Lyman Abbott.

The temple online

. (page 3 of 6)
Online LibraryLyman AbbottThe temple → online text (page 3 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

with her might what her hands find to do
under her own roof.

"Genius," said Sir Joshua Reynolds, "is
nothing but the intense direction of the mind
to some intellectual object." I doubt the
accuracy of the definition; but certainly no
genius has ever accomplished much in the
world without such concentration. If con-
centration does not alone make the genius,
the absence of concentration does make the
"scatterbrain." "The art of war," said Na-
poleon, "is the art of being stronger than the
enemy at a given point." This is concen-



tration, and this is the art of life. Charles
Dickens emphasizes this truth in the explana-
tion of his own success which he puts into the
mouth of David Copperfield : "My meaning
simply is, that whatever I have tried to do in
life I have tried with all my heart to do well;
that whatever I have devoted myself to I have
devoted myself to completely; that in great
aims and in small I have always been thor-
oughly in earnest. I have never believed it
possible that any natural or improved ability
can claim immunity from the companion-
ship of the steady, plain, hard-working quali-
ties, and hope to gain its end. There is no
such thing as such fulfilment on this earth.
Some happy talent and some fortunate op-
portunity may form the two sides of the ladder
on which some men mount, but the rounds of
that ladder must be made of the stuff to stand
wear and tear; and there is no substitute for
thoroughgoing, ardent, and sincere earnest-
ness. Never to put my hand to anything on
which I could not throw my whole self; and
never to affect depreciation of my work,



whatever it was, I find now to have been my
golden rules."

Most of us have some work to do which
we enjoy ; this it is easy for us to do with en-
thusiasm. All of us have some work to do
which we do not enjoy; to do this work
with enthusiasm is not so easy. But the
secret of success lies in our doing with our
might whatsoever our hands find to do — the
disagreeable not less than the agreeable. A
favorite motto of a friend of mine I repeat
here for the benefit of my readers : "If you
cannot do what you like, then like what you
do." To do our work in this spirit is to
redeem our tasks and banish drudgery from
our life. For drudgery is toil done without
interest. It is possible to put interest into all
our toil ; not because the work is interesting,
but because it is always interesting to do well
what is worth doing. This is to conquer the
obstacles in ourselves — and those are the ob-
stacles most worth conquering. Every man is
his own most dangerous enemy. Victory over
himself is therefore the greatest of victories.



In my pastoral work I have found church
members divided into four classes : First were
those who had no idea of Christian work, to
whom religion was only a luxury, or at best
a comfort, and who thought of themselves as
completely fulfilling all church obligations if
they attended church on pleasant Sundays
and paid their pew rents. Second, those to
whom the church ministered, but who did not
minister to the church because other duties
demanded all their time and strength. They
were entirely right in not doing any church
work. For church work and Christian work
are not synonymous; and to them the church
was not an opportunity for service, but an in-
spiration to service done elsewhere. Third
were those who, driven by their consciences,
or coaxed by their companions, were enrolled
among the church workers, but never gave
themselves to their work. They were ap-
pointed on committees, but rarely attended;
belonged to the church societies, but were non-
attending members; taught in the Sunday-
school, but never studied the lessons which



they taught. They always served with reluc-
tance, and early resigned because they had
"done their share." Lastly were those who
undertook some specific piece of work and
did it with their might. Neither guests nor
rain kept them from their self-selected tasks.
These are they who give the church its real
strength. A half-hearted and reluctant worker
in the church is only one degree better than
none — yes ! often worse — a hindrance, not
merely no help. Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin
has given a new interpretation to the direc-
tion: "Let not thy left hand know what thy
right hand doeth." Why not.? Because the
left hand should be so busy doing its own
work that it has no time to be watching its

The law of the hand is that it should do
with its might whatsoever it finds to do, wher-
ever that work is found.




Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for thou art with me:
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

r 1 1HE eye and the ear retain impressions
which build the character; they make
the man through the power of habit. The
tongue communicates life, and is the organ
by which the man directly exerts the influence
of his character on others. The hands are
the instruments of his will, to carry out in
executive action what his impulses move and
his choice determines him to do. The feet
are the means of transportation, the symbol
of his pilgrimage and his progress.

Life is a journey from the cradle to the
grave. We start in infancy, travel through
successive stages — childhood, youth, matur-
ity, old age — and reach our journey's end at
death. This journey is, or ought to be, a



continuous ascent, sometimes through diffi-
cult steeps; this development is, or ought to
be, a continuous growth, from seed to stalk,
and stalk to bud, and bud to bloom, and bloom
to fruit. The Psalmist has described it:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,

And forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;

Who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;

Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies:

Who satisfieth thine old age * with good ;

So that thy youth is renewed Uke the eagle.

Paul has described it:

For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be con-
formed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-
born among many brethren : and whom he foreordained,
them he also called : and whom he called, them he also justi-
fied : and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

To the Psalmist the end of the journey is
an old age filled with good, and radiant with
hopes brighter than those of youth. To the
Apostle the end of the growth is a character
conformed to the image of God's Son, a char-

■ See C. A. Briggs's "Critical Commentary on the Psalms,"
Vol. II, p. 325.



acter that makes the soul brother to Jesus

This pilgrimage should be a continuous
progress; this growth should be a continuous

We are promised a divine fellowship in
this pilgrimage; but this promise of divine
fellowship is a conditional promise; it is con-
ditioned on our going forward. The children
of Israel came to the edge of the Red Sea;
the water before them, a high cliff on the
one side, the Egyptians in the rear and on
their flank. Moses tells them, "The Lord
shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your
peace"; but Jehovah answers, "Wherefore
criest thou unto me.^ speak unto the chil-
dren of Israel, that they go forward." And
the divine deliverance comes to them as they
press forward into the waters of the sea
which seem to block the way. Joshua brings
Israel to the edge of the promised land. The
walled cities are great ; the inhabitants strong ;
Israel is afraid : How shall we inherit this
land of giants, before whom we are in our



sight and in theirs as grasshoppers? The
answer of Jehovah is : " Only be thou strong
and very courageous, to observe to do ac-
cording to all the law, which Moses my ser-
vant commanded thee : turn not from it to
the right hand or to the left, that thou may-
est have good success whithersoever thou

The Psalmist meets single-handed a troop;
retreat impossible, their arrows would pierce
him even while he turned; escape through
them impossible, for just beyond is a wall of
rock. God does not desert him, nor does
God disperse the troop, nor by a miracle
batter down the wall. A single prayer, "God
give me courage," then spurs to his horse.
Before the Arab host have time to think, he
has dashed through their line, leaped the
rock, and disappeared into safety. But when
this Israelitish Putnam looks back, he de-
scribes his deliverance thus: "By thee I have
run through a troop; by my God I have
leaped over a wall." Paul, beset behind and
before, misunderstood by his Christian breth-



ren, hated by his Jewish fellow-citizens, de-
spised by the Gentiles, unable to accomplish
his designs, does not abandon his mission;
when he can do nothing else he can still stand
and receive attacks from which he cannot
defend himself. And he makes his own ex-
perience minister to the needs of his fellow-
Christians: "Wherefore take unto you the
whole armor of God, that ye may be able to
withstand in the evil day, and having done
all, to stand." John writes out of his own
experience when he writes to the Church at
Pergamos: "To him that overcometh will I
give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give
him a white stone, and in the stone a new
name written."

Sooner or later every pilgrim comes to the
Valley of the Shadow of Death. Like Per-
civale, he is in a land of deep leaves and sing-
ing brooks and blossoming flowers and sweet
fruits :

But even while I drank the brook, and ate
The goodly apples, all these things at once
Fell into dust, and I was left alone
And thirsty, in a land of sand and thorns.



