Copyright
William Morley Punshon.

Life thoughts online

. (page 2 of 11)
Online LibraryWilliam Morley PunshonLife thoughts → online text (page 2 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


every moment raises the dead, and refuses to
surrender the departed years to the destroyer
— communes with the loved ones though the
shroud enfolds them — and converses with
cherished voices which for long years have
never spoken with tongues ? I had almost
said, How can he sin who has memory ?
For though the murderer may stab his vic-
tim in secret and may carefully remove from
the polluted earth the foul traces of his crime,
memory is a witness that he can neither gag
nor stifle, and he bears about with him in his
own terrible consciousness the blasted im-
mortality of his being. Oh, it is a rare and
a divine endowment ! Memories of sanctity
or sin pervade all the firmament of being. It
is but the flitting moment in which to hope
or to enjoy, but in the calendar of memory
that moment is all time.



The Human Heart

The human heart is a microcosm, a little
world, containing in itself all the strifes, and



30 LIFE THOUGHTS.

all the hopes, and all the fears, and all the
ventures of the larger world outside. The
human heart ! — Who can unravel its mystery,
or decipher its hidden law ? The smile may
play upon the lip, while beneath there is the
broken, burning heart ; and, on the other
hand, the countenance may have a shadow
of anxiety, while the sunlight dances gaily on
the soul. The human heart ! — human know-
ledge can give us very little acquaintance
with it ; such knowledge is too wonderful for
man — it is high, and he cannot attain unto
it. But there is one who knows it, and knows
all its tortuous policy, and all its sinister mo-
tives, and He is anxious that we should loiow
it too.



Sclf-kjwwlcdge.

Of illl sciences, none is so difficult of at-
tainment as the science of self-knowledge.
Whether it be from the deceitfulness of the
object of study, or whether it be from the
morbid reluctance, almost amounting to fear,
with which men shrink from acquaintance
with themselves, there are few that have the
bravery to pray, " Lord, malce me to know



LIFE THOUGHTS. 31

myself." Indeed, it were a hideous picture
if it were suddenly unveiled in the presence
of us all. When the Lord would shew Eze-
kiel the abominations of Jerusalem, He led
him through successive chambers of imagery,
upon the walls of which were portrayed their
loathsome and unworthy doings. Ah ! if our
enormities were to be thus tapestried in our
sight, who of us could bear the disclosure ?



Co}iscie?ice.

Every man has a conscience — a natural
sense of the difference between good and
evil, — a principle which does not concern
itself so much with the true and false in
human ethics, or with the gainful and dam-
aging in human fortunes, as with the right
and wrong in human conduct. Call it what
you will, analyse it as you may, — a faculty,
an emotion, a law, — it is the most important
principle in our nature, because by it we are
brought into sensible connexion with the
moral government of God. It has been
defined sometimes as a tribunal within a
man for his own daily and impartial trial.



32 LIFE THOUGHTS.

It is the bar at which the sinner pleads ; it
prefers the accusation of transgression ; it
records the crime ; it bears witness to guilt
^or innocence ; and, as a judge, acquits or
condemns. Thus taking cognisance of moral
actions, it is the faculty which relates us to
the other world ; and by it God, retribution,
eternity, are made abiding realities to the
soul.



Dr Newton.

The last time I heard good Dr Newton, he
told us, standing on the platform of Exeter
Hall, his bright eye even then beginning to
grow dim, and his voice tremulous, " I am
on the bright side of seventy." Can you say
that ? Never mind the precise age — the
bright side of anything that you may happen
to be ? Worldlings cannot say it. It is the
dark side for them — the shady side of sixty
or seventy.



"jy^/j-one tiling I dor

Not many things. There is no fretting
away of the soul upon a multitude of dis-



LIFE THOUGHTS. 33

cordant objects, to the loss of concentration,
and the consequent loss of power. " This
one thing I do." Here is the attitude of a
soul that is determined after a worthy pur-
pose — the attitude of quiet strength, which
will suffer nothing to deter it from the ac-
complishment of its deliberately-planned de-
sign. " This one thing I do." And thus
alone can excellence be obtained in any pur-
suit which may invite the attention of men.
If the man be but faintly impressed with de-
sire, or if he hesitate between rival claims, or
if he pursue the object which is chosen only
in spasms of activity, the result will inevitably
be disappointment and shame. " A double-
minded man," it is true all the world over, is
" unstable in all his ways," like a wave upon
the streamlet, tossed hither and thither with
every eddy of its tide. The recognition of a
determinate purpose in life, and a sturdy ad-
hesion to it through all disadvantages, are
indispensable conditions of success. The
outside world understands this matter well.
Hence, in the great life-race, the vacillating
are outrun by the steady, although the for-
mer may be fleet of foot, as Asahel upon the
mountains of Israel.

B 2



34 LIFE THOUGHTS.

Mount Moriah.

I want you to visit the Mount of Moriah
with me this morning, but in order to do it
with profit we must carry the child's heart
with us yet, as sensitive to impression, as
eager in interest, while we endeavour to elicit
the principles which are illustrated, with all
the vigour of a manly understanding. The
thought rushes upon me as I speak, how
fresh this incident seems to us.* It is one
of the oldest incidents in the world's history,
and yet there is a perpetual youth about it,
and it is perfect in instruction still. There
are some things that time cannot kill. It
has a marvellous power of ruin. Courts and
cabinets tremble at its breath ; dynasties are
compelled before it like the foam upon the
crest of the waves ; it frets decay upon the
temple pile and upon the oriels delicate trac-
ing ; it makes mounds of monarchs and of
the palaces where once rioted kings and
beauty revelled, a roofless ruin, where owls
hoot from decaying towers and where the
panther makes his lair. But there are some
things over which time has no possible

* The offering up of Isaac.



LIFE THOUGHTS. 35

power. It cannot touch fate, for example :
that Hves, grows, ripens in its despite ; tra-
dition over-leaps the many tombs in which
time inters the years ; memory mocks him to
destroy her ; the humanness of the heart is
an everlasting thing, hence it is the old patri-
archal tales, tales of ancient hope, and fear,
and joy, and wrong, and sorrow, find their
swift way to the hearts of the men of all the
world's ages, because they touch feelings
which are eternal, and strike chords that are
never out of tune.

There are few hills, which are haunted by
so many sacred memories, as this Mount of
Moriah. Not only was it the scene of Abra-
ham's sacrifice, but in later times, when the
wickedness of the people increased, and when
the Lord's wrath was kindled against Israel,
the Lord smelled a smell of the burnt-offer-
ing which rose up from this mountain, and
was entreated for the people, for it was here
that the thrashing-floor of Araunah the Jebu-
site stood.



Life the Gift of God.
There are prerogatives in the power of the
crown which are never delegated to inferior



2,6 LIFE THOUGHTS.

authority. Prophets and apostles, by Divine
inspiration, have been permitted to resus-
citate the dead, and to rekindle the fire from
which the last spark has departed ; but, as if
to shew that there was one achievement of
power that was not allowed for the creature
to compass, the original impulse of being,
the first breathing of the breath of life into
the insensate clay, has been the work of God.
Man, to be sure, has done his utmost to
create. The sculptor has chiselled upon the
shapeless marble the features of the human
face, and the proportion has been apparent,
and the attitude has been graceful, and a re-
joicing world has been loud in its admiration
of the artist's skill ; but though the eye re-
posed in beauty, no sparkle flashed from it ;
though the cheek was well rounded and
symmetrical, it had no mantling blush ;
though the lips were true to nature, they
could not speak to thrill the soul. The
painter also has spread his canvas, and,
with the light pencil's witchery, has drawn
for us the images of friends. And when those
friends have died, they who beheld the life-
like appearance of the portraits have called
so vividly to remembrance the forms of the



LIFE THOUGHTS. 37

loved, that they have apostrophised them
plaintively — ■

" Oh, that those lips had language I"

Nay, in the very spirit of Promethean am-
bition, man has practised something on the
lifeless corpse, and has imitated the fitful
workings of apparent existence— the distorted
writhings of galvanic life ; but the spirit that
has fled would not listen to his invitations to
return, and the blood would not resume its
pulse at his bidding. Life, the unattainable
object of his far-reaching ambition, has re-
turned to heights beyond him ; and whether
he chisel, or paint, or galvanise, the result of
all experience only proclaims more forcibly
the impressive truth — that life is the gift of
God.



Natural Life the Gift of God.

We go about carelessly, and eat and drink,
and pursue our business and pleasure, with-
out ever thinking of the power that quickened
us, and by whom we are so fearfully and
wonderfully made. We find ourselves in
being, and we take it as a matter of course



38 LIFE THOUGHTS.

that our pulses should beat ar.d our affec-
tions glow, forgetting that it is in God '* we
live, and move, and have our being." These
frames of ours would be inert and lifeless,
like the dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, with-
out the breath of Heaven.



