THE YOUNG MAN WHO WAS BORN TO THE PURPLE
“In the year that King Uzziah
died” it was more than a date, it
was an experience! The king had been a wise
and good ruler. He had served his country well
for fifty-two long years. He showed an interest
in the welfare of his people “He
loved husbandry and dug wells for them in the desert.”
He caused vineyards to be planted on the slopes of
Carmel and he increased the herds of cattle which grazed
in the lowlands. He fortified his capital by
building towers at the valley gate and at the turning
of the wall in Jerusalem.
His reign was beneficent, but now
he was dead, and this warm-hearted young patriot felt
that his heart was overwhelmed. He and his fellow
citizens must now plan for the future of their county
without the guidance and inspiration of this great
But “In the year that King Uzziah
died, I saw the Lord.” There came something
more than a personal experience of disappointment.
There came the emergence of a new and higher form
of faith. This young man saw the earthly majesty
of this wise and good king go down in utter defeat.
In some strange way the king contracted leprosy.
During all the closing years of his reign he suffered
from the crawling inroads of that loathsome disease.
By the stern requirements of the Jewish law he was
banished from his own capital. He was compelled
to live outside the city and to reign by deputy.
He finally died a lingering and horrible death.
And in that dread hour the young man
saw the heavenly majesty of the King of kings resplendent
and enduring. “In the year that King Uzziah
died I saw the Lord, high and lifted up, sitting upon
His throne and His glory filled the temple.”
The spirit of hero-worship was passing over into
Let me study with you the effect of
this crisis in the life of his nation upon this young
man who was born to the purple. He possessed
all those advantages which go with wealth, social position,
and education. We have here no rough man of
the hills like Elijah, the Tishbite, rudely dressed
and rude in speech. We have here no man with
the smell of the fields in his garments like Amos,
the herdsman of Tekoa.
Isaiah belonged to the fortunate class.
He lived on Fifth Avenue. He had an assured
social position which gave him ready access to the
court and to the presence of the king. He was
familiar with the customs and the costumes of fashionable
society, as we find in that chapter where he openly
rebukes the showy extravagance of the idle rich.
He was well educated he had that literary
skill which comes only to those who are well trained.
In all the Old Testament you will find nothing finer
than the sweep and finish of some of this young prophet’s
public utterances. He was one to whom five talents
had been given where other men were struggling along
with one apiece. He therefore owed to society
what might be called the debt of privilege. It
is a fixed charge upon the lives of those who sit
above the salt. It has a right to insist upon
full payment. “To whom much is given, of
him will much be required.”
It is for every man to ask himself:
“How much do I eat up in my generous mode of
life? How much in food and dress, in housing
and furnishing, in motor cars and yachts, in travel
and in recreation? How much do I consume in
those provisions which I make for a wider culture
through books, pictures, music and the like?”
What is your average intake of this world’s
good things? That measure of consumption will
indicate the measure of your responsibility.
If you are born to the purple and fare sumptuously
in all these ways then the world has a right to demand
that you shall render back in corresponding measure
that useful service which is your plain duty.
In that effective cartoon which Jesus
drew of the Rich Man and Lazarus, it was the unpaid
debt of privilege which brought about the loss of a
soul. Jesus showed the two men in this world,
one of them living in a palace, clothed with purple
and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day; the
other in rags dying at the Rich Man’s gate, hungry
and full of sores. Then Jesus showed the two
men in the next world, Lazarus the beggar now in Abraham’s
bosom, and the son of good fortune enduring torment.
There is no hint that the Rich Man
had gained a penny of his wealth wrongfully; no charge
of lying or theft, of murder or adultery is laid at
his door. He was damned not by the wicked things
he had done, but for the lack of that generous and
humane service which he had left undone. His
sin was that of selfish indifference. The way
to perdition is paved with moral neglect. The
debt of privilege can no more be escaped than death
or taxes. To whom much is given, of him will
much be required. And a full sense of that responsibility
was brought home to this well-endowed young man in
the year the great king died.
The fortunate young man stood out
in the open confessing his sense of moral need.
There in the place of worship in that high and serious
mood which followed upon the death of the king, he
caught a fresh vision of God. “I saw the
Lord high and lifted up, sitting upon His throne.
I saw Him surrounded with the winged seraphs.
And one of them cried to another, Holy, holy, holy,
is the Lord of hosts! The whole earth is full
of His glory.”
The very sight of the unstained purity
of Him “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires
known, and from whom no secrets are hid,” brought
this young man to his knees. He knelt in the
dust and beat upon his breast and told the sins of
his life. “Woe is me, I am undone.
I am a man of unclean lips. I dwell in the
midst of a people of unclean lips. And mine eyes
have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
The man who has no sense of sin has
little sense of any sort. If we say we have
no sin, we deceive ourselves or else we lie.
