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winter in the name of piety, and because nothing is
melted in the heat of it, blesses himself in the sohdity
of his practice ! Possibly there may be a little of the
cbristian love in such a person, but the signs are bad.
To be politic is no certain way of being gocid, and the
man who tries it, perils every thing.

4. We have a striking, and at the same time, most
inviting conception here given us, of the perfect state
of society and character in the future life. Calculation,
criticism, moral codes and precepts, none of these are
wanted longer to regulate the conduct, all the legalities
are gone by. There is no debate of reasons, no cas-
uistry. The reign of simple love has come. The
impulse that moves has its law in itself, and every man
does what is good, just because only good is in him.
There is no scruple, no friction, no subtlety of evil to
be restrained. The conduct of all is pure water flowing
from a pure spring. And as springs are unconscious
of their sweetness, thunders of their sublimity, flowers
of their beauty, so the perfection of character and con-
duct is consummated in a spontaneous movement that
excludes all self- regulation, and requires no dressing of
the life by rules and statutes. All best and noblest
things are done, as it were naturally ; for Christ, who
is formed within, must needs appear without in acts
that represent himself. All acts of beauty and good
are like that of the woman, coming to anoint her
Lord — inspirations of the beauty she loved, wise without


Btudy or contrivance, unconscious, spontaneous, and free.
This now is society, this is character; to this height of
perfection, this blessedness in good, our God is raising
all that love him.

After having sunned ourselves, my friends, in this
bright picture above, some of you, it may be, will now
return to the earth with a feeling more wearied and
worn by duty than ever. This everlasting and com-
punctious study of duty, duty to children, husband
or wife, duty to poor neighbors, and bad neighbors,
and impenitent neighbors, duty to Sunday Schools,
duty to home missions and missionaries, duty to hea-
thens and savages, duty to contrabands and wounded
soldiers, and wooden legs in the streets, and limping beg-
gers at the door, duty to every body, everywhere, every
day ; it keeps you questioning all the while, rasping in
a torment of debates and compunctions, till you almost
groan aloud for weariness. It is as if your life itself
were slavery. And then you say, with a sigh, "0, if 1
had nothing to do but just to be with Christ personally,
and have my duty solely as with him, how sweet and
blessed and secret and free w^ould it be." Well, you
may have it so ; exactly this you may do and nothing
more ! Sad mistake that you should ever have thought
otherwise ! what a loss of privilege has it been ! come
back then to Christ, retire into the secret place of his
love, and have your whole duty personally as with
him. Only then j^ou will make this very welcome dis-
covery, that as you are personally given up to Clirist'8
person, you are going where he goes, helping what he


does, keeping ever dear, bright company with hiin, in all
his motions of good and sympathy, refusing even to let
him suffer without suffering with him. And so jou
will do a great many more duties than you even think
of now ; only they will all be sweet and easy and free,
even as your love is. You will stoop low, and bear the
load of many, and be the servant of all, but it will be a
secret joy that you have with your Master personally.
You will not be digging out points of conscience, and
debating what your duty is to this or that, or him or
her, or here or yonder ; indeed you will not think that
you are doing much for Christ any way — not half
enough — and yet he will be saying to you every hour
in sweetest approbatioa — " Ye did it unto me.""



^^ For the Son of Man is come to save that ivhich tvas
losty — Math, xviii. 11.

Every kind of work supposes something to be done,
some ground or condition of fact to be affected by it ;
education the fact of ignorance, punishment the fact of
crime, charity the fact of want Tne work of Christ,
commonly called a work of salvation, supposes in like
manner the fact of a lost condition, such as makes sal-
vation necessary. So it is that Christ himself conceives
it, " For the Son of Man is come to save that which
was lost." He does not say, you observe, " that which
is about to be, or in danger of being, lost," but he uses
the past tense, " vms lost,^^ as if it were a fact already
consummated, or, at least, practically determined. This
work, therefore, is to be a salvation, not as being a pre-
ventive, but as being a remedy after the fact ; a super-
natural provision by which seeds of life are to be
ingenerated in a lapsed condition where there are none
At this point then Christianity begins, this is the grand
Biibstructural truth on which it rests, that man who is
to be saved by it, is a lost being — already lost.

