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sorrows, sufferings, fears, and hopes of mankind. Certainly they binder, in a marked degree, the secret habits of humiliation, self-chastisement, and self-affliction, without which no high reach of sanctity is ever attained. How can a man who, without toil, forethought, or faith, lives daily on a full fare, and is warm and well furnished, put himself in the point of sight from which alone the Sermon on the mount or the Passion of our Lord can be fully read? There must be something of antipathy between states that are so remote, if not opposed. It is not only the pampered and luxurious, but the easy and full, who harbor strange desires, excessive anxieties, irregular wishes, foolish cares.
There is something of self-worship, which greatly retards their sanctification, and even hinders their conversion to God. Now, poverty is a very wholesome medicine for all this: sharp, indeed, and rough to the taste, yet full of potent virtues. It is a sort of discipline—the ascetic rule of God's providence. They that are poor are already and unconsciously under a discipline of humility and self-denial. What so chastens the desires of the heart, and restrains them within due bounds and order? what so reduces a man within the limit of his own sphere ? simplicity and abstinence of mind there is in the poor of the world. A hard life, scanty fare, coarse raiment, plain food, a low-roofed dwelling, are all they have, and the continuance of them all they desire. Surely none stand fairer for Christ's kingdom than they. From what unnumbered temptations, day-dreams, hankerings, schemes, speculations, snares, are they altogether free. Their whole life lies in the well-known precinct of a lonely hamlet, where, from birth to the grave, they dwell in familiar daily converse with the very stones, and trees, and brooks, with simple and true thoughts of life and death, and the realities
of our fallen state. How clear and direct is their insight into the world beyond the grave. How little have they to divide their thoughts with God. How soon they release themselves from life. How simply they die.
What are our hurried days and waking nights, but the tyranny of a multitude of thoughts, which are worldly, ambitious, selfish, or needless, empty, and vain? What is it that keeps us perpetually straining, and moiling, and wearing ourselves away, bụt some desire which is not chastened, some thought of the heart which is not dead to this worldly state ? What makes us lament the flight of time, and the changes of the world, but that we are still a part of it, and share its life? What makes us die so hard, but that we leave behind us more treasures than we have laid in heaventhat our hearts are not there, but here? How much of mercy and meaning does this put into all worldly reverses. The loss of fortune is, as it were, a call to perfection; the appointment of a poor lot in life, or of a precarious livelihood, are tokens of His will to make us share in the likeness of His poverty. Let us bless Him for every degree of approach He permits us to make towards His perfect life. Whether we be in the sacred or secular state, let us use the narrowness of worldly fortunes as a means of chastening our desires, subduing our thoughts, strengthening our trust in His care for us, and in making ourselves independent of all things but His truth, His Spirit, the laws of His Church, and the hope of His heavenly kingdom.
DEVOTION POSSIBLE IN THE BUSIEST LIFE.
ST. MARK VI. 30, 31. “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told
Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while; for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat."
THERE is something very cheerless to our minds, in this insight into the life of our Lord. What unceasing toil was His! All day long crowded upon and thronged by the multitude, “ coming and going” early and late : and He without home or shelter, and “no leisure so much as to eat.” His rest was in prayers and watching under a midnight sky; His secret chamber the wilderness. “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while." This was, no doubt, a particular occasion, probably when the Jews were going up to the Passover; and yet such seasons came not seldom in His life.
It would seem, indeed, as if our blessed Lord had in all things assumed the most painful lot of which our humanity is capable. He chose for His portion every thing we can endure. And surely in this there is great consolation, and
DEVOTION IN THE BUSIEST LIFE.
a direct admonition for our guidance. We may take His life, as it is here manifested to us, as an example to those whose lot in this world is labor.
We are apt to think that a busy life is hardly compatible with a life of devotion. And we unconsciously make two rules of holy living; one for those who are busied in the world, and another for those who are free from the necessity of earning their bread. For instance, we tacitly assume that the poor can do no more than live lives of general religious obedience; that habits of devotion, or of minute personal discipline, are too refined and remote from them. So again in the case of men who are engaged in traffic and commerce, or in learned professions, or in the administration of law, or the government of the country; that is, traders, merchants, lawyers, politicians, statesmen, and the like. Whether we are aware of it or no, we are inclined to think that they may take a lower tone in the whole life of religion, and indulge themselves in freer habits, and aim at a less perfect standard of personal devotion. We seem to allow that attendance at daily prayers in the church, frequent communion, reading of holy Scripture in private, habits of religious meditation, and fasting, are next to impossible for men who lead busy and laborious lives. And they are ready enough to catch at what we allow, It is the very plea they put forward for exemption from the higher precepts and rules of a holy life. Sometimes this is done with no regret, but rather with a tone of perfect contentment; sometimes it is used to justify a thousand omissions of religious duty, and to make neglects appear inevitable; and sometimes, though, alas, but seldom, it is a subject of much disquiet, fear, and sadness.
Let us, then, consider this subject in the light which the example of our Lord throws upon it.
We may learn from His life of toil, that there is nothing in a life of perpetual labor to binder our attaining to the highest measure of perfection. There was never any one whose life was fuller of endless employments, or more broken by countless interruptions, than His. This may show us that the most laborious may be the holiest of saints. Indeed, the greatest saints are those who have been most like to their Lord in perpetual labors : as, for instance, the prophets and apostles, the first converters of nations, pastors in all ages, faithful servants of God in all states and conditions of life.
There are, however, two objections which may be made against this example. One is, that He, being sinless, must needs be independent of the means and conditions on which holiness depends in us, and therefore could suffer no obstruction by the multitude of His employments. The other is, that His work was not secular, but sacred; that it is an example in point for the labors of His pastors in the ministry of the Gospel, but not for those whose work and calling lies in the world, in the merchandize, traffic, and turmoil of this earthly life. One answer will be enough for both these objections.
1. It is true that He, being sinless, must needs be beyond the power of the worldly hindrances which obstruct a life of devotion in us. But is there not something really unsound in the idea that any thing which is our duty in life can be an obstruction to any other duty? Is it not in effect to say, that two laws of obedience and two obligations of the Divine will can cross each other, and that God can contradict Himself? Surely the truth must be, that whatsoever in our daily life is lawful and right for us to be engaged in, is in itself a part of our obedience to God; a part, that is, of our very religion? How long shall we go