The Church of God has fierce fighting before it in the immediate future, and the Holy Father and the members of the hierarchy are principally concerned, nor can they delegate to others their exalted duties and formidable anxieties. They cannot shift the growing burthen from their shoulders, but they can receive from the prayers of the faithful increase of strength to bear it. Men who bear high office in the State might feel their dignity alarmed if those beneath them in rank and power proffered their assistance unbidden, but in the Church of God the highest and the lowest are closely united in the bond of prayer. A child's prayers are worth a Pope's having, and if the Pope, from his throne, were to look down disdainfully upon simple souls in humble life as one who could not condescend to ask for help from those so far below him, he would not be worthy of his place in the house of God. St. Paul, in his Epistles,* asks the faithful to pray for him, and St. Peter, on a memorable occasion,-f received help from prayers which he had not enjoined. Therefore we need never wait to be asked, but we may pray at all times for our Holy Father and our Bishops, knowing well that they desire our prayers because it is a part of their duty to desire them.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the prayers of the faithful for their pastors were never at any time in the past more needed than they are now. There have been periods of greater apparent suffering for the children of the Church, but not of greater danger to souls. The truth seems to be that the enemy of man gains wisdom by experience. He has a greater number of willing slaves and conscious dupes now than in the days of pagan persecution or heretical violence, and his best servants have always been those who sin against light. The most uncompromising opponents of the Church are the unhappy men, counted by multitudes in France alone, who were once by their Baptism the children of God, but who, having lost first their goodness and then their hope of Heaven, have more or less successfully extinguished in their hearts the faith of early years, and envying those who still walk in its blessed radiance, devote their energies to bring to as many as possible the desolation of spirit which makes their own life unendurable. Such men are enthusiasts in the bad cause. They have chosen their part. They have said with their master: "Evil be thou my good!" Hate supplies to them a force and a singleness of purpose which charity too often fails to produce in the breasts of those who profess to belong to the standard of Jesus Christ. They are like the poor creature in the Greek fable, maddened by the sting of the gadfly which pursued her pitilessly. The torment of their apostasy is with them day and night, driving them to seek relief in perpetual motion. One object claims their whole attention. Not Carthage now, but Rome must be destroyed; for it is the memory of their lost heritage of sacramental grace within her sacred walls which constitutes that woe too great for words —the punishment in this world of a renegade. "Rome," they say, "must be destroyed." But there is One Who has said that the gates of Hell shall not prevail. Rome, in the sense in which modern pagans use the name, can never be destroyed. Every attempt in the past has recoiled, and every attempt in the future will recoil, upon the heads of those who make it. Yet the attempt is constantly renewed, and apparently with fresh hope of success each time. Herein is a wonderful thing.* The man who had been born blind opened his eyes at the bidding of Christ, but the Pharisees were only confirmed in their blindness by the evidence of the miracle. Men who do not choose to learn cannot be taught. Such, and so blind, are the men who in these our days lay sacrilegious hands on all that is consecrated to God. They are not open to conviction, they deny manifest facts, they undertake a war which can have only one result—defeat; but they cannot be turned aside from their foolish endeavour, for what they are doing they are doing in the wilful blindness of a hatred springing from despair of salvation. They serve their master well, for the very reason that they know who he is, and what he wants, for "every creature loves its like." He is the enemy of Christ, with a will fixed in impenitence. They day by day put repentance further from their thoughts. He does not delude himself with the hope of final victory, but he fights for the sake of slaying and wounding. They seek only the satisfaction of revenge, and if they cannot destroy the Church, will do her all the damage in their power. With docile agents, thus willing to concur to their own perdition, if only they may hope to drag others after them, it is no wonder that Satan can raise a "storm of darkness." And he is trying to raise such a storm as the world has not seen before. AntiChristian education laws are not so frightening to flesh and blood as the rack and the gallows, but they are far more pernicious to souls. If Satan, assisted by timeserving parents, gains his wicked will in primary education, he will banish the Crucified from the hearts of children as surely as the crucifix from the walls of their schoolroom, and anarchy and bloodshed and terrorism, soon to begin and long to continue, will reward his efforts.
* Ephes. vi. 19; Colos. iv. 3; 2 Thess. iii. I. t Acts xii. 5. * St. John ix. 30.
What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us?* The battle has still to be fought. It is no time for sitting down to weep by the rivers of Babylon. Not only can our enemies gain no final triumph, but they cannot even do us much mischief, unless we ourselves give them an indolent permission. Why have the Gentiles raged and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth have stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord, and against His Christ. . . . He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them.*The rulers of the Church of God, while they see the danger and the necessity of vigorous action, have shown no sign of timidity, have uttered no word of compromise. They stand prepared, each at his post. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? ... If armies encamped should stand against me, my heart shall not fear.* They are not afraid, and they will not allow us to fear, but it is grace alone which can give them light amid the gathering gloom, and courage to confront the hosts of Hell. Now grace comes as the answer to prayer.
We must pray for ourselves that each one among us may do his duty in the battlefield; but, in addition to these more selfish prayers, there must be once again, as when Herod cast St . Peter into prison, prayer without ceasing unto God for the Head of the Church on earth, and with him for all in every land who bear their part in the cares of spiritual government. And once more let it be most urgently declared that those who desire in the sincerity of their hearts to lend efficient aid in the tremendous struggle now so near at hand must begin by self-correction. If they have faith so as to be able to move mountains, if they give their goods to the poor and their bodies to be burned, it profits nothing, St. Paul assures them,§ unless they keep their souls in charity. Prayer is the weapon with which the victory must be won, but prayer does not consist in pronouncing forms of words. It is true that even the cry of alarm, or the expression of a vague desire of better life, is not useless, because it may help to bring repentance to one sinner's soul, but, before his prayers can be of much service to others, he must set his own house in order. Therefore, to say the least, every Catholic who lives in sin deducts a fighting man from the army of the Lord, and this at a moment of decisive action. Dull must his conscience be, and impervious to shame, who can rest undisturbed under the reproach of being a deserter from the very battlefield. We must pray for ourselves and our brethren, that as many as possible m.ay be made worthy to unite their voices with effect in the great prayer which the Church still makes without ceasing for her pastors through Mary to Jesus.
* Rom. viii. 31. t Psalm ii. 1—4. X Psalm xxvi. I, 3. § I Cor. xiii. 2, 3.
PRAYER.Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular for the prelates of Thy Church, which is assailed by numerous and powerful enemies in these days. Assist them, dear Lord, with Thy light and Thy strength, and after Thou hast given them the merit of valiant fighting, make them know the joy of victory. Amen.
For the triumph of the Church and Holy See, and the Catholic regeneration of nations.
