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following no deceitful light. He did not disguise the hindrances and limitations of the preacher's work, the desire of many to hear only the echoes of their own voices, to see in the preacher's thought only an admirable reflection of their own, the petty criticism and annoyance that would be sure to come; but he set before me, in such a glowing light, the satisfactions that would await my industry and faithfulness that I went upon my way with a rejoicing heart. Nor have I found the years discrediting the hope which he aroused that morning in my breast.
But many of you here, I have no doubt, could furnish better illustrations from your personal experience than these of mine. All life and literature are full of them.
To some men it seems to be given without measure to say the kind, the just, the timely, helpful word to some one in great need of it. Every little while we have some fresh testimony to this quality in Samuel J. May. Theodore Parker had it. How many pages of the biography of Louisa Alcott that power of his illuminates with its cheerful ray! He was to many what he was to her, bringing to them a vital sympathy and prudent counsel that strengthened the weak hands and confirmed the feeble knees. All praise and honor, too, for those who, just because they love us, do not like our faults, and who withstand us to the face because we ought to be blamed when we have acted shamefully, yet with such generous expectation mingled with their blame that we feel their virtue passing into us and cleansing us of our iniquity. The word fitly spoken, how good it is in poetry, in the great masters of prose, in oratory, in brilliant repartee; but it is nowhere else so good as where it turns the hearts of many or the heart of one from things that ruin or debase to things that make for righteousness and truth and love.
One closing word: Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. In the exigencies of our personal and social life we cannot pause to weigh our words, as can the poet or the essayist with pen in hand. It is, Stand and deliver, right away. There is, then, for us no resource but to
make ourselves whole; to see to it that our lives are of such even substance that, whatever we may say or do, it shall be dominated by their central truth, it shall express their total sanity. Keep thine heart with all diligence; for out of thine heart are the issues, not of life alone, but of death also. That they may be those of life, that our words may all be fitly spoken and our deeds may all be fitly done, we have great need to “still suspect and still revere ourselves in lowliness of heart."
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS.
In the wide range of Norse mythology there is no other fancy so impressive as that of Ragnarok, or Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Gods. In Wagner's brain it turned to music; and, interpreted by his genius, it has become domesticated in ten thousand minds and hearts to which it was a stranger in its archaic form, or in the scholar's cumbrous dress. This fancy, as elaborated in the Younger Edda, is a matter of so much detail that, should I attempt to follow it through all its ramifications, the twilight of the day would deepen ere I made an end. Suffice it that there came a time in Asgard when a subtile change infected all the gods; while upon earth the summer sunshine paled, and warmed men's hearts no better than the moon. Then came a winter of such bitter cold that the wild beasts were frozen in their caves, which had aforetime been so comfortably warm; rivers were frozen to one solid mass; and, even in Asgard, Thor and Odin and their divine companions shivered upon their thrones. Only in Jotunheim was there great joy; for there the great Frost Giants hugged themselves, and cried, 6. The Fimbul Winter has come at last!” Now, the Fimbul winter had been long foretold; and it was a winter that the gods could not survive. Three years it lasted, and killed every living thing upon the earth; and then the sun was snatched from out the heavens by a monster beast, the moon quickly by another, and from the under-world the Fenris Wolf that had been long in leash broke loose, and the Midgard Serpent wallowed forth, and all the hosts of Helheim and Jotunheim and Muspelheim, giants of wickedness and frost and fire, went forth to battle
with the gods, whom Heimdal, standing on the Rainbow Bridge, summoned to come from Asgard and join battle with their foes. Straight Odin rode to Mimir's fountain, which was at the root of the tree Ygdrasil ; and there the Norns sat veiled and silent,- those ancient mothers, with no words to say,— and what Mimir said to Odin no man knows. But Odin went forth to battle, and he fell fighting the Fenris Wolf; and Thor, also, fighting the Midgard Serpent; and Loke, the calumniator of the gods, and Heimdal, keeper of their house, fell, slain by mutual blows. Then Surt, chief of the fiery host from Muspelheim, flung a flaming brand into the midst; and straightway there was “a breathless hush, a sudden rush of air,” and then a roaring flame filled all space and devoured all worlds. Ygdrasil fell in ashes, and the earth sank beneath the sea. “No sun, no moon, no stars, no Asgard, no Hel, no Jotunheim ; gods, giants, monsters, men,- all dead ! Nothing remained but a vast abyss, filled with the moaning seas and brooded over by a pale, colorless light. Ragnarok, the end of all things, the Twilight of the Gods, had come.”
Why do I conjure up this dream which scared our Scandinavian progenitors in their heavy sleep and dimmed for them the joy of battle? Certainly not with any thought of trying to unravel what it meant to them,- how much of it was their natural philosophy and how much the poet's free addition to the original base ; and just as certainly with as little thought of finding, part for part, a parallel to this awful fancy in our modern world. Only for us, too, there has been deepening for some time past a “Twilight of the Gods." We, too, have a mythology. A theology we call it, but it is essentially as mythological as the mythology which it displaced in Northern Europe ten or twelve centu
It has its survivals of a barbarism not a whit less gross and superstitious than that of the people whose mythology is preserved to us in the Elder and the Younger Eddas. And of late the gods of this mythology have been shivering upon their thrones. The natural history of the
Bible and the Church and the natural history of Christian dogma have been to them what the icy wind of Jotunheim was to Thor and Odin, sitting high in Asgard, in the wonderfully strange and beautiful old story on which I have so largely drawn. It has made them stare at one another with a wild surmise, much wondering what is coming next. What Norns, what ancient mothers, shall they seek, what Mimir's well, to know the secret of the coming days? After the icebound years, the battle and darkness, will there be a new and better time ?
But, lest our metaphor obscure the meaning I would fain develop into clearest visibility, let us at once part company with its details, if haply we may thus hold fast to the general idea with a firmer hand, -the Twilight of the Gods; the twilight of the traditional Christianity of the churches and the creeds. The metaphor, the symbol, is, I think, a very apt description of the actually prevailing state of things. There are individuals enough who do not see men as trees walking nor trees as men walking. They see trees as trees and men
as men, outlined as distinctly as the men and women in the sketches of Millet, with their thick, dark, circumscribing lines. There are men of various circumstance and mental quality who have this clearness, this positivity. The dogmatists of the churches have it: never a doubt have they that they have the whole story in their creeds and articles. And the dogmatic liberals have it: never a doubt have they that they have the whole story in their liberal magazines and books. They deny the infallibility of the Bible and the Church ; but they believe in their own personal infallibility, and in that of Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, as implicitly as the average man believes in the infallibility of his daily paper, or the Roman Catholic in the infallibility of the pope. There is, too, the noble confidence and certainty of the scientific man and of the critical and historical scholar, who has earned his confidence by lavishing his life's best oil to find the truth of things. But such individual or sporadic exhibitions of the