Of course, there are temptations here. Where are they not? Temptation always follows the natural path of life. There is nothing wrong in itself; but anything and everything may become terribly wrong. The sin is in the wrong motive or purpose underneath; or it is in the excess or exaggeration. And nowhere has temptation made stronger, subtler, more persistent raids upon the human life than in these holy things. The very ignorance that has been allowed to shroud this whole matter has led many earnest Christian people into grave wrong here. Ignorance always means thoughtlessness. It leads often into the doing of what is bitterly regretted in after years.
Yet if there should be knowledge, and thoughtfulness, and self-control anywhere, or in anything, surely it should be here in life's holiest, most potent work. Our unborn children, to be made in our likeness, as well as in God's, plead mutely with us for full knowledge, and thoughtfulness, and self-mastery here, for their sakes.
The very warmth of the love that binds two such hearts together, the tenderness of the love for the personality, the body, in which resides the great spirit loved, needs guarding. Love longs for the caress. The touch of hand with hand seems to bring the inner spirits into closer communion. The touching of lip to lip will tingle the whole being with a thrill, as though spirit were answering spirit in rapturous joy.
These very contacts, and the intimacy of the private life, the closeness of contact of two lives together as one, are avenues to be guarded with holy prayer and watchful care. For there is no door into a man's life whose knob is free from the touch of temptation's cunning hand.
Power of itself always awes. A hushing sense creeps into one's spirit at the sight of some great display of power. Niagara stills the spirit with the greatness of its power, and makes the reverent observer think of God. A great engine, with its finely balanced and adjusted mechanism, never ceases to be cause for admiration.
An audience will sit spellbound under the touch of the skilled musician, or the word of the trained master of speech. The thoughtful physician looks with awe, ever increasing and stilling his inner being, as he watches the marvellous working of that divine bit of machinery, the human body.
It is commonly said that medical students lose much of their sense of reverence for the human body, through their constant study of it, with eye, and hand, and knife. He is a rare man who retains an ever-deepening reverence for the wonders of the human body as he goes through his course of medical study.
It is a bit of the discipline of life to which a man should resolutely set himself, to retain, and cultivate, and refine that sense of reverence in the presence of power, however familiar it may become. Every bush of our common life is aflame with the holy fire of God's presence. Yet the taking off of shoes seems all too rare.
The powers of the human body are marvellous, wholly beyond words to begin to tell. Here is a laboratory nothing short of divine in its powers of reproduction. It is divine in its origin, in the partnership of God's own touch in the holy service, and in the great results that so unfailingly come. Yet it needs a stern purpose, persistently clung to, to have a growing reverence for one's own body.
A man should set himself, with a heart-devotion, to cultivating an ever-growing reverence for the precious body intrusted to his holy care by her who has given her life into his keeping.
Knowledge will grow from more to yet more. But it takes a stiff purpose, and daily touch with God, and a pure habit of life, to have more of reverence dwelling in us, so that mind and soul and body too, according well, may make one music, and sweeter music too.
"Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster." (Tennyson.)
[A fuller treatment of the subject of this chapter is published separately, under the title "The Quietest Talk," by the same publishers.]