The world's great sermons, Volume 8
Grenville Kleiser

Part 3 out of 3

ere long, the poor queen had a very close view of misery's children,
and she drank to the dregs the cup of life's bitterness. Reason as we
may, suppress the disagreeable truths of life as we may, suffering
will find us out, and pierce us to the heart. Indeed, despite our
dissimulations, we know that life is not a matter of lutes, doves, and
sunflowers, and at last we have little patience with those who thus
seek to represent it. We will not have the philosophy which ignores
suffering; witness the popularity of Schopenhauer. We resent the art
which ignores sorrow. True art has no pleasure in sin and suffering,
in torture, horror, and death; but on its palette must lie the sober
colorings of human life, and so to-day the most popular picture of the
world is the "Angelus" of Millet. We will not have the literature that
ignores suffering. "Humanity will look upon nothing else but its old
sufferings. It loves to see and touch its wounds, even at the risk of
reopening them. We are not satisfied with poetry unless we find tears
in it." We will not have the theology which ignores sin and suffering.
The preacher who confines his discourses to pleasant themes has a
meager following; the people swiftly and logically conclude that if
life is as flowery as the discourse, the preacher is superfluous.
Foolish we may often be, yet we cannot accept this Gethsemane for a
garden of the gods; the most wilful lotus-eater must perforce see the
streaming tears, the stain of blood, the shadow of death. Nature in
the full swing of her pageantry soon forgets the wild shriek of the
bird in the red talons of the hawk, and all other sad and tragic
things, but humanity is compelled to note the blood and tears which
flow everywhere, and to lay these things to heart.

Christ giveth us the noblest example of suffering. So far from
shutting His gate on the sackcloth, once more He adopted it,
and showed how it might become a robe of glory. He Himself was
preeminently a Man of sorrows; He exhausted all forms of suffering;
touching life at every point, at every point He bled; and in Him we
learn how to sustain our burden and to triumph throughout all the
tragedy. In His absolute rectitude, in His confidence in His Father,
in His hours of prayer, in His self-sacrificing regard for His
fellow-sufferers, in His charity, and patience, we see how the
heaviest cross may be borne in the spirit of victory. We learn from
Him how divine grace can mysteriously make the sufferer equal to the
bitterest martyrdom; not putting to our lips some anodyne cup to
paralyze life, but giving us conquest through the strength and
bravery of reason in its noblest mood, through faith in its sublimest
exercise, through a love that many waters cannot quench nor the
floods drown. Poison is said to be extracted from the rattlesnake for
medicinal purposes; but infinitely more wonderful is the fact that the
suffering which comes out of sin counterworks sin, and brings to pass
the transfiguration of the sufferer.

Christ teaches us how, under the redemptive government of God,
suffering has become a subtle and magnificent process for the full
and final perfecting of human character. Science tells us how the
bird-music, which is one of nature's foremost charms, has risen out of
the bird's cry of distress in the morning of time; how originally the
music of field and forest was nothing more than an exclamation caused
by the bird's bodily pain and fear, and how through the ages the
primal note of anguish has been evolved and differentiated until it
has risen into the ecstasy of the lark, melted into the silver note of
the dove, swelled into the rapture of the nightingale, unfolded into
the vast and varied music of the sky and the summer. So Christ shows
us that out of the personal sorrow which now rends the believer's
heart he shall arise in moral and infinite perfection; that out of the
cry of anguish wrung from us by the present distress shall spring the
supreme music of the future.

The Persian monarch forbidding sackcloth had forgotten that
consolation is a royal prerogative; but the King of kings has not
forgotten this, and very sweet and availing is His sovereign sympathy.
Scherer recommends "amusement as a comfortable deceit by which we
avoid a permanent _tete-a-tete_ with realities that are too heavy for
us." Is there not a more excellent way than this? Let us carry our
sorrows to Christ, and we shall find that in Him they have lost their
sting. It is a clumsy mistake to call Christianity a religion of
sorrow--it is a religion _for_ sorrow. Christ finds us stricken and
afflicted, and His words go down to the depths of our sorrowful heart,
healing, strengthening, rejoicing with joy unspeakable. He finds us
in sackcloth; He clothes us with singing-robes, and crowns us with
everlasting joy.

III. We consider the recognition by revelation of death. We have,
again, adroit ways of shutting the gate upon that sackcloth which is
the sign of death. A recent writer allows that Shakespeare, Raleigh,
Bacon, and all the Elizabethans shuddered at the horror and mystery
of death; the sunniest spirits of the English Renaissance quailed to
think of it. He then goes on to observe that there was something in
this fear of the child's vast and unreasoned dread of darkness and
mystery, and such a way of viewing death has become obsolete through
the scientific and philosophic developments of the later centuries.
Walt Whitman also tells us "that nothing can happen more beautiful
than death," and he has exprest the humanist view of mortality in
a hymn which his admirers regard as the high-water mark of modern
poetry. But will this rhapsody bear thinking about? Is death
"delicate, lovely and soothing," "delicious," coming to us with
"serenades"? Does death "lave us in a flood of bliss"? Does "the body
gratefully nestle close to death"? Do we go forth to meet death "with
dances and chants of fullest welcome"? It is vain to attempt to hide
the direst fact of all under plausible metaphors and rhetorical
artifice. It is in defiance of all history that man so write. It is in
contradiction of the universal instinct. It is mockery to the dying.
It is an outrage upon the mourners. The Elizabethan masters were far
truer to the fact; so is the modern skeptic who shrinks at "the black
and horrible grave." Men never speak of delicious blindness, of
delicious dumbness, of delicious deafness, of delicious paralysis; and
death is all these disasters in one, all these disasters without hope.
No, no, the morgue is the last place that lends itself to decoration.
Death is the crowning evil, the absolute bankruptcy, the final defeat,
the endless exile. Let us not shut our eyes to this. The skeptic
often tells us that he will have no "make-believe." Let us have no
"make-believe" about death. Let us candidly apprehend death for all
that it is of mystery and bitterness, and reconcile ourselves to it,
if reconciliation be possible. If we are foolish enough to shut the
gate on the thought of death, by no stratagem can we shut the gate
upon death itself.

