James Houston Eccleston.

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

. (page 7 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 7 of 10)
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ance: if you have never seen or heard the cry



of a heart beaten in its life effort; if you have
never felt the plea of conscience as it rebuked
you, then I cannot speak to you of what I be-
lieve is the JOY of heaven's struggles in behalf
of men. But, my friend, if you have ever stood
absolutely beaten before some object of devoted
love, if life forces have gathered in close, hot
attack until the good seemed rolled back before
resistless wrong, if you have pleaded for some
precious life, and plead only to have it go, if
any or all of these have come to you, and then
if you were where you could find the Messenger
sent with absolute assurance of success, where
you knew Satan and all his guilt would be
rolled back, then are you such as not to feel
just this JOY of heaven, cost though it did the
Life of Galilee, and the Death of Golgotha?
Could you not welcome the heaven where not
to know earth's trials would be fault, and not
to share the mighty effort to redeem would dis-
turb heaven, and rob it of its holy and blessed
privilege? If I were told that heaven did not
know what even I know of sorrow and suffer-
ing and want and their wreck, and it were a
curtained pavilion, behind which lazy human
hearts might indulge seclusion, I do not think I



would care for the Father who lived in such an
atmosphere. But if knowledge there is keener,
as love pure and holy can bring, that interest
wells up till in its current the very Prince of all
is swept down through Golgotha, then such a
heaven is the home whose Father is One to love,
because He first loved me. God be praised for
Jesus' creed, God in mercy give it me for my
prayer, "Our Father, Who Art in Heaven."


We are self-reliant, until life in one place or
another shows us helpless; and then we long for
a Leader, as do all other defeated people.


It is apt to be an exceptional Christian char-
acter which is deepened in its humility by pros-
perity. One does not wonder that prosperity
leads man away from God, rather than to Him.
For it opens up so many indulgences, and makes
this great earth a place where so much amuse-
ment can be had, that there is no special need
of looking for any other kind of service. There
are to-day men and women who were careful



and cautious people until they had money
enough to get into a lot of associations where
they could not get before. People who talk
wisely and correctly about amusements and
shun them, get a very different estimate of the
whole thing when they are able to afford them.
And so amusements, by no means necessarily
injurious, become so bye and bye when means
increase, and people turn thought away from God
to play. "In all time of our prosperity, good
Lord, deliver us."


There is this strange thing about Christian
life in the home, — like all other healing, those
who have it gain in strength. The world soon
made up its mind, and has kept it so, that
Jesus Christ's morality must make man less
manly and strong. And the Church long ago
learned, and holds against all challenge, that
men most Christ-taught are strongest for all of


I know many people who because they cannot
see now what God is doing with them, and can-



not see the end, at once conclude God is cruel
and harsh. But while your life and mine are
only tiny, yet why doubt that, in our realm and
sphere, God has some ultimate use in all that
He lays upon us? When He shall have found
that we can be trusted with His work, we shall
be. And a man or woman worthy of training
is always trained for something.


We make public opinion: you and I, the very
humblest of us, are held responsible for it, be-
cause we are responsible for it. Our most care-
less thoughts, our hastiest words make or mar
it: we help cruelty on or stop it: we aid brutal-
ity, or we rebuke it: we help turn "disobedience
to the wisdom of justice," or we help on folly:
we help to make our people idle pleasure-seek-
ers, or to make them the builders of a long-
lived nation.


Whatever we may believe of ourselves, fact
comes to make us believe that some do sink to
the last level on earth. And when we find
them, the next thing is that we will not believe



they can be cured. First we doubt a fall, and
then we deny the Hfting up. But Jesus was
the kindest Judge, and had the fullest belief
that such men could be saved. That nature,
crouching there, a half-naked, cringing, pitiable
savage, an idiot one minute, and a worse than
lion the next, held in by only one thing — the
presence of absolute sinlessness. Such a being
in His sight was worth all the property which
could be ranged on all the hills of Galilee — for
he could and did become a child of God!


