Images de page

that life is not an attachment but a derivative. That

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come From God who is our home,"

and that these clouds of glory can not be separated from God and retain their attractiveness and beauty, but rather while revealing themselves must reveal with increasing clearness the Lord, whose ministers they are. One loses courage when only the symbol is in evidence. One gains confidence when the significance of the symbol at least glints if it does not immediately glow.

A modern poet tells us "little we see in nature that is ours." And why not? There can be no other reason than that our eyes are holden, and we fail to see even for a moment into the life of things. Some see while we are blind; for them the spirit is forever peeping through. The primrose by the river's brim is something more than a simple primrose. It is a mirror, and in it they see God. It is a prophecy and tho its petals fade with the setting sun it is a revelation of a divine beauty. "If I could," exclaims the poet of the undimmed eye,

"If I could know what you are, little flower, Root and stem and all in all,

I should know what God and man is."

There was the old charcoal-burner; he lived in the woods alone. He had every temptation to shrink to the proportions of his task and live a smithy, sooty existence. But if there were no people and no comforts in his solitary abode, life still was infested with rich meaning. There was "the music of the wood bird's strain," "the warm brood of the ruddy squirrel." There were the dormouse and the rabbit; there was the nest of the swallow, and through these humble fellowships the charcoal-burner came "to know the mood of forest things." Through these

"The beating heart of life he reaches Far more than we who idly dance An hour beneath the beeches." Nature never did betray the heart that loved her, and the look from the tangle and the thicket, from the mountain summit, from the ocean bosom, is a look from nature up to nature's God, which confirms the age-long faith that

"All are but parts of one stupendous whole Whose nature spirit is, and God the soul." If nature gives this intimation of freedom to those who will listen to her teachings

and accept her guidance, even much more explicitly does the history of human souls. In fact, the record of the age-long experience of humanity has been the record, not only of struggle, but of struggle upward.

"Step by step since time began

We see the steady gain of man."

No doubt men have been fascinated by earthly Jerusalems, but they have not been altogether conquered by them. There are no finer exhibits of humanity in the world than those which represent the great choices of lofty souls, when for the sake of the freedom of the Jerusalem which is above they have parted company with the docile luxuries and engaging opportunities which would detain them from their high and worthy quest. They have fled from the cities and tabernacles in the wilderness; they have scorned safety and have accepted peril; they have declined proper comfort, and have welcomed unequal conflicts; they have offered life and have accepted death with cheerful confidence and with royal spirit. They have learned the true residence of freedom and have regarded human experience as but the inn of a traveler on his way to his mansion in the imperishable city. Abraham was such a one; he went out, not knowing whither he went, but he was looking for the city which is with foundations, whose maker and builder is God. He found it, too. Paul was such a one; turning his back upon privilege in the interests of his inrushing purposefulness. John saw the city with its beauty and its freedom, while he himself was a lonely soul in Patmos. History is replete with the record of elect spirits who have found the fellowship of the radiant truth of the Jerusalem above so intimate and inspiring that they have counted no sacrifice too great and no challenge too audacious as the price of its dear possession. Men who have influenced the world have been largely the disciples of the great adventure. They have been unwilling to accept the conventional as the permanent; the so-called orthodox as the everlastingly true, and ritual as identical with religion, and they have fared forth in every department of life-in art, science, literature, poetry, and in religion, in quest of that realization which has meant freedom and liberty for the soul to serve the highest and enter the divinest employ. We are all hero-worshipers, and probably every one of

us can mention at least one human soul which is for us fellowship and inspiration because of its high daring and noble adventure in claiming its rights to residence in the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, and which is the mother of us all.

We must confess, however, that this principle of freedom which has been the delivering power of the ages and the condition of the advance of humanity is not without a hostile enemy to-day. Force is asserted as the ultimate power and as the desired terminal; laughter and scorn are visited upon those who presume to claim the priority of freedom. Here is a recent slogan:

"Ye have heard how in old times it was said, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; but I say unto you, Blessed are the valiant, for they shall make the earth their throne. And ye have heard men say, Blessed are the poor in spirit; but I say unto you, Blessed are the great in soul and the free in spirit, for they shall enter into Valhalla. And ye have heard men say, Blessed are the peacemakers; but I say unto you, Blessed are the warmakers, for they shall be called, if not the children of Jahve, the children of Odin, who is greater than Jahve."