Iiiiellcctiial Life the Gift of God.

Our minds are active, and exercise them-
selves in the various subjects of knowledge ;
reflection is busy, and we lay down premises
and draw conclusions without ever thinking
of the power that has gifted us with our
scientific capacity, and enabled us to invent,
to expand, to illustrate, to combine : but it is
in God alone that we have our being. If we
are roused sometimes to inquire into the
causes of the mighty operations of mind, we
are apt to ascribe them to the effects of in-
struction and intercourse. This is so far
true, as without association and teaching
man would have neither motive nor disposi-
tion to aspire. But there is a fallacy at the
very beginning. It is just as though we were
to ascribe the developed petals and the diver-



LIFE THOUGHTS. 39

sified hues of the flower to the skill of the
gardener, because he prepared the ground,
and sowed the seed, and watched the growth
of the plant with fostering and assiduous
care. But what gardener could ever bring a
flower from a stone ? The sun might shine
on it from on high, and the dew might fall
gently, and man might labour till his bones
ached with fatigue, it would be a stone still.
There must be the principle of life, or all his
eftbrts to evolve are in vain : and who gives
to the germ its vitality ? Who, but God ?
And in like manner, if there had not been a
divine infusion into me of an apprehension
that was capable of improvement, all the ad-
vantages of experience and all the opportu-
nities of academic training would have been



Spiritual Life the Gift of God.

The degeneracy of mankind has been the
subject of universal admission. What is the
fact to-day? Why, that the world is hung
round with the solemnities of spiritual mourn-
ing, — dead, dead in trespasses and in sins.
Can corpses animate corpses ? that is the



40 LIFE THOUGHTS.

question. The curdled death is in the veins
of all, and motionless and still, — a very con-
gregation of the dead we must remain, until
Jesus shall say, " I am come that ye may
have life."



Rest.



The Saviour's most gracious invitation,
addressed to a world of the heavy-laden,
contains within it a promise of rest. O ye
who have toiled so long, and who have reaped
nothing from your profitless labour, take the
yoke upon you, and you shall find rest unto
your souls. Rest of all kinds. Rest for the
vexed mind — for the bewilderments of its
unbelief shall be disentangled, and it shall
rejoice in settled principles which no doubts
disturb. Rest for the awakening conscience
— for its remorseful memory shall be still, and
its accusing voice silent, and the brand of its
condemnation removed, and there shall come
a great calm as when the lone lake sleeps be-
neath the hush of summer. Rest for the
wayward heart — for it shall be weaned from
its idols, and all its wanderings shall be for-
given, and it shall cleave to Jesus, and flutter



LIFE THOUGHTS, 41

into His bosom like the nestling bird, serene
in the possession of an object upon which it
can pour its wealth of love. Rest in acts
of labour — for labour is in itself a blessing.
Rest in the endurance of trial — for there shall
be breathed a spirit of chastened resignation
that will charm the anguish out of pain. Rest
in the mortal struggle — for the enemy shall be
beaten from the field, and there shall be sun-
set splendours in the western sky, and the
departing soul shall glow in that strange light
of eventide. And then rest at last, — the per-
fect rest, — " the rest that remaineth." Tears
shed over the corpse, wailing at the solemn
funeral, nights of weeping for the living ; but
for the dead angelic welcome and divine re-
cognitions, a coronation and a home, and
voices from heaven assuring the listening
earth that they are blessed. " Even so, saith
the Spirit, for they rest from their labours,
and their works do follow them."



The Poiver of Association.

Such is the power of association in the
human mind, that we cling with fond tena-



41 LIFE THOUGHTS.

city to the belongings of those we love, and
cannot part from them without a pang. A
faded flower coming suddenly into sight can
thrill the soul of a strong man, and break up
his fountain of tears, just because in the long
past some dear hand touched and nursed it :
the hand is dust, perhaps, but the flower is a
hallowed thing for ever. The books we read,
the games we played, the garden in whose
shrubberied walks we gambolled, the pic-
tures which, to our conscious hearts, seemed
to follow us with their eyes, and frown upon
us because of some meditated wrong, the old
arm-chair in which the mother sat, the river
by whose banks we strayed, wondering where
it went to, — all these, and a thousand other
things that we look at still with a silent heart,
and through the magnifying glass of memory,
oh, how much greater hold they have upon
us than mightier things that have happened
since ! Mankind universally confess this
power, and yield themselves irresistibly to
its spell. Many a hard-lived man of busi-
ness carries from the exchange to the home,
and from the home to the exchange again,
those honoured memories and attachments
that would startle the busy world if it could



LIFE THOUGHTS. 43

only get a glimpse into the heart. There is a
chair in his household always vacant to other
people, but never vacant to him ; there are
steps upon the stair that only he can hear ;
and there are dear and blessed voices like
those of angels, not palpable to human sense,
but always ready and always present to greet
and welcome him.



