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and to the Puritan spirit. It seems to me that that spirit never found choicer utterance than from the lips of John Robinson : “I charge you before God and his blessed angels," he said, in parting from the little company at Leyden, “ that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has more truth yet to break out of his holy word. I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the Reformed Churches that are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. Luther and Calvin were great and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God. I beseech you, remember it,—'tis an article of your church covenant,- that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God.” Where will you find more onward-looking words than these? Where more faith in the great future? Doubtless by the written word of God he meant only so much of that word as is contained between the covers of the bible, and forgot that God's word is also written in flowers and stars on the broad pages of the earth and sky, and most of all upon the tablets of the human heart. It is not the dogma that I praise ; it is the principle, the spirit, the attitude of the man. And for the time in which he lived, I
it was an attitude marvellously true and bold. How many of his would be followers will advise their congregations in this morning's sermon not to come to a period in religion? Why it is the boast of those who worship the God of their fathers after the way that men call orthodox, that they have come to such a period. They pride themselves upon this very thing. They pity the poor souls who are not anchored even as they are, but go drifting and drifting over the deep seas of God. Drifting and drifting! That is their way of putting it. But if those who have not come to a period in religion, and, God helping them, never intend to, if those who say, After the
way men call heresy so worship we the God of our fathers," if those men know anything they know that they are not drifting, but that having set their every sail to catch the breath of heaven, they are sailing on and ever on, tasting the glory and the sweet of every clime. It is God's sea that is below ; his winds that blow so fair; his polar star of truth to which the quivering needle in our heart of hearts is pointing night and day.
« Behold,” saith the Spirit, “ I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it;” and through that open door the ghosts of that theology which Calvin taught go shuddering away into a limbo from which they cannot be recalled. If to be good Puritans in the nineteenth century, we must accept the dogmas of the seventeenth century, then are we miserable Puritans enough. The Puritan's thought of God was horrible, his thought of man low and degrading, his thought of heaven selfish, his thought of earth ungenerous, ungrateful, wicked. He tried to drive out human nature with a pitchfork. He tried to show that life was made for tears and sorrow only, and not for ringing laughter and divinest joy. But it was all in vain. Perigrine White would have his laugh in spite of all the creeds. John Alden would
fall in love with Priscilla, and would be happy in his love. And when little children were born to them, though, by the dictates of their creed they should have put on sack-cloth and ashes and gone mourning over another candidate for everlasting hell, with every chance of an election, they did not do any such thing, but hailed the blithe new comer as an accredited messenger of heaven, and rejoiced with an exceeding great and holy joy. Human nature, driven out with a pitch-fork, always came back, and sometimes, as is very apt to be the case, got the pitch-fork into her own hands and resented with no little vigor che insults that she had received. And so it is all the world over. Men are coming to see that God is not the enemy of any form of natural joy, that the earth is no more God's footstool than are the highest heavens, and that it is just as much his chrone; that however degraded human character may be, human nature is God's nature ; and that in this high sense Judas as well as Jesus can exclaim, “ I and my father are one !" that God is not the terrible Jehovah of the Jews, but that he is our Father and our Mother, or rather that he is something infinitely more loving, tender, merciful than we can say with any human speech. The theology of the Puritan is passing away. But his onward looking spirit, his faith in the great future-that remains and will remain, and that is his great legacy to us and to the world ; and those are the best Puritans who in this day and generation have the most of that spirit, and the most of that faith,which, far more than the special doctrines which they cherished, made of the Puritans the men and women, the saints and heroes that they were.
If you should go to Plymouth they would take you into Pilgrim's hall and show you among other things that came over in the Mayflower, a spinning wheel at which, for all I know, Priscilla Mullen sat on the day that she said to John Alden, “Why don't you speak for yourself, John?” Now one as well might get the pattern of that spinning wheel, and from that pattern have its exact counterpart made to order, and then say, “ After the way that men call orthodox so spin I gar nts for myself and kin,” as to endeavor to perpetuate the old theological spinning wheel that was brought over at the same time, and with that go on spinning forever and eternally the same crude thoughts and fancies that were then the best that could be had. For the relation of the opinions of any time to the main fact of religion is just the same as the relation of any form of mechanical industry to the great fact of industry itself. By being as industrious as was the Puritan, and not by using his means of labor and production, shall we keep up the apostolic succession in the realm of work, and by being as religious as was the Puritan, not by perpetuating his opinions, shall we keep up the same succession in the realms of faith and love.
'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit, the idle slaves
They were men of present valor, stalwart, old iconoclasts,
Nor attempt the future's portal with the Past's blood-rusted key. But though our great inheritance from the Puritans is not any special thing that they did, but rather their direction, their attitude, their spirit, we have at the same time inherited from them certain special things, some of which in. deed are of but little use, but some of which also are as good to-day as ever. And even of those things which we are disposed to put far from us, as of no earthly use in these enlightened days, some at least are as the lion's carcass in which Samson found such sweetness hid away. Thus, for example, while we pity them because their lives were so barren of all outward joy, are we perfectly sure that the other extreme into which modern society is rushing is any better? Is it not possible that there is some golden mean between their melancholy and our Aightiness ; their penury and our extravagance; their dull monotony and our continual round of pleasure; their bald simplicity of dress and our walking advertisments of dry goods and millinery; their everlasting prayer meetings and our equally everlasting theatre going, concerts, operas, and that immense nothingness and vacuity which we call fashionable life? At least the Puritan had better opportunity than we to stay at home in his own mind. And whether, after all, he didn't get more solid pleasure out of life than we do, is at least problematical. I think we are in danger of knowing less than he did of the sacred mystery of Home. If husbands and wives saw less of the world then than they do now, they saw, what seems to me better, a great deal more of each other, and mothers had their children to themselves to mould and fashion in their most impressible years. And so upon the whole I am very far from being certain that the Puritan can teach us nothing in these matters of the regulation of our daily lives.
