Leighton Parks.

The winning of the soul : and other sermons online

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fhte WiNiN/iblG Of Ttte Soul

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BX 5937 .P37 1893

Parks, Leighton, 1852-1938

The winning of the soul




Digitized by tine Internet Archive

in 2009 with funding from

Princeton Theological Seminary Library


THE f OOf 151925

Winning of the Soul

ant) €)t]^er ^ermonsi





31 West Twenty-Third Street


Copyright, 1893,
By E. p. Dutton and Company.

SInibersits Press:

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.

STo tlje llemorg




( The title of which he chose)




I. The Winning of the Soul 1

II. The Potter's Wheel 14

III. The Killing of the Son 34

IV. Revelation 51

V. The Ministry of the Church 63

VI. A Christmas Sermon 76

VII. The Mirage a Reality 85

VIII. Seeing the Invisible 102

IX. Gambling 122

X. The Newspaper 136

XI. The Double Crucifixion . 152

XII. The Naturalness of the Resurrection . 166

XIII. The New Birth 177

XIV. The Sufficiency of Evil 190

XV. The Soul's Refuge 201

XVI. The Arrow of the Lord's Deliverance . 217

XVII. The Power of the Obvious 230

XVIII. All Souls Day 242

XIX. Phillips Brooks: The Love of God and

THE Service of Man 259

XX. Phillips Brooks : The Portion of the



In your patience ye shall ivin your souls.

St. Luke, xxi. 19.

TN the words which precede our text Jesus has
been pointing out to the disciples what they must
expect to endure. Indeed, in all his dealings with his
disciples he never failed to point out to them that the
Christian life did not mean escape from the losses, the
perplexities, the trials, and the sorrows that were to
be found in the world at large. All that He said
was, that out of that sorrow there should come a joy
which no man could take from the loving soul, and
that in the midst of it we shall by patience win our

The expression is a striking one, — much more
forcible than that with which we are familiar in our
King James version of the Bible, where it says, " In
your patience possess ye your souls." Here we are
told that by patience we shall win our souls, so put-
ting before us at once the meaning of life as a


struggle, and also the end and object of life, the true
prize after which men should reach.

And does not that bring our Christian life, my
friends, into harmony with what we are learning every
day about the mystery of life wherever it is mani-
fested on our planet ? Every tree that to-day is put-
ting forth its leaves anew, every flower that to-day
opens its calyx with new beauty that it may refresh
the heart of man, has passed through a great struggle
of which we think but little, and yet a struggle which
began at the very moment the seed was planted in the
ground. The meaning of the fruit upon the tree in
its season, and the meaning of the flower upon the
stem in its appointed hour, i^the victory in the long
battle for life, so that every flower that we shall pass
on our homeward way to-day is saying to us, if we can
only understand its meaning, " In my patience I have
won my life."

It brings, I say, the Christian life into harmony
with the meaning of life wherever we find it. Life is
a long struggle, and that which, as we say, survives,
is the particular manifestation of life which has won
itself in the struggle for existence. I think it is well
for us to look at this aspect of our Christian life
from time to time, because there are so many different
theories about the meaning and object of religion.

Men often think about religion very much as they
think about a fortune. There are some men who


labor day by day, not because they love work, but
because they fear the penalty of idleness. It is the
spur of want that drives them to labor. So there
are Christians who think of religion as a thing that
it is desirable for them to participate in, not because
they love it, but because they are afraid if they neg-
lect it some penalty of awful punishment will fall
upon them some day beyond the grave. That is the
lowest form of looking upon work, or of looking at
religion ; and yet, just as we would all say that it is
better for a man to go to his labor day after day,
driven by the goad of want, rather than to live in
idleness, so we say it is better for a man to lead an
upright life driven there by fear than not to live an
upright life at all, because it is always something for
a man to form good habits, even if the motive that led
him to those habits be not the highest.

