Saturday, May 26, 2007
God IS Good
I have not been to see them yet today, but as of last night my Mom will leave ICU today. My father continued to make small improvements in the correct direction during the day yesterday. While peril still remains, it was a good day. So much so we were able to begin to talk about "What do we do after this?"
It is good to look forward, but even under the best scenarios many difficult decisions and discussions lie ahead.
Thank God for His grace and mercy and for all of you that have been willing to call upon that grace on our behalf. I have always wanted this blog to be relational and connective, but not necessarily personal - it's not supposed to be about me. It is very personal right now and I thank all my readers for that indulgence.
Friday, May 25, 2007
PRAYER WORKS - KEEP PRAYING - A BRIEF PARENTAL REPORT
Yesterday afternoon we were able to get my mom in a wheelchair and into see him for about 10 minutes. Not a dry eye in the house.
However, between that and the prayer my father showed some improvement overnight for the first time since the accident. We are not out of the woods, but we are headed in that direction.
Thanks you so much for your prayers, know that they are efficacious, and please continue.
God Bless you all.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
PRAY FOR MY PARENTS!
They are both now in the hospital with multiple fractures to the chest and clavical and collapsed lungs - in intensive care. My mother's lung has reinflated, but as of now my father's has not, they are working to keep him off the ventilator.
Extended family who they were visiting is with them. My sister, out of Indiana, will be there about midnight and my wife and I, out of LA, about noon tomorrow - we have a red-eye.
Please pray for them, at their advanced years recovery will not be straightforward, and in my father's case it remains uncertain, though likely.
I thank you in advance and I know the great community of Godbloggers can work miracles with prayer.
It's All About Trust
As a former ministry professional, I live in a world of disillusioned people. Some will never trust the church, any church, again. Most know that church is necessary but are very cynical. Almost all feel trust MUST BE FIRST EARNED, it is not granted by virtue of position or office. Frankly, I think this is the state of the general public and most congregations when it comes to ministry professionals.
I also think much of the results Todd saw in his little survey were because he was dealing primarily with younger staff members. Of course, there is no data to back this up, I'm just guessing. Most young people enter professional ministry with a set of rose colored glasses, and eventually they get broken.
No longer does the title "Reverend," or "Pastor," or "Father" grant automatic credence and deference to an individual. Why? It is too easy to blame it on the continued secularization of society. Until recently, even the secular granted some deference to the ordained. Nope, trust in general has slipped because trust in general has been abused. In fact, I think that single fact contributes more to the secularization of society than any other factor.
Of course, there are the big violations of trust, financial scandal, sex scandal, etc. But let us consider some others.
- What about a pastor that preaches a message of a God that loves the individual, but is too busy to have lunch with a congregant?
- What about a pastor with a six-figure income that complains of his impoverished state?
- What about a church with "open doors" that sends an entire Sunday School class of people that have been in the church an average of 30 years packing because "their goals are just too different from ours."
- How about the church that builds a multi-million dollar facility in a slum where the average household income is 50% of the poverty line?
I could go on and on. These are all, by the way, incidents with which I have personal experience - I am not making them up.
So what is the point? The point dear frineds is that professional ministry staff has no greater calling than to be increasingly Christ like. Everything done builds trust and trust reflects the gospel. Each offense, major or minor, each sin, seen or unseen, robs the gospel message of its power. we are the Holy Spirit's insturments for His ministry - if we allow ourselves to be dull and in ill-repair, His effectivenss is greatly compromised.
Related Tags: trust, ministry, gospel, effectiveness
Cowards Link many times before their deaths
Chesterton Quoted...must...link...cannot resist the force.
The truth about church.
It's the Happiest Place on Earth - and we aim to keep it that way pardner.
If you must, could you not at least say something intelligent?
Waste not, want not.
Crime often makes no economic sense whatsoever.
Only Joe Carter would sound this smart about something this silly. Besides, I have to link to this, my wife will love it.
Hardly surprising - was it 80 or 101 proof? And did he give some to this guy?
Related Tags: Chesterton, church, cats, joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I Smell A Rat
If anything, statistics like these underreport the size of America's nonprofit sector, because they often don't include large religious organizations, which have a distinct tax status. [emphasis added]There is little question that the non-profit distinction is overused, and perhaps abused in this nation. Increasingly, it is being used in organizations that might typically be better served by functioning under a profit motive. The designation replaces productivity and other standard means of measuring individual and organizational performance with metrics that result in awful work ethics and an entitlement sense amongst their workers.
