Exhort servants to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;…
We have been so educated that we are apt to think of beauty as simply an attribute of matter. We are apt to think that it can be transferred to moral conduct only by a figure of speech. Now, while we do not deny that in the constitution of the human mind there is such a condition of faculty as that the perception of outline, or colour, or harmony in matter, or materialness, produces a certain enjoyment, or, as we call it, a certain sense of the beautiful, we affirm that that right conduct — moral excellence as well as intellectual excellence — produces upon the mind just as clearly a sense of beauty. I might appeal to every man's own experience in his home life — if his home life is fortunate — whether the qualities that he discerned in father and mother were not admirable to him in his childhood; and whether they were not admirable to him all the way up. And to many of you, I speak with confidence when I say that, when you have wandered far from technical faith, yea, when you have largely fallen under the chill of doubt and unbelief, there still remains to you a silver cord not yet loosed, and a golden bowl not yet broken, and that that cord which holds you to faith is the mother's heart, and that that bowl is the father's heart, and that you believe against reason and in spite of unbelief, because of the faith yet lingering in your soul in the moral qualities that you have witnessed in the household. Is not courage beautiful? Is not disinterested benevolence beautiful? There is the case of the engineer who would not abandon his engine, but stood steadfast because he knew he had a hundred lives behind him. He stood upon the board, obviously knowing that he was rushing into the darkness of death. Then there was that other engineer who, on the burning ship upon Lake Erie, stood by the wheel, and steered for the shore, amidst the gathering and gaining flames, refusing to escape, and perished in the wheelhouse, in the vain effort to save those who were committed to his charge. Are not such deeds grand? Are not the qualities that inspire them beautiful? Is there any temple, is there any sculptured statue, is there any picture, that thrills the soul with such enthusiastic admiration as acts like these? And what are they but moral acts? How do all men say of them — "They are grand, they are beautiful, they are sublime." Look at the disinterestedness of woman's love. She was won from the father's house and household with all that was hopeful before her, to begin a life of love. He was full of generosity, full of manliness, and full of promise. The buds of young developing life hung on the bough, and were blossoming, until the fatal snare was set for him: until the growing habit of intoxication fastened upon him, and degradation settled down upon him, and little by little her life, with anguish of foresight, and with anguish of love, is overclouded. And yet, though her father's door stands open to call her back, she will not abandon him. She thinks of her children, she thinks of their future, and she will not abandon him. He grows morose. More and more he becomes like the animals. The beauty which she first saw in him lives now only in memory. The recollection of the past, or some dimly-painted dream of the future, is all the source of joy that is left her; for the present to her is full of woe, and sorrow, and humiliation. Gradually his friends forsake him. He is abandoned by one and by another. He is cast out of work and out of position. More and more is he degraded and bestialized; and well might she cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But she cries no such thing. No angel in heaven ever ministered more patiently, more tenderly, or more indefatigably for a soul than does she for him. And when at last he dies, and every person in the whole neighbourhood breathes freer, and says, "Thank God, he is gone, and she is free at last!" she is the only mourner; she is the only one that remembers the good that was in him; and she stands at his grave bowed down with real grief. She stood by him through good report and through evil report, as she promised; and love triumphed. Tell me, unbrutified men, is there no beauty in self-denial or in self-sacrifice? Take every single moral quality. Take those fruits of the Spirit recorded in the word of God which you will find in the fifth chapter of Galatians. Love — is not that beautiful? Is there anything that makes the face so seraphic as the full expression of a noble and high minded love? Joy — even a curmudgeon of avarice will look with admiration upon the cheery, face of outbursting joy in children. Peace, such as we often see when the passions are burned out, when the day and its heat are gone, and the soul in its old age sits waiting for the final revelation — this is beautiful. The beauty of the house is in the cradle or in the armchair. Long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control — are not these, when they exist in plenary power, esteemed by mankind honourable and beautiful? and do they not excite the involuntary exclamation of surprise? Now, it is on account of the intrinsic beauty of moral quality that piety and religious life, in their higher forms, are spoken of in the word of God as beautiful; and the consummation of piety in the social estate, in the Church, whether in the present or in the future, is celebrated all the way through the Bible as beautiful. When the beauty that is in moral quality shall be developed and made conspicuous; when not merely here and there a person, or a handful, or a household, are harmonious, all the others being relatively at discords; when not only single families in a neighbourhood, or single members in a Church are at peace; but when, in serried ranks, men shall shine with the beauty of holiness, and be lifted into a higher state in which they are able to give positiveness to the fruits of the spirit; when neighbour does it to neighbour, and it becomes the public sentiment, and the air is full of it — then will come the millennial day; then will be realized that enchanting vision which danced in the air before the prophet's eye; then shall men live together in righteousness; then shall that state be known which is symbolized by the lying down of the lion with the lamb; then all brute natures, all that live by vice, and cruelty, and wickedness, shall be cleansed out of the earth; and all men shall rejoice in the light, and in the glory, and in the supremacy of those spiritual experiences which belong to a religious life. It is often the case, when persons are brought into the Christian life — especially when in great numbers, and under great excitement — that the first thought of every one is, "Now, what shall I do?" And some begin to think of tracts, and wonder if it would not be well for them to have a district. Others inquire if they had not better go out and see their young friends, and preach to them. They are taught explicitly that they must go to work. It is said to them, "You are converted; now go to work. Start prayer meetings. Bring in the neighbourhood." I do not say that these things are to be deprecated: on the contrary, in due degree, and with proper discretion, they all may be duties; but to represent a Christian life as having its first exhibition and its peculiar testimony in setting itself to work on and about somebody else is a grave mistake. My advice to every one of you that has found the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is living in a joyful faith, is, make yourselves more comely. Look to your thoughts and dispositions. Begin with yourself in your relations to brother and sister, or to father and mother. Let every duty that is incumbent upon you as child, or husband, or wife, rise instantly to an exalted place, and become more luminous, more beautiful, better. And if, having made home more heavenly, if — your disposition being ripened and beautified — there be opportunity for enterprise with others, do not by any indolence or misconception neglect that opportunity. Wherever you are, make those who are next to you in the relation of life see that you are a better man since you became a Christian than you were before, as a doorkeeper, or as a doer of errands, as a bookkeeper, as a salesman, as a schoolboy or a schoolgirl. In whatever station God has placed you, in the performance of your special duty, let the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ be so borne that men, seeing the things which you do, may be attracted to Him by the exhibition of your personal character in your relations. Remember that the essential power of the gospel of Christ, in so far as you are concerned, will lie in how much of Christ you have in you. It is not profession, nor is it doctrine, though it were preached by never so eloquent lips, that has power with the world; it is Christlikeness in men. It is living as Christ lived, not in outward condition, but in inward disposition. He came down that we might go up. Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might become rich. He wept that we need not weep. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, that He might lift others out of the lower sphere. He accepted poverty as a means of enriching us. You are to follow Christ's example; and you can preach no more of Him than you practise.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;