The Gospel Truuipet.

Now, brethren, are you going to listen to
the voice of the trumpet, or to shut your ears
to-day, refusing to hearken to the voice of
the charmer, charm he never so wisely?
There is no distinction in the sound. It is a
blast of freedom to every man. But some-
times when the trumpet sounds, you know
it sounds to soldiers whose pulse it makes
beat quicker, as they prepare to gird them-
selves for the battle, and it sounds to cowards
and traitors. In which rank are you ? — sol-
diers of the cross, who fight the battle, or
cowards who flee, or traitors who plot ? Don't
put that question away, for the gospel trum-
pet is sounding in the hearing of every one of



44 LIFE THOUGHTS

you, and you will have to answer by and by
for the way in which you have received it.

It is not merely a professional thing. The
trumpeter does not flourish his trumpet for
nothing. He flourishes it that men may pre-
pare for the battle. There is a purpose in it.
There is a meaning in its blast ; —

* Oh for a trumpet voice
On all the world to call I'



The Com7no7i Salvation.

The gospel river of life does not branch
out into divers streams. There is not a broad
sweep of water for the rich, the intellectual,
and the cultivated, and a little scant runnel
where the poor may now and then come and
get healed by the side of its precarious wave.
There is no costly sanatorium beneath whose
shade patrician leprosy may get by itself to be
fashionably sprinkled and healed. Naaman,
with all his retinue watching, must come and
dip and plunge like common men in Jordan.
There is no sort of salvation except the one
ransom and deliverance, that is purchased
for rich and poor together by the sacrifice of



LIFE THOUGHTS. 45

the Lord Jesus Christ ; and the poor beggar,
his garment ragged from the havoc of a hun-
dred storms, and his flesh bleeding from the
ulcers of a hundred wounds, may dip eagerly
into the same Bethesda, and emerge un-
scarred and comely as a child. Oh, there is a
keen, loving, winsome insight, so to speak, in
the religion of Jesus, which constrains it to
furnish the amplest and most bountiful pro-
vision.



Spiritual Worship.

Do not think for a moment that by fre-
quenting places that have an odour of pecu-
liar sanctity, you can alone acceptably wor-
ship God. Have you a contrite heart.? Then
that can consecrate the meanest place on
earth. It does not matter where the congre-
gation may gather, only let them be a con-
gregation of faithful men, yearning for truth,
ready to make any sacrifice to obtain it, and
that God who is everywhere present will re-
veal Himself in blessings wherever they may
choose to assemble. They may crowd in the
solemn minster, and while the organ peals
out its alternate wail or psalm, to them it may



46 LIFE THOUGHTS.

be a spiritual service, and their hearts may
glow in purer light than streams through
painted windows. They may draw around
the hearth of the farmer's homestead, and
while the frost-king reigns outside, their
spirits may burn with a warmth that may
defy the keenness of the sternest winter. For
them there may be a spiritual harvest more
plentiful than the garnered store in the barn
that has been lent for worship. On the gal-
lant vessel's deck, with no witnesses of the
service but the sky and the sea, there may be
the sound of many waters as the Lord of
hosts comes down. And in the Alpine soli-
tudes, where the spirit, alone with God, mid
murmuring stream.s, and bowing pines, and
summits of eternal snow, uplifts its adoration,
there may whisper a voice stiller and sweeter
and more comforting than that of nature,
saying, " Peace, peace be unto you." Oh, it
is a beautiful thought, that in this, the last of
the dispensations, the contrite heart can hal-
low its own temple ! Wherever the emigrant
wanders, wherever the exile pines, — in the
dreariest Sahara, rarely tracked save by the
Bedouin on his camel — on the banks of the
rivers yet unknown to song — in the dense



LIFE THOUGHTS. 47

woodlands, where no axe has yet struck
against the trees — in the dark ruin, in the
foul cell, in the narrow street, on the swift
rail — there, where business tramps and rattles
— there, where sickness gasps and pines —
anywhere in this wide, wide world, if there is
a soul that wants to worship, there can be a
hallowed altar and a present God.



