But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.
The history of mankind, whether secular or religious, resolves itself ultimately into the history of a few individuals. For though the masses live, yet it is these few who determine the direction and shape the spirit of the age. The rest die and are forgotten; one epitaph would do for them all, except for two or three out of the million. Another fact, and a sadder one, is that the human race seems to tend downwards. The old Greek proverb says, and truly, "the majority are evil." The few only are saints, the few only are heroes. There is bitter truth in David's saying, "All men are liars"; and in Carlyle's, that "the world is peopled by a thousand millions, mostly fools" How dreadful then would the condition of the world be were it not for God's elect few. The deliverance of man has never been wrought by the multitude, but by the individual. See this illustrated in poetry, in philosophy, in art, in science; the leaders are a few, all the rest follow. But art and the rest will not alone save a people. History shows how along with them nations have sunk into the abyss of degradation. So will England, so will every nation, if she refuse the message of God. Of what use would the spangles of art and science be upon the funeral pall of the dying race if death were the end of all? The hope of the world lies in the recognition of, and in obedience to, the Word of God as uttered by His special messengers; and by so listening as to reflect in myriads of gleams, and to reverberate in millions of echoes, the light and the voice of inspiration. In illustration of all this glance at the moral history of the world. What drear darkness in the main prevailed from Adam to Abraham, that great hero of the faith. After him darkness again until Moses. After him till Samuel and the prophetic order. After them till Christ and the apostles. After Him and them the world gradually grew worse; Christianity itself became corrupted till St. Anthony, forsaking all, made his home in the lonely desert, to convince his generation of the infinite value of every human soul. And from his day, now and again, great saints were inspired of God from time to time, — such as Benedict I, , , until in the midst of another dark period the lion-hearted Luther shook the world. It is by such men the world has been kept from moral death; such seems to be the method of God's working. Now let us note some of the lessons of this Divine method.
I. WHAT IS THE SECRET, THE SOLE SECRET OF MORAL POWER? Who that reads the signs of these times can fail to see how much this age needs that secret? What was it that again and again overcame the world? Was it not faith showing itself by self-sacrifice? See it in Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and all else.
II. THAT THE WORK OF THESE SAINTS IS NEVER PERMANENT. There is infinite pathos in the failures of men and of institutions. Their work has perpetually to be renewed. Abraham died, and ere a century had elapsed his children were slaves. And so with all the rest.
III. APPARENT FAILURES WERE NEVER ABSOLUTE FAILURES. No good man ever lives in vain. Each saint has his own Calvary. St. Telemachus was butchered in the arena, but because of his death an end was put to gladiatorial games. What a candle did Latimer and Ridley light in England through their martyrdom, and its light glows still. Then let man think, however discouraged he may be at the moral aspect of men, that a holy Christian life can never be in vain.
Parallel VersesKJV: But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.