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A SERMON BY REV. HENRY T. SECRIST OF MILWAUKEE, WIS.
The New Year time invites us to consider our prospects for the year just before us. We are supposed to be thinking now about ridding ourselves of certain habits which have been injurious and of doing the things which we have known for some time ought to be done.
The past is gone from us: the future is here for our making.
It is no more use to try to sustain ourselves and to grow spiritually without nourishment than it is physically. It is no more use to try to lift ourselves spiritually without some means of support than it is physically.
If we are sure that we have plenty of strength, then we may go on with confidence; and that wins half the battle. A sure base of supplies is an invaluable In the warfare for the right the help. enemy is wise enough always to seek to come between us and our supplies.
It will be directly to the point, then, for me to ask you at this time of enthusiasm and planning to look toward increasing your resources. "All things are yours"; that is, if you know how to get hold of them honestly and also how to keep them when you have them. God's riches are for all, but he is wise enough to give more only to those who are ready to use them. Divine generosity is not slovenly and wasteful. But the earnest seeker always receives in abundance.
The suggestion may be made in this way: that we look carefully to our investments,
noting what they have been, what have brought the largest and best returns, and so, of course, look to what we want to give more of our attention in the year before us.
Surely, no one need be told what is the nature of the most profitable resources. We merely need to be convinced of some of our folly by an experience in wisdom. We know that there are some whose wealth has not brought them satisfaction. We know there are some whom even the glamour of fame has at last left wretched. Let us be bold enough to assume that such aims are not of serious concern now. been tried, and have been found wanting. Henceforth we shall make other investments. Henceforth we shall seek, first of all, for the resources which will enlarge life, which will bring the blessings of happiness and the satisfactions of peace.
A good way to begin will be to try to see what we already have. Very likely, we have more than we supposed.
We may take the past year, and make it yield an increase of resources to us. It ought to yield every one a constant income of guidance and strength. What is gone is indeed "secure and fast."
We are in command of the events and of ourselves now. To cut ourselves loose from that past would diminish our resources. Something you have done, something another has done for you, some person you have met, some thought that has come to you, some place you have visited,-these must become parts of your permanent pos
sessions. Blessed be the law which makes it impossible to change, for it makes it possible to retain. A memory stored with what even one year has brought ought to be forevermore a help toward better living. Shame be upon us if we sit down and idly wait for just what happens to come out of our past! God cannot give his best gifts to the sluggard. It is befitting us to enter the past with a vigorous and an expectant mind, and to see how many treasures we may gain from it, and so endeavor to increase our resources there. Take all those bright days and those sad days and those neglected days, and let them be purified by your present purpose, and out of all of them shall come some cheer and some wisdom which you cannot afford to miss.
We may vastly increase our resources by a wider and a more intimate acquaintance with the external world. Here we are, moving about in it: how much help does it give us? Let us ask that; for, though it is our duty to help the world first, yet we shall hardly be able to do that well unless it at the same time is allowed to help us. Perhaps we may call this way increasing our resources extensively. As the external world opens up its wonders to the growing child, and all objects about him increase his interest, so it should be to us all continually. It is a misfortune for a man, if he ceases to find any wonders in the world. If there is no wonder, there is no worship; and, if there is no worship, there will not be much life of the spirit. What there is remains only by clinging; and there is little, if any, hope of
But there are wonders even for the wisest, -more to him than to any other. There lies our hope.
This knowledge of the world of nature serves its purpose when it aids right living. The vital import is the final test of the worth of all study. One cannot even study the rocks efficiently unless he is capable of being aroused by the great thoughts with which he must come in contact there, and these great thoughts must invite him to greatness of life. A genuine companionship with greatness of any kind must make us in our degree great. Such is the divine decree.
We may increase our resources by a further acquaintance with the internal world; and we shall call that way increasing our resources intensively. There are within mines of gold which we have not yet discovered, and there are others which we have not managed so as to make them yield their richest results.
It will be well to recall here that one thing thoroughly understood will lead to a knowledge of all things. An understanding of many objects is not possible to vast multitudes of people. But let a man see well what he does see, see in it and through it and around it, and he must needs come in contact with that divinity in which all valuable resources are to be found. One law obeyed will bring easier obedience to others. That means for us to search more deeply into what we have. Though we may not have many possessions, we are to make more valuable and serviceable what we do have.