Like the Psalmist, the pilgrim rests in green
pastures and is led beside the still waters;
and then suddenly his path conducts him
into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. All
that seemed to make life worth living has
gone out of life. His ambition, his hope, his
love, lie dead at his feet. Sickness or acci-
dent takes him out of life and its glorious
service, and he must lie passive, a burden to
those whose burdens he meant to bear. A
cruel injustice by a trusted friend and com-
rade robs him of his earnings and leaves him
to begin his life anew, without health of youth
to equip him and its hopes to cheer him. The
work he undertook proves too great for his
abilities, and the conviction that no one but
himself is to blame for his failure adds the
pangs of humiliation to the pains of disaster.
Death knocks at his door, and, entering, takes
from him the one whose companionship was
the inspiration of his life, and leaves him in
utter loneliness. No such tragedy occurs,
and yet — and perhaps this is the greatest
tragedy of all — all the glow goes out of his



sky, all the hope out of his endeavor, all the
courage out of his heart, all the joy out of his
companionships, and he seems to himself, he
cannot tell why, but the shadow of a man.

For such an hour is the promise of our
text: If I walk through the Valley of the
Shadow of Death, I shall find in it a divine
companionship. There is no promise of guid-
ance around the valley, nor of a bridge to cross
the valley, nor of wings to fly over the valley ;
nor is there any promise of a consoling Pres-
ence to those who sit down in the valley to
self-indulgent grief. The promise is only to
him who keeps on with life's journey. And
the promise is not of a handkerchief to wipe
away his tears, nor of sunshine to dispel the
darkness, nor of an anaesthetic to deaden the
pain, but of a rod and a staff to enable him to
go on with the journey.

There is no more strikingly dramatic illus
tration of this truth than that afforded by the
passion of Jesus Christ. He foresees the
Valley of the Shadow of Death toward which
his path is leading him. One disciple will



betray him; another will deny him, the rest
will flee from him and leave him alone. The
Nation which he could save if it would but
take his counsel, will seal its own doom in
pronouncing his. The Church which he
wished to redeem and make the true House of
God will remain a den of thieves. Greed will
put on the robes of religion, and cowardice
the robes of justice, and one will falsely ac-
cuse and the other sentence him to death.
He prays that, if it be possible, this cup may
pass from him. But, as he prays, the echoes
of the approaching Temple police, marching
across the intervening valley, convey to him
his Father's answer to the prayer. It is not
possible that the cup should pass if he is to
do his appointed work. Calmly he comes to
his sleeping disciples, arouses them with the
words, " Rise, let us be going : behold, he is
at hand that doth betray me," and goes forth
to meet the arresting band. And in all the
tragic experience of the dreadful night and
day that follow he walks through the Valley
of the Shadow of Death with untroubled spirit :



before the eager Caiaphas, the self-inflamed
mob, the perplexed Pilate, the frightened
disciples, the callous soldiers, the weeping
women of Jerusalem, the only calm, quiet,
unperturbed spirit.

If, then, you come to a Valley of the Shadow
of Death, to an experience in which hope
and ambition and love lie dead at your feet,
in which it seems as though life were no longer
worth living, to a land in which you are left
alone and thirsty in a land of sand and thorns
— whether this experience be due to your own
fault, or to the fault of another, or to one of
those great disasters into which sooner or
later every pilgrim must enter, or to no ex-
plicable cause at all but to your own inex-
plicable mood, remember that the promise
of divine companionship and comfort is con-
ditioned upon your continuance of your jour-
ney. When thou passeth through the rivers,
they shall not overflow thee; when thou
walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be
burned. It is when I walk through the Valley
of the Shadow of Death that I shall fear no



evil and that I shall have his rod and his staff
to help me continue the journey. If the time
comes when it seems no longer worth while
to bear the burden, or do the duty, or enter
into the pleasures of the past — keep stead-
fastly on. If the pleasure no longer pleases,
^ou may leave it. If the conventions of so-
ciety require some abstinence from life as a
token of respect to the dead, the respect may
be paid. But lay aside no burden, discon-
tinue no duty, abstain from no accustomed
service of others. Comfort will be found, and
only found, in keeping steadily, courageously,
resolutely on with life. The way to light
lies through the shadow; the w^ay to life
through death. Light and life will not come
to you; by pressing forward you will come
to them. When in your perplexity you are
tempted, meet the temptation as Christian
met it: "He began to muse what he had
best to do. Sometimes he had half a thought
to go back; then again he thought he might
be halfway through the valley; he remem-
bered also how he had already vanquished



