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SERMON XIX.

BY BRETSCHNE1DER.

THE ENDOWMENTS, INFIRMITIES, AND DUTIES OF MAN.

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SERMON XIX.

THE ENDOWMENTS, INFIRMITIES, AND DUTIES OF MAN.

ETERNAL GOD! Creator and Lord! adored by all heavenly spirits, glorified by all people! With delight my soul praises thee, for thou art the first and the last, thou art the supreme good, and to thy creatures thou art love. Every morning telleth the evening, and one day telleth another, how adorable thou art in thy infinite power and love! My heart feels blest in thee, thou most gracious, who hast given life and joy to all from the fulness of thine everlasting inexhaustible might. To thy throne ascends my warm thanksgiving, that thou hast called me forth from the night of non-existence into the light of life, that thou hast given me ability to discern thee and thy glorious temple, the universe, to admire thee and thy works in their grandeur, and to love thee, the source of all life, and to be blessed in this love. O how I thank thee, that thou hast made me man, man after thine own image! Eternal God because I know thee, so will I also 366live in thee, seek my happiness in thee, and expect and intreat the bliss of my existence, both on this side and beyond the grave, from thee. Our requests are known to thee, O Omniscient, before the lips utter them. Thou hast permitted us to pray to thee. We implore thee, therefore, with filial trust. Bless, O fountain of all salvation, bless all our fellow-creatures, from the high throne even to the meanest but! Grant to them all, to feel in its fullest value the happiness of being men, who know, love, and honour thee; grant them to live worthy of their destination, willingly to obey thy sacred laws, and whilst they become ripe for death, to be at the same time ripe for the glory of a better world. But, O my Father, train me up through joy and pain, through prosperity and adversity, through hope and fear, as it may seem good to thy wisdom. Let me but know thy truth and revere it, love thy holy law and obey it, rejoice in thy hope and grow worthy of it. Do thou thyself sanctify my heart, O God, and let my life be a continual exercise in the way of perfection. Let it be without honour in the eyes of the world, so that it be but worthy in thy sight. Let it be wanting in greatness and in fame, so that it be not without profit to my fellow men. I ask not of thee honour nor riches, greatness nor power; but deny me not a share in the happiness of the wise and good. Remove from my heart all intemperate wishes for external advantages and enjoyments, 367which so often do not make us happier, but entice our easily seduced heart from the path of virtue. Thy creature supplicates thee, O Father of life, only for content and serenity, for wisdom and virtue, for tranquillity and peace of mind. Refuse me not these good things, and lead me and all men to the knowledge of thy love, to faith in thy word, to the hope of the quiet mansions of the perfected in thy heavenly kingdom. Whither he, whom thou halt sent to be the guide of our souls into life, Jesus Christ, points out the way; with whose words we further pray, Our Father, &c.

Matthew viii. 5-13.

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a Centurion beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The Centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed: for I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me, &c.

BY what sentiments the philanthropic warrior, recorded by our Gospel, was animated, what moved him to go even to Jesus, and thus urgently to implore aid for his sick servant, he himself expresses with the words, ‘I am a man.’ He felt as a man, 368he knew that the servant, although much beneath him in circumstances, was yet a fellow man, and that he, although having a command over many, was still as dependent on the assistance and love of others as the meanest of those who were under him. O that every one among us resembled this worthy soldier! that the consideration, ‘I am a man,’ might constantly accompany every one in the path of his earthly life! For this thought reminds us of the endowments, the weaknesses, the dependance, and the end of humanity. The consideration, ‘I am a man,’ tells us, 1st That we possess the natural endowments of human nature, that we and all men bear about us the image of the Creator; that we also possess reason, that ornament of the human race, and moral liberty; that noble property of the human soul, and a feeling heart, that source of the higher degrees of human happiness; that we are also endued with qualities, which impart to man his superior dignity; that we and all men have the high calling to become wise, good, and happy. This reflection, felt in a lively manner, will be a powerful encouragement to us, never to forget the Man in ourselves and others in the fortuitous outward relations of life, but to treat with respect, and to cultivate with care, what is human in ourselves and others. When the king, delighting in his crown and the splendour of his throne, the man of rank in his dignity, the mighty man in his power, 369the favoured man in the sense of his outward distinctions, the rich man in his abundance; when these forget the man in themselves, when they know nothing higher, and honour nothing more, than the advantages of their station, their birth, their circumstances, their prosperity; O then may they remember the saying of the good centurion, ‘I am a man;’ then may they feel in these words, that they are not merely kings, lords, magistrates, great, rich, and distinguished in external relations, but also men; that they first were men, and that the being man is the brightest ornament of our race. Then they will acknowledge that the first care of man should be to aspire to bear the name of man with honour, and that this is only done, when the natural endowments of the human race are cultivated in themselves to perfection; then they will acquire strength of mind, that they may not be enticed by the riches, the possessions, the honours, the occupations and advantages of their outward condition, to lead an unworthy life opposed to the destination of man. But when one prides himself on his exterior casual advantages, and does not honour the man in others; when the monarch, instead of being the father and defender of his people, uses his power as an instrument to gratify his passions; when the man of rank, instead of protecting his humbler brethren, treats them with scorn; when the rich man, instead of being a benefactor to his 370poorer fellow-creatures, is severe, unkind, and haughty towards them, and oppresses the indigent in order to indulge his covetousness; then might resound in their ears the words, I am a man! a man like my humble and necessitous brethren, who have the same godlike powers, the same eternal destiny as myself. And should not this reflection prove of the greatest force in urging us to humility, justice, charity and benevolence? Should it not manifest to every one, that we honour ourselves when we respect the endowments of human nature in Others; but that we pro, Pounce sentence against ourselves, when we despise the man in our fellow-creatures? In the same manner let the lowly, the inferior, the weak, the poor man often address to himself the reflection, ‘Thou art a man, and partakest of the natural endowments of man;’ for he will thereby be reminded of his divine destination, and respect himself in his lowliness, so that, if outward honour be wanting, he may not dishonour himself as man. But whoever thinks that it does not degrade him to manifest base propensities, because he lives in a low condition; whoever is not ashamed of deceit and fraud, of stealing and lying, because he has no external honour in civil society; whoever indulges in curses, lasciviousness, drunkenness, rudeness, and in rough behaviour, because he does not belong to the well-educated orders of the state, let him say to himself, 371Thou art a man! thou sharest in the natural endowments of man as well as the highest and mightiest; thou also shouldest become wise, virtuous, and like unto God.

Although thou art not in high honour before the world, yet art thou honoured as man in the sight of God; and thou shouldest not, by a bad life, degrade thyself and lose thy worth as a human being. But this consideration will arm him, who is placed in unfavourable outward circumstances, most surely against that envy and ill-will, with which the mean man so often views the advantages of his superior, the poor the abundance of the rich, and he who has no influence, the power of the mighty. Every one must, indeed, be aware, that these external advantages cannot be common to all, because in that case they would cease to be advantages, and that their existence is altogether unavoidable, because the welfare and order of society absolutely require them. But the thought, ‘I am a man, I enjoy human endowments as well as the highest and most learned,’ affords him a higher degree of satisfaction; for these endowments are the most important, they alone are imperishable, whilst every thing external is subject to change; they alone lay the foundation of our happiness here and in eternity, whilst outward advantages are so frequently an ever-flowing source of trouble and sorrow; they alone accompany us into eternity, whilst death 372strips us of all power, rank, honour, and riches, as of an occasional garment. For it is not the ruler, the high in rank, the superior in station, the learned, the rich, wild is immortal, but the man. And that which will be essential on the other side the grave, is not what place you occupied on earth, but what you were as a min; your eternal destiny will be fixed, not according to the rank, the power, the splendour, or the riches which you here possessed, but according to the wisdom which you gained, the virtue you acquired, and the fidelity with which you performed the duties of your outward condition, be it what it might.

But if the thought, ‘I am a man,’ reminds us of the natural endowments of human nature, it calls our attention, on the other hand, secondly, to the natural infirmities, which we as men bear about with us. Noble and precious, indeed, is reason, the divine light in us, which is able to take a wide survey of the dominion of truth, penetrates deeply into the mysteries of heaven, and the hidden workings of nature, and, what is the most to be admired, views itself in its own light; it has, notwithstanding, certain limits which it cannot pass; its view is not free from delusion and error, it advances but slowly in the knowledge of truth, futurity is for the most part veiled from its sight, and many a mystery in heaven and earth, many an enigma in our inward frame, is not to be unravelled by it. Great and honourable, 373indeed, is the moral power of man, and his ability to execute the Divine commands from unconstrained choice and love; admirable is the greatness of virtue, to which individuals of our race have raised themselves; but still what weakness cleaves to human virtue How frequently the best men err! How often we commit acts which, when accomplished, we ourselves condemn with shame!

Richly and excellently (it cannot be denied) has the Creator endued the human heart with generous feelings; they are not seldom powerfully and wonderfully exhibited, glorious as the morning dawn breaks forth from the dark night; every thing good and fair finds in the human breast a congenial chord of feeling, responding in harmonious unison. But here also weakness is the lot of man. Too often the human heart cherishes contrary feelings, too often it contemplates what is unworthy of it with pleasure, and becomes the seat of ignoble sentiments; too often it is the prey of the moment, and verifies that saying of Scripture, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it4747   Jerem. xvii. 9.?” Never forget then that you are a man; so will you also never forget that human weakness adheres to you. Be not, therefore, so presumptuous as to suppose, that you alone discern the truth, and all others are involved in error. Never persecute those, who, in religious matters, 374on conviction of any kind, are of a different opinion from yourself; urge not on any one your faith and your persuasion with violent measures, and never in any case consider error as a crime, unless it is accompanied by evident wickedness; but let the truth prevail by its own peculiar power, by which it ultimately compels all minds to obey it. And if you find a brother immersed in manifest error, you may, indeed, instruct him, as far as God has qualified you to do so; but to despise him, to hate and persecute him, if your instruction is fruitless, that must not be. For he is a man, and consequently exposed to error, and you also are a man, and you too, therefore, may err. But when you say to yourself, ‘I am a man, and as man not devoid of faults and infirmities,’ you must never presume on your virtue, never justify it as spotless, nor judge with severity the faults of others. Be not, therefore, proud of such virtues as you have, and think not that you possess all virtues, because several belong to you, or that you are free from all faults, because you are free from many. Thou art a man, and weakness is the lot of man. Never, therefore, trifle with sin, esteem not thyself exalted above the possibility of falling; never cease to guard thyself against the seductions of example; of the passions, and of circumstances, and to use the means which religion furnishes for the confirmation of thy virtue; and suffer it, when thy faults and 375imperfections are pointed out, however it may wound thy pride. Be not so presumptuous as to justify thyself before God, who sees through thy heart; remember that thou, as a fallible man, standest in need of the grace of God; humble thyself before him, who alone is holy and perfectly righteous, as the humane soldier humbled himself before the superior virtue of Jesus, when he exclaimed, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof.” But be also mindful that others who err, are men, and that thou too art a man, who judgest them. Forgive offences committed against thee; judge not without mercy and charity those who, in an unfortunate moment, have forgotten themselves, and yielded to passion and temptation, but be kind in thy judgment; for they are men and cannot be without spot, and thou also art a man, thou also requirest indulgence and pardon for thine own faults.

And because imperfection is the portion of man, bring not human goodness and excellence into dishonour by seeking out and exposing the blemishes and defects of distinguished men. For every one may assure himself, that even the most excellent are but men, and have their dark side. Instead, therefore, of searching out their foibles, and strengthening the faulty in their failings by great examples, rather draw into the light their brilliant virtues, in order to encourage others to follow their example.

