Joseph McKee.

Responsibility as applied to the professions and callings of daily life. A sermon preached ... in ... Newark, N.J. ... [also a sermon from The American National Preacher v. 30. an address to the young online

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Online LibraryJoseph McKeeResponsibility as applied to the professions and callings of daily life. A sermon preached ... in ... Newark, N.J. ... [also a sermon from The American National Preacher v. 30. an address to the young → online text (page 1 of 7)
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" To every man according to Ids several ahilityT —
]\Iatt. XXV : 15.

The leading ideas of tlie Parable from wMcli tliese
words are taken, are diligence and acti\"ity, conscien-
tious and habitual in tlie stations in which we are
placed. Hence it affords to us, in its application to
the details of daily life, an inexhaustible fund of
instruction and illustration.

It announces to us, clearly and unmistakably, the
Law of Human Responsibility to God, the Father
Almighty, as the foundation of all our moral and
religious duties — a law, which is in the spiritual
world what gravitation is in the material world,
wide-reaching, all-including, running through the
entire universe, as an invisible network of means and
ends, of motives and results, of hopes and fears,
binding man to man, and all unto God, in relations
august and immutable.

To deepen the impression of the parable, to indi-
vidualize it, to make it to ourselves personal, let us
contemplate the law of human responsibility in its
bearings on our professions, callings and business.
We greatly mistake, I think, in the application of
this parable. We do somehow, as we read it, come
to connect the idea of accountability with our re-


ligious duties only. If we are active and diligent in
works of christian benevolence, and as religious men
we fulfil the outward duties of life, we feel as if it
were all w^ell with us. It is only, we say, the right
use of religious opportunities and gifts — that re-
sponsibility is affirmed of in the parable — and for
which, retribution or reward awaits us all, in the
unfolded solemnities of the future. We forget it
belongs to our every day life ; we forget that there
is a religion of the street, and the shop, and the office,
and that, in fact, religion belongs to all we do, and
say, and are. Keligion is not a dogma. It is not a
creed. It is not the Publican's language on Sunday,
and the Pharisee's on Monday. It is a life, a sentiment,
vital and active, the true life of every true word, and
thought, and work.

Every man ought to be a religions man. And
every man is, to a certain degree, by his moral con-
stitution, a religious man. He has a conscience ; he
has a sense of infinity, eternity and a future life.
He cannot shake that aside do as he will. What is
religion, but the unfolding of those great thoughts in
the light of revealed truth, obediently and lovingly,
in the man's experience — the binding back again of
his soul to God in love and holy trust, from whom, as
its true centre of good and blessedness, it has swung
loose. But it does not follow, that because a man is
not a religious man, after my idea of what religion
is, in its outward, or speculative expression, that he is
therefore, an irreligious man. But an irreligious man
he assuredly is, if he set aside and disobey, in his
daily life the fundamental principles of natural and
revealed religion. His honesty, integrity, soberness,


and public spirit, if lie exhibit these virtues, grow
then neither out of the spiritual impulses and in-
stincts of his own nature, nor out of reverence for
the revealed will of God, his Creator, but the posi-
tion, the surrounding influences from without, to
which, as a social man, he is subjected. I would say
to such a man, you do yourself a wrong. The
Gosj^el addresses your better and higher self. And
when you violently cut from about you all its re-
straints from evil, and all its incentives and inspira-
tions to good, which spring out of an honest recep-
tion of its truths, you do violence to your own nature.
You wrong your own soul. You cripple and maim
its strength and symmetry, as really as you would
your body's by the amputation of your hands and
feet. Faith in God. The Love of God in Christ.
A brave trust in Jesus as the Resurrection and the
Life. That is the life and perfection of the soul :
the spring of eternal advancement, and without which
it has neither beauty, nor symmetry, nor completeness.
It is a deformed soul — a moral ruin.

Now we must not confound what becomes us, as
immortal men, hastening to the destinies of the
eternal hereafter, with mere outward and dramatic
religion. The religion that is to fit us for that eternal
hereafter, has a wider and more awing significance.
It spreads itself, I repeat it, over all we do, think,
speak, or desire. It belongs to all the ordinary
duties and affairs of life. And such, indeed, is the
teaching of this parable.