many a danger and that the danger of going
back might be much more than to go forward ;
so he resolved to go on. Yet the fiends
seemed to come nearer and nearer; but
when they were come almost at him, he cried
out with a most vehement voice, 'I will walk
in the strength of the Lord God ! ' so they
gave back and came no further."




Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.

TTOW can we eat and drink to the glory

-n. of God?

Paul tells us that our body is a temple in
which dwells a spirit which we have from God.
This temple is in need of constant repair. We
eat and drink to the glory of God when we so
eat and drink as to keep it in good repair.
Every act, physical or mental, destroys some
tissue of the body. New tissue must be im-
ported to take its place. This is one function
of food and drink. The life of the body de-
pends upon keeping up a certain standard of
heat within. Food is fuel. This is another
function of food and drink. When food and
drink are so used as to make the body the
best possible tenement for the spirit to inhabit
a 81


and the best possible instrument for the spirit
to use, we eat and drink to the glory of God.
The appetites are not a sin. It is not sinful
to enjoy a good meal. What is sinful is to
allow our enjoyment to induce us to partake
of a bad meal — that is, a meal that does
not repair but impairs the body.

Some persons violate this law by eating too
much; others violate it by eating too little;
still others, by eating unwisely. Fasting is
not a duty, feasting is not a sin. Sometimes
fasting is a sin, sometimes feasting is a duty.
The law of the Old Testament provided for
many feasts and for only one fast. It was
degenerate Judaism which added other fasts.
The Pharisee who boasted that he fasted
twice every week was condemned, not com-
mended, by Jesus Christ. Christ said of
himself that he came eating and drinking.
When his enemies called him a glutton and
a wine-bibber, they lied ; but it was not the
kind of lie they would have told of an ascetic.
He was accustomed to compare the king-
dom of God to a great feast. The records



contain no account of his declining any in-
vitation to a social meal, and they report
more than one acceptance. His first miracle
was performed to prolong the festivities of a
wedding; almost his last one was to invite
his special friends to sit with him at a na-
tional festal board. Thus Christianity affords
no justification for asceticism. It is as much
a duty to eat and drink enough to keep the
body in good condition as it is a duty to re-
frain from eating and drinking what will
put it in bad condition — a truth I recom-
mend to the especial consideration of some of
my too dainty women readers. I know a
young woman who at home thought she could
eat nothing which it did not please her ex-
acting taste to eat. She went to boarding-
school, found that nothing pleased her exact-
ing taste, and came to the sensible resolve to
eat, not to please herself, but to equip her-
self ; the result was great benefit to her health
and great comfort to her family. Let me
change the apostolic figure. The body is
like a mill ; if there is a flood and too great a



torrent sweeps through the race, the mill
cannot do its work ; if there is a drought and
no water runs through the race, the mill can-
not do its work. To keep our appetites so
adjusted as to let in water enough and not too
much is to obey the divine law : '* Whether ye
eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to
the glory of God."

Total abstinence is not a synonym for tem-
perance. Temperance is the control of the
appetites so that they shall serve their legiti-
mate purpose, which is to keep the body in
good condition for the work the spirit has for
it to do. To drink too much coffee may be
as intemperate as to drink too much beer.
I have been told of a Christian man who
was informed by his doctor that he had a
serious and insidious disease, and that his
health demanded of him that he discontinue
the use of meat. He went straightway home
and ordered and ate a large steak, a food of
which he was inordinately fond. He was as
truly intemperate as if he had drunk a quart of
whiskey. Intemperance is not confined to