The lack of a profit motive, replacing earning with fundraising, particularly for activities and organizations that might need to "earn" their living, also tends to grossly politicize the organization. Catering to donors becomes more important than "product" and if donors have political desires, those desires tend to get served. Thus we see organzations that originally started with good motives and agendas become radical and even non-sensical.
So why am I concerned? Well, politics being what they are, I know that if conservatives begin to try and bring this sector under some semblance of control, the left will respond by trying to include religion into the mix. Many of these non-profit organiations are the functional equivalent of the church in the mind of the left-leaning. They will fail to see the distinctions that we conservatives would wish to make. We can ill-afford in this nation to further regulate religious activity. The genuine and real barrier between church and state has already been sufficiently eroded by efforts to erect false and misleading barriers. A real functional breach in the genuine barrier could be deadly to both religion and the state.
I think that the conservative concerns here are well-founded, but the timing is awful. With the Democrats in charge congressionally, it is simply the wrong time to bring this up. This issue should be attacked only when we have very firm control and can be assured that whatever action is taken will be action that can be properly limited to secular non-profit activity.
Related Tags: non-profits, religion, tax law, regulation, church and state
That he's mad, 'tis true, 'tis true 'tis Linked
IN the great tradition of Victor Borge and Peter Schickile - classical music I can enjoy
And so the sequel is inspired.
“Where does the butt end and the anus begin?” True question, asked in a courtroom - great moments in legal history! Speaking of which - when do I get to start suing people for bringing stupid, ignorant and self-indulgent lawsuits? At least common sense prevails once and a while.
I shouldn;t laugh, but this really is funny.
Oh come on, old news. Why shootfire, back home we had skeeters big enough to...
It all started with someone paying someone else to prove the obvious.
Ahhh, memories. If you have never experienced a cicada swarm, well, you've missed out on a month of sleepless nights (They're really loud) and really ugly, but otherwise harmless, bugs.
OK fine, next time they can use the critics instead of the mice. In yet another story of misplaced priorites, I guess we have to suffer terrorism (you kow large building collapsing, thousands of people dying) for the sake of a desert cat.
Why didn't I think of that?
See honey! - I'm not the only one.
Related Tags: classical music, litigation, bad priorities, joke, humor, sarcasm, wisecrack
Monday, May 21, 2007
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"Those words rang through my head when I visited the Alamo about a month ago where all the defenders died, buying time for Sam Houston to raise an amry with which Texas independence was one.
At the time I expressed disappointment in the interpretive materials. The new trend makes it appear that the seige and battle was a wasted effort and vain.
One must wonder if mere historical accuracy is the driving force behind the reinterpretation. There have been few new facts or writing found in decades, it is really all about interpretation. Why the efforts to make men that fought and died so valiantly look such? This question is particularly important in light of the current efforts to cast the military efforts in Iraq in a similar light.
Could the answer lie in the decreasing presence of faith in our public life? Without faith, without Christ, does not the preservation of life become the paramount value? Is it not faith and the promise of more than I have here, now, that renders some things WORTH dying for?
Consider the two verses that follow the one quoted above
1 Cor 15:56-57 - The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.I read Imperial Grunts a while back. In it, Kaplan discusses the tremendous levels of religiousity in the military. Seems almost a necessity to military service, for only faith in God makes death other than the ultimate loss.
No doubt, some will agree and say that is a reason to do away with religion. I have precisely the opposite reaction. If there is nothing worth dying for then there is nothing worth living for either.
Related Tags: death, religion, military, service, heroism, gallantry
By The Pricking Of My Links
Is this even democratic?
Would that be frogs or people?
Twenty years ago my father, the lawyer, told me this would be my ticket to countless riches. Sadly, I found I has a conscience and therefore could not attend law school.
Jesus is likely weeping again.
Oh get over it. Personally, I prefer my chocolate with meat.
Political correctness rum completely amok.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrck, sarcasm
Sunday, May 20, 2007
This Was The Unkindest Link Of All
Alright, now I'm ticked. Imagine missing something this fun.
This is cute, until you have had to deal with it.
Spending money not to make any more.
Mike Tyson has moved to Ireland. Apparently he fits right in.
Breakfast at stately Wayne Manor.
Well, I do hear they are kind of "windy." (I should win a prize for a pun and a fart reference in one sentence - don't you think?)
The oddest thing about this page is that it is apparently advertising for computer consulting services. That may be the greatest single non-sequiter in existence.
