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109

XXIX

SENTIMENTALTSM

“I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.”—Luke ix. 57.

SURELY that was the speech of a sentimentalist! I think of sentimentalism as ill-formed sentiment. It is like over-new wine that lacks the rich, substantial properties of maturity. It is very thin and very tasteless. Noble sentiment is deep feeling wedded to lofty thinking. When the feeling is separated from the thinking, sentiment degenerates into sentimentalism. It then becomes a very precarious thing. It endureth but for a little while and passes away like a transient shower which has scarcely moistened the ground. And this man, whose impulsive word has suggested this meditation, was a man who put no deep and serious thought into things. He lived in feeling. There was no gravity about his behaviour. He approached 110everything as though he were going to a picnic. His movements were never distinguished by the deep solemn emotions of a man marching as to war, or riding forth to the gloomy home of the tempest.

Now our Lord never allowed anything that seemed like sentimentalism to pass unchallenged. He called it to a halt while He questioned its worth. He tested all light words, all apparently light words, as a tradesman tests suspicious coins upon the counter. Do they ring true, or is their response a dull leaden thing like unto death? This man’s impulse was tested when the Lord sharply turned His eyes away from the light furnishings of a picnic to the heavy desolations of a perilous and lonely road. “And Jesus said, foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”

And the inference of the Saviour’s words is this: “Thy sentiment is sufficient for the quiet meadows. How will it fare on the field of battle? Thou art equipped for ways of comfort. How wilt thou fare in the midst of homelessness? Can thy sentiment endure the chilling midnight, or will it fail when the 111first cold shadow falls upon it?” That was the Master’s test. And I have often wondered if this man still followed Jesus in the way. Was he found in Gethsemane and near the Cross? Or did he turn back and walk no more with Him? And therefore may we not say that the smell of the fire tries every man’s work, every man’s sentiment, of what sort it is.

There was another occasion when one of these easy-speaking men rushed into the presence of the Lord. “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” We know the kind. Their speech is a little over-sweetened with the words like “dear” and “beloved.” These words drip off the tongue with well-oiled fluency. And this man came with a familiar courtesy and applied it to the Lord. How did the Master receive him? “Why callest thou Me good?” Jesus challenged the word. He turned the man back upon his own speech. He made the man think. “What is there in thy word? Is there any reality behind it? Does thy speech contain the blood of thy heart? Or is it mere froth, meaning nothing? Why callest thou Me good?”

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And so our Lord tests our words to-day. Are the words we use in worship the vehicles of truth and vital sentiment? Is the sentiment the rich product of sober thought, the very cream of deep and quiet contemplation? We say, or we sing, “Dear Saviour!” Might He not say of us, “Why callest thou Me dear?” And we frequently address Him as “Master.” Might He not turn and challenge us with the word, “Why callest thou Me Master?” Sometimes we speak to Him as “our dear Redeemer.” “Why callest thou Me Redeemer?” All such words are brought to judgment. Are they true, or are they counterfeit? Do they ring true? “Whatsoever things are true,” let us bring them unto the Lord. Let us not offer unto the Lord words that cost us nothing. Let us avoid all sentimentalism as we would avoid a spiritual fever. Let us carefully mark the difference between fever and fervour, between a diseased heat and a healthy glow which will burn through the longest and most tempestuous day.

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