תמונות בעמוד

Father, and speak with eloquent voice of His infinite attributes of love and wisdom. When, therefore, he asks himself why, among the men of science around him, there are so many who fail to find God, in realms where to him everything is aflame with God, he is forced to seek an answer in his fear that in their studies and researches they are animated by a spirit of self-sufficiency and pride of intellect, rather than by a humble love of knowledge for the sake of moral and spiritual usefulness. It is this love alone which can truly reveal God to the mind; and it does so because in God's sight it is identical with the love of goodness, and therefore with the love of God. If the minds of the votaries of science be swollen with pride because of their discoveries, and inventions, and ingeniously contrived philosophies, no wonder that by their searching they find not God; for pride, more than any

of its kindred sins, darkens the spiritual eye, so that it cannot see heavenly things. The intellectual powers of such minds, instead of being directed upwards towards the Light of Life, are intently fixed upon the phantasmal flame of self-derived intelligence; and in that light things Divine and spiritual can never be revealed. It is cold and dark in the superior chambers of such minds. Not a ray of love from the Sun of Righteousness beams there; and no streams of heavenly affection, therefore, can descend into the lower region of the mind, there to vitalize the dead bones of mere scientific knowledge. From discovery to discovery, from speculation to speculation, from theory to theory, they take wing; but, because in their souls there is winter, the chill, sunless winter of an arctic clime,—they fly from darkness to darkness; and more and more, as the Psalmist with terrible power expresses it, “ In all their thoughts there is, No God !"

No wonder, therefore, if their reasonings be fallacious, and their conclusions false. How could it be otherwise, seeing that they are content with surveying the region of effects—the mere outer shell of God's created universe ? It is as if a naturalist, who had never seen a bird of paradise, were, after an examination of the outside of an egg of that bird, to pretend to know, and to be able to portray, the gorgeous beauties of the plumage, and the inner miracles of the organization, of the perfected bird. It is as if, on a night of pitchy darkness, one were to profess to be able to see the glories of one of Nature's grandest scenes of mountain, and forest, and lake, by the feeble, flickering light of a candle. In that glimmer he might perhaps dimly see the form of a leaf of a single tree, a few inches of the moss-covered mountain, a single ripple of the lake ; but beyond those fragments all would be

enveloped in the impenetrable mantle of night: and even the single leaf, the particle of rock, the ripple of the lake, would not be seen as they really are; but black, and opaque, and unbeautiful. But let God's sunlight shine upon them, and they are instantly converted into transparencies, which reveal marvels of brightness, of colour, of texture, and of form; and in that light the whole landscape is brought into view, bathed in an ocean of glory and beauty.

Only to the humble, loving, truth-seeking disciple of the Lord is it given really to know the inner mysteries of God's natural universe. He is raised to an elevation whence he can look down upon the outer sphere of effects unswayed by the fallacies which there have had birth. He has been lifted into a perception of spiritual causes, eloquent of the wisdom of God; and of spiritual ends, which testify of His boundless love and mercy. He is privileged to enter into the inner sanctuary of God's works, and there decipher the hieroglyphics which cover their outer face. And as he proceeds with his studies, and perceives more and more how the forms and phenomena and uses of the objects of creation illustrate and point to the attributes and operations of the loving Creator, his soul is flooded with continued increase of light, and in rapture of love and adoration he draws closer and ever closer to his Heavenly Father. There is summer in his soul, and every successive flight from state to state, and from knowledge to knowledge, brings him nearer to the heaven of everlasting summer.

A grand characteristic of the kingdom of nature is its changeful activity. Activity reigns in its every part; and because usefulness and beauty are invariably the final object or end of that activity, and self-sacrifice (the highest form of unselfishness) is ever the means it employs to attain that end, it is evident that only love-love Divinecan be the fountain whence it flows, and the soul which animates it in all its operations. Nothing in all God's universe lives for itself; nothing is stagnant or stationary; on the contrary, every sul and every form, great or small, gaseous or solid, animal, vegetable, or mineral, is unrestingly active in the endeavour to merge itself into some new and higher form of usefulness and beauty. The vibrations of the sun's heat and light rays are nothing but manifestations of their restless yearnings, so to speak, for some nobler form of existence into which to pour themselves with continual creative self-sacrifice. Even in the so-called dead mineral substance of the earth the same principle of unselfish activity is seen. They tenderly protect the germinating seed; and as the infant plant puts forth its rootlets, they impart to it of their own substance for its sustenance and support, thus seeking by self-sacrifice to pass from a low into a higher phase of usefulness. In like manner the whole plant-world is unceasingly active for the sake of the animal-world; and the animal-world—and indeed. all the three kingdoms of nature, animal, vegetable, and mineral--are ceaselessly and self-sacrificingly active on behalf of man—their head and crown, to whom in their onward ascent of uses they ever point, and without whose perceptive mental faculties to enjoy them, and active powers to utilize them, they would be as though they were not.

