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vidual opinion honestly expressed, and of individual effort uprightly directed. It is out of such minute contributions that the vast tide of public opinion and public effort is made up; and its collective impulse is resistless. Did we each of us endeavour in this way honestly to do our duty to society in our several spheres of individual influence, those accumulated means and opportunities of good on which I have dwelt, would no longer continue inert, but, pervaded by a deep moral feeling, would ripen and fructify and teem with all the outward signs and effects of a new and higher life. Perhaps the revolutions which threaten the world might then be averted; or, if they came, a juster and nobler spirit would guide them, and spare mankind the bloodshed, the violence and the crime, which often make good men more willing to endure the worst that exists, than incur the fearful possibilities that may succeed it. Take this thought home with you, Christian friends, and reflect upon it. Through the remnant of your days, so feel and speak and act, as if on your single thoughtfulness, honesty, courage and energy, depended, under God, the security of your homes, the happiness of your species, and the progress of the world.
BY REV. THOMAS HINCKS, B.A.
ACTS xx. 35 :
“I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support
the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Let us be thankful to the apostle Paul that he has preserved this pregnant saying of the Great Teacher. We have it not from the Evangelists. But the very spirit of his life is, as it were, condensed in it. It is what the Cross is always saying to us. It is the burthen of his divine life of love and self-denial briefly rendered into words. “It is more blessed to give than to receive."
We have here a great spiritual truth. But whilst I assert this with confidence, I am conscious that I cannot prove to you that it is so. We are out of the region of demonstration here. If
you should deny it, I can construct no train of reasoning that will cure you of your scepticism; logic will supply us with no weapons that will conquer your doubt. If the hard and selfish man of the world should say to us, “I repudiate your philosophy; it is foolishness to me; the true blessedness of life is to receive; give me success and power and pleasure, and I am content;"—we can but refer him to God for illumination, or leave him to the stern teaching of experience for conversion. The man who does not feel that there is a truth in these words of Christ, from whose soul they do not elicit
a ready response, cannot be made to believe in them by any appeal to his understanding, by any subtlety of reasoning or skill of argument. It were vain to attempt to make the blind man feel the beauty of colour, or the deaf man appreciate the harmonies of sound. You might reason upon them for ever, and yet produce no conviction, nor waken a single emotion of pleasure. And so the appeal of spiritual truth is to the spirit, as of colour to the eye and of sound to the ear; and if the spirit have lost its purity and power of vision, that appeal will pass unheeded.
Consider for a moment how we should proceed to convince the sceptic by reasoning that it is “more blessed to give than to receive,”—more blessed, mark you, not more gainful. The blessedness consists, I imagine, in the satisfaction of the higher faculties of our nature—the conscious harmony with Godthe peace, truly called divine, as coming direct from Himwhich are ever attendant on Christ-like renunciation and beneficence. But how can the man appreciate these into whose experience they have never entered, and who has subordinated the higher faculties of his nature to the lower ? We read in the Scripture of those who "saw but did not perceive," and “heard but did not understand,” because their hearts had “waxed gross.” To such, Christ himself spoke in vain ; his divine truth found no response within them. They heard it, and then, like swine, trampled the pearl under foot, and turned again to rend him.
Consider, then (1), the law of the attainment of spiritual truth. “He that is of the truth,” said Christ, “ heareth my voice.” The true and pure heart responds, as it were, instinctively to the pure and true. Selfishness, worldliness, coarseness, blind the soul, and render it impossible that it should recognize the authority and the beauty of moral truth. You believe, perhaps, that it is “more blessed to give than to receive;" but you have never reasoned yourself into the belief, and you
will never reason another into it. You believe because you cannot help it. You feel that this is a truth. Your inmost soul
affirms it; and no law of science, proved by plainest demonstration, is surer to you.
And so again, not the clear-headed, but the pure-hearted see God. The one accepts Him as a theorem ; the other feels Him near each hour, and reads the language of his heart in the grass of the field.
The power, then, by which we discern the highest truth is that of spiritual insight, and not of intellectual skill; and with all the wisdom of Solomon, we shall be but as fools in this realm without the pure and simple heart, which is the best interpreter of the divine, the great magician to which the universe renders its sublimest oracles.
And this is the meaning of that deep saying of Christ, “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” He does not say, "Except ye be illuminated and become as wise men.”
The way to the kingdom, to the discovery of its truth and the enjoyment of its bliss, lies through the simplicity and meekness and purity of childhood, and he who will not take the appointed road may not hope to enter it.
Consider (2) the close connection which there is between practical infidelity and moral disease, and the worst kind of scepticism. Which, think you, is the readiest way to a disbelief of the divine saying in the text ? Selfishness of life ; devotion to the world and the things of it; eager, unresting, absorbing pursuit of mere personal ends. Live the selfish life, —the life unconsecrated by brave, disinterested service,and you cannot long believe it.
You will soon cease to comprehend it. You may not formally deny it; but your own experience will not confirm it, and you will no longer feel its truth. Renunciation and sacrifice will become distasteful to you; and as the spirit of unselfishness declines in your heart, and the spirit of worldliness takes its place, the glorious truth will become less and less of a reality, and at last will waken no response within the desecrated shrine of the soul. This is the worst and dreariest scepticism, when spiritual truths are lost
through the blindness of the soul—when moral disease has loosened its hold upon them—when declining faith is the fruit of an impoverished life.
And it is well that we should test our hearts with some rigour, and see how it fares there with the higher truths which we profess to hold. Amidst the hurry and the eager chase of life are we losing our hold on God's eternal verities? Are they still realities to us? Do we feel them to be true ? Oh! how apt are the holiest things to become mere matters of routine to us, and truths,- great, solemn truths,—that should stir the deep fountains of the soul and transfigure life, to move us no more than the pettiest interests of the world!
There are two ways of receiving religious truth. In the one case you assent to it; in the other you grasp it and make it your own, and it becomes part of the motive
which impels your being. In the one case, it remains outside your inmost heart,—a beautiful light in the firmament of the soul, which moves your admiration and gives you casual guidance; in the other, it is planted at the very centre of your being, it feeds the interior life of the soul, and mingles its influences with the
And this is just what we need,—to get the commonest religious truths we hold thus thoroughly assimilated, thus transfused into our nature. We suffer not so much from scepticism, as from imperfect faith, half-belief,—-belief which has never gained the mastery of the soul. There are articles enough in our creed, if we could only translate them into deep and living convictions. But how shallow is much of our faith! How little it pervades and actuates and inspires our nature! How faintly it tinges our being with its own colours !
It is a noble exercise of our faculties to speculate respecting the deep things of God, to throw the light of our highest thought on the great problems of faith, and to bring into view of men new aspects of the eternal truth. It is a noble exercise of our faculties. It is well to seek the conquest of new realms in the spiritual kingdom. It is well to be content