Without evasion or euphony Christ recognizes the somber mystery. The
fact, the power, the terror of death are displayed by Him without
reserve or softening. And He goes to the root of the dire and dismal
matter. He shows us that death as we know it is an unnatural thing,
that it is the fruit of disobedience, and by giving us purity and
peace He gives us eternal life. The words of Luther, so full of power,
were called "half-battles"; but the words of Christ in their depth and
majesty are complete battles, in which sin, suffering, and death
are finally routed. He attempts no logical proof of immortality; He
supplies no chemical formula for the resurrection; He demonstrates
immortality by raising us from the death of sin to the life of
righteousness, by filling our soul with infinite aspirations and
delights. Here is the proof supreme of immortality. "Verily, verily, I
say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do
also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto
my Father." The moral works are the greater works. Wonderful is the
stilling of the sea, the healing of the blind, the raising of the
dead, but the moral miracles of our Lord express a still diviner power
and carry with them a more absolute demonstration. If, therefore, we
have known the power of Christ delivering our soul from the blindness,
the paralysis, the death of sin, lifting it above the dust and causing
it to exult in the liberties and delights of the heavenlies, why
should we think it a thing incredible that God should raise the
dead? If He has wrought the greater, He will not fail with the less.
Christianity opens our eyes to splendid visions, makes us heirs of
mighty hopes, and for all its prospects and promises it demands our
confidence on the ground of its present magnificent and undeniable
moral achievements. Its predictions are credible in the light of its
spiritual efficacy. "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because
of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the
Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that
raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in you," Being one with Christ in the
power of purity, we are one with Him in the power of an endless
life. Death has its temporary conquest, but grace reigning through
righteousness shall finally purge the last taint of mortality. Not
through the scientific and philosophic developments of later centuries
has the somber way of viewing death become obsolete; Christ bringing
life and immortality to life has brought about the great change in the
point of view from which we regard death, the point of view which
is full of consolation and hope. In Christ alone the crowning evil
becomes a coronation of glory; the absolute bankruptcy, the condition
of an incorruptible inheritance; the final defeat, an everlasting
victory; the endless exile, home, home at last. Once more, by boldly
adopting the sackcloth Christ has changed it into a robe of light.
"That through death he might destroy him that had the power of death,
that is, the devil"

We cannot escape the evils of life; they are inevitable and
inexorable. We may hide from our eyes the signs and sights of
mourning; but in royal splendor our hearts will still bleed; wearing
wreaths of roses, our heads will still ache. A preacher who complains
that Christianity is "the religion of sorrow" goes on to predict
that the woes of the world are fast coming to an end, and then the
sorrowful religion of Jesus Christ will give place to some purer
faith. "Through the chinks we can see the light. The condition of man
becomes more comfortable, more easy; the hope of man is more visible;
the endeavor of man is more often crowned with success; the attempt
to solve the darkest life-problems is not desperate as it was. The
reformer meets with fewer rebuffs; the philanthropist does not despair
as he did. The light is dawning. The great teachers of knowledge
multiply, bear their burdens more and more steadily; the traditions
of truth and knowledge are becoming established in the intellectual
world. It is so; and those of us who have caught a vision of the
better times coming through reason, through knowledge, through manly
and womanly endeavor, have caught a sight of a Christendom passing
away, of a religion of sorrow declining, of a gospel preached for the
poor no longer useful to a world that is mastering its own problems of
poverty and lifting itself out of disabling misery into wealth without
angelic assistance. This is our consolation; and while we admit,
clearly and frankly, the real power of the popular faith, we also see
the pillars on which a new faith rests, which shall be a faith, not
of sorrow, but of joy." Now, the deepest sorrow of the race is not
physical, neither is it bound up with material and social conditions.
As the Scotch say, "The king sighs as often as the peasant"; and this
proverb anticipates the fact that those who participate in the richest
civilization that will ever flower will sigh as men sigh now. When the
problem of poverty is mastered, when disease is extirpated, when a
period is put to all disorganization of industry and misgovernment,
social and political, it will be found by the emancipated and enriched
community what is now found by opulent individuals and privileged
classes, that the secret of our discontent is internal and mysterious,
that it springs from the ungodliness, the egotism, the sensuality,
which theology calls sin. But whatever the future may reveal, all the
sorrows of life are upon us here and now; we cannot deny them, we
have constantly to struggle with them, we are often overwhelmed by
irreparable misfortune. Esther "sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and
to take his sackcloth from him; but he received it not." In vain do
men offer us robes of beauty, chiding us for wearing the color of the
night; we cannot be deceived by flattering words; we must give place
to all the sad thoughts of our mortality until haply we find a
salvation that goes to the root of our suffering, that dries up the
fount of our tears.

In a very different spirit and for very different ends do men
contemplate the dark side of human life. The cynic expatiates on
painful things--the blot on life's beauty, the shadow on its glory,
the pitiful ending of its brave shows--only to gibe and mock. The
realist lingers in the dissecting chamber for very delight in
revolting themes. The pessimist enlarges on the power of melancholy
that lie may justify despair. The poet touches the pathetic string
that he may flutter the heart. Fiction dramatizes the tragic sentiment
for the sake of literary effect. Cultured wickedness drinks wine
out of a skull, that by sharp contrast it may heighten its sensuous
delight; whilst estheticism dallies with the sad experiences of life
to the end of intellectual pleasure, as in ornamental gardening, dead
leaves are left on ferns and palms in the service of the picturesque.
But Christianity gives such large recognition to the pathetic element
of life, not that it may mock with the cynic, or trifle with the
artist; not because with the realist it has a ghoulish delight in
horror, or because with the refined sensualist it cunningly aims to
give poignancy to pleasure by the memory of pain; but because it
divines the secret of our mighty misfortune, and brings with it the
sovereign antidote. The critics declare that Rubens had an absolute
delight in representing pain, and they refer us to that artist's
picture of the "Brazen Serpent" in the National Gallery. The canvas is
full of the pain, the fever, the contortions of the wounded and dying;
the writhing, gasping crowd is everything, and the supreme instrument
of cure, the brazen serpent itself, is small and obscure, no
conspicuous feature whatever of the picture. The manner of the great
artist is so far out of keeping with the spirit of the gospel.
Revelation brings out broadly and impressively the darkness of the
world, the malady of life, the terror of death, only that it may
evermore make conspicuous the uplifted Cross, which, once seen, is
death to ever vice, a consolation in every sorrow, a victory over
every fear.




George C. Lorimer was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1838. He was
brought up by his stepfather who was associated with the theater,
and in this relation he received a dramatic education and had some
experience on the stage. In 1855 he came to the United States, where
he joined the Baptist Church and abandoned the theatrical profession.
Later he studied for the Baptist ministry, being ordained in 1859. He
died in 1904. His direct and dramatic, pulpit style brought him into
great popularity in Boston, Chicago, and New York. At Tremont Temple,
Boston, he frequently spoke to overflowing congregations. He is the
author of several well-known books, from one of which the sermon here
given is taken as indicating his familiarity with and liking for
dramatic literature. His pulpit manner always retained a flavor of
dramatic style that contributed to his popularity.




[Footnote 1: Copyright, 1882, by "The Homiletic Monthly," New York.]

_I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven_.--Luke x., 18.

Whether the "glorious darkness" denoted by the name Satan is an actual
personage or a maleficent influence, is of secondary moment as far
as the aim and moral of this discourse are concerned. If the ominous
title applies to an abstraction, and if the event so vividly
introduced is but a dramatical representation of some phase in the
mystery of iniquity, the spiritual inferences are just what they would
be were the words respectively descriptive of an angel of sin, and of
his utter and terrible overthrow. I shall not, therefore, tax your
patience with discussions on these points, but shall assume as true
that literal reading of the text which has commended itself to the
ripest among our evangelical scholars.