Related Tags: joke, humor, wisecrack, sarcasm
Sermons and Lessons
Horace Bushnell was born at Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1802. Graduated at Yale 1827. In 1833 he became pastor of the North Congregational Church, Hartford, Conn., resigned in 1859 and died in 1876. He wrote many theological works. Among them “Christian Nurture” (1847), a book now looked upon as of classical authority. Considerable discussion among Calvinists was aroused by his “Nature and the Supernatural,” and his “The Vicarious Sacrifice” (1865) as being out of accord with the accepted creeds of the Congregational churches. He lacked the sympathy and dramatic instinct necessary to great oratorical achievement, but his sermons prove by their profound suggestiveness that he was a man of keen spiritual insight, and preached with force and impressiveness. His influence upon the ministers of America in modifying theology and remolding the general type of preaching is fairly comparable with that of Robertson.
Then went in also that other disciple - John 20:8.
In this slight touch or turn of history, is opened to us, if we scan closely, one of the most serious and fruitful chapters of Christian doctrine. Thus it is that men are ever touching unconsciously the springs of motion in each other; thus it is that one man, without thought or intention, or even a consciousness of the fact, is ever leading some other after him. Little does Peter think, as he comes up where his doubting brother is looking into the sepulcher, and goes straight in, after his peculiar manner, that he is drawing in his brother apostle after him. As little does John think, when he loses his misgivings, and goes into the sepulcher after Peter, that he is following his brother. And just so, unaware to himself, is every man, the whole race through, laying hold of his fellow-man, to lead him where otherwise he would not go. We overrun the boundaries of our personality - we flow together. A Peter leads a John, a John goes after Peter, both of them unconscious of any influence exerted or received. And thus our life and conduct are ever propagating themselves, by a law of social contagion, throughout the circles and times in which we live.
There are, then, you will perceive, two sorts of influence belonging to man; that which is active or voluntary, and that which is unconscious - that which we exert purposely or in the endeavor to sway another, as by teaching, by argument, by persuasion, by threatenings, by offers and promises, and that which flows out from us, unaware to ourselves, the same which Peter had over John when he led him into the sepulcher. The importance of our efforts to do good, that is of our voluntary influence, and the sacred obligation we are under to exert ourselves in this way, are often and seriously insisted on. It is thus that Christianity has become, in the present age, a principle of so much greater activity than it has been for many centuries before; and we fervently hope that it will yet become far more active than it now is, nor cease to multiply its industry, till it is seen by all mankind to embody the beneficence and the living energy of Christ Himself.
But there needs to be reproduced, at the same time, and partly for this object, a more thorough appreciation of the relative importance of that kind of influence or beneficence which is insensibly exerted. The tremendous weight and efficacy of this, compared with the other, and the sacred responsibility laid upon us in regard to this, are felt in no such degree or proportion as they should be; and the consequent loss we suffer in character, as well as that which the Church suffers in beauty and strength, is incalculable. The more stress, too, needs to be laid on this subject of insensible influence, because it is in¬sensible; because it is out of mind, and, when we seek to trace it, beyond a full discovery.
If the doubt occur to any of you, in the announcement of this subject, whether we are properly responsible for an influence which we exert insensibly; we are not, I reply, except so far as this influence flows directly from our character and conduct. And this it does, even much more uniformly than our active influence. In the latter we may fail of our end by a want of wisdom or skill, in which case we are still as meritorious, in God’s sight, as if we succeeded. So, again, we may really succeed, and do great good by our active endeavors, from motives altogether base and hypocritical, in which case we are as evil, in God’s sight, as if we had failed. But the influences we exert unconsciously will almost never disagree with our real character. They are honest influences, following our character, as the shadow follows the sun. And, therefore, we are much more certainly responsible for them, and their effects on the world. They go streaming from us in all directions, though in channels that we do not see, poisoning or healing around the roots of society, and among the hidden wells of character. If good ourselves, they are good; if bad, they are bad. And, since they reflect so exactly our character, it is impossible to doubt our responsibility for their effects on the world. We must answer not only for what we do with a purpose, but for the influence we exert insensibly. To give you any just impressions of the breadth and seriousness of such a reckoning I know to be impossible. No mind can trace it. But it will be something gained if I am able to awaken only a suspicion of the vast extent and power of those influences, which are ever flowing out unbidden upon society, from your life and character.
