I. THE THRESHOLD GRACE
The Lord shall keep thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and for evermore.
Ps. cxxi, 8.
Going out and coming in. That is a picture of life. Beneath this old Hebrew phrase there lurks a symbolism that covers our whole experience. But let us just now look at the most literal, and by no means the least true, interpretation of these words. One of the great dividing-lines in human life is the threshold-line. On one side of this line a man has his 'world within the world,' the sanctuary of love, the sheltered place of peace, the scene of life's most personal, sacred, and exclusive obligations. And on the other side lies the larger life of mankind wherein also a man must take his place and do his work. Life is spent in crossing this threshold-line, going out to the many and coming in to the few, going out to answer the call of labour and coming in to take the right to rest. And over us all every hour there watches the Almighty Love. The division-lines in the life of man have nothing that corresponds to them in the love of God. We may be here or there, but He is everywhere.
The Lord shall keep thy going out. Life has always needed that promise. There is a pledge of help for men as they fare forth to the world's work. It was much for the folk of an early time to say that as they went forth the Lord went with them, but it is more for men to say and know that same thing to-day. The going out has come to mean more age after age, generation after generation. It was a simpler thing once than it is now. 'Thy going out'—the shepherd to his flocks, the farmer to his field, the merchant to his merchandise. There are still flocks and fields and markets, but where are the leisure, grace, and simplicity of life for him who has any share in the world's work? Men go out to-day to face a life shadowed by vast industrial, commercial, and social problems. Life has grown complicated, involved, hard to understand, difficult to deal with. Tension, conflict, subtlety, surprise, and amid it all, or over it all, a vast brooding weariness that ever and again turns the heart sick. Oh the pains and the perils of the going out! There are elements of danger in modern life that threaten all the world's toilers, whatever their work may be and wherever they may have to do it. There is the danger that always lurks in things—a warped judgement, a confused reckoning, a narrowed outlook. It is so easily possible for a man to be at close grips with the world and yet to be ever more and more out of touch with its realities. The danger in the places where men toil is not that God is denied with a vociferous atheism; it is that He is ignored by an unvoiced indifference. It is not the babel of the market-place that men need to fear; it is its silence. If we say that we live only as we love, that we are strong only as we are pure, that we are successful only as we become just and good, the world into which we go forth does not deny these things—but it ignores them....