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many of the congregation have gone to the church around the other corner, which is mainly a cluster of associations, having excellent names, and useful for almost every purpose except building up a manly, rugged, heroic, godlike character. The minister there, they will tell you, preaches delightful sermons. They make you "feel so good." He annihilates pantheism, and his denunciations of materialism are eloquent in the extreme. But his incarnations of materialism are Huxley and Darwin, and to the uncharitable he seems to almost carefully avoid any language which might seem to reflect upon the dollar- and place-worship of some of the occupants of his front pews. Now, I am not here to defend Mr. Huxley or Mr. Darwin. Withstand them to the face wherever they are to be blamed. And for some utterances they are undoubtedly to be blamed, honest souls as they were. But I for one cannot help feeling that there is among the "dwellers in Jerusalem" a materialism of the heart which is indefinitely worse than any intellectual heresy. When you hit at the one heresy strike hard at the other also.
Many will have left your little church of Smyrna. It had to be so. For the divine sifting process, which is natural selection on its highest plane, has not ceased to work. It must and shall still go on; it cannot be otherwise. Has the great principle ceased to be true in modern history that "though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved?"
But do not be discouraged. Preach Christ and a heroic Christianity. Do not be afraid to demand great things of your people. Remember that Ananias
was encouraged to go to Paul because the Lord would show Paul how great things he should suffer for the name of Jesus. This is what appeals to the heroic in every man, and we do not make nearly enough use of it. And the heroic Christ and his heroic Christianity will draw every heroic soul in the community to himself. They may not be very heroic looking. You may be in some hill town in old Massachusetts "Nurse of heroes." Pardon me, I do not intend to be invidious. Heroism is cosmopolitan. One of the pillars of your church may be the schoolteacher of the little red school-house at the fork of the roads, in the yard ornamented with alders, mulleins, and sumachs. She boards around, and is clad in anything but silks and sealskins. But she trains well her band of hardy little fellows, who will later fear the multitude as little as they now mind the Berkshire winds. And from the pittance she receives for training these rebellious urchins into heroic men she is supporting an old mother somewhere, or helping a brother to an education. And your deacon will be some farmer, perhaps uncouth in appearance and rough of dress, and certainly blunt in his scanty speech. He'll not flatter you nor your sermons; and until you've lived with him for years you will not know what a great heart there is in that rugged frame, and what wealth of affection in that silent hand-shake. And there is his wife. She is round and ample, and certainly does not look especially solemn or pious. She is aunt and mother to the whole community, the joy of all the children, nurse of the sick, and comfort of the dying. She is doing the work of ten at home, and of a host in the village.
And your right-hand man is great Onesiphorus from the mill down in the valley, fighting an uphill battle to keep the wolf from the door, while he and his wife deny themselves everything, that their flock of children may have better training for fighting God's battles than they ever enjoyed. I cannot describe these men and women. If you have lived with them, you will need no description, and would resent the inadequacy of mine. If you have never had the good fortune to live with them, it is impossible to make you see them as they are. When you once have thoroughly known them, language will fail you to do them justice, and you will prefer to be silent rather than slander them by inadequate portrayal. They are at first sight not attractive-looking. If you stand outside and look at them from a distance their lives will appear to you very humdrum and prosaic. But remember that for almost thirty years our Lord lived just such a life in Nazareth, making ploughs and yokes; and then, when the younger brothers and sisters were able to care for themselves, snatched three years from supporting a peasant family in Galilee to redeem a world. And who was Peter but a rough, hardy fisherman?
Now a Paul, trained at the feet of Gamaliel, was also needed; and the twelve did not come from the lowest ranks of society. But they were honest, industrious, practical, courageous, hardy, common people. And single-handed they went out to conquer empires. And they succeeded through the power of God in them.
Who knows the possibilities of your little church in the hilltown of Smyrna? These men and women
are the pickets of God's great host. They are scattered up and down our land, fighting alone the great battle, unknown of men and sometimes thinking that they must be forgotten of God. And the picket's lonely post is what tries a man's courage and strength.
Take your example from Paul's epistle. Greet Phebe, the schoolmistress, and Aquila and Priscilla on their rocky farm on the mountain-side, and greet the burden-bearing Onesiphorus. And give them God's greeting and encouragement, for he sends it to them through you. Show them the heroism which there is in their "humdrum" lives; and cheer them in the efforts, of whose grandeur they are all unconscious. Bid them "be strong and of a very good courage." For in the character of these people there is the granite of the eternal hills, and in their hearts should be the sunshine of God. Do not be ashamed of your congregation. Their dimes or dollars may look pitifully small and few on the collector's plate; only God sees the real immensity of the gift in the self-denial which it has cost. Your people will take sides with the cause of right, while it is still unpopular. They have furnished the moral backbone and unswerving integrity of many of your great business houses in this city to-day. From those families will go forth the men whom the good will trust and the evil fear. The power for good proceeding from your church will be like the floods which Ezekiel saw pouring out from beneath the threshold of the Lord's house.
For these common people, whom "God must have loved because he made so many of them," are the true heirs to the future. And wealth and culture, art
and learning, are to burn like torches to light their march. Finally, my young brothers, do not be bitterly disappointed if you are not "popular preachers." Do not let too many people go to sleep under your preaching, even if one young man did go to sleep under one of Paul's sermons. But if now and then someone is angry at what you have said, do not worry too much over it. Preach the truth in love. If Elijah and John the Baptist, and Peter and Paul, were to preach to-day I doubt greatly whether they would be popular preachers. I cannot find that they ever were so. They would probably be peripatetic candidates, until someone supported them as independent evangelists. After their death we would rear them great monuments, and then devote ourselves to railing at Timothy because he was not more like what we imagine Paul was.
Even Socrates found that he must bid farewell to what men count honors, if he would follow after truth. You may have the same experience. You will have to champion many an unpopular cause, and your people will not like it. They will say you lack tact. Now Paul was a man of infinite tact. Witness his sermon on Mars' Hill. But if his letters to the church in Corinth were addressed to most modern churches, they would soon set out in search of a pastor of greater adaptability.
If you play the man, and fight the good fight of faith, I do not see how you can always avoid hitting somebody on the other side. And he will pull you down if he can; and will probably succeed in sometimes making your life very uncomfortable. Remember the teaching of scripture and science, that the up