In the prosecution of my design, let me ask of you, first of all, to expel the common prejudice that there can be nothing of consequence in unconscious influences, because they make no report, and fall on the world unobserved. histories and biographies make little account of the power men exert insensibly over each other. They tell how men have led armies, established empires, enacted laws, gained causes, sung, reasoned, and taught - always occupied in setting forth what they do with a purpose. But what they do without purpose, the streams of influence that flow out from their persons unbidden on the world, they can not trace or compute, and seldom even mention. So also the public laws make men responsible only for what they do with a positive purpose, and take no account of the mischiefs or benefits that are communicated by their noxious or healthful example. The same is true in the discipline of families, churches, and schools; they make no account of the things we do, except we will them. What we do insensibly passes for nothing, because no human government can trace such influences with sufficient certainty to make their authors responsible.
But you must not conclude that influences of this kind are insignificant, because they are unnoticed and noiseless. How is it in the natural world? Behind the mere show, the outward noise and stir of the world, nature always conceals her hand of control, and the laws by which she rules. Who ever saw with the eye, for example, or heard with the ear, the exertions of that tremendous astronomic force, which every moment holds the compact of the physical universe together? The lightning is, in fact, but a mere firefly spark in comparison; but, because it glares on the clouds, and thunders so terribly in the ear, and rives the tree or the rock where it falls, many will be ready to think that it is a vastly more potent agent than gravity.
The Bible calls the good man’s life a light, and it is the nature of light to flow out spontaneously in all directions, and fill the world unconsciously with its beams. So the Chris¬tian shines, it would say, not so much because he will, as because he is a luminous object. Not that the active influence of Christians is made of no account in the figure, but only that this symbol of light has its propriety in the fact that their unconscious influence is the chief influence, and has the precedence in its power over the world. And yet, there are many who will be ready to think that light is a very tame and feeble instrument, because it is noiseless. An earthquake, for example, is to them a much more vigorous and effective agency. Hear how it comes thundering through solid foundations of nature. It rocks a whole continent. The noblest works of man - cities, monuments, and temples - are in a moment leveled to the ground, or swallowed down the opening gulfs of fire. Little do they think that the light of every morning, the soft, and genial, and silent light, is an agent many times more powerful. But let the light of the morning cease and return no m9re, let the hour of morning come, and bring with it no dawn; the outcries of a horror-stricken world fill the air, and make, as it were, the darkness audible. The beasts go wild and frantic at the loss of the sun. The vegetable growths turn pale and die. A chill creeps on, and frosty winds begin to howl across the freezing earth. Colder, and yet colder, is the night. The vital blood, at length, of all creatures, stops congealed. Down goes the frost toward the earth‘s center. The heart of the sea is frozen; nay, the earthquakes are themselves frozen in, under their fiery caverns. The very globe itself, too, and all the fellow planets that have lost their sun, are become mere balls of ice, swinging silent in the darkness. Such is the light, which revisits us in the silence of the morning. It makes no shock or scar. It would not wake an infant in his cradle. And yet it perpetually new creates the world, rescuing it each morning, as a prey, from night and chaos. So the Christian is a light, even “the light of the world,” and we must not think that, because he shines insensibly or silently, as a mere luminous object, he is therefore powerless. The greatest powers are ever those which lie back of the little stirs and commotion of nature; and I verily believe that the insensible influences of good men are much more potent than what I have called their voluntary, or active, as the great silent powers of nature are of greater consequence than her little disturbances and tumults. The law of human influences is deeper than many suspect, and they lose sight of it altogether. The outward endeavors made by good men or bad to sway others, they call their influence; whereas, it is, in fact, but a fraction, and, in most cases, but a very small fraction, of the good or evil that flows out of their lives. Nay, I will even go further. How many persons do you meet, the insensible influence of whose manners and character is so decided as often to thwart their voluntary influence; so that, whatever they attempt to, do, in the way of controlling others, they are sure to carry the exact opposite of what they intend! And it will generally be found that, where men undertake by argument or persuasion to exert a power, in the face of qualities that make them odious or detestable, or only not entitled to respect, their insensible influence will be too strong for them. The total effect of the life is then of a kind directly opposite to the voluntary endeavor, which, of course, does not add so much as a fraction to it.
