William Everett.

School sermons : preached to the boys at Adams Academy, Quincy, Mass. online

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Online LibraryWilliam EverettSchool sermons : preached to the boys at Adams Academy, Quincy, Mass. → online text (page 1 of 12)
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School Sermons




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Copyright, 1882,
By William Evei:ltt.

Univekpitt Tress :
John Wilson and Son, Cambkidgi




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I. Our Soul's Need 1

11. God Exists 12

III. God is Good 24

IV. The Old Testament 37

V. Christ and the Gospel 47

VI. The World's Consent 56

VII. The Resurrection 66

VIII. Practical Duty 77

IX. Christ a Light 87

X. Christ the Lifter 96

XL Christ an Example 105

XII. Christ's Self-Denial 113

XIII. Christ our Master 121

XIV. Christ the Son of God 130

XV. Thoughtfulness a Duty 140

XVL Seeing God 149

XVII. Energy 158

XVIIL Friendship 168

XIX. Strength 178

XX. " Redeeming THE Time " 187


^ I ^HE following discourses, as their titlepage shows,
-*- were preached to the boarders of Adams Acad-
emy. This school has no connection with any reli-
gious denomination, and has been attended by boys
whose parents' A'iews on religious subjects cover the
widest range. Services of extreme simplicity are held
in the school-house each day, and at the boarding-
house every evening. On Sunday mornings every
boarder is required to attend some form of public

The late Master, William Eeynolds Dimmock,
LL. D., adopted the practice of gathering the board-
ers in the "study" of the boarding-house on Sunday
afternoons for a simple religious talk. The present
Master has continued the practice, changing the time
to the evening, and combining a service with the ad-
dress. These addresses have been partly extempore,
and partly written ; they have by no means been ex-
clusively religious in character. Such evenings as the
22d of February suggest their own subject. Written
sermons of some elaboration have been interspersed
with lessons on the Bible, both the original and its
versions, very elementary and descriptive.


The sermons which follow are a selection from
courses preached in the winters of 1880 and 1881.
They are printed from the original manuscripts, a few
additions having been made to the sixth and seventh,
in the latter case recalling the substance of an ear-
lier unwritten discourse on the same topic. Other-
wise, only verbal changes have been made. As
exactly, therefore, what they purport to be, school
sermons, attention is asked to certain of their char-

1. They are sliort, shorter than the average of what
are usually called short sermons, and were at the time
delivered rapidly, never exceeding twenty minutes,
and often not fifteen. The author believes that all
preachers — himself included — are apt to sin from
length. He hopes that the presentation of short,
definite portions of religious truth may be found
acceptable reading to a larger class than that for
which they were primarily intended.

2. They are for an audience — a limited audience
— of hoys, of ages ranging from thirteen to twenty.
The author has tried to remember this, and, while
avoiding on the one hand anything beyond juvenile
experience, to avoid as carefully anything infantile.
He is firmly convinced that a very great mistake is
made in religious teaching from talking down to
young persons, and, with boys, by talking aside.
They are neither men, women, girls, nor infants ; and
sermons meant for them must have a character of
their own.


3. They are tmsedarian, — intended to convey the
wide truths of Christianity. The author has found
that the Gospel of St. John and the practical portions
of the Epistles have generally suggested tlie subjects.
Tlie aim has been from first to last to found a system
of experimental religion on the text of our Savior's
prayer, — " This is life eternal, that they may know
thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou
hast sent." Starting with this as a positive assertion
of fact, the author is perfectly aware that his devel-
opments of doctrine will conflict with those of the
majority of Christians, perhaps of every one. He can
only claim that they are offered in devout and loving
service to our Savior, and were heard with the closest
attention by the children of his servants of every

4. They are written for an audience that is con-
stantly shifting; not only because a number are
going every year, and others filling their places, but
because the boys change, themselves, and are never
the same for six months successively. Hence the
sermons, spread over more than a year, have no little
repetition in them, and the same fundamental points
are insisted on again and again, with such variations
of illustration as seemed at the time likely to be most

5. They are cheerful, not in a strain of constant re-
buke and warning, but of confidence. The author was
brought up to believe that the sermons of Dr. James
Walker were the model ; and who that ever heard


him will forget the solemn confidence with which he
always spoke to the younger part of his hearers ?

