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public and has it for a continual wonder that he gets
on so poorly, and that God, for some mysterious reason,
dees not answer his prayers ! Sometimes he will even
be a little heart-broken by his failures, and will moisten
his face with tears of complaint. He has made great
struggles, it may be, at times, to freshen the fire that
was burning in him, and yet, for some reason, he is all
the while losing ground. His faith becomes a hand, as
it were, without fingers, laying hold of nothing. The
more he pumps at the well of his joys, the drier he
grows. It is as if there were some dread fatality against
him, and he wonders where it is. Commonly it is here —
that he w^ants rectitude. He is trying to be piouslj^ ex-
ercised in his feeling, when he is slack in his integrity.
He has been so much afraid of being self-righteous, it
may be, that he is not righteous at all. When he is
loose at the conscience, how can he be clear in his
feeling ?

Perhaps he has conceived a higher standing in reli-
gion, a state of attainment where his soul shall be in
liberty, and has tried for whole months, possibly for
years, to reach it, and yet he finds it not. He begins
to imagine, not unlikely, that no such thing is for
him — God's sovereignty is against him, and he must be
c(>ntent to stay in that lower plane that God has ap-
pointed him. " God never means," he will say, " that


I should be mucli of a Christian — that is given ).o oth
ers that have a higher calling." Now strange as it may
seem, here again is the root of his difficulty — that his
projected attainments are clear ahead of his i/itegrity.
Some traitor is hid in his soul's chamber's that is ke])t.
there, and carefully fed. What is wanting is the inte-
ger of a clear, undivided intent. Honesty ! honesty !
that Christian men, saying nothing of others, could
understand how much it means, and the wonderful
power it has ! We connive at evil and do it so cun-
ningly that we do not know it. Our eye is evil, we
regard iniquity in our heart, therefore do we fail in
our prayers, therefore do we lose ground, therefore are
we baffled and floored in all our attempts to rise. But
it is not so when we have the single eye. Such power
is there in this integrity, when it is real, that, making
faith real, it makes all gifts attainable. God loves the
honest mind, hears the honest prayer, pours all his ful-
ness into the honest bosom. No great flights of ec-
static feeling are wanted, frames carry nothing, but
that silent, sound integrity, which poises the soul on
its pivot of truth and self-approbation, is so mighty that
it wins its w^ay to God through all obstacles. Here is
the secret after all, of the true success in every case.
Success is the fixed destiny of any soul that has once
reached the point of whole intent. No one need be
troubled about his frames, or fluctuations, or even what
a])pear to be his losing moods, if only he can stay by
his conscience firmly enough to say, " Judge me Lord
jwxording to mine integrity.'' Here then, brethren, is


the spot where you are to make ytav revision, find
what your intent is, whether it is honest and whole and
clea'n, warped by no ambiguities, divided and stolen
away by no idols. Here the Achan will be hid, if any
where. Make sure of his dislodgment, and your way
is clear. Then your faith will be faith, your prayers
wiJ] be prayers ; every thing will have its genuine mean-
ing, and Grod. will be revealed in every thing you do.
I proceed now

8. To another very important deduction, viz., that
every man who comes into a state of right intent, or is
set to be a real integer in the right, will forthwith also
be a Christian. There is apt to be much pride in men
not religious, on the score of their commercial integrity.
They will find, if the}^ search more narrowly, that they
still have no right conscience in it. They feel them*
selves to be inwardly wTong. They live in a state of
conscious disturbance. They are often consciously dis-
ingenuous, as regards the truths and claims of religion.
They have consciously a certain dread of God which
harrows their peace. What I mean to say, at present,
is that whoever gets a clear perception of the state ot
wrong in which he lives, and comes back into a genu-
inely right intent, to be carried just where it will carry
him, sacrifice what it will cost him — any thing to be
right — in that man the spirit of all sin is broken, and
his mind is in a state to lay hold of Christ, and be laid
hold of by him, almost ere he is aware of it. Nor,
when I say this, do I throw discredit on the common
modes of expression ; for this exactly is the point to


