Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.
1. There are many discouragements which follow false conceptions of life, and which result from the practical rectification of those conceptions. There are those who enter upon a Christian life expecting to be borne, as it were, by the Divine afflatus, straight through their course. When they find, on the other hand, that God only works in them to will and to do, and that the effect of the Divine influence upon them is to make the necessity of work in them still more emphatic, they are disappointed. There are those who have supposed a religious life to be a tide of joyful emotion. They thought religion was some Cleopatra's barge of ivory and gold, with purple sails, and with music and joyfulness within; and though there would be savage barbarians along either shore, that would shoot arrows at them, they meant to fire out of the barge a great deal better than was sent at them; and when they find that instead of being a Cleopatra's barge, it is a galley, as it were, and that they are galley-slaves, they are despondent. The dispersion of these illusions destroys all that they stood on; and yet, at that, it is far better. There is many a man who is much nearer the kingdom of God at the point of discouragement than he was at the point of hope. The point of hope was the point of misconception; this discouragement is more wholesome than was their hopefulness, because it is nearer to the truth.
2. There are those who begin a religious life upon the nourishment abundantly supplied to them in the peculiar circumstances in which they are born, but who have a slender capacity for supplying themselves with nourishment. They lack that motive force which makes religion, and that inspiration which gives them vital courage. Those who are slenderly endowed in this respect, find, as soon as they begin to live a Christian life for themselves, that it is very dull. It is for such persons that the external routine of church duties is peculiarly useful. If they could be held to some set, stated exercises allied to religion, they would find themselves, both by the regularity of these exercises and by their routine nature, to be greatly sustained and helped. For they are persons that are living upon a low plane.
3. Men suffer discouragements arising from the misconception of the relations of joy to the Christian life. They think while they are joyful that they are growing, and when they are not joyful, then they are going behind-hand. But pain is a far more growing element than joy. Sunshine is not more indispensable to harvests than rains and cloudy days. And in the Christian life the yoke and the burden are eminently profitable to men. There are many men who think that religion is an invitation to go into the house and sit before a great fire that has been built for them. Religion is an invitation to more than that. It is also an invitation to the felling, hauling, and preparing of the fuel. And is not this rational? Is not this the way to make true and wholesome natures?
4. There are discouragements arising from conflicts and rivalries between lawful secular occupations and religious emotions. Our whole life is a religious life. The experiences of inspiration may be spiritual in the closet; .but the real life of every man is that into which he puts his energy, his strength, his vitality, his power. Wherever men are, there they ought to put their power of understanding, their power of sentiment, their power of feeling, their power of planning and execution. That is the thing for a Christian man to do. And the kind of power which he has, and the moral quality of it, depend upon the influence of the interior and invisible life.
5. A large element of discouragement arises in minds of fine temper, on account of the discrepancy which must always exist between ideality and practical reality. There will always be a chasm between duty and performance. The higher our conception of justice is, the harder it will be to reach it. The fact is, a person of a vivid imagination will conceive of an amount of duty and a fineness of experience which it would be impossible, except by a tutoring of years and years, to meet. Do not you suppose that Raphael's mind, before his hand was trained to paint, painted pictures that were infinitely more beautiful than any that his hand painted? No men are so apt to be discouraged as those who are living far up along the scale. They judge themselves by a high ideal of life. I would not have them discouraged finally; but it does not do any hurt for a man to be enough discouraged to keep down pride and vanity. Men are discouraged, frequently, from a perception of the weakness and unfruitfulness of their will-power — their power of executing what they mean to do. Men resolve, and do not accomplish. The relation between the power of the will and the thing to be executed is different in different people. I have often said that moral stamina lay in the will more than anywhere else. The will is like a rudder. Some ships are very hard to steer, and some are very easy. Some you can hardly turn from their course, and some you can set about by the least touch of the wheel. So it is with men. And they are discouraged, usually, if they find it hard to direct their course aright, because they think it is owing to some wickedness in them. Persevere, and work manfully, with weakness and temptation, in darkness and light, and you will reach your Heavenly Father soon. No father on earth was ever so lenient with the faults of his boy who wanted to do right, as God is with your faults if you want to do right, and will try to do right. In a little time you will know that this is so. Not to mention the other classes of discouragement, I remark, in closing, that behind and within all our personal labour is our God. No man will ever reach heaven that does not himself strive; but no man will ever reach heaven simply through his own striving. There are two co-ordinate lives; there is power within a power; there is God in us; and that is the secret of the power by which we are saved. It looks as though the pointers of a watch kept time; but is it the strength of the pointers that carries them round? No. Down deep below there is the coiled spring that moves the wheel, and, in obedience, the pointers move and register the time. But suppose the pointers were taken off? Then all the springs in the world, though they might set the wheels playing round, would not indicate the time. The measuring power would be gone. Both of them, the spring and the pointers, must be concurrently adjusted in order to keep time. It is God that is the mighty spring within us; and it is we that on the great dial of time are moving round in obedience to this interior force. There is, behind our own will and within our own purposes, the Divine influence; and this truth affords a ground whereon we may comfort ourselves in discouragement.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.