February Intention - Apostleship of Prayer
AFTER the appeal so lately made by the Holy Father in behalf of the Association of the Propagation of the Faith, no words are needed here to recommend that pre-eminently Catholic work of zeal for souls. We are more concerned to vindicate ourselves from the possible reproach of an obstructive rivalry, by showing how close is the relationship and how complete the sympathy between the association thus praised by Leo the Thirteenth and another association of which he is the foremost promoter—our own Apostleship of Prayer. This likewise lays claim to a certain kind of Catholicity. It is universal in its possible extension, and already very widely spread in its actual acceptance. That which it demands lies within the competence of all Christians without exception, and, although comparatively few employ to the best advantage all the time at their disposal, making each day into a holocaust of spiritual works of mercy, yet very many in every country under heaven are helping the good cause with great good will, and are not unprofitable servants. They have understood that a life in which every act becomes a prayer is the offering which the associates of the Holy League are invited to cast into the treasury of the Church.
No interest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus remains outside the sphere of this modest but true and real apostolate. This consideration would alone suffice to win for the work of the Propagation of the Faith the cordial support of all who have felt the purpose and caught the spirit of the Apostleship of Prayer. To make it, however, more clear that this is not an after-thought arising from some new necessity of conciliation, or anything in the nature of a special plea designed to meet the last announcement of the Holy Father, we shall reproduce from a work,* which at the same time we venture to commend to our readers, certain very apposite words written sixteen years ago.
"We foresee," it was said, "a difficulty which may occur to the mind of some of our readers. It will be objected: 'Before the formation. of this new enterprize a league of prayer already existed—the Association for the Propagation of the Faith. Why is it necessary to create another. association having a similar object, with the evident risk of interfering with the development of a very useful work?'
"Most assuredly, if we had supposed that the Apostleship of Prayer could have any such result—nay, more, if we had not been intimately persuaded that in the attainment of its own distinct object it could not fail to help the action and promote the development of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, we should never have dreamed of establishing it.
"These two works are so far from being incompatible that, on the contrary, we find in the astonishing success of the association founded forty years ago in the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Fourvieres,+ a powerful argument for the promotion of that other association which began its life twenty years ago  in the not less famous sanctuary of Notre Dame du Puy."
After briefly recalling to mind the wonders wrought among heathen tribes and in Christian homes by the alms so generously furnished, twice-blest, blessing both givers and receivers, the writer whom we are quoting notices a significant contrast, and draws thence his own conclusion, which is also ours.
* L’ApostoIat de la Priere. Par le P. Henri Ramiere. Toulouse, 20, Rue des Fleurs.
+ See Messenger, April, iSSo.
"We cannot explain the wonders achieved by ascribing them simply to the outlay of money, for the sums contributed are, after all said and done, miserably inadequate to the relief of so many separate necessities of the great work of saving souls. Protestant propagandists scatter money from full hands to gain proselytes without having' so far made one genuine convert. It is worth while to try to understand what is the cause of the difference."
Any Catholic can solve this question easily. The work of conversion is from beginning to end an effect of supernatural grace. Faith comes by hearing, but unless when the words of the preacher fall upon the ear the voice of God is speaking to the heart of the hearer, no change is wrought in the inner man. Catholic and Protestant societies alike can collect money at home and send out missionaries to spend it abroad; but however upright may be the motives of those who are acting in invincible ignorance of the truth, they can never carry with them that which makes the strength of the preachers who are in communion with the See of Rome—the mighty impulse of the united prayers of the Church of God.
"Its material resources are small, but they are worth very much. They consist in part of the liberal donations of the rich man, who in the light of his faith esteems himself fortunate to be able thus to gain in exchange for his gold souls redeemed by the Precious Blood and destined to be eternally happy in Heaven. They consist more commonly of the alms of the poor man, saved from his hard-earned pittance, and of the widow's mite; but these alms, however scanty, are offered in the spirit of true charity, and are distributed by charitable hands. They spring from zeal, they are made fruitful by prayer, they exert that living force which love imparts, they have no other origin and end than the glory of God and the good of men—therefore they cannot fail to touch and transform many hears."
Herein is the secret of the superior success of the Catholic missions to the heathen, and herein also is a very sufficient reason for the establishment of the Apostleship of Prayer.
"Since the abundant harvest with which God crowns the toil of His worthy labourers, and the rapid progress made by Catholic truth in various places, ought to be ascribed to the prayers and holy desires and to the ardent zeal of the members of the Propagation of the Faith, offered in union with the labours and sufferings of the missionaries, and at times also the shedding of their blood; since the money subscribed has a smaller share in the working of wonders than the good prayers of the Associates, the thought suggested itself very readily, that great advantage would be derived from an Association which, lending all the time efficacious help to that great work of zeal, and urging the faithful to augment the means at its command, might devote still more attention to prayer, and find therein its principal and, so to say, its only object; an Association, addressing itself especially to the members of religious communities, all the better able to help the Church with spiritual alms by the Very reason of their being by the vow of poverty precluded from giving pecuniary aid; an Association, which having its foundation in the idea that supernatural means conduce directly and appropriately to supernatural ends, conversion, salvation of souls, and the like, might cultivate these means with peculiar care, striving with unceasing effort to excite and develop true charity in all its members, and to urge them continually to implore fresh graces of salvation for the souls of infidels.
"If we contemplate a sacred league of the kind supposed, made up of pious Catholics and including a great number of religious houses, the glory and comfort of the Church, with many souls dear to God and eager to work for His glory, trying to make good by their prayers what their state of life does not permit them to effect by the words and acts of a sacerdotal ministry, and calling down upon the labourers in the vineyard that grace which can alone produce conversion, we shall see the holiest portion of the Church, its most illustrious members, pastors and people, striving with united efforts to increase the number of the children of God. Who can tell the power of such a combination, the pressure brought to bear upon the Sacred Heart? Everything would help to make an association of this kind very powerful for good—its animating principle of zeal, its constituent parts, the extent and the duration of its activity. This is the thought from which our work derives its origin."
We have in this passage a proof that it belongs to the original intention of the Apostleship of Prayer to help after its own fashion the Association of the Propagation of the Faith, and from that purpose it has never departed. Therefore, not with any new-found friendship, but faithful to the original spirit of our League of Prayer, we rejoice exceedingly in the words of praise which the Holy Father has bestowed upon a work so nearly related with our own, and that we may not rest satisfied with mere sympathy, we are invited to pray more fervently than ever during the coming month through Mary to Jesus for the good work of the Propagation of the Faith.
Sacred Heart of Jesus! through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer to Thee the prayers, labours, and crosses of this day, in expiation of our offences, and for all Thy other intentions.