which every converted person comes, though he may
not so conceive at the time. One may tell of his con-
victions, another of his fears, another of his unspeaka-
ble wants, one of the prayer that he made thus or thus,
another of the restitution or acknowledgment he made
to some one he had wronged, many of their deep sor-
row that melted into joy, many others of the despair
they came to in their struggles, under which they fell
off helpless im the hands of God's mercy, and behold, it
was deliverance itself But whatever may have been
the form of exercise, this most assuredly is in it always,
consciously, or unconsciously present, that there is a
coming somehow into a state of pure intent, a mind to
receive all truth and do all right forever. And no man
ever came to this^ who did not find himself, at once, all
over in the faith of Christ, a consciously and strangely
new man.

Let me give you a case, in which this particular
point, in the matter of conversion to God, will be clearly
distinguished. There died, in the city of New York,
about ten years ago, a distinguished merchant, and
much more distinguished saint of God, whose conver-
sion was on this wise. He was born and brought up in
the island of Santa Cruz, belonging to a wealthy and
gay family, in which he received no religious instruc-
tion at all. He had a naturally gay, light, forceful char-
acter, and scarcely a religious idea. One Sunday, when
the family and their guests went out for a ride, he re-
mained at home. Going to the library for something
to read, his eye fell on a book labeled " The Truth of


Christiamiy Demonstrated^ He took it down, sajnng as
he looked on the back of it, " The truth of Christianity
demonstrated — the truth of Christianity demonstrated
— well if it is, I ought to believe it and live it, and—
I WILL. Let me try the book and see." Sitting down,
at that point, he opened the book and began to read,
and though it was an argument only, giving no par-
ticular appeal to feeling, he was surprised to find a
Btrange brightness of light on the words. Holy con-
viction flowed in upon him, a wondrous love waked up
in his feeling, a still more wondrous bliss dawned upon
his love, and in a very few minutes, it seemed that the
helm of his nature was somehow taken by a mysterious
power he could not resist. The joy of the change,
which he did not understand, or conceive, was so great
as to prove its reality ; he could never, from that mo-
ment, shake off the conviction of his being quite
another man. What it was to be a Christian he did not
know, but he knew that he was something, which to
lose, or cease to be, he could as little think of as losing
his life. When the riding party came back, he began
forthwith to let out his joy, tell his wonder, testify of
Christ, just as he would of any good, gay time he
liad had before. The}^ were astonished, some of them
doubted whether he was not somehow beside himself.
But there was no slack in his flame, he went on like the
j ust, growing brighter and brighter. There was no ap-
pearance of sanctimony, no cant, he was the same
outspoken, social, manly youth, that he had been.
Hungering finally after some religious society, he man-


aged to remove to Philadelpbia, where he found leach
ing and sjmpath}^, and great works of duty. He w^ent
once to the theater, once to a ball, having no scruples
about the right of it, and scarce knowing that he could
have. But he never went again, simply because it did
not meet his feeling, and gave him no pleasure. He
finally came to a settlement in New York, where he was
known many years as a man of dignity and power,
nobly free and joyous, fond of the young, and open to
all humblest minds wanting counsel, the most distin-
guished mark and brightest ornament ever known in
the churches of that great city. From first to last his
Christian life was but a hymn.

At what point now did this remarkable servant of
God pass his conversion ? Not when he was reading
the book, but when he was looking on the back of it ;
for there it was, in that little deliberation on the label,
and the nobly honest conclusion he accepted concerning
it, that his soul took hold of integrity, and sin was all
reversed ! The mere resolve to accept it, if true, de-
cided all. And therefore it was that Christ met him in
the book, with a revelation so blessed. Doubtless it
was the Spirit of God, working unseen, that drew him
out in the previous parley on the label ; and every step
of the change, nay, of his whole life, was in some sense,
worked by a power superior to his own mere will.
And yet he had a will, by that consented to believe
what is true, and live it in his life.