Rising now to man himself, can it be that in him we shall find an exception to the rule? If we examine his natural body, with its multitudinous organs, and vessels, and members, we find it to form a grand harmonic system of uses for the sake of uses. No atom in it is idle or selfish ; each individual part lives only for the sake of all the other parts, and thus for the entire body ; each pours out its own life for the benefit of all, in them to live anew in a nobler and more useful form. Throughout the whole system there is ceaseless activity, ceaseless change, and ceaseless progression from what is lower to what is liigher. The substances which nourish the body take flight, so to speak, from state to state ; entering into the stomach, they pass thence into the blood, and by the blood are carried on into every vessel and fibre and organ of the body. Their animating life, which in its source is love Divine, urges them forward in the upward path of progress, which is also the path of self-sacrifice, until the ultimate end of their being has been reached.

When, however, from the objects of natural creation and the physical organization of man, we rise to a contemplation of man's immortal soul, we find that from a field of undeviating self-sacrifice, and activity for the sake of use, we have passed into one where these principles are found in discordant juxtaposition with others of a totally contrary character. Self-sacrifice is not absent, but self-seeking is more prominently present. Aspirations and uprisings are there, towards what is heavenly and Divine ; but more conspicuous are the lapsings into what is base, and selfish, and sensual. In the universe of unintelligent creation, as we ascend from the inert mineral, through all intermediate forms, up to the palpitating body of man, each onward step introduces us to views of higher harmonies and uses. But in the universe of mind, where we might expect to find the harmonies of heaven intermingling with the harmonies of earth, and heaven and earth grasping

hands in loving concord of mutual service, we find discord and disorder, soul at variance with soul, and the several planes or degrees of each soul at variance one with another. Here will be seen a mind swayed by opposite forces, now drawn downwards by the power of its evil and selfish dispositions, now drawn upwards by the power of spiritual truth in its inner chambers, where heavenly influences have happily found an abode ; thus, in the one mind, hell and heaven battling for the possession of an immortal soul. There will be seen a mind in which heaven has won the victory in a similar struggle, and which, after the long night of trial, has entered into the rest of conscious communion with the Lord. Elsewhere will be seen one which has fallen in the struggle, and is now being carried down the stream of perdition by a horde of unchecked appetites and passions—a wreck of human perversity! As in the world of matter, so in the world of mind, there is ever-present activity. Stagnation, immobility, in this sphere of intenser vital forces, is even less a possibility than in the lower sphere of matter. Spiritually, as well as physically, man must be on the move; he cannot remain stationary, try he ever so much. From state to state, from height to height, or from depth to depth, he must continually be taking flight, either step by step coming nearer to God, or step by step separating himself still farther from Him; either little by little dying to self, with its inherited and acquired evil tendencies, and thus being born into a form of heavenly affection; or dying to all good impulses, aspirations, and thoughts, and being confirmed into the form of selfishness and sin.

It is these progressions or retrogressions—these changes of state -that are signified by the expression "flight” in our text, in its relation to ourselves as individuals. “Pray ye,” says the Lord to each one of us,

your flight be not in winter.”

Pray ye that your flight be not in winter !"

I remember reading a sad narrative, which reads almost like a living commentary upon these words.

Many years ago a number of shipwrecked people, consisting of men, women, and children, found their way in boats to a remote part of the west coast of North America. It was midwinter; and in these climes the coldness of the atmosphere during that season is intense beyond description. The ground was thickly covered with snow; blinding showers of snow descended from the clouded heavens, and all around them was the stillness of frosty death. The spot where they landed was far removed from the nearest white settlement, and he that would get there would have to journey on foot



over many weary miles of frozen snow. With them they had food, and shelter was found which in some measure could protect them from the inclement winds. But they could not long endure that terrible banishment from comfort and from friends; and so at last, rather than remain, they resolved to run all the risks of a "flight in winter." There were delicate women among them; tender babes also, still at the mother's breast; and little children, whose feeble limbs were little fitted for struggling through the heavy snow. Bravely they started, however, and bravely persevered, seeking ever and anon to encourage one another with cheering words. But there was death in that frosty air, and in that chill carpet; and very soon one after another of the band fell asleep in the snow never to awaken. First fell the tender babes and fragile women and young children, and then, one by one, men, women, and children. Day after day the sad procession became smaller and sadder. Now it was the corpse of a darling babe that was softly and reverently laid in the snow; now that of a fond wife or husband ; now that of parent, or brother, or friend. Frozen to death, one after another fell back in the snow; and all that at last were left of that devoted band to enter the homes they were seeking were one or two heart-broken men.

A solemn power there would be to these men in such words as “Pray ye that your flight be not in winter !”

There is a fierce winter of the soul also, wherein if flight be taken, there will ensue death to every principle of truth, and charity, and innocence. All, for want of heavenly love, will be frozen to death; and at last there will be the eternal winter of isolation from God, and from human and angelic sympathy. This is the case of the hardened worldling who obstinately hugs to his bosom the spirit of selfishness, which prevents the passage into his soul of the warming, softening influences of heavenly love and charity. In that frosty atmosphere of self-love the heart grows ever colder and harder; all principles of truth which in the spring-time of youth may have been instilled into his mind; all remains" of innocence, and purity, and trustfulness, which during the sweet period of infancy may have been stored up therein through the ministrations of human and angelic friends, all are frozen to death! No ray of affection, Divine or human, no scene or tale of sorrow or joy, can cause that heart to vibrate. It is stony . and wintry, and therefore as it passes from state to state, its progress must ever be downwards and downwards, until at last it is plunged everlastingly into that terrible state described in Holy Scripture as

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