The Scriptures obscurely hint at a catastrophe in heaven among
immortal intelligences, by which many of them were smitten down from
their radiant emerald thrones. Their communications on the subject
are not specific and unambiguous, and neither can they escape the
suspicion of being designedly figurative; intended, probably, as much
to veil as to reveal. One of the clearest statements is made by Jude,
where he says: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but
left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains,
under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day"; and Peter, in
like manner, speaks of God sparing not the angels that sinned, "but
cast them down to hell"; and yet these comparatively lucid passages
suggest a world of mist and shadow, which becomes filled with strange
images when we confront the picture, presented by John, of war in
heaven, with Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon, "that
old serpent called the devil." Back of them there doubtless lies a
history whose tragic significance is not easily measured. The sad,
imperishable annals of our race prove that sin is a contingency
of freedom. Wherever creatures are endowed with moral liberty,
transgression is impliedly possible. It is, consequently, inherently
probable that celestial beings, as well as man, may have revolted from
the law of their Maker; and a fall accomplished among the inhabitants
of heaven should no more surprize us than the fall of mortals on
earth. Perhaps, after all, there is as much truth as poetry in
Milton's conception of the rebellion, and of the fearful defeat that
overtook its leader:--

"Him the almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion, down
To bottomless perdition: there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms."

An apostle, admonishing a novice, bids him beware of pride, "lest he
fall into the condemnation of the devil." Here presumptuous arrogance
and haughtiness of spirit are specified as the root and source of the
great transgression. Shakespeare takes up this thought:--

"Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition.
By that sin fell the angels: how can man, then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by't?"

And Milton repeats it in the magnificent lines:--

"What time his pride
Had cast him out of heaven, with all his host
Of rebel angels; by whose aid, aspiring
To set himself in glory above his peers,
He trusted to have equalled the Most High,
If He opposed; and, with ambitious aim,
Against the throne and monarchy of God
Raised impious war in heaven, and battle proud,
With vain attempt."

Our Savior, also, sanctions this idea in the text. Joining His
disciples again, after their brief separation, He finds them elated
and exultant. They rejoiced, and, apparently, not with modesty, that
devils were subject unto them, and that they could exorcize them at
their pleasure. While they acknowledged that their power was due to
the influence of His name, they evidently thought more of
themselves than of Him. They were given to unseemly glorifying and
self-satisfaction, and were met by the Master's words--half warning,
half rebuke--"I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven." He thus
identifies their pride with that evil spirit which led to angelic
ruin, and seeks to banish it from their hearts: "Rejoice not that the
demons are subject unto you, but, rather, rejoice because your names
are written in heaven." Rejoice not on account of privilege and
power, but on account of grace; for the memory of grace must promote
humility, as it will recall the guilt of which it is the remedy.

We have, here, a lesson for all ages and for all classes of society--a
lesson continually enforced by Scripture, and illustrated by history.
It deals with the insanity of pride and the senselessness of
egotism. It reminds us, by repeated examples, of the temptations to
self-inflation, and of the perils which assail its indulgence. "Ye
shall be as gods," was the smiling, sarcastic allurement which
beguiled our first parents to their ruin. They thought that before
them rose an eminence which the foot of creaturehood had never
trodden; that from its height the adventurous climber would rival
Deity in the sweep of his knowledge and the depth of his joy. Elated
and dazzled by the prospect, they dared tread through sin to its
attainment, vainly dreaming that wrong-doing would lead to a purer
paradise and to a loftier throne. One step, and only one, in the
gratification of their desires, converted their enchanting mountain
into a yawning gulf, and in its horrid wastes of darkness and of
sorrow their high-blown pride was shamed and smothered. The haughty
king walked on the terrace heights of Babylon, and, beneath the calm
splendor of an Assyrian sky, voiced the complacent feeling which
dulled his sense of dependence upon God--as the perfumes of the East
lull into waking-slumber the faculties of the soul. Thus ran his
self-glorifying soliloquy: "Is not this great Babylon that I have
built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for
the honor of my majesty?" Alas for the weakness of the royal egotist!
In an hour his boasting was at an end, and, reduced by the chastening
judgment of the Almighty to the level of the brute creation, he was
compelled to learn that "those who walk in pride the King of heaven
is able to abase." Similar the lesson taught us by the overthrow
of Belshazzar when, congratulating himself on the stability of his
throne, and in his excess of arrogance, he insulted the sacred vessels
which his father had plundered from the temple at Jerusalem. I say
taught us, for the foolhardy braggart was past learning anything
himself. Like the yet more silly Herod, who drank in the adulation of
the mob as he sat shimmering in his silver robe and slimed his speech
from his serpent-tongue, he was too inflated and bloated with vanity
to be corrected by wholesome discipline. Both of these rulers were too
self-satisfied to be reproved, and God's exterminating indignation
overtook them. Like empty bubbles, nothing could be done with them,
and hence the breath of the Almighty burst and dispersed their
glittering worthlessness. Pope John XXI., according to Dean Milman, is
another conspicuous monument of this folly. "Contemplating," writes
the historian, "with too much pride the work of his own hands"--the
splendid palace of Viterbo--"at that instant the avenging roof came
down, on his head." And Shakespeare has immortalized the pathetic doom
which awaits the proud man, who, confident in his own importance and
in the magnitude of his destiny, is swallowed up in schemes and plans
for his personal aggrandizement and power. Wolsey goes too far in his
self-seeking, is betrayed by his excess of statecraft, and, being
publicly disgraced, laments, when too late, his selfish folly:--

"I have ventured,
Like little wanton boys that swim on bladders,
These many summers on a sea of glory,
But far beyond my depth: my high-blown pride
At length broke under me; and now has left me,
Weary, and old with service, to the mercy
Of a rude stream, that must forever hide me."

It is not difficult to discern the fatal effects of this spirit in
the lives of the great and mighty; but we are frequently blind to its
pernicious influence on the lowly and weak. We do not realize, as we
ought, that the differences between men lie mainly in their position,
not in their experiences and dangers. The leaders of society are
merely actors, exhibiting on the public stage of history what is
common to mankind at large. However insignificant we may be, and
however obscure our station, our inner life is not far removed from
that of the exalted personages who draw to themselves the attention of
the world. The poorest man has his ambitions, his struggles and his
reverses; and the first may take as deep a hold upon his heart, and
the second call forth as much cunning or wisdom to confront, and the
last as much bitterness to endure, as are found in the vicissitudes
of a Richelieu or a Napoleon. The peasant's daughter, in her narrow
circle, feels as keenly the disappointment of her hopes, and mourns as
intensely the betrayal of her confidence, or the rude ending of her
day-dreams, as either queen or princess, as either Katharine of
England or Josephine of France. We do wrong to separate, as widely as
we do in our thoughts, ranks and conditions of society. The palace and
the hovel are nearer to each other than we usually think; and what
passes beneath the fretted ceiling of the one, and the thatched roof
of the other, is divided by the shadowy line of mere externalities.
And so it happens that the fall of an angel may be pertinent to the
state of a fisherman-disciple, and the fall of a prime minister or
ruler have its message of warning for the tradesman and mechanic.