Here the issue is squarely joined; here is the everlasting nay to the pertinent question, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Squarely joined is the

issue. Which Jerusalem shall it be? Are material things-force, science, money, luxury-the final things? Or freedom, service, love, brotherhood? Shall the world recant its aspirations and work out its own salvation with its hand-made tools? More real than many suspect is this question, and more earnest than many are willing to admit must be the sacrifice and effort which will keep the ascendancy in men's heart of the Christian faith that freedom is the essential of developing life and is to be found only in that purpose and passion which places doing the will of God as the first and last, the highest and lowest duty of men. Jesus Christ was the apostle of freedom. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." "Except a man be born from above he can not see the kingdom of God." The fetters and the thraldom of the conventional, the ecclesiastical, and the tyrannical were in evidence everywhere. He came to give, in place of fetters, freedom to every soul which had in it the spirit of adventure which would fellowship with him in the masterful employment of redeeming through sacrifice and love, a world out of bondage and into the liberty of the sons of God. The call of the Jerusalem which is above, which is free, which is the mother of us all, is imperative; it is inspiring; do you hear it? As Christ's ambassador, will you answer it?


(Judges 9:7-20)

THIS is a rough-and-tumble world that we enter when we open our Bibles to the book of Judges. Men are a law unto themselves, and the result is lawlessness and unrighteousness. Everything is on the heroic scale mirth, sorrow, revenge, hate, murder, anger, love of country. Silhouetted against this dark background are strange and unforgetable characters who move across the stage of Israel to the music of strong passions: Shamgar, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Jael, Jephthah, Jotham. Jotham speaks and is gone, but his message remains.

The bright day of Gideon's work for God and Israel had set in darkness and in gloom. The hero of the victory over the hosts of the

Midianites had fallen a victim to the glory of that victory. Out of the golden earrings, pendants, crescents, chains, wristlets, and anklets taken from the fallen foe, Gideon made an ephod which was worshiped by Israel as an idol. "And Gideon made an ephod even in Ophrah." "Even in Ophrah"! -as if the sacred chronicler would tell of his grief and surprize at the last end of Gideon. Where was Ophrah? It was beneath the oak at Ophrah that Gideon was beating out the grain to hide it from the Midianites, his heart burning, with anger against the invaders, when the angel of the Lord appeared unto him and cried: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor." It was in Ophrah that God called

1 From The Parables of the Old Testament. Fleming H. Revell Company.

him. There the fire came forth to devour the offering on the rocks, and there Gideon prest the fleece of wool together and wrung out the dew, a bowlful of water. "Even in Ophrah"! You would think that if Gideon were going to forget God and worship idols, he would have set up that idol anywhere save in Ophrah, with the great and holy memories of his youth. Yet is not this what we often sce in life-idols built in Ophrah? Take the man who has long ceased to name the name of God back to the church of his youth, back to the old family pew, and let him sit there and call up the days and the faces that are gone; let him think of the youth, the child, that once sat there with a heart that knew no bitterness, and a life that was free from the stain of sin; and let him compare that child, as pure as the morning dew, with the sated sinner worshiping the idols of this world. Take the husband and wife whose hearts have grown cold, alienated, separated, divorced, back to that morning of love, when to seek each other's happiness was life's chief joy, when with hand clasped in hand, their faces bright with the holy oil of joy, and their souls arrayed in the garments of praise, they repeated the vows they once thought naught could sever: "I do promise and covenant, before God and man, to be thy loving and faithful wife, husband, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and ir health, until death us do part." Take the man who has failed in the race of life, or if successful, wears honors that are tainted, and does as a matter of habit things that once he would have scorned to do; take that man back to the morning of his consecration, to the day when he left the doors of the college, with the fires of high resolution and lofty ambition burning in his heart, and let him contrast his present, disenchanted, disillusioned, easy-principled self with that youth of long ago, when the fleece was filled with dew and God spake on every wind that blew. Oh, these abandoned, forgotten, sinned-against Ophrahs of the past! Now the fleece is dry; no flame goes up from the altar; no voice of God makes the heart beat quick and the eye look up.