Or, again, there are men who work day by day, not
because they are driven by the fear of want, but be-
cause they love the wages that they receive. That is
a higher form than the other, and yet it is not the
highest. And so there are men in the Church, who
are living what they call a religious life, who are up-
right, who are denying themselves now, who are fol-
lowing a certain course that is supposed to be safe,
the object they have in mind being to get a reward
some time hereafter. Some day they hope that God
will pay them for all that they have given up for his


sake ; they dream of standing some day in heaven and
hearing God say to them, " You gave up a great deal
for me. I understood that you did not love me, that
it was no pleasure for you to commune with me in
prayer, that you hated to go to church, but inasmucli
as you have been a religious man, I will now reward
you by giving you a place in the kingdom, where you
can do your own pleasure throughout all eternity."
Now that also is not a very high notion of religion,
and yet we say again that it is better for a man to
conform to those standards that the Church has found
by long experience to be helpful to the soul, even
though he have no liigher notion than to be paid by
God for doing his duty, than not to conform, and to
be careless and indifferent, because he is always in an
atmosphere where it is possible for him to feel the in-
fluence of a nobler and better life.

And lastly, just as there are men who are no longer
driven to their work by any fear of want, and who
have passed far beyond the position where their work
can be estimated and paid for by wages, but who do
their work simply and solely because they know that
in so doing they are fulfilling themselves, developing
themselves to the highest degree possible, and so love
and rejoice in their work without any thought of fear
or favor, — so there are men who are leading a reli-
gious life without the fear of hell to deter them, with-
out the promise of heaven to pay them, but because


they have come to love the character of the Lord
Jesus Christ, and desire to attain unto that charac-
ter, at least in part, before their days are ended. And
that, my friends, is the highest and noblest thought
that a man can have of religion.

And yet there are men who say. Is not that a sub-
tle form of selfishness ? When we say that the ob-
ject of our life is to make the most of ourselves, to be
the best we know how to be, are we not then really
selfish ? Now of course it is difficult to answer such
a question as that, because we are using the word
"self" in two senses. And in order to clear our
minds of that sophistry which 1 know perplexes cer-
tain among you here, it is desirable for us to ask
ourselves what we mean when we speak of self.

There is in every one of us a double self. There
is a self that belongs to the animal nature, out of
which we have been drawn by this long process
which we call creation, or evolution. And, on the
other hand, there is in every one of us that higher,
nobler self which is allied to God, that reaches up to
God, that finds its joy in communion with God. Now,
then, any man who sacrifices that higher nature which
speaks to him through the voice of duty, and yields
to the pleasures of life that manifest themselves in
his lower nature, is a selfish man. The man who will
sacrifice his friend, his family, everything that ought


to appeal to his higher nature, — country, duty, con-
science, — for the pleasure of the moment, to increase
the satisfaction of his lower nature, is a selfish man ;
and so too the man who is always on a lookout for the
things that will please that lower nature is essentially
selfish, even though he be not conscious of wrong-
doing. But when we speak of a man's devoting the
energy of his life to the enlargement and the deepen-
ing and the heightening of that nobler self within
him which is allied to God, we cannot, without a mis-
use of words, speak of that as selfish ; for while it
is a part of self, it is far more a part of God, and the
man who is trying to do his duty and to make the
most of himself is really drawing nearer and nearer
to that point of which St. Paul speaks as the summit
of human endeavor, when a man can say, " I, this
old self, am dead, and my life, my higher self, is hid
with Christ in God." To have the vision of the per-
fect life as revealed in Jesus Christ, and to draw near
to that life and make it one's own, is what I think
Jesus meant when He spoke of winning the soul, of
laying hold of the true life that belongs to every one
of us, but which no one of us has really and alto-
gether possessed.