Indeed, it will generally be found that the failures of life, and the
worse than failures, are mainly due to the same cause which emptied
heavenly thrones of their angelic occupants. What is it, let me ask,
that comes into clearer prominence as the Washington tragedy[1] is
being investigated and scrutinized? Is it not that a diseased egotism,
or perhaps it would be more correct to say, a stalwart egotism, robbed
this country of its ruler, committed "most sacrilegious murder," and
"broke ope"

"The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence
The life o' the building."

[Footnote 1: The assassination of President Garfield.]

Like bloody Macbeth, who greedily drank in the prognostications of the
weird sisters, tho he feared that the "supernatural soliciting" could
not be good, because they pandered to his monstrous self-infatuation,
Guiteau, having wrought himself up through many years of
self-complacency, claims to have believed that the divine Being had
chosen him to do a deed which has filled the earth with horror. Thus
the growth of self-conceit into mammoth proportions tends to obscure
the rights of others, and to darken with its gigantic shadow the
light of conscience. If we are to admit the prisoner's story, as the
expression of his real condition prior to the assassination, we look
on one so intoxicated with the sense of his own importance that he
would "spurn the sea, if it could roar at him," and hesitate not to
perform any deed of darkness that would render him more conspicuous.
Others, less heinous offenders than this garrulous murderer, have,
from similar weakness, wrought indescribable mischief to themselves.
The man, for instance, who frets against providence because his
standing is not higher and his influence greater, has evidently
a better opinion of his deservings than is wholesome for him. He
imagines he is being wronged by the Creator--that his merits are not
recognized as they should be--never, for a moment, remembering that,
as a sinner, he has no claims on the extraordinary bounty of his
heavenly Father. From murmuring he easily glides into open rebellion,
and from whispered reproaches to loud denunciations. There are people
in every community whose pride leads them into shameful transactions.
They would not condescend to mingle with their social inferiors, but
they will subsist on the earnings of their friends, and consider it no
disgrace to borrow money which they have no intention of returning.
Their vanity, at times, commits them to extravagances which they have
no means of supporting. They ought to have carriages and horses,
mansions and pictures, with all the luxuries of affluence--at least
so they think--and, being destitute of the resources requisite to
maintain such state, they become adepts in those arts which qualify
for the penitentiary. Others have such confidence in the strength of
their virtue, such commanding arrogance of integrity, that, like a
captain who underestimates the force of an enemy and overrates his
own, they neglect to place a picket-guard on the outskirts of their
moral camp, and in such an hour as they think not they are surprized
and lost. Even possessors of religion are not always clear of this
folly, or safe from its perils. They "think more highly of themselves
than they ought to think"; they come to regard themselves as specially
favored of heaven; they talk of the Almighty in a free and easy
manner, and of Jesus Christ as tho He were not the Judge at all. When
they pray, it is with a familiarity bordering on irreverence, and
when they deal with sacred themes it is with a lightness that breeds
contempt. When they recount the marvels which they have wrought in
the name of Christ, it is hardly-possible for them to hide their
self-complacency; for, while they profess to give Him the glory, the
manner of their speech shows that they are taking it to themselves.
They are like the disciples, who were as proud of their prowess in
casting out devils as children are with their beautiful toys, and
they are as much in need of the Savior's warning: "I beheld Satan, as
lightning, fall from heaven." And because they have failed to give
heed unto it, they have oftentimes followed the Evil One in his
downward course, and in a moment have made shipwreck of their faith.

"As sails, full spread, and bellying with the wind,
Drop, suddenly collapsed, if the mast split;
So to the ground down dropped the cruel fiend";

and earthward have the unsaintly saints of God as swiftly sped, when
they have fostered the pride which changed angels into demons.

"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" What
more pitiable spectacle than the ruin of an angel! We have seen the
forsaken halls of time-worn and dilapidated castles, have stood in
the unroofed palaces of ancient princes, and have gazed on the
moss-covered and ivy-decked towers of perishing churches, and the
sight of them has tilled our hearts with melancholy, as we thought
of what had been, and of the changes that had swept over the fair,
valiant and pious throngs whose laughter, bravery and prayers once
made these scenes so gay and vocal. All is hushed now, and the silence
is broken only by the hoot and screech of the owl, or by the rustle of
the nightbat's leathern wing. But how much sadder is the form of the
mighty spirit, who once sat regnant among the sons of light, emptied
of his innocence, filled with foul, creeping, venomous thoughts and
feelings, uncrowned, dethroned only with malignity and throned in
evil! The Bible calls him the prince and the god of this world; and
everywhere we are surrounded with evidences of his despotic sway.
Unlike earthly rulers, whose exhausted natures exact repose, he
is ever sleepless, and his plotting never ends. Enter his somber
presence-chamber, and commotion, bustle, activity will confront and
amaze you. He is continually sending his emissaries forth in every
direction. The perpetual wranglings, ceaseless distractions,
irreconcilable contradictions, disquieting doubts, discouraging
outlooks, inharmonious and jangling opinions, unaccountable delusions,
clashing and crashing dissonances, cruel hatreds, bitter enmities and
stormful convulsions, which so largely enter and deface the course of
human history, proceed mainly from his influence. We know that "the
heart of a lost angel is in the earth," and as we know its throbbings
carry misery and despair to millions of our fellow-beings, we can
surmise the intensity of we wherewith it afflicts himself. Mrs.
Browning's Adam thus addresses Lucifer:--

"The prodigy
Of thy vast brows and melancholy eyes,
Which comprehend the heights of some great fall.
I think that thou hast one day worn a crown
Under the eyes of God."

But now the vast brow must wear a heavier gloom, and the eyes betray a
deeper sorrow, as in his ruin he has sought to bury the hopes and joys
of a weaker race. How different his dealings with the race from those
which mark the ministry of Christ! Immortal hate on the one side of
humanity; immortal love on the other; both struggling for supremacy.
One sweeping across the soul with pinions of dark doubts and fears;
the other, with the strong wing of hope and fair anticipations. One
seeking to plunge the earth-spirit into the abysmal depths of eternal
darkness; the other seeking to bear it to the apex of light, where
reigns eternal day. And of the two, Christ alone is called "the
blest." In the agony and anguish of His sufferings He yet can exclaim,
"My joy I leave with thee"; and in the lowest vale of His shame can
calmly discourse on peace. The reason? Do you ask the question? It
is found in His goodness. He is good, and seeks the good of all; and
goodness crowns His lacerated brow with joy. This Satan sacrificed
in his fall; this he antagonizes with, in his dreary career, and so
remains in the eyes of all ages the monument of melancholy gloom.
Thus, also, is it with man, whose haughtiness thrusts him into evil.
He is morose and wretched, crusht beneath a burden of we, which weighs
the eyelids down with weariness and the heart with care, and
which constrains him to curse the hour of his birth. Next to the
grief-crowned angel, there is no more pitiable object in all God's
fair creation than a human soul tumbled by its own besotted pride into
sin and shame. "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold
changed!" aye, changed to dross, which the foot spurns, and which the
whirlwind scatters to the midnight region of eternity.