Where is the man who can stand up in the presence
of those who know him and say, “Every deed that
I have done was done in honour and integrity.
Every word that has fallen from my lips has been
spoken in truth and in kindliness. Every desire
which I have harboured in my soul has been one upon
which the eye of my Maker might rest with approval.”
Can you say that? I am frank
to confess that I cannot. I have done wrong.
I feel my need of the divine mercy. I want forgiveness,
cleansing and renewal. And every man who is honest
enough to look himself in the face, without flinching,
will be moved to make the same confession. It
is up out of those moments of contrition when men are
humbled and broken before God that the spiritual impulses
come which are to beat back the forces of evil and
make this earth at last as fair as the sky.
I care not what the man’s outward
station may be he may live on the Avenue
or he may live in the slums; he may be clothed in purple
or he may be dressed in rags; he wear a Phi Beta Kappa
key or he may be so untaught that he has to make his
mark when he signs a mortgage in any event
here is a prayer which will fit his lips it
fits every pair of lips: “God be merciful
to me, a sinner.”
In that one brief sentence we have
the four main terms of religious experience.
“God,” the object of religion, the ground
of all finite existence, the basis of all our hope!
“Me,” the human soul, the subject of
religion, the field where the work of religion is to
be wrought out! “Sin,” the obstacle
to religion, the source of all our moral failure,
the cause of our alienation from God! And “mercy,”
the agent of religion, the form of energy which accomplishes
our recovery! God be merciful to me, a sinner.
This young man of good fortune stood
up in the temple in the presence of his fellows making
his open confession of moral need. “Woe
is me for I am undone. I am a man of unclean
In that very hour when this honest
confession came from his lips his life was cleansed
by the direct action of the divine spirit. He
saw one of the winged seraphs flying towards him through
the open spaces of Heaven. The angel took a
live coal from the altar and laid it upon the lips
of this young man. He cried out as he did it,
saying, “Thine iniquity is taken away.
Thy sin is purged.” Isaiah was no more
a man of unclean lips he could now speak
with that Lord whose name is Holy as friend speaks
We have this profound moral experience
dressed up in those grand, Oriental robes which were
dear to the people of that region. But when
you strip away the silk, the lace, and the feathers
of Eastern imagery, and get down to the bare, warm
truth, this is what you find a man whose
sense of moral lack had prompted that open confession,
cleansed in that high hour by the direct action of
the divine spirit upon his soul.
Here is that which is basic and fundamental
in all religious life! I wonder if we have not
been tempted in recent years to obscure this vital
experience. We have held those two big words,
“Heredity” and “Environment,”
so close to our eyes as to blind us, oftentimes, to
the larger vision of that which is superhuman in earthly
It is possible for the inner life
of a man to be so wrought upon by the action of the
spirit of God that the corrupt nature is cleansed,
the weak nature is made strong, the selfish disposition
is transformed into benign love.
It matters little how you go about
it, if you go with sincere faith. You may seek
for that renewal through the regenerating influence
of the Sacraments dear to the heart of the Romanist
and the High Churchman. If you find it there,
it will be because Christ is within the Sacrament.
You may seek for it in those profound emotional reactions
which come at the Methodist mourners’ bench.
If you find it there, it will be because the spirit
of Christ was operating through those feelings.
You may find it as you make an about face, turning
away from that which is evil and making Christian
duty your supreme choice in the quiet of your own
room. If you find it there, it will be because
Christ was present in those movements of your inner
life. The woman was healed in the Gospel story
by touching the hem of Christ’s garment because
Christ was within that garment.
If any man will seek for moral renewal
at the hands of God he will find. If he will
knock at any one of these doors it will open.
Here is the Gospel as it stands recorded on the pages
of the Old Testament “The spirit
of the Lord shall come upon thee and thou shall be
turned into another man.” Here is the same
Gospel as it stands recorded on the pages of the New
Testament “If any man is in Christ
he is a new creature. Old things are passed
away and all things are become new.”
In the joy of moral renewal this well-born,
well-reared, well-trained young man gave himself in
eager consecration to the highest he saw. “I
heard the voice of the Lord say, Whom shall I send?
Who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I,
His nation, now robbed of its great
king by the hand of disease, was facing a crisis.
The national church to which he belonged was steeped
in formalism and insincerity. The divine voice
was uttering a heartfelt lament over the unfaithfulness
of the chosen people. “Israel doth not
know! My people do not think. The whole
head is sick and the whole heart is faint.”
There was a loud cry for men of large
build with wise heads and sound hearts to furnish
moral leadership. And in the face of that demand
this son of good fortune did not allow the divine spirit
to go out into the highways and hedges in order to
compel some sort of man, any sort of man, to come
in that the ranks might be filled. He answered
to his name with a clear-cut consecration of himself.