And now we have to ask ourselves. If this be true,
what is the process by which the result desired is
reached ? And heie we have the story of the Gospel


to help us. That story that tells us that man does
not have to climb up into heaven to win God, but that
God has descended to human life ; that every hu-
man life belongs to God, and from the very moment
the child is born the Spirit of God is resting upon
it, striving to make it more and more like Jesus
Christ. If the story of that Gospel be true, we can
understand why Christ laid such emphasis upon pa-
tience, — '' In your patience ye shall win your souls," —
because all that the soul has to do for its salvation is
to rest patiently in the midst of the perplexities and
sorrows and trials of life, and allow the Spirit of God
to incarnate itself in it, according to its capacity to
receive it, as the Divine life was incarnated in Jesus
in the perfection in which humanity can receive it.
For God is striving with us every day to bring us to
the knowledge of Himself as revealed in Jesus Christ,
that we seeing that life in Jesus Christ may think of
it, not as an exceptional life that has burst in upon
humanity, but may think of it as the normal life, the
life that God in his creation of humanity intended
and desired every man, according to his capacity, and
according to the circumstances of his time, to live.
And so we win that life as the artist wins his picture.
He has a vision, and yet it is dim and uncertain, but
by patience, by waiting, by allowing the vision to de-
scend until it fills his being, little by little he is able
to express it in some outward form, and in that day


the artist has won his picture. The picture was float-
ing before him as a cloud, that sometimes seemed to
take shape and then again melted into thin air ; but
at last by patient waiting the vision descended, incar-
nated itself in the man's life, and he was able to ex-
press it, and then, but not until then, the picture
was his.

Now I ask you, for a moment, to turn with me to
certain illustrations of this truth that perhaps will be
helpful to us in our daily lives.

Look first for a moment at the sorrows of life. We
all know, when sorrows come upon us, that what we
wish is comfort, — the comfort of God. And nothing
is more common in such an hour than for people to
be surprised that the comfort of God does not come
instantly after the sorrow has fallen upon them. It
is one of the great perplexities of life. It causes so
much unhappiness. Men and women that have served
God and loved God, and lived the Christian life, are
compassed about with sorrow. Then they expect to
know the comfort of God at once, and sometimes it is
so, but not often. Now, why is it ? Is it not this, my
friends, — that if what we have said before is true, if
God is incarnating himself in the life of every one of
us, then the Divine life must, in order for that incarna-
tion, subject itself to the laws and conditions of human
life, one of whicli is time ? We might as well ask why.


if in Jesus " dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bod-
ily," He did not, when He lay in his mother's arms a
little child, speak as a man, work miracles with those
baby fingers, and convert the world by the shining
out of the Divine effulgence from his infant face. It
was because it was a true Incarnation. It was not an
Avatar, a sudden descent of God into some particular
vessel of mankind, in order that the Divine power
might for a moment be seen, startling and terrifying
humanity. No, it was an Incarnation, a participa-
tion in human life by the Divine life, and it expanded
as Jesus " increased in wisdom and stature, and in
favor with God and man." Now, if the incarnation
of Jesus required time to work out to the full the
meaning of God in man, how much more must it be
so with you and me. If we can be patient, if we can
wait, if we can hold back the rash judgment that as-
cends the throne and condemns God without a hear-
ing, if we can rest until the voice of God can be
heard upon the dull ear, then in our patience we shall
win our souls; we shall know the comfort of God,
which is the power and glory of human life.

Or, again, in the trials of life how hard it is to
be patient, to wait. How hard it is to believe that
those who trouble and perplex our lives can have any
good in them. We make a great resolution, we say,
"I will live differently in my family, I will behave
towards those who perplex and trouble me in a dif-


ferent way from that in which I behaved before '' ;
and then in a moment the good resolution is shat-
tered, because we cannot believe that there is any
good in a life that perplexes us, and the subtle sug-
gestion of tlie tempter is heard, saying, " Did not
God make me to fulfil my life ? Why should I
alone of all God's creatures suffer and be disregarded
and despised ? Why should I alone be cut off from
happiness and joy and the fulfilment of the best that
is in me ? Why should I submit when submission
seems to have no outlet, when submission will do
no good, so far as I can see, to any other soul ?
Why should not I be free to live my life as it seems
best to me to live it, and to make the most of
myself, which I believe God desires?" Ay, God
desires us to make the most of ourselves. God de-
sires us to win our souls, to lay hold upon the Divine
life. But it is not by disregarding the duties of life,
it is not by setting ourselves free from the trammels
that seem to prevent a larger liberty, it is not by
taking life into one's own hand, that the true life of
the soul is to be won. It is in the patience that waits
upon the Lord. When you hear the voice saying, Lo,
your true life is here, or it is there, believe it not. It
is in the midst of your trials ; for wherever there is
room for sacrifice, there is room for God.