We are so dreadfully afraid of falling into the
error of an infallible Church that we decline to
have any! We are so critical of St. Peter's
place that we forget that the one thought which
absorbed both him and His Master was that
the Church was to be built.

"But you put into the Church men whose
Hves we know are not what they should be."
My answer is that I suppose the Lord was as
good a Judge of building material as you and I.
It is plain that He found a man, who within
six months stood up and in His own presence
lied to all about him, and repeated his lie:



and then fell to cursing and swearing: a man
so earthy in his ideas of Christian hfe that he
even rebuked Jesus for telling him the Christ
must die — but for all that, Jesus Christ not
only put that man into the walls of His build-
ing, but found a place for Him in the human
elements of its very foundation: and marvel-
lously good material it was.


Wise use of worship is God's plan for your
touching Him. Worship is never for the pur-
pose of having some human plan touch you:
it is a Divine plan to have you touch the Al-
mighty. There is a touch of ceremony and form:
and there is a touch of faith and prayer. No
human priest's robe in any land, or any day, or
any service, has ever conveyed holiness. But
let us remember the woman in the crowd: the
touch of the Lord's garment made her whole.
And heart-worship secures Christ's touch of
blessing, indispensable and immeasurable.


Who are God's gamblers? Where Satan
tempted, Christ refused: where love led, Christ


risked all. And surely His gamblers are those
who this night toil through patient hours, bear
patient burdens, endure trials, any cross, if it
be only Christ's. And their losses, are they
not many.^ Very many, but they are in God's
hand, He swept them all into His treasury. The
time when they might have trifled, the money
they might have wasted, the amusement they
might have had, — these are God's. So it was
in Christ's story, so it is in theirs. And their
winnings? Industry, patience, honesty, kind-
ness, diligence, purity and strength now, and
at last a hope which maketh not ashamed!


No view of life is worth looking at which has
no darker shadows in the picture!

There is a good deal of crucifixion waiting up
on that hill where we are climbing in such good


Whatever may be the immediate future,
whether to warn of danger or to announce a
hoped for blessing, still there is no greater
blessing to any land or people than the words,
"There was a man sent from God."




The world is gradually learning that the only-
thing in this world which will buy a human
being is another human being. Gold and silver
will buy a man's time, strength and energy:
and you may make him a laborer, a mechanic,
a ball-player or a prize-ring champion. But
when you buy the mauy buy his thought so as
to control it, buy his taste so as to direct it,
buy his affection so as to hold it, buy his con-
science so as to enthrone it, you will get him
only as you expend of man to buy him. Man
for man: thought for thought: heart for heart:
conscience for conscience: soul life for soul Hfe:
to buy, to lift, to sustain, till the great Pier is
found to be the Son of Man, bound up with the
infinite and eternal God, to redeem, to Hft, to
save forever lost souls of men, for whose pur-
chase earth had no sufficient gift.


I know no thought more full of warning, and
none anywhere near so full of hope — "Such
as I have, I give.''

It is a grave matter that out of our records



made in the lives of others, we are to be judged:
because when least we know or mean it, what
we are, and such as we have, we give them.

Get your type right, and your printing power
is every way a blessing.

In one great often repeated sentence we read,
"And the books were opened, and the dead
were judged out of the books." And we go on
truly enough to say those books are our own
memories, certainly one of them is, and another
is the memory and thought and conscience of
those near to us, to whom we gave just "such
as we have."


One of these days, somewhere in some life
near us, one whom we knew well, or one who
came only in the mass of Hfe's accidental asso-
ciations, there in that life the great Judge look-
ing over His book (nay, our book) will see some
cruel, sad entry of moral cowardice. "Such as
I had gave I thee." Just think how dreadfully
scared we get if somebody hears our voice out
loud reading the Psalter inspired of God's
Spirit: or saying above anyone else, "Lord,
have mercy upon us!" Is it any wonder men



outside the Church are afraid to stand up and
own Christ's name? And we are all the time
handing this moral cowardice down, from mum-
bled answers to positive refusals to say anything
for God.


Are there persons in the home, able to talk
beautifully about Hfe and its duties, with
such fair theories, but who live anything but
beautifully consistent lives? What of them?
Inevitably, "Such as they have, they give."
Down into those about them goes what they are
and have. If Peter and John had the advantage
of the Temple, these ordinary men and women
have an opportunity far more filled with occa-
sion for giving and receiving: there is no place
like that God-given place where young Hfe
gathers around. The surfaces are clear for
your writing, the face of the tablet smooth for
your graver to go over it: and it will harden
bye and bye with every character which you
have cut — not as when you were holding forth
in some careful moment of well delivered speech,
but when you were simply what you were and
are: when you were "giving such as you had."




I am not one of those who believe that it is
best not to pray unless we feel like it. I know
there are times when sin is so potent in one's
thought and word and acts, that one is either
defiant of, or utterly indifferent to, the Almighty
God. Shall I pray when I do not care, certainly
doubt, and possibly disbelieve that God ever has
heard, or ever will? Of all times when prayer
becomes most a duty, it is that in which God
seems furthest away, ourselves most indifferent,
and our prayers most useless. If you ask me
why I so confidently say it, I answer that you
and I know from experience that those are
moments when we most need Almighty help,
and dare not leave ourselves with the possibil-
ity of such a recurrence and without the help
of the Spirit of Truth. And surely in our quiet
moments we must know that God is the unerring
King and the Father of eternal love in heaven.
And his goodness is like all other infinity, un-
changed and unchangeable, and therefore it is
we who change, not He. Our minds are dull,
our hearts are chill. And if it is the chill of the
faith which God has given, then in the name of


our Saviour, let us pray most earnestly in those
awful moments, when some unlooked for expe-
rience of life does for you as the tempter has
made it do for almost every other Christian
who ever lived, — makes you for the moment
believe that the heavens are brass, and the earth
iron, and God as indifferent as Baal to the
Prophets on the sides of Carmel, — I say pray
then !


It may be your duty and mine to go to the
House of God, and even to the Holy Commun-
ion, when our feeling is far from a condition
which turns worship into exultant praise, but
rather keeps it on that lower note of earnest,
almost pitiable, prayer.


I was twenty-five years in the ministry, dur-
ing which I honestly thought that the sentence,
"The Lord is in His holy Temple, let all the
earth keep silence," meant that we should all
be dumb, although the whole purpose was an
hour and a half of common praise, before I
thought to look and find from the context that



the Prophet is finding fault with our everlasting
doubt and criticism of the Almighty; and that
that was to be hushed, and give place to praise
and prayer!


In looking back over the years, many indeed
are the ruinous mistakes of over-zeal! But how
about those of no zeal at all? Is it nothing to
you whether men are lost? "But I do not
know what to say," says one. Two agencies
are good teachers, one to drive forward, the
other to restrain. One is honest conviction,
belief in one^s own heart — that to drive on. The
restraint is simply that of good breeding, united
to a little bit of sanctified common-sense.


Life estimated by discontent may be a desert:
life measured by gratitude may be a garden.


How about courage in the home? It is a
hard place to be brave, because trying to be
brave at home gives the devil a chance to make
us rude, and Christ doesn't want you to be rude.



But He does want you to be honest, and there
is not much honesty without somewhere a good
deal of moral courage.


"A man after God's own heart/* That David
was not always such we know only too well.
Vice keeps us reminded for its own sake of
Uriah's wife: cruelty recalls with some com-
fort his command about Joab: negligent and
unwise parents speak in rather pitying tones of
his neglect of his numerous family while they
were growing up, and his weakness over a ras-
cally bad son when he was grown. But that
old-time chronicler, whoever he was, has made
us feel at least one place where David was a
man after God's heart. Why? For one simple
reason, he had courage to do exactly what he
was told, and to do it then: because then was
when it was wanted.