The May-flower of 1620 brought over the America of to-day. There was no such entry on the ship's manifest, but it was there ; all our great manufactories, all our great libraries, your mercantile and your historical libraries, every volume of them both, your schools and colleges, your churches—all of them, your free institutions, your declaration of independence, your constitution with its great amendment already there, your great men-your Adams, your Lincoln, Dr. Channing and Theodore Parker, Samuel J. May and William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Becher and Harriet Beecher Stowe; all these were on board. They were not counted in with the one hundred, but they were there as much as Bradford or Winslow or Miles Standish. For your vast manufacturing interests are the legitimate outcome of the tireless industry of the Mayflower's company, of their heroic energy and indomitable will. Your schools and colleges and libraries, they carried them in their inquiring brains ; your churches, they were bound up in their passion for religion ; your great men were foretold in their great characters, their sterling worth; your young men that fought the battles of our last crusade were there in the devotion and self-sacrifice that brought brave men and tender women over two thousand miles of sea. But beside these latent glories and successes, these potential governments and churches and schools, these possible heroes and saints, besides these germs there was ripe fruit on board that little vessel which hasn't rotted yet. For not only was the civil government of the Puritans the best civil government of their time, but it was the best of all time down to the present. The compact that was written in the Mayflower's cabin has not yet been surpassed. It made every adult man in the ship's company a voter, and if there had been a black man there I am certain that he would not have been excluded; my only wonder and regret is that the Puritan women did not enter at once upon their duties to themselves and to the state. For had they done so our modern politics wouid not be such a horrible Augean stable as they are, nor the need half so urgent for some political Hercules to come and clean them out. But if they did not go beyond the present, they were at least its equals in that their government “ of the people” was “ for the people and by the people,” if there ever has been such a government upon the earth.
And as with their state government so with their government of the church. It was a pure democracy ; it was out-and-out congregationalism. As such, ninety-nine out of one hundred of the so-called congregational churches of to-day are false to their beginning. The Puritan congregation was complete in itself. Its members were not responsible for their performances to any body but themselves. Their minister was not a priest; he was one of the congregation. And between him and them there could come no pope, no bishop, no council, no outside ecclesiastical authority of any sort. And of all actual or possible forms of church organization, I cannot think of any that unites so well as this the highest justice, the most absolute simplicity, and the greatest power.
Therefore, my friends, I thank Heaven every day that here we have just such a Church, that after the way that men call heresy we come together here from week to week, and are responsible for our proceedings only to each other and to God. I sometimes wish that we might call ourselves Independent, but I thank Heaven that nothing can make us any more independent than we
“ Protestantism” says Dr. Holmes, “means, mind your own business.
But it is afraid of its own logic.” I trust that you are not. Let other churches fall back upon bishops and synods and associations, that their business may be minded for them, see to it that you mind your own. Thus far you have done so. I believe that you will do so to the end.
Dear friends, this is the first day of my fourth year among you. Three years ago last night I became your minister in the grand old Puritan congregational way. I was settled by no council. It was a matter between you and me. And though at that time my fellow ministers were here and spoke to us their timely words of sympathy and cheer, they were here simply as friends. They exercised no authority upon either you or me. And though we seek the truth as earnestly as we please, there is nobody that can turn us out of any thing. For we are in nothing but ourselves and one another, and the dear God whose perfect law of liberty is law enough for us.
And as for these three years that I have been with you I cannot tell you what years of perfect joy and blessing they have been to me and mine. I came here with all the hopefulness of a young man. I came expecting from you a great deal of encouragement, a great deal of sympathy and love. I have had more that I expected. I came to you fresh from my books, without anything that could be called experience. I felt that I needed, and I asked for, your forbearance, and you were ready, too, with that. In your note of in vitation you accorded to me ir. express terms the perfect freedom of this desk. That freedom I accepted; that freedom I have used. I do not know that I have ever held my tongue on any matter upon which I thought I ought to speak. I have hated to give pain to any man or woman here but I have hated still more to keep silence when God bade me speak. I have been with you in your seasons of great joy and in your hours of sorrow.
You have grown dearer and more dear to me with every passing day. I thank you here and now for all your help and sympathy and kindly cheer. With God's help and blessing may we work together in his service, and for the welfare of his children, and for our mutual building up in all good things, for many a year to
And on this 22d of December, believing with John Robinson that there is more truth yet to break forth out of God's holy word, let us with him refuse to come to a period in religion, and so pledge ourselves anew to the guidance of that spirit which leadeth into all truth, assured that whether the truth to which it leadeth us be after the way that men call orthodoxy, or after the way that they call heresy, it will he none other than the very truth of God.
“ Our God! our God! Thou shineit here;
Thine own this latter day;
Here leads Thy glorious way !
“ We shine not only with the light
Thy comings are not o'er.