Lastly, it is true of those perplexities that arise
about the knowledge of God. A man or woman lias


passed on through childhood and early youth without
any thought of God or his revelation in nature, or
in the Bible, or in the spirit of man, and at last the
soul becomes conscious that it holds relation to
Something that it does not see, nor touch, nor hear.
" Now, then," says the soul, " why is it, if there be
any reality answering to this suspicion of my nature
that there is a God, — why is it that instantly my
soul is not filled with the absolute certainty of the
existence of God, and the joy that should flow from
communion with Him?" Sometimes it is suggested
to such a soul that God is angry, — that because it
has neglected God, now God will neglect it. That is
heathenism ; no matter who says it, or where it is
said, it is heathenism. God is our Father, and the
very instant that we turn to Him, He will reveal
Himself to us to the utmost of our capacity to re-
ceive Him. But it is not strange that the arm that
has lain long unused in sickness and at last lifts it-
self up and tries to grasp one of the many handles
of life, should find that the fingers tremble and the
grasp is infirm. Nor is it strange that the soul that
has not known God in early childhood and in the
glow of youth should find that it takes time to enter
into intimacy with God, just as it takes time to enter
into the deepest and truest intimacy with a noble hu-
man soul. But if we will be patient, if we will wait
upon the Lord, then, my friends, we shall win that


knowledge of God which is the life and the joy of
the soul.

Can we not see, then, what it is that Jesus is trying
to say to us ? It is that life is one long struggle, and
that we need not suppose that happiness, peace, and
joy are to come instantly upon our life. No, life is
one long struggle, and the end and object of it is to
win the character of Jesus Christ. That is not to
dress like Jesus Christ, nor to try to look like Jesus
Christ, nor to speak his words or to eat and drink
and live as He lived. Not so ; but to incarnate in
our own life, in the school, in the business, in the
home, in the church, everywhere, the same Divine
Spirit that made Jesus the glory and the beauty and
the power of mankind. That is the end and object
of life. It is not to gain more money than our neigh-
bors ; it is not to have larger knowledge than our
neighbors ; it is not to receive the applause of the
multitude ; it is to win our souls, and that is to win

And if we once set that before us, then go on to
the second point, and remember that God is to be
won, in comfort, and in knowledge, and in the power
for sacrifice, only by patience. If we take that view
of life, my friends, and set before us the true object
of life, the winning of a soul, and determine that


that soul shall be won in the patience that waits for
the power of God to manifest itself in our lives, we
shall have a clew that will lead us through the dark-
ness 'of sorrow, and through the agony of sacrifice,
and through the mystery of learning, until we hear
that word which will be the announcement of no
outward reward, but simply the acknowledgment of
a life that has won itself: "Well done, good and
faithful servant; you have endured to the end and
are saved. To him that overcometh will I grant to
sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame,
and am set down with my Father in his throne."



The ivord which cmne to Jeremiah from the Lordy say-
ing, Arise ^ and go down to the 2)otter'' s hoitse^ and there I
ivill cause thee to hear my ivords. Then 1 1 rent down to
the i^otter^s house , and, behold, he wrought a work on the
wheels. — Jeremiah, xviii. 1-3.