[blocks in formation]

and buried in the sepulcher of Josiah, his father, the family quarrels began. A mation's memory is short, and Gideon's service was soon forgotten in the service of Baal. Among the sons of Gideon was Abimelech, a base, contemptible man, illegitimate in birth and lawless in heart. But if he possest less virtue than the other sons, he had more ambition than all. His being the son of the concubine shut him out from a chance for the crown, should Israel decide to have a king. He, therefore, went among his mother's friends at Shechem and persuaded them to assist him in the slaughter of the seventy sons of Gideon on one stone at Ophrah. Then they went out to crown him king by the oak that was in Shechem. But the bloody knife of Abimelech had not quite finished its work. The youngest son, Jotham, escaped. That is always the way with evil and evil deeds. Truth and righteousness are never left without an heir to their throne. Some youngest son escapes the sword and comes back to judge. Evil builds its tower, grim and strong walled; but it leaves some chink or crevice through which flies the arrow of judgment. Truth and justice may seem to be supprest and none left to speak on their behalf, when, from some unexpected quarter, comes the voice to assure and to judge.

Just as the men of Shechem were crying "God save the king!" Jotham appeared to tell them what kind of king they had chosen. From his station on the top of Mount Gerizim he told this fable of the trees: "The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive-tree, 'Reign thou over us.' But the olive-tree said unto them, 'Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor man and God, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?' And the trees said to the fig-tree, 'Come thou and reign over us.' But the fig-tree said unto them, 'Should I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?' And the trees said unto the vine, 'Come thou and reign over us.' And the vine said unto them, 'Should I leave my new wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to wave to and fro over the trees?' Then said all the trees unto the bramble, 'Come thou and reign over us.' And the bramble said unto the trees, 'If in truth, ye anoint me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; and if not, let fire come out.

of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'"

The astounded Abimelech and his confederates saw all too plainly the point of the parable. The people had rejected the sons of Gideon who might have ruled them with justice and equity, and had chosen the basest and the wickedest of the sons, a man among men as the bramble among the trees. They must now serve Abimelech with slavish fear, or he would burn them in his wrath. This proved to be so. Jotham was not only a satirist, but a prophet. In three years the men of Shechem got tired of their bargain and rebelled against their bramble king. Abimelech came with his army, took their city by storm, and slew the people and beat down the walls and sowed the place with salt. If any of the men of Shechem were left to tell the tale, they remembered the word of Jotham, "Fire shall come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon."

The trees by their own vote elected a bramble over them. Their forest government was what they made it; nothing more, nothing less. They elected and crowned a bramble, and the bramble ruled them like a bramble. Life is what you make it. You choose your own king and government. At first you may feel tempted to challenge this proposition that life is what you make it. You answer that life is made for you. You come into the world by no wish or plan of your own; you found yourself born into a home where a certain kind of example and thought and life prevailed; as soon as you commenced to breathe, you were formed, molded, colored, by that thought; on your shoulder was laid the mysterious hand of heredity, guiding you along paths that your fathers trod before you; you can no more throw off your past than you can blot out your present; you find yourself in a given intellectual, or moral, or religious scale of life by no desire and by no protest of your own; you travel your three-score and ten along this path of life, here and there a rough place where the stones bruised you; here and there a dark, deep place where the floods overwhelmed you, and here and there a pleasant meadow-land where the fields were peaceful and bright with flowers, and here and there high, exalted, spiritual places where the winds were fresh and the air was clear, and you thought you could see the

land to which you were traveling. Now, as you grope your way down the path that leads you into silent, mist-wrapt valleys, looking back over the long journey where you met with joys that were so real and so divine, sorrows that were so real and so penetrating, gains so indefinable and losses so irreparable, are you not tempted to say that life was not so much what you made it as what you found it and were compelled to take?

"Ah, love! could you and I conspire

To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,

Would we not shatter it to bits, And mold it nearer to the heart's desire?"

Things that we might have done differently; things that we would change in life if we could turn back the years, and other things that we could never change-all this comes to mind when we think at all seriously about our life. But when we get above the incidents of existence, and come to the finer issues of the soul, regardless of the station into which we were born, regardless of the place which we now hold, it remains true that life is what we make it.

Clad in all her beauty and mystery, life stands before us as the Lord stood before Solomon when he dreamed his dream on the holy hill of Gibeon, and speaks to us saying, "Ask what I shall give thee."

