« السابقةمتابعة »
unity. He who subdues a passion or conquers a prejudice is realizing it. He who honestly toils for wealth strives to bring a harmony of parts into his outward relations, strives to unite his outward condition with the ideal of life that resides in his mind. In our happiest, in our holiest hours, we enjoy the unity of our being; in sin, in deep sorrow, in despair, it appears as dimmed, suppressed, or broken. Let us strive, my Christian friends, to form our characters on this divine standard. Let each aim at unity ; not one virtue in excess, but all the virtues in symmetry and balance. Then do we reproduce the Divine unity; then do we shew that we have learned the first and the last great truth of religion, the chief lesson of the universe. The good alone are capable of union. The wicked cannot be one. God grant us this oneness as the foundation of our happiness now and for ever!
OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD.
BY REV. R. E. B. MACLELLAN.
ROMANS xii. 21 :
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
OURS is proverbially a world of lights and shadows; here the all-revealing sunshine, there the brown horrors of an impenetrable forest. Not only is it so in Nature, but so is it also in Man, in his position and in his prospects. Every where we behold affluence that might have slaked the thirst even of Croesus, side by side with privation that would make even the lot of Lazarus a thing to be desired. Every where we behold freedom in the chosen few, which approaches nearly to licentiousness, side by side with slavery in the toiling many, scarce excelled by what once prevailed in our WestIndian islands. Every where we behold knowledge which numbers and measures and names and weighs the stars, side by side with ignorance which knows not the appellation, the doctrines or the precepts of Him who came to save the world. Every where we behold virtue which transcends all that has been said or sung of Grecian sages or Roman philanthropists, side by side with vice even unexcelled in heathen lands or savage climes. Such is the world ; here illumined by the sunshine, there overshadowed by the cloud ; a perpetual struggle between light and darkness. All is not any where brightness, for on the bluest sky may be seen the spot of black; and all is not any where gloom, for in the most murky night some single little star comes forth on a mission of redemption. Neither can therefore be said to be yet in the ascendant, so that the warfare between Good and Evil still goes on. In this warfare all of us, my friends, are engaged ; in this strife every one before me, whether he wills it or not, nay, even whether he knows it or not, must take a part. The two opposing principles are before us, and around us, and within us; we must of necessity choose our side; we must perforce “hate the one and love the other;" we must, even in our own despite, “hold to the one and despise the other.” Men and brethren! what shall we do? We can scarce do better than follow the advice of Paul,—“Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good.”
I. One evil which continually besets us, at morn, at noon, at night,-hovering about our paths, our board, our bed,assumes the shape of TEMPTATIONS TO SIN. Our appetites, needful as they are for the sustenance of our frame, thence for the healthy exercise of the mind, and (so long as we wear “this mortal coil”) even essential to “the motions of our spirit,” are continually enticing us to transgression, and bow down thousands and tens of thousands in serfdom to those “fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Our passions, which were given that they might do eternal battle against the un-true and the un-good, are too often turned from principles to persons, from the sin to the sinner, and hence become the source of “anger, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.” Even the blessings of our position have a tendency to lead us away from the paths of holiness : the full man is apt to forget God; he who is perfectly happy here, is prone to think little of the happiness of hereafter; father, mother, sister, brother, child, are often loved more than Jesus; the joys of earth deaden and benumb and make heavy the wings of the spirit, so that it cannot soar in the direction of heaven. Nay, what is more melancholy still, our very virtues are often the parents of our vices. To be certified of this, we have but to remember how often generosity is changed to prodigality, how often justice is transformed into austerity, how often love is degraded into lust, how often zeal assumes the firebrand of fanaticism, how often piety itself wallows amid the obscene rites and trembles before the visionary fears of superstition ! Our favourite pursuits, again, frequently lead us any where but along the true ways of pleasantness,"
ways of pleasantness,” or across the true "paths of peace.” The seeker after joy is apt to make the common, the fatal mistake, that pleasure is happiness; and, that mistake once acted upon, it is needless to add, that if he travel amid flowers, they are those of the Sicilian mountain, beneath which is a living, if at present a slumbering, volcano. The seeker after wealth is in a position of perhaps greater peril. How many and how strong inducements are his to spoil the widow, to defraud the orphan, to rob the poor and the instances can be reckoned only by myriads, in a great commercial country like ours, where, for a few bags of gold, men have given in exchange their conscience, their soul, their heaven. The seeker after power can scarcely climb to its summits with an untarnished reputation : conscience he too generally has none : what he pronounced right to-day, he is ready to pronounce wrong to-morrow, if it will increase his own or his leader's influence : patriotism with him means love of his party : and the nation may groan under intolerable evils, so he preserve intact the monopolies of those to whom he looks for exaltation. Even the seeker after knowledge, generally one of the purest and sublimest of human pursuits, is not without his dangers ; he may delve among abstract truths till he forget the active duties of life; he
cleave into some stony science till he have no bowels of compassion for a suffering brother; he may come to the withering conclusion that knowledge is better than love, thus blaspheming the words of the poet,
One virtuous, or a mere good-natured deed, Doth all desert in sciences exceed. *
Such, my dear friends, are some of the myriad modes, ever shifting in position, ever varying in form, ever changing in colour, in which temptation may assail you.
“ Be not overcome of evil.” “Stand fast, having your loins girded.” Resist bravely. Endure hardness as true soldiers of the Cross. For the sake of your own souls, for the sake of Christ's religion, for the sake of God's kingdom, suffer not yourselves to be defeated. Defeat in this struggle is loss of happiness, is exclusion from heaven, is dishonour to the gospel of the Redeemer, is the depopulating of the mansions of the Father's house. Angels peer down through the blue skies, with looks of celestial love and wonder, to mark the progress of your warfare. Jesus, your elder brother, with a more perfect sympathy, for he was exposed to similar trials, watches over your battle with sin,—“groaning in the spirit and being troubled" when he sees your virtue about to give way,—filled with a responsive joy when he finds that your purity bears the brunt unscathed. The Invisible Himself, from that throne unto whose brightness none can approach without veiled eyes, marks pityingly or approvingly, but in either case with a serene hopefulness, your co-operation in working out the mysterious yet beneficent scheme of His providence.
“ These things are not done in a corner.” They are transacted before “a great cloud of witnesses.” “Approve yourselves," therefore, “like men !"
But that you be not yourselves vanquished, will not be a perfect, nor should it be a satisfying, glory. You must, in the best sense of the phrase, “be avenged of your adversary.” You must “overcome this “evil.” And how must you overcome it? By its own proper antagonist—you must “ come evil with good.” Temptation assails you; you must resist it : but, more than this, you must conquer it; and this can only be done by carrying to a greater excellency the particular virtue which it sought to diminish. If it attacked your personal purity, become immediately more harmless and more undefiled. If it attacked your general benevolence,