Now there is no man in this audience, how^ever
remote lie may have been from the thought of being a


Christian, when he came into this place of worship to-
day, who has any thing more to do, in order to be one,
than to just come into the same really honest mind.
You can not will to believe what is true, and do all
right, as fast as you can find it and forever, and go out
hence in your sins. Are you not ready my friends for
t]iis new and nobler kind of life ? Can you lie down to-
night and sleep outside of this blessed integrity ? How
can you think of yourself with respect, as not being
a Christian, when that which is demanded of you ia
only what you think you are demanding of everybody.
True, this integrity we speak of is of a higher kind, and
more real ; is it therefore less to be honored, and less
promptly chosen?

And now in conclusion of my subject, I will only lay
down God's indorsement upon it and upon all that I
have said, in a single, but remarkable sentence of scrip-
ture. I wish it might be remembered, and stay by you
always, even from this hour till your last — ''For the
eyes of the Lord run to and fro, through the whole
earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose
heart is perfect toward him." This "perfect heart"
means a right conscience, a clean, simple intent. And
the substance of the declaration is, that God is on the look-
out always for an honest man — him to help, and with
him, and for him, to be strong ; and if there be one,
that God will not miss of him ; for his desiring, all-
searching eyes are running the world through always
to find him. And when he finds him, he will show
himself to him in the discovery even of his strength.


I believe that he has sometimes fouud such a man, even
in the depths of heathenism, and to him been discov-
ered as the helping and strong friend he longed for.
Many a* skeptic has he flooded with light, because he
saw him willing, at last, to be right, and hungering fc ;•
something true. This perfect heart, this soul of integ-
rity, my friends — if we had but- this, what else could
we fail of? I repeat the word thus explained — put it
down to be with you, in your struggles with sin, your
sickness, your poverty, your Christian defects and dry-
nesses, all the mind-clouds, all the guilt-clouds, of your
mortal state — "For the eyes of the Lord run to and
fro through the whole earth to show himself strong in
behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him."



"J.S long as they have the hridegroom vnth them, they can
not fast. But the days will come, when the hridegroom
shall he taken away from them, and then shall they fast in
those daysy — MARK ii, 19, 20.

It is one of the honorable distinctions of Christ's doc-
trine that he is never one-sided ; never taken, as men
are, with a half- view of a subject, or a half-truth con-
cerning it. If there is, for example, a free side, or free
element, in Christian life and experience, and also a
restrictive side; conditions and times of not ftisting,
and conditions and times of fasting ; he does not fall to
setting one against the other, but he comprehends both,
and holds them in a true adjustment of their offices and
relations. John's disciples come to him in the question,
why he does not put his disciples to fasting, as their
own great prophet and the Pharisees do theirs? But
instead of making light of fasting, and calling it an old,
ascetic practice, now gone by, as many human teachers
would have done, seeing only half the truth, and rally-
ing a party for the part they see, he simply reph'es —
"every thing in its time; the attendants of the bride


groom will, of course be wholly in the festive mood,
while the wedding is on foot, but when it is over, they
will fall into such other key as their personal condition
requires. My disciples can not fast while I am with
tlu)m. But when I am takea up they will turn them-
selves to such ways of fasting as their deprivation, oi
berea\ed feeling requires."

His answer, taken more spiritually, amounts to this :
that when the love is full, and the soul is consciously
gladdened by the present witness and felt impulse of
God, any kind of restrictive, or severely self-compelling
discipline is inappropriate or uncalled for, and is really
out of place ; but that when there is a failure of such
divine impulse, when the soul is losing ground, brought
under by temptation, groping in dryness and obscurity
of light, then some sharp revision of the life, some new
girding up of the will in sacrifice and self-discipline, ia
urgently demanded, and must not be declined. In other
words, let there be liberty in God while there may,
girding up in ourselv^es, by forced exercise and disci-
pline, when there must ; let the soul go by inspiration
when the gale of the Spirit is in it, and when it has any
way stifled or lost the Spirit, let it put itself down upon
duty by the will ; when the divine movement is upon
it, let it have its festal day with the bridegroom, and
when the better presence fades or vanishes, let it set
itself to ways of self-compulsion, moving from its own
human center.

