James Houston Eccleston.

The James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; online

. (page 5 of 10)
Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 5 of 10)
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will ever have praise of God for trying to straddle
the line, and be on both sides.


It makes all the difference as to whether the
starting point is man reaching up to heaven, or
God reaching down towards earth. If I am try-
ing to tie Christ to me by human speculations,
that is one thing; if Christ is trying to tie me
to Him by His love and truths, that is an en-
tirely diflPerent thing. Man-made religions are
on their face philosophies: but a religion given
by Christ — a tie, a thing flung out from heaven
to reach our lives through His is a totally dif-
ferent thing. It does seem to me that the dif-
ference between a religion which comes from God

■ ^6


to seek men, and a human philosophy trying to
find good, is exactly the difference between the
feeble efforts of men drawing their own ropes
on the deck of a fated vessel, and the life guard
sending the Hfe-line on board that men may
draw after them the hawser of Divine Love.


What is this which we call religion? Some
may answer that it is faith. No. Faith is the
first line that goes flinging over the wreck, but
it is not the line they use in making safety.
That which makes me secure is the hawser
that the first line drags after it. And the tie
between me and God is not my puny faith —
the tie between God and me is His Son; the
God I love gave His Son.


When the Apostle said the Lord "loved"
him, he did not mean that emotional affection
between you and your children and friends,
which expresses itself in excited speech or
manner. He means that noble thing in man
which we tersely term honor or charity: and



doubtless in life we feel that other word. We
never can do full measure to it, and never will.
But it is the best we know and so we call it


Some men and women deny the reality of
offence, or deny God's right to judge. But
where we own both, nothing is quite so hopeless
as our thought of our own past hfe — the lost
days, the broken promises, the half-kept reso-
lutions, the ideals and failures, the hard and
pitiless injury to others, and even sadder records.
And yet none are worse than Paul was; and
He could say "He is our peace"


The teachings of our Lord, without His de-
pendence upon the promises of the coming life,
are almost a travesty. And as one takes fast
hold on them, God's peace comes into his life.
Men thrown to beasts, men burned in the fires
are quite secure. They felt the flow of peace
most distinctly when the world saw only fanatical
indifference. And if the m.artyrs be ruled out,
then what of the long lines of patient men and



women who have borne the burden and heat of
long years of hard struggle, buoyed and sus-
tained by that hope of a future hfe which made
them not ashamed, but diligent, quiet, uncom-
plaining — the world's own ideal of peaceful,
faithful Christians.


Peace with God for the past, and peace in
God for the future is what most, who believe at
all, account as strength for the present. What
peace have we for that? We have God*s for-
giveness for Christ's sake, and God's promise
for Christ's sake. But, I am told, the very
people who seem most sure of forgiveness and
most clear in hope, are those to whom often
come most sorrows. There do seem lives into
which more sorrow comes than into others; but
what seems to me most clear is the impartial
admission of trial into all lives. Nor is there
any indistinctness in Bible statements that trial
is not the evidence of curse, but is often the
evidence of blessing. It is not easy to read
Providence. But one thing is plain, the Hfe
undisturbed is often the least Christian, because
least moved to do its share. Dives was counted




an enviable man, he fared sumptuously: and
Lazarus was a beggar. But the Lord leaves
no doubt of what He thought was the result of
a life undisturbed. Have you noticed in reading
the Book of Judges how the refrain comes,
"And the land had rest forty years," and imme-
diately after, "And Israel did evil again in the
sight of the Lord " ?


It is the very natural cry from men when they
have made mistakes, when they have compli-
cated the plans of Providence and made their
fulfilling more difficult, and brought confusion
where an absolute adherence to right would
have kept things more simple, to call out fbr the
Lord, somehow or other, to put things straight,
not to allow one's actual fault to cause any
great inconvenience, but some way to keep up
both ends, and let the results be as little em-
barrassing as possible.