The whole world's challenge runs, "Give me
a man that we may fight": and the answer
comes quiet, clear, true, "Be of good courage.
/ have overcome the world."


"In My Father's house are many mansions."
Beyond all question the Lord meant to hold out
to His people, as the highest hope and richest
incentive, the thought of a home hereafter in
God's holy house, and in His presence where
law and love and rule would be one common
and instinctive thought, and holy impulse: but
I believe as surely He meant us to remember
that in travelling upwards toward that ideal,
there were many God-given places, where we
must stop to gain strength, levels where having
risen we may claim we are in God's house. But
we are to take warning that we do not stop
there! One meaning of the word translated
* mansions' is an inn on the line of an unfin-
ished journey. They are resting places, but the



journey is not done. In God's name I beg you
not to turn your place of rest into one of guilty,
possibly fatal, sleep. In the Father's house are
many resting places, but they may not be made
tarrying places.


Cheerfulness makes many a man and woman
welcome at many a house. You use it to help
yourself. All I ask is, do you use it to help
Christ? There are men and women whose
whole Hfe is simply to trifle: their very laughter
is the rattle of a fool's cap and bells. But when
Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison there was
an earthquake, and I expect there would be
another if some of our Christians were to become
cheerful. But cheerfulness does not always
need a laugh — it is like the silence of courage,
often most potent when it is mute, and its
witness most unmistakable where the sweetest
smile is set round with sorrow too deep to allow
it to smooth away the else deep wrinkles of
God's stricken child.


The more I read, the less able I am to draw
lines where Christ intended to, or actually


attempted to, make much difference in His mis-
sionary work. A sinning human being, or a
suffering one, the nearest to His hand and His
feet was the best subject for His thought and
help, and was nearest to His heart.

We look in Scripture to find the date and
incident which opened the work of foreign
missions, but is this not easy? If St. Peter's
message to Cornelius be one, there are others
which may be recalled; and may we not count
among them this incident of the Woman of
Samaria, and is this not the first attempt of
Christian foreign mission? Christ says salva-
tion is of the Jews, but the men of Samaria
are the first to own Him the Saviour of the
whole world.


Men tell us, "We don't want your church and
its rules. I have my own way of doing: I am
a little peculiar." Oh dear! How tired the
Lord must be of hearing all of us common-place
folk boasting of peculiarity. I doubt if there
is enough peculiarity in a dozen Sunday gather-
ings, or two dozen week-day ones to make up
what would pass for one respectable "peculiar"



character if tried under the Lord's eye. It is
the same old self-will, just as new as when Eve
took that fruit.


Men are often driven to rebuke failure in
their boy, or to face dishonesty in their clerk.
Unless you are a very hypocrite, in which case
your teaching will accomplish little, and just
as you are honest yourself, every effort to teach
better things, teaches you better things. You
may be sowing good seed in your child's mind:
already there is a crop in your own, if you
are to do any good. There never was a kind
act in any life, nor an honest, wise or right one,
which did not have its prompt crop reaped by
the doer before it helped anyone else.


There comes the question, "Why is not more
gain showed? Why is not more of the world's
sin taken away?" And the truest answer I
know is that those of us who are most beholden
to Christ for His taking away our sin are so
very slow to help Him do just that for others!




I know no way of speaking to people who do
not know the good side of fear. It is to people
who are afraid of life's dangers and hfe's risks,
and yet most afraid of letting these make cow-
ards of them, — it is to these that I am speaking.
I do not wish them to belittle for a moment
the awful risks of Christian Hfe: nor do I want
them to let these risks paralyze effort. Said a
highly gifted man, **I cannot go into the detail
of life; the reality of life shocks me. I must
keep out." And he did: he died shut away,
helpless, paralyzed, a trembling old man whose
body was the exact sacrament of his spirit.
But others had failed: therefore he dared not


Jesus Christ could not stay up in heaven,
and tell us all what to do. All the messages
of angels told in Scripture cannot be to us what
Jesus and His Cross are. When you can tell
me why He could not teach us as well from His
throne as from His Cross, I will tell you why
we can not do as well without sacraments as
with them.




