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pruning-hook are potential weapons of victory, and in the simple rustic a hero. What we now wish to note is the marvellous power of salvation that dwells in common things and duties.
When we consider the methods by which we are, or may be, defended from temptation, we think chiefly of a mystic armour of light, of a supernatural hedge planted about us, of celestial horses of fire and chariots of fire; and we are apt to forget to what a large extent the grace of God acts through familiar things and relations, and that, duly sanctified, the weapons of moral victory are the commonplace tools already in our hands. Sir Oliver Lodge recently wrote thus: “It may surely without unorthodoxy be held that there are two ways of overcoming sin and sinful tendencies—one the direct way, of concentrating attention on them by brooding and lamentation; the other, the indirect and, as I think, the safer and more efficacious and altogether more profitable way of putting in so many hours' work per day, and of excluding weeds from the garden by energetic cultivation of healthy plants." We may not neglect the sighings of a contrite heart, or ignore the supernatural grace which strengthens penitent men; but we need to remember also the indirect defence and blessing of daily sanctified human duty. Do not envy or expect the ordnance of Milton's war in heaven; plowshares supply enchanted blades, pruning-hooks, ethereal spears, and the magic panoply in which the good fight is best waged is the unadorned but consecrated paraphernalia of ordinary human life.
What a source of moral salvation is the home! That
our house is our “castle” is a familiar boast; yet it is far more of a castle than we sometimes think. Home life properly hallowed is a citadel of the soul, a magazine of martial resources against the spiritual war. It is a mainstay of Mansoul amid beleaguering hosts of darkness. Drinking at its pure fountain, we lose our taste for stolen waters. Its simplicity and purity are charms against a garish world. Its exquisite relationships call forth the noblest qualities of the soul. Its unity is strength for good. Its joys and sorrows impart a brightness and tenderness which are a glory to our nature, and upon the glory a defence. Whenever we think of “the whole armour of God," let us remember that the domestic institution is a very considerable and precious piece of it. The home is a royal fortress. The hearthstone a rampart. The fender a brazen wall. Its pots and pans, helmets and greaves of brass. Its decorations, the sheen of polished arrows. Its utilities, bows and slings and coats of mail. “They hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect.” Who can justly estimate the moral efficacy of the home altar, of its round table, of its little library, of its sacred grave! Without war-paint, and with the very least of the pomp and circumstance of glorious war, the weakest amongst us in the consecrated domestic armoury may boast, “I am strong."
What a safeguard is work! The tendency of legitimate business, pursued in the right spirit, is to foster what is best in our heart and life. To a certain extent work is good because it occupies the time and engages the mind. All the world is alive to that terrible peril
of mischief which besets the vacant mind and empty hands. One of the current reviews writing on "The City of Enchantments," proceeds: "In Naples and its enchanting environs, the softness of the climate and the richness of the soil have been the curses of an indolent and superstitious people.
The women do the work; the men loaf about their orange-gardens, lounge over their nets, or sleep away the hours of the sunshine.
It is a melancholy look-out, and the dry rot of inveterate indolence seems inherent in the race.”
Moreover, work is good, not merely because it occupies time, but also as it tends to secure the sanity and health of the soul. It keeps us in touch with reality, and thus excludes the subjectivity and sentimentality which constitute the medium of temptation; it brings with it a sense of obligation and restraint which is always salutary; and in manifold ways occupation is a discipline and tonic to the whole being. The unhealthiest trade is less dangerous than no task at all. Dr. Stiles, an eminent scientist of the United States Agricultural Department, claims to have discovered "the germ of laziness," which he declares is chiefly responsible for the abnormal laziness existing among the poor white people in some of the Southern States. Alas! this malady has spread far beyond the poor whites of the Southern States; its victims abound everywhere, and truly deplorable are its consequences. “The germ of laziness" is one of the very worst of the species; it generates endless mischief, it is at the root of many of the mighty evils which afflict society, and the doctor will indeed prove a benefactor to humanity
if he can discover an anti-toxin for this pestilent microbe.
We are often impressed, when visiting an arsenal or military exhibition, with the display of firearms, swords, lances, and bayonets, of ominous mitrailleuse and mortar, shot and shell; whilst we forget the unrivalled power and virtue of the humble instruments of industry which are in the hands of the million. The scythe, spade, crowbar, axe and hammer, trowel, yardstick, weights and measures, and a thousand other implements of common industry are mighty weapons of a glorious war; for with these tools of toil we rout alien armies of vice and folly. Work is apt to be a rough friend; yet we have no truer friend, nor one more really helpful. Working clothes worthily worn are as heroic as khaki, and the daily victories won in shirt sleeves are not less significant than those of warriors with garments rolled in blood. If we would be safe from the assaults of evil, we must sanctify and improve the common relations, duties, and diversions of life, and we shall forge out of them shield and helmet, sword and breastplate. The ninth verse of this chapter gives a rousing summons: "Prepare war.” The original signifies hallow war, that is, make it holy. Let "Holiness unto the Lord” be written on the bells of the horses, and the pots in the Lord's house be like the bowls before the altar, and we shall be safe from the fear of evil.
THE UNNATURALNESS OF
Moreover, thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return?--JER. viii. 4.
HAT the difficulties of return to a better life
are real and formidable must be frankly owned. In losing
In losing ground spiritually and morally we place ourselves at a great disadvantage; what is easily lost is recovered painfully. Difficulties which arise both within and without are to be reckoned with.
Difficulties arise within the backsliding soul itself which are not easily overcome. As Drummond points out, “The penalty of backsliding is not something vague and arbitrary, but the consequences are already marked within the structure of the soul. The punishment of degeneration is the atrophy of the spiritual nature. It is well known that the recovery of the backslider is one of the hardest problems in spiritual work. To reinvigorate an old organ seems more difficult and hopeless than to develop a new one; and the backslider's terrible lot is to have to retrace with enfeebled feet each step of the way along which he strayed.”