Abundant blessing is offered of the Almighty,
but the outcome must be where human choice



will have it, and where human selection arrests
the hand of even the Almighty, as the Jewish
soldier's manacle held the hand of Christ in
that moment when He was trying to heal the
ear of an enemy whom His own servant had
struck. You ask how can human power arrest
Divine? My answer is, by human will and
human choice.


I speak with the utmost caution, and I trust
with the greatest care, of a matter which goes
at once to the hearts of us all, when I speak of
a broken home. And you will tell me the broken
homes are comparatively few, and let us praise
God that that is true. But the broken homes
are absolutely far too many: and if by God's
blessing in your Christian land unbroken homes
outnumber so greatly the broken ones, yet be-
yond all denial one of our distressing moral facts
is, that public opinion is loose and faulty as to
when and where the homes may be broken with-
out its serious censure. With deepest sympathy
for injured love, with no too quick judgment
upon human frailty, yet who this minute can
measure the evil influence of a growing, vicious



custom in the false estimate of the sanctity of
home among our people? If the growing, com-
ing hfe finds that right is an adjustable guess
in the life between husband and wife, then where
on earth is the young life to learn any practical
ideal of right as separate from wrong?


God's Spirit is held within no such limits as
you and I are. He uses a meek man, but giant
in strength, like Moses: or He uses a whirlwind
of fire like Elijah, and then after him the quiet
EHsha. He uses at the same moment the mystic
John, and the bold John the Baptist, the enthusi-
astic Peter, and the strong, tough, determined
Paul — these are all men of Spirit-Power in the
first instance, and in reserve. God knows when
and where He is allowed to distil this tremendous
secret force, which in every age has allowed
keepers to wake martyrs from a child-like sleep
to find themselves the next moment in the clutch
of a beast more merciful than the man who set
him on: which now and ever turns a weak will
into the power of God against an evil habit.

1 02



The best Christian people who ever lived have
sometime or other grown weary of watching.
And tempters human and inhuman make the
most of this: "Oh, come now, you can't always
be praying, you can't be a saint all the time.
What! always fast and vigil, always watch and
prayer?" Human nature, poor feeble thing, can't
do that all the time. And yet it cannot afford
to neglect the attempt. Some companion comes
to you young people. "Come now, just go into
this: it isn't much." And for the moment you
may be carried off your guard, the thing is un-
looked for, and you may go down under it. Or
a sudden provocation of temper may be upon
you: you can't always defend yourself: righteous
indignation and genuine human sinful anger
live very near together. And you say "The
tempter was near, close upon me." Yes: and
so was Someone else. "In an hour when ye
think not. The Son of Man cometh." What.?
Christ comes in my Httle temptations.? Pos-
sibly. Rid yourself of that word "comes," and
read "The Son of Man is alongside of you!"
He is often there for reproof. Will He condemn.?



Did He condemn Peter? He rebuked him: He
condemned Judas. But the look which rebuked
Peter saved him. There was at least some re-
serve which had been growing in Peter's soul-life
during these three years: in Judas it was the
snufF of a dead flame. Which shall it be in
yours ?


HumiHty which hinders a duty is not humility
but the opposite.

True humility never boasts a fault.

Honest humility must, in its nature, shrink
from responsibility, just as Moses did: but when
once it is made to know God's commands, it
leads as Moses did.


The best, most useful, most valuable friend
you ever had is the man or woman who stands
out from all which they ever said or did, simply
the man or the woman, who and what God made
them. You may make a fortune, and secure it:
you may build a house, and leave it: paint a
picture and frame it: write a poem and print it.
And these may do good work for men. But out



and away above all that ever anyone did, is
what the man or woman is.

Never a man did work but that man was
larger in his personal force than the work which
he did. Never a woman sent out from her home
good women and strong men, but that mother
was greater in her personal force than any child
who grew beneath her care.


