These Sermons were preached in the regular course of Sunday ministrations ; they have no special occasion or reference, but their publication was requested. It was consented to, partly because such suggestions had been on several other occasions declined. T. W. H.
RUSE & BRAGDON,
DAILY UNION PRESS.
"I SAID, I WILL TAKE HEED TO MY WAYS, THAT I SIN NOT WITH MY TONGUE." [PS. XXXIX, I.
" FOLLOW AFTER CHARITY." [I. COR . XIV, I.
It is a tradition in the Catholic Church of one of their Saints, that in the early years of his conversion, he once asked a monk to teach him a psalm. The monk selected that beginning "I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue." Having learned the first verse, he asked to have it explained, and then said he would not learn any more until he had done what the first verse commanded; then he would learn the rest. He went away and did not return for years, and the monk at last meeting him asked why he did not come and learn the rest of the psalm; he replied that he had not yet done what was contained in the first verse.
I am afraid that most of us are not so scrupulous as this learner was, and perhaps for that reason not in so fair a way to become saints. We find it more convenient to omit the troublesome maxim, and go on to something easier. But whether we ever get to the other verses or not, it is certain that very few of us master this first one.
"If any man offend not in word," says the Apostle James, "the same is a perfect man"—not meaning, I suppose, that this is the only duty, but that it is the one likely to be last done, least
likely to come except as the crown and climax of the, Christian life. The reason of this is, that in our words is presented a finer and more delicate register of our feelings than in anything else, nay, even a tone of voice will at times express what no visible action can ; and so, if even this delicate test reveal no unworthiness, we may safely challenge the application of any other. We all recognize this when we see (as we often may,) two persons joining in the same good action, for the same good motive, and yet accompanying it, the one with words of delicate considerateness, the other with words of coarse roughness, which show instantly to the recipient of the action and to every body else, a thorough difference in level between the characters. I might easily multiply instances.
There are two general ways in which we offend with our tongues—first, in the relation we permit them to bear to others—second, in that we let them bear to ourselves.
The chapter of Paul on charity is equalled by few in his writings for clearness and practicalness. It has been objected that the English word "charity" does not quite cover his meaning; but his meaning at least includes all we mean by charity in our thoughts and words concerning each other; and the passage explains itself. Observe how strong and thorough it is; were all Paul's words like this we could not wonder that men have called them infallible. He enumerates all the characteristics we think of as loftiest, only to subordinate them to this one monarch virtue. Though I speak with the eloquence of angels, and have not charity; though I understand all knowledge and have not charity; though I have faith to remove mountains, though I give my goods to the poor and my body to be burned, and have not charity; it profiteth me nothing! Think how momentous the duty summed up in these few words.
And then the practical sketch of the features of the duty.—What a catechism it gives to try ourselves by. " Charity sufereth long and is kind"—aye, it is easy for us to do energetic good actions, but failure, vexation, ingratitude, injustice, can we suffer these long and be kind; "charity envieth not"—do we not envy the talent, the resources, the applause of another, forgetful how
much more we may have than our desert ; "charity vaunteth not herself"—do we not vaunt ourselves, are we ready to go unappreciated, lie low in humility, secure that we shall have justice in the end—are we not rather vexed and provoked till we can vindicate our claim—"we knew this or that as soon as anybody"—"it was we who said that good thing, or had an excellent reason for not saying it!" Charity doth not behave itself unseemly, does not show, as we do, exultation in some trifling success, annoyance at some trifling inferiority. Charity seeketh not her own, but how busy we are to claim all the credit that belongs to us, as if it were of any importance who got the credit ; charity is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil—remember what a black cloud of evil we think into existence every day—gratuitous, unreal evil, nine-tenths of it, very likely, which, could we see from a different point of view, see as the doers of it see, might vanish or change into pardonable error. Doubtless there is evil in the world; alas! too much for us to need to increase it by believing in it where it is only apparent. And so I might go on with the commentary till the end of the chapter, where our apostle tells us how knowledge passes because of our ignorance, and the greatness of our action passes because eternity shows its littleness, but the simple spirit that loves all, is just and generous to all, has faith in all, humble in itself, reverent to others—this never faileth and never is ashamed, but lives on and on triumphant forever.
Thus in many ways we go wrong, and what we say shows that we go wrong. Not taking heed to our ways, we offend with our tongue. We offend in our words about each other.