I offer them to Thee in particular for the promotion of all works having for their object to spread the light of the Gospel in heathen nations. Turn aside, dear Lord, the dangers which might hinder the success of these holy enter prizes. Give to them greater abundance of temporal resources, that they may add increase to Thy glory, and more fully accomplish Thy desires.
March Intention - Apostleship of Prayer
By Father Frederick William Faber, D. D.
On Kindness in GeneralThe weakness of man, and the way in which he is at the mercy of external accidents in the world, has always been a favourite topic with the moralists. They have expatiated upon it with so much amplitude of rhetorical exaggeration, that it has at last produced in our minds a sense of unreality, against which we rebel. Man is no doubt very weak. He can only be passive in a thunderstorm, or run in an earthquake. The odds are against him when he is managing his ship in a hurricane, or when pestilence is raging in the house where he lives. Heat and cold, draught and rain, are his masters. He is weaker than an elephant, and subordinate to the east wind. This is all very true. Nevertheless man has considerable powers, considerable enough to leave him,as proprietor of this planet, in possession of at least as much comfortable jurisdiction, as most landed proprietors have in a free country. He has one power in particular, which is not sufficiently dwelt on, and with which we will at present occupy ourselves. It is the power of making the world happy,; or at least of so greatly diminishing the amount of unhappiness in it, as to make it quite a different world from what it is at present. This power is called kindness. The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it, come from our conduct to each other. If our conduct therefore were under the control of kindness, it would be nearly the opposite of what it is, and so the state of the world would be almost reversed. We are for the most part unhappy, because the world is an unkind world. But the world is only unkind for the lack of kindness in us units who compose it. Now if all this is but so much as half true, it is plainly worth our while to take some trouble to gain clear and definite notions of kindness. We practise more easily what we already know clearly.
We must first ask ourselves what kindness is. Words, which we are using constantly, soon cease to have much distinct meaning in our minds. They become symbols and figures rather than words, and we content ourselves with the general impression they make upon us. Now let us be a little particular about kindness, and describe it as accurately as we can. Kindness is the overflowing of self upon others. We put others in the place of self. We treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. We change places with them. For the time self is another, and others are self. Our self-love takes the shape of complacence in unselfishness. We cannot speak of the virtues without thinking of God. What would the overflow of self upon others be in Him the Ever-blessed and Eternal? It was the act of creation. Creation was divine kindness. From it as from a fountain, flow the possibilities, the powers, the blessings of all created kindness. This is an honourable genealogy for kindness. Then, again, kindness is the coming to the rescue of others, when they need it and it is in our power to supply what they need; and this is the work of the Attributes of God towards His creatures. His omnipotence is forever making up our deficiency of power. His justice is continually correcting our erroneous judgments. His mercy is always consoling our fellow creatures under our hardheartedness. His truth is perpetually hindering the consequences of our falsehood. His omniscience makes our ignorance succeed as if it were knowledge. His perfections are incessantly coming to the rescue of our imperfections. This is the definition of Providence; and kindness is our imitation of this divine action.
Moreover kindness is also like divine grace; for it gives men something which neither self nor nature can give them. What it gives them is something of which they are in want, or something which only another person can give, such as consolation; and besides this, the manner in which this is given is a true gift itself, better far than the thing given: and what is all this but an allegory of grace? Kindness adds sweetness to everything. It is kindness which makes life's capabilities blossom, and paints them with their cheering hues, and endows them with their invigorating fragrance. Whether it waits on its superiors, or ministers to its inferiors, or disports itself with its equals, its work is marked by a prodigality which the strictest discretion cannot blame. It does unnecessary work, which when done, looks the most necessary work that could be. If it goes to soothe a sorrow, it does more than sooth it. If it relieves a want, it cannot do so without doing more than relieve it. Its manner is something extra, and is the choice thing in the bargain. Even when it is economical in what it gives, it is not economical of the gracefulness with which it gives it. But what is all this like, except the exuberance of the divine government? See how, turn which way we will, kindness is entangled with the thought of God! Last of all, the secret impulse out of which kindness acts is an instinct which is the noblest part of ourselves, the most undoubted remnant of the image of God, which was given us at the first. We must therefore never think of kindness as being a common growth of our nature, common in the sense of being of little value. It is the nobility of man. In all its modifications it reflects a heavenly type. It runs up into eternal mysteries. It is a divine thing rather than a human one, and it is human because it springs from the soul of man just at the point where the divine image was graven deepest.
Such is kindness. Now let us consider its office in the world, in order that we may get a clearer idea of itself. It makes life more endurable. The burden of life presses heavily upon multitudes of the children of men. It is a yoke, very often of such a peculiar nature that familiarity, instead of practically lightening it, makes it harder to bear. Perseverance is the hand of time pressing the yoke down upon our galled shoulders with all its might. There are many men to whom life is always approaching the unbearable. It stops only just short of it. We expect it to transgress every moment. But, without having recourse to these extreme cases, sin alone is sufficient to make life intolerable to a virtuous man. Actual sin is not essential to this. The possibility of sinning, the danger of sinning, the facility of sinning, the temptation to sin, the example of so much sin around us, and, above all, the sinful unworthiness of men much better than ourselves,— these are sufficient to make life drain us to the last dregs of our endurance. In all these cases it is the office of kindness to make life more bearable; and if its success in its office is often only partial, some amount of success is at least invariable.
It is true that we make ourselves more unhappy than other people make us. No slight portion of this self-inflicted unhappiness arises from our sense of justice being so continually wounded by the events of life, while the incessant friction of the world never allows the wound to heal. There are some men whose practical talents are completely swamped by the keenness of their sense of injustice. They go through life as failures, because the pressure of injustice upon themselves, or the sight of its pressing upon others, has unmanned them. If they begin a line of action, they cannot go through with it. They are perpetually shying, like a mettlesome horse, at the objects by the road side. They had much in them; but they have died without anything coming of them. Kindness steps forward to remedy this evil also. Each solitary kind action that is done, the whole world over, is working briskly in its own sphere to restore the balance between right and wrong. The more kindness there is on the earth at any given moment, the greater is the tendency of the balance between right and wrong to correct itself, and remain in equilibrium. Nay, this is short of the truth. Kindness allies itself with right to invade the wrong, and beat it off the earth. Justice is necessarily an aggressive virtue, and kindness is the amiability of justice.
Mindful of its divine origin, and of its hereditary descent from the primal act of creation, this dear virtue is for ever entering into God's original dispositions as Creator. He meant the world to be a happy world; and kindness means it also. He gave it the power to be happy; and kindness was a great part of that very power. By His benediction He commanded creation to be happy; kindness, with its usual genial spirit of accommodation, now tries to persuade a world, which has dared to disobey a divine command. God looks over the fallen world, and repents that He made man. Kindness sees less clearly the ruin of God's original idea than it sees still that first beneficent idea, and it sets to work to cleanse what is defiled, and to restore what is defaced. It sorrows over sin, but, like buoyant-hearted men, it finds in its sorrow the best impulse of its activity. It is labouring always in ten thousand places, and the work at which it labours is always the same, to make God's world more like His original conception of it.
