Horace Bushnell.

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that live. They will bend sometimes to indulgences,
which the churlish miscalled saints, living under
scruple or ascetic law, condemn, but it will be evident
that they rather yield to them in amiable deference to
others, than want them for themselves. Or if they
do it now and then, as in deference to their own nat
ural instinct of play, it will seem that they are only
freer because they are full, and not that they are
craving such allowance because they are empty. It is
hardly necessary to say, that they will not be averted,
even by their liberty itself, from any festivities or
games that are athletic, or belong to the gymnastics
of bodily exercise. They are human and have human
bodies ; and it is not supposable that the joys of the
spirit should make them neglectful of the joys of
health, and the full-toned vigor of the body. Even
the Spirit of the Lord, we are told, does not withhold
his quickening touch from mortal bodies.

But must we not, some very conscientious disciples
will ask, be faithful to put a frown upon these pleas
ures in the lower plane of morality? must we not


declare them to be wrong and raise> a ^testimony
against them ? That is about the worst thing a true
Christian can do. They are not wrong in themselves.
It is you that have gone above them and their law,
not they that have come up into conflict with you.
The opposition between you and them is without
any real contrariety of principle ; you being swayed
by religious inspirations and they by rules of ethics
legally applied. And there is nothing you can do
against religion more hurtful, than to make it the
foe of all innocent enjoyments, in the reach of such
as have not the higher resources of religion.

It only remains to notice certain interpellations by
which one or another will think our conclusions may
be turned. Thus it will be suggested by some who
mean to be disciples, but are living in a key so
low as to be over fond of amusements, that the class
who are not disposed to go with them, must be chris-
tians of a superlative order, such as all who are to be
saved need not of course be. They certainly are su
perlative in the comparison suggested ; but whether
they are better Christians than they need be, or than
all ought to be, is a difficult and rather delicate ques
tion. Whoever is contriving, by how little faith or
how little grace, and with how large interspersing of
of gaiety and worldly pleasure, he may make his title
to salvation good, is engaged in a very critical experi
ment. He is trying how to be a Christian without
being at all a saintly person ; how to love God enough,


without loving him enough to be taken away from his
lighter pleasures ; and he really thinks that aiming low
enough to be a little of a Christian, he still may just
hit the target on the lower edge. Perhaps he will,
but is he sure of it ? And if he really is, what miser
able economy is it to be so little in the love of God
and the joys of a glorious devotion, that he can be
just empty enough to want his deficit made up by
amusements ? If that will answer, a very mean soul,
certainly, can be saved.

Another class, not Christian and never pretending
to be, are out upon such kind of people as get to be
miserably over-good, and can not take the fun of life
as it comes. They do not want such Christians. It
makes them angry to see them, set aloof by what they
call their piety, from even innocent amusements and
pleasures. " If any thing can make us infidels to the
end of the chapter, it is to see how all human pleas
ures turn sour under the look of these people." Well,
it maybe that God has not undertaken to make people
good to order, after your particular style, and whether
your style or his is better, he will certainly take his
own. But w T ill it make you an infidel to see human
beings, naturally just as fond of pleasure, and every
way as selfish as you, so thoroughly given to works of
mercy and sacrifice, so fascinated by God s pure chari
ties, so deep in the abysses of his love, that they have
not a sigh, or a want, for the dear gaieties you live in ?
I can hardly believe it. On the contrary, it seems to
me that such a fact should convince you, if any thing


can, that what has so wonderfully exalted them will
equally exalt you. Surely it must needs make a very
great difference in the soul s outlook on every thing,
whether it has God revealed within, or is living with
out God. Might it not make as great difference in
yours ? Therefore when you say that you do not want
such christians, might not all your impressions be dif
ferent, if only you knew what they so perfectly know,
in their better plane of life ? There certainly should
not be any thing odious in a life whose quality is
grounded in the simple love of God.

Well, it comes back then, after all, a larger number
in more various shades of character will say, to this ;
that all Christian people are restricted and put under
bonds not to allow themselves any liberties of amuse
ment. And since we all alike are put in obligation to
be Christian, what is the conclusion we arrive at, but
that we are all under the same restrictions, shut up to
all the austerities of religion that we just now thought
were to be escaped ? That is no fair conclusion, or in
fact any conclusion at all. Doubtless every nominally
Christian man is bound to be thoroughly Christian.
And so is every unbeliever, every really unchristian
man. But take it as we may, our being bound thus uni
versally to the choice of Christ, does not any way touch
the matter of the amusements ; for who ever comes
to Christ as a disciple, is never cut off from these
because he is under requirement to that effect, he only
drops them out because he does not want them, and is
turned away from them by his new born liberty itself.


Here then, my friends, in this high plane of royal
liberty, it is our privilege and calling to live. World
ly minds, minds faintly Christian, if such are possible,
can hardly imagine, rushing as they do in their empti
ness after all kinds of pleasurable diversion, to fill up
the void of their feeling, what supreme fullness of life
is here vouchsafed us. They even look askance upon
our gospel, as if it were proposing to shorten their
privilege, and cut off the few-endurable things they are
able to find in the world. Unspeakable delusion !
would that they could see it. No, my friends. The
real purpose of our gospel is to set us clear of all re
strictions whatever that work legally, and bring us
out to reign with God in God s own liberty. It says,
" all things are yours," and permits us to live in that
broad wealth which consists in universal possession.
Nothing is farther off and deeper down below it, than
that we are now to be set in scruple, and careful de
bate, about what social pleasures and diversions are
permitted, and what forbidden us. Permitted or for
bidden, we shall not want them, or go after them,
because they are chaff to us ; and we only let our
gospel down below itself, when we assume that any
thing can be settled for Christ in that plane of argu
ment. We have meat to eat which is better. We
sit in the heavenly places, having it ever as our
prime distinction there, that we would rather suffer
with our Master, than be feasted without him, and
would even willingly die to behold his face.



"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus
Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs
of this life, that he may please him that hath chosen him to be
a soldier." 2 Tim. 2: 3-4.

THE Christian life is often illustrated, as here, by
some comparison or figure derived from military life.
Sometimes the comparison is general ; as when the
whole struggle is called a warfare. Sometimes the
particular point of the comparison turns on the mat
ter of persistency ; as in the resisting unto blood.
Sometimes on the matter of courage ; as when the
righteous are declared to wax valiant in fight. Some
times on the precision of stroke and parry in close
combat with evil ; as when one fights in a cavalry
charge not uncertainly, or as beating the air. In the
passage from which I now propose to speak, the point
of the comparison is different it relates to the strin
gent and exact discipline of the military service ; the
total separation of the soldier from his own private af
fairs, and the absolute subjection of his body and life
to the hardships of the camp, and the will of his com

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The life of a soldier is the hardest, roughest, most
exactly restricted life to which a human being is ever
subjected, and it is well understood, as a first maxim
of military science, that it must be so. It makes no
difference, therefore, whether it be a volunteer en
listment or a forced levy ; no matter whether it be
the army of a free state or of a despotism ; it is well
understood that it must, in either case, be subjected
to the same stern military discipline.

The general-in-chief, in the first place, must have no
questions of his own about the policy or righteousness
of the war. He belongs to the state just as the can
non do, and he must go exactly where he is sent, to
fight the war prescribed. His subordinate officers, in
all grades, must be as implicitly subject to him as he
to the civil power, and the soldier must be subject to
them in the same manner. The army is, in fact, to be
a variously compounded, closely compacted machine,
whose wheels and limbs of motion are men the
bodies and minds of men. They are to move with an
exactly timed and exactly measured step, all as one.
They are to be wheeled up into the cannon s month of
the enemy, just as they are wheeled about in a parade
exercise, having no more question of danger, or of
self-preservation, than if they were made of the same
material as the truck-machines of their cannon.
They are to wade through swamps and rivers, at the
word of command ; to sleep on the ground, if need
be, without shelter ; to live on the coarsest, saltest
fare ; and when it is required, on half allowance of


that ; to keep their sentry-walk in the rain, just as it
is set ; or, if they must, to stiffen there in the winter s
cold, sooner than leave the beat assigned. If they
have a home and children, it is to be nothing, as long
as they are in the field. If they have lands that want
their care and culture, harvests waiting to be reaped,
property and debts that require their attention, these
are nothing no man that warreth entangleth himself
with the affairs of this life, that he may please him
that hath chosen him to be a soldier. If .his^superior
in command is tyrannical and harsh, he must choke
his resentments and not vent his impatience in words
of complaint; for that alone, if permitted, would
loosen the fiber of order and discipline. When a vic
tory is gained, it must be enough that his leader is ap
plauded. Or if some other subordinate, less deserving
than himself, is commended for promotion, he must take
it as the fortune of war and be silent. Kay he must
even have a certain soldierly pride in not whimper
ing or complaining of any thing. In a word, he must
endure hardness as a good soldier ; for it is the manner
of a soldier to endure every thing, bear every priva
tion, without a murmur of discontent ; to eat what is
given him, march when the surgeon decides that he
is well, whether he can stand or not ; melt or freeze,
leave his body on the plain, or give it to fill a ditch
before the enemy s ramparts, just as the cause or word
of command requires. This too, neither in a way of
dogged self-compulsion, nor of timid and slavish sub
jection. It must be done with appetite and ardor ;


for the true ideal of the military discipline is not
reached or realized, and the army is not set in the
true fighting order, till what is called an esprit du corps
is formed, such that individuals forget themselves in,
the spirit, and pride, and fire, of the common body
and their common cause. It is to be as if the cause
were beating time like a march, in their hearts, and
the tramp that measures their step, were but empha
sizing the common purpose of assault and the common
confidence of victory. In this army spirit, or en
thusiasm, which consummates the drill and discipline,
every thing is done w T ith freedom, because the individ
ual consciousness is burned up, so to speak, in the
common fire of the camp, or campaign. The soldier
cares no more for himself. He lives in his command
er, and the brave monster called an army, that his
commander has organized. Or sometimes it will be
true as just now it is with us, that, apart from any
power of drill, a grand enthusiasm for his country
and its laws has taken possession of the soldier, and
so far sunk his individuality, that he throws in ease,
and home, and children, and life itself, caring nothing
for the sacrifice, and scarcely remembering his par
ticular, infinitesimal self any longer. And this, in
some form, is the condition of all true military power.
Having lost this fire of the camp, the army is said to
be " demoralized." Having never found it, the army
will be only as an army of sheep going to the


Now the apostle, as we have seen, conceives the
Christian calling and service, under the analogies of
the camp and a military soldierhood ; and I have
drawn out this brief picture of the military order and
organization, that we may trace the lesson he gives
us, in some of the great points of correspondence,
where the analogies are most instructive and im

It is not conceived of course that the Christian disci
ple, enrolled in his Master s service, is to encounter all
the bad points which give so hard a look to military
life. He perfectly knows that he is not thrust forward
in a bad cause, or a cause of which he has any the
least doubt. He knows beforehand, too, that his
cause is sure of victory ; not perhaps of immediate
victory, not of any such victory possibly as insures
against temporary defeat, and even long ages of losing
experience and discouraging warfare. Still he lias
this one point given him to fasten his courage, which
is given, never, to a contesting army; viz., that his
cause is absolutely sure of victory at the last. It is a
great point also of distinction, that no injustice is
going to be done him. Nothing will ever be required
of him that violates his own personal convictions, or
breaks down the integrity of his judgments. He will
suffer wrong by no fraud, or prejudice, or partiality,
of his superior commander, but will be estimated al
ways exactly according to his own soldierly merit and
his faithful prowess in the field. His fellow men or
fellow disciples may not do him justice, but may even


put dishonor on him where he is to be most truly hon
ored. Still he will only be the more highly estimated
by his great leader, that he stands fast when beset by
so much of hostility and detraction around him, doing
just the service which others most decry and hold in
least esteem.

