God's Tuning-Forks To Keep The Music Of Life Up To Concert Pitch
"Couldst thou in vision see
Thyself the man God meant;
Thou never more wouldst be
The man thou art—content."
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
One New Year's morning we walked out to a little rise of ground among the hills of southern Kentucky, and watched the sun come up over the eastern slope. First there came a glow of exquisitely soft, pale-green light, such as no artist's canvas ever showed. Gradually it changed into a golden green, and spread out two long slender arms to north and south, as though to gather the world to its warm heart, and always hold it there.
It changed again, and kept changing, but so softly and quietly that we scarcely noticed how the change came, and yet we plainly saw it come. The change was chiefly in the rare colouring, from soft green, to a tinging together of green and yellow-green, and then to gold, each blending into each other, as only hearts that know love can blend. And the reaching arms of light lengthened, and kept lengthening, as though tenderly eager to take in the whole earth and fill it with brightness and warmth.
As the light increased, the central spot on the horizon whence it all came, grew into such a blaze of fiery light that our eyes were bothered quite a bit. The glory was too great for them to gaze fully upon it, and involuntarily we half closed them and turned our faces to one side. And the Damascus traveller's phrase, in the story of another light, came vividly to mind: "When I could not see for the glory of that light." Ambitions that had gripped lost their tenacious clutch upon his heart as the glory of that light flooded his face. Pet plans blurred and faded, and then slipped out of sight; evil passions lost the heat of their flame; and temptations lost their power to attract and sway, as the beauty and splendour of this new glory threw its wondrous light into his eyes and heart.
And a bit of prayer came quickly up from heart to lip that this other light, that in its transforming beauty was so much above the shining of the sunlight, might affect our eyes too, all the new year, and all the years after this one had begun to grow grey.
That burst of dazzling sunlight came to us just over a little hilltop, through two big beeches, and a group of small cedars. We knew that hilltop, for we had been up there more than once. We knew there was a little family burying-place up there, where precious bodies had been tenderly laid away long years before. And carved stones of grey told bits of the life-story of those gone. But the place had fallen into disuse and decay. The stones were leaning over, some this way, and some that, like tottering old men, and some were fallen flat. Small scrubby bushes and underbrush covered the ground. The old fence was badly broken down. Everything seemed to spell out neglect, as though the hands that had once lovingly laid these away, had themselves lost their cunning and life, and in turn had been laid away. The old burying-place was forgot. We knew well that was what the little hilltop looked like in plain prosaic daylight, close to.
But, do you know, all that was changed to our eyes as we looked out over the hill, and through its ragged crown of trees at the blaze of glory beyond. The rising sun idealized the neglected hilltop. It was beautiful, with a real rare beauty, as it stood bathed in the early light of the new year's first morning. All the sharp jaggedness was softened. The halo of the sun was over broken fence and neglected graves. And as we looked we didn't think of the decay, but of the beauty. The decay had passed out of our thought. The beauty swayed us. It seemed prophetic of a new life that would come some day to the hill, and that had already come to the former tenants of those laid-away bodies, and would some glad day come to the bodies themselves, too.
As we turned about to retrace our steps, more of. the idealizing beauty of the light came to view. Just below us a bit lay a little group of negro cabins. "We knew them, too, and what they looked like in full daylight, close up. For an errand had carried us there only the day before. The unkempt yards, the broken-down fences patched up with things not originally in the architect's plan for a fence, the familiar rootings of black swine in unabashed closeness of touch to cabin and children, untidy garments, untrained speech, and narrow prejudices—all combined to make a rather unattractive picture, relieved only by the ever present charm of human life, from which the touch of God's gracious hand is never absent.
That was what we knew was down there. But it wasn't what we saw now under the transforming touch of the early morning light. The scene took on something of the beauty of the light of God that shone upon it. The light that softened the rough exterior of the cabins made us think of the caressing hand of God upon the lives within. We remembered that God was not thinking of crude speech, nor ragged outside, nor narrow prejudices, but of the human lives that under His touch could be so transformed.