A teacher of boys has abundant cause for anxiety
for doubt, for vigilance, for misgiving ; — no profes-
sion demands more faith in Providence, more appeals
for all possible outside or inside help. But there is
none that teaches more truly the duty of liope ; that
one of all the three which the opposite theological
schools of faith and love seem to crowd out between
their systems.

The author believes this is the first attempt of an
American schoolmaster to follow in the track of
Arnold, Yaughan, Temple, Butler, and other noble
school preachers of England. He claims no place
by their side, as the little study of Adams Academy
boarding-house claims no place beside the chapels of
Ptugby or Harrow. But these discourses are respect-
fully and affectionately offered to his fellow-country-
men, boys and their parents, as evidence that in the
school founded by the sainted patriot, John Adams,
to furnish boys with a sound education, the Great
Master is followed, and his Gospel made the first

QuiNCY, Mass., 14 November, 1881.


*' They that he whole need not a physician, but they that are sicTc.
Matt. ix. 12.

T WISH during this term to speak to yon, in a
somewhat thorough and systematic way, of those
subjects which I have taken up on Sunday nights
hitherto in no special order, and with little prepara-
tion, — to see if I cannot bring religion to you as a
real matter of thought and study, like Latin or Alge-
bra, — yes, and of practice and interest, like skating
or football. I propose to write what I have to say,
in order to avoid anything like carelessness or loose-
ness, — in order to be sure of every word myself be-
fore I say it to you.

I believe I understand the difficulties there are in
the way. Eeligion is not a subject that everybody
can talk about off-hand, — you cannot have it put
into a few rules, and crammed for an examination.
Some men, and some boys too, have tried to do this, —
they have got up religion, both doctrines and practice,
as they would the Metric System, or the salts of


2 OUR soul's need.

copper ; and their work ends in a terrible caricature
of religion, — enough to make any one hate and de-
spise it. It is a hard subject, as any great subject
is hard, — hard to learn perfectly, hard to teach thor-
oughly ; but that is no more a reason wliy we should
avoid learning it, than it is for refusing to study law,
or to learn rowing, that it is so hard to be a good
lawyer, or a good oarsman, and that so few men get
to be such.

I know also that many people think all talk about
religion, about God, and the Bible, and the Church,
and worship, is entirely uninteresting, something that
they never did know nor care about, — much as if I
were to propose to lecture on the laws of the Hin-
doos. Yet I should not be surprised if there are men
in Boston who could make the laws of the Hindoos
intensely interesting to you; and I know perfectly
well that there is nothing which has interested and
excited more men and women, from the highest to
the lowest, more deeply than this very matter of
religion. It has interested them when they seemed
incapable of caring for anything else, — when they
were living with no occupation and no amusement,
working at nothing and playing at nothing, but were
suddenly wrought up to life and passion, and even
fury, because for the first time they really got hold of
what I am going to try to give you a hold upon in
these coming Sundays.


I need not say I must have your help, or the work
will all end in failure. Not so much your attention.
It is rather my own fault if I do not have that, — but
what I must call, for want of a better word, your
faith. I may be mistaken ; I could almost wish to
make you care for the subject enough to prove me all
wrong ; but what shall be said here is as living truth
to me as any lesson given you in the schoolroom.

And above all, my friends, do not make that unjust
and unkind mistake of supposing that the preachers
who talk to you about God and duty, whether here
or in church, set up to be spotless saints, that they
do not know perfectly well their own faults, or that
they do not feel that they need the very religion they
talk to you about more than any one. It is for that
very reason they talk to you ; it is because they are
your fellow-men, uneasy under their own transgres-
sions of God's law, that they are determined, if they
can, to set that law before you, to be your help as it
has been theirs.

