« AnteriorContinuar »
of a newspaper. They make the real foundations on which our whole social structure rests. The foundations of a building are out of sight. Thus we are in danger of forgetting how much more of good there is in the world than evil, because evil is conspicuous and good is unobtrusive.
Paul does not forget the every-day virtues. He tells us to think of whatsoever things are just, pure, amiable, “ of good report," everything which gives happiness to human life, which adds a charm to earthly existence. He does not despise beauty as our Puritan fathers did, nor undervalue the lighter graces of our common homes. Whatsoever things
well spoken of” seemed to him to have some element of worth. He did not depreciate earthly goodness as “mere morality," or think that whatever was popular must necessarily be bad. He believed that men really like good things, and not bad things, and that popularity itself probably indicates some kind of merit.
If the things we love to think about thus mould and influence our character, is it not evident that when we love to think of God, we must receive the best influences ? To think of God from fear, or as a form, or as a ritualistic duty, helps us little. But when our thoughts flow upward to God as the all-loving friend, the ineffable tenderness; the power which pours into Nature the abounding life of spring; who is seen in all the glory of summer skies, in the immeasurable smile of ocean, and the living solitude
of the Adirondack woods ; in noble friendship and generous love, — when he comes to us as the personification of all that is most sublime and all that is most lovely in our human life, lifting it to an infinite value, bestowing on it an eternal stability, then the thought of him feeds the soul as nothing else does. It lifts up our heart, strengthens every good purpose, consoles us in every sorrow, gives us a power not our own to cleave to right, and thus feeds the soul from its centre with what is best. This is the Holy Spirit, which Jesus called “a well of water, springing up into eternal life” in the human heart.
We are sometimes asked tauntingly, and sometimes sorrowfully, “How can any one know whether there is a God ?” The idea of God is in every human mind, and so deeply planted that it cannot be eradicated. We have within us the idea of the infinite and the eternal, though we have seen only what is finite and temporal. The universe is infinite and eternal. We can conceive of no limits to its extent and no bounds to its duration. We have in our minds the great conceptions of universal law, of infinite causation, of an everlasting distinction between right and wrong, and these are above all earthly experience. These conceptions are united in the idea of God, above all, through all, and within all things. And we are compelled by our reason to see unity in all things. We do not live in a chaos of drifting atoms, but in a cosmos of order and unity.
Hence the conception of God is fixed in every human soul.
But we may know God without knowing that we know him, or we may know him consciously. To pass to the conscious from the unconscious knowledge of God is the beginning of the higher life. This knowledge of God comes through experience, like other knowledge. It is by loving to do his will, loving to think of him in all things, loving to bear what he sends, feeling his presence in Nature and life, seeking his help for duty, his support in trial, that we come to know him. We know him by intercourse. It is by loving him that God becomes to us a reality, an object of knowledge.
We are also asked, “ How do you know that God is a personal friend, and not a mere blind power, working unconsciously in Nature ?” I answer that God, who by the very definition of the term is the highest of all beings, and the cause of all existence, cannot be lower and less than what he has made. Human personality is the most mysterious, the most certain, and the greatest fact in Nature. It combines in a perfect conscious unity thought, love, and will. This conscious unity of purpose, knowledge, and desire makes man the master of the world. If God is only an impersonal force, like those forces of Nature which we call blind, he is in this respect inferior to man, whom he has made.
Man's personality is the image and revelation of the divine personality. The highest person who
has ever appeared on earth, who combined in a perfect harmony more of wisdom, of power, and of love than any other, is thus the best revelation of the personality of God. Therefore Jesus of Nazareth is “the brightness of God's glory and the express image of his person.” He is not the personal God, but the express image of that personality. His infinite compassion for man, his heavenly generosity, his sublime devotion to truth and goodness, are the best revelation of God to the heart. They bring us near to him.
He who has seen Jesus has seen the Father, and is helped to come into direct communion with him.
Our friend, Edward Hale, has given us a favorite maxim, "Look up, and not down." This is the moral of what I have been saying here. Love to think of what is true, good, excellent, in everything and in every one, rather than what is false, wrong, and evil.
These thoughts give us strength and peace, and are the source of true life. To do this brings us to God, and to know God and Jesus whom he has sent is life eternal. If there be any good anywhere, think of it. If there be any goodness anywhere, think of it. And to think of these aright, think of Him from whom all goodness comes and to whom all goodness tends.