Tuesday, March 29, 2011


If never a sorrow came to us, and never a care
we knew;
If every hope were realized, and every dream
came true;
If only joy were found on earth, and no one
ever sighed,
And never a friend proved false to us, and never
a loved one died,
And never a burden bore us down, soul-sick and
weary, too,
We'd yearn for tests to prove our worth and
tasks for us to do.

Edgar A Guest

Monday, March 21, 2011


"IS he a Christian?"

The question reached my ear as I sat conversing with a friend, and I paused in the sentence I was uttering, to note the answer.

"Oh, yes; he is a Christian," was replied.

"I am rejoiced to hear you say so. I was not aware of it before," said the other.

"Yes; he has passed from death unto life. Last week, in the joy of his new birth, he united himself to the church, and is now in fellowship with the saints."

"What a blessed change!"

"Blessed, indeed. Another soul saved; another added to the great company of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There is joy in heaven on his account."

"Of whom are they speaking?" I asked, turning to my friend.

"Of Fletcher Gray, I believe," was replied.

"Few men stood more in need of Christian graces," said I. "If he is, indeed, numbered with the saints, there is cause for rejoicing."

"By their fruits ye shall know them," responded my friend. "I will believe his claim to the title of Christian, when I see the fruit in good living. If he has truly passed from death unto life, as they say, he will work the works of righteousness. A sweet fountain will not send forth bitter waters."

My friend but expressed my own sentiments in this, and all like cases. I have learned to put small trust in "profession;" to look past the Sunday and prayer-meeting piety of people, and to estimate religious quality by the standard of the Apostle James. There must be genuine love of the neighbor, before there can be a love of God; for neighborly love is the ground in which that higher and purer love takes root. It is all in vain to talk of love as a mere ideal thing. Love is an active principle, and, according to its quality, works. If the love be heavenly, it will show itself in good deeds to the neighbor; but, if infernal, in acts of selfishness that disregard the neighbor.

"I will observe this Mr. Gray," said I, as I walked homeward from the company, "and see whether the report touching him be true. If he is, indeed, a 'Christian,' as they affirm, the Christian graces of meekness and charity will blossom in his life, and make all the air around him fragrant."

Opportunity soon came. Fletcher Gray was a store-keeper, and his life in the world was, consequently, open to the observation of all men. He was likewise a husband and a father. His relations were, therefore, of a character to give, daily, a test of his true quality.

It was only the day after, that I happened to meet Mr. Gray under circumstances favorable to observation. He came into the store of a merchant with whom I was transacting some business, and asked the price of certain goods in the market. I moved aside, and watched him narrowly. There was a marked change in the expression of his countenance and in the tones of his voice. The former had a sober, almost solemn expression; the latter was subdued, even to plaintiveness. But, in a little while, these peculiarities gradually disappeared, and the aforetime Mr. Gray stood there unchanged—unchanged, not only in appearance, but in character. There was nothing of the "yea, yea," and "nay, nay," spirit in his bargain-making, but an eager, wordy effort to gain an advantage in trade. I noticed that, in the face of an asservation that only five per cent. over cost was asked for a certain article, he still endeavored to procure it at a lower figure than was named by the seller, and finally crowded him down to the exact cost, knowing as he did, that the merchant had a large stock on hand, and could not well afford to hold it over.

"He's a sharper!" said the merchant, turning towards me as Gray left the store.

"He's a Christian, they say," was my quiet remark.

"A Christian!"

"Yes; don't you know that he has become religious, and joined the church?"

"You're joking!"

"Not a word of it. Didn't you observe his subdued, meek aspect, when he came in?"

"Why, yes; now that you refer to it, I do remember a certain peculiarity about him. Become pious! Joined the church! Well, I'm sorry!"

"For what?"

"Sorry for the injury he will do to a good cause. The religion that makes a man a better husband, father, man of business, lawyer, doctor, or preacher, I reverence, for it is genuine, as the lives of those who accept it do testify. But your hypocritical pretenders I scorn and execrate."

"It is, perhaps, almost too strong language, this, as applied to Mr. Gray," said I.

"What is a hypocrite?" asked the merchant.

"A man who puts on the semblance of Christian virtues which he does not possess."

"And that is what Mr. Gray does when he assumes to be religious. A true Christian is just. Was he just to me when he crowded me down in the price of my goods, and robbed me of a living profit, in order that he might secure a double gain? I think not. There is not even the live and let live principle in that. No—no, sir. If he has joined the church, my word for it, there is a black sheep in the fold; or, I might say, without abuse of language, a wolf therein disguised in sheep's clothing."

"Give the man time," said I. "Old habits of life are strong, you know. In a little while, I trust that he will see clearer, and regulate his life from perceptions of higher truths."