I know however that some people would fail to
put this faith in me or in any minister, because they
believe all religion to be a delusion, — because they
think that this entire system which we see around us,
of churches, and temples, and worship, and Bibles, and
hymns, and ministers, and sacred days, is and means
really nothing ; that sensible people, who are capable
of thinking, do not care for it at all ; that the clergy,


the ministers, and those who are acsociated with them,
have an interest in keeping it np ; that the poorer and
more ignorant classes, who are after all not much more
than half men and women, have a kind of stupid
awe of religion, which keeps their passions in check,
and a kind of stupid comfort in it which it would be
a pity to disturb; — but that the great mass of wor-
shippers keep it up merely because they are used to
it, because it is fashionable, social, exciting, respecta-
ble, — what not ; and that at the bottom of it re-
ligion is a delusion, a thing exploded by science,
one that a sensible man or woman can do very well

There is a great deal talked, and a great deal writ-
ten in this strain ; and young men in college, who
have just begun to read hard books, and reason about
them, are fond of talking in this wa}^ ; generally be-
cause they think it is manly, and they are bound
to show they do not care for the lessons their moth-
ers taught them. And many men who are not con-
ceited Seniors, and many men who really have thought
and studied, talk in this same way ; and their books
and articles are a great deal read now ; and it is partly
because those of you who read at all are pretty sure
to come across such readiuGj, that I have undertaken
to write this series of addresses.

For tliis whole notion is absurd; this whole idea
tliat it is not worth your while and mine talking and


studying about God and duty, because God and duty
are delusions, is in itself the merest delusion ever
entertained. The world for ages upon ages, and in na-
tions after nations, has not been giving itself to some-
thing false and unreal. You find religion of one kind
or another existing everywhere, and under every form.
You see men worshipping in crowded temples and
churches blazing with gold and jewels, steaming with
incense, ringing with music ; and again in country
meeting-houses, uncouth, ridiculous, distorting your
eyes, setting your teeth on edge, and making you
bite your lips, with their awkward furniture, discord-
ant psalms, grotesque preaching. Yet these latter,
strong, sturdy farmers and their plain, careworn wives,
are crying and shouting, or still more, rapt into
breathless silence with the worship. Leave these
two extremes and you will find a score of other
manifestations of religion ; — a hermit wearinc^ out
body and soul in the solitude of a rocky desert ;
another torturing himself by lifelong exposure to a
tropical sun; another passing an equally long life
in visitincp the foulest dens in the most loathsome
streets of a city, where every sense is outraged by
every form of misery and vice and crime, which these
men's and women's religion bids them go and lighten.
You will find others a^ain workino" with all their
might day and night at some obscure point of theo-
logical scholarship; and others risking their lives by

6 OUR soul's need.

plunging into African jungles, encountering death in
all sorts of new forms, and laboriously learning almost
unintelligible languages in order to awaken a sense of
God's trutli in the hearts of a newly found tribe. And
all these, and a hundred such things more, are done in
every age of the world, by every kind of nation, by
believers in every variety of doctrine and practice, all
however agreeing in this, that what they do believe
in, for that they must spend their strength if it cost
their lives, — their money, if it plunge them in pov-
erty and debt, — their energy, although it lead to
civil war as the result. Eich and poor, nobles and
slaves, scholars and business-men, the roughest peas-
ants and the tenderest Vv^omen, the profoundest phi-
losophers and the most hard-headed merchants, have
found something that took hold of them, grasped
them, would not let them go, in religion. There are
as many ways as there are men ; the pilgrim who
walks barefoot from Paris to Jerusalem is not the
American mother who reads her Bible every morning.
Socrates reasoning about the soul is not the king of
Ireland through whose foot Saint Patrick struck his
iron-shod crosier without looking, — and the king
bore it as part of the baptismal ceremony.