I call your attention, next, to the twofold powers of effect and expression by which man connects with his fellow man. If we distinguish man as a creature of language, and thus qualified to communicate himself to others, there are in him two sets or kinds of language, one which is voluntary in the use, and one that is involuntary; that of speech in the literal sense, and that expression of the eye, the face, the look, the gait, the motion, the tone of cadence, which is sometimes called the natural language of the sentiments. This natural language, too, is greatly enlarged by the conduct of life, that which, in business and society, reveals the principles and spirit of men. Speech, or voluntary language, is a door to the soul, that we may open or shut at will; the other is a door that stands open evermore, and reveals to others constantly, and often very clearly, the tempers, tastes, and motives of their hearts. Within, as we may represent, is character, charging the common reservoir of influence, and through these twofold gates of the soul pouring itself out on the world. Out of one it flows at choice, and whensoever we purpose to do good or evil to men. Out of the other it flows each moment, as light from the sun, and propagates itself in all beholders.
Then if we go to others, that is, to the subjects of influence, we find every man endowed with two inlets of impression; the ear and the understanding for the reception of speech, and the sympathetic powers, the sensibilities or affections, for tinder to those sparks of emotion revealed by looks, tones, manners and general conduct. And these sympathetic powers, though not immediately rational, are yet inlets, open on all sides, to the understanding and character. They have a certain wonderful capacity to receive impressions, and catch the meaning of signs, and propagate in us whatsoever falls into their passive molds from others. The impressions they receive do not come through verbal propositions, and are never received into verbal propositions, it may be, in the mind, and therefore many think nothing of them. But precisely on this account are they the more powerful, because it is as if one heart were thus going directly into another, and carrying in its feelings with it. Beholding, as in a glass, the feelings of our neighbor, we are changed into the same image, by the assimilating power of sensibility and fellow-feeling. Many have gone so far, and not without show, at least, of reason, as to maintain that the look or expression, and even the very features of children, are often changed by exclusive intercourse with nurses and attendants. Furthermore, if we carefully consider, we shall find it scarcely possible to doubt, that simply to look on bad and malignant faces, or those whose expressions have become infected by vice, to be with them and become familiarized to them, is enough permanently to affect the character of persons of mature age. I do not say that it must of necessity subvert their character, for the evil looked upon may never be loved or welcomed in practice; but it is something to have these bad images in the soul, giving out their ex¬pressions there, and diffusing their odor among the thoughts, as long as we live. How dangerous a thing is it, for example, for a man to become accustomed to sights of cruelty? What man, valuing the honor of his soul, would not shrink from yielding himself to such an influence? No more is it a thing of indifference to become accustomed to look on the manners, and receive the bad expression of any kind of sin.
The door of involuntary communication, I have said, is always open. Of course we are communicating ourselves in this way to others at every moment of our intercourse or presence with them. But how very seldom, in comparison, do we undertake by means of speech to influence others! Even the best Christian, one who most improves his opportunities to do good, attempts but seldom to sway another by voluntary influence, whereas he is all the while shining as a luminous object unawares, and communicating of his heart to the world.
But there is yet another view of this double line of communication which man has with his fellow-men, which is more general, and displays the import of the truth yet more convincingly. It is by one of these modes of communication that we are constituted mem¬bers of voluntary society, and by the other, parts of a general mass, or members of involuntary society. You are all, in a certain view, individuals, and separate as persons from each other; you are also, in a certain other view, parts of a common body, as truly as the parts of a stone. Thus if you ask how it is that you and all men came without your consent to exist in society, to be within its power, to be under its laws, the answer is, that while you are a man, you are also a fractional element of a larger and more comprehensive being, called society - be it the family, the church, the state. In a certain department of your nature, it is open; its sympathies and feelings are open. On this open side you will adhere together, as parts of a larger nature, in which there is a common circulation of want, impulse, and law. Being thus made common to each other voluntarily, you become one mass, one consolidated social body, animated by one life. And observe how far this involuntary communication and sympathy between the members of a state or a family is sovereign over their character. It always results in what we call the national or family spirit; for there is a spirit peculiar to every state and family in the world. Sometimes, too, this national or family spirit takes a religious or an irreligious character, and appears almost to absorb the religious self-government of individuals. What was the national spirit of France, for example, at a certain time, but a spirit of infidelity? What is the religious spirit of Spain at this moment, but a spirit of bigotry, quite as wide of Christianity and destructive of character as the spirit of falsehood? What is the family spirit in many a house, but the spirit of gain, or pleasure, or appetite, in which everything that is warm, dignified, genial, and good in religion, is visibly absent? Sometimes you will almost fancy that you see the shapes of money in the eyes of children. So it is that we are led on by nations, as it were, to good or bad immortality. Far down in the secret foundations of life and society there lie concealed great laws and channels of influence, which make the race common to each other in all the main departments or divisions of the social mass, laws which often escape our notice altogether, but which are to society as gravity to the general system of God’s works.