A bit later the sky changed. There were clouds, and they played well their part. For clouds are God's reflectors; they catch the light, and spread out its great beauty before our sight. They are meant to brighten and soften, not to darken. This is true of all clouds, those up in the sky, and those in the sky of your life; though so many have never learned how to look at clouds, and so miss so much. Our new year's clouds caught the yellow glory-light, and played the chemist for us changing it to a wondrous rose-colour.
It seemed as if all the native sweet-brier of England, and all the wild roses of our own land had been absorbed into one great flood of rose-colour. And as we watched we thought—yes, we were sure, it was no fancy—there was a fragrance in the air, so fresh and soft and sweet, blowing in our faces; and we knew they were really roses, the roses of life, the flowers of God, up yonder, though unlisted in the cruder botany of our school-books.
Then we came back to the town, to the commonplace round that fills up a part of every day for everybody who is doing his share of the world's work. But somehow the glory of the rising sun cast a mellowing light over the commonplace things. And better yet, the glory of that other Light, behind and brighter than the sun, which lighteth every man, crept gently into our inner spirits, sweetening and refreshing, strengthening and breathing in a great peace. And the commonness of the round, still there, and still common, fell into its secondary place, for the glory of the Lord was shining round about us. The rough outer shell of things was transfigured by the glory of the ideal in our hearts There was standing One in our midst whom we knew, and recognised. And he idealized life for us, while our hands were tugging away at the rough tasks.
God's world is full of things that idealize. The less distinct lights, dawnlight and twilight, starlight and the bewitching moonlight, cast a rare spell over nature. The snow gently covers up earth's rough, unkempt places with its soft clinging white. The green mantle does the same kindly service during the other half of the year. Distance has a peculiar power to close our eyes partly so that only the pleasing outlines are seen. The artist has caught the same fine touch from the hand of God. How a picture idealizes, whether in paint or water-colour, or made by the touch of the sun upon the photographer's chemicals! The halo of the ideal glamours over every poverty-stricken corner, and every crude and coarse surface.
So, too, God has taught the human heart to idealize. For nothing can exceed or equal the power of love to see the ideal, and be gripped and swayed by it. The neighbour sees a freckled-faced, short-nosed boy, but the mother sees only a face of beauty, and out of its eye looks a man, who is going to help shape, and maybe shake the world. The inspector at Ellis Island sees only a couple of bundles being tugged and lugged along by some skirts and a bright-coloured shawl, but the young husband impatiently waiting at the gate, whose hard-earned savings have brought her over, sees the winsome maiden whose face still holds him in thrall.
So the inspiring vision of God comes over all life. The idealizing of the outer world is one of God's ways of teaching us to see the beauty and fineness that lie hidden in the uncouth and rough and commonplace; the victory that waits our grasp within every difficulty. It spells out for us the great simple secret Paul had learned: while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen; for the things that are seen are often coarse and commonplace and are only for a passing hour; but the things that are not seen are full of beauty and power, and last forever.
The God-touched eye sees through fog and smoke to the unseen harbour beyond. It insists on steering steady and straight regardless of the storm overhead, and the rock or snag underneath. There is a victory in hiding in every knotty difficulty. Every trying circumstance contains a song of gladness waiting to be freed by our touch. Each disheartening condition can be made to grow roses.
Every man you meet has the image of God upon his face, though so often blurred and marred. Jesus saw a pure redeemed life in the Sychar outcast, and then released it out into blessed messenger service for Himself in her native town. The Jesus-taught man learns to look quickly through soil and sin to the human life within, waiting the transforming touch of sympathy and help. In one of his books, "Salted with Fire," George MacDonald tells of a young woman who had been led astray. A warm-hearted minister found her one night on his doorstep, and guessing her story, brought her into his home. His little daughter upstairs with her mother asked, "Mamma, who is it Papa has in the library?" And the wise mother quietly replied, "It is an angel, dear, who has lost her way, and Papa is telling her the way back." There are a great many all around us needing the same seeing eye and warm hand, though not fallen as low as she.
