'I am made all things to all men . . . I please all men in all things.'--Paul
Captain Anything came originally from the ancient town of Fair-speech.
Fair-speech had many royal bounties and many special privileges bestowed upon it, and Captain Anything and his family had come to many titles and to great riches in that ancient, loyal, and honourable borough. My Lord Turn-about, my Lord Time-server, my Lord Fair-speech (from whose ancestors that town first took its name), as also such well-known commoners as Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Facing-both-ways, and Mr. Two-tongues were all sprung with Captain Anything from the same ancient and long-established ancestry. As to his religion, from a child young Anything had sat under the parson of the parish, the same Reverend Two-tongues as has been mentioned above. And our budding soldier followed the example of his minister in that he never strove too long against wind or tide, or was ever to be seen on the same side of the street with Religion when she was banished from court or had lost her silver slippers. The crest of the Anythings was a delicately poised weather-cock; and the motto engraved around the gyrating bird ran thus: 'Our judgment always jumps according to the occasion.' As a military man, Captain Anything is described in military books as a proper man, and a man of courage and skill--to appearance. He and his company under him were a sort of Swiss guard in Mansoul. They held themselves open and ready for any master. They lived not so much by religion or by loyalty as by the fates of worldly fortune. In his secret despatches Diabolus was wont to address Captain Anything as My Darling; and be sure you recruit your Switzers well, Diabolus would say; but when the real stress of the war came, even Diabolus cast Captain Anything off. And thus it came about that when both sides were against this despised creature he had to throw down his arms and flee into a safe skulking place for his life.
1. In that half-papist, half-atheistic country called France there is a class of politicians known by the name of Opportunists. They are a kind of public men that, we are thankful to say, are not known in Protestant and Evangelical England, but they may be pictured out and described to you in this homely way: An Opportunist stands well out of the sparks of the fire, and well in behind the stone wall, till the fanatics for liberty, equality, and fraternity have snatched the chestnuts out of the fire, and then the Opportunist steps out from his safe place and blandly divides the well-roasted tid-bits among his family and his friends. As long as there is any jeopardy, the Jacobins are denounced and held up to opprobrium; but when the jeopardy and the risk are well past, the sober-minded, cautious, conservative, and responsible statesmen walk off with the portfolios of place and privilege and pay under their honest arms. But these are the unprincipled papists and infidels of a mushroom republic; and, thank God, such spurious patriotism, and such sham and selfish statesmanship, have not yet shown their miserable heads among faithful, fearless, straightforward, and uncalculating Englishmen. At the same time, if ever that continental vice should attack our national character, we have two well-known essays in our ethical and casuistical literature that may with perfect safety be pitted against anything that either France or Italy has produced. Even if they are but a master's irony, let all ambitious men keep Of Cunning and Of Wisdom for a Man's Self under their pillow. Let all young men who would toady a great man; let all young ministers who would tune their pulpit to king, or court, or society; let all tradesmen and merchants who prefer their profits to their principles--if they have literature enough, let them soak their honest minds in our great Chancellor's sage counsels; and he who promoted Anything and dubbed him his Darling, he will, no doubt, publish both a post and a title on his birthday for you also.
2. 'What religion is he of?' asks Dean Swift. 'He is an Anythingarian,' is the answer, 'for he makes his self-interest the sole standard of his life and doctrine.' And Archbishop Leighton, a very different churchman from the bitter author of the Polite Conversations, is equally contemptuous toward the self-seeker in divine things. 'Your boasted peaceableness often proceeds from a superficial temper; and, not seldom, from a supercilious disdain of whatever has no marketable use or value, and from your utter indifference to true religion. Toleration is an herb of spontaneous growth in the soil of indifference. Much of our union of minds proceeds from want of knowledge and from want of affection to religion. Many who boast of their church conformity, and that no one hears of their noise, may thank the ignorance of their minds for that kind of quietness.' But by far the most powerful assault that ever was made upon lukewarmness in religion and upon self-seeking in the Church was delivered by Dante in the tremendous third canto of his Inferno:--
Various tongues, Horrible languages, outcries of woe, Accents of anger, voices deep and hoarse, With hands together smote that swelled the sounds, Made up a tumult that for ever whirls Round through that air with solid darkness stain'd, Like to the sand that in the whirlwind flies. I then, with error yet encompass'd, cried, 'O master! What is this I hear? What race Are these, who seem so overcome with woe?' He then to me: 'This miserable fate Suffer the wretched souls of those who lived Without or praise or blame, with that ill band Of angels mixed, who nor rebellious proved, Nor yet were true to God, but for themselves Were only. Mercy and Justice scorn them both. Speak not of them, but look and pass them by.' Forthwith, I understood for certain this the tribe Of those ill spirits both to God displeasing And to His foes. Those wretches who ne'er lived, Went on in nakedness, and sorely stung By wasps and hornets, which bedewed their cheeks With blood, that mix'd with tears dropp'd to their feet, And by disgustful worms was gathered there.