In view of these reflections, we can understand the stress laid by the
inspired writers on the grace of humility. We are exhorted to be like
Jesus, who was meek and lowly in heart; and we are commanded to esteem
others better than ourselves. These admonitions are not designed to
cultivate a servile or an abject spirit, but to promote a wholesome
sense of our own limitations, weaknesses and dependence. They would
foster such a state of mind as will receive instruction, as will lean
on the Almighty, and recognize the worthiness and rights of all. Just
as the flower has to pass its season entombed in the darkness of its
calyx before it spreads forth its radiant colors and breathes its
perfume, so the soul must veil itself in the consciousness of its own
ignorance and sinfulness before it will be able to expand in true
greatness, or shed around it the aroma of pure goodness. Crossing the
prairies recently between this city and St. Louis, I noticed that the
trees were nearly all bowed in the direction of the northeast. As our
strongest winds blow from that quarter, it was natural to inquire why
they were not bent to the southwest. The explanation given was, that
the south winds prevail in the time of sap, when the trees are supple
with life and heavy with foliage, and consequently, that they yield
before them. But when the winter comes they are hard and firm, rigid
and stiff, and even the fury of the tempest affects them not. Thus
is it with human souls. When humility fills the heart, when its
gentleness renders susceptible its thoughts and feelings, the softest
breath of God's Spirit can bend it earthward to help the needy, and
downward to supplicate and welcome heaven's grace. But when it is
frozen through and through with pride, it coldly resists the overtures
of mercy, and in its deadness is apathetic even, to the storm of
wrath. Nothing remains but for the wild hurricane to uproot it and
level it to the ground. Such is the moral of my brief discourse. God
grant we may have the wisdom of humility to receive it!




William John Knox Little, English preacher, was born 1839 and educated
at Cambridge University. He has filled many parochial cures, and in
1881 was appointed canon of Worcester, and sub-dean in 1902. He also
holds the vicarage of Hoar Cross (1885). He is of high repute as a
preacher and is in much request all over England. He belongs to the
High Church school and has printed, besides his sermons, many works of
educational character, such as the "Treasury of Meditation," "Manual
of Devotion for Lent," and "Confirmation and Holy Communion."


BORN IN 1839


[Footnote 1: Reprinted by permission of Hodder & Stoughton, London.]

_My soul is athirst for God, for the living God; when shall I come and
appear before the presence of God?_--Psalm xlii., 2.

The verse, dear friends, which I have read to you for a text is one
of those verses which justify in the highest degree the action of the
Christian Church in selecting the Hebrew Psalter as, in fact, her
prayer-book. There are many passages, as you will feel with me, in the
Hebrew psalter that express in a very high degree the wants of the
human soul; but perhaps there is no passage more telling, more
touching, more searching, more expressive than that solemn and that
exalted sentiment which is spoken in the text, "My soul is athirst
for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the
presence of God?" The passage is a justification, then, of the action
of the Christian Church. People sometimes ask why in the daily
service, why on Sundays, you rehearse the Psalms, which have about
them so much that is incomprehensible, so much that requires
explanation; why there are those tremendous denunciations of enemies,
why there are those prayers that seem at first sight to touch
wants that we modern people scarcely know; but if you want a real
justification and a handy answer you may fall back upon the general
texture of the psalter as exprest by such solemn words as those of the
text. If you would find any document, any volume that will speak your
thoughts best about and towards eternity, you cannot select a better
than the Hebrew psalter, for the general tone and temper of its
teaching is the cry of the soul for God.

And then there is another thought upon the threshold of such a subject
that demands our attention. This verse of the text, being a sort of
example or representative verse of the psalter, expresses to us--does
it not?--the attitude and the mission of the Christian Church. The
attitude. For what is the position, dear friends, of the Christian
Church? What are the struggles of Christian souls except, in the midst
of a world that is quite complicated with difficulties, in the midst
of a world that is overwhelmed with sorrow, in the midst of a time of
severe temptation, to constantly rise and gaze high above the thought
of evil, and gaze towards the sun of brightness, and cry for God? And
what is the mission of the Christian Church? Is it not to help men and
women in their struggle and their sorrow to forget at least at times
their pettinesses and degradation to rise to better standards and
loftier ideals, and cry for God? And if that be the mission of the
Christian Church, then I hold--and that is my point this morning--that
that is the justification of such noble efforts as have been made in
your church to enable so great, so sinful a city as London to have at
least moments of relaxation from its world-wide weariness, moments of
pause in the pursuit of its sin, and to call it back from that
which is overpowering tho transient--to ask it to pass them in the
ministrations of religion. What is the object of such a church as
this? Why, buried among your buildings, in the midst of this great,
powerful, sinful city,--why has it a mission for eternity? Why is
it good that you should do your best? Why is it praiseworthy and
beautiful that your rector and churchwardens should have exerted
themselves to the utmost to make this church what it ought to be?
Why? Because there is not a man or woman in London, not one in this
bustling crowd, not one in this confusion of commerce, not one in this
sink of sin, but might say "Yes"--ought to say, and must ultimately
feel, and should now be taught to realize that the soul has one
satisfaction, one only--"My soul is athirst for God, for the living
God." Well, if that be so, can we be wrong, dear friends, can we waste
our time, if we ask ourselves this morning something quite practical
about this thirst of the soul?

And, first of all, I submit that in such a verse as this, and in such
a work as this, we are face to face with one of those great governed
contrasts that are found throughout Scripture and throughout human
life. I may say, _par parenthese_, that that is one of the great
proofs of sacred Scripture. When your shallow thinker, when your wild
and profound philosopher, kicks the sacred Book with the toe of his
boot, and denounces it because he does not like the measure of Noah's
Ark or the exact activity of Jonah's whale, the moment you begin
to think beneath those mere sharpnesses of speech and those mere
quicknesses of the thought, you say this: "There may be this or that
about the surface of Scripture which I do not and cannot explain, and
cannot entirely understand; but at least there is no book--no, not
excepting Milton; no, not even excepting Dante; no, for us English
people, making no reserve for Shakespeare--there is no book that,
after all, expresses that deep, inner, serious fact of my being, of
my soul, of myself; the fact that lives when our facts are dying; the
fact that persists in asserting itself when the noise of the world is
still; the fact that does not care about daylight only, but comes up
in the dark; the fact that whispers low when I am in the crowd, but
speaks loud in the darkest night, when the clock is ticking on the
stairs, and conscience has stalked out and stood before me, asserting
facts that I cannot contradict--there is no look that can speak that
fact of facts, that thirst, that longing, that desolation, that
desire, that hope, that activity, that possibility of supreme
contention and final victory, there is nothing like the Bible that
does that." And so wise men, while they admit difficulties, thoughtful
men, while they do not controvert the fact that that which is divine
needs larger explanation, fall back upon such great governed truths as
that text to support the Bible. The Bible says, asserts, determines,
and insists upon the truth which the Church is insisting upon, which
you and I, in our better moments, emphasize and say "Amen" to--the
soul is athirst for God. The Bible brings home the great contrast that
is present to us all.