But these are general considerations, and more fit, perhaps, to give you a rational conception of the modes of influence and their relative power, than to verify that Conception, or establish its truth. I now proceed to add, therefore, some miscellaneous proofs of a more particular nature.
And I mention, first of all, the instinct of imitation in children. We begin our mortal experience, not with acts grounded in judg¬ment or reason, or with ideas received through language, but by simple imitation, and, under the guidance of this, we lay our foundations. The child looks and listens, and whatsoever tone of feeling or manner of conduct is displayed around him, sinks into his plastic, passive soul, and becomes a mold of his being ever after. The very handling of the nursery is significant, and the petulance, the passion, the gentleness, the tranquility indicated by it, are all reproduced in the child. His soul is a purely receptive nature, and that for a considerable period, without choice or selection. A little further on he begins voluntarily to copy everything he sees. Voice, manner, gait, everything which the eye sees, the mimic instinct delights to act over. And thus we have a whole generation of future men, receiving from us their beginnings, and the deepest impulses of their life and immortality. They watch us every moment, in the family, before the hearth, and at the table; and when we are meaning them no good or evil, when we are conscious of exerting no influence over them, they are drawing from us impressions and molds of habit, which, if wrong, no heavenly discipline can wholly remove; or, if right, no bad associations utterly dissipate. Now it may be doubted, I think, whether, in all the active influence of our lives, we do as much to shape the destiny of our fellow-men as we do in this single article of unconscious influence over children.
Still further on, respect for others takes the place of imitation. We naturally desire the approbation or good opinion of others. You see the strength of this feeling in the article of fashion. How few persons have the nerve to resist a fashion! We have fashions, too, in literature, and in worship, and in moral and religious doctrine, almost equally powerful. How many will violate the best rules of society, because it is the practice of the circle! How many reject Christ because of friends or acquaintance, who have no suspicion of the influence they exert, and will not have, till the last days show them what they have done! Every good man has thus a power in his person, more mighty than his words and arguments, and which others feel when he little suspects it. Every bad man, too, has a fund of poison in his character, which is tainting those around him, when it is not in his thoughts to do them injury. He is read and understood. His sensual tastes and habits, his unbelieving spirit, his suppressed leer at religions, have all a power, and take hold of the heart of others, whether he will have it so or not.
Again, how well understood is it that the most active feelings and impulses of mankind are contagious. How quick enthusiasm of any sort is to kindle, and how rapidly it catches from one to another, till a nation blazes in the flame! In the case of the Crusades you have an example where the personal enthusiasm of one man put all the states of Europe in motion. Fanaticism is almost equally contagious. Fear and superstition always infect the mind of the circle in which they are mani¬fested. The spirit of war generally becomes an epidemic of madness, when once it has got possession of a few minds. The spirit of party is propagated in a similar manner. How any slight operation in the market may spread, like a fire, if successful, till trade runs wild in a general infatuation, is well known. Now, in all these examples, the effect is produced, not by active endeavor to carry influence, but mostly by that insensible propagation which follows, when a flame of any kind is once more kindled.
It is also true, you may ask, that the religious spirit propagates itself or tends to propagate itself in the same way? I see no reason to question that it does. Nor does anything in the doctrine of spiritual influences, when rightly understood, forbid the supposi¬tion. For spiritual influences are never sepa¬rated from the laws of thought in the individual, and the laws of feeling and influence in society. If, too, every disciple is to be an “epistle known and read of all men,” what shall we expect, but that all men will be somehow affected by the reading? Or if he is to be a light in the world, what shall we look for, but that others, seeing his good works, shall glorify God on his account? How often is it seen, too, as a fact of observation, that one or a few good men kindle at length a holy fire the community in which they live, and become the leaven of general reformation! Such men give a more vivid proof in their persons of the reality of religious faith than any words or arguments could yield. They are active; they endeavor, of course, to exert a good voluntary influence; but still their chief power lies in their holiness and the sense they produce in others of their close relation to God.