“Here am I, send me.”
When war comes to any country, there
are rich men who give money, millions of it, that
the war chest may be full. There are great manufacturers
who promptly place their plants at the disposal of
the government for the making of munitions.
There are ship owners who turn over their vessels
to the Navy that they may be sent to do business in
the great waters of national defense. There are
wise men who think hard upon the problems of finance
and statecraft that they may provide that counsel
which is more precious than rubies. All this
is in the highest degree praiseworthy.
But the only men who give what Lincoln
called at Gettysburg “the last full measure
of devotion” are the men who give themselves.
These men do not go on horseback nor in automobiles.
They walk. They eat the hardtack. They
sleep on the ground. They dig the trenches and
fight in them. They march out at the word of
command to be shot at. They keep right on doing
those plain things until the war is ended and victory
achieved. These are the men who awaken our warmest
feeling of admiration and gratitude. “Here
am I, send me” nothing can take the
place of that!
In that sterner war where there is
no discharge, in that age-long, world-wide fight against
the evils of earth this same sound principle holds.
Money is needed; counsel is needed; organization and
administrative ability are needed. The bringing
in of that kingdom which is not meat and drink, nor
shot and shell, but righteousness and peace and joy
in the divine spirit, requires all these fine forms
of effort. But nothing can ever take the place
of that personal consecration of each man’s
own soul to the service of the living God.
In that high hour when Isaiah saw
the God of things as they are, high and lifted up,
sitting on His throne, he did not say, “Here
are any number of fine people, send them. Here
is a man who could perform the task better than I send
him.” He said what every man must say who
means to stand right in the Day of Judgment, “Here
am I, send me.”
He was the son of good fortune, and
his life was bright and rich with many an advantage.
But this did not prompt him to claim any sort of
exemption from the call for volunteers. His vision
of the awful difference between the earthly majesty
of that king who sank so swiftly into a leper’s
grave and the heavenly majesty which rose above it
sovereign and eternal, made him feel that nothing would
suffice but the gift of himself.
What shall it profit a man, this man,
that man, any man, to gain the largest measure of
earthly success you may choose to name, if in the
process he loses himself, his real self, his best self,
his enduring self? What shall it profit a man
if he gain the whole world, but feels within himself
a capacity for higher things unrealized? In the
great outcome nothing really matters save the devotion
of the personal life to the highest ends.
In the year 1840 near the city of
Louvain a child was born, who came of good stuff.
He was educated for a business career, and there in
prosperous little Belgium the outlook at that time
for wealth, for social position, and for a life of
joy was very bright. But at the age of eighteen
this boy offered himself for the priesthood of the
Roman Catholic Church. He joined the Society
of the Sacred Heart. He went out to the Hawaiian
Islands as a missionary and was ordained as a priest
in the city of Honolulu.
He was at once impressed with the
sad condition of the leper settlement on the island
of Molokai. He resolved to give his life to those
poor, diseased, horror-stricken people. He knew
that to live among them would mean banishment from
his ordinary associations and the loss of all possible
preferment in the church. He knew that he might
himself contract that terrible disease and suffer
a lingering, painful, frightful death. “No
matter,” he cried, “I am going.”
And he went.
He not only preached to those lepers
the Gospel of the Son of God and ministered to them
in spiritual things his own labours and
his appeals to the Hawaiian government secured for
them better dwellings, an improved water supply, and
a more generous provisioning of the unhappy settlement.
For five years he worked alone, but for the occasional
assistance of a priest who came to the colony for a
single day. He finally succumbed to the dread
disease of leprosy and in his forty-ninth year died
a martyr to humane devotion. His name was Father
Damien, and he shed fresh luster upon the Christian
The young man who was born to the
purple, called now to be a prophet of God, seized
upon the vital elements of religion and uttered them
with power. “What does it mean to be religious?”
men were asking. Some of the dull, blind priests
of that day were saying, “It means sacrifice
and burnt offering. It means the careful and
showy observance of the forms of worship.”
Israel did not know; the people did not think.
Then this young prophet gave them
the word of God with an edge on it. He showed
them the folly of all those outward signs of devotion
apart from the inward spirit of righteousness.
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices?
Who hath required this at your hands? When you
spread forth your hands I will hide my eyes.
When you make many prayers I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make
you clean. Put away the evil of your doings.
Cease to do evil, learn to do well. Then though
your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
“Salvation by righteousness this
is the message of the Old Testament,” Matthew
Arnold used to say. “Righteousness through
Jesus Christ,” this is the message of the New
Testament! And this nineteenth century man of
letters was but echoing the words which fell from the
lips of those prophets in the eighth century before
“Wherewith shall I come before
the Lord?” said Micah. “Will the
Lord be pleased with a thousand rams or with ten thousand
rivers of oil? He hath showed thee, O man, what
is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but
to do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with
“Seek justice,” Isaiah
said; “relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless,
plead for the widow. If ye be willing and obedient
ye shall eat the good of the land. If ye refuse
and rebel ye shall be devoured.” This
was the heart of his message. It was the call
of God to personal righteousness.