Let us dwell, that we may realize this thirst of the soul, upon the
contrast. There are, at least, four forms of attraction which are
presented, as I suppose, to your soul, certainly to mine. First of
all, there is the attraction of natural beauty. If you stand on a fair
August afternoon on the terrace, for instance, at Berne, or on the
heights of Chaumont; if you gaze at the distant Alps, crowned with
snow which was generated in winter, but which takes the brightness and
glory of diamonds in the summer sun; if, coming from the noise and
heat of England, you first gaze at that line of strange pointed
mountains crowned with that whiteness, struck with the sunlight, you
are moved by natural beauty. If you stand in America on the upper
reaches of the St. Lawrence, and watch the river as it hurries to its
destiny at Niagara; if you see the tossing water writhing almost like
living creatures anticipating a dreadful destiny and passing over the
fall; or if, rising out of what is tragic in nature, you come to what
is homely--if, for instance, you see the chestnut woods of spring with
an inspiration of quiet joy, or if you see the elms at Worcester or
Hereford in our common England in the autumn time with an inspiration
of sorrow; wherever you turn with eye or head, with a feeling in your
heart, a thought in your mind, nature demands her recognition; and you
London men, in the toil of your struggle, in the noise of your work,
in the dust of your confusion of life, when you get your holiday in
spring or autumn,--unless, indeed, you have passed into the mere
condition of brutes,--while you still keep the hearts of men, you feel
there is something in the apostles of culture, in the teachers of
esthetics, in persons who say that beauty is everything to satisfy the
soul. Nature, you say--and you say it justly--says, "Beauty." You
find a delight as you gaze upon nature. Yes, dear friends, you are
stimulated, you are delighted, you are consoled; there is one thing
which you are not--you are not satisfied.

Or, quite possibly, you turn to that which seems to English natures
more practical and less poetical--you turn to the attraction of
activity. You say the poets, or the preachers, or the dreamers may
gaze upon nature; but Englishmen have something else to do--we have to
work. You look at the result of activity, and it is splendid. Imagine,
picture for a moment, political achievement; picture to yourselves the
power not only of a mind, but of a personality, of a character
which can attract vast millions who have never gazed upon the human
expression in the human face--can attract them to great love or to
great hatred, can mold the destinies of an empire, can change the
current of the time--think of such men as Richelieu or Cavour, or more
modern instances, and you understand what is the greatness and the
power of the attraction of political activity. Or, to come nearer
home, go into your London city, and watch the working of your London
mart. What have you before you there? The activity of the hearts and
minds of Englishmen, sending out the force of the life that is in them
from the heart that is beating in those tremendous centers to the
distances that are only stopt by the most distant frontiers of the
world. Your sayings and thoughts are quoted throughout the markets of
Europe--yes, throughout the markets of other continents; your actions
and decisions make the difference between the decisions and the
actions of men that you have never seen, that you shall never see. The
Medici were a power in Florence, first as bankers, then as governors.
There are men in London who have power throughout the world, not only
in Florence, not as profest governors, but as practical governors
through the activity of commercial instinct. Certainly, it seems to me
quite possible that there may be minds carried away by such a great
activity; but that great activity I submit to your deeper, quieter
English Sunday thought--that activity will stimulate, will delight,
will attract, will intoxicate; one thing it will not do--I am bold to
say it will never satisfy.

And if I may take another instance for a moment, there is this pure
intellect, bidding good-by to the political arena, to the commercial
strife, saying farewell to the dreams of beauty, and falling back
upon the cells of the brain, traversing the corridors of thought, and
entering first here and there into that labyrinth of instinct, or
association, or accumulative learning. Certainly, there is a power of
a delight that the world can never realize outside the region of the
brain. If that needs proof you have only, dear friends, to meditate
upon such lives as Newton, or Shakespeare, or Kepler, or if you turn
to the region of meditative thought, to such lives as our own George
Eliot--yes, there is that in the mere exercise of intellect which
is intoxicating, which is consoling even to the highest degree. But
intellect, after all, finds its frontier. I may say of it what I
have said of the esthetic sentiment, what I have said of the active
sentiment in man: it attracts, it delights--what is more, I think
it even consoles; but the one thing I find about it that to me is
perfectly appalling is that it does not satisfy.

There are many of you perhaps to-day who will demand that I should
take my fourth instance, and will ask that that at least may do its
duty. Will it? There is the region of the affections--that region
wherein we stray in early spring days as pickers of the spring-flowers
of our opening life, where suns are always glorious and sunsets only
speak of brighter dawn, where poetry is in all ordinary conversation
and hope springs to higher heights from hour to hour, where Mays
are always Mays and Junes are always Junes, where flowers are ever
bursting, and there seems no end to our nosegays, no limit to our
imaginations, no fetter to our fancies, no restraint to our desires.
There is the world, the vast, powerful world, of the passions,
purified by exhaustive cultivation into what we call the affections
of a higher life. By them we deal with our fellow-creatures; by them,
when we are young, we form great friendships; by them, as we grow
older, we form around us certain associations that we intend to
support us as life goes off. We have all known it. There is the
friend, there is the sweetheart, there is the wife, there is the
child, there are the dear expressions of the strong heart that after
all beats in Englishmen. But as life goes on, first in one object and
then by anticipation and terror perhaps in others, we watch those who
have been dear to us pass in dim procession to the grave, and we find,
after all, that in the world of affections that old strange law that
pervades one branch of the contrast prevails; it can stimulate, it can
support, it can console, it can delight, it can lead to delirium
at moments, but it does not satisfy. And, my brothers and sisters,
because you and I are born not for a moment, but for infinite moments;
not for the struggle of time, but for the great platform and career of
eternity--because that is so, never, never, never, if we are true to
ourselves, shall we pause in the midst of our mortal pilgrimage until
we find, and grasp, and embrace, and love that which satisfies. When
you awaken up a young heart to that truth, then that heart, as I hold
it, is on the path of conversion. When amidst the struggle of sin you
have determined the soul to strive after that truth, then that soul is
in progress of solid conversion and final perfectibility. But, at any
rate, all human nature joins that cry of the Christian, and the Bible
speaks of it as it always does--its ultimate truth expressing what we
need. No; there are many things given, there are many attractions to
draw; they will stimulate, they will help, they will console, they
will give pleasure; there is one thing that satisfies the immortal,
there is one life that meets your need: "My soul is athirst for God,
for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of