3. Now, we must all lay it continually and with uttermost humiliation to heart that we all have Captain Anything's opportunism, his self-interest, his insincerity, his instability, and his secret deceitfulness in ourselves. That man knows little of himself who does not despise and hate himself for his secret self-seeking even in the service of God. For, how the love of praise will seduce and corrupt this man, and the love of gain that man! How easy it is to flatter and adulate this man out of all his former opinions and his deepest principles, and how an expected advantage will make that other man forget now an old alliance and now a deep antipathy! How often the side we take even in the most momentous matters is decided by the most unworthy motives and the most contemptible considerations! Unstable as water, Reuben shall not excel. Double-minded men, we, like Jacob's first-born, are unstable in all our ways. We have no anchor, or, what anchor we sometimes have soon slips. We have no fixed pole-star by which to steer our life. Any will-o'-the-wisp of pleasure, or advantage, or praise will run us on the rocks. The searchers of Mansoul, after long search, at last lighted on Anything, and soon made an end of him. Seek him out in your own soul also. Be you sure he is somewhere there. He is skulking somewhere there. And, having found him, if you cannot on the spot make an end of him, keep your eye on him, and never say that you are safe from him and his company as long as you are in this soul-deceiving life. And, that Anything will not be let enter the gates of the city you are set on seeking, that will go largely to make that sweet and clean and truthful city your very heaven to you.
4. 'I am made all things to all men, and I please all men in all things.' One would almost think that was Captain Anything himself, in a frank, cynical, and self-censorious moment. But if you will look it up you will see that it was a very different man. The words are the words of Anything, but the heart behind the words is the heart of Paul. And this, again, teaches us that we should be like the Messiah in this also, not to judge after the sight of our eyes, nor to reprove after the hearing of our ears. Miserable Anything! outcast alike of heaven and hell! But, O noble and blessed Apostle! the man, says Thomas Goodwin, who shall be found seated next to Jesus Christ Himself in the kingdom of God. Happy Paul: happy even on this earth, since he could say, and in the measure he could say with truth and with sincerity, such self-revelations as these: 'Unto the Jews I am become as a Jew that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. To them that are without law, as without law, that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Giving none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God. Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.' Noble words, and inspiring to read. Yes: but look within, and think what Paul must have passed through; think what he must have been put through before he,--a man of like selfish passions as we are, a man of like selfish passions as Anything was,--could say all that. Let his crosses and his thorns; his raptures up to the third heaven, and his body of death that he bore about with him all his days; let his magnificent spiritual gifts, and his still more magnificent spiritual graces tell how they all worked together to make the chief of sinners out of the blameless Pharisee, and, at the same time, Christ's own chosen vessel and the apostle of all the churches. Boasting about his patron apostle, St. Augustine says: 'Far be it from so great an apostle, a vessel elect of God, an organ of the Holy Ghost, to be one man when he preached and another when he wrote; one man in private and another in public. He was made all things to all men, not by the craft of a deceiver, but from the affection of a sympathiser, succouring the diverse diseases of souls with the diverse emotions of compassion; to the little ones dispensing the lesser doctrines, not false ones, but the higher mysteries to the perfect--all of them, however, true, harmonious, and divine.' The exquisite irony of Socrates comes into my mind in this connection, and will not be kept out of my mind. By instinct as well as by art Socrates mixed up the profoundest seriousness with the humorous affectation of qualities of mind and even of character the exact opposite of what all who loved him knew to be the real Socrates. 'Intellectually,' says Dr. Thomson, 'the acutest man of his age, Socrates represents himself in all companies as the dullest person present. Morally the purest, he affects to be the slave of passion and borrows the language even of the lewd to describe a love and a good-will far too exalted for the comprehension of his contemporaries. This irony of his disarmed ridicule by anticipating it; it allayed jealousy and propitiated envy; and it possibly procured him admission into gay circles from which a more solemn teacher would have been excluded. But all the time it had for its basis a real greatness of soul, a hearty and an unaffected disregard of public opinion, a perfect disinterestedness, and an entire abnegation of self. He made himself a fool in order that fools by his folly might be made wise; he humbled himself to the level of those among whom his work lay that he might raise some few among them to his own level; he was all things to all men, if by any means he might save some. Till Alcibiades ends the splendid eloge that Plato puts into his mouth with these words, "All my master's vice and stupidity and worship of wealthy and great men is counterfeit. It is all but the Silenus-mask which conceals the features of the god within; for if you remove the covering, how shall I describe to you, my friends and boon companions, the excellence of the beauty you will find within! Whether any of you have seen Socrates in his serious mood, when he has thrown aside the mask and disclosed the divine features beneath it, is more than I know. But I have seen them, and I can tell you that they seemed to me glorious and marvellous, and, truly, godlike in their beauty."'