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The reflection, ‘I am a man,’ should remind us also, thirdly, of our human dependence. We feel ourselves as men dependent on God, dependent on the assistance and love of our fellow-men. Our foot rests on the earth, the earth on the universe, the universe on God, who supports all things with his almighty word. From him proceeds all life, all motion; but on him also all life depends: his will preserves our breath; his divine power pervades all created things, keeps every thing in activity and order, guides every thing to the end for which he made it; “in him we live and move and have our being.” Even in death our soul sinks into his paternal arms, and expects that he will conduct it to his heavenly kingdom. We are, therefore, and continue, dependent on his laws and decree, and in need of his love and assistance. Be thou then ever so high, so mighty, so rich, so prudent, and ingenious, still you are not so high, mighty, nor wise, as not to require the aid of God, nor to be able to change error into truth, wrong into right, vice into virtue, evil into good. However thou mayest resist and wantonly insult God, nature, and the human heart, thou art nevertheless a man, and, therefore, subject to the laws of God, which thou must obey, or perish. But be not on the other hand too disheartened, when men act in defiance of truth and right; they are men, and, therefore, shall be overthrown. Do not despond, if human violence persecutes 377thee, if the future has a threatening aspect, if the course of thy life is mysterious; thou art a man, and thy heavenly Father is not far from thee, with his support and his consolation. Only be careful to render thyself worthy of his help by love, trust, and obedience to his laws, for only then will the feeling of dependence upon God comfort and bless thee, when thou livest in conformity to the will of God. But we are also, as men, in need of human charity and assistance one towards another. For not only the wretched being rivetted to his bed by debility, not only the pauper who is maintained by the affluent, not only the subject, the low and mean man, who enjoys the protection of him that is higher and stronger; but even the happiest, the freest, the most powerful, ever remains dependent on the love and good-will of others.

The rich needs the labour of the necessitous, and the defence of all, if he would not suffer from envy and malice; the exalted personage would not be exalted, unless others stood below him; the mighty would not be mighty, unless he had dependents who obey him; and even the king on his throne would not be king, were there no people; be would not be powerful, safe, and happy, unless the strength, the fidelity, the obedience, and the love of his people upheld and made him prosper. The benevolent warrior, whose intercession for his sick servant is commended by the Gospel, acknowledged this; 378he acknowledged that he would have no authority, unless he had others subject to his orders, and that he could not do without the obedience and love of those who were placed under him. Say then, to thyself, ‘I am a man, and in many ways dependent on the help of others: therefore will I be humane, just, kind, friendly; I will strive to gain the love of others, even the love of my inferiors, and the lowest of my fellow-creatures, and all pride, all severity, all contempt shall depart far from me. I am a man, others therefore have a claim upon my assistance. I will then be ready to serve, willing to help, determined to save. No poor man shall introit me in vain for support, if I can relieve him, no one in difficulty ask in vain for advice, no sufferer implore in vain for consolation, no unfortunate for help. What is in my power I will do, and do with pleasure, for I am a man and therefore bound to love mankind.’

And thus, my brethren, speak to yourselves especially at this time, when so many thousands of our fellow-creatures in our own and in other countries are thrown into the greatest distress by an unusual scarcity. Now is the time to remember, what tie of necessity and mutual help binds rich and poor, high and low, those who command and those who obey; now is the time to shear by our acts, that we have humane feelings, and that we who are more fortunate, have no desire to separate our prosperity from the welfare of our brethren; 379now is the time to shew that we are worthy disciples of him, whose first and last, whose special command was, “Love one another;” of him, who avowed, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another.”