Why, dear friends, why is it that these things do not satisfy? There
lies a city in the Volscian Hills, fair and beautiful, climbing in its
peaks and pinnacles up little ledges of the rocks, and down into the
depths of the valleys. And if you wander some two days from Rome, and
gaze upon those mountains, historic in their memories and splendid in
their beauty, you are struck by the tenderness and the attraction of
that city. It is a city of flowers. The flowers stream up its streets
in grave procession; they climb up the pillars of churches, embracing
them and holding on with arms of deep affection; they laugh in the
sunshine, they weep in the shadow, they are shrouded in the clouds of
night, but they blaze again in the blaze of the morning. There is
the dim funereal ivy, there is the brightness and glow of the purple
convolvulus, there is the wild-rose clustering round the windows. They
are lying asleep on the doorsteps, they gather themselves into
knots as if to gossip and to talk in the language of flowers by the
doorways--utterly beautiful! You look at the city with wonder and
astonishment--with desire. How wonderful, you say, that church tower
covered with its flowers; that altar covered with flowers not gathered
and placed in vases, but with Nature's own hand arranging an offering
to the living God. These streets that sound no footfall of an angry
multitude, but that listen to the footfall of a quiet nature--yes,
it is beautiful in the early morning. But stay there until the later
afternoon, when the fog begins to gather; stay there until night-time,
when the miasma begins to rise; stay there until morning, and you
are in danger of destruction from poison. It is a land of flowery
expression; but it is not a land of real life.

My friends, the activity of man, the poetic faculty of man, all the
gifts and all the capacities of man--they are beautiful, they are
touching, they are attractive; but if they are all, if they express
all that you have to offer, and all that is in you to feel, then they
are hollow, or they-are poisonous, and like that city of flowers. Why?
Because there is in you and me a soul that lies behind our thought,
altho there is more than feeling there--a soul that supports our will,
and is more than our volition. It thinks, but is not thought; it
feels, but is not feeling; it wills, but is not volition. There
is something deeper in man than his esthetic desire or his active
practise, something deeper beneath us all than anything that finds
expression, certainly than anything that finds satisfaction. There is
the self; there is myself, yourself; there is that strange, mysterious
life of loneliness which stands, and thinks, and judges, and
appraises. When, by divine grace, we escape from the voice of the
crowd, and from the cry of custom, from the delirium of desire, that
poor lonely self within us pleads to us in a cry like the call of
the starveling crying to the rich man that passes by, "Oh, will you
gratify desire? Oh, will you gratify pleasure? Oh, will you stimulate
activity, and will you leave me alone? I, yourself, your very self,
the foundation of your life, the permanent expression of your
immortality--I must be satisfied, and being infinite and immortal, I
know but one satisfaction: 'My soul is athirst for God, for the living
God; when shall I come, and appear before the presence of God?'"

If that be true, or if it be approximately true, dear friends, let us
ask ourselves this morning these questions. Let us be quite practical.
What do you mean, you may say for a moment, by the thirst for God? I
remember long ago in Paris, in conversation with one whom I deem
one of the greatest modern statesmen, tho not one of the most
successful--I remember, when a mere boy, talking to that thoughtful
man just at the moment when he was standing amidst the ruins of his
activity, and gazing with the placid spirit with which a good man
gazes when he feels that he has done his duty, tho the world can see
that he has failed--I remember talking to him on such questions as
these, and what he said, among other things, was this: "In dealing
with mankind and in dealing with yourself you must rise by degrees,
you must advance from point to point; there is a point of achievement,
but you cannot reach the point of achievement unless you have gone
up the ladder of progress." I follow his advice. What do we mean by
thirsting for God? My friends, on the lower round of that ladder, I
mean thirsting for and desiring moral truth. I mean that the soul
within you is thirsting and imploring for the satisfaction of its
moral instincts. Turn for an instant to the ten commandments; they are
trite, they are ordinary, they are placed before you in the east end
of your church, after the old custom of your practical, unaesthetic,
and undreaming England. Ask what they mean. Turn to the second table.
You are to reverence your father and mother. Why? Because they are
the instruments of life that God gives. You are to reverence life in
others in the sixth commandment. Why? Because life is the deepest
mystery that God can possibly exhibit to you. In the seventh
commandment--I scarcely like to say, but yet it is wise to repeat, it
is necessary to assert it--we are to remember, you and I, when we
are young, when we are active, when we are passionate, the great
responsibility of man; you are not to trifle with that awful mystery,
the transmission of life, life which unites itself with eternal love.
You are to remember respect for property, for that which divine
providence has placed by wise laws in the hands of others. You are to
remember that the best of properties is a good character. Finally, in
the tenth commandment, you are not to forget that divine providence
guides you, and you are not to murmur and be angry when He guides you
who knows the best for you, and when you have done your best. And
rising from the second table and coming to the first, you are not to
forget that there is one object for every soul, as the text asserts.
You are not to forget that a jealousy may be created, ought to be
created, if you put anything before God. You are not to grudge God the
restraint of speech, and--thank God, still it is possible to appeal to
the wise instincts of England--you are not to grudge on your Sunday
the gift of your time. These are the outlines of the grave moral law
that runs deep into the heart of the Christian; and I answer, the
thirst for God means the thirst within me to fulfil that grave moral