For, first, we err in forming our judgments of each other. It is the principle of law and court to incline every doubt and construe every point in favor of every person accused of anything, however guilty he seem ; "better" it says, "that ten guilty per-sons should escape than that one innocent person should be condemned." Strange that stern courts, whose painful occupation it is to deal with sins, should be more noble in their professed rule (at least) than the mass of private persons who have no such office or necessity. The law exists only to convict guilt, and yet is milder than we who only volunteer in the painful task.—
Fallible Man ! if ever compelled by practical necessity to form some opinion as to the character of those around, one would think he would at all events, under all conceivable circumstances, stipulate that that judgment should lean on the side of charity. Why should I need to go farther in condemnation than is essential in watching that Truth and Justice suffer no wrong through me ?— If the law risks the acquittal of ten guilty, let me risk that of fifty, rather than condemn one unjustly. Let me hope against hope—when I seem to know the whole let me still make allowance for something that may not have appeared—keep the case open when every body else thinks it settled—do anything but be weakly blind to indisputable facts—anything; to avoid the necessity of judging precipitately by appearances. This would seem to be the rule—but how many act upon it ? alas, let our conscience answer. Where lives the person who is not responsible, if not for the sins of habit and system, at least for those of some unguardea moment, reversing the apostolic maxim and judging, not "righteous judgment," but "according to appearances !"
But again, where such is the case the very least one could expect is, that such judgments should be carefully kept to one's self so long as the smallest loophole of doubt remains. Why are we called on always to pronounce judgment on each other, even if we form judgment—to praise is well and beautiful, but if one does wrong, why not out of his own mouth let him stand or fall ? It sounds at first plausible, the "importance of depriving a bad man of his reputation and power to do harm"—yet after all it is not so important "Do not be so eager," says a wise man, "to set the town right concerning certain individuals, who pass for more than they ought. They themselves are laboring much harder to set the town right than anybody else can do." After the bias of temporary impression has passed, be sure that others will be as ready to pick flaws in the offender as you are. Rebuke him by your silent conduct,—or if it be necessary to proclaim his treachery, do it more in sorrow than in anger. Show that you are unwilling to do it, and gladly admit any possibility of excuse for him. You cannot keep the sin wholly apart front the sinner, I own, but do it so far as you can. Do not, as many
do, proclaim the charge as if it were a precious and private discovery of yours, and every body who is slow to believe it were dishonestly trying to defraud you of your property.
Worse, perhaps, than these more serious liberties which we allow our tongues, are those slight, disregarded ways, the trifling hints and inuendoes, the doubts and sarcasms in which we indulge ourselves. Oh, could we but get a glimpse behind the scenes, and see the consequences which are daily and hourly following from these unheeded things. We think them so slight, "they are only stray words" we say; but stray words fly about like stray bullets and sometimes they wound their prey and sometimes he falls and makes no sign. We have got beyond wearing iron armor now, but most of us have sooner or later to put on an armor of coldness and carelessness, to resist the shots of this kind we meet with even among friends. How many friends should we have if we dropped all those who have ever wounded us? Yet how much nearer and dearer would they be if they had not. The natural texture of the heart is so sensitive that the slightest grain of sand drawn along its surface, leaves an irritating mark. In the society of one who loves me I ought to feel free as air; nay, in that of one higher than myself, a John, a Jesus, I should feel humble, but how happy! for I should feel that the warm mantle of their sweet charity and superior love would fold me round and round, and that every folly and sin would be touched with balsam, not with caustic; their look of sadness or pity would be more reproach to me than any words, and if I were really aspiring I should be sure of justice from them. Theirs would be a patience which would not be compromise, a calmness which would not be indifference, a gentleness as of superior Gods, not of inconsiderate mortals. I should not fear one word of theirs; I should gradually learn to lay aside the armor I had been forced to wear, even against my friends, which was a cumbrous thing though it made me feel safer. The might of love would say to me also, "Go and sin no more"—but satire, sarcasm, cutting words—what are these? not a natural healing process, but a surgical operation that leaves a scar.
I know how hard it is to draw the lines—for instance between
the calm severity which may at times be used and which Jesus used so freely—and the acidity which defeats itself. As hard perhaps is the line between the playful satire that we should be willing to have retaliated upon ourselves, and the real and sharp satire from which everybody shrinks. Perhaps it is difficult to distinguish, perhaps these glide into one another so easily that what began as jest becomes earnest unawares; the foil of our wit losing its button of goodnature, becomes a sword, and the fencing match turns out a duel; yet the greater the difficulty the greater the duty. Certainly the care needs to be all on one side, it is of little importance that we be brilliant or spirited in conversation, the duty is all the other way; yet still it is so pleasant to be "entertaining," and others so love to be entertained, and we go on and on, and "at every breath a reputation dies." The habit of satire perils the reverence and sweetness of the noblest character, love is alienated, life made antagonistic, and old age becomes a bitter and a dreary thing.
This leads me to say that we offend in our words to each other also.
I do not think that any sin I see in myself and others appears so astonishing as the cross, unreasonable, impatient, inconsiderate things that we say hourly in conversation. I do not assert that other sins are less, but perhaps they all seem more explainable. Whatever we do, whether our plan of life be high or low, why can we not be more calm and considerate? Everything would seem to point to this, equally selfishness and disinterestedness. Is there anything in the world worth being vexed or angry about? Does it ever help anybody to be vexed or angry? But I argue in the street with a person who differs from me about some thing important or unimportant—he grows red, begins to gesticulate, declaim, and use more and more personal terms, as if it were a direct fraud upon him that I should think or act as I do. But what is his truth worth to him if it does not make him happy in it, and pitying and charitable towards me who unhappily have it not? If I am right, he has no right to anger; if I am wrong, anger is unworthy of him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why smitest thou me?" I know that different men adopt different principles in the use of what is called "strong lan-
guage;" it is not that I now complain of, but that any man should be thrown from his self-control, and act not from principle but from. excitement. Why should men ever be excited—to what purpose this clear mirror of truth and love in the soul, if we are, at will, to over-cloud it with our weaknesses? "The man that is accustomed to opprobrious words will never be reformed in all the days of his ife." No matter how noble the reformer, how sincere and liberal the worshipper, how kind the friend, all is vitiated and made uncomfortable when the tongue shows the ungoverned spirit. Some seem to think it a duty to lose all command of themselves, when a great truth is attacked, a right action denounced, a friend defamed. They become unworthy of the cause they defend. How nobly opposite is Shakspeare's conception of a hero and a friend. " Give me that man
Who is not Passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, aye, in my heart of hearts."
The higher the claim of any man, the more is to be demanded of him. The best service you can render to any friend, cause, idea, is to show that if you cannot impress its importance upon others, it has impressed calmness and dignity upon you. "If you are the friend of Aristides," said one Greek to another, "how ,can you help being filled with fury at these unjust charges against him?" "Because," he answered, "I am the friend of Aristides."
"But oh!" says some one, "I really cannot help it. Some people have such an unfortunate effect upon me ! 'Tis as if they were flint and I steel, and the sparks will come." But give the steel freedom and consciousness, and for what will it use it but to resist the flint and learn in time to keep its light in at will, as even the little glow-worm and fire-fly can? Where is gone the high faculty of man if he cannot defy these unworthy influences, and be king of himself only? It may need time, labor, temporary flight perhaps, but how low you estimate yourself if you are content not to make the attempt at resistance. But you have unscrupulous wit and superior self-control to cope with perhaps; you are not treated generously; others are looking on ; the temptation is so strong to say just one word, so keen the sting that occurs to apply;—it is said, the victim writhes, the success, seems perfect; only that you have lost, perhaps for evermore,
the habit of self-control, and the influence and superiority that self-control might have given you.
But lastly—oh! the worst of all the excuses—"the relief that such an expression gives." "It is really the best way," people say, "get regularly provoked, speak your mind freely, and get over it !" Dangerous characteristic of every appetite ! the temporary pain of restraining, the temporary relief of indulging it. "The best relief for the thirst that attacks me every morning," says the moderate drinker, "is a glass at eleven o'clock." And so on; the law of every diseased appetite is that indulgence relieves it—but it is also as sure a law that every such indulgence renews the demand for just such relief. The hour of amiability after your fit of passion to-day is a pleasant thing, doubtless ; but what does it promise ? A shorter hour of amiability after a worse fit to-morrow—that is all. It is the old blunder of novel and history, we admit an accomplice to relieve us of guilt ; the wrong act comes in to relieve the wrong emotion; he demands of us a higher and higher bribe every time, and ends by ruining us at last instead of at first.