And yet there will be many who recoil from this


assumption of Christ, and, wilaout any willing disre-
spect to his pers(»n, take up a suspicion that he some-
how over-states the fact of our condition. They could
admit, without difficulty, that they are imperfect, that
they sometimes do wrong, and that there is often great
perversity in men, or it may be in themselves. It
would not shock them, if it were declared that every
human being wants forgiveness ; but to say that we are
lost beings, appears to be an extravagance. They do
not see it in the tolerably comfortable state of the world,
and they are not conscious of it in themselves ; they
think they have even a kind of instinctive conviction
against it, and feel obliged to repel it as injurious and
without evidence.

Probably some of you before me are in just tliis
position of mind regarding the great point stated. You
feel obliged to make issue with the Lord Jesus in re-
spect to it — doing it, as you believe, not from any dis-
position to have a conflict with him, but simply because
you can not assent to his words, and seem even to know
that the fact he assumes can not be true. The disa-
greement you will admit is very unequal, but how can
you assent to a position that so far violates your honest

What I propose then at the present time, not in the
"way of controversy, but for your sake and Christ's sake,
is to go over this matter in a careful revision, offering, if
I can, such a statement of it that, going out as it were
from your own center and sentiment, you will meet the
mind of Christ approvingly. Perhaps you will so take


Ins meaning as to meet him with a felt tenderness in it,
such as he most certainly reveals to you ; concluding
lliis friendly negotiation, so to speak, in a reverent,
believing acceptance of him as your own great, neces-
eary Saviour. To this end let us,

I. Clear av/ay some obstructions, or points of mis-
conception, that may put your feeling at unnecessary
variance with Christ's doctrine, or give you a sense of
revulsion from it that is not really occasioned by any
thing in it.

Thus, when he says " was lost," using the past tense,
as if the lost condition were a fact accompHshed, you
do not see that either you, or the world is in a state of
undoing so completely reprobate. But he does not
mean, when he says " was lost," that the lost condition is
literally accomplished in the full significance of it, but
only that it is begun, with a fixed certainty of being fully
accomplished ; that, as being begun, the causes that are
loosed in it contain the certainty of the fact, as truly as
if the fact were fully executed. Thus if you see a man
topple off the brink of a precipice a thousand feet high,
you say inwardly, the moment he passes his center of
gravity, "he is gone; "you know it as well as when
you see him dashed in pieces on the rocks below ; for
the causes that have gotten hold of him, contain the
fact of his destruction, and he is just as truly lost before
the fact accomplished as after. So if a man has taken
some deadly poison and the stupor has begun to settle
upon him already, you say that he is a lost man ; for



the death-power is in him, and jou know as well that
he is gone, as if he lay dead at your feet. So a soul
under evil once begun, has taken the poison, and the
bad causation at work is fatal ; it contains the fact of a
ruined immortality, in such a sense that we never ad^^.-
quately conceive it, save as we give it past tense, and
say, " was lost."

Again, you have heard of such a thing as ''total
depravity," and the declaration of Christ may be some-
how associated with such a conception ; a conception
which you instinctively repel as unjust and extrava-
gant, and contrary plainly to what you know of the
many graces and virtues that adorn our human life.
But this notion of total depravity is no declaration
of Christ, and he is not responsible for it. It is only a
speculated dogma of man, which can be so stated as to
be true, and very often is so stated as to be false. You
have nothing to do with it here.