"I am the master of my fate;

I am the captain of my soul.” There are all kinds of trees in the forest, and there are all kind of desires and emotions and considerations, vices and graces, possible for the human soul. Only in a fable, only in imagination, can the trees choose a king; but man is above the trees of the field; he can and does choose his king. You have chosen your king for today. When this Sabbath day, with its privileges and duties, is past, some will go to their beds tired in body, but not in heart, for they have scattered the seeds of light and love about them; they have thought of others, they have toiled for others; they have spoken the word in season, instructed many and upholden the fallen, wiped away tears from the eyes of those who wept; and as a ship at sea leaves a track of white foam behind it, they have left behind them a path that is bright with love and honor. But others, with the same opportunities, and the

same temptations, will go to their beds weary and ill at ease, dissatisfied, fretful, unhappy, because they gave themselves over to the dominion of their own desires, aims, appetites, worshiping their own dislikes, prejudices, enmities. Instead of the fig, the olive, the vine, they have made the bramble king, and the bramble has ruled them like a bramble. Be miserable, wretched, contemptible, if you want to be, but don't blame it on God, or your lot in life. You make your own king! Oh, how often, with a folly not unlike that of the fabled trees, we are the deliberate electors and architects of our own unhappiness and distress!

There was a young English poet, born to station and wealth and education, and gifted with the great gift of song. He scorned much that was high and holy in life, tasted much of life's bitterness, had his share of its flattery and praise, and went to his grave at thirty-seven. Of life this is what he had to say:

"Fame, wisdom, love, and power were mine,
And health and youth possest me;
My goblets blush'd from every vine,
And lovely forms carest me;
I sunn'd my heart in beauty's eyes,
And felt my soul grow tender;
All earth can give or mortal prize,
Was mine of regal splendor.

"I strive to number o'er what days,
Remembrance can discover,
Which all that life or earth displays
Would lure me to live over.
There rose no day, there roll'd no hour
Of pleasure unembitter'd;
And not a trapping deck'd my power

That gall'd not while it glitter'd."

Toward the end of the same century another young poet and writer finished his journey. He, too, was born to refinement, knowledge, ambition. His life was gentle and his song was pure. When he came to die in his island home amid the surge of the Pacific, after his long battle with the thorn in the flesh, he said:

"Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

"This be the verse you grave for me,

Here he lies where he longed to be, Home is the sailor-home from the sea, And the hunter-home from the hill." One lived so that when he came to die life was nothing but a desert of regrets and

bitter recollections. The other lived so that when he came to die he could say that he had "gladly lived" and therefore he could gladly die. Life was what they made it.

When Pilate brought out Jesus before the people, he cried to them, "Behold your king!" They answered, "Away with him, away with him! Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said, "Shall I crucify your king?" They cried, "We have no king but Cæsar!" That was their choice, and as their choice so was their doom. Seventy years after Christ died on Calvary beneath the superscription, in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," Titus came with his army, and after a siege of three years' duration and of unparalleled suffering and ferocity, the walls of Jerusalem were battered down. A legionary, standing on the shoulders of one of his fellows, put a torch to one of the golden windows of the temple. The Jews rushed in to save their shrine, and died by the thousands until their blood ran down the steps of the holy place like a river. "No king but Cæsar!" On that day Jewish history came to an end. Ashes, blood, carnage, heaps of slaughtered, fallen walls, desecrated shrines. "No king but Cæsar!" And fire came out of the bramble. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate."

"And ye would not!" Over how many cities, over how many souls must Christ utter that lament? They refuse his olive-branch of blood-bought peace and the shelter of his vine, and take the bramble of unforgiving, unregenerate, implacable self for king. "If thou hadst known who it is that saith unto thee, 'Give me to drink,' thou wouldst have asked of him," said Jesus to the woman at the well. If you and I knew the difference between the reign of Christ in our lives and the reign of our own bramble selves, knew it not only in exhortation, the appeal of the sermon, but in actual history, we should not long hesitate in our choice. But no man is granted that kind of wisdom. Yet in another sense we do know the difference. If we do not have the knowledge of experience, we have at least the knowledge of conviction. The question is, will knowledge be turned

« PrécédentContinuer »