Abating now so many points of wrong, or unright
eous severity in the conditions of army service for
God has never any unjust or over severe terms to lay
upon his servants there is yet a very strongly marked
similarity between that service and the Christian dis
cipline. His enrollment for such discipline includes
the totality even of -the man. He is to keep nothing
back, but to put in home, house, worldly property and
business, and even life itself. He engages to endure
hardness as a good soldier, and even more absolutely
than any army soldier not to entangle himself with
the affairs of this life. He takes a kind of military
oath, in fact, to follow his Master, and do his perfect
will ; to renounce all delicacy and self-indulgence, to
endure privation, to not shrink from distress and tor
ment, and even to witness a true confession by the
martyr s fires. No ties of kindred or country are to
detain him from going where he is sent, or doing what
he is commanded. And what is wholly peculiar to
his kind of warfare, he is to fight alone, when called to
it, and maintain his charge even against the world.
In the service of arms soldiers go to the charge, or the
contest together, under one or generally several com
manders ; but the soldier of Christ stands out often by


himself, in solitary warfare, where he is to win his vic
tory for "God and truth alone. More generally he
will have multitudes enlisted with him, and the great
army of believers will be set in the drill with him and
he with them, all to be responsible, in a degree, for
each other. They are all to have their appointed
places and times, and come into the close fixed order
of a compact system. They must take every man his
part under the great leader, throwing nothing over
upon others which is given them to do, and they must
take the peril of it as being kindled for it, in the glo
rious, common passion of the common cause. _ Pa
tience, endurance, courage, fidelity and even a kind of
celestial impassivity, must be set in their otherwise in
constant, misgiving, self-indulgent nature. And the
only tonic force equal to this must be found in devo
tion to the Master, carried to the pitch of soklierhood
in his cause. The service they are in will often be
hard, a drill of duty and observance dreadfully irk
some to the flesh, but as soon as they find how to put
every thing into it, and have gotten all their thoughts,
feelings, fancies, wishes, enlisted for the war, and all
private liberties and caprices of will subjected to the
camp order of the mind, even the hardness itself will
become a kind of buoyancy and celestial aspiration.

this representation of the Christian life, by means
of the military, is one that is rich in spiritual instruction,
as regards a great many points of principal significance.
Some of those I w r ill now undertake to present.


I begin with the particular matter suggested by the
apostle ; viz., the putting off or excision of the world,
as an interrupt! v r e and disqualifying power. We get
weary of hearing so much said against the world,
so many cautions set against it, so many renuncia
tions and denunciations piled up to fence it away.
Why such a fear, a jealousy so wearisome, of the
world ? Is it a bad world ? Has God made some
mistake in the constitution of it? Is there not
something ascetic, something a little superstitious,
and to speak plainly, something a little unrespect-
able in this world-renouncing way ? And when
we insist on the unworldly character of all true
disciples, and hold up such as examples of a spe
cially standard character, what is it, they ask,
but a milksop that we make our ideal man ?
Do we then put this same judgment down
upon the soldier, taken away, as he is, from all
his affairs and affections ; his property, his home,
his business and business-custom ; forbidden now to
use a finger for his private and personal interests,
or even to let his family at home have place
enough in him, to so much as slacken his feeling
in the duties of the camp ? But why is this?
why is he allowed no more to have any world, or any
thing but a body in drill, and a mind set for endur
ance ? Is he thus unworlded to take the mettle out of
him ? Does it in fact make a poltroon of him or mere
broth of a man, as we just now heard of the un
worldly Christian ? Does not every military com-