Life has a great holy purpose to be gripped and won, or done; it is not for mere money-getting, or pleasure-seeking and -sipping. All life is splendidly worth while because of what can be done. Every new day is marked red for us in the calendar of God, for what He means it to bring to us, and to carry from us to others. Each dawning morning is big and bright with new victory eagerly waiting our winning hand.
Ideals grip us, and key us up to doing our best, and giving our best. This is God's plan. They are as the unseen face of God wooing us up the heights. They grow roses in our skies and roses in our eyes, and the fragrance sweetens the air, and freshens our hearts, even while our feet are plodding the old beaten path.
Ideals are God's tuning-forks to keep the sweet music of life up to concert pitch. Tuning-forks are valuable in music because they are so largely free from the secondary, or partial tones. And they are independent, too, of the ordinary changes of temperature. The tuning-fork needs to be given a sharp blow to bring out the tone. The standard of musical tone commonly known as "concert pitch" is also commonly known among musicians as "high pitch," giving the greatest number of vibrations in a second of time of any of the accepted standards. It is rather suggestive, in this connection, to recall that the standard of the French Academy, known as "French pitch," is also commonly known as "low pitch"; and that "classical pitch" and "philosophical pitch," notwithstanding their attractive names, are lower than the "concert pitch" standard.
We all need spirit tuning-forks, that can be depended upon to give out the true, full, primary tone, when brought into sharp contact with the difficulties of common life; and that will do it regardless of the weather that may chance to prevail, storm and clear alike, gray and blue. And we need forks that are keyed up to God's concert pitch.
It was of unfailing interest in early years, in the old Covenanter Church in Philadelphia, to watch the precentor "raise the tune." He always took out his tuning-fork, gave it a quick blow, held it quietly to his ear for a few moments while the children watched breathlessly, and then started the singing. The congregation always waited until he got the pitch and began the tune. Although he had been leading the singing every Sabbath for many years, he never depended on his skill or experience, but got a fresh start by the fork every time.
The great Master-musician has given every man a tuning-fork, keyed to concert pitch, though so many are not used. The few great simple ideals of true life are within every human heart; though so often (most often?) hidden away, shoved into dark corners, and covered up by the rubbish of life. God's ideals are meant to keep our lives full of sweet harmony; and they will, too, if allowed to. In the inner chamber of the soul can be heard distinctly the clear sound of the true key, an exquisite "sound of gentle stillness," to which all the music of life should be set and kept.
But we need to have our inner ears trained in the quiet time, daily, off alone with the Master-musician, with His Book at hand to correct the inaccuracies of our hearing. Then will come the keenness of ear that will keep us from "flatting"; or at least, will make us know when we do "flat"; and will make the sound so disagreeably jarring as to make us reach out eagerly for the true pitch, with a bit of prayer to the Master of the music for His help.
Practical idealizing is seeing the purpose of God under and behind everything that comes, and insisting on getting it out into real life. It was a man who could see through what is often considered an inconvenience, and a disturbance of one's plans, who wrote:
"It isn't raining rain to me,
It's raining daffodils;
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.
The clouds of grey engulf the day
And overwhelm the town,
It isn't raining rain to me,
It's raining roses down.
"It isn't raining rain to me,
But fields of clover bloom,
Where any buccaneering bee
May find a bed and room.
A health unto the happy,
A fig for him who frets,—
It isn't raining rain to me,
It's raining violets."
The rain storm that may disarrange things for you, isn't to be thought of in itself simply, of course, but for the possible good that lies in it. It is a means to an end, an end both of beauty, and of providing our daily bread. The inconvenience it may cause isn't to be thought of except incidentally, in planning to meet and overcome it. Overshoes and raincoats and umbrellas, and careful drying-up afterwards, and all that sort of bother, are simply a bit of the toll of life, that we pay for the flowers we enjoy, and the wheat we eat.
So sickness is a school. It should not be thought of in itself, but only for the flowers it will bring into bloom, and the finer strength that should grow out of it. It may cause sharp pain, an upsetting of all one's plans, and real anxiety. But these really are only by the way, the bothering with overshoes and other such storm things, the toll on the road, the tuition fee at school. Of course it is true that most of us feel the pain so sharply, and are so worried over the broken plans, and so swept off our feet by the anxiety, that we are pretty apt to forget the real thing.
It's easy not to remember that the storm carries our bread in its arms; that beyond the toll-gate the road leads up the heights into finer air and farther view; and that school work enriches and deepens all the after life. Indeed, if we kept these things straighter, and insisted on looking ahead, through the storm, to the blue and the shine waiting above the grey and the shade, we would find the storm blowing over more quickly. Pain could do its work faster, and better, too, and be off and away, if we used it, and worked with it.
"Is it raining, little flower?
Be glad of rain.
Too much sun would wither thee,
'Twill shine again.
The clouds are very black, 'tis true,
But just beyond them shines the blue.
"Art thou weary, tender heart?
Be glad of pain.
In sorrow sweetest virtues grow,
As flowers in rain.
God watches, and thou wilt have sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done."
The tight pinching in money is unhandy and bothersome—we use stronger words while the pinch is on—but out of it come better management, wise economies; and, yet better, keener thinking, and so keener brains for all the other questions that come; keener outlook into life, and a keener capacity for the enjoyment of life, if—you must underscore that "if"—if you keep your eye steadily on the ideal, the possible good waiting your grasp in the difficulty.
The emergency brings quicker-wittedness, and a stronger grasp and use of one's resources, and a sturdier grip for the next one. The practical idealist reaches an eager hand steadily out through all circumstances for the flowers and fruit; and gets them, too.
"Is the road very dreary,
Rest will be sweeter if thou art weary;
And after the night cometh the morning cheery.
Then bide a wee and dinna fret.
"The clouds have a silver lining,
And though he's hidden, still the sun is shining;
Courage! Instead of tears and vain repining.
Just bide a wee and dinna fret."
Our ideals change us. They change the face. The refining, gentling process is going on all the time, though unknown to us. The face always bears the impress of the spirit that reigns within. The real secret of sweet womanly beauty, and of strong manly face is here, and only here, nowhere else.
When Michael Angelo had finished his famous colossal statue of David, "the giant," many of his friends who had not seen him during the years when he was working upon it in Florence, declared with great surprise that he was changed; his face was changed. And as they looked at the statue, and then at the skilful chiseler, it was seen that he had carved his conception of David, not only into the beautiful white stone, but all unconsciously he had carved it, too, into the lines of his own beautified, ennobled face.
A minister who has been preaching for over forty years, told recently of two young women he had known in his early life. The one was decidedly homely, commonly so spoken of, but she was a Christian, with the highest ideals being woven into her daily life. The other was a decided beauty, but selfish, fond of pleasure-seeking, and a lover of the gay society that flattered her beauty. In mature womanhood the changes that had come into their faces were most striking. The homely girl had become a positively attractive woman in her face, with its fine gentleness, and its very features refined by the dominant spirit of her life. The other's face had hardened and wrinkled and coarsened, until the word "homely," and a yet less pleasing word were suggested by it.
The creative hand of God is an artist's hand. He planned beauty and strength of feature and form for women and men. But the plan can be worked out only by our earnest help. His Spirit in our hearts works out the real rare beauty into our faces through our actively working with Him. Our ideals will make our faces over into what he has planned, if they are allowed to.
