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should have amassed wealth enough to buy half a nation ? Not in the least. He made himself a mean dirty fellow for that very end. He has paid his health, his conscience, his liberty for it; and will you envy him the bargain ?” Even granting the extreme supposition, which I do not think at all likely to be true,—but granting, for argument's sake, that such a man had more pleasure in his life than you who are striving honestly to do your duty, would you change places with him ? I know you would not. The good seed you have sown, in the shape of these conscientious endeavours, has resulted in the harvest of an honourable character; and that is a possession beyond all price, cheaply purchased, if need be, by a long-protracted agony of pain.
Let us learn, then, to look at our actions, ay, even at our words and thoughts, from this point of view. The safest criterion of their quality is, not what effect will they have in winning for us the smiles of our fellow-men, nor how far will they procure for us pleasure or pain, but what will be their influence upon our character ? If an action tends to make us wiser, stronger, nobler, more sympathetic, more unselfish — in
one word, better than we were before, then (even though it may involve pain and odium) it is pre-eminently right and desirable and good, both for ourselves and for the world, both as regards the present and the future, both for this life and that which is to come. Yes; even for that which is to come. “We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” — nothing except character. That is a man's greatest blessing or greatest curse, as the case may be, in the present state of existence, and it is the only thing which he can take with him into the next. There will be a time when our bodies must mingle with the dust. There will be a time when this earth, which seems so solid and so permanent, will come to an end. But character can never die: it is immortal as God Himself. The things which are seen, on which we lavish so much love, are temporal. Character, which is not seen, and which we too often lamentably neglect, is eternal. They shall perish, but character remaineth; they all shall wax old, as doth a garment, and as a vesture they shall be folded up and set aside, but character will endure as long as eternity shall last. We must take up our life in the next
world where we leave it off in the present. Let us see to it, then, that we do not enter into the great Hereafter with a mean, sordid, despicable character. Let us see to it that our thoughts and words and deeds are such as will tend to the development of a character noble and divine.
The Connection between Self-denial
THE USE OF THE WORLD.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking.”—Matt. xi. 19.
ALL the moral disciplines that the world has 1 seen have used the instrument of selfdenial. But Christ's view of it is in many respects peculiar and unique. My purpose in this sermon is to show that Christian self-sacrifice is not asceticism.
A college friend of mine has told me that when he was about seventeen years of age, he became for a while, owing to the loss of his mother, a prey to morbid melancholy. In this condition it was a maxim with him that everything pleasant ought to be avoided, and he tried
hard to act up to his conviction. At meal-times he would always take what he liked least; and if there were anything on the table he particularly disliked, he would restrict himself entirely to that. He only allowed himself one enjoyment, and that was watching the sunsets, which in his part of the country were often remarkably fine. But the pleasure he derived from this was so great, that he by and by came to the conclusion he ought to give it up. His life was to be in future, he resolved, one of never-ceasing unpleasantness.
Now this idea of the essential badness of pleasure, which had so strong an influence over my friend during his morbid state of mind, has been very commonly held and advocated by the propounders of ethical and religious systems. Diogenes, you remember, and the Cynics he attracted to his tub, discarded all the comforts of life, with the single exception of clothing. The Gymnosophists dispensed with that last relic of civilisation, and looked upon the luxury of raiment as a culpable self-indulgence. Even Plato sometimes supports the doctrine that pain is essentially preferable to pleasure. In the ‘Phædo' he represents human life as the imprisonment of the soul in the body, the soul being punished in this way