Every person has, at least, himself. He may understand more of himself, and thus, at least, increase his resources. If we appreciate what are the thoughts and sentiments and hopes which we all have, we shall make a gain of more worth for producing happiness and holiness than fine houses or philosophical treatises can possibly afford. The person who has travelled far and wide has a certain advantage. He ought to be better as well as wiser on account of his travels. Yet it does not always happen so. The travel is not possible for the majority. So we shall stay at home if we cannot go abroad, and shall try to see how much of God's world may be found in our own nature.
We have not yet called forth the strength we already possess, to say nothing of making more by the common and natural method of exercise.
We do not deserve much pity for any fault, when we are merely too lazy to call forth our power of resistance. A large number of our failures are due to shallowness. Our cry for strength is weak because of our sluggishness. We have not even gone down into the depths, and of course are not living there.
I want to take it for granted that to do something for others is acknowledged to be an excellent means for increasing the resources for our own living. If a man has
not yet learned that lesson, he must go back into the primary class for religious instruction. Suppose you try an investment here for at least a year, and find out whether it will not pay you, as well as assist some unfortunate one. Do it as a business undertaking, if you will, and give to it the time and attention which you would give to any important undertaking. You can afford it, or, rather, you cannot afford to neglect it. Heaven has sent down its richest blessings upon some who have dared to do so.
Somehow, we must have resources enough not merely to meet the ordinary needs that come day by day. Worldly wisdom might finally teach us to make provision for them, but many of us fall when the unexpected comes. A crisis comes for which there was no preparation. A temptation besets us for which we have no force in reserve. Some give up, some go to ruin, some even kill themselves. This comes about because the source of supply is exhausted. There has been none conserved for the extraordinary demand. There must be more resources than are commonly being called upon, if there is to be safety. You must work out your salvation beforehand. You must lay by something for the stormy day in your spiritual life. Then you can meet the emergencies with confidence, and shall have all that is needed to carry you through them to victory. Such crises are in the year before you. It is folly to worry about them, but it is sensible to recognize that they may come. Surely, it is wise to prepare for them by so increasing our resources that we may have sufficient to draw upon in emergen cies.
It is literally true that we may have connection with an unfailing supply of all that is needful to make us upright and happy. Everywhere we may approach toward what is unlimited in abundance. And what does all this imply but that in these various ways we are coming into a more intimate acquaintance with God?
It may not seem altogether appropriate to speak in commercial terms on such a sublime theme, but we should know that here is where we should make our investments if we want them to bring satisfactory returns. When we search diligently in the external world, we are directed through the rock toward God, or, when
we go down into our own natures, we are directed toward the same God.
By knowing more of God, then, we are doing what is necessary in our attempts after a perfect life. The strength of the outward world is re-enforced by a larger strength, and our own strength is re-enforced by the same larger strength. There is no time for sin, no desire for it. We have something so much better to be thinking about and doing. We must make more and better ways for pleasantness and peace. That will be better than any of our spasmodic efforts. What we undertake we shall
be able to carry out.
It is ours to make the places about us speak to us of God. Here is a building with precious memories clinging to it. When we pass it, it calls us, unconsciously, to righteousness. So of many objects. But how some places haunt us, because of regretful memories of them! We do not want to visit them, and in that part of our world God is almost shut out from us. The college boy wastes his time in idleness and dissipation, and in later years every tree and every stone and every path of the college grounds taunts him; and those scenes which ought to fill his life with pleasant remembrances are suggestive only of sinfulness and productive only of regret. There are certain spots which are sacred to us because we found there an impulse to godliness. As we pass them, they bring comfort and cheer. There are certain moments that are specially precious to us, and bring consolation through all our years, and are even angels of peace, hovering about the end of our years. These places and moments have saved us, encouraged us, cheered us. This is a simple and natural way to a holier life.
Now, I propose that we make more such moments and find more such places, and so increase our resources for right living. There are plenty of places and objects which are dumb to us as yet, which may be made to speak. There are all the moments of the year and the years before us. we not make them messengers of God, that shall be about us all the time for our guidance and help? It is within our power to have these places and objects and moments mute, or we may make them speak. If they speak to us, they are added to our resources. If we think nobly and speak