That good word "ideals" has been cheapened quite a bit in some minds. Or, it should rather be said, that men have very commonly come to a cheapened idea of its meaning. For no good thing can be cheapened, in the bad sense of that word; though we can have cheapened ideas about the finest things. The word "ideals" is looked at by many as they would look at a ragged tramp at the kitchen door, with mingled pity and contempt. That is because it means something undesirable to them. They think of it as meaning childish castle-building, immature dreamings, visionary imaginings, in the weak meaning of that word "visionary." To them "ideals" mean something clear out of touch with the everyday world of affairs.
Of course, there are plenty of unpractical people who get hold of things wrong end to. There are people who are fond of using the word "ideals," but who don't use it in its true meaning. It is made to cover up childish fancies, half-digested plans, and the like. These people are given to talking a good bit, and are apt to use a good many adjectives and adverbs, usually in the superlative degree; everything is "most." Whereas the practical idealist is a very quiet, matter-of-fact person, more bent on doing than on talking. Hard work usually makes the tongue slower and more cautious.
These visionaries without doubt make it harder for the true idealist to hold to his ideals. For the crowd on the street doesn't think, and constantly confuses the two. The practical man who quietly insists on holding to his ideals is classed with the unpractical visionary. And without doubt this has influenced many to pull the flag down a bit, instead of letting it fly its fine message out at the masthead. Yet this very confusion and thoughtless misunderstanding make the need all the greater. It won't be so pleasant to keep the flag up. To be misunderstood when one's motives are high and earnest is pretty apt to jar and cut; though some have climbed up to where they ignore and forget the misunderstandings, as they push smilingly on.
Yet of course all this need not keep us from clinging with tight fingers to the real thing, with its fine grain and its rosy hue; nor from the constant uplift of its warm companionship. It should not keep us from doing the crowd the great service of seeing a flag at the top of the pole; nor better yet, from giving Jesus, the great practical Idealist, a clear sounding-board in our lives.
The practical idealist tugging away down in the thick of things knows, and loves to remember, that Jesus is here, now, alongside you and us. Many a churchman, who delights to call himself practical, says, with the air of one humouring a fanciful child, "That's a very pretty thought;" and then proceeds to shut it out of his practical life. He feels quite sufficient in himself for any tug. The other man who knows by experience how real that presence is, sings:
"I cannot do it alone,
The waves run fast and high,
And the fogs close chill around,
And the light goes out in the sky;
But I know that we two
Shall win in the end—
Jesus and I.
"I cannot row it myself,
My boat on the raging sea;
But beside me sits Another
Who pulls or steers with me,
And I know that we two
Shall come safe into port—
His child and He.
"Coward and wayward and weak,
I change with the changing sky.
To-day so eager and brave,
To-morrow not caring to try;
But He never gives in,
So we two shall win—
Jesus and I.
"Strong and tender and true,
Crucified once for me!
Never will He change, I know,
Whatever I may be!
But all He says I must do,
Ever from sin to keep free
We shall finish our course.
And reach home at last—
His child and He."
And as he sings his life is full of victory, and of uplift for the crowd on the road.
Many people think of the ideal and practical as two utterly different things; and, more than different, as opposed to each other. The practical thing to do is not the ideal, they think; and the ideal is not practical. Some go to the extreme of thinking that having an ideal really hinders, for it makes you unpractical, and visionary in a bad or weak way.
There are some who believe in having ideals but don't believe they can really be lived out. To them the ideal is a good thing to have, even as a pretty picture is enjoyable. You look at the picture and enjoy its beauty, but with no thought entering your mind that it has anything to do with your everyday life. Some go a bit further, and think of an ideal as something to look up to, with a sort of dim thought that looking up helps to lift up; but without an idea of getting down to hard work in making the ideal a real thing in life.