This love will be so much the easier cherished in our heart, if with the reflection, ‘I am a man,’ we also remember, fourthly, that an end common to man awaits us all, that we are beings devoted to death, but designed for immortality. To put forth blossom and to become dust, is the lot of all who are born of the dust. “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return;” that is a law which has been in force from the beginning unto this day, and will continue as long as men shall be born. Could man indeed ever forget that he is mortal? He cannot possibly forget it, for on all sides the spectacle of death surrounds him; but we must not only know that we are destined to death, but also consider this truth well, and allow its full influence over us. It is foolish then to shun the thought of death as a thought of terror, and endeavour entirely to forget it in the noisy traffic and the pleasures of life. For unwelcome as this thought may be to the prosperous, it is nevertheless necessary to make ourselves familiar with it, for we are men and devoted to the grave. And whatever pains the voluptuary may take to smother it by the continual intoxication 380of sensual pleasure and dissipation, still the thought intrudes in the midst of his joys, ‘Thou art a man, therefore thou must die.’ Nothing else then remains for us, but to make ourselves familiar with this thought since we cannot divest ourselves of it; nothing else but so to live, that we may be always prepared to give an account of the use of our days on earth; nothing else, but. to act in conformity to that saying of a pious writer; “So live, as at the hour of death you will wish to have lived.” You are a man, therefore it is your lot to die. Think of this, when husband or wife, children, or friends, are torn from you by death; especially if in the flower of their age. Sorrow certainly becomes human feelings, but in the midst of your grief you must say to yourself, they, whom you lament, were men, they too must be turned into ashes. You knew that they were mortal whom you loved; let it not then surprise you, that they have fulfilled their destiny. Unnumbered millions who lived before us, the greatest and best of men, whose renown will last to the end of time, could not escape death, because they were men; the line of our ancestors, from whose blood we descend, has sunk into dust; even Jesus, the honour and ornament of the human race, submitted to death; and do you expect any other fate? Would you complain that the lot of mortality falls upon yourselves, or on those you love? 381You are men, and must therefore come to the end of all men, and be turned again to earth.

But the same reflection which points to the grave, directs us also beyond the grave. ‘I am a man, and am, therefore, a being destined for immortality. I have, as man, a rational mind which the brute has not; I can be virtuous, I alone on the earth; I have qualities for immortality, which are a property of man alone; I think of the Deity and immortality, of which no other creature has any conception. Thus I possess faculties above every thing with which I am acquainted, which alone are a sure pledge to me, that I shall continue after death. My foot, therefore, treads triumphantly on the graves of former ages, and the words, I am a man, change the lamentation of the dying into a cry of victory. Yes, because I am a man designed for immortality, I cannot live here always, and my spirit must cast off its earthly covering, as the insect emerges from the chrysalis, that with unfettered wing it may soar aloft to a better world. Because I am a man, and shall be born for a new heaven and a new earth, I must depart from this earth.’ And thus for us, who feel that we are men, “death is swallowed up in victory,” and “to die is gain;” thus have we “here no continuing city, because we seek one to come.” Let then the grief of our hearts be silent, when we stand by the remains of 382those we love; let the fountain of tears be dried up at their grave. They were men, and must die from the earth, because they shall live in heaven.

But let this reflection also sanctify our whole earthly existence, that it may accord with the consummation, which awaits us beyond the grave. As we are men, we shall die; let not then our hearts adhere too closely to what is terrestrial, let us not build our happiness upon worldly circumstances; situations and advantages, which are still more transient than life itself. We are men, and called to a higher state of being; let us then live as mortals who shall pass into immortality, mindful of our heavenly calling, that we may be found worthy of the joys of a brighter existence before the Judge of the dead.

Now, Lord and Father of our life! praised be thy exceeding goodness, that thou hast called us into being as men, and blessed us with the hope of immortality. Beautiful is the flower of the field, excellent the beast in his strength and beauty, glorious and wonderful the temple of worlds which thou hast created, a testimony of thy omnipotence, wisdom, and goodness. But more excellent than all thy visible works is man! These are fair and majestic, but they know thee not, as man knows thee. These are not sensible of their existence, but man feels his life and the wonders of thy creation. 383These cannot hope nor believe, but to us thou gayest faith and hope, and a view of immortal life. They never see thy face full of grace and mercy, but I, whom thou halt made man, but “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Amen.

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