« AnteriorContinuar »
by contempt we only make them worse. Byron says of the Corsair,
“ There was a laughing devil in his sneer,
That raised emotions both of hate and fear.” Sneering only excites what is bad in men. If you want to raise or teach them, you must appeal to their better nature; you must treat them with sympathy, and even with respect. And this of course you will never do unless you have formed a lowly estimate of yourself.
Then, again, humility is a means to progress. When we realise how little we know, and not till then, we shall yearn and strive to know more. When we feel how imperfect is our character, and not till then, we shall make earnest efforts after improvement. Our success in life, whether moral or social, our making the best use of our opportunities, temporal and spiritual, will depend very greatly upon our forming a correct estimate of ourselves. Swift truly says, “No man ever made an ill figure who understood his own talents, nor a good one who mistook them.” The humble man, seeing what is within the scope of his present power, does it; and every such achievement paves the way for greater. The proud man, on the contrary, will perhaps make one or two spasmodic endeavours to attain something that is quite beyond his reach, and after he has failed,
will give up all further effort in disgust. Many
Sees it and does it:
Dies ere he knows it.
His hundred's soon hit:
Misses an unit.” Let me, in conclusion, remind you that there is nothing mean—nothing of the Uriah Heepin true humility. A genuine humility will increase our self-respect. We must surely esteem ourselves, when honestly endeavouring to ascertain our merits and defects, more not less, than when we were laying a flattering unction to our souls, which we might have known all along to be false. It is only the humble man who has any right to self-respect. Milton speaks somewhere of a “lowliness majestic.” The profoundest humility is perfectly compatible with the profoundest veneration for one's own God-made nature. Although correct self-valuation involves the recognition of our present littleness, it also includes the realisation of our potential greatness. This latter element is most important,—as important for the building up of a perfect character, as it is for getting on in the world. Unless we take a lowly view of our actual attainments, we shall see no necessity for persevering efforts to get on. Unless we take a lofty view of our possible future, we shall lack the patience and the courage to endure. This is the rationale of Christ's doctrine of humility. He that exalteth himself shall be abased; in other words, he who would make himself out to be already great, is, and will ever be, infinitesimally small. On the contrary, he that humbleth himself—he that thinks little of his present worth—shall by and by be exalted; shall by and by become really great. But this exaltation will be in the eyes of others rather than his own. He will still take a lowly estimate of himself. If you see an ear of corn holding itself very high, you may be sure there is nothing in it; and a similar inference may be drawn in regard to a human head. The more a man knows, the clearer becomes his consciousness of ignorance. The greater his virtues, the more keenly sensible is he of his defects. The nearer he approaches to perfection, the more strongly does he feel that his aspirations can only be fully realised in the great hereafter. Then only may we hope to be like Him, when we see Him as He is.
The Formation of Character.
THE NECESSITY FOR FAITH.1
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect.”—MATTHEW v. 48.
JF we are to obey the injunction of the text, it
is necessary that we have faith in the fact. Faith, in the first instance, seems necessary to a hearty endeavour after goodness. I am bound in common honesty to admit that there have been “men to whom the dignity of manhood and the fellowship of this life, undazzled by the magic of any revelation, unholpen by promises of anything higher or more enduring than the fruition of human love and the fulfilment of human duties, are sufficient to bear the weight of life and death.”
i This subject is discussed more fully in my · Basis of Religion.'
I am bound in common honesty to admit that there are men here and there who, with no conscious faith in God revealed by Christ, are yet living noble, useful, self-denying lives, spending and being spent for others, taking the most enthusiastic interest in all that concerns the wellbeing of their fellow-men, content to work for blessings to be enjoyed by humanity, when they themselves shall have passed (as they think) into non-existence. I marvel at the goodness of these men, but I confess to you frankly that I could not hope to imitate it if I held their creed. And I think I do no injustice to the majority of men when I say, that they would be equally incapable of this irreligious morality. If there be no loving God, the universe is fundamentally and thoroughly irrational and immoral. Just think of it. Just run over its history as sketched for us by nineteenth - century materialists. In the beginning there was an infinite number of dead, inanimate atoms. These, falling through space, came into contact with one another, and by their haphazard concurrence were evolved, first of all a mass of fiery vapour, and then worlds, animals, men, instinct, reason, memory, imagination, will, thought, worship, love. If this were all, we might rest content; we might feel that evolution was only