THE potter's house has been used as a parable for
raore than three thousand 3'ears. It had been
used in Egypt long before Jeremiah, and it was used
in Persia long after him ; it was revived by St. Paul,
and it is in the poetry of to-day. The word of the
Lord which came to the prophet through the consid-
eration of that simple scene was sufficient to suggest
the answer to the problem of his day. The prophet
went into the potter's house perplexed about a piob-
lem that has largely lost interest for us, first, l)ecause
we have become familiar with the answer to it, and
secondly, because that answer only prepared the way
for the entrance of another problem to the solution of
which no man can be indifferent.

Does God rule the nations of the earth ? When men
set themselves in opposition to what are believed to be


the laws of righteousness, will the nation prosper as
it would have done if righteousness had been its aim ?
Tliat was the question which perplexed the prophet.
But when he looked on the potter and saw him work on
the wheels, saw him fashion a vessel, and then noted
that, when the vessel proved unfit for the use to which
it was designed, it was broken and the fragments
mixed with new clay to make another vessel, he rose
to the thought of God, and became convinced that
God does the same. If the nation which he has
chosen does not show itself fitted for the work, it is
broken and mingled with another, and out of the
conglomerate the needed form is made. God's work,
he believed, was not frustrated by man's sin, only the
nation which set itself against God was broken.

I say that we have nowadays but slight interest in
that problem, for we are perplexed by a deeper. This
one concerns the individual soul. The interest in
the individual arose in history, we may say, with the
introduction of the religion of Jesus. It was ob-
scured and came to the front again at the Reforma-
tion, was again obscured by the shadow of dogmatism
and the rise of modern nationalities, but it broke out
with fearful signs in the French Revolution, and is
to-day the only question which really interests man.
Does God deal with the individual soul, and if so how ?
Can we answer these questions ? Not as we might


wish, perhaps, but in part at least. The parable of
the potter's house has not exhausted its significance.
Let us too arise and go down into his house to-day.
It may be that there the Lord will cause us to hear
his words.

Somehow the human mind came to suspect that each
man was in direct and intimate relationship with God,
that he was dealing with him as truly as if there were
no other being in the universe. Every word of Jesus
tended to deepen that impression. He used strong
words to express his own confidence in this belief:
" The very hairs of your head are all numbered. . . . Not
one sparrow falleth to the ground without your Heav-
enly Father. Are ye not of more value than they ? "
As long as the human mind was childlike, that is to
say, as long as it received simple impressions without
trying to analyze their origin or the laws of their ac-
tion, doubt did not appear. But it was inevitable that
questions should be asked and answers expected. It
is not my purpose to ask you to consider the answers
which have been given to the great question concern-
ing God's dealing with the soul. I wish rather to go
with you into the potter's house, and see what we can
see for ourselves.

The first thing which attracts our notice is the
clay. It is of different qualities. Some of it is very


pure and pliable, other is too soft — " fat " the potter
calls it — to be used in its present state; some is al-
most white, and will make the finest porcelain, other
has such an excess of iron that it will make only
colored ware; some is doubtful, — it will form, but
it will twist or crack in the firing.

The interpretation of the parable is simple. The
clay of the potter is human nature, good, bad, and in-
different. Is there any of it so bad that it cannot be
used ? Not if it be clay. There is no clay that the
potter cannot employ. He cannot use stone, and lie
cannot make a vase of water. But clay of any sort
he can make something of. Let us fix our mind upon
that to begin with. No man is so bad that something
cannot be made of him. There are men so hard that
they seem to be stone ; there are others so flabby
that it seems as if they never could hold together on
the revolving wheel ; still, if they be men, something
can be done. It may not be possible to make poets
and statesmen of them, any more than it is possible
to make Sevres china of Jersey clay ; but they can
be moulded and fixed into some form of usefulness
as long as they are men.

The difficulty, however, which arises in some men's
minds, even when that is settled, is this : Is not the
best what we want ? Can we rest satisfied with any
dealing with human nature which leaves the large ma-
jority of the race on a low plane, and exalts only a



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Online LibraryLeighton ParksThe winning of the soul : and other sermons → online text (page 1 of 16)