Now all this testimony, borne through fifty cen-
turies to some kind or other of religion, worship,
doctrine, belief, cannot have been all to a delusion.
Something in it all must be real, absolute, true. It


cannot all be true alike, — the very differences show
that ; error, and delusion, and absolute falsehood, again
and again have been mixed with religion, and are so
still. But the great spirit, the great idea, must be
true. It is like government ; there have been a score
of worthless ones, a score of tyrannical ones ; many
nations have been nearly or quite annihilated by the
rulers whose place it was to protect them ; but some
government men must and will have, and whoever
would destroy all government is a madman. The
experiment has been tried : less than a hundred years
ago in France, church and state became so bad that
the French formally gave up all religion, and prac-
tically all government, as mockeries, — and in ten
years the experiment had resulted in such liorrible
failure that they voluntarily put their necks under
the double yoke hardly less tight than ever.

It has been said that no nation is without a sense
of religion. This is not absolutely true. Some tribes
have been discovered in Africa without any, and tlie
atheists are welcome to the full support of such allies.
Xo, my boys, it is not a delusion, — it is something
which has proved necessary in one shape or other to
so many millions that we dare not renounce an in-
terest in it. At the very least, we cannot refuse to
examine into it, and see if it has not some special
message for us, when its call is repeated in such thun-
der tones throughout the ages.

8 OUR soul's need.

I wisli to ask, in what time remains to-night, what
this universal sentiment means ; what is moving in
the minds and hearts of so many different men and
women that leads them to spend so much wealth in
worship, so much voice in prayer, so much time in

I do not mean to go back and consider what was
the origin of it all in unknown a^es. I wish to look
at it as a living thing now. And I am sure the basis
of it all, the key-note of this great cry which is going
up to God from all over the earth, is a feeling of dis-
content, dissatisfaction, insufficiency to ourselves, the
need of help, — the feeling that things are not right with
us, and we cannot make them so without outside aid.
Very often this is merely the sense of wretclieduess,
of ill-luck, poverty, and misery, — the feeling that the
world has gone wrong with us, hates us, and crowds us
out whether in a great thing or a small one, and we
never can get our rights from the world until a strong-
er power comes down and helps us. A great deal
of the religion of all ages has been nothing but the
wail of the forsaken to God, when every earthly friend
has deserted him. But it comes much oftenest from a
sense that the man has of something imperfect, some-
thinf^ wrono; in himself, — that he cannot do what he
wants to and as he wants to, and that he never will
do it, — that he will always fall short of himself, if
outside help does not come. " The good that I would,

OUR soul's need. 9

I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do,"
has been the ciy over and over again, throughout the
world of man and woman. There is the want, the
void, the unrest, that ultimately calls for God's help.
That is what concerns you and me now. We are not
wretched ; as the world goes, we are happy, we are
provided with most things that we want and that
millions of our fellow-creatures w^ould give their left
hand to have ; but there is coming up day after day
in us a sense of discomfort, dissatisfaction, sometimes
misery, and even agony, because we fail ourselves, and
cheat our own good intentions.

I wish you to understand my meaning. I am
preaching no doctrine of total depravity. 1 do not
want you to accuse yourselves of any great crimes or
sins, — to say that you are miserable sinners in any
sense you do not really feel, to "put your mouth to
the dust, and cry, ' Vile, vile ! ' " Such hypocrisy
only produces a comfort in the confession of sin baser
than tlie sin itself But I mean as a real experience :
every time you wish to do a thing and cannot ; every
time you try and fail ; every time you make a reso-
lution at night and break it in the morning; every
time you feel that you are falling back in the road
you mean to walk ; every time your w^ork ceases to
engage you, your amusements cease to interest you,
your friends to cheer you, your hopes to rouse you,
and yet your body is well, — then there comes steal-

10 OUR soul's need.

ing, rushing, crowding on you this sickness of the
soul, this hunger of the spirit, for which you must
have food and medicine, for which you must put your-
self in the hands of some physician, for you cannot
heal yourself; and unless that physician comes, weak-
ness, failure, perhaps ruin, is the only thing left for

It is exactly this feeling of anxiety, vacancy, sick-
ness, wretchedness in ourselves, apart from every
outside consideration, nay, when we are provided
with everything that the world can give, that breathes
in every accent of prayer ; it is the sense of comfort
and health when the cry is answered, that swells- in
every note of praise ; and it is the burning impulse to
give others w^ho have felt the like suffering a taste of
the like blessing, that dictates every labor and every
sacrifice in the cause of religion.