It has much to do, again with your impressions on
this subject, that you are so completely wide of all sen-
sibility to, or consciousness of, the lost condition Christ
assumes. Have you considered the possibility that you
may be rather proving the truth of it in that manner ?
"If our gospel be hid," says an apostle, "it is hid to
them that are lost." If you have no sense of being in
the lost condition Christ speaks of, if the salvation he
proposes seems, in that view, to be an exaggeration, a
fiction, it may be true and is very likely to be, that the
want of proportion is in you and not in it. I say not
that it is, I only suggest that it may be. If it is, then


it will appear by the positive evidence hereafter to be

Again, your mind is an active principle, and it keeps
suggesting, or putting in your wa}^, thoughts that run,
as it were, to a contrar}. conviction ; as that God is
good^ and will not put a race in being, to be lost regard-
ing all good ends of being, or that he is a great being,
competent every way to keep his foster children safe.
The argument is short and easy, it seems even to invent
itself. But there is another counter suggestion that is
quite as likely to be true, and has weight enough car
tainly to balance it ; viz., that God wanted possibl}^, in
the creation of men, free beings like himself, and capa-
ble of common virtues with himself — not stones, or
trees, or animals — and that, being free and therefore
not to be controlled by force, they must of necessity
be free to evil ; consequently never to be set fast ir
common virtues with himself, except as he goes down
after them into evil and a lost condition, to restore them
by a salvation. This being true, creatures may be
made, that perish, or fall into lost conditions. Besides
the world is full of analogies. The blossoms of the
spring cover the trees and the fields, all alike beautiful
and fragrant ; but they shortly strew the ground as
dead failures, even the greater part of them^, having
set no beginning of fruit. And then of the fruits that
are set how many die as abortive growths, strewing the
ground again. How many harvests also are blasted,
yielding only straw. In the immense propagations of
the sea, what myriads die in the first week of life

76 SAL V ATI ox FvOR

Thus we find nature everywhere struggling in abortive
growths, fainting, as it were, in the perfecting of what
hei prolific intentions initiate. And all these abortions
are so many tokens in the lower forms of life, of the
possibihty that there also may be blasted growths in
the higher.

Once more the amiable virtues, high aspirations, and
other shining qualities, ycu see in mankind, make the
assumed fact of our lost condition seem harsh and
extravagant — you could not believe it if you would.
But considering how high and beautiful a nature the
soul is, it should not surprise you that it shows many
traces of dignity even after it has fallen prostrate, and
lies a broken statue on the ground. Besides, Christ
himself had even a more appreciative feeling, in respect
to what may be called our natural character than you.
When a certain young man, rich, but conscientiously up-
right and nobly ingenuous, came to him asking what he
should do " to inherit eternal life?" though he was obliged
in faithfulness to answer, "one thing thou lackest," —
requiring him to suffer a total change of life, in the
sacrifice of all he had, and the assumption of his cross —
his manner and look were so visibly and affectingly
tender, nevertheless, as to attract the special attention
of his disciples, and from them it passed into the nar
rntive, as a distinctly noted element of description —
*' Then Jesus beholding him, loved him." You might
not yourself have put any such terms of requirement
upon him ; I fear that you would not, but would you,
with all your sensibilities to natural excellence, have


loved liim as much, or shown it by signs as t»eautifully
impressive ?

Having noted, in this manner, so many points of
unneoessary revulsion from the fact of a lost condition,
assumed by Christ in his work of salvation, I think I.
may take it for granted that you are ready —

II. To look at the evidence of the fact and accept
the conclusion it brings you.

And the first thing here to be considered is, that our
blessed Master, in assuming your lost condition, is not
doing it harshly, or in any manner of severity. He is
no dogmatist, making out his article of depravity. He
is not a teacher of that light quality that permits him
to be pleased with appalling severities of rhetoric, and
over-drawn allegations of fact, without any due sense
of their meaning. His feeling is tender, never censo-
rious. Sometimes, by a kind of divine politeness so to
speak, he puts a face on human character and relations
that avoids a look of impeachment where impeachment
would be true; as when he speaks of "laying down his
life for his friends." He could have said "enemies"
quite as truly, or even more so, but did not like to put
that now upon his disciples. In the same kind way of
consideration, but with a deeper feeling, he apologizes
to God for his murderers, even in the article of death,
and apparently comforts himself in the allowance —
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they
do." Is it such a being that will thresh you in random


charges, the severity of which is apparent t(5 voi.i and
not to him? You can not saj it, or even be willing to
think it.