Well, now, I gather out of all that this great lesson: that it is, to begin with, a mere matter of temperament, or what William Law would call a mere matter of complexion and sensibility, whether, to begin with, a man is hard, and dry, and narrow, and stiff, and proud, and scornful, and cruel; or again, whether he is soft and tender, broad and open, and full of sympathy and of the milk of human kindness. At first, and to begin with, there is neither praise nor blame as yet in the matter. A man is hard just as a stone is hard; it is his nature. Or he is soft as clay is soft; it is again his nature. But, inheriting such a nature, and his inherited nature beginning to appear, then is the time when the true man really begins to be made. The bad man dwells in contentment, and, indeed, by preference, at home in his own hard, proud, scornful, resentful heart; or, again, in his facile, fawning, tide-waiting, time-serving heart; and thus he chooses, accepts, and prefers his evil fate, and never seeks the help either of God or man to enable him to rise above it. Paul was not, when we meet him first, the sweet, humble, affable, placable, makeable man that he made himself and came to be after a lifetime of gospel-preaching and of adorning the gospel he preached. And all the assistances and all the opportunities that came to Paul are still coming to you and to me; till, whether naturally pliable and affectionate or the opposite, we at last shall come to the temperament, the complexion, and the exquisite sensibility of Paul himself. Are you, then, a hard, stiff, severe, censorious, proud, angry, scornful man? Or are you a too-easy, too-facile man-pleaser and self-seeker, being all things to all men that you may make use of all men? Are you? Then say so. Confess it to be so. Admit that you have found yourself out. And reflect every day what you have got to do in life. Consider what a new birth you need and must have. Number your days that are left you in which to make you a new heart, and a new nature, and a new character. Consider well how you are to set about that divine work. You have a minister, and your minister is called a divine because by courtesy he is supposed to understand that divine work, and to be engaged on it night and day in himself, and in season and out of season among his people. He will tell you how you are to make you a new heart. Or, if he does not and cannot do that; if he preaches about everything but that to a people who will listen to anything but that, then your soul is not in his hands but in your own. You may not be able to choose your minister, but you can choose what books you are to buy, or borrow, and read. And if there is not a minister within a hundred miles of you who knows his right hand from his left, then there are surely some booksellers who will advise you about the classical books of the soul till you can order them for yourselves. And thus, if it is your curse and your shame to be as spongy, and soapy, and oily, and slippery as Anything himself; if you choose your church and your reading with any originality, sense, and insight, you need not fear but that you will be let live till you die an honest, upright, honourable, fearless gentleman: no timid friend to unfashionable truth, as you are to-night, but a man like Thomas Boston's Ettrick elder, who lies waiting the last trump under a gravestone engraven with this legend: Here lies a man who had a brow for every good cause. Only, if you would have that written and read on your headstone, you have no time to lose. If I were you I would not sit another Sabbath under a minister whose preaching was not changing my nature, making my heart new, and transforming my character; no, not though the Queen herself sat in the same loft. And I would leave the church even of my fathers, and become anything as far as churches go, if I could get a minister who held my face close and ever closer up to my own heart. Nor would I spend a shilling or an hour that I could help on any impertinent book,--any book that did not powerfully help me in the one remaining interest of my one remaining life: a new nature and a new heart. No, not I. No, not I any more.
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH