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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

JLUU                     A  (JMK11STMAS   SERMON

so built as to feel a sneer or an aspersion with unusual keen-
ness, and so circumstanced as to be unusually exposed to
them; we may have nerves very sensitive to pain, and
be afflicted with a disease very painful. Virtue will not
help us, and it is not meant to help us. It is not even its
own reward, except for the self-centred and—I had almost
said—the unamiable. No man can pacify his conscience ;
if quiet be what he want, he shall do better to let that
organ perish from disuse. And to avoid the penalties of
the law, and the minor capitis diminutio of social ostracism,
is an affair of wisdom—of cunning, if you will—and not
virtue.

In his own life, then, a man is not to expect happiness,
only to profit by it gladly when it shall arise ; he is on
duty here ; he knows not how or why, and does not need
to know ; he knows not for what hire, and must not ask.
Somehow or other, though he does not know what goodness
is, he must try to be good ; somehow or other, though he
cannot tell what will do it, he must try to give happiness
to others. And no doubt there comes in here a frequent
clash of duties. How far is he to make his neighbour
happy ? How far must he respect that smiling face, so
easy to cloud, so hard to brighten again ? And how far,
on the other side, is he bound to be his brother's keeper
and the prophet of his own morality ? How far must he
resent evil ?

The difficulty is that we have little guidance ; Christ's
sayings on the point being hard to reconcile with each
other, and (the most of them) hard to accept. But the
truth of his teaching would seem to be this : in our own
person and fortune, we should be ready to accept and to
pardon all; it is our cheek we are to turn, our coat that we
are to give away to the man who has taken our cloak.
But when another's face is buffeted, perhaps a little of
the lion will become us best. That we are to suffer others
to be injured, and stand by, is not conceivable and surely
not desirable. Revenge, says Bacon, is a kind of wild
justice ; its judgements at least are delivered by an insane
judge ; and in our own quarrel we can see nothing truly
and do nothing wisely. But in the quarrel of our neigh-