’Whosoever shall be ashamed
of Me, and of My words, of him shall the
Son of Man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His
Father’s, and of the holy angels.’—Our Lord.
Shame has not got the attention that it deserves either from our moral philosophers or from our practical and experimental divines. And yet it would well repay both classes of students to attend far more to shame. For, what really is shame? Shame is an original instinct planted in our souls by our Maker, and intended by Him to act as a powerful and pungent check to our doing of any act that is mean or dishonourable in the eyes of our fellow-men. Shame is a kind of social conscience. Shame is a secondary sense of sin. In shame, our imagination becomes a kind of moral sense. Shame sets up in our bosom a not undivine tribunal, which judges us and sentences us in the absence or the silence of nobler and more awful sanctions and sentences. But then, as things now are with us, like all the rest of the machinery of the soul, shame has gone sadly astray both in its objects and in its operations, till it demands a long, a severe, and a very noble discipline over himself before any man can keep shame in its proper place and directed in upon its proper objects. In the present disorder of our souls, we are all acutely ashamed of many things that are not the proper objects of shame at all; while, on the other hand, we feel no shame at all at multitudes of things that are really most blameworthy, dishonourable, and contemptible. We are ashamed of things in our lot and in our circumstances that, if we only knew it, are our opportunity and our honour; we are ashamed of things that are the clear will and the immediate dispensation of Almighty God. And, then, we feel no shame at all at the most dishonourable things, and that simply because the men around us are too coarse in their morals and too dull in their sensibilities to see any shame in such things. And thus it comes about that, in the very best of men, their still perverted sense of shame remains in them a constant snare and a source of temptation. A man of a fine nature feels keenly the temptation to shrink from those paths of truth and duty that expose him to the cruel judgments and the coarse and scandalising attacks of public and private enemies. It was in the Valley of Humiliation that Shame set upon Faithful, and it is a real humiliation to any man of anything of this pilgrim’s fine character and feeling to be attacked, scoffed at, and held up to blame and opprobrium. And the finer and the more affectionate any man’s heart and character are, the more he feels and shrinks from the coarse treatment this world gives to those whom it has its own reasons to hate and assail. They had the stocks and the pillory and the shears in Bunyan’s rude and uncivilised day, by means of which many of the best men of that day were exposed to the insults and brutalities of the mob. The newspapers would be the pillory of our day, were it not that, on the whole, the newspaper press is conducted with such scrupulous fairness and with a love of truth and justice such that no man need shrink from the path of duty through fear of insult and injury.