But, my friends, pause for a moment. After all, that would only be a
skeleton. After all, simply to draw out the outlines of a picture is
not the work of an artist. Suppose you ask a master in music, "How am
I to produce the real result of stately sound?" He will tell you about
the common cord; he will tell you about the result of its changes and
its affinities, and will speak of those results as harmony; or he will
tell you about the gamut of sounds--sounds found in the wind upon the
mountains, found in the surging sea, found in the voice of childhood,
found in the whisper of your dreams--sound that is everywhere, sound
that wanders up and down this wild, wild universe. He will tell you
all that, and explain how in proper steps, in wise modulations, that
is melody, as the union of sounds is harmony. Is that enough? Would
that produce "The Last Judgment" of Spohr, that made you dissolve in
tears? Would that produce the chorus of Handel that made you almost
rise and march in majesty? Would that fill you with deep thoughts in
Beethoven, or fire you into joy in Mendelssohn? Oh, no! You have your
skeleton, but you have not one thing, the deepest; genius has to touch
with its fire the fact that is before you; you want the mystery of
life. And then suppose you turn to an artist and ask him to guide you
in painting, and he talks to you about light and shadow, about the
laying of the color, about the drawing of lines, about the exact
expression of the distant and the present, of the foreground and the
background, and having learned it all, you produce what seems an
abortion; you ask yourself, "What is the meaning of this?" Is this
enough to make you quiver, in Dresden, before the San Sisto, carried
away by those divine eyes of the "Mother of Eternity," or rent with
sorrow before the solemn eyes of the Child? Is this enough to fill you
with tears of delight when you enter the Sistine Chapel and see St.
John as he kneels with his unshed tears about the dead Christ? What is
there wanting in the touch of your artist? There is wanting genius;
there is wanting life. Or to take one instance more. You ask somebody
to teach you sculpture, to tell you how to make yourself master in the
treatment of stone. He will tell you wise things about the plastic
material that you have to mold with thumb and finger, and then about
the use of the chisel and the hammer to produce the result in the
stone, following the treatment of that plastic material. But when you
have learned it all, can you really believe that you will produce the
effect of that majestic manhood that you see in the David of Angelo
in the Piazza of Florence, or that wise, determined progress that is
exprest in Donatello's St. George? What is the difference between your
failure and the results of those men? Genius--life. And when you turn
to the moral law, and when you ask yourself, "How can I learn to
be athirst for God?" the preachers say, "Accept the moral law; act
exactly in distinct duty to your parents; say, 'Corban, it is a gift
by whatsoever thou mayest be profited thereby'; do your duty strictly
to the letter and nothing more; be conservative about your property;
restrain yourself from desire of change; do not stimulate and do not
satisfy your passions beyond what is exactly exprest in the moral
law." But then, if you speak the truth, you say, "And in the end what
am I? Why, after all, most commonplace, and, in truth, most sinful."
What is the difference? This difference: there wants here the touch of
genius; there wants the touch of life divine, grace that illuminates
the moral law; there wants, my friends, the enthusiasm for goodness,
the science of sciences, the art of arts, the delight and the desire
of doing right because it is right, the great and splendid spirit that
belongs to all of us; and yet it is the highest when the thirst of
your soul is real. Certainly it is to know God's guidance in law; but
what is law? It is to grasp that atmosphere of life and reality which
comes out of the moral law to those who seek it in a living person
first--the desire of goodness, the desire, the love, the enthusiasm,
the ambition, cost what it may, of doing right because it is
right. Oh, my friends, I submit--and I submit it without fear of
contradiction--that is an ambition worthy of Englishmen. Certainly
we are not dreamers; certainly God has given us practical activity;
certainly, whatever we misunderstand, this we can understand, the
thirst of the soul for God is the thirst to love goodness because it
is right.

And then hastily to conclude, I would say that that thirst is exprest,
that that thirst is satisfied, not only in moral law and in its
atmosphere, but in one thing more that I think we can all understand.
When we read the New Testament, so simple, so straightforward, so
true, so beautiful, with some difficulties, but no difficulties that a
true heart can find insuperable--when we read the New Testament we are
brought face to face with the teachings of Christ. And there is this,
my friends, more about these teachings, that if you are to follow them
out you have not time enough in time; the teachings of our Master
demand eternity--there is something about them infinite, so simple, so
beautiful, and yet we feel that we are insufficient to fulfil them in
this sphere of time. If my soul is athirst for God, it is athirst for
the fulfilment of those great, splendid, practical teachings which
remind me that I am to begin to learn my lesson in this narrow school,
but that I shall fulfil my achievement in that great land beyond the
grave. Is that enough? No; no, when the heart is lonely; no, when the
sun is setting; no, when the clouds are gathering round us; no, when
the storm is coming up. It is useless for the preacher, if he tries to
be real, to talk about law, or the result of law, or the splendor of
teaching; if we know the human heart in its width and its activity, if
it is to find satisfaction it must find it in a personal life. You
may say you cannot know God. That is the ordinary answer of the human
sinning heart, which in modern times calls itself agnostic. Know God!
Well, of course it is truly said that it is by mere license of speech
when you talk of knowledge about human perceptions--it is wisely said.
You perceive a fact, my friend; you must perceive it in itself, and as
it is, and by an intellect that can infallibly state that it is so
and in that manner. Knowledge like that is impossible, I grant; but
between that scientific knowledge and utter unbelief there are shades,
first of all of assent that shuts out doubt, and at last, at the other
pole, of a doubt that almost shuts out assent. Between the two there
are activities of life, and if you are to say, "I cannot know the
personal God with scientific knowledge," I grant it; but you cannot
know anything, not only in theology, but in politics, or social life,
or moral conduct, or conduct that is not moral--you can know nothing,
you can never act at all, because all our action is not on knowledge,
but on belief, and therefore when we turn to a personal life that is
not perceived by the activity of the senses we only demand that you
are to accept that which it is possible to accept in any sphere of
activity, and which you do accept. It is possible for you, according
to the laws of your being, to accept a personal Christ. "But," you
say--and I must remind you of it as I close--"a personal Christ,
but still clothed in human lineaments, a personal Christ who is
mysterious--how can you accept that?" How can you not? My friends, the
human intellect is so framed that it acts habitually upon ideas that
are true yet indistinct. You act on space, you act on time, you have
infinity, you have in your mouth the word "cause." What do you know
exactly about infinity, or space, or time, or cause? The human
intellect, it is truly said, first by the greatest of the fathers,
then repeated by modern thinkers--the human intellect is so great,
first, that it can take exact ideas, and then, because it is infinite,
that it can act instantly upon ideas that are real but indistinct.
Christ--yes, first He is indistinct yet most real--real because He
entered into history, real because He exprest the idea that is in the
brain and heart of us all; indistinct because these little twenty
centuries have separated us from His actual historic life; but a fact
to those who seek Him, because His power is to make Himself an inward
gift to the human soul, because His activity is such that He meets us
on the altar of His sacred sacrament, that He meets us in the divine
Word to express His thoughts, that He meets us in consolation, that He
meets us in absolution, in moments of sorrow and of prayer. Oh, you
are not driven to a distant infinity! Oh, you are not asked to rest
upon a shadow I Oh, you are not besought to play the dreamer or
the sentimentalist, when you think about God! Oh, you are asked to
remember that fair, sweet vision--the vision of a Man so devoid of
vulgarity, that whilst He loved the people He did not despise the
great--the vision of a Man so strong that He could face a multitude,
so tender that He could raise the lost woman, so gentle that the
little children gathered their arms about His neck; the vision of
a Man at home with fishermen, and at home with the high-born, with
thoughts so deep that they permeate modern Christendom, with thoughts
so simple that they taught truth to ancient Galilee; the vision of a
Man who encouraged youth, the One on whom we rest, by whom we hang, in
whom we hope, who sympathizes with all our best desires, who does not
denounce us, but only intercedes and pities; the Man who never places
Himself upon a Pharisaic pedestal, but feels with the child, with the
boy, with the man, with the woman,--the Man of men, the crown of our
humanity, the God in Man, the Man in God, the power of the sacraments,
the force of prayer, the sweet, dear Friend who never misunderstands
us, never forsakes us, never is hard upon us. My friends, it is your
privilege, it is mine, beyond the privilege of the psalmist, to know
in the gospel, to know in the Church, Christ, God exprest in humanity.
Is your soul athirst for the highest? You may find it if you could
come in repentance, if you come in desire, if you come in quiet
determination to do your duty; you may find it satisfied--yes, now
satisfied--in Christ.


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