But, while it thus ministers to Him as Creator, it is no less energetic and successful in preparing and enlarging His ways as Saviour. It is constantly winning strayed souls back to Him, opening hearts that seemed obstinately closed, enlightening minds that had been wilfully darkened, skilfully throwing the succours of hope into strongholds that were on the point of capitulating to despair, lifting endeavour from low to high, from high to higher, from higher to highest. Everywhere kindness is the best pioneer of the Precious Blood. We often begin our own repentance by acts of kindness, or through them. Probably the majority of repentances have begun in the reception of acts of kindness, which, if not unexpected, touched men by the sense of their being so undeserved. Doubtless the terrors of the Lord are often the beginning of that wisdom, which we name conversion; but men must be frightened in a kind way, or the fright will only make them unbelievers. Kindness has converted more sinners than either zeal, eloquence, or learning; and these three last have never converted any one, unless they were kind also. In short, kindness makes us as Gods to each other. Yet, while it lifts us so high, it sweetly keeps us low. For the continual sense, which a kind heart has, of its own need of kindness, keeps it humble. There are no hearts to which kindness is so indispensable, as those that are exuberantly kind themselves.
But let us look at the matter from another point. What does kindness do for those to whom we show it? We have looked at its office on a grand scale in the whole world; let us narrow our field of observation, and see what it does for those who are its immediate objects. What we note first, as of great consequence, is the immense power of kindness in bringing out the good points of the characters of others. Almost all men have more goodness in them than the ordinary intercourse of the world enables us to discover. Indeed most men, we may be sure from glimpses we now and then obtain, carry with them to the grave much undeveloped nobility. life is seldom so varied or so adventurous, as to enable a man to unfold all that is in him. A creature, who has got capabilities in him to live for ever, can hardly have room in three-score years to do more than give specimens of what he might be, and will be. But, beside this, who has not seen how disagreeable and faulty characters will expand under kindness? Generosity springs up, fresh and vigorous, from under a superincumbent load "of meanness. Modesty suddenly discloses itself from some safe cavern where it has survived years of sin. Virtues come to life, and in their infantine robustness strangle habits which a score of years has been spent in forming. It is wonderful what capabilities grace can find in the most unpromising character. It is a thing to be much pondered. Duly reflected on, it might alter our view of the world altogether. But kindness does not reveal these things to us external spectators only. It reveals a man to himself. It rouses the long dormant self-respect, with which grace will speedily ally itself, and purify it by its alliance. Neither does it content itself with making a revelation. It developes as well as reveals. It gives these newly disclosed capabilities of virtue vigour and animation. It presents them with occasions. It even trains and tutors them. It causes the first actions of the recovering soul to be actions on high principles and from generous motives. It shields and defends moral convalescence from the dangers which beset it. A kind act has picked up many a fallen man, who has afterwards slain his tens of thousands for his Lord, and has entered the Heavenly City at last as a conqueror, amidst the acclamations of the saints and with the welcome of his sovereign.
It is not improbable that no man ever had a kind action done to him, who did not in consequence commit a sin less than he otherwise would have done. I can look out over the earth at any hour, and I see in spirit innumerable angels threading the crowds of men, and hindering sin by all manner of artifices which shall not interfere with the freedom of man's will. I see also invisible grace, made visible for the moment, flowing straight from God in and upon and around the souls of men, and sin giving way, and yielding place to it. It is only in the deserts that I do not see it, and on the tracts of shipless seas, and the fields of polar ice. But together with grace and the angels there is a third band of diminutive figures, with veils upon their heads, which are flitting everywhere, making gloomy men smile, and angry men grow meek, and sick men cease to groan, lighting up hope in the eyes of the dying, sweetening, the heart of the bitter, and adroitly turning men away from sin just when they are on the point of committing it. They seem to have strange power. Men listen to them, who have been deaf to the pleading of angels. They gain admittance into hearts, before the doors of which grace has lost its patience and gone away. No sooner are the doors open than these veiled messengers, these cunning ministers of God, have gone and returned with lightning-like speed, and brought grace back with them. They are most versatile in their operations. One while they are the spies of grace, another while its sappers and miners, another while its light cavalry, another while they bear the brunt of the battle, and for more than five thousand years they have hardly known the meaning of defeat. These are the acts of kindness, Which are daily enrolled in God's service from the rising to the setting of the sun; and this is the second work they do in souls, to lessen the number of their sins. There are few gifts more precious to a soul than to make its sins fewer. It is in our power to do this almost daily, and sometimes often in a day.
Another work, which our kindness does in the hearts of others, is to encourage them in their efforts after good. Habits of sin, even when put to death as habits, leave many evil legacies behind them. One of the most disastrous parts of their inheritance is discouragement. There are few things which resist grace as it does. Obstinacy even is more hopeful. We may see floods of grace descend upon the disheartened soul, and it shows no symptoms of reviving. Grace runs off it, as the rain runs from the roofs. Whichever of its three forms, peevishness, lethargy, or delusion, it may assume, God's mercy must lay regular siege to it, or it will never be taken. But we all of us need encouragement to do good. The path of virtue, even when it is not uphill, is rough and stony, and each day's journey is a little longer than our strength admits of, only there are no means of shortening it. The twenty-four hours are the same to everybody, except the idle, and to the idle they are thirty-six, for weariness and dulness. You may love God, and love Him truly, as you do, and high motives may be continually before you. Nevertheless you must be quite conscious to yourself of being soon fatigued, nay perhaps of a normal lassitude growing with your years; and you must remember how especially the absence of sympathy tried you, and how all things began to look like delusion because no one encouraged you in your work. Alas! how many noble hearts have sunk under this not ignoble weariness! How many plans for God's glory have fallen to the ground, which a bright look or a kind eye would have propped up! But either because we were busy with our own work and never looked at that of others, or because we were jealous and looked coldly and spoke critically, we have not come with this facile succour to the rescue, not so much of our brother, as of our dearest Lord Himself! How many institutions for the comfort of the poor, or the saving of souls, have languished, more for want of approbation than of money; and though sympathy is so cheap, the lone priest has struggled on till his solitude, his weariness, and his lack of sympathy have almost blamelessly given way beneath the burden, and the wolves have rushed in upon that little nook of his Master's sheepfold, which he had so lovingly partitioned off as his own peculiar work! O what a wretched thing it is to be unkind! I think, with the thought of the Precious Blood, I can better face my sins at the last judgment, than my unkindness, with all its miserable fertility of evil consequences. But, if we have no notion of the far-reaching mischief which unkindness does, so neither can we rightly estimate the good which kindness may do. Very often a heart is drooping. It is bending over itself lower and lower. The cloud of sadness thickens. Temptations lie all around, and are multiplying in strength and number every moment. Everything forebodes approaching sin. Not so much as a kind action, not so much as a kind word, but the mere tone of voice, the mere fixing of the eye, has conveyed sympathy to the poor suffering heart, and all is right again in one instant. The downcast soul has revived under that mere peep of human sunshine, and is encouraged to do bravely the very thing which in despondency it had almost resolved to leave undone. That coming sin might have been the soul's first step to an irretrievable ruin. That encouragement may be the first link of a new chain, which, when its length is finished, shall be called final perseverance.
