Saturday, June 12, 2010

the very watchword...

This from Brooke Herford's sermon, 'PATIENT CONTINUANCE IN WELL-DOING.

 "To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality— eternal life!' (Romans ii. 7.)

I Cannot help thinking that this very phrase, with the position that it holds in Christian thought, is a sign of one of the noblest characteristics of Christianity. Christianity has brought out, as no other system ever did, the beauty and worth of simple, faithful living, apart from any greatness or conspicuousness. That simple kind of life was not of much account in the ancient world. The ancient world's idea of ' glory, honour, and immortality,' was of reward for the conspicuously great. He who should do some striking act of heroism, or some noble service to his country, for him, certainly—immortality! A Hercules, slaying the lion or dragon that had become the terror of a whole tribe ; a Leonidas, dying at the head of the forlorn hope of Greece; a Curtius, leaping into the chasm that superstition whispered could never close till Rome's best treasures were cast into it—no doubt about immortality for these, or such as these,—ancient thought followed them to heaven and fancied them dwelling among the gods or changed into shining stars. But there was no idea of anything of this kind for the rank and file of the common people. The husbandmen of the Campanian fields, who through those old-world centuries had to delve and plough, and take their corn to market, and live busy days about their farms; the merchants, who at Tyre or Corinth had to buy and sell, and try and make a little profit here and there ; the women, who, in the inner chambers of those ancient houses, had to pass their days in the thousandfold little cares of home and children—these—let alone the myriads, humbler yet, of hired labourers or slaves, —well, of course such work had to be done, such classes had to be, but as to their being of any account with the gods, or as to any ' glory, honour, and immortality' being in store for them, that hardly entered men's minds! There, exactly, it was that the elevating power of Christ's religion came in so strikingly and beautifully. It touched human life even in its homeliest levels with a new self-respect. It inaugurated a kind of divine democracy. It gave to the lowliest a new hope, a new encouragement. The Gospel's teaching of the great heavenly Father, as near to the labourer in the sand quarries as to the priest in the temple, and loving every one of these toiling ones,—not merely beneficent to mankind in the mass, but knowing them and loving them soul by soul, as a father knows his children; and the Gospel's great practical illustration of that divine love in a Christ who had especially gathered poor men about him, to teach them and inspire them with his glorious hopes; yes, and the whole tone of Christ's teachings, dwelling so tenderly on the work, and cares, and temptations of the common world, taking his parables from hired men, and vine-dressers, and busy women at their sweeping or their baking—all this was what really took hold of the heart of mankind. It is when I think of all this, that Paul's saying—' patient continuance in well-doing'—looks grandest to me. It stands out not as a mere fragmentary text, but as almost the very watchword for the Christian life, and rich with such a large, appreciative hopefulness for the common race of men."


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