Much the same general truth though differently con-
ceived, is taught by Paul when he represents the Chri&


tian soul as a coin having two seals or mottoes, on the
two sides ; on the obverse, or face — " The Lord know-
eth them that are his;" on the reverse, or back — ''Let
every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from
iniquity." It is as if divine calling, endowment, and
hel]» were on one side; self-discipline, watching, mor-
tified lusting, and steady resolve, on the other.

Liberty and discipline, movement from God's center
and movement from our own, sanctified inclination and
self-compelling will, are the two great factors thus of
Christian life and experience. We may figure, in a
certain coarse analogy, that we live in a city having two
supplies of water for its aqueduct; one upon high
ground back of it, whence the water rnns down freely
along the inclinations of the surfaces ; and the other in
some lake or river on its front ; whence, in case that
fails, or the ducts give way, a supply is to be received
by forcing, or the dead lift of the pump. The water,
however, is not created in this latter case, you will ob-
serve, by the enforcement, but is taken, as in the former,
from the general supply of nature's store. So there are
ways of Christian living, where every thing goes by im-
pulse, and a gracious inspiration flowing in, as it were,
by its own free motion ; and other ways and times,
where a self-compelling discipline of sacrifice and pains-
taking are wanted to regain the irrigating grace that
was practically lost or shut away, by moods of incon-
stancy and mixtures of subjection to evil.

It is very obvious that both these conceptions may
be abused, or pushed to excess, as in fact they always


are wh^n they are taken apart from each other, anrJ
made a religion of. Thus we shall have, on one side,
just what has many times appeared in this or that vari-
ety, a school of enthusiasts, living only in frames and
for them, flighty, rhapsodical, ecstatic, moving in the
upper air on wings, till such time as they get weary of
their thin element, and consent, for comfort's sake, to
light upon the ground ; when, of course, they do as the
prophet's living creatures did — "when they stood
they let down their wings." Perhaps they will spread
them again, and perhaps not. They are all for inspira-
tion, or the state of divine impulse, and nothing else is
to be much accounted of. To be in this elysian state is
piety, and if they chance to fall out of it, or sink away,
flagging and spent, as regards their good excitabilities,
they have no way of going on foot to think of, that
will prove their fidelity, and put them in a sober
way of blessing. They have no conception of a walk-
ing with God that is not flying with him, and their
high movement commonly ends, where dissipation
must, in a state of loose keeping, disability, and general

On the other side, where every thing takes the shape
of will-work and discipline, the result will commonly
be quite as bad. Sometimes the word will be activity
and a general campaign of doing will set ever}^ thing
in a way of tumult, and aggressive motion. Kesponsi-
ble only for actign, action will come to be just the thing
most irresponsibly done. Hard, graceless, censorious,
denunciatory, sometimes wild, and always unchastened


by fche love it magnifies, it keeps the conflagration up
till the combustible matter is burned awa^^, and then
the fire goes out of course. Sometimes the word is
sacrifice^ and then coi^ies on the dreary train of pen
aiices, vigils, vows of celibacy, mendicancy, and the
pallid funeral hosts marching out alive to be entombed
in cells. All these, making up a religion by their will,
and the drill of their passionless obedience, agree, in
fact, to make as hard a time of it as possible, and they
will most fatally succeed; for it can not be long, ere the
discipline they covet as a religion, breaks down both
will and principle together, and shows them, alas ! too
perfect in the training of uncharity, mendacity, sensu-
ality, and lust.

I ought also, perhaps, to name two counterfeits that
cover the ground of both these particular excesses.
Thus, on one side, the argument will be, " why should I
do, or attempt to do in religion, what I can not do in
liberty, or from inclination ? When I am not inclined
to prayer why should I pray ? Why cross myself in
duties which I only dislike ? Why put myself under
service by rules that only annoy me, and do not bless
me ? How can I imagine that God is pleased with me,
when he finds me doing by compulsion, what he knows
I distaste, and have really no heart to?"