Our great human life here is like a huge organ
— a strange, wonderful instrument, multiform
past man's knowledge in pipe and stop and
cunning connections, and its great key-board is
swept by a Master's hand, which sometimes
rolls out the sombre notes of a storm, and over
it all sends a human cry to warn and to call.
And ever through the ages the theme changes
and is changing to richest song of the Artist's
own endless triumph, and the sound gathers in
volume, until out and over it, from millions which
no man numbers, come the words, "Salvation
unto our God, who sitteth upon the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever."




Abraham's servants no doubt felt a good deal
of interest, and if they had known how much
was at stake, they would have been over-
whelmed with interest. But they did not know
what was involved. They never got beyond the
point of the ordinary routine of the journey:
they packed and unpacked the beasts, they
pitched the tents — they were really very obedi-
ent, useful people. And so are many of us. We
pitch tents, and fold them: we pack and un-
pack, and really are very good routine servants.
But about a great heart-searching command,
demanding almost a life-hope for sacrifice, de-
manding the nearest and dearest, and the coming
face to face in prayer with the Almighty Heart-
Searcher, to plead with Him in all this — why,
how many of us can claim any such praying as

God give us to know the difference between
the routine of a servant's life, and the cry to
God of that man, travelling to the height whence
he returned God's great "friend."

1 06



Find the distinction: there is the growth
called Christianity, which as a part of its yield
gives something tremendously akin to Socialism:
and don't pick up the plant Socialism pure and
simple, and expect it to boil out Christianity.




There never was or will be a man or woman
"too good" for the humblest place where men
and women may be led to worship and serve


You may have had many a moment of honest
enquiry in your hfe, and you may have been
very earnest in your desire for the truth. But
to what did it lead you? You may have been
following a star somewhere, or some half-truth,
and God saw you were perfectly honest: what
else did He see?


I know a mother can and does, in her sweet
affection, make a child understand her long
before the child knows one word of language:
and God's love is as imperious and impatient of
threatened danger as even a mother's, and some-
how He has sent thought from Heaven, where
we can speak only in the tongue of earth!



Evil must have a human agent somewhere,
and involve human responsibility. Evil as a
theory may be one thing, but evil as a leaven
means a human heart and will behind it. So
good, even the greatest good, God's love, must
have a human agent somewhere, a human heart
and mind and will to carry on His influence in
the world.


Nothing is plainer than the hopelessness of a
mere human heart's ever reaching in actual life
the story of the Nazarene. If we are to trace,
now in this act, now in that, an exacted task
wherein we must reach the life of Christ, or
fail heaven, we may well enough abandon the
whole as hopeless. The best of men are yet men
at best.


By all means, most thankfully receive the
Lord's great sacrifice to free you from punish-
ment due for sin, but with it also DAILY en-
deavor to follow His holy steps! Men who see
you walking in the one will listen when you tell
them of the blessedness of the other.



Doubtless you and I must at times rest from
work, but we may, by God's grace, never rest
from righteousness. And while we rest from
work, God is not sleeping, and He will have
someone keep our night-watch, and He will see
that there is no night-watch to love and right!


I often think of Elijah — this man with a great
modern character — as a great towering moun-
tain, his head away up in the glories of heaven's
air and light, because his own God-made, rock-
ribbed hfe of pure faith would not and could
not sink to the level of faith and life where the
guilty Ahab, his guiltier queen, and the aping
rabble had sunk. Elijah was still up on the old
Hebrew level, where God is one, and pure and
true and holy. God had made him unable to
sink. And a great mountain, mind you, not
only makes a glorious landscape, but it rules
it. The stream must bend and rush as its sides
may will: men must direct their roadways as
that mountain allows: and the atmosphere must
be wet or dry, cold or hot, as the great dominant



hill may allow or actually decree. And men
whom God has made too fixed in holy faith to
sink to a low level, stand up in the great world's
landscape, as we travel the ages, and dominate,
if they do not dictate, the life and energy of
their life and time. So did this man of God in
his day: and One greater than all in His.