It now remains to exhibit the very important fact, that where the direct or active influence of men is supposed to be great, even this is due, in a principal degree, to that insensible influence by which their arguments, reproofs, and persuasions are secretly invigorating. It is not mere words which turn men; it is the heart mounting, uncalled, into the expression of the features; it is the eye illuminated by reason, the look beaming with goodness; it is the tone of the voice, that instrument of the soul, which changes quality with such amazing facility, and gives out in the soft, the tender, the tremulous, the firm, every shade of emotion and character. And so much is there in this, that the moral stature and character of the man that speaks are likely to be well represented in his manner. If he is a stranger, his way will inspire confidence and attract good will. His virtues will be seen, as it were, gathering round him to minister words and forms of thought, and their voices will be heard in the fall of his cadences. And the same is true of bad men, of men who have nothing in their character corresponding to what they attempt to do. If without heart or interest you attempt to move another, the involuntary man tells what you are doing in a hundred ways at once. A hypocrite, endeavoring to exert a good influence, only tries to convey by words what the lying look, and the faithless affectation, or dry exaggeration of his manner perpetually resists. We have it for a fashion to attribute great or even prodigious results to the voluntary efforts and labors of men. Whatever they effect is commonly referred to nothing but the immediate power of what they do. Let us take an example, like that of Paul, and analyze it. Paul was a man of great fervor and enthusiasm. He combined, withal, more of what is lofty and morally commanding in his character, than most of the very distinguished men of the world. Having this for his natural character, and his natural character exalted and made luminous by Christian faith, and the manifest indwelling of God, he had of course an almost superhuman sway over others. Doubtless he was intelligent, strong in argument, eloquent, active, to the utmost of his powers, but still he moved the world more by what he was than by what he did. The grandeur and spiritual splendor of his character were ever adding to his active efforts an element of silent power, which was the real and chief cause of their efficacy. He convinced, subdued, inspired, and led, because of the half divine authority which appeared in his conduct, and his glowing spirit. He fought the good fight, because he kept the faith, and filled his powerful nature with influences drawn from higher worlds.
And here I must conduct you to a yet higher example, even that of the Son of God, the light of the world. Men dislike to be swayed by direct, voluntary influence. They are jealous of such control, and are therefore best approached by conduct and feeling, and the authority of simple worth, which seem to make no purposed onset. If goodness appears, they welcome its celestial smile; if heaven descends to encircle them, they yield to its sweetness; if truth appears in the life, they honor it with a secret homage; if personal majesty and glory appear, they bow with reverence, and acknowledge with shame their own vileness. Now it is on this side of human nature that Christ visits us, preparing just that kind of influence which the spirit of truth may wield with the most persuasive and subduing effect. It is the grandeur of His character which constitutes the chief power of His ministry, not His miracles or teachings apart from His character. Miracles were useful, at the time, to arrest attention, and His doctrine is useful at all times as the highest revelation of truth possible in speech; but the greatest truth of the gospel, notwithstanding, is Christ Himself - a human body becomes the organ of the divine nature, and reveals, under the conditions of an earthly life, the glory of God! The Scripture writers have much to say, in this connection, of the image of God; and an image, you know, is that which simply represents, not that which acts, or reasons, or persuades. Now it is this image of God which makes the center, the sun itself, of the gospel. The journeyings, teachings, miracles, and sufferings of Christ, all had their use in bringing out this image, or what is the same, in making conspicuous the character and feelings of God, both toward sinners and toward sin. And here is the power of Christ - it is that God’s beauty, love, truth, and justice shines through Him. It is the influence which flows unconsciously and spontaneously out of Christ, as the friend of man, the light of the world, the glory of the Father, made visible. And some have gone so far as to conjecture that God made the human person, originally, with a view to its becoming the organ or vehicle by which He might reveal His communicable attributes to other worlds. Christ, they believe, came to inhabit this organ, that He might execute a purpose so sublime. The human person is constituted, they say, to be a mirror of God; and God, being imaged in that mirror, as in Christ, is held up to the view of this and other worlds. It certainly is to the view of this; and if the Divine nature can use the organ so effectively to express itself unto us, if it can bring itself, through the looks, tones, motions, and conduct of a human person, more close to our sympathies than by any other means, how can we think that an organ so communicative, inhabited by us, is not always breathing our spirit and transferring our image insensibly to others?
I have protracted the argument on this subject beyond what I could have wished, but I can not dismiss it without suggesting a few thoughts necessary to its complete practical effect.