If in conversation one refers to the true ideal toward which conduct and life should be pitched, and by which they should be governed, it is quite common to hear someone say, "Oh! yes, of course, that's the ideal, but, you know, we're living down in the world." The inference being that it is impossible to have such ideals in practical life; that we must take things as they are, and move along where the crowd goes, and as it goes. The remark is generally made with a peculiar positiveness of tone and manner, as though the whole matter were settled then and there, and nothing more could be said.
Every such remark is a confession of weakness and defeat. It tells a story of knowing the right, and refusing to hold to it, because the crowd pulls the other way. It is a cowardly pulling down of the flag, and surrendering to the enemy, without so much as a decent show of fight. In nonessentials we should follow the line of least resistance, saving our strength for the things worth while. But in the great essentials we should never budge by so much as a half-hair-width, regardless of resistance. Yet we can smile sweetly all the time, with the wholesome fragrance of a pure life back of the smile. The highest ideals send a fine flavour out into the personality.
There is no greater nor kindlier service we can render to those we touch than the tactful holding to our ideals, out in the contacts of life; whether at the meal hour, in the business circle, in the little group of callers, at the afternoon tea, or the more formal social affair. There are some who exploit their ideals untactfully; and that is not good. Though it is not as bad as those who keep their ideals in hiding, even while they are being abused, and sneered at, and while lower ideals, that are really low ideals, are being freely talked.
But then the cowardliness of some people with really high ideals is painful. The social law that you must be agreeable, and say only agreeable things in social gatherings, leads many of us badly astray in lowering or hiding our flags. There is a cowardly fear of being thought of as a little unusual, or queer, or marked by some oddity. The desire to be thought only well of grips us so. It is true it does take thoughtfulness and strength to speak clearly and positively of the true ideals among those who do not accept them. It takes yet more strength and depth, and real touch with the ideal Man, to do it tactfully in such an atmosphere.
But of course it can be done. And that is a part of the life-mission of him who would ring true. A wisely chosen word spoken in the social circle, where the opposite may be the popular thing, spoken gently with a face that unconsciously fits the word, and a life behind that steadies it, is in perfect accord with the most rigid social canons. It is just what so many need. It tends to bring out to the fore whatever odd remnants of conviction there may be in hiding in that circle.
We need to train ourselves away from thinking that the sweet serious things of life may not properly be brought into any social gathering. The common standards of social contacts to which so many have been trained simply do not make provision for the more thoughtful, serious things. There is always a tendency to being light and even frivolous. The bright breezy good cheer that properly belongs to the social hour easily crosses the line into the thoughtless and frivolous.
When a bit of the thoughtful does come in, as come in it will, it is quite likely to be subjected to the indignity of brilliant—or, quite as often, maybe oftener, not-brilliant—frivolousness. And that is the sort of atmosphere in which so many have gotten their social training. It doesn't fit naturally into such training to retain sweet seriousness in the midst of the cheery good-fellowship and light exchange of the social hour.
Yet it can be done, and there is no finer sounding-board for letting our ideals ring and sing their music out into human hearts. And no music finds more open, grateful hearts for its uplift and rhythm.
"The robin sang out through the rain,
He waited not a golden day.
The gladdest thing that he could say
Might not be needed so again.
The robin sent his richest strain,
Adown dim, slanting lines of rain."
There comes to mind a scene in a drawing-room, one summer afternoon. A group of callers were chatting with their hostess. One of the callers was making the usual sort of frivolous, half-cynical remarks. The hostess was an earnest Christian woman, active in service. "We knew her as believing in the highest ideals, and trying to teach them faithfully, and live them consistently. Yet she met her guest more than half-way in his run of talk, not merely assenting laughingly, but suggesting some of the same sort and in the same way.
We could easily see that she was simply following her earlier social habit, that had been fixed before her deeper life had developed. Yet she had both the moral conviction and courage, and the tactful grace of speech and manner, to have drawn her caller easily up to a higher level, through the doorway of his own talk, if she had thought to do it. And what a blessing it would have been to him!
