Page images

and out of rule. The man, in whom it reigns, verifies wherever found the magnificent simile of the first psalm. He is like the green and stately palm tree, planted by the rivers of water; “that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth, shall prosper.”

This personal enlargement involves however a real participation in the life and power of the invisible world itself, towards which the soul thus erects itself by the power of faith. It is not in imagination only, but in the way of actual fact, that it passes over the limits of nature, and connects itself with the vast spiritual economy which lies beyond. Faith is the substance or hypostasis of things hoped for, the evidence or authentication of things not seen ; the very ladder, we may say, that joins earth and heaven together, on which the angels of God are seen ascending and descending always as the ministers of their glorious communion. The man who believes in God, truly and really, is brought by such creed into union and communion with God himself, and enters to the same extent into the bosom of that everlasting order, whose seat is the Divine Mind, and which holds the universe in its place. He dwells in God, as the very ground of his own intelligence and will, and receives into himself, in the same proportion, the light and aetivity of the adorable word, the medium of all God's revelations in the world, the one single source and full comprehension at once of all truth, all law, all life. Faith in this way gives its subject a present citizenship in the skies; surrounds him with the scenery of heaven; causes him to hear in his soul the music of the spheres ; brings him to bathe in the pure liquid of uncreated light; sets him in full harmony with the counsels of the Almighty ; draws into him, with unceasing stream, the powers of the spirit world. Is it any won. der, such vast and glorious results are attributed to it in the Bible? How can it fail to purify the heart, and form it to every noble and generous sentiment? Can one thus hold communion with the skies, and not be transformed gradually into the same image? May one walk with angels, and not grow angelic in his own soul? And how again should such faith not prove the “ victory that overcometh the world ?" It is the spear of Ithuriel, whose touch at once brings all forms of Satanic mischief to their proper shape, and compels them to confess their own worthlessness and shame. It is powerful alike against the false pleasures of the world, and against its terrors and alarıns; superior at once to its frowns and to its smiles. Greatest of all, it overcomes the bad power self, and enables a man to bring his own life thus into harmony with its original law, without which it is.

[ocr errors]

not possible for him to possess true harmony or strength in any other view. The greatest of all achievements for any of you in this world, is the mastery of yourselves; for this implies the free subordination of your natural life to the authority of the spirit, not as an isolated self, but as the universal principle of truth and order in the world ; in which view it involves, of course, at the same time, the supremacy of the spirit over the whole constitution of nature, as originally designed in man's creation. Well may it be said accordingly : “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

Faith has respect to all God's revelations. Of these the last and most perfect, is that which is presented to us by the glorious

ystery of the incarnation, proclaimed in the New Testament, and always at hand in the Church. This, as it goes beyond all other revelations, completes at the same time the sense of all, and throws back upon them a depth of significance which they would not otherwise possess. We cannot have faith in God then, as he reveals himself in nature and providence, except as we have power to see and know his presence in Christ and the Church. He is the light of the world, the Sun that forms the centre of the spiritual universe, and cominunicates to it all its beauty and glory; whom not to follow, is to "walk in darkness, without the light of life.” He is the inmost reason of creation, the last sense of all God's works and ways, the Everlasting Word made Flesh. By bim, we have access to the Father. Through him, the powers of the higher world are made to unite themselves, in a real and abiding way, with the wants of our fallen life. He is the Son of Man, by whom and in whom the Divine Spirit is fully revealed in the world as the principle of the new creation, and through whom the angels of God carry forward the full correspondence of earth and heaven, (John i: 54) as symbolically seen in Jacob's vision. Have faith then in Cbrist. Let him be to you, in the whole mystery of the incarnation, the surest and deepest of all truths, the most necessary and near of all facts. This will bring with it a corresponding faith in the presence of God under other forms. He will be seen in Nature. He will be felt in History. The whole world will be found to be full of his glory.

Who shall utter the value and importance of such faith, in such an age especially as this, for all who are called, as you are, to take some active part in the conduct of the world's affairs. The age is full of commotion, revolution and change. Evidently we are in the midst of a vast crisis or process of transition, by which a new character is to be given hereafter to the universal state of humanity. Old things are passing away. Foundations of long standing are in inany cases ready to give way. Darkness and confusion are settling on much that once seemed firm and clear. Powers of hell, not unfrequently transformed into angels of light, are on all sides actively at work. Politics, science, and religion, are all unsettled, and more or less torn with inward conflict. There is much in every direction to confound the wisdom of the wise, and to fill with apprehension the stout heart of the strong and brave. The tendencies of the age especially are in many respects powerfully adapted, to beget scepticism and doubt in regard to all that lies beyond the present world. It shows itself, to a fearful extent, materialistic, rationalistic, titanically bent on storming the heavens by its own strength. It is something high and solemn, to go forth and wrestle with the great problem of human life, in such a period of vast tumultuating strife. You may have some sense of this possibly to day; but it is no such sense as you will have of it hereafter, if earnestly true to your own mission, when you shall have fairly gone forth into this great and wide sea, and are called to grapple with its waves and billows in their own wild strength. Who can say in what midnight eclipse the stars of heaven shall not seem to go out, in all directions, over your head? Who may tell what vortices of doubt, what rocks of grim discouragement and despair, shall not present themselves in your way? One thing is certain. Outward forms, rules and traditions, as they might serve for the tolerable administration of life in more settled periods, will not answer this purpose now. Mere opinions and notions are not sufficient to preserve the path of men at any time; but least of all in such a time as this, when the whole moral world is agitated and convulsed with the throes of mighty revolution. To stand erect in such an age; to be firmly faithful to the great trust of life; to make common cause throughout with truth and virtue; to bear up manfully against surrounding darkness, difficulty and fear; to be of quick intelligence to discern what is right, and of resolute will to follow it in the way of constant earnest obedience; you need above all things faith in God, in the moral order of the universe, in the divine fact of Christianity. Without Christ, the world is indeed no better than a spiritual chaos, in the midst of its greatest prosperity and glory. His presence on the other hand brings order into it, and spans it with the rainbow of hope, when it is otherwise most dismal, confused, and dark. Through all revolutions, he remains the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever. In the midst of all clouds and darkness, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. With Christ in the vessel, History can never be the sport merely of the winds and waves. The gates of hell never have prevailed, and never shall prevail, against his Church. “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."

