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Strong Souls A Sermon   By: (1827-1888)

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First Page:

STRONG SOULS:

A SERMON,

PREACHED IN

RENSHAW STREET CHAPEL, LIVERPOOL,

ON

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1882.

BY

CHARLES BEARD, B.A.

PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION.

LONDON: PRINTED BY C. GREEN AND SON, 178, STRAND.

In Memory of

ELIZABETH RATHBONE,

OF GREENBANK,

AGED 92.

STRONG SOULS.

JOHN x. 10 p. (Revised Version):

"I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly."

Life is a gift of very unequal distribution. I am not speaking merely of length of life, though that is an important element in the case: there may be sad and quiet years which do not count: we have known existences which crept on in one dull round, from petty pleasure to petty pleasure, from monotonous occupation to monotonous occupation, never roused to storm by any noble passion, never thrilled by an electric touch of sympathy. Some lives are complete within narrow limits: in the few years which are all they have, they ripen into perfect sweetness, or expend themselves in such a flash of heroism, as would make subsequent days, were they given, mean and poor by contrast. What shall we say of that nameless engine driver in America, who last week, measuring his own life against six hundred more, rushed through the flames and saved them? Dead of his glorious wounds, who would dare to pity him, or to think his end untimely? Life may be measured by its breadth as well as by its length: by the number of its intellectual points of contact with humanity, by the width of its sympathies, the largeness of its hopes. Still more, there is a quality of intensity in which lives differ: some live more in a week than others in a year: it is not that they are consuming themselves under stress of circumstance or in agony of passion, but that their fibre is stronger, their central flame brighter, their power of endurance larger. This inequality of gift may be a religious difficulty, but it fits in with the whole economy of Nature, who is a Mother at once bountiful and prodigal, and while careful of the type, careless of the individual life; bidding one soul but open unconscious eyes upon the world and close them again, while another moves through the slow changes of ninety years. But it is easier to understand when we remember that a just God asks account only of what He has given. Within the narrowest fate is yet room to round off the perfect sphere. Of the lily that blooms to day and fades to morrow, He demands only that it shall be sweet and beautiful in its season.

Energy is largely, though perhaps not wholly, a physical quality. It comes of a certain superb vitality, a power of unconscious living, well strung nerves, a quickly working brain. I know the wonders which an eager will and a keen conscience can work, with no better instrument than a frail body, always full of languors, always accessible to pain; and I bow before them in glad reverence, as tokens of the spirit's victory over the flesh. But this, though undoubtedly from a moral point of view not inferior, is not the same thing as the easy swing of mind and body which is not only always equal to its work, but finds its keenest delight in strenuous efforts and long drawn toils, which would hopelessly overtax weaker men. And there is an obvious connection between this kind of vitality and that which shows itself in life prolonged far beyond the usual limits. Men and women do not live the longer for sparing themselves, even were long life under such conditions worth having. I admit the wearing power of fretting anxiety, of sorrow that saps the springs of life, of labour pushed to contempt of the physical and moral conditions of existence; but honest work for an honest purpose, the full exercise of all the powers from day to day, the steady strain of faculties that were meant for strain and which rust in disuse, never hurt any one yet. But the temptations of exuberant vitality are all, if not to over strain, yet to a certain hardness, and arrogance, and disregard of eternal law... Continue reading book >>




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