We should live soberly (that is toward our-
selves): righteously (that is toward other
people): and Godly (that is toward our Maker).


He rebukes selfish indulgence: I do not re-
member that He ever rebuked the misery of sin.

The only time rebuke ever does good is when
it is delivered with heartache for the wrong, and
hope as example of the right.


The man who is always choosing the better
among the good is not only the best, but the
only help in a day of dangers.



Do I mean that the Church of to-day is to
bring dead men to life? I mean this, that your
Church is none, unless it can go to stricken
homes, and by word of Christ — not by specu-
lation, not by some debate, not by apologetic,
timid hint — but by warrant of God's own awful
word in and by Christ, stand by the sorrowing,
and make them believe it truth, "Behold, thy
son lives!" Our weakness is that we are not
God's messengers as He means us to be! Don't
stop to debate. Obey the Master, and preach
to all.


Naaman was great enough, after being offended,
to stop and remember the word "obey." Are we.?

Can God's eye find in us whole-hearted sub-
mission, surrender and faith?


To a human eye, the majesty of redemption
began when a whole nation, roused from slavery,
broke through armies and plunged, by strange
paths, through the seas to liberty to fight for



God and truth! But, we are told, that to an
angel eye, it reached its glory when the Mighty-
One reached down His blessed hand, and touch-
ing a poor cripple in body and soul, healed both
body and soul in forgiving love, "Son be of good
cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee.*'


The Apostle did not say that money was the
root of all evil, but he did say the love of it


You can burn a human body till not a trace
of it can be found. Can you annihilate great
human thought and affection, conscience and

If muscle and morality are the same thing,
then Nero's school for gladiators was of more use
than the work of St. Peter and St. Paul, both
of whom probably suffered under his axe.


No one ever knew the power of physical pain
better than He: none ever came with touch to
heal like His — through days of toil and vigils



by night, through hours of weariness and the
article of death, through all the world — built
fires into which a human life is ever flung —
He tried it all, pain, and thirst and want and
death. He is the Ideal of dreamy reformers,
the Object of Christian worship, the Standard of
earth's philanthropy, God of the Christian
Church, the one only Being in the story of this
ever-burning bush of human life wherein the
bush and God are one. There this message
comes, and a hope far beyond the hour of suf-
fering, beyond our physical death, comes and goes
the voice of God in His promise, "I have seen
the affliction of My people."


Turn to the exquisite story of the Prodigal.
This surely is the Gospel! And is not the most
beautiful part of the story the truth that wherever
the boy was he was always the Father's son.? A
wayward boy at home, a thankless one amid
vile men and women, a beggar dying in want —
ever3rwhere and always the son, the story only
complete when the Father's kiss stayed the con-
fession of his sin!

Do you assume that you are forgiven: do you



exact forgiveness, or do you receive it as God's


Can you and I drop the critic and cease the
complaint against our Master and His people
long enough to learn our own privilege of re-
pentance and blessing, and lead by kindness
others in gratitude to Christ?


God help us to know that down from Heaven's
ocean of love plunges there by Golgotha a
cataract of compassion which no cup of your
measure or mine will ever contain, enough to
slake the thirst of a multitude which no man
can number.

It was this which made Phillips Brooks what
he was, he was great enough to feel the width
of God's love.


"Is it not plain that men have gained by the
temptation, are they not stronger for the trial
and struggle? Was it not better that man
should sin?" says someone, and a great deal of



speculation is let loose. Let us remember that
no cautious man undertakes to read history
backwards. A few very confident men are ready
to tell you what would have happened if Napo-
leon had won at Waterloo, and what if Corn-
wallis had won at Yorktown. But as a rule
men are content to admit that they do not
know what would have happened if history at
some point had been other than it was. Two
things are plain: one is that Adam and Eve did
disobey: and the other is that the scriptures
everywhere in both Testaments represent it as
a loss. Is it not best for us to try to deal with
the case as it stands?