Oh for a band of men and women, called a "Christian church," or by any other name, who shall make no compromise with these besetting sins, who shall no sooner see them than they are armed against them, and conquering go from strength to strength. There is no fear of too speedy perfection. We may escape all the errors I have described, be immaculate as to what our tongues say to others and of others, and yet, like the Catholic saint, may not have learned the first verse of our Psalm. And so I shall have more to suggest this afternoon.
IF ANY MAN AMONG YOU SEEM TO BE RELIGIOUS AND BRIDLETH NOT HIS TONGUE, THAT MAN'S RELIGION IS VAIN.—JAMES I, XXV.
I closed this morning by saying that our tongues might be immaculate in their relation to other men and women, and yet be very far from not offending. How is this? Simply thus, that if it be a sin to show any impatience, anger, or injustice towards our fellow-men, how great, how terribly great must be the offence of these towards God! I make boldly the assertion that all complaint, all murmur, all fretting of any kind is a deep sin of the tongue against God, and then I ask how many are there who "offend not in word ?"
Strange, that when we live in a world where the prevailing power everywhere is that of good, where the grand working of every law is to evident use and beauty, and all evil is exceptional, if real; where all beings are evidently intended to be happy, and have provided for them in their nature the means of being so; where through all the history of man there has been one steady progress towards good;—strange indeed it is that whenever the working of these vast beneficent laws touches in the minutest particular our immediate comfort, convenience or apparent well-being, we are ready to complain.
Stranger yet, that they who profess to be Christians, and should know that the last and sacredest bequest of their Teacher was Peace—"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you"—should have no more promptness to receive his bequest than that daily, hourly, momently vexations of every size and shape should cluster around them, with their insect-stings, making the thought of Peace a dream.
Strange indeed. We all admit in the abstract that God is good, we recognize his tender mercy everywhere and his Providence everywhere, it is the first lesson we teach our children,—yet when it comes to applying the belief and admitting that just the self same law must hold equally for the smallest details of our affairs, we are forgetful and unreasonable. The vast machine is all in order, the pendulum of the universe beats true, and all goes well;—but that these familiar matters of ours, our goings and comings and housekeeping and trade, and the doings of our children, and the position of our house, and the fitness of the weather to-day for our special purposes—that these go well also, and that there is any Providence in these—this admission is too much for us. At least, if otherwise, our tongues do us great injustice, since they indicate at every hour in the day, our readiness to complain.
Complaint! there is blasphemy in the words. Think! living in such a position that there occurs no experience but we can, forewarned, turn it to account and get joy from it—living in a world where happiness is so spread that even among the most miserable all cling to life, and the suicide of a sane person is a rare thing—where no grief that can occur to us is so depressing as the joys of love, of duty, of nature are elevating,—living, with all this, in a world of whose higher laws we know almost nothing, and where there is room to think that even the darkest things might turn to light if we understood them, since everything we can understand does so; in the midst of all this do we dare, can we dare to complain?"
"But I have not deserved so to suffer" : the one protest against the greatest and the pettiest trial. I am not accustomed, friend, to see in the incidents of life the direct penalty of sin, but
since you suggest it, let me ask—how know you then so accurately that you have not? " Is it then so certain," asks Carlyle in his rough way, "what this is which every man fancies, as his desert; perchance it all comes of thy vanity. Fancy thou deservest to be hanged, as is most likely, and thou wilt feel it happiness to be only shot: fancy thou deservest a hair halter, and it will be a luxury to die in hemp." Perhaps it were well not to inquire too closely into "desert," lest it prove quite enough that matters are no worse with thee.
"But others who deserve no more, have a much easier time." Oh make not these idle excuses. You know neither what others deserve nor what they receive. Your sins seem to you less because they are yours, and your trials greater because they are yours. It is our universal weakness that we say to ourselves, " were my sorrows other than they are, I would bear them better." Who knows but, as Socrates said of old, if all our sufferings were placed in a heap, every man would select his own to take again. We must distrust our own estimate of the grievance, as of the desert. We may all prove like the man in the story who lay on a bed of rose-leaves, and waked and wept because one rose-leaf of them all was folded over. In our highest moments, in view of the vast compensations in every experience, of the magic wonders worked by the spirit of God in us and around us, transforming every darkness into gold and glow—the scales for a moment drop from our eyes and we ask the question whether any conceivable sorrow is more than a folded rose-leaf.
Does this phrase seem to you too strong? Do you dwell on exceptional cases, and claim that your own is one Oh pause here at least, and look at others before your own. Is sorrow a reality? Look then through the history of others, and see how your bitterest trial dwindles to nothingness, in presence of the martyrdoms, persecutions, bereavements, disappointments, privations through which others, sensitive as you, have lived and smiled. Visit houses in this town—such there are, such there were last week, at least—without food or fire. Go in thought over the world at this moment and let its woes force you into silence, if its blessings could not—look down on desolate homes, blighted
hopes, heroism crushed, innocence corrupted, purity brutally defiled—and all the horrors, even in our own land, of slavery, war and disease: if this will not do, call in fancy and imagine what might be, and may be to-morrow, of conceivable suffering—and then tell me if you dare, while another lives on the earth who may suffer more—dare complain?
Saadi, the Persian poet, says, "I never was discontented but once, and that was when I had no shoes, and no money to buy them, but on going forth I met a man without feet, and immediately I became contented." I wish we could learn the lesson.
I have, I know, heard persons admit the truth of all that I have suggested, and yet say that it was no practical comfort or reproof to them. I cannot understand the feeling of such, for I know that these thoughts have often been of the greatest practical value to me. Granting it possible to pardon complaint in a single human being on earth, I must think the pardon limited to those who are prepared deliberately to deny that there lives on earth any one else so miserable as themselves. If there be such an one, let them think of his sorrows and bear their own.
The worst of all complaint occurs when, as is alas too often seen, men reverse their blessings, and convert the sources of joy to those of pain. When I hear persons, as I have, complain of talents, power and wealth, as giving too great re-responsibility [responsibility]; of the love of the dear and beautiful, because that love may be unreturned or bereaved; of culture and taste, because these make common duties repulsive; then I learn, as nothing else can teach me, the disease under which humanity labors, when the very things that should bless us and others through us, become through us only sorrow and complaint. Gifts of mind or position may bring care, but it is a sacred care; love may bring change, but "a thing of beauty is a joy forever;" and the very use of taste and culture is not to weaken but to strengthen us for the coarsest duty. And let not those who have weakly shrunk from thus improving these blessings, so complete the spiritual suicide as to dare to complain!
I know how much of all this complaining is a matter of unguarded words and not of the real character. It is only
thoughtlessness, we say, and not sin. But what is thoughtlessness except a fractional sin, differing only in degree from a whole one? God made us to be natural and spontaneous, but he never made us to be thoughtless. Impatience, vehemence, violent phrases, what are these but sin? They are all profane. Much is said by clergymen and others about the sin of swearing—much that I never precisely understcod. I own that all swearing is utterly repulsive and offensive; but the difficulty is that almost every body swears more or less, even those who preach against it: that is, all, with hardly an exception, allow themselves some sort of expletive to express annoyance, impatience or vehemence.—Now profanity must be something more than a merely conventional offence. There is, I know, special objection to certain words as irreverent or shocking in their meaning, and it is no excuse for these to say what I firmly believe, that these have been introduced by their familiar and irreverent use in preaching and books of theology; but the essential sin of swearing is, to my mind, in the use of the tongue at all to express vehemence or anger. If parents not only pointed out to their children the grossness and blasphemy of certain phrases, but the impropriety of all phrases, except of calmness and dignity, and set the example themselves, we should hear henceforward less to offend the ear among children, yes, and men, yes, and women, than we have to listen to now.
I may perhaps be thought to overrate the importance of this matter of language, but nothing can drive me from the conviction that we have, first, no right to feel impatient and complaining, and second, no right to express it. No right to feel thus, because whatever be the needs of the occasion, faith would make us perfectly calm, and calmness is necessary for doing anything well; no right to express such feeling, because we make all around us uncomfortable, tempt them to do the same, and accustom ourselves to more and more self indulgence. As I said this morning, there is no such folly as to hope to overcome a feeling we know to be evil and dangerous by allowing it free expression. You might as well try to extinguish your fire by increasing the draft. Ah, but though you cannot extinguish it (it will be said ) you can burn it out more quickly; the fuel in a stove does not last long. Alas!
the fuel in these souls of ours is self replenishing, the more it burns, the more it will burn forever. Do not dare to indulge it; shut close the door, turn the damper tight and let the unnatural flame die; you have energy enough to do it, and henceforth your way will be secure. The first step towards conquering a wrong emotion is to conquer the temptation to express it.
