Everywhere, on the altar of the priest, on the stall of the trader, on the threshold of the nobleman’s palace, Amos saw the virgin of Israel fallen—saw the great ideals of religion and life rotting like dead and unburied things.
I. What about my business life?—Is its ideal righteousness, truth in speech and in action? This alone it is which turns the secular into the sacred, which gives a spiritual dignity to the humblest calling. Money, success, fame—do not let me seek these, but rather God’s favour and approval.
II. And what about my social life?—Am I ostentatious, idle, luxurious? The fashionables of London and Paris are not so different from the princes of Samaria. Or do I take part with good men in the great works of justice and of love?
III. And my religious life—what about it?—Am I grieved for the affliction of Joseph? Is everything that wounds Jesus, my greater and sweeter and holier New Testament Joseph, sore and terrible to me? All other pleasures are not worth their pains, who carry Christ’s cross, and who are crowned with the sharp thorns of Christ’s sorrow.
By these questions let me test myself.
‘Charles Kingsley used to say, “I will never believe that a man has a real love for the good and the beautiful, except he attacks the evil and disgusting the moment he sees it. It is very easy for us to turn our eyes away from ugly sights, and so consider ourselves refined. The refined man, to me, is he who cannot rest in peace with a coal-mine, or a factory, or a Dorsetshire peasant’s house near him, in the state in which they are.” Charles Kingsley was worn with work. He needed rest and change. He was himself deft with brush and pencil, and a passionate lover of good pictures. There was an exhibition of great pictures at Manchester. He would go; no, he would not go. He could not make up his mind to leave, even for two or three days, a poor sick man who was hanging on his daily visits. Is it not plain that pictures, and all pleasant things could not harm, but would only help Charles Kingsley, because all the time he was grieved for the affliction of Joseph, because he was seeking to use such things for the better help of afflicted Joseph? But when you let pleasant things, their possession and delight, wall you off from poor and troubled Joseph, render you hard, unsympathetic, unmindful of the suffering round you, then, though you may have won for yourself, and may pride yourself upon, the finest culture, you have changed these good gifts of God into moral blight; you have sold yourself to selfishness, and have come under the Divine displeasure. “Inhumanity is impiety.” ’