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notwithstanding all His kindness, He was not likely to improve their social condition. As soon as they made this discovery, Christ ceased to be a favourite with them. With the usual fickleness of the mob, they suddenly transferred their enthusiasm. “Not this man, but Barabbas,” they shouted. “Now Barabbas,” as the evangelist sarcastically adds, " was a robber.” For once high and low, rich and poor, priest and layman, patrician and plebeian, educated and unlettered, the man of culture and the boor,—for once these were all agreed. They were unanimous in taking away the life of Him who had made it possible, by His teaching and example, for all future lives to become noble and sublime. “Enough! high words abate no jot or tittle, of what while
life still lasts will still be true. Heaven's great ones must be slandered by earth's little:
and God makes no ado.” You and I, however, are not likely to suffer death or torture for fidelity to conscience or to reason. Things have so far improved that we shall probably, by such fidelity, meet with sympathy that will be unspeakably precious and helpful. Still, if we are unswervingly noble, if we lift up our voice against fraud and cant, if we choose to be singular and unfashionable rather than false to our convictions, if we always and everywhere prefer right to wrong, truth to error, God to mammon,—we shall certainly, sooner or later, and to a greater or less extent, have to suffer for so doing. We shall lose money, it may be, or forfeit esteem, or terminate old friendships, or injure our prospects. That we do not suffer more, will be due to the sacrifices of the noble men and women who have gone before us, and, above all, to the one prolonged sacrifice of the life and death of Christ. And surely we shall not grudge to offer our own oblation of anguish upon the altars of right and of truth.
The value of manliness, then, does not consist in its conferring any pecuniary or social advantages. He who would be a true man must be willing, if necessary, to dispense with these. Its real worth is twofold. First of all, it entitles us to self-respect; and any evil which the world can inflict is insignificant, when compared with this privilege which it cannot take away. There can be no sweeter experience than the knowledge that we have done our best to be true to ourselves, to walk worthy of the manhood with which we have been endowed. But, secondly,—and this is the point suggested by our text, a point on which, I am sure, Christ would have us lay stress,—the value of manliness consists, not in what we gain by it for ourselves, but in what we give by it to others. “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see if ye can find a man, one that doeth right and seeketh truth; and I will pardon it,”—pardon thousands of human beings who might have been men but were not, for the sake of one who was really a man. Now, since pardon would be immoral, and therefore impossible, without genuine repentance, the divine forgiveness, to which the prophet refers, must imply that the one true man would, by his conscious and unconscious influence, gradually convert the other inhabitants of Jerusalem or their descendants from the error of their ways, and induce them also to be loyal to right and truth.
What ! you say, one man do all that! Yes; if he be a man—why not? We are inclined very much to underrate the power which every human being possesses over the future of his race. There must be some whom each of us can directly influence. Every one of these will, in his turn, exert a similar influence upon several others; and the descendants of all these, to the end of time, will be the better for every effort we have made to be true to the nature with which we have been endowed. “We see human heroism,” says George Eliot,“ broken into units, and we say this unit did little—might as well not have been; but in this way we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be lightly parted with.” The number of true men is on the increase, and they are more and more tolerated, not to say respected, by the rest of their fellow-creatures. So it seems but reasonable to look forward to a final victory in the faroff future for right and for truth. And each one of us may contribute something to this glorious consummation. “There needs not a great soul to make a hero," says Carlyle ;“ there needs but a God-created soul, which will be true to its origin.” As surely as every ray of light has a tendency to dissipate darkness, or every grain of salt to prevent corruption, so surely does every good action we perform confer some blessing upon our race. Here there is no such thing as failure. Apparent failure is often the most splendid success. It was, pre-eminently, in the case of Christ; it is so oftentimes, in some measure, in the case of His followers. Martyrdom, since it is the sublimest testimony to the value of right and to the beauty of truth, martyrdom is not defeatit is victory.
To be a man is no easy task, I admit. The constant doing of what is right implies continual self-denial, than which there is nothing in the world more painful. The earnest search after truth implies hard thinking; and I know of nothing that requires a greater effort. It is because true manliness is so difficult of attainment that it is so rarely attained. “Nothing great is easy,” says Plato. “All noble things are rare,” says Spinoza; “all noble things are difficult.” There is this for our consolation. Indifference to right and truth, though they would save us trouble, would assuredly degrade our nature; whereas the pain we may experience in trying to live a manly life is noble and elevating in itself, and will lead to our ultimate perfection. . Let us remember, however, that we shall never succeed without the strength that comes from communion with God.
“O God, our spirits, unassisted,
Must unsuccessful be.
Except by help of Thee ?
From terrors of defeat,
One man the world may meet.