Failure of God's men in worship harms others.
Even bad men grieve when a good man has
been guilty of folly.


Men cry, "Give us novelty!" and strangely
enough they seek it in vice. Let them try one
hour of purity and truth, they will know what
the Scriptures mean by the "newness of life.



Meet all your life calls of work and sorrow,
and grief for sin against God in His grace and
strength, with determined, earnest self-control.
But in all your work and sorrow, in all your
fight against evil, let the light of His love show
through all that you are and do. Be glad wit-
nesses of His glad news. Let your life show
that you bear "good news," of sure triumph to
come, and not a message of despair.


The attitude of reception is the ideal of wor-
ship, whether in a house, stately and beautiful



in skill of building, resounding with all possible
skill of sanctified art to aid reverence: or whether
it be the stammering speech of a rude, humble
soul kneeling in honest prayer, perhaps in a
secluded spot of Nature's mighty Church, her
forest his growing temple, her strange medley
of sound and song his God-given choir.


I know people who are perfectly willing to
send every man who wants to go over across
Jordan to fight for God's coming history, but
they can't see that they have anything to do
with it.


The whole background of any prayer at all
is that we are moving with, not against, the
will of the Almighty. We pray to Him, not
because we do not mean to do our part, but
because we would do it. We are at work, a
tiny creature, amidst a great mass of machinery
far beyond our control: but we learn as best
we can the conditions of life, and as best we can
adjust ourselves thereto. And then we pray.

1 66



On what do we ask God's blessing? Is it
something in which we would care to ask the
Almighty to become a partner? It is a high
privilege to pray to "Our Father, Which Art
in Heaven," and it is a privilege to ask Him to
"give us this day our daily bread," and it may
be a privilege to remember that, if He answer,
it will be through just the work which we and
He are doing together.


Who gives this "daily bread?" Men say it
is self-deception, and yet it has run through
nineteen centuries: imagination, and it has
stood every test of reality to which life can sub-
ject it: it meets and answers the conscience
accused of wrong-doing, sustains the heart-
demand in moments of every possible kind of
trial, enables men who else were quick to harm
to forget and forgive, widens men's capacities
for affection, makes them better husbands,
brothers, friends, citizens and men. Yet it is
something which money has failed to buy,
however large the offer, whether poured into



priests' hands or church treasuries: philosophy
has alternately assailed and patronized it: but
when philosophy attempts its office, it fails
utterly to do its work. It turns endurance into
patience, life into energy, and death into hope.


Perhaps the woman of Samaria described her
own life when she said, "The well is deep, and
you have nothing wherewith to draw." But it
was just this human well which He measured,
and from which He drank. Where an ordinary
knowledge of human nature could not reach,
He could and did: and finding an honest long-
ing in a human soul. He was wiUing to stop and
try further to change her life. Mere regret for
the mistake of her folly would not have held
His interest. But how far off the Father could
see the prodigal coming, and how far down the
Christ can look and see in a human heart its
better motive, you and I cannot know.


Discontent may be an impulse of evil, and
may be a gift divine. Delve as you will in the



much of evil, search amid the amusement-life
of vulgar or refined art, seek as you will in the
love of the purest friend God ever gave, closest
though this is to God and His life, yet not there
may you stop: for never will that discontent
God placed within you be answered, or its
demands fulfilled, until God carries within you
the fountain of life eternal.


Our love alone satisfies Christ: why should
aught but HIS satisfy us?


St. Luke starts from the very nursery, with
the beautiful light over the hill of Bethlehem:
St. Mark often arrests with his hfe-like stories,
as he tells what St. Peter, eye-witness of the
Lord, reported: St. John is the often needed

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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 7 of 10)