the saloon nor to the homes of the poor.
Our extravagant and prolonged dinners are
no less a form of intemperance. The modern
habit of making the dinner-table an occasion
for public speaking is an excellent habit.
What is not excellent is our custom of eating
so much before the speaking that the orators
are unfitted to speak and the audience is ill
fitted to listen. I have attended many public
dinners. A happy accident gave me the only
one I ever attended which I thought was
truly hygienic. When I reached the club-
house, I was met with the information that
the steward had mistaken the date and no
dinner was prepared. The efficient com-
mittee scurried around, found in the larder
of the club enough wholesome food to satisfy
all reasonable appetite, and we sat down to
a dinner of four courses — soup, beef, salad,
and ice-cream — and had a delightful evening
for the social speaking, and got to bed about
the time social speaking generally begins.
We hold up our hands in horror at the ex-
cesses of the ancients who ate until they could



eat no more and then took an emetic and
began again. But when we contrive our
elaborate dinners so as to tempt the palate
to invite in more food to an already over-
burdened stomach, we repeat the offence of
the ancients, though in a form not quite so

This vice may be and probably is confined
to our cities and large towns, and is not pecul-
iarly American. What is peculiarly Ameri-
can is the manner of our eating, which Charles
Dickens, in "Martin Chuzzlewit," satirized
to the great indignation but also to the great
benefit of America :

All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that
was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and
everybody seemed to eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a
famine were expected to set in to-morrow morning, and it had
become high time to assert the first law of nature. . . .
Great heaps of indigestible matter melted away as ice before
the sun. It was a solemn and an awful thing to see. Dys-
peptic individuals bolted their food in wedges; feeding not
themselves, but broods of nightmares, who were continually
at livery with them.

This was a caricature then; it would be
still more a caricature now. But no one



would think of caricaturing the excessive
slowness of the American busy man's midday
meal, To run from one's office to a lunch-
counter, to shovel food into one's stomach
as a stoker shovels coal into a furnace, and
then run back to the office again to take up
one's work, is a practice not so universal as
it once was, but still by no means uncom-
mon. And dyspepsia is in consequence a
national disease. I once attended a wedding
— but that was nearly half a century ago —
in a rural section in the West, at which the
ceremony was followed by a wedding break-
fast at the country inn. When the rest were
about half through, the bridegroom rose,
wiped his mouth, and said to his bride, " Jane,
I never sit at the table after I have finished
my meal, and you may as well get accustomed
to my ways now as later," and then disap-
peared from the room. The incident would
hardly have been possible except in America.
A hard-working friend of mine went to his
doctor for a remedy for dyspepsia. The
doctor recommended a cigar after each meal,



and it cured him. But my friend, who told
me the incident, added, "I do not think it
was the cigar; I think it was the rest for half
an hour after meals which the cigar required."
No rational driver thinks of feeding his horse
immediately on stabling him after a hard
morning's drive; nor will he start him out
for an afternoon's drive with the oats still
undigested in the stomach. We ought to
treat our bodies at least as w^ell as we treat
our horses. To eat in haste is sure to entail
repenting at leisure, and it is to sin against
the law of God. To bolt one's food as an
ill-trained stoker shovels coal into the furnace
— the more per minute the better — and to
send one's nervous energy to one's brain when
it is needed by the stomach, is to violate the
law, "Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatso-
ever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

America violates this law habitually through
ignorance, which I cannot but think is cul-
pable. Every woman ought to understand
the essential principles of hygienic diet, and
so how food should be prepared. She need



not be a cook, but should understand the
science of cooking. Every girls' school should
give the girls some acquaintance with the
chemistry and the physics of the kitchen, I
do not demand that the schools teach cookery
as a fine art; I do demand that they teach it
as a practical science. The woman who
knows nothing about cooking is not, to use
the vernacular, "on to her job." I once
asked a great iron-master in Pennsylvania
what was the common cause of strikes. "Bad
cooking," he replied. I opened my eyes in
mild astonishment. "I am quite serious,"

1 3 5 6

Online LibraryLyman AbbottThe temple → online text (page 3 of 6)