Every man is a steward. Every lot in life is a
stewardship. God is the creator, disposer, and sove-
reign over all. It is God assigns to every man his


place and station. He gives to every man according
to the position lie is to occupy, one talent, or two
talents, or five talents. To one man He gives genius ;
to anotlier riclies ; to another fame ; to another
stations of trust and authority. And to every man,
some one gift, some quality, some social, moral, intel-
lectual, or physical endowment, which, if managed
wisely, would be to the man himself, and to all with
whom in the network of human relations he is con-
nected, a productive good, and for which, as a steward
of the manifold gifts of God, he is accountable.

In the forum of eternal right we are accountable
for all w^e are ; for all we do ; for all we are
entrusted with. This is the doctrine of the parable.
To attempt to prove it, would be as useless as to at-
tempt to prove that these lamps light up this hall.
We are conscious it is so. Every man carries in his
own soul the conviction that the misuse or neglect of
any of the gifts of God's providence is followed with
regret, loss, shame, and unhappiness. And that too,
as naturally, as the oak from the acorn, or the chick
from the egg.

But not to deal in generalities, let us come to
particulars. Let us consider some of those specific
obligations and duties which spring out of the par-
ticular and specific stewardships men occupy in the
industrial, commercial and professional callings of

I. "In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat
bread." This is a fundamental law of human society.
Man is not a drone or an idler, naturally or constitu-
tionally. The structure of his mind and body alike
makes him a worker. His physical and intellectual


powers, as naturally and necessarily put themselves
into movement and action as the wind, the wave,
and steam do machinery. A law, as impulsive as the
law of gravity, or steam, makes man a worker —
a voluntary, conscious, active being, putting forth in
his sphere, certain endeavors, activities, and influ-
ences, which make him a centre of moral and spiritual

The multiplied and ever varying wants of life give
rise to trade and commerce, and the exchange of the
products of one man's skill and industry for those of
another man's. The transfer of the products of one
land for those of another land creates commercial
enterprise, and manifold forms of industrial endeavor.
But, in the complicated workings of the machinery
of trade and business, there comes a jar. One man's
interest clashes with another man's. This one stops
and hinders that one's wheel, or he maliciously lays
in the way of his neighbor's prosperity some obstacle,
or he puts his hand upon his neighbor's property, or,
worse than all, the spirit of Cain enters into his heart,
and he lifts his hand against his brother's life, and
the voice of blood cries up to God, against him, for

It is to make inquest for blood, to defend the right, to
punish the wrong, to protect and defend honest men
in the quiet possession of their goods, that human
laws and. human tribunals have been created. And
to expound these laws, to settle disputes between
man and man, according to justice and equity, the
profession of law has been estal dished. And im-
portant and responsible is the position of the man
w^ho has chosen law as his profession. There are few


men whose influence is more widely felt, for good or
evil, in any community, than that of the keen-eyed,
sagacious, and practical lawyer.

The moral responsibihty of his profession is, I fear,
vastly undervalued. It is looked upon far too much
in the light of a mere trade, a business, a stepping-
stone to political honors, or legislative power, or the
accumulation of property. But is this right ? Is the
profession a mere trade ? Is it merely the readiest
road to riches ? Is there nothing in it sacred, and
holy, and awing ? There is. The pulpit proclaiming
the awards of eternal justice is not more influential
over communities, than the bench, the bar, and the
jury, those outward and visible embodiments on
earth, of that eternal justice, which from the throne
of unerring right, awards justice and judgment to
every man, according to Ms deeds. If, as a public
man, any man in the community ought to be a good
man, ilie laivyer oiigltt. Whether he feels it or not
he is occupying a stewardship of solemn trust and
responsibility. And never can he earn the approval
toell done good and faitliful servant till he learns to
connect his profession in time with his destiny in
eternity, until he learns to reverence principle as
something higher than self, and the good of his fel-
lowmen, as the grand office of his profession.