Furthermore, it must be evident to you, as it has been
to all most unrestrained critics and deniers, that his moral
sentiments and standards are high and sharp beyona
comparison — higher and sharper certainly than yours
Ke has also a most piercing insight of all that is deepest
in character and its wants; as, by force of his most
singular purity alone, he must of necessity have ; what
then will you sooner believe, when he calls yon a lost
man, than that, possibly, he knows you more ade-
quately than you know yourself? Having then some
better right than joi\ to know, w^hat does he in fact

I might go to the other scriptures, citing declarations
from them ; and especially from the writings of Paul,
who discusses this very point many times over, showing
by the most cogently close and formal arguments, the
fallen state of disability and subjection to evil, ont of
which Christ has undertaken to raise you ; but I prefer
to keep the question still and altogether between you and
him, and therefore I shall not cite an}^ words but his.
Notice then his parables of the lost sheep, and the lost
piece of mone}^, not omitting to observe that he is here
sharpening no point of allegation against men, but only
setting forth the joy that will accrue to the angels of
God, and all good beings, when they are restored. Is
it in this attitude of feeling that he is launching hard
or unjust judgments upon them? He also speaks of a


state of ''condemnation," declaring in a manifestly
gentle feeling, that lie has not come to condemn but to
save the world, yet still obliged to add — "he that
believeth not is condemned already." What is this
state condemned of God but a lost condition under
another figure? He uses also the figure of death,
spiritual death, in the same manner, saying — "I am
the life." " My Son was dead and is alive again, was
lost and is found." " Is passed from death unto life."
" For Grod so loved the world, that he gave his only be-
gotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not
perish, but have everlasting life." Death is the con-
dition of disorder and spiritual dissolution, which is a
lost condition. Life is salvation, because it is the con-
dition of harmony restored ; where part answers again to
part, function to function, in a complete living order.
The lost condition he also calls a state of "darkness"
and "blindness," and to it becomes as "the light" and
" the way." Who is more profoundly lost than he that
walks groping for the wall? He conceives the lost
condition as a state of moral disability, in which men
"have eyes" which "can not see," and "ears which
can not hear," and are able no longer to convert, or heal
themselves. It even requires a divine power in us, he
conceives, if we are to make any real approach to
good — " Ko man can come to me, except the Father
which hath sent me draw him." Not to multiply cita
tions further, take the one practical exhibition of his
discourse on regeneration. The doctrine is that man,
as he conceives him, is in such a condition that nothing


short of a divine movement upon him, can bring him
back, into that character and felicity for which he waa
made. " Yerily, verily I say unto yon, except a man
be born again " — " born of the Spirit," — " he can not
see the kingdom of God."

These now are Christ's convictions, most tenderly,
faithfully, and variously expressed, concerning man,
or the lost condition of man — your lost condition. He
does not come to some very bad men, saying these
things, but he speaks comprehensively to the race, and
grounds his work of salvation fixedly upon the lost
condition affirmed.

You will not hear them disrespectfully. Still it will
not be strange if your feeling is unsatisfied. " If it be
so with me," you will ask, "why may it not somehow
be made to appear?" Let me take you then a step fur-
ther, into another field, where I think it will appear.

As the matter lies between you and Christ, and he
has spoken already, I will take you now to yourself.
Think it not strange, if your heart answers, after all, to
the heart of Jesus, and re-affirms exactly what he has