Few men can do without praise, and there are few circumstances under which a man can be praised without injuring him. Here is a difficulty. It is wise to take a kindly view of all human infirmities, but it is not wise to humour them in act. Some men can do without the praise of others, because their own is so unfailing. Their vanity enables them to find self-praise sufficient. Vanity is the most comfortable of vices. The misfortune is, that nevertheless it is a vice. Some try to do without praise, and grow moody and critical, which shows their grace was not adequate for their attempt. Some do without praise, because they are all for God: but alas! it would not occupy us long to take the census of that portion of the world's population. Most men must have praise. Their fountains dry up without it. Every one in authority knows this well enough. He has to learn to praise without seeming to praise. Now kindness has all the virtues of praise without its vices. It is equally medicinal without having the poisonous qualities. When we are praised, we are praised at some expense, and at our own expense. Kindness puts us to no expense, while it enriches those who are kind to us. Praise always implies some degree of condescension; and condescension is a thing intrinsically ungraceful, whereas kindness is the most graceful attitude one man can assume towards another. So here is another work it does. It supplies the place of praise. It is in fact the only sort of praise which does not injure, the only sort which is always and everywhere true, the only kind which those who are afraid of growing conceited may welcome safely.
Moreover kindness is infectious. No kind action ever stopped with itself. Fecundity belongs to it in its own right. One kind action leads to another. By one we commit ourselves to more than one. Our example is followed. The single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make fresh trees, and the rapidity of the growth is equal to its extent. But this fertility is not confined to ourselves, or to others who may be kind to the same person to whom we have been kind. It is chiefly to be found in the person himself whom we have benefited. This is the greatest work which kindness does to others, that it makes them kind themselves. The kindest men are generally those who have received the greatest number of kindnesses. It does indeed sometimes happen, according to the law which in noble natures produces good out of evil, that men who have had to feel the want of kindness are themselves lavishly kind when they have the power. But in general the rule is that kindness makes men kind. As we become kinder ourselves by practising kindness, so the objects of our kindness, if they were kind before, learn now to be kinder, and to be kind now if they were never so before. Thus does kindness propagate itself on all sides. Perhaps an act of kindness never dies, but extends the invisible undulations of its influence over the breadth of centuries. Thus, for all these reasons, there is no better thing, which we can do for others, than to be kind to them; and our kindness is the greatest gift they can receive, except the grace of God.
There is always a certain sort of selfishness in the spiritual life. The order of charity rules it so. Our first consideration is the glory of God in the salvation of our own souls. We must take hold of this glory by that handle first of all. Everything will be presumption and delusion, if it is taken in any other order. Hence, even while speaking of kindness, it is not out of place for us to consider the work which it does for ourselves. We have seen what it does for the world. We have seen what it does for our neighbours. Now let us see how it blesses ourselves. To be kind to ourselves is a very peculiar feature of the spiritual life, but does not come within our range at present. Foremost among the common ways in which kind actions benefit ourselves may be mentioned the help they give us in getting clear of selfishness. The tendency of nature to love itself has more the character of a habit than a law. Opposite conduct always tends to weaken it, which would hardly be the case if it were a law. Kindness moreover, partly from the pleasure which accompanies it, partly from the blessing it draws down upon itself, and partly from its similitude to God, tends very rapidly to set into a wellformed habit. Selfishness is in no slight degree a point of view from which we regard things. Kindness alters our view by altering our point of view. Now does anything tease us more than our selfishness? Does anything more effectually retard our spiritual growth? Selfishness indeed furnishes us with a grand opportunity, the opportunity of getting to hate ourselves, because of the odiousness of this self-worship. But how few of us have got either the depth or the bravery to profit by this magnificent occasion? On the whole, selfishness must be put down, or our progress will cease. A series of kind actions turned against it with playful courage,—and selfishness is, I will not say killed, but stunned; and that is a great convenience, though it is not the whole work accomplished. Perhaps we may never come to be quite unselfish. However there is but one road towards that, which is kindness; and every step taken on that road is a long stride heavenwards.
Kindness seems to know of some secret fountain of joy deep in the soul, which it can touch without revealing its locality, and cause to send its waters upwards, and overflow the heart. Inward happiness almost always follows a kind action; and who has not long since experienced in himself, that inward happiness is the atmosphere in which great things are done for God? Furthermore, kindness is a constant godlike occupation, and implies many supernatural operations in those who practise kindness upon the motives of faith. Much grace goes along with kindness, collateral graces more than sufficient in themselves to make a saint. Observation would lead us to the conclusion, that kindness is not a native of the land of youth. Men grow kinder as they grow older. There are of course natures which are kindly from the cradle. But not many men have seen a really kind boy or girl. In like manner, as kindness in the natural world implies age, in the spiritual world it implies grace. It does not belong to the fervour of beginnings, but to the solidity of progress. Indeed Christian kindness implies so much grace, that it almost assures the exercise of humility. A proud man is seldom a kind man. Humility makes us kind, and kindness makes us humble. It is one of the many instances, in the matter of the virtues, of good qualities being at once not only causes and effects together, but also their own causes and their own effects. It would be foolish to say that humility is an easy virtue. The very lowest degree of it is a difficult height to climb. But this much may be said for kindness, that it is the easiest road to humility, and infallible as well as easy: and is not humility just what we want, just what we are this moment coveting, just what will break down barriers, and give us free course on our way to God?