One material in that robe for the feast will
be humility. The woman longed for a knowl-
edge which would put her alongside of God
Himself. It came to her under the deceit of the
name of wisdom, which proved to be folly, and
under the promise of an elevation which proved
to be the deepest degradation. A longing for
selfish human pride to reach out and take from
the wardrobe of heaven the very garment of
God. A frightful cheat that was! And many



have felt it since. Many a woman reached for
the decorations of indulgence, and found only
the rags of poverty. Who, save Christ and His
angels, knows the sorry record of where and how
the folly of childish discontent, working with
proud, selfish desire, has hurried men and
women, boys and girls, far from the gaudy
finery which they had craved, and left them
at last robed in the cheating world's castaway
garments? How very far from this is that
promised robe of the great feast of the marriage
of the King's son!


Few men are willing to pray falsehood, and
hesitating at first to, they learn to confess the


The Baptist was a rare man, quite as good
as his own sermons.

But he only held the door for the passing
through of Him whose shoe latchet John himself
was not worthy to touch and tie. And yet
there can be no Christ come without John.
There can be no Christ without God's voice



within us, and John was only a voice! God
forbid that that voice should come within, and
there be no Christ to answer its cry for help.
His life was greater than John's His Morality
was higher, because gentler, wider, because out of
His life came the preaching that while thought
and heart may be the place of sin, they must be
also the place of right and truth!


It is a blessed fact that while some of the
great historic buildings have laid in their walls
huge stones, almost impossible it would seem
for the engineering of that day to manage, yet
most of the enduring building under which
civilization has grown and gained, has been
done with small bricks, and some with only
adobe mud, sun-dried, but useful and lasting.
With just such people God does His building.
We can never get a place among the Davids,
catching at lions and bears, and beating them
to death: knocking down giants and killing
them with their own swords. Times come when
that thing has to be done, and then come Davids
and Pauls to do it. But those times are not
many, and God in His forbearing patience is



content to work along with the Sons of Kish,
the family where you and I, in our clever cau-
tion, belong. What part are we taking in just
this commonplace, slow building-work?


Anybody can criticize Christians. All of us
wonder at the quarrels within the church, we are
ashamed of her murders, we bemoan her mistakes,
we regret her divisions, we mourn over the follies
of individuals, and then we stop and thank God
for a great entity, and a great reality, a force
which cannot be ignored, a strange ever-growing
building, whose grey walls are the wonder of nine-
teen centuries of work, whose marvellous pillars
and arches have sheltered thousands of human
souls, some sorrowing, some mourning, some
sinking beneath oppressive sense of guilty shame.
And within these sheltering walls weak women
and beaten men have regained their strength
and now come to tell us, as swells the chorus
of God's praises ever fuller and fuller through
arch and aisle, how dark indulgence and deep
guilt have ceased their horrid hold, how despair
has given way to gladdest hope, and cries of
defeat to hymns of triumph in Him who is



Foundation and Corner-Stone, our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ!


To me the demand that anybody shall take
up the Bible and read it as any other book is
either an impossibility, or is a demand upon
which I should insist with all my heart.

By all means read it as you would read any
other book, read it with all the prejudices of the
years around and about it, the prejudice of belief
instead of doubt, of reverence instead of suspicion.

It does an immense amount of harm to forget
what we are reading when we read the Holy
Scriptures, and especially when we profess to
be reading the record of the words of the Lord
Jesus Christ. Read it as you would any other
book, with such a history, atmosphere, dignity
and influence as this one: giving us the pro-
foundest essays on government, and the deepest
thought on human responsibihty, morals and


The battle was fought between self and love,
and love won.

1 20


St. Peter is more human, if not more humane,
than John the Baptist: because against John
we know no charges of broken law. But John
is impossible to us, where St. Peter is simply a
penitent man.


The Christian Church began in Jesus of
Nazareth, and in the ages of heaven will be lost
in the family of God.

The saint in heaven is the man forgiven his
sin on earth.



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Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 5 of 10)