The Love of Jesus.

How rich its manifestations, and how un-
feigned ; how all other love of which it is
possible for you to conceive shrinks in the
comparison ! There have been developments
in the histories of years of self-sacrificing
aftection, which has clung to the loved object
amid hazard and suffering, and which has
been ready even to offer up life in its behalf.
Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias,
David and Jonathan, what lovely episodes
their histories give us amid the history of sel-
fishness and sin ! Men have canonised them,
partly because such instances are rare, and
partly because they are like a dim hope of
redemption looming from the ruins of the



48 LIFE THOUGHTS.

Fall. " Greater love hath no man than this"
— this is the highest point which man can
compass — " that a man lay down his life for
his friend; but God commendeth his love to-
wards us, in that while we were yet sinners
Christ died for us." A brother has some-
times made notable efforts to retrieve a
brother's fortunes, but there is a Friend that
sticketh closer than a brother. A father has
bared his breast to shield his offspring from
danger, and a mother would gladly die for
the offspring of her womb ; but a father's
affection may fail in its- strength, and, yet
more rarely, a mother's in its tenderness.

" I saw an aged woman, bow'd
'Mid weariness and care ;
Time wrote in sorrow on her brow.
And 'mid her frosted hair.
"What was it that like sunbeam clear
O'er her wan features ran,
As, pressing towards her deafen'd ear,
I named her absent son?
"What was it? Ask a mother's breast.
Through which a fountain flows
Perennial, fathomless, and blest.
By winter never froze.

" What was it ? Ask the King of kings.
Who hath decreed above
What change should mark all earthly things
Except a mother's love?"



LIFE THOUGHTS. 49

" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that
she should not have compassion on the son
of her womb ? She may forget, yet will I not
forget thee." O Jesus of Nazareth, who can
declare Thee ? " Herein is love, not that we
loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his
Son to be a propitiation for our sins." Think
of that love — love which desertion could not
abate — love which death could not destroy —
love which, for creatures hateful and hating
one another, stooped to incarnation, suffer-
ing, and death ; and then, with brimming eye
and heart full of wonder, say, "Why such
love to me?'''



The Cottage at Bethany.

That cottage has no architectural preten-
sions. It peeps humbly through the em-
bowering olives, beneath whose shade it
stands. But never yet was human dwelling
so highly honoured, for though many houses
had entertained and welcomed Jesus, it was
to Bethany that His footsteps oftenest turned ;
and there, where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
made up the united household, was the Sa-
viour's human home. The evangehst has
C



50 LIFE THOUGHTS.

not drawn for us the curtains of the Saviour's
private Ufe. We have not revealed to us the
wealthy secrets of that friendship which com-
muned with " the family that Jesus loved."
We can only imagine, therefore, the happi-
ness of those favoured ones who were privi-
leged with His familiar teaching. Thrice
blessed must have been that family : blessed
in the strong love which welded diverse tem-
peraments together in one bond of union
which no discord could sever — blessed in
their common anticipation of like gospel
hope and privilege ! No prancing cavalcade
of honour was there attendant upon prince
or chieftain ; but who may say how often in
the thickly-peopled air were hosts of angels
watching and tracking with loving vigilance
the steps of their incarnate God ? But upon
this brief dream of bhss there comes a rude
awaking. The light glimmers pale through
the dreary night from the window, and then
sounds the voice of wailing from the dwell-
ing where often rose the minstrelsy of blended
voices in joyous song. Lazarus is sick, dying,
dead. The light of their home is quenched
beneath this unlooked-for sorrow. The me-
mory of. the. happy past l:)ecomes almost in-



LIFE THOUGHTS. 51

supportable. The sisters, weeping, clasp each
other convulsively, and can scarcely realise
that their brother has departed. They go to
the grave to weep there. The sky of their
life is hidden and clouded by this one sad
sorrow, and — strange aggravation of this
mysterious bitterness ! — He, their Master and
their Friend, is absent. They sent Him word
on the earliest intimation of illness, but He
has made no sign. No swift footsteps have
hurried to the house of mourning ; not a


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam Morley PunshonLife thoughts → online text (page 2 of 11)