How this cry is heard, this need met, this vacancy
filled, I shall try to answer another Sunday, Now, I
only say this more : if any one of you feels now, as
every one some time must have felt, this pressure of
his own imperfections, this sting of his own follies,
this utter insufficiency to give himself what himself
needs, — do not seek to stifle it, do not put it out of
the way, or try to forget it by any miserable opiate
for body or soul, which will pass off and only leave a
yet more gnawing pain, but steadily, firmly, look into
yourselves, probe the wound, feel the fault, and then

OUR soul's need. 11

go for healing and strength and help to him in whom
alone they can be found. And if the advice, or the
sympathy, or the encouragement of one who has
failed and suffered and struggled like yourselves may
help you, it is always at your call, without danger
of intrusion and without fear of repulse.



" For the invisible tilings of him from the creation of the world are
clearly seen, being understood hy the things that are made, even his
eternal i^owcr and Godhead." — Eom. i. 20.

T AST Sunday I tried to show you what was the
^-^ source, the basis, of religion, — why it is that
men, with all that there is to occupy them in this
world, have persisted for so many ages in looking out
into another, and lifting up their voices to one or
more gods, — beings they do not profess nor expect
to see, but to whom they appeal passionately, and to
whose service they devote themselves, I said that
it was owing to their discontent and dissatisfaction
with things here, and more particularly with their
own share in things here, — their own sense of short-
coming, — their own consciences in short, at once
accuser, witness, and judge, calling them to account,
testifying to their own weakness, and pronouncing
sentence on themselves.

The suffering from this particular sickness, — the
emptiness of this particular vacancy, — when you
and I feel that we ourselves are wrono- and weak,


and that we cannot possibly lay aside the blame on
ill-health, or ill-luck, or injustice, — is beyond every
other agony. It wakes us up in the night, it inter-
rupts us in work and in amusement, — it may not be
so leaden a weight as sickness, or so sharp a sting as
unkindness, but it is heavy and sharp enough, — and
it is always there. You may get over one pang of
self-reproach, and become decently well satisfied with
your own energy and your own fidelity, and suddenly
a new break -down, just when you needed strength
most, will remind you that you are mortal again, and
can put no dependence on yourself It is like couch-
i^rass, that weed which looks so like wild wheat, and
Avliich an inexperienced farmer thinks so easy to pull
up, only to find its endless roots running over his whole
lot, and intertwined round every clod and stone.

It is perfectly true that you will meet some per-
sons who will not acknowledge any such feeling of
self-reproach; who profess to be entirely satisfied
with their share in the world, and if anything does
ffo wronoj with them ascribe it to indic^estion, or want

DO O '

of exercise, or temporary folly. They think it very
like a child, or a woman, or a half-civilized man,
quite behind the age, to allow that they need help in
steering their course through this life, except indeed
in being taught the weaknesses of others, so as to
get the better of them.

I know you will hear such talk, — and just so you


will hear of men who never felt ambition, or never
felt love for their parents , you will hear of men
who need no exercise, or no sleep, or who never
want to read a book or hear a song. It proves
nothing It only shows there are men lacking in
a human quality, — lacking in sensitiveness of con-
science, in a true kuowledoe of their own needs, —
just as the other men lack fineness of ear, — a rich-
ness and energy of affection and purpose. Such
men are not ranked as true, whole men. You do
not find them valued or prized in the world. You
do not find that men give their heart and confidence
to these self-satisfied people, that never admitted
their own deficiency, never writhed under the lash of
conscience, never prayed in the agony of sin. The
world knows how often it does wrong, — both the
great world without, and the little world of man
within, — it feels its weakness, and it cries aloud

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Online LibraryWilliam EverettSchool sermons : preached to the boys at Adams Academy, Quincy, Mass. → online text (page 1 of 12)