One very obvious and serious inference from it, and the first which I will name, is, that it is impossible to live in this world and escape responsibility. It is not that they alone, as you have seen, who are trying purposely to convert or corrupt others, who exert an influence; you can not live without exerting influence. The doors of your soul are open on others, and theirs on you. You inhabit a house which is well-nigh transparent; and what you are within, you are ever showing yourself to be without, by signs that have no ambiguous expression. If you had the seeds of a pestilence in your body, you would not have a more active contagion than you have in your tempers, tastes, and principles. Simply to be in this world, whatever you are, is to exert an influence - an influence, too, com¬pared with which mere language and persuasion are feeble. You say that you mean well; at least, you think you mean to injure no one. Do you injure no one? Is your example harmless? Is it ever on the side of God and duty? You can not reasonably doubt that others are continually receiving impressions from your character. As little you can doubt that you must answer for these impressions. If the influence you exert is unconsciously exerted, then it is only the most sincere, the truest expression of your character. And for what can you be held responsible, if not for this? Do not deceive yourselves in the thought that you are at least doing no injury, and are, therefore, living without responsibility; first, make it sure that you are not every hour infusing moral death insensibly into your children, wives, husbands, friends, and acquaintances. By a mere look or glance, not unlikely, you are conveying the influence that shall turn the scale of some one‘s immortality. Dismiss, therefore, the thought that you are living without responsibility; that is impossible. Better is it frankly to admit the truth; and if you will risk the influence of a character unsanctified by duty and religion, prepare to meet your reckoning manfully, and receive the just recompense of reward.
The true philosophy or method of doing good is also here explained. It is, first of all and principally, to be good - to have a character that will of itself communicate good. There must and will be active effort where there is goodness of principle; but the latter we should hold to be the principal thing, the root and life of all. Whether it is a mistake more sad or more ridiculous, to make mere stir synonymous with doing good, we need not inquire; enough, to be sure that one who has taken up such a notion of doing good, is for that reason a nuisance to the Church. The Christian is called a light, not lightning. In order to act with effect on others, he must walk in the Spirit, and thus become the image of goodness; he must be so akin to God, and so filled with His dispositions, that he shall seem to surround himself with a hallowed atmosphere. It is folly to endeavor to make ourselves shine before we are luminous. If the sun without his beams should talk to the planets, and argue with them till the final day, it would not make them shine; there must be light in the sun itself; and then they will shine, of course. And this, my brethren, is what God intends for you all. It is the great idea of His gospel, and the work of His spirit, to make you lights in the world. His greatest joy is to give you character, to beautify your example, to exalt your principles, and make you each the depository of His own almighty grace. But in order to do this, something is necessary on your part - a full surrender of your mind to duty and to God, and a perpetual desire of this spiritual intimacy; having this, having a participation thus of the goodness of God, you will as naturally com¬municate good as the sun communicates hi~ beams.
Our doctrine of unconscious and undesigning influence shows how it is, also, that the preaching of Christ is often unfruitful, and especially in times of spiritual coldness.. It is not because truth ceases to be truth, nor, of necessity, because it is preached in a less vivid manner, but because there are so many influences preaching against the preacher. He is one, the people are many; his attempt to convince and persuade is a voluntary influence; their lives, on the other hand, and especially the lives of those who profess what is better, are so many unconscious influences ever streaming forth upon the people, and back and forth between each other. He preaches the truth, and they, with one consent, are preaching the truth down; and how can he prevail against so many, and by a kind of influence so unequal? When the people of God are glowing with spiritual devotion to Him, and love to men, the case is different; then they are all preaching with the preacher, and making an atmosphere of warmth for his words to fall in; great is the company of them that publish the truth, and proportionally great its power. Shall I say more? Have you not already felt, my brethren, the application to which I would bring you? We do not exonerate ourselves; we do not claim to be nearer to God or holier than you; but, ah! you know how easy it is to make a winter about us, or how cold it feels! Our endeavor is to preach the truth of Christ and His cross as clearly and as forcefully as we can. Sometimes it has a visible effect, and we are filled with joy; sometimes it has no effect, and then we struggle on, as we must, but under great oppression. Have we none among you that preach against us in your lives? If we show you the light of God’s truth, does it never fall on banks of ice; which if the light shows through, the crystal masses are yet as cold as before? We do not accuse you; that we leave to God, and to those who may rise up in the last day to testify against you. If they shall come out of your own families; if they are the children that wear your names, the husband or wife of your affections; if they declare that you, by your example, kept them away from Christ‘s truth and mercy, we may have accusations to meet of our own, and we leave you to acquit yourselves as best you may. I only warn you, here, of the guilt which our Lord Jesus Christ will impute to them that hinder His gospel.
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