The assumption is, in this way of speaking, that
wlien there is real inclination to the thing done, there is
even something a little remarkable in it ; a kind of su-
perlative, or superfine, merit, such as discharges all
thought of obligation respecting duties where such in-



cliriation fails. And yet the supposed inclination, hav-
ing so great value as to excuse all responsibility for
inclination where there is none, is even understood to
be nothing but an occasional glow of sentiment or de-
sire, in the plane of nature ; not any really divine or
supernaturally inbreathed impulse. It is not of the
bridegroom, raises no thought of any festal flow, in
which Christ bathes their feeling. It is even the eud
of the law, without Christ, in a much more summary
and complete sense than Christ himself could be ; for it
not only discharges all obligation, but forbids any far-
ther command — how can God command what one is not
inclined to already? and what he is inclined to needs,
of course, no command.

The counterfeit upon the other side, is that self-reli-
ant morality, which counts it a sufficient, or even a
rather superlative religion, to live in correct practice
under rules, and makes nothing of receiving from Grod,
or being in any consciously restored relationship with
him. Christ is engaged as a Saviour, I conceive, to
connect human nature with God, according to its nor-
mal idea, and have it regenerated, as by God's restored
movement in it — born of God. He wants to raise
again the very plane of our existence, lifting us up out
of mere self-hood into a state of divine consciousness
and beatitude. This to him and this only is religion.
The beaver is not more certainly below humanity, than
the footing it along by mere rules, is a kind of life be-
low the grade of religion, or concourse with God. That
&io-h world of blessinoj too, for which Christ has imder-


taken to prepare us^ is not a world of good morals, but
of godlj affinities and free inspirations, moved, and
lif^d, and wafted, and glorified, and always to reign in

We have then two conceptions of Christian life and
experience, which Christ holds comprehensively to-
gether, but which his disciples are often trying to hold
separately, making a whole religion of either one or the
other; and then we have a counterfeit of each, con*
triving how to make a religion of each, without the
reality of either one or the other. Let us see now if
we can bring ourselves back into the conception of
Christ, and find how to hold with him both the two
sides at once ; setting both in that genuine mutual rela-
tionship that belongs to them. There is then

I. A ruling conception of the Christian life, which is
called having the bridegroom present ; a state of right
inclination established, in which the soul has an imme-
diate knowledge, or consciousness of God, and is
swayed in liberty, by his all-moving, supernatural,
inspirations. This kind of state, if it were complete, as
it never is in this world, would, of itself, be the all of
perfection and of blessedness. The whole aim of Chris-
tianity is fulfilled in this alone. No other kind of ser-
vice, taken by itself, at all meets the Christian idea.
Self-compelling ways of discipline, resolve, self-regula-
tion, body-government, soul-governi lent, carried on by
the will ma}^ be wanted — I shall presently show in
what manner — but no possible amount of such doings
can make up a Christian virtue, and, if such virtue


were perfect, thej would not even be included in it.
Every thing in genuine Christianity goes for the free
inclination. Here begins the true nobility or princely
rank of God's sons and daughters, and they will be
complete, when their inclination is wholly to good and
to God. They strike the point of magnanimity, when
they do the right, as God does, because they simply
love the right — bearing burdens, because it is the nature
of love to bear them, making sacrifices, never from
fear, interest, self-consideration, always for God's great
ends of mercy and blessing. The bridegroom joy is
now upon them, because their duty is become their fes-
tivity with Christ. Perfected in this duty and joy,
they are complete in God's everlasting beatitude; for
there is no wear of friction in such duty, but eternal
liberty and play rather. What then

II. Is the place, or office, or value of that whole side
of will and self-discipline, which Christ himself assumes
the need of, when the bridegroom is to be taken away?
Here is the main stress of our subject, and upon the
right solution of this point, its uses will principally

There is then, I undertake to say, one general purpose,
or office, in all doings of will, on the human side of Chris-
tian experience, viz., the ordering of the soul in fit position
for God, that he may occupy it, have it in his power, sway
it by his inspirations. No matter what the kind of doing
to which we are called, or commanded ; whether it be
self-government, or self-renunciation, or holy resolve, or

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 29)