"An ancient philosopher came to Queen Arsinoe, and thus discoursed. One day Jupiter was distributing honors and sacrifices to the minor deities, and the God of Sorrow was absent and did not come till the distribution was over. Jupiter, having nothing else left, appointed to him the sacrifice of sad words and tears. And thus, said the philosopher, as all other deities love to receive their appropriate offering, so is it with the God of Sorrow—so long ns you continue your sacrifice of sad words and tears, he will never leave you."
The lesson is good; and it is as true of the other Powers of darkness, Anger, Impatience, and the rest, yield but so far as to serve them in word, and they will never quit you. But boldly declare independence, set up your own standard of absolute sovereignty, refuse compromise, pay no more tribute, put down the usurper, and trust me that sooner or later you can make him stay vanquished for ever. It is no new thing, it has been done over and over again by others—there can be no greater victory gained in this way than has been gained before—no more irritable natures, more sensitive natures, more chaotic natures than have been subdued before now, simply by conscience and will.
Oh that I could impress on your minds the momentous importance this thing has in my own. What a tragedy is it! to see, as we sometimes do, a noble nature, that can stand any force of great temptation, crippled and paralyzed by petty, worrying vexations, like a giant pricked to death by pins! What, shall the calm physician of an insane hospital have power simply by force of will to quiet the excitement of the wildest maniac who is brought before him; and shall we have no power to tranquillize these petty maniacs within us? Because, forsooth, we have a "nervous temperament" or "vexatious people round us," are we to go on thro' life, uncomfortable inmates and friends, making every one within
our reach the sharer of our petty frettings over a doubtful plan for the morrow, or a perplexing game or study, or the creaking of a door, or the more untying of a hard knot? These people who "take life rather hard"—how terribly hard they make life for everybody else!
I do not wish to be unjust. I know that there are many annoyances which seem small and yet are very hard to bear. For instance, it has been asserted that
"There was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently."
But I also know that the only reason we cannot overcome them is, because we do not recognize their importance and aim low enough to hit them. They attack us in gunboats, and we must bring them within range. Once let us acknowledge that such vexations are enemies to our faith and peace, yes, cbristian faith and christian peace; and we can meet them as we do foes of larger dimensions. Simply keep in mind that there is no difference in kind; murder is one sin, a harsh word is another, that is all; theft is one sin, a sigh of discontent is another, that is all ; keep in mind this, and you will effect something. What said Jesus, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment, but I say unto you, that for every idle word God shall bring thee into judgment."
I know this also—that there is one remedy for all trial, one balm for all regret, one defence in all attack, one quiet in all vexation, which men and women have yet little learned to use, but for which they would soon learn untold gratitude : the deep and blessed spell of silence. This is the one final irresistible Power, in all personal experiences. "Speech is silver" says the old German proverb, "but silence is golden." What praise is like the silence that accepts merit as a matter of course from the doer ; what reproof so crushing as the silence which follows a base or foolish speech in society; what pathos so deep as the silence of patient sorrow; what self-defence so entire as to entrench one's self behind silence. There are times when speech is needed, in deep experiences we resort to it; but in the deepest we fall back on silence. Its spell is inexhaustible. We cannot resist it ourselves. There is no such thing as keeping long angry in silence.
We may say the fire burns within, but there is no air to feed it, and it must go out. Others cannot resist it. Speech may rebuke a few, but a silent greatness rebukes everybody; if you are in the wrong you can say nothing, if in the right you need say nothing. Begin to defend yourself and you fall into the temptation to exaggerate and take false ground, and your opponent is stimulated by it, and things go worse and worse. It is written by Matthew that when Jesus was denounced by the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing, and when Pilate said to him, "Hearest thou not how many things they say unto thee," he answered never a word; and it was after this that Pilate sought to rescue him, without hearing his defence: so strong the impression of that sublime silence.
But this, lastly, must not be the silence either of indifference or of compromise, or of pride; but brave, sincere and humble. Nor must obstinacy prolong it; we need at one time a great Action, at another a great word, at another a great Silence. But in our weakness it is often possible to be calmly silent, when we have not power either to speak calmly or to act calmly, and then it is our duty; though a wisdom from above is surely needed to show when this is. To borrow James's image of a bridle, we may use it either to guide this dangerous steed or to stop it wholly when needful; in either case we shall show ourselves able to control it, and so in either case be not wholly of those who "seem to be religious," but "whose religion is vain."