II. Again. With the luxuries of civilized life, the
violations of the laws of health, and accidents to
which all are liable, come troops of diseases ; and the
sick bodies and broken limbs, as well as the sick
souls of men, need help, and healing. And the phy-
sician, and the minister of the gospel, are sent forth
among their fellow-men to check the progress of


sickness and sin, to heal the sick, to bind np the
broken-hearted, and to carry help and hope to the
living and the dying. Their mission is one from
which a man may well shrink, it is so weighty and so
awins: in its interests and results.

He who chooses either of these professions with a
spirit wholly interested, and selfish, has stepped on
holy ground, with impious feet. He has no just
sense of the greatness of his profession. I do not
say he will not get rich. I do not say he will not
attain to rank and power, and be honored as those
are who are wise concerning their own worldly
interests. But I do say, he is not a servant of God.
He is a servant of self. And though he labor hard
and long, and gain what the world calls success, he
can never gain that which is of infinitely higher
moment, even the approval of the Master of life as a
good and faithful servant.

I am aware some may object to this expression
of what the religion of daily life is. They may
say it is not gospel preaching. It is morality. It is
the righteousness of the law. I would gladly pass
such an objection silently. Still, if there be present
one honest hearer that has been abused by the false
notion, a man may be a good christian man and yet
be wanting, most prodigiously, in conscientiousness in
his profession, calling, or trade ; or if there be a truly
devout man here who fears that by insisting on
honesty, integrity, and conscientiousness of duty and
endeavor as needful to S2:)iritual salvation, or that I
overlook the way, the truth and the life as it is in
Christ Jesus, I say to him, my friend, you do me
wrong. You do a wrong to the teachings of the


parable before us. The way to the realm of re-
deemed humanity is the way of holiness. It is the
only way upwards. Jesus Christ came to save us
from our sins, not iisr our sins. He died to redeem
us from the slavery of selfishness, and wrong, in all
their forms.

And where do selfishness and wrong the most
powerfully assault us ? Where are temptations the
rifest ? Where are we liable the most to meet the
devil and his agents ? Where are we the most likely
to have our conscientiousness smothered out of our
hearts and minds ? jSTay rather, where are we to
exercise ourselves in the virtues of the christian life ?
Where is our humanity, patience, integrity, forgive-
ness, charity and faith to be incarnated in action ?
Where, but in our daily callings, in our worldly
employments, in our ordinary transactions and inter-
course with others ; in our families ; in our work-
shops ; in our professions ; in the busy, struggling,
sinnina:, sorrowius: world around us. It is here we
are to take up the cross and follow Christ. He will
only become our Saviour, when we become His
obedient disciples. Our morality ; our uprightness ;
our goodness, of whatever type it may be, does not,
and cannot redeem us. It is all too ragged and soiled
to fit us for a realm of sinless perfection. Nothing
but personal religion can. The life of Christ must
be our life. A man cannot be a saint on the Sabbath
and a sinner throughout the week, and yet hope for
salvation. It is the spirit with which we do the
business of the week, that proves the sincerity of our
worship on the Sabbath, and makes or mars our
christian character. Nor is there a trade, or a pro-


fession, or an industrial employment of any kind
that may not become, if conscientiously conducted,
a powerful means of moral and religious culture.
Where, I repeat it, are men to learn, sturdily, the
virtues of honesty, truth, charity, forgiving of wrongs,
and a brave trust in God's providence, but where
they have most urgent temptations to dishonesty,
to falsehood, to litigations, and the retaliation of
wrongs ? Where is the lawyer to exercise the lofty
^-irtues of the christian, but in the active duties of
his profession; in aiding the wronged, in checking
the spirit of revenge, in mediating between parties
at variance, in suppressing unrighteous litigation, in
quenching rather than blowing the coals of strife, in
placing the merits of his cause, not on " quillets " and
" quiddits," not on informalities and professional
quirks, but on the immutable and eternal basis of
justice and equity, as an upright lawyer and a
christian man ?

