actual history of God's chosen servants, such
asPhinehas, Samuel, Elijah, and especially David, we find that the Law
was peculiarly a Covenant of Zeal. On the other hand, the Gospel
brings out into its full proportions, that perfect temper of mind, which
the Law enjoined indeed, but was deficient both in enforcing and crea-
ting, — Love ; that is, Love or Charity, as described by St. Paul in his
first Epistle to the Corinthians, which is not merely brotherly-love, (a
virtue ever included in the notion of Zeal itself,) but a general temper
of gentleness, meekness, sympathy, tender consideration, open-hearted-
ness towards all men, brother or stranger, who come in our way. In
Vol. L— 28



434 ST. SIMON AND ST. JUDE. [Skrm.

this sense, Zeal is of the Law, and Love of the Gospel ; and Love



Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 48 of 76)