You live in a world where there is certainly some
wrong — you have seen it, suffered from it, and con-
sciously done it. But all wrong, it will be agreed, is
something done against the perfect and right will of
God, and a shock must of necessity follow it. Suppose
a machinist to produce a machine, some one wheel of
which will somehow run directly the other way from
what was intended — does run the other way for some


space, longer or shorter, every few "hours. It will go
into confusion of course and become a total wreck.
So a soul going against the will of God, in acts of
wroE^, breaks God's order in it. Taken as a functional
structure, all the parts of which are to play hanno-
iiiously into each other, disorder and ruin begin just
when wrong begins, and all its goings on afterward
accelerate and aggravate the disorder. As the junc-
tures and functions are no more in heaven's order, it is
practically undone. Then, as the body is the soul's
organ, the damage is propagated as disease in that.
And then, as society is made up of souls and bodies,
that also becomes an element of discord, infested with
lies, grudges, enmities, jealousies, breaches of trust and
of contract, deeds of injustice and robbery; history
itself a volume, the main chapters of which report the
conflicts of war, the oppressions of slavery, the wrongs
of woman, the hard fortunes of industrj^, the corrup-
tions of courts and governments, the intrigues of diplo-
macy, the persecutions of the good.

But I refer you to society thus onlj^ in a way of
transition, and return immediately to the main question
as it stands in the revelations of your own personal
consciousness. It has always seemed to me that who-
ever will accurately note his own inward working, for
but one half hour, must even be appalled by the dis
coteries he will make. You distinguish first of all a
certain shyness, or feeling of recoil from God — why
should you withdraw instinctively thus from a being
wholly good and pure? It was just this feeling that


Adam had, after the sin, when he withdrew and hid
himself in the garden. Guilt is at the bottom of this
shyness. And what is a more certainly lost feeling
than the feeling of guilt? "Who can stop it, or smooth
it away, by any thing done upon himself? It testifies
to a fact — can you ever annihilate that fact? No more
can you stop the guilt which is only a fit remem-
brance of it.

You discover also a certain look of disproportion,
that is painfully significant. Your ambition is too
high for your possibilities and your place. Your pas-
sion is too strong for your prudence. Your prudence
too close for your affections. Your irritability too fiery
at times for both. Your resentments are too impetuous
for your occasions. Your appetites too large for your
possibilities of safe indulgence. Your will over-rules
your conscience. Your inclinations master the dictates
of your reason. And what is more sadly humiliating
than any thing else, your great aspirations have some
weight upon them which they can not lift, falling back
baffled and spent, with no power left but to notify you
Df their constant failure. Your great ideals too, reveal-
ing, as it were, the summits of a magnificent nature, and
lifting their flags of inspiration there, are yet draggled
somehow and drugged by low impulses, that make you
a mockery to yourself in your attainments. A kind
of inversion appears in every thing — sure indication of

There is disagreement also, as well as disproportion,
^our practical judgments of things disagree with your


real wants, magnifying toj^s of sense, to leave you
aching for God and the unseen good of the mind.
Your eyes discover good in shows and outward prefer-
ments, your convictions place it in truth and character
Your generous and high sentiments look down with
scorn upon the sordid and cowardly impulses of your
selfishness, to be, in turn, alas! how often, mastered in
the conflict with them. Your feeling of independence
knuckles to conventionalities, and what began as a war,
is ended as a truce, in which you agree, as a kind of
independent abject, to hold every thing in scorn that is
not under the fashion. Your eternal convictions quar-
rel with your passions, and your will quarrels feebly
with both, misgiving under one, succumbing to the
other. The whole internal man is a troubled element.
You hardly know, many times, what to think, on
the plainest subjects of duty and religion, and are
most facile to what you least -approve. You ask
where you are ? and think you do not know ; what
to believe? and say you can not find; w^hat to do?
and do what you would not; what to avoid? and
do it. Your mind is full of distraction — in endless
mazes lost.

Take another and simpler view of your disorder, do
just what so few men ever did, sit down for an hour,
and watch the run of your thoughts. Nothing flow^s
in regular causation, no law of suggestion can be
more than faintly traced. As a man who is lost in a
deep forest, turns confusedly one way and the other,
unable to set his mind in a train of deliberative order,


SO it is wi til you. Your thoughts huddle on, crossing
all lines, breaking through all trains, refusing all
terms of order, uncontrolled, uncontrollable; even
as droves in the jostle of panic before a prairie fire.
The law of right proceeding appears to be somehow
broken, the suggestions are, how often, base, impure,
and low, and withal defy any look of system. What

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 29)