Where, also, is the physician, but in the active
duties of his profession to exercise the humanities of
his profession, as a christian — in the house where
sickness is ; in the dwellings of the wretched ; among
the sons and daughters of affliction, where every eye
turns towards him with hope, where every hand
offers him a welcome, where all throw themselves
with unreserved confidence on his skill, integrity and
sympathy ? No men should be better men than our
lawyers and physicians. They ought to be far up
and above the petty quackeries of a mere profession.
The one is the expounder of justice, ecjuity, and rights.
The other is, under God, the dispenser of health and
healing, blessings and joy to our houses and hearts.


All lionor to the men of both professions, who are
wise and good men, after the model of Him who
went abont doing good to the souls and bodies of
men. All honor to the christian lawyer, who loves
right, and trnth, and justice, more than he loves
money. All honor to the christian physician, who,
like Boerhave, and Baron Haller, and Sir Thomas
Browne, puts forth his best and strongest efforts for
his suffering patient, and with them breathes silently
a prayer to the Great Physician for help and the
power to heal.

III. There are two more professions I wish to
speak of briefly. I refer to those of teachers of
youth, and ministers of the gospel.

It is not the mere sharpening of the intellect that
is the real and true work of the schoolmaster. He
who has no higher end than this has mistaken his
vocation. He is a lying prophet. He is a troubler
of the land. It is not accomplished forgers, embez-
zlers of public funds, betrayers of public trust, selfish
politicians, and free traders in the prosperity and
happiness of the community, that the world needs.
It is a rightly educated and disciplined conscience
that it needs. It is men — an entire generation, with
whom principles, duty, obedience to God, and love to
man, are the dominant forces of their daily lives.

The schoolmaster's true vocation, is not merely to
instruct the young in the mystery of figures, or the
cloudy speculations of Scotch or German schools
of philosophy. They are all well enough in their
places. But there is something higher, better, and
unutterably more valuable. It is the science of self-
control. It is the government of temper; a love


and a passion for tliat which is good, and beautiful,
and true ; reverence for justice, virtue, integrity,
liberty, liumanity, and above all, an abiding faith in
the goodness and wisdom of an Invisible Presence,
every where caring for each and for all men, and
spreading over them all the wings of His protective
and paternal providence. This is his work. This is
his hio-hest office. And in so far as he is fliithful,
capable, and enthusiastic in his work, in the same
proportion he rises as a professional man in dignity
and worth. Neither priest, senator, nor king, is his
superior. His work is the highest of all work. He
has the heart and conscience of the Republic when it
is the most mouldable, in his hands and with him it
largely depends what shape, or course, they shall take
on them. We want men in our schools whose souls
are in theii' profession. Men who feel they are the
true instructors of the nation — that its future minis-
ters of religion, its statesmen, orators, magistrates,
and heads of families, are in their hands, to be made
strong, and brave, and conscientious in the discharge
of their duties, as the members of a free, christian
country. No man needs higher qualifications for his
office than the schoolmaster. No man's work, in its
importance and influence, is of a wider reach than
his. He who sends out from his class-room a lad
smitten with the love of truth, integrity, humanity,
and virtue, and an awe and a reverence for God and
religion, confers upon his country a higher good than
the most eloquent statesman, whose genius and tact,
should add to us Cuba on the one side, and the Sand-
wich Islands on the other. It is not islands and acres
that make a state. It is men! And that school-


master has, under God, made a man, who has sent
forth from his school a soul, with whom to do eight
is a passion.

IV. And what shall we say of the minister of
religion — the preacher — the pastor. I know how
difficult it is to come up to the high ideal of what
he ought to l)e. Priestcraft teaches that the priest
is holy Ijy virtue of his office. But the enlightened
Christianity of our age teaches us that no man is
holy, but by holy deeds and charities, such as liken
him to Him who went about doing good. We live
in an age, when the duties of practical religion, as
Christ taught them, must be spoken out with a
boldness, fervor, and holy earnestness no man can
gainsay. The world for the last fifteen hundred
years has been more sectarianized than it has been
christianized. The truths^ liopes^ and jwomises of the
gospel are yet to he applied to the social^ commercial^
industrial^ and political evils of society^ as their only
cure. The teachers of religion are under the weight-
iest of all responsibilities so to apply them. And
when they do so, unitedly and fearlessly, the church
will then be hailed as the light of the world — its
true leader and reformer.