Kindness does so much for us that it would be almost more easy to enumerate what it does not do, than to sum up what it does. It operates more energetically in some characters than in others. But it works wondrous changes in all. It is kindness which enables most men to put off the inseparable unpleasantness of youth. It watches the thoughts, controls the words, and helps us to unlearn early manhood's inveterate habit of criticism. It is astonishing how masterful it is in its influence over our dispositions, and yet how gentle, quiet, consistent, and successful. It makes us thoughtful and considerate. Detached acts of kindness may be the offspring of impulse. Yet he is mostly a good man, whose impulses are good. But on the long run habitual kindness is not a mere series of generous impulses, but the steadfast growth of generous deliberation. Much thought must go to consistent kindness, and much self-denying legislation. With most of us the very outward shape of our lives is, without fault of ours, out of harmony with persevering kindness. We have to humour circumstances. Our opportunities require management, and to be "patient in waiting to do good to others is a fine work of grace. It is on account of all this that kindness makes us so attractive to others. It imparts a tinge of pathos to our characters, in which our asperities disappear, or at least only give a breadth of shadow to our hearts, which increases their beauty by making it more serious. We also become manly by being kind. Querulousness, which is the unattractive side of youthful piety, is no longer noticeable. It is alive, because an ailing or an isolated old age may bring it to the surface again. But kindness at any rate keeps it under water; for it is the high tide of the soul's nobility, and hides many an unseemly shallow which exposed its uninteresting sand in early days, and will disclose itself once more by ripples and stained water when age comes upon us, unless we are of those fortunate few whose hearts get younger as their heads grow older. A kind man is a man who is never selfoccupied. He is genial; he is sympathetic; he is brave. How shall we express in one word these many tilings which kindness does for us who practise it? It prepares us with an especial preparation for the paths of disinterested love of God.
Now surely we cannot say that this subject of kindness is an unimportant one. It is in reality, as subsequent Conferences will show, a great part of the spiritual life. It is found in all its regions, and in all of them with different functions, and in none of them playing an inferior part. It is also a peculiar participation of the spirit of Jesus, which is itself the life of all holiness. It reconciles worldly men to religious people; and really, however contemptible worldly men are in themselves, they have souls to save, and it were much to be wished that devout persons would make their devotion a little less angular and aggressive to worldly people, provided they can do so without lowering practice or conceding principle. Devout people are, as a class, the least kind of all classes. This is a scandalous thing to say; but the scandal of the fact is so much greater than the scandal of acknowledging it, that I will brave this last, for the sake of a greater good. Religious people are an unkindly lot. Poor human nature cannot do everything; and kindness is too often left uncultivated, because men do not sufficiently understand its value. Men may be charitable, yet not kind; merciful, yet not kind; self-denying, yet not kind. If they would add a little common kindness to their uncommon graces, they would convert ten where they now only abate the prejudices of one. There is a sort of spiritual selfishness in devotion, which is rather to be regretted than condemned. I should not like to think it is unavoidable. Certainly its interfering with kindness is not unavoidable. It is only a little difficult, and calls for watchfulness. Kindness, as a grace, is certainly not Sufficiently cultivated, while the self-gravitating, self-contemplating, self-inspecting parts of the spiritual life are cultivated too exclusively.
Rightly considered, kindness is the grand cause of God in the world. Where it is natural, it must forthwith be supernaturalized. Where it is not natural, it must be supernaturally planted. What is our life? It is a mission to go into every corner it can reach, and reconquer for God's beatitude His unhappy world back to Him. It is a devotion of ourselves to the bliss of the Divine Life by the beautiful apostolate of kindness.
Father Faber Spiritual Conferences
KINDNESS. II. KIND THOUGHTS.
Everywhere in creation there is a charm, the fountain of which is invisible. In the natural, the moral, and the spiritual world it is the same. We are constantly referring it to causes, which are only its effects. Faith alone reveals to us its true origin. God is behind everything. His sweetness transpires through the thick shades which hide Him. It comes to the surface, and with gentle mastery overwhelms the whole world. The sweetness of the hidden God is the delight of life. It is the pleasantness of nature, and the consolation which is omnipresent in all suffering. We touch Him; we lean on Him; we feel Him; we see by Him; always and everywhere. Yet He makes Himself so natural to us, that we almost overlook Him. Indeed, if it were not for faith, we should overlook Him altogether. His presence is like light, when we do not see the face of the sun. It is like light on the stony folds of the mountaintop, coming through rents in the waving clouds, or in the close forest where the wind weaves and unweaves the canopy of foliage, or like the silver arrows of underwater light in the deep blue sea, with coloured stones and bright weeds glancing there. Still God does not shine equally through all things. Some things are more transparent, other things more opaque. Some have a greater capacity for disclosing God than others. In the moral world, with which alone we are concerned at present, kind thoughts have a special power to let in upon us the light of the hidden God.
The thoughts of men are a world by themselves, vast and populous. Each man's thoughts are a world to himself. There is an astonishing breadth in the thoughts of even the most narrow-minded man. Thus we all of us have an interior world to govern, and he is the only real king who governs it effectually. There is no doubt that we are very much influenced by external things, and that our natural dispositions are in no slight degree dependent upon education. Nevertheless our character is formed within. It is manufactured in the world of our thoughts, and there we must go to influence it. He, who is master there, is master everywhere. He, whose energy covers his thoughts, covers the whole extent of self. He has Himself completely under his own control, if he has learned to control his thoughts. The fountains of word and action have their untrodden springs in the caverns of the world of thought. He, who can command the fountains, is master of the city. The power of suffering is the grandest merchandize of life, and it also is manufactured in the world of thought. The union of grace and nature is the significance of our whole life. It is there, precisely in that union, that the secret of our vocation resides. The shape of our work and the character of our holiness are regulated from the point, different in different men, at which nature and grace are united. The knowledge of this point brings with it, not only the understanding of our past, but a sufficiently clear vision of our future; to say nothing of its being the broad sunshine of the present. But the union of nature and grace is for the most part effected in the world of thought.
Bat I will go even further than this, and will venture to contradict a common opinion. It seems to me that our thoughts are a more true measure of ourselves than our actions are. They are not under the control of human respect. It is not easy for them to be ashamed of themselves. They have no witnesses but God. They are not bound to keep within certain limits or observe certain proprieties. Religious motives alone can claim jurisdiction over them. The struggle, which so often ensues within us before we can bring ourselves to do our duty, goes on entirely within our thoughts. It is our own secret, and men cannot put us to the blush because of it. The contradiction, which too often exists between our outward actions and our inward intentions, is only to be detected in the realm of our thoughts, whither none but God can penetrate, except by guesses, which are not the less offences against charity because they happen to be correct. In like manner, as an impulse will sometimes show more of our real character, than what we do after deliberation, our first thoughts will often reveal to us faults of disposition which outward restraints will hinder from issuing in action. Actions have their external hindrances, while our thoughts better disclose to us our possibilities of good and evil. Of course there is a most true sense in which the conscientious effort to cure a fault is a better indication of our character than the fault we have not yet succeeded in curing. Nevertheless we may die at any moment; and when we die, we die as we are. Thus our thoughts tell us, better than our actions can do, what we shall be like, the moment after death. Lastly, it is in the world of thought that we most often meet with God, walking as in the shades of ancient Eden. It is there we hear His whispers. It is there we perceive the fragrance of His recent presence. It is thence that the first vibrations of grace proceed.
Now, if our thoughts be of this importance, and also if kindness be of the importance which was assigned to it in the last Conference, it follows that kind thoughts must be of immense consequence. If a man habitually has kind thoughts of others, and that on supernatural motives, he is not far from being a saint. Such a man's thoughts are not kind intermittingly, or on impulse, or at hap-hazard. His first thoughts are kind, and he does not repent of them, although they often bring suffering and disgust in their train. All his thoughts are kind, and he does not chequer them with unkindly ones. Even when sudden passions or vehement excitements have thrown them into commotion, they settle down into a kindly humour, and cannot settle otherwise. These men are rare. Kind thoughts are rarer than either kind words or kind deeds. They imply a great deal of thinking about others. This in itself is rare. But they imply also a great deal of thinking about others without the thoughts being criticisms. This is rarer still. Active-minded men are naturally the most given to criticize; and they are also the men whose thoughts are generally the most exuberant. Such men therefore must make kind thoughts a defence against self. By sweetening the fountain of their thoughts, they will destroy the bitterness of their judgments.
But kind thoughts imply also a contact with God, and a divine ideal in our minds. Their origin cannot be anything short of divine. Like the love of beauty, they can spring from no baser source. They are not dictated by self-interest, nor stimulated by passion. They have nothing in them which is insidious, and they are almost always the preludes to some sacrifice of self. It must be from God's touch that such waters spring. They only live in the clammy mists of earth, because they breathe the fresh air of heaven. They are the scent with which the creature is penetrated through the indwelling of the Creator. They imply also the reverse of a superficial view of things. Nothing deepens the mind so much as a habit of charity. Charity cannot feed on surfaces. Its instinct is always to go deeper. Roots are its natural food. A man's surfaces are always worse than his real depths. There may be exceptions to this rule; but I believe them to be very rare. Self is the only person who does not improve on acquaintance. Our deepest views of life are doubtless very shallow ones; for how little do we know of what God intends to do with His own world? We know something about His glory and our own salvation, but how the last becomes the first in the face of so much evil neither theologian nor philosopher has ever been able adequately to explain. But so much we are warranted in saying, that charity is the deepest view of life, and nearest to God's view, and therefore also, not merely the truest view, but the only view which is true at all. Kind thoughts, then, are in the creature what His science is to the Creator. They embody the deepest, purest, grandest truth, to which we untruthful creatures can attain about others or ourselves.
Why are some men so forward to praise others? Is it not that it is their fashion of investing themselves with importance? But why are most men so reluctant to praise others? It is because they have such an inordinate opinion of themselves. Now kind thoughts for the most part imply a low opinion of self. They are an inward praise of others, and because inward, therefore genuine. No one, who has a high opinion of himself, finds his merits acknowledged according to his own estimate of them. His reputation therefore cannot take care of itself. He must push it; and a man who is pushing anything in the world is always unamiable, because he is obliged to stand so much on the defensive. A pugnacious man is far less disagreeable than a defensive man. Every man, who is habitually holding out for his rights, makes himself the equal of his inferiors, even if he be a king, and he must take the consequences, which are far from pleasant. But the kindthoughted man has no rights to defend, no self-importance to push. He thinks meanly of himself, and with so much honesty, that he thinks thus of himself with tranquillity. He finds others pleasanter to deal with than self; and others find him so pleasant to deal with, that love follows him wherever he goes, a love which is the more faithful to him because he makes so few pretences to be loved. Last of all, kind thoughts imply also supernatural principles; for inward kindness can be consistent on no others. Kindness is the occupation of our whole nature by the atmosphere and spirit of heaven. This is no inconsiderable affair. Nature cannot do the work itself, nor can it do it with ordinary succours. Were there ever any consistently kind heathens? If so they are in heaven now, for they must have been under the dominion of grace on earth. We must not confound kindness and mere good-humour. Good-humour is—no! on such an unkindly earth as this it will be better not to say a disparaging word even of mere good-humour. Would that there were more even of that in the world! I suspect angels cluster round a good-humoured man, as the gnats cluster round the trees they like.
But there is one class of kind thoughts which must be dwelt upon apart. I allude to kind interpretations. The habit of not judging others is one which it is very difficult to acquire, and which is generally not acquired till late on in the spiritual life. If men have ever indulged in judging others, the mere sight of an action almost indeliberately suggests an internal commentary upon it. It has become so natural to them to judge, however little their own duties or responsibilities are connected with what they are judging, that the actions of others present themselves to the mind as in the attitude of asking a verdict from it. All our fellowmen, who come within the reach of our knowledge, and for the most retired of us the circle is a wide one, are prisoners at the bar; and if we are unjust, ignorant, and capricious judges, it must be granted to us that we are indefatigable ones. Now all this is simple ruin to our souls. At any risk, at the cost of life, there must be an end of this, or it will end in everlasting banishment from God. The standard of the last judgment is absolute. It is this—the measure which we have meted to others. Our present humour in judging others reveals to us what our sentence would be if we died now. Are we content to abide that issue? But, as it is impossible all at once to stop judging, and as it is also impossible to go on judging uncharitably, we must pass through the intermediate stage of kind interpretations. Few men have passed beyond this to a habit of perfect charity, which has blessedly stripped them of their judicial ermine and their deeply-rooted judicial habits of mind. We ought therefore to cultivate most sedulously the habit of kind interpretations.
Men's actions are very difficult to judge. Their real character depends in a great measure on the motives which prompt them, and those motives are invisible to us. Appearances are often against what we afterwards discover to have been deeds of virtue. Moreover a line of conduct is, in its look at least, very little like a logical process. It is complicated with all manner of inconsistencies, and often deformed by what is in reality a hidden consistency. Nobody can judge men but God, and we can hardly obtain a higher or more reverent view of God than that which represents Him to us as judging men with perfect knowledge, unperplexed certainty, and undisturbed compassion. Now kind interpretations are imitations of the merciful ingenuity of the Creator finding excuses for His creatures. It is almost a day of revelation to us, when theology enables us to perceive that God is so merciful precisely because He is so wise; and from this truth it is an easy inference, that kindness is our best wisdom, because it is an image of the wisdom of God. This is the idea of kind interpretations, and this is the use which we must make of them. The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which perhaps we once prided ourselves as cleverness. It has been to us a fountain of sarcasm; and how seldom since Adam was created has a sarcasm fallen short of being a sin? We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We should have been much better without it from the first. It is the hardest talent of all to manage, because it is so difficult to make any glory for God out of it. We are sure to continue to say clever things, so long as we continue to indulge in this analysis; and clever things are equally sure to be sharp and acid. Sight is a great blessing, but there are times and places in which it is far more blessed not to see. It would be comparatively easy for us to be holy, if only we could always see the characters of our neighbours either in soft shade or with the kindly deceits of moonlight upon them. Of course we are not to grow blind to evil; for thus we should speedily become unreal. But we must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.
We must rise to something truer. Yes! Have we not always found in our past experience that on the whole our kind interpretations were truer than our harsh ones? What mistakes have we not made in judging others! But have they not almost always been on the side of harshness? Every day some phenomenon of this kind occurs. We have seen a thing as clear as day. It could have but one meaning. We have already taken measures. We have roused our righteous indignation. All at once the whole matter is differently explained, and that in some most simple way, so simple that we are lost in astonishment that we should never have thought of it ourselves. Always distrust very plain cases, says a legal writer. Things that were dark begin to give light. What seemed opaque is perceived to be transparent. Things that everybody differed about, as people in planting a tree can never agree what it wants to make it straight, now everybody sees in the same light; so natural and obvious has the explanation been. Nay, tilings that it appeared impossible to explain are just those the explanations of which are the most simple. How many times in life have we been wrong when we put a kind construction on the conduct of others? We shall not need our fingers to count those mistakes upon. Moreover grace is really much more common than our queralousness is generally willing to allow. We may suspect its operations in the worst men we meet with. Thus, without any forced impossibility, we may call in supernatural considerations in order to make our criticisms more ingenious in their charity. When we grow a little holier, we shall summon also to our aid those supernatural motives in ourselves, which, by depressing our own ideas of ourselves, elevate our generous belief in others.
But, while common sense convinces us of the truth of kind interpretations, common selfishness ought to open our eyes to their wisdom and their policy. We must have passed through life unobservantly, if we have never perceived that a man is very much himself what he thinks of others. Of course his own faults may be the cause of his unfavourable judgments of others; but they are also, and in a very marked way, effects of those same judgments. A man, who was on a higher eminence before, will soon by harsh judgments of others sink to the level of his own judgments. When you hear a man attribute meanness to another, you may be sure, not only that the critic is an illnatured man, but that he has got a similar element of meanness in himself, or is fast sinking to it. A man is always capable himself of a sin which he thinks another is capable of, or which he himself is capable of imputing to another. Even a well-founded suspicion more or less degrades a man. His suspicion may be verified, and he may escape some material harm by having cherished the suspicion. But he is unavoidably the worse man in consequence of having entertained it. This is a very serious consideration, and rather a frightening argument in favour of charitable interpretations. Furthermore, our hidden judgments of others are, almost with a show of special and miraculous interference, visited upon ourselves. Virtue grows in us under the influence of kindly judgments, as if they were its nutriment. But in the case of harsh judgments we find we often fall into the sin of which we have judged another guilty, although it is not perhaps a sin at all common to ourselves. Or, if matters do not go so far as this, we find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed with a tempest of unusual temptations; and on reflection conscience is ready to remind us that the sin, to which we are thus violently and unexpectedly tempted, is one which we have of late been uncharitably attributing to others. Sometimes also we are ourselves falsely accused, and widely believed to be guilty, of some fault of which we are quite innocent; but it is a fault of which we have recently, in our own minds at least, accused another. Moreover the truth or falsehood of our judgments seem to have very little to do with the matter. The truth of them does not protect us from their unpleasant consequences ; just as the truth of a libel is no sufficient defence of it. It is the uncharitableness of the judgment, or the judging at all, to which this self-revenging power is fastened. It works itself out like a law, quietly but infallibly. Is not all this matter for very serious reflection? But, in conclusion, what does all this doctrine of kind interpretations amount to? To nothing less, in the case of most of us, than living a new life in a new world. We may imagine life in another planet, with whose physical laws we may happen to have a sufficient acquaintance. But it would hardly differ more in a physical way from our earthly life, than our moral life would differ from what it is at present, if we were habitually to put a kind interpretation on all we saw and heard, and habitually had kind thoughts of every one of whom we thought at all. It would not merely put a new face on life; it would put a new depth to it. We should come as near as possible to becoming another kind of creatures. Look what an amount of bitterness we have about us! What is to become of it? It plainly cannot be taken into heaven. Where must it be left behind? We clearly cannot put it off by the mere act of dying, as we can put off thereby a rheumatic limb, or wasted lungs, or diseased blood. It will surely be a long and painful process in the heats of purgatory; but we may be happy if mercy so abound upon us, that the weight of our bitterness shall not sink us deeper into the fire, into that depth from which no one ever rises to the surface more. But when we reach heaven, in what state shall we be? Certainly one very important feature of it will be the absence of all bitterness and criticism, and the way in which our expanded minds will be possessed with thoughts of the most tender and overflowing kindness. Thus by cultivating kind thoughts we are in a very special way rehearsing for heaven. But more than this: we are effectually earning heaven. For by God's grace we are imitating in our own minds that which in the Divine Mind we rest all our hopes on,—merciful allowances, ingeniously favourable interpretations, thoughts of unmingled kindness, and all the inventions and tolerations of a supreme compassion.
The practice of kind thoughts also tells most decisively on our spiritual life. It leads to great self-denial about our talents and influence. Criticism is an element in our reputation and an item in our influence. We partly attract persons to us by it. We partly push principles by means of it. The practice of kind thoughts commits us to the surrender of all this. It makes us, again and again in life, sacrifice successes at the moment they are within reach. Our conduct becomes a perpetual voluntary forfeiture of little triumphs, the necessary result of which is a very hidden life. He, who has ever struggled -with a proud heart and a bitter temper, will perceive at once what innumerable and vast processes of spiritual combat all this implies. But it brings its reward also. It endows us with a marvellous facility in spiritual things. It opens and smooths the paths of prayer. It sheds a clear still light over our self-knowledge. It adds a peculiar delight to the exercise of faith. It enables us to find God easily. It is a fountain of joy in our souls, which rarely intermits its flowing, and then only for a little while and for a greater good. Above all things, the practice of kind thoughts is our main help to that complete government of the tongue, which we all so much covet, and without which the apostle says that all our religion is vain. The interior beauty of a soul through habitual kindliness of thought is greater than our words can tell. To such a man life is a perpetual bright evening, with all things calm, and fragrant, and restful. The dust of life is laid, and its fever cool. All sounds are softer, as is the-way of evening, and all sights are fairer, and the golden light makes our enjoyment of earth a happily pensive preparation for heaven.
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