He represents the Almighty as sitting
upon the throne of the universe, summoning His people
into friendly conference with Him. “Come
now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.”
Religion is not a thing of magic. There is no
sleight-of-hand or hocus-pocus in the benefits it seeks
to confer. Religion is rational and moral.
It is a reasoned form of intercourse between an intelligent
and moral being who is finite and the Intelligent
and Moral Being who is Infinite. Its benefits
are to be realized in that direct impress of the spirit
of God upon the soul of the man who has made an intelligent
and honest approach to his Maker.
The young prophet saw his country
threatened with disaster from both sides. He
saw upon the south the selfish and cruel designs of
Egypt. He saw the encroachments of mighty Assyria
from the north. He saw the madness of those
Israelites who thought they could combine wickedness
and worship, the observance of religious forms with
lives of moral unconcern. And in that hour the
truths he lifted before them were “The majesty
and authority of God, the everlasting obligation of
personal righteousness, the certainty of the ultimate
triumph of God’s Kingdom over the wrath of man.”
These were the mighty truths by which he sought to
inspire the hearts of men to do their duty, come what
Have we not great need at this very
hour of just such men! It has been given to
you and to me to live through one of the great, searching
crises of human history. The world has never
seen a struggle so gigantic. We have been patient
for more than two years with a certain nation across
the sea patient clear up to the border of
what has seemed to some of our neighbours like a lazy
acquiescence in lawlessness. We have seen that
nation referring contemptuously to her own treaties
as mere scraps of paper, and then openly disregarding
her solemn obligations.
We saw the outrage perpetrated upon
Belgium, an outrage which men who know their histories
better than I know mine are saying will go down as
the greatest crime in the annals of the race.
We saw the drowning of hundreds of helpless women
and children in the sinking of the Lusitania
without warning and in flat defiance of international
law. We saw the judicial murder of women like
Edith Cavell and of men like Captain Fryatt.
We have seen the Zeppelins engaged in the dastardly
business of hurling down bombs upon unfortified towns
for the killing of old women and little children heretofore
when decent nations have gone to war men have fought
with men. We have seen thousands of helpless
Armenians butchered by the Moslem allies of that so-called
Christian power, it is all but universally
believed, with its own connivance and under its direction.
We have witnessed a frightful record of brutality
and outrage, investigated and established by the competent
testimony of such men as James Bryce and Cardinal Mercier.
We have seen the sinking of hospital ships loaded with
wounded men and the sinking of relief ships carrying
provisions to the famine-stricken children of Belgium,
no matter what flag they flew, or what cargo they
We have had our own rights as a neutral
trampled upon by that government with the arrogant
assumption that her necessities knew no law.
And now to crown it all we have detected the official
representatives of that country with protests of friendship
upon their false lips actually plotting with Mexico
and seeking to extend that plot to Japan with the
unholy purpose of destroying the peace between this
country and its neighbours.
The men of our country who have red
blood in their veins and the sense of justice in their
hearts are saying, “How long, O Lord, how long!”
War is a terrible thing and no honest man ever speaks
lightly of war. But there are things which are
worse than war. The loss of all capacity for
moral indignation is worse. The easy, lazy, cowardly
acquiescence in lawlessness and crime is worse.
The loss of the readiness to sacrifice one’s
very life, if need be, for those ends which are just
and right, is infinitely worse.
There are interests which are worth
fighting for and, if need be, they are worth dying
for. The sanctity of womanhood and the safety
of little children, the security of those interests
which are essential to human well-being and the protection
of our homes, the honour and integrity of our country,
and the maintenance of those majestic principles of
righteousness which underlie all social advance these
ends are worth dying for. If these high ends
can be secured by persuasion and moral appeal, well
and good. But if they cannot, if their very
existence is threatened by lawlessness and hate, then
let men of sound mind and honest heart stand ready
to do battle for the right.
In these hours of stress which have
come upon our country, we have need of men who possess
the necessary moral courage to stand forth and meet
the crisis. There is a loud call everywhere for
those who are prepared to face duty without flinching.
It is for every man to say touching his own measure
of ability, “Here am I, send me.”
If the cause of democracy is not to
fail in those hard years which will come at the close
of this war, there is need not only of wise and honest
leaders there is need of ranks upon ranks
of plain men who are ready to give their best strength
to the service of that government which is “of
the people, for the people, and by the people.”
“O beautiful, my country, ours once
What were our lives without thee;
What all our lives to save thee.
We reck not what we give thee,
We will not dare to doubt thee,
But ask whatever else and we will dare.”