V. Yes, it is in the ordinary affairs of life, we are
to use the talent of genius, or skill, or position, or
authority, or whatever gift we are entrusted with.
There can be no divorcement between a man's re-
ligion and his daily walk. He is to make the virtues
of the christian grow into sturdy habits, by practice,
and amidst the conflicts and trials of his integrity
learn like seraph Al^diel — to stand faithful among the
faithless. We are all responsible, in our several


stations, for the honesty and good faith with which
we execute the work God gives us to do, as employers
or employed, as buyers, or sellers, as mechanics, and
workmen in the great industrial hive of human effort
and acti\dty. And he who has bought and sold in
the forum of stern honesty ; he who has been a
faithful workman at the anvil or the work bench ;
he who has the wisdom and firmness of principle to
make the anxieties and temptations of his business
the means of strengthening the christian virtues in
his soul; the man who has done this, is that good
and faithful servant who shall enter into the joy of
the Lord and Master of all.

This buying and selling is not a trifling matter.
Its moral aspect is a deeply serious one. To one man
as he stands behind his desk, it will be the means of
invigorating and making robust the ever-present will
of his heart to deal honestly. To another, perhaps
his neighbor, or his very partner in business it may
be, that the most trifling articles of sale, shall fan an
ever-lurking, half-smothered self-interest in his soul,
until it grows into an unconquerable habit — a sordid
passion, that shall again and again crimson conscience
with the memory of petty frauds, and smart bargains,
and cute deceptions. And suppose a man does daily
drive his hard bargains — daily makes his dollar
where, in equity, he ought to have made but the half
of it — daily overreaches some one, as a wide awake
man of business, where do you think, when the Sab-
bath comes, will be his respect or his fitness for
worship? Such a man may, from the hardening
force of habit, front his neighbor unshrinkingly, but
to lift up his heart and soul, prayerfully, upon his


industry, lie cannot; he will not, lie dare not.
Drunkenness and swearing do not so thoroughly
demoralize and belittle the soul, or smother out good
healthful truths, as such slow deliberate abuse of
one's business or calling.

O let us all beware of the beginnings of evil, let
us all, as professional men, as business men, or in
whatever station we are placed, act, make our bar-
gains, and go forth to our callings, as though the eye
of God was ever looking on, and looking into our
inmost soul. And then we can wash our hands in
innocency, and so compass His altar in prayer, saying,
" Our Father which art in heaven," and kindly, and
beniguantly shall His eye rest on us, and He shall
bestow upon us, as His obedient children, that
highest, best, and most glorious of all blessings — the
gift of eternal life, through Him who is the resurrec-
tion and the life. And to whom be honor, and
dominion, and praise, for ever. Amen.




No. 12, Vol. XXX.] DECEMBER, 1856. [Whole No. 360.





"It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth." — Lamentations or
Jeremiah iii. 27.

Yes, it is good for a man, that he bear the yoke — bear it al-
ways: not in his youth only, but in his manhood, and old age,
bear it, and carry it, patiently and cheerfully all his life.

Youth, we will all admit, is the forming period of human char-
acter — the time when impulse and restraint — when check and spur
• — when indolence and elrbrt are most largely influential for good or
evil over our future condition and destiny. And yet, it is true, that
always, and everywhere, and under all conditions, the will of man
must bow to a Higher Will: it must submit itself to an omnipo-
tence mightier than its own. Man must always acknowledge a
Law — a Sovereign — a Might and a Right, out of, and above him-
self, or he fails in the healthful and proper unfolding of his na-
ture : he loses the dignity and nobleness of his humanity. His
life and character, without this, take a wrong direction — a twist,

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Online LibraryJoseph McKeeResponsibility as applied to the professions and callings of daily life. A sermon preached ... in ... Newark, N.J. ... [also a sermon from The American National Preacher v. 30. an address to the young → online text (page 1 of 7)