Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

A“cloud of witnesses " indeed, recalling and supplementing the familiar “Proposition 1.” of Archbishop William Paley's Evidences: “Many professing to have been the original witnesses of Christ's miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection, passed their lives in labors, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief in the truth of those accounts." Whether or not we partially dissent from both “ I.” and “ II.," we must assent to what underlies, call it, if you please, the sentiment of the ages :

“My will, not thine, be done,” turns Paradise into a desert. “ Thy will, not mine, be done." turns the desert into a Paradise, and makes Gethsemane the gate of heaven.- Edmond de Pressensé.

Thy native home is whereso'er
Christ spirit breathes a holier air,
Where Christ-like faith is keen to seek
What truth or conscience freely speak,
Where Christ-like love delights to span
The rents that sever man from man,-
Where round God's throne his just ones stand,
There, Christian, is thy Fatherland.

Dean A. P. Stanley. Still must we apostrophize our ideals :

Angels of growth!...
Did ye descend, what were ye more than I?...
Wait there, wait and invite me while I climb;

For, see, I come! - but slow, but slow!
Yet ever as your chime,
Soft and sublime,

Lifts at my feet, they move, they go
Up the great stair of time.

David A. Wasson.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;

But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

Henry W. Long fellow.

CHAPTER XXVI.

EVOLUTION.

What is meant in the Beatitudes by the Kingdom of

Heaven," and what the Progress of its Development ?

THE dominion of the higher in human character, attained by individual conformity of conduct to the law of love, through an evolution wherein the morally, intellectually, and religiously fittest - the permanently strongest - survives the mere ephemerally strongest. The weak - the temporarily weak - shall ultimately inherit the earth. Mammoth and megalosaurus, mere moving mountains of monster force, have perished from the planet. The lions have decreased before the lambs. Man, weakest of all animals at birth, has been awarded the sceptre of the world, because he was fittest, through his power to love, to consider, to deny himself for others.

It is the very evangel of our time that knowledge is shadowing out the moral essence of the world. It has shown mere physical power steadily decreasing, and the power of thought and love increasing; and it has thus discovered for the humane a new basis for their hope, a new spur for their effort. Ferocity is a weakness; fanaticism is feebleness; selfishness is suicidal. Turkey feels it; Spain feels it; Rome is learning it. Love, justice, knowledge, lead the world, and human hearts may now sing unto their Lord a new song. A new song! and yet that which is now a matter of knowledge was of old fell out by the intuition and faith of great hearts.

It was felt out by Christ, who estimated things by their sentiment, - by their spirit, — and not by their outward size and seeming strength. He anticipated the whole story of moral evolution. To the lowly, he said, is given the kingdom of heaven: humility shall inherit the earth. He had faith that ideas could level the loftiest temples, stone by stone, and perfect faith move mountains. He could see a vast property in a widow's mite, and emptiness in the costliest offering. He valued the sympathy of a woman whom others scorned more than the gifts of the proud. A cup of cold water given for truth's sake carried with it a divine virtue. He looked not to the thing done, whether it were large or little, but to

the heart and worth put into it: nothing could be large that had no soul in it, nothing small which had in it one spark of love and truth.

Is there no philosophy in all this? Why, modern knowledge has almost abolished distinctions of great and small. It reads one law in the rounding of a world or a tear; it sees in the smallest improvement of plant or animal the essence of a new kingdom. It discovers the power of leasts. ... When all the world is smiting the unpopular cause, what is implied, if one approaches with hand extended, not to smite, but to clasp and bless ? Out of all, that one hand alone represents the divine life and purpose of nature; that one alone acts for no selfish end, is guided by no low interest, bribed by no mean desire, not terrified by public odium. That heart which brings its love and devotion to the true and right has brought with it the might of every law,- the forces of destiny. When Dr. Johnson was once loudly defending some strange principle of his against a company of gainsayers, all opposed him, it seemed. One man present alone said to him, “I believe you are right.” The man who said that was John Wesley. Johnson lowered his voice and said, “ To have convinced such a man as you is all I can desire.” With the one best man on his side, Johnson felt he was in the majority.

That cause is not weak which has won the faith of the wise and the love of the pure in heart, though the wise be few and poor, and the lovers able to give but a cup of cold water. Its star is in the east, its day will not recede: it moves with steadfast planets in their courses.- Moncure D. Conway (Idols and Ideals, p. 95).

This incident of Dr. Johnson may have suggested to Beaconsfield the remark, “I prefer to belong to the intellectual rather than to the numerical majority."

The simile of the mustard-seed and the parable of the sower suggest yet another illustration of this “moral evolution":

The law of the harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny.- George D. Boardman.

And not one destiny merely. It is declared in the “Papyrus Prisse" (found, says Mrs. L. M. Child, in a very ancient Egyptian tomb, and supposed to be the oldest writing in the world, 2000 B.C.) that what a man has to do is to teach his children wisdom. After he has finished the lot of man, their duty consists in going up the ladder which he has set for them.”