"I thought his heart was changed," answered the merchant, with some irony in his tones. "That he had been made a new creature."

I did not care to discuss that point with him, and so merely answered,

"The beginnings of spiritual life are as the beginnings of natural life. The babe is born in feebleness, and we must wait through the periods of infancy, childhood and youth, before we can have the strong man ready for the burden and heat of the day, or full-armed for the battle. If Mr. Gray is in the first effort to lead a Christian life, that is something. He will grow wiser and better in time, I hope."

"There is vast room for improvement," said the merchant. "In my eyes he is, at this time, only a hypocritical pretender. I hope, for the sake of the world and the church both, that his new associates will make something better out of him."

I went away, pretty much of the merchant's opinion. My next meeting with Mr. Gray was in the shop of a mechanic to whom he had sold a bill of goods some months previously. He had called to collect a portion of the amount which remained unpaid. The mechanic was not ready for him.

"I am sorry, Mr. Gray," he began, with some hesitation of manner.

"Sorry for what?" sharply interrupted Mr. Gray.

"Sorry that I have not the money to settle your bill. I have been disappointed——"

"I don't want that old story. You promised to be ready for me to-day, didn't you?" And Mr. Gray knit his brows, and looked angry and imperative.

"Yes, I promised. But——"

"Then keep your promise. No man has a right to break his word. Promises are sacred things, and should be kept religiously."

"If my customers had kept their promises to me there would have been no failure in mine to you," answered the poor mechanic.

"It is of no use to plead other men's failings in justification of your own. You said the bill should be settled to-day, and I calculated upon it. Now, of all things in the world, I hate trifling. I shall not call again, sir!"

"If you were to call forty times, and I hadn't the money to settle your account, you would call in vain," said the mechanic, showing considerable disturbance of mind.

"You needn't add insult to wrong." Mr. Gray's countenance reddened, and he looked angry.

"If there is insult in the case it is on your part, not mine," retorted the mechanic, with more feeling. "I am not a digger of gold out of the earth, nor a coiner of money. I must be paid for my work before I can pay the bills I owe. It was not enough that I told you of the failure of my customers to meet their engagements——"

"You've no business to have such customers," broke in Mr. Gray. "No right to take my goods and sell them to men who are not honest enough to pay their bills."

"One of them is your own son," replied the mechanic, goaded beyond endurance. "His bill is equal to half of yours. I have sent for the amount a great many times, but still he puts me off with excuses. I will send it to you next time."

This was thrusting home with a sharp sword, and the vanquished Mr. Gray retreated from the battle-field, bearing a painful wound.

"That wasn't right in me, I know," said the mechanic, as Gray left his shop. "I'm sorry, now, that I said it. But he pressed me too closely. I am but human."

"He is a hard, exacting, money-loving man," was my remark.

"They tell me he has become a Christian," said the mechanic. "Has got religion—been converted. Is that so?"

"It is commonly reported; but I think common report must be in error. St. Paul gives patience, forbearance, long-suffering, meekness, brotherly kindness, and charity as some of the Christian graces. I do not see them in this man. Therefore, common report must be in error."

"I have paid him a good many hundreds of dollars since I opened my shop here," said the mechanic, with the manner of one who felt hurt. "If I am a poor, hard-working man, I try to be honest. Sometimes I get a little behind hand, as I am new, because people I work for don't pay up as they should. It happened twice before when I wasn't just square with Mr. Gray, and he pressed down very hard upon me, and talked just as you heard him to-day. He got his money, every dollar of it; and he will get his money now. I did think, knowing that he had joined the church and made a profession of religion, that he would bear a little patiently with me this time. That, as he had obtained forgiveness, as alleged, of his sins towards heaven, he would be merciful to his fellow-man. Ah, well! These things make us very sceptical about the honesty of men who call themselves religious. My experience with 'professors' has not been very encouraging. As a general thing I find them quite as greedy for gain as other men. We outside people of the world get to be very sharp-sighted. When a man sets himself up to be of better quality than we, and calls himself by a name significant of heavenly virtue, we judge him, naturally, by his own standard, and watch him very closely. If he remains as hard, as selfish, as exacting, and as eager after money as before, we do not put much faith in his profession, and are very apt to class him with hypocrites. His praying, and fine talk about faith, and heavenly love, and being washed from all sin, excite in us contempt rather than respect. We ask for good works, and are never satisfied with anything else. By their fruits ye shall know them."

On the next Sunday I saw Mr. Gray in church. My eyes were on him when he entered. I noticed that all the lines of his face were drawn down, and that the whole aspect and bearing of the man were solemn and devotional. He moved to his place with a slow step, his eyes cast to the floor. On taking his seat, he leaned his head on the pew in front of him, and continued for nearly a minute in prayer. During the services I heard his voice in the singing; and through the sermon, he maintained the most fixed attention. It was communion Sabbath; and he remained, after the congregation was dismissed, to join in the holiest act of worship.

"Can this man be indeed self-deceived?" I asked myself, as I walked homeward. "Can he really believe that heaven is to be gained by pious acts alone? That every Sabbath evening he can pitch his tent a day's march nearer heaven, though all the week he have failed in the commonest offices of neighborly love?"

It so happened, that I had many opportunities for observing Mr. Gray, who, after joining the church, became an active worker in some of the public and prominent charities of the day. He contributed liberally in many cases, and gave a good deal of time to the prosecution of benevolent enterprises, in which men of some position were concerned. But, when I saw him dispute with a poor gardener who had laid the sods in his yard, about fifty cents, take sixpence off of a weary strawberry woman, or chaffer with his boot-black over an extra shilling, I could not think that it was genuine love for his fellow-men that prompted his ostentatious charities.

In no instance did I find any better estimation of him in business circles; for his religion did not chasten the ardor of his selfish love of advantage in trade; nor make him more generous, nor more inclined to help or befriend the weak and the needy. Twice I saw his action in the case of unhappy debtors, who had not been successful in business. In each case, his claim was among the smallest; but he said more unkind things, and was the hardest to satisfy, of any man among the creditors. He assumed dishonest intention at the outset, and made that a plea for the most rigid exaction; covering his own hard selfishness with offensive cant about mercantile honor, Christian integrity, and religious observance of business contracts. He was the only man among all the creditors, who made his church membership a prominent thing—few of them were even church-goers—and the only man who did not readily make concessions to the poor, down-trodden debtors.

"Is he a Christian?" I asked, as I walked home in some depression of spirits, from the last of these meetings. And I could but answer No—for to be a Christian is to be Christ-like.

"As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the divine standard. "Ye must be born again," leaves to us no latitude of interpretation. There must be a death of the old, natural, selfish loves, and a new birth of spiritual affections. As a man feels, so will he act. If the affections that rule his heart be divine affections, he will be a lover of others, and a seeker of their good. He will not be a hard, harsh, exacting man in natural things, but kind, forbearing, thoughtful of others, and yielding. In all his dealings with men, his actions will be governed by the heavenly laws of justice and judgment. He will regard the good of his neighbor equally with his own. It is in the world where Christian graces reveal themselves, if they exist at all. Religion is not a mere Sunday affair, but the regulator of a man's conduct among his fellow-men. Unless it does this, it is a false religion, and he who depends upon it for the enjoyment of heavenly felicities in the next life, will find himself in miserable error. Heaven cannot be earned by mere acts of piety, for heaven is the complement of all divine affections in the human soul; and a man must come into these—must be born into them—while on earth, or he can never find an eternal home among the angels of God. Heaven is not gained by doing, but by living.

"Is He a Christian?" by T. S. Arthur in All's for the Best

Friday, March 18, 2011

Singing of Mercy

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart, and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Has won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

Thy mercy, in Jesus, exempts me from hell;
Its glories I’ll sing, and its wonders I’ll tell;
’Twas Jesus, my Friend, when he hung on the tree,
Who opened the channel of mercy for me.

Without thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin soon would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And he that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I found.

The door of thy mercy stands open all day,
To the poor and the needy, who knock by the way.
No sinner shall ever be empty sent back,
Who comes seeking mercy for Jesus’s sake.

Great Father of mercies, thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

- J. Stocker

Monday, March 14, 2011

A passionate woman's happiness

Mrs. More has some remarks on this subject, which I deem too valuable to be omitted: 'Meekness is imperfect if it is not both active and passive; if it will not enable us to subdue our own passions and resentments, as well as qualify us to bear patiently the passions and resentments of others. A meek spirit will not look out of itself for happiness, because it finds a constant banquet at home; yet by a sort of divine alchemy it will convert all external events to its own profit, and be able to deduce some good, even from the most unpromising: it will extract comfort and satisfaction from the most barren circumstances; it will suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.'

It will not be difficult to distinguish true from artificial meekness. The former is universal and habitual; the latter is local and temporary. Every young female may keep this rule by her, to enable her to form a just judgment of her own temper; if she is not as gentle to her chambermaid as she is to her visitor—she may rest satisfied that the spirit of gentleness is not in her. Who would not be shocked and disappointed to behold a well-bred young lady, soft and engaging as the doves of Venus, displaying a thousand graces and attractions to win the hearts of a large company; and the instant they are gone, to see her look mad as enraged tiger, and all the frightened graces driven from her furious countenance, only because her gown was brought home a quarter of an hour later than she expected, or her ribbon sent half a shade lighter or darker than she ordered?
A very overbearing woman, if she happens also to be a very artful one, will be conscious she has so much to conceal, that the dread of betraying her real temper will make her put on an over-acted softness, which, from its very excess, may be distinguished from the natural by a penetrating eye.