mander know that, letting his men go home once a
month, and come back with their heads full of family
and business cares, unmans them practically, for the
time, and so far incapacitates them for any brave,
tough-handed service. The only way to make great
soldiership, as he well understands, is to take his men
completely out of the home world, and have them cir
cumscribed and shut in by drill, as being mortgaged in
body and life for their country. Trained to flinch at
nothing and suffer any thing, he makes them first im
passive, and so, brave. And under this same law it is
that all Christian disciples are required to strip for the
war, throwing off all their detentions, all the seduc
tions of business, property, pleasure and affection.
All such matters must now drop into secondary
places, for the understanding is, that no one gets the
great heart, or becomes in any sense a hero, till his very
life is drunk up in his commander, and his supreme
care t6 please him that hath chosen him to be a sol
dier. Instead of being weakened by the stern renun
ciations of his unworldly discipline, it is precisely this
which^vesliim alt robustness and heroic fire in his
calling. Jii just this drill too have all God s might
iest witnesses been trained.

Consider next how the military discipline raises
spirit and high impulse by a training under authority,
exact and absolute. In which we see, that going by
authority and being always kept under Christ s posi
tive command, is not a way, as some might think, of
diminishing our personal vigor, and reducing our


pitch in the manly parts of conduct. Bo it so that we
have it put upon us by Christ, as the perpetual charge
of our life, to keep his commandments. And then let
the question come, how we are going to preserve any
real personality, without having, in some large degree,
our own way ? Can any thing save us from a total in
capacity, when we are required to be acting, moment
by moment, under authority ? Does it then reduce
the soldiers and all the subordinate commanders of an
army to mere cyphers, when they "are required to
march, and wheel, and lift every foot, and set every
muscle, by the word of authority ; when even the
music is commandment, and to feed, and sleep, and
not sleep are by requirement ? Why, the service
rightly maintained invigorates every manly quality
rather; for they are in a great cause, moving with
great emphasis, having thus great thoughts ranging in
them and, it may be, great inspirations. Not many
of them ever had as great before, or ever will have
again. And all these powers are the more wholesome,
that they come in as commandment ; for it is one of
the grandest functional superiorities in man, that he can
be commanded as the animals can not ; that Jiis nature
is not a block but a drum, reverberative, grandly, to
whatever highest thing is sounded. So that, after all,
and say what we will of our own personal free arbit
rament, the grandest things that ever come into us are
commanded in. We even get more volume by what
is commanded us, than by all that we do. Authority,
authority, God s all dominant, supreme authority, is


our noblest educator ; for more than all tilings else it
wakens up our life, and impregnates our sentiment
with all that is most heroically true and good. Our
human nature is most blest and exalted in its hom
ages ; and no soul is so miserably unblest as one that
never had any. To be governed, it is true, is some
times nothing different from being thrust down, but
to be governed for a cause, or an idea, is to be graded
up in pitch and not down. When our soldiers return
from their campaign, how often is it remarked of one
or another, that his good-for-nothingness is somehow
taken away, and that his very gait is manlier ; as if he
were a man squared up by command, and the new-felt
possibility of consequence to his country. And so
when the soldiers of Christ throng in after their great
campaign is over, what will be more surely discovered
in them, than their everlasting ennoblement in
Christ s great will and commandment. And yet
not that so much by what he commands, as by the
reverberative sense of being under a command so

Another lesson even more instructive. How often
is it imagined, by outside beholders, or felt by slack-
minded, self-indulgent disciples, that the military
stringency of the Christian life is a condition of bond
age. The disciple puts his liberty in mortgage, it is
thought, and is never any more to be free. The very
conception of a life so bitterly scathed and cut away
by self-renunciation, is wearisome, ungenial, and re
pulsive is there not some conception of a good life


more generous in the style of it, and such as better
accords with the liberality of the Christian salvation ?

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 25 of 29)