« הקודםהמשך »
What we see, thousands and millions have seen before us : what we taste, that mighty host has tasted ere we came on the scene; and yet the joys of life are all as good as new to us. To the little child, born this morning, the earth is
. also practically new-born. That child has yet to see the stars and feel the sunshine,-has yet to find out that lilies are lovely and roses sweet,—that a mother's kisses are comforting, and that to stand erect or walk is a victory and a delight. To that child the world is as good as new, and every turning of the grand old leaves of the storybook of life might be like a daily lying at the gate that is called Beautiful. For every period of life there are lovelinesses, dreams, raptures, contentments, necessities; and, as year after year goes by, we all ask alms of God and one another, lying there at the gate Beautiful :—the very sight of the beauty of life and of every stage of it suggesting new desires, fresh raptures, or brighter hopes.
So too, in the presence of natural beauty we seem to lie at God's gate Beautiful. Did you ever see anything in the earth beneath you, or in the heavens above you, which made you feel for a time that heaven and earth were not far apart, and that the thinnest of all veils hid from your eyes the Immortal Beauty and the God of Beauty ? Have you not seen forest trees, and hills, and rivers, and sunrisings, and sun-settings, and sea waves, that made you comprehend how it was that the men of old saw gods behind all these? Have you not seen sights “apparelled in celestial light" that made you forget the dust of the streets, or feel only the insignificance of man? Have you not entered into the feelings of the Hebrew poet when he
said,—“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him ?” And has it not been true for you, that you lay before God's gate Beautiful, as this lame man lay at the temple gate in olden times, feeling your weakness and the limitation of all your powers before the glory of the God of Nature? But every day we lie at the beautiful gate; only we are often unmindful of it; though it would be well for us if we asked a daily alms of God,--that we might gain a little strength, to lift ourselves from the dust, and go beyond that heavenly gate, to worship with the happy sons of God within.
In the presence of or amid the memories of the world's redeemers, we also lie daily before the gate that is called Beautiful. For the world is what the faithful children of God make it; and we each inherit what the world's saviours have earned for us. And what is there in human life so altogether ennobling as the contemplation of lives that have been spent in the service of humanity? It is the spectacle of love that is offered up in its effort to serve that draws the hearts of all men : even as Jesus said, or as some disciple who knew the secret said for him,—"and I if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me.” And Jesus was only one among many brethren,-in some respects, perhaps in all, the noblest, the dearest, and the best-but he heads, thank God! a long line of redeemers and saviours who, as reformers, or teachers, or leaders, or martyrs, have won the great battles of humanity, and made it possible for us to live as we do to-day. But, alas ! how often,
before that gate Beautiful, are we humbled, to think of our own services and lives; and, like this man, we lie asking an alms :- Give us or help us, O God, to win a little nobleness, a little moral force, a little moral courage, for ourselves,—that we also may rise and enter in !'
So again, in company with the world's great books. What a Gate Beautiful is the literature of the world! There are, indeed, deformities, scars, and shadows; but the world's best thoughts, sublimest hopes, dearest longings, and brightest dreams are in the books that have created this glorious gate Beautiful: for men who write earnestly and lovingly put their best and truest selves into their books; wherein you may find what you could not perhaps find in them; for the truest, deepest, holiest self of a man shrinks, like some of the loveliest flowers, from the clamours of the roadside and the glaring light of day.
And here how true it is that we lie before this gate Beautiful like beggars and lame! What earnest reader has ever escaped the feeling, in the presence of some master of thought,-'O what a poor creeping thing am I! -how slow, how dull, how sluggish! Lo! how this poet soars, and see how I limp: behold how this thinker sweeps by into the inmost recesses of the temple, to gaze upon the glory of the holy of holies, and mark you how I lie here, a very beggar, and lame, who can only look upon this gate Beautiful and ask an alms of those who enter in ;-here a little thought for use, and there a little poetry for delight: and, after all, I shall be a beggar and a cripple till I die. I believe that has been the lament of thousands of earnest students lying before the gate that is
called Beautiful : but let us all be comforted; and if we cannot do more than admire, and love, and ask alms of the great thinkers and poets who have built for us this glorious gate, even so let us be content, and lie there, grateful for the alms that may come to us by the way. The gate is there, and it is more beautiful to-day than ever it
Let us not be unmindful of it; and, if we cannot add to its beauty, at least let us understand and love it, and bless the giver of good books and of the men and women who write them.
There is one more gate Beautiful, and this brings us back to the temple. We often call the church “ the House of God," and sometimes we go further, and say it is "the gate of Heaven :” and so it is; for the true Church has but one gate, the gate that is called Beautiful, beyond which life's mean, and base, and foolish things should never go.
We ought to have no room in the Church for one ugly thing, either in thought, or sight, or sound. Deformity, discord, ugliness, are our enemies, and they should come not here except to be exposed or changed. We want beauty everywhere, for beauty is harmony, and harmony is truth ; but we want it nowhere so distinctly as in the Church, and for this simple reason, that it is in the Church we attempt to test and measure all things. All ugly thoughts of God, all hideous thoughts of the future, all despairing thoughts of man, should therefore be banished from the Church; and all bright, happy, trustful, and hopeful thoughts should take their place.
Little enough do we know of the mystery of God, but we know enough to lead us to hope and believe that He is indeed as one has well said, “The altogether Beautiful of the Universe.” The clearest creed is a paradventure: the soundest faith is but a guess; and they are wisest who affirm least and trust most : but though we know not the absolute truth concerning any of the subjects about which so many have been so sure, we may be certain that man's ideal of spiritual beauty can never be higher than the reality as it is in God. The Church, then, should have but one gate, and that should be the gate that is called Beautiful.
But now, and distinctly with reference to the lame who lie or might be brought to the gate Beautiful. The world has much to learn as to this. Little children whose young feet have not yet learnt to find their way alone should be brought daily, as this cripple was, to the gate Beautiful :—for his case was just the case of little children who are, indeed, lame from their birth, needing to be daily carried to the gate Beautiful, for charity to bless them there : and that, as far as possible, should be the lot of every child; for I believe that if the first ten years could be lived as it were to the sound of music, the fifty or sixty years that might follow would each and all be influenced by the melody. Every little child, if that were possible, should be sent to sleep with a kiss and awakened with a caress—not for unreasoning fondness but for wise love's sake. It should hear no old wives' tales, and be frightened with no nursery hobgoblinism : it should be made familiar with graceful shapes, harmonious sounds, and pretty colours : it should be taught to look for the crescent moon and the lovely stars, to watch the clouds