'A passionate woman's happiness is never in her own keeping: it is the sport and the slave of events. It is in the power of her acquaintances, her servants, but chiefly of her enemies—and all her comforts lie at the mercy of others. So far from being willing to learn of Him who was meek and lowly, she considers meekness and lowliness—as a despicable and vulgar baseness. And an imperious woman will so little covet the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, that it is almost the only ornament she will not be solicitous to wear.

from - A Treatise on Temper—its Use and Abuse

Thursday, March 10, 2011


A little bit of hatred can spoil a score of years
And blur the eyes that ought to smile with many needless tears.

A little bit of thoughtlessness and anger for a day
Can rob a home of all its joy and drive delight away.

A little bit of shouting in a sharp and vicious tone
Can leave a sting that will be felt when many years have flown.

And just one hasty moment of ill temper can offend
And leave an inner injury the years may never mend.

It takes no mental fiber to say harsh and bitter things;
It doesn't call for courage to employ a lash that stings.

And cruel words and bitter any fool can think to say,
But the hurt they leave behind them takes years to wipe away.

Just a little bit of hatred robs a home of all delight,
And leaves a winding trail of wrong that time may never right.

For only those are happy and keep their peace of mind,
Who guard themselves from hatred and words that are unkind!

Edgar A Guest

Monday, March 7, 2011

What have We Done Today?

We shall do much in the years to come,
But what have we done today?
We shall give our gold in a princely sum,
But what did we give today?
We shall lift the heart and dry the tear,
We shall plant a hope in the place of fear,
We shall speak the words of love and cheer,
But what did we speak today?

We shall be so kind in the after while,
But have we been today?
We shall bring to each lonely life a smile,
But what have we brought today?
We shall give to truth a grander birth,
And to steadfast faith a deeper worth,
We shall feed the hungering souls of earth,
But whom have we fed today?

We shall reap such joys in the by and by,
But what have we sown today?
We shall build us mansions in the sky,
But what have we built today?
‘Tis sweet in the idle dreams to bask;
But here and now, do we our task?
Yet, this is the thing our souls must ask,
What have we done today?

- Nixon Waterman

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Self-Control quotes

He who controls others may be powerful but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. -- Lao Tsu

He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king. -- John Milton

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs. 16:32

'The tempers and lives of men are books for common people to read—and they will read them, though they should read nothing else!'
- Andrew Fuller quoted in A Treatise on Temper—its Use and Abuse

“Self-control is one of the finest things in any life….

A man has self-control when he sits in his place and has his hands on all the reins of his life. His is kingly when he has complete master of his temper, his speech, his feelings, his appetites; when he can be quiet under injury and wrong; hurt to the quick but showing no sign, patient and still under severe provocation; when he can stand amid temptations and not yield to them….

Not only is self-control strong — it is also beautiful. Anger is not beautiful. Ungoverned temper is not lovely. Rage is demonic. But a spirit calm, strong, and unflustered, amid storms of feeling and all manner of disturbing emotions, is sublime in its beauty. ‘A temper under control, a heart subdued into tenderness and patience, a voice cheerful with hope, and a countenance bright with kindness, are invaluable possessions to any man or woman.’

The beauty of self-control! It is always beautiful, and the lack of it is always a blemish. A lovely face which has won us by its grace instantly loses its charm and winsomeness when in some excitement bad temper breaks out. An angry countenance is disfiguring….It should be practiced not only on great occasions but on the smallest. A hundred times a day it will save us from weakness and fluster and make us strong a quiet. It is the outcome of peace. If the heart is still and quiet with the peace of Christ, the whole life is under heavenly guard. The king is on his throne and there is no misrule anywhere.

How can we get the mastery over ourselves? It is not attained by a mere resolve. We cannot simply assert our self-mastery, and then have it. We cannot put self-control on the throne, by a mere proclamation. It is an achievement which must be won by ourselves, and won by degrees. It is a lesson which must be learned, a long lesson which it takes many days to learn. ...

We need divine help in learning the lesson. Yet we must be diligent in doing our part. God helps those who help themselves. When we strive to be calm and self-controlled he puts his own strength into our heart. ...

But however long it may take us to reach this heavenly achievement we should never be content until we have reached it. This is the sum of all learning and experience. It is the completeness of all spiritual culture. …”

J. R. Miller in The Beauty of Self-control