« PrécédentContinuer »
sin ?" No! O my Lord! Thou knowest before Thou searchest out; and searchest out only in order that I may know that Thou knowest
For how do I know that Thou knowest me, unless I first know that Thou bast searched me out ? and how do I know that Thou searchest me out, except by the cross Thou givest me to bear? And what is the cross? Is it one which I should myself have chosen ? Blessed be Thou, O Lord, that not I, but Thou hast chosen my cross. Thou, who art greater than my heart, alone knowest what is the cross I need; for if my Self should choose its cross, it would choose its own cross,--that cross on which my Self would never die, but rather live in self-adoration. Oh! how can cold Selfhood feel its own coldness ? How can Self examine Self, and its examination not be selfish! Oh! my God, let me not be merely the judge of Truth, but let Thy Truth be the judge of me! Let me not search out the Truth, except to the end that Thy Truth may search out me; and when I know that “ the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," then I know that Thy Truth hath searched me out; for Thou hast revealed unto me that which
selfhood Oh! Thou whose truths are eyes to search me out, and whose eyes are as a flame of fire, it is not Thy light only, but Thy love, that I fear. Thou lookest through me as Thou lookest upon me; and, like Peter of old, I would go out and weep bitterly. “I know not the man," my worldly heart hath often cried. Oh! Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me! Oh! Lamb of God, that takest
away the sins of the world, grant me Thy peace! Thou hast a joy for every sorrow, a consolation for every tear, mercy for every sin. In that mercy only would I find a selfhood, and know no other self than that which Thy love giveth me, and which in love shall say, " Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
Apart from Thee, O Lord! what am I but dust-à chaos without form and void ? But with the entrance of Thy light, Thou revealest to me the morning and the evening of the kingdom of heaven: Thou teachest me how all things without are but the shadows of Thy kingdom within ; how all are created by Thy Word, and follow in the order Thou hast ordained. The winters and summers of my soul, the dews and frosts, the nights and days of my inward thoughts, have all relation to the laws of Thy Word, and by Thy Word Thou controllest all; and that which has been, and is, and shall be, Thou beholdest in Thy divine wisdom at once.
Thou callest the stars by their names, and Thou callest by their names my thoughts and affections ; Thou understandest them all afar off, whence they come long time before they come to me, [Enl. Series.-No, 97, vol. ix.]
and whither they go long after they have left me, and are hidden in oblivion. Such knowledge is too excellent for me; I cannot attain unto it. For like as the stars lie mirrored in the lake, so within the narrow compass
of my thoughts and affections are mirrored the movements of unnumbered worlds within. Thus, O Father Almighty, hast Thou caused Thy children upon earth to think from the angelic universe, and the angelic universe to think from Thee. For what are the thoughts and affections of angels or of men but Thy Word going forth according to the forms and qualities of those who receive it? And who shall trace Thy light from Thyself downwards to the mind of man? Who shall rehearse the orders of the seraphim? Who recount those burning rows of the heavenly hosts which shine upon the ephod of the Almigbty? Who shall tell how all the armies of heaven outstretch their
downwards to those ministering spirits which are sent forth to protect man from the powers of hell, and to minister to his salvation ?
Hail! blessed Peace, that calms the troubles of the weary mind, and that passeth all understanding, whence comest thou? Thou visitest the beggar on his bed of straw! Thou bindest up the brokenhearted, and
the tears of the widow and the orphan ! Thou openest the prison doors of the penitent, and whisperest forgiveness in his ears ! Whence comest thcu, mysterious Peace ? Who shall give utterance to thy marvellous tidings, or make known the music of thy voice? I will confess, “it is the Lord who giveth songs in the night." It is the Lord who saith, “ There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." “ The Lord shall give strength unto his people : the Lord shall bless his people with peace." "O give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy endureth for ever.” What choir is that arrayed in white robes, and whence I hear the heavenly anthem ? “ These are they which have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Oh, wondrous Peace, that sootbes
soul with such unutterable song! Oh, wondrous song of so great a multitude, whose mighty thunderings fall in such gentle echoes upon my soul! Who shall declare the message which thou bringest from the Prince of Peace-peace which passeth all understanding? O Lord my God! even when Thou givest wisdom from above, such knowledge is too excellent for me; I cannot attain unto it.
“ Surrounded by Thy power I stand ;
THE RELIGIOUS PROBLEMS OF OUR TIME.
By GEORGE PARRY. A POLITICAL empiricism has worked for centuries on the surface of society, and has failed utterly to dry up the fountain of its woes; and it is time now that we go down into the heart of humanity, and meet and conquer incipient evil ere its matured fruit embitters and poisons the world. For it is the heart, selfish and impure, that diffuses pollution through our social state-through it hell finds an outlet to the world; and only by its purification can the root of sin and misery be extirpated. But it needs the influence which descends from God to draw and guide us to Him again. It is not given to merely human wisdom to regenerate the world. Only under tho ligh of divine truth does evil stand rebuked, its true deformity made manifest. That alone can pierce the veil of sophistry with which the evil deed surrounds itself, and render fruitless the subtle deceit and subterfuge under which evil would
pass itself for good. That can penetrate to the deepest recesses of the soul, leaving no secret sin or evil tendency unseen or unexplored. And it is divine truth alone, its work of warfare with self, the senses, and the world, being finished, that can restore the reign of truth and goodness in human minds and hearts. And if humanity ever is to throw off the weight of sin and woe that presses upon it, only by the lever of pure and undefiled religion can the work be achieved. This, preparing to effect a radical change in the human heart, is the motive power of that high civilisation which has for its aim to make earth the image of the heaven we hope for.
If, then, pure and vital religion be so intimately connected with the well-being of society and the ultimate destiny of man, no greater calamity could befall the human race than the defilement of its purity, and the departure of its vitality and power. The power of self, the world; and the senses over humanity is so great,—the passions that originate in them tend to so exclusive an absorption of the whole being, that it requires all the influence of the most powerful and vital religious feelings and convictions to repress those inordinate desires, whose unchecked action would destroy the distinctive humanity of man. And when religious convictions fade into the formal acceptance of creeds, assent of the lips being the substitute for the strong and clear affirmation of the reason ; when a soulless lip-service and dead ceremonial are accepted as the apologies for a true religious spirit; when artificial excitements stand in stead of strong and deep but quiet earnestness ; when men too often put on the show of outward devoutness merely from
deference to custom; surely a great calamity has befallen us, which our stolid unconsciousness does but aggravate and increase. What influence can religion thus emasculated and powerless exercise over the heart of man—"deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked"? When religious worship degenerates into a hard and chilling formalism; when the truth of God is defiled by admixture with the traditions of men; it cannot even take possession of the outworks of the soul-it cannot even convince the reason. And that which should stand firmly and boldly before the world grows quiet and politic, and gives no strong answer to those words which the proud heart and irreverent intellect of this day have uttered against the truth as it is in Jesus. And if its weakness be proved by its inability to check the intellectual depravities of the time, how shall it be able to conquer the bad passions of the callous human heart? And religion failing in its conflict with self, the senses, and the world-ever tending to absorb the soul, and to blind to God and heaven and truth-then, as far as society is concerned, it fails altogether, and leaves unaccomplished the purpose whereto it was sent. And a world which dead religion leaves uninfluenced by the love and wisdom of heaven, which has at its heart no sincere and devout piety, is but as a whited sepulchre, -outwardly beautiful, indeed, but inwardly unclean.
Whether we have truly characterised religion as it floats on the surface of society, and is professed by the generalty, the reader must determine. But certain it is that, by the confession of its professors themselves, the feryour and zeal of the past do not characterise the present; that to this age, chiefly regardful of self, with an everwatchful eye for the advantages and honours of the world, the high self-sacrifice and absorbing religious earnestness of the early days of Christianity are largely alien and unintelligible. Thus, primitive spirit is not seen, because Christianity as taught in the churches, is no longer such as it was in the days of its purity and power. The evidences of this are too widely accumulated on all sides, to call for the special mention of any. It is not now that men are in possession of a firm faith in the creeds and dogmas that constitute the theology of these times. Few men depend, in these days of fluctuation, upon the ground beneath their feet. In the churches, it is felt that these are uncertain times of wars and rumours of wars-men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth; as though the Old had come to its crisis, and was preparing to recede before the New--the vital and re-vivifying influences of another era.
And if there be one indication more expressive than another of the
uncertain and unsafe condition of religion, as it exists in the society of to-day, it is the prevalence of the sectarianism, indifference, and unbelief which many good men acknowledge and deplore, but scarcely hope to remedy. Internal division is at once the cause and indication of weak
And when intestine discord among professors of religion is accompanied by the lukewarmness of many who by lip-profession, at least, are friends, and the hostility of open and avowed opponents, eager to destroy, though powerless to re-construct, its position is indeed precarious and insecure. But for the Word of God, and the Truth as He spake, who can express a fear? In the coming storm, the structures that have been based upon the traditions of man will strew the earth with their wreck and ruin, but the Truth of God will stand, like the everlasting mountains which cannot be moved.
Sectarianism, it has been hinted, is at once an indication of the obscurity that involves the prevalent theological systems, and a cause of the weakness that necessarily results from division. But it is not to be deplored simply from the fact that it evidences difference of opinion. Human beings are not all endowed with the same description of physical or mental constitution. That the duties and uses of the present might be fitly performed, and the heaven of the future be characterised by the beauty and order that spring from variety in harmony, each human being is gifted with some idiosyncrasy of nature that fits bim precisely for the occupation of his special position, and the performance of his peculiar uses in the universal economy. Sameness results in weariness, and the sands of the desert, limited only by the horizon, and even the boundless and monotonous ocean, bring at length a sense of waut and a longing for the various scenes of nature and of life. And the social world would, indeed, be barren of interest, if an exact identity of sentiment and opinion made its individual constituents each the repetition of the other. But it is not so. Some see and think from the promptings of a warm and loving heart, and desire to know and to express only that which is at one with charity and peace. Others, again, of a colder and more purely intellectual temperament, delight in knowledge for its own sake, and follow with an almost exclusive devotion reason and truth. Some, of a comprehensive and penetrating intellect, love to search the purposes and causes of things, and to behold them in their mutual relations and dependences; while those of less depth and breadth of mind are content to know things as they appear on the surface, and take no thought of why or wherefore. The Good, the True, the Useful, and the Beautiful, each has its band of devoted adherents, and each class is able to supplement the wants and deficiencies of the