Mr. Conway's remark that nothing could be small, etc., recalls that of Michael Angelo, “Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle.”

Recently, it was a bold thing to say that conduct was three-fourths of life. It is beginning to be seen that it is all of life, - not doing simply, but knowing and being. Never before have men been so conscious that every study and every art ultimates in this. “The invention of new crimes in politics," as it has been called, — what is it but a perception of the higher law ? Political economy is seen to be not a national, but an international question; and the solution of its problems lies in the translation of its terms into the language not of local, but of human interests. How all literature is analyzed for its light on moral questions! Fiction fails to interest us, if it does not involve the situations, perils, victories of the moral sense. Theology is but the tragedy of conscience told in rhetoric. Art must awaken the sense of universal relation. And science, tracing the process of creation from atom to orb, from monad to man, consciously or unconsciously pours all its treasures, gives all the force of its infinite facts, to establish the authority of the moral law.-J. C. Learned (Saratoga Sermon, 1882).

In the gradual establishment of dominion of the higher self, two lines of tendency have been noted as affecting the harmonious expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and worth of human nature. Two individuals or two nations, placed in different circumstances, would have diverse views of the relative importance and value of reason as a guide and some other authority as the controller of conduct, whence would result the usurpation of the function of one faculty by the over-development of another.

At the bottom of both the Greek and the Hebrew notion is the desire, native in man, for reason and the will of God, the feeling after the universal order,- in a word, the love of God. But while Hebraism seizes upon certain plain, capital intimations of the universal order, and rivets itself, one may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness and intensity on the study and observance of them, the bent of Hellenism is to follow with flexible activity the whole play of the universal order, to be apprehensive of missing any part of it, of sacrificing one part to another, to slip away from resting in this or that intimation of it, however capital. An unclouded clearness of mind, an unimpeded play of thought, is what this bent drives at. The governing idea of Hellenism is spontaneity of consciousness; that of Hebraism, strictness of conscience.

Christianity changed nothing in this essential bent of Hebraism to set doing above knowing. Self-conquest, self-devotion, the following not our own individual will, but the will of God,- obedience,- is the fundamental idea of this form, also of the discipline to which we have attached the general name of Hebraism. Only as "the old law and the network of prescriptions with which it enveloped human life were evidently a motive power not driving and searching enough to produce the result aimed at,- patient continuance in well-doing, self-conquest, - Christianity substituted for them boundless devotion to that inspiring and affecting pattern of self-conquest offered by Christ; and by the new motive power, of which the essence was

this, though the love and admiration of Christian Churches have for centuries been employed in varying, amplifying, and adorning the plain description of it, Christianitv, as St. Paul truly says, “establishes the law," and, in the strength of the ampler power which she has thus supplied to fulfil it, has accomplished the miracles we all see of her history.- Dr. Matthew Arnold (Culture and Anarchy, p. 147).

And here may be noted another feature in the philosophy of the progress of Christianity :

The mighty change which Christ achieved in the whole frame and attitude of the human mind with respect to divine things was transmitted from age to age, but not by effort and agony like his, or like the subordinate but kindred agency of those who were chosen by him to co-operate in the great revolution. Sometimes, it was, indeed, both sustained and developed by the great powers and by the faith and zeal of individuals, and by a constancy even unto death; but, in the main, it passed on from age to age by traditional, insensible, and unconscious influences. As the ages grew, and as the historic no less than the social weight of Christianity rapidly accumulated, men, by no unnatural process, came to rely more and more on the evidence afforded by the simple prevalence of the religion in the world, which was in truth a very great one; less and less upon the results of any original investigation reaching upward to the Fountain-head. The adhesion of the civil power, the weight of a clergy, the solidity and mass of Christian institutions, the general accommodation of law to principles derived from the Scripture, that very flavor of at least an historic Christianity which, after a long, undisputed possession, pervades and scents the whole atmosphere of social life, — all these in ordinary times seem to the mass of men to be as proofs so sufficient that to seek for others would be a waste of time and labor. If there be unreason in this blind reliance, probably much more unreason is shown when the period of reaction comes.- Hon. W. E. Gladstone (Review of Ecce Homo, p. 115). · According therewith comes an eloquent answer to the inquiry, the peroration of the concluding discourse of Dr. J. F. Clarke's series on the Ideas of Paul:

In an age full of tendencies to materialism, and yet full of the spirit of enterprise and progress, what is needed but a new influx of this faith in a divine spirit, not miraculous and arbitrary, but like an ocean of love, in which all are borne along, and which will flow into every heart and mind which opens to receive it? In a day which is full of intellectual activity, what better than to add the joy of faith and hope, the sight of a divine future? In an age of humanity and philanthropy, what is needed but a heavenly love to be joined with earthly sympathy, a divine impulse to bear us on toward human charity? 'In an age when this life is growing, happier, when the old

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »