A Christmas Sermon

A Christmas Sermon

by Robert Louis Stevenson
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A Christmas Sermon by Robert Louis Stevenson

An unconscionable time a-dying--there is the picture ("I am afraid,
gentlemen,") of your life and of mine. The sands run out, and the hours
are "numbered and imputed," and the days go by; and when the last of
these finds us, we have been a long time dying, and what else? The very
length is something, if we reach that hour of separation undishonoured;
and to have lived at all is doubtless (in the soldierly expression) to
have served. There is a tale in Tacitus of how the veterans mutinied in
the German wilderness; of how they mobbed Germanicus, clamouring to go
home; and of how, seizing their general's hand, these old, war-worn
exiles passed his finger along their toothless gums. _Sunt lacrymae
rerum_: this was the most eloquent of the songs of Simeon. And when a
man has lived to a fair age, he bears his marks of service. He may have
never been remarked upon the breach at the head of the army; at least he
shall have lost his teeth on the camp bread.

The idealism of serious people in this age of ours is of a noble
character. It never seems to them that they have served enough; they
have a fine impatience of their virtues. It were perhaps more modest to
be singly thankful that we are no worse. It is not only our enemies,
those desperate characters--it is we ourselves who know not what we
do;--thence springs the glimmering hope that perhaps we do better than
we think: that to scramble through this random business with hands
reasonably clean, to have played the part of a man or woman with some
reasonable fulness, to have often resisted the diabolic, and at the end
to be still resisting it, is for the poor human soldier to have done
right well. To ask to see some fruit of our endeavour is but a
transcendental way of serving for reward; and what we take to be
contempt of self is only greed of hire.

And again if we require so much of ourselves, shall we not require much
of others? If we do not genially judge our own deficiencies, is it not
to be feared we shall be even stern to the trespasses of others? And he
who (looking back upon his own life) can see no more than that he has
been unconscionably long a-dying, will he not be tempted to think his
neighbour unconscionably long of getting hanged? It is probable that
nearly all who think of conduct at all, think of it too much; it is
certain we all think too much of sin. We are not damned for doing wrong,
but for not doing right; Christ would never hear of negative morality;
_thou shalt_ was ever his word, with which he superseded _thou shalt
not_. To make our idea of morality centre on forbidden acts is to defile
the imagination and to introduce into our judgments of our fellow-men a
secret element of gusto. If a thing is wrong for us, we should not dwell
upon the thought of it; or we shall soon dwell upon it with inverted
pleasure. If we cannot drive it from our minds--one thing of two: either
our creed is in the wrong and we must more indulgently remodel it; or
else, if our morality be in the right, we are criminal lunatics and
should place our persons in restraint. A mark of such unwholesomely
divided minds is the passion for interference with others: the Fox
without the Tail was of this breed, but had (if his biographer is to be
trusted) a certain antique civility now out of date. A man may have a
flaw, a weakness, that unfits him for the duties of life, that spoils
his temper, that threatens his integrity, or that betrays him into
cruelty. It has to be conquered; but it must never be suffered to
engross his thoughts. The true duties lie all upon the farther side,
and must be attended to with a whole mind so soon as this preliminary
clearing of the decks has been effected. In order that he may be kind
and honest, it may be needful he should become a total abstainer; let
him become so then, and the next day let him forget the circumstance.
Trying to be kind and honest will require all his thoughts; a mortified
appetite is never a wise companion; in so far as he has had to mortify
an appetite, he will still be the worse man; and of such an one a great
deal of cheerfulness will be required in judging life, and a great deal
of humility in judging others.

It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with our life's endeavour
springs in some degree from dulness. We require higher tasks, because
we do not recognise the height of those we have. Trying to be kind and
honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen
of our heroic mould; we had rather set ourselves to something bold,
arduous, and conclusive; we had rather found a schism or suppress a
heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013191303
Publisher: SAP
Publication date: 07/31/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 14 KB
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), a Scottish author of novels, poems, and essays, is best known for the classic books Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson remains popular for his celebrated contributions to the adventure and horror genres.

Date of Birth:

November 13, 1850

Date of Death:

December 3, 1894

Place of Birth:

Edinburgh, Scotland

Place of Death:

Vailima, Samoa


Edinburgh University, 1875

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Christmas Sermon 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The message & poetic writing of this timeless sermon is beautiful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is just a bunch of meaningless rambling words. Totally not worth anything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some really bad typos but still readavle