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Daily Readings for the People of God.
SELECTED FROM THE WRITINGS OF
THE CHOICEST ANCIENT AND MODERN DIVINES,
BY ISABEL CHARLOTTE GARB ETT.
WITH A PREFACE
BY THE REV. EDWARD GARBETT, M.A.,
CHRIST CHURCH, SURBITON HILL, SURREY,
BINNS & GOODWIN.
N.B, The title of this work has been changed from "Morning Dewdrops" to its present form in consequence of another work, bearing the same title, being announced whilst this was passing through the press.
EVERY aid which can be afforded to the cultivation of a devotional spirit should be thankfully welcomed as a counterpoise to the dangerous tendencies of an age of intense activity. The objects which appeal to Christian sympathy are various in number, and engrossing in the interests exerted by them to a degree unknown in any previous experience of the Church of Christ. The multiplied spheres of usefulness opened to the labours both of Christian laymen and of Christian ladies have enlisted a very large proportion of our congregations as helpers in some branch or other of the Church's work. The amount of time and labour expended in such objects will, of course, materially differ according to the character of the
and the pressure of the circumstances; but in all cases where the work is earnestly embraced, the tendency to enlarge effort beyond the bounds of strength and natural opportunity will probably be experienced. It would be easy to stand on one side and do nothing, if the sense of a solemn obligation, and the urgency of the necessity, rendered it possible to do so. But to engage in the work at all with zeal and heartiness, and yet to restrict exertion within the bounds of Christian prudence, is to all persons of natural energy a matter of extreme difficulty. The temptation to substitute action for devotion has under these circumstances become a matter of painful experience to the laity as well as to the ministry.
Few greater mistakes could indeed be made than to set action and devotion into antagonism with each other, as if either of the two necessarily detracted from the necessity of the other. The relative claims of the contemplative and of the practical life have indeed very long ago formed the subject of curious speculation. We can readily understand that to the ancient philosophers, who did not possess the light of God's Word, and to modern philosophers who do not accept it, it would be impossible to adjust or even to reconcile the claims of the two. For in the absence of that clear and authoritative knowledge of the Divine will which revelation can alone supply, all that the human mind was able to discover of its own destiny, and of that of its fellow men, was too wide of the truth to have any very direct reference to the questions of practical life, and too utterly uncertain to exercise any influence over them. To the ancient heathen, all questions bearing on his own nature, the object of his life, and the true sources of his happiness, supplied curious exercises for the intellect, rather than hopes for the heart. To him, therefore, there were two modes of life: either he could choose the practical, and forgetting all higher speculations about himself and the world in which he lived, could devote his powers to the struggles of the working world; or, on the other hand, separating himself from the duties of practical life, he could occupy himself in abstract speculations, which were as impotent to affect his own happiness, or the happiness of other men, as the hand of a child is to arrest the wind, or turn back the waves of the sea.
It is true that a few instances remain in the records of antiquity, of men who were able to take part of both lives; but even then it was as if taking part in two spheres which scarcely came into contact with each other. But the tendency was to set the practical and the meditative into opposition; and to the men of our own time it is not difficult to find the antitype of these ancient philosophers. It is one of the curious phenomena of modern rationalism, that we find some men to be practical believers in Christianity and theoretical disbelievers in it. The man in his study is a sceptic, making man " the measure of all things,"— laying down for himself an ideal cosmos, and bringing even the grand truths of revelation down to the vapid level of his own understanding. But the wants of the practical life rebel against this cheerless void, and give the lie to its conclusions. Amid the trials of life or the fears of death the craving human heart falls back on the old faith, and grasps for support with one hand the precious promises the very foundations of which the man labours to overthrow with the other.
Such a mental state is equally unnatural and unscriptural ; and it may well be doubted how far such a religion of sentiment, as can alone remain, can afford either solid satisfaction or substantial ground for hope. Certainly there is not a word in Scripture which gives countenance to it. The existence of such a moral condition shows that the human mind labours under the same natural disability in the nineteenth century of the Christian era as it did in the centuries before Christ. In