Another similar scene comes to mind. A company of young people had gathered for a social evening. Among the guests was a young woman who insisted on standing on the level of her ideals in any gathering, and with any individual. A young man who had been introduced to her, said, after a little conversation, "May we slip off to a quiet corner for a few minutes, where we will not be interrupted? for you are the only young woman I have met this evening who will talk thoughtfully." At the evening's close this young woman and another, a friend, were chatting together. The friend was thoughtful and earnest, too, but with a strong desire to be agreeable that led her to remain on the level of the trifling talk in which she found others indulging. Now she turned to the first young woman mentioned, and with much surprise said, "I saw you talking with Mr So-and-So," naming the young man who had made the request, "and I wondered how you ever stood him, for I was never more bored in my life than with him this evening; I was never with one who could talk so much of little nothings, and be as frivolous as he."
Each of these, the young man and the second young woman, had high ideals, and longed for fellowship in them; and yet each lacked the bit of quiet courage to give the simple tactful upward turn to the conversation, lest it might not be acceptable. And each suffered a distinct loss, in his own life, and lost a golden chance to help a hungry heart. Whenever one person holds steadily to the highest, others will be kept up by that very steadiness.
The most striking thing to mark keenly about ideals, God's ideals, is this: they have been lived. The thing can be done because it has been done. They have been lived in one of the worst moral periods of history, and in one of the religiously narrowest and most bigoted corners of the earth.
It seems to be pretty well settled now, that long ago a Man lived, for as much as thirty-three years, who held the highest ideals, and never compromised them one whit, in the life he lived. Yet he was not removed from the sort of life we live. He had to work hard to earn a living for himself and his household. He lived in a very humble sort of family, where all the testings of ideals come closest home. He belonged to a little village community, just such as most of us know, and live in, or have lived in. And He actually lived his ideals amid such surroundings,—ideals that have been commonly recognised as the moral high-water mark of all history.
God is an idealist. And Jesus came to let men see that this ideal God fits perfectly into human life, just as it goes on in everyday affairs. Certainly no one will think that the world was in an ideal condition when Jesus came. Historians are agreed that it was in about as bad shape morally as a world could get into. And all are agreed, too, that this Jesus lived a truly ideal life, and at the same time an intensely practical life, fitting into things just as he found them.
Though He was divine, in a sense that no one else was or can be, He was also human with a naturalness and simplicity that none other has known, though all may know. That he lived a truly human life, just such as common men are expected to live, that is, with no special gift of divine grace beyond what any man may have, is clearly shown by the simple but very striking fact that his brothers, brought up in the same family, did not believe in His divine claim and mission.
To them there was nothing in His life as they had known Him, such as they supposed there should be if He were really the Son of God that He said He was. There could be no stronger nor simpler evidence of the perfect naturalness of the human life He lived in Nazareth, than this disbelief by these brothers, who lived with Him for years in the same home.
Yet mark very keenly that Jesus didn't find it easy to live His ideals. He was stubbornly opposed in them, both at home, and in His home village, and out in public life. He had to fight for them, and to fight hard, every foot of the way. And it was real fighting, too, with moist brow, and shut jaw, and earnestly breathed prayer. He lived them in the presence of, and in spite of, sneers and criticism and cynicism and attempted violence.
And he was a man, a human, as truly a man as though only a man, living His life just exactly as we live ours. That is to say, He personally made choice of these ideals as His own. He depended upon His own strong resolution, backed by earnest prayer, in keeping true to them. He maintained them against all comers; just exactly as one must do to-day.
And,—listen softly, with the ears of your heart,—that Man promised to have the same Spirit that filled Him and steadied Him, come into each one of us, and lead us safely and victoriously along the same well-beaten path He travelled. Aye, and some of us have found out that that wondrous Spirit does come, and does lead along that old road up to the heights. Even though a tear-misted vision of slips and faults, and at times of only partial victories lies behind, yet the ideals are sweeter than ever since they have been worked into real life.