Cultivate again the principle of REVERENCE. This rests upon faith as its necessary foundation, and is at the same time the necessary product and fruit of it, wherever it prevails. It has regard to the spiritual and invisible, and is the homage the soul pays to that which is higher and more comprehensive than itself, under its own form of existence. We reverence not nature, but spirit; and we reveal, in doing so, the spirituality of our own being, and its native affinity with the object awakening such lofty sentiment. The animal has no reverence. It dwells not in the bosom of brutish men. On the other hand, there can be no true culture without it. Imagine a man of the highest intellectual order, gifted with all natural endowments and graced with all educational accomplishments, but still insensible to the claims of Mind and Law in their universal form, as something older and immeasurably greater than himself, and you have still at best a column only of Parian marble in human shape, the solitary grandeur of a pyramid in the midst of boundless sand. Without reverence, Gabriel himself would be poor and mean.

All reverence carries in it an acknowledgment of God, as its ultimate object and ground; and it involves also, essentially, the conception of God as an intelligent personal Being, and not simply in the form of an infinite abstraction. Even where this may not be clearly perceived, and the mind seems to be overwhelmed only with the sense of the absolute as a merely natural power, the true interior spring of its emotion is still always the obscure apprehension of a divine Life behind this, which is felt to underlie all in the character of self-existent Thought and Will. Such an emotion, even in the breast of a Spinoza, is the involuntary tribute of the human spirit to the fountain of its own lise, which serves of itself to demonstrate, against all intervening speculation, its true living reality as the self-conscious ground of the universe. There can be no reverence for a universal Fate, or universal Chance; as little as it can be said to be due to a blind whirlwind or to the roaring of a forest lion. Only in the presence of the Divinity, apprehended as free, self-moving, all embracing Spirit, and only in the sense of our relation to it as

[ocr errors]

the centre and end of our own being, can any such sentiment legitimately fill our minds.

But now it would be a grand mistake again, on the opposite hand, to suppose that because all reverence has regard ultimately to God, in the way here affirmed, there can be no room for its exercise towards any object less than God. This would be, in truth, to fall into the very abstraction, which the case requires, as we have already seen, that we should religiously avoid. It is not the absolute as such simply, but the absolute in the form of self-revelation, God in the world, God unfolding his glory to the view of angels and men, before which our spirits are required thus to bow. In this view, Nature itself may be the object of reverence; not on its own account, outwardly considered; but as it serves to manifest to the view of faith the sublime presence, and wonderful attributes, of Him who dwells in it, and makes it the perpetual mirror of his glory. Reverence is due to the NAME of God, wherever it comes to utterance in any way, in the stars of heaven or in the flowers of the field, in rolling seas or everlasting hills, in the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the forest. The universe of nature, as a whole and in all its parts, is not merely the sign of what God is, but the very symbol and sacrament of his presence, a true revelation, as far as it goes, of his “eternal power and Godhead.” The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth his handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech; night unto night proclaimeth knowledge. Reason and speech enter into their very constitution; they are a vast magnificent word, speaking forth always the awful majesty of Jehovah. By the WORD of the Lord in truth the heavens are, and the host of them by the breath of his mouth. So again, where religion has come in with new and more full revelation under a strictly supernatural form, the outward and natural may be employed still farther to embody and represent the divine and spiritual, by special inward conjunction more or less sacramental, so as to have part in its title to reverential respect. We are commanded thus to reverence God's sanctuary, his holy altar, and the solemn mysteries of his worship. In all these cases, our reverence passes at once through the object of sense to that which lies beyond and behind, the idea of the invisible God himself; the first is the medium only and vehicle of the sentiment, not in any sense its end. God however reveals bimself in the world not merely by such outward symbols, which themselves have no part in the life of spirit, and so are shadows only of the divine substance they are made to enshrine ; but still more gloriously also through the

« PreviousContinue »