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of advancement. Thus much is notable and beyond question. It would be unjust and unthankful, as well as untrue, not to allow this. We admit it ungrudgingly, not reluctantly or through constraint. Into much that is true the age has found its way, and in several provinces of knowledge, unreached by its predecessors, it has made good its footing. Circle after circle has widened round it, and its discoveries are certainly neither shadows. nor tinsel—they are real and solid. No Christian need fear to make this admission, nor think that by so doing he lowers the credit of the Scriptures as the true fountain-head of God-given truth, or casts dishonour upon Him, " in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
The mental philosophy of the age is, in some respects, of a truer kind than heretofore, though still cloudy and unsatisfying-nay, often stumbling into scepticism, Pantheism, Atheism. The science of the age is prodigiously in advance of former ages. The age's literature is wider in its range, and higher in its aim. Its arts are on a higher and more perfect scale. Its astronomy has searched the heavens far more extensively and profoundly. Its geology has pierced the earth more deeply and successfully. It—the age, we mean-has brought to light law after law in the system of the universe. It speeds over earth with a rapidity once unknown. It transmits intelligence not only more swiftly than sound, but more swiftly than the light. It is restoring fertility to the soil.
It can shut out pain from the body, in circumstances which, but a few years ago, would have racked or torn every nerve. These things, and such as these, the age has discovered and done; and because of these things we may admit most freely that there has been, in some things, wondrous progress-progress which might be turned to the best account-progress for which praise is due to God.
All that is true, in any region of God's world, must, in its measure, be valuable. What is true is of God, and therefore not to be cast aside, because discovered by an unsanctified understanding, seeing God has often used his worst enemies as his servants, making them his hewers of wood and drawers of water. The value of a truth is not to be judged of by the character of the discoverer ; for why may not God use the finger of a Balaam to point to the Star of Jacob? The difficulty lies not in discerning what truth is of value and what is not, but in regulating its degree of value, so as to give to each portion or fragment the right place, the true level, the proper space, the due order, and to assign the
exact amount of thought and study which it demands or will repay.
“ All truth is precious, tho' not all Divine,"
said Cowper ; but to this we must add, that though all truth is precious, yet all truth is not equally precious, nor equally worthy of our care ; nay, and we must also add, that though all truth is precious, yet much of it must be left unstudied totally; our life is brief, and we have no time for all ; we must select--for we are hurrying onwards ;--the King will soon be here, and it concerns us to dwell most on those things which will help to fit us for his presence and kingdom.
There is the atom of dust under our feet—there is that flower-bud rising above it—there is yon forest stretching miles around—there is yon vast mountain-range that walls in the plain—there is the blue arch above us, with its clouds and rainbows—there is day with its sun and splendour-there is night with its stars and stillness. All these things exist. Their simple being is a truth; and with that being there are connected ten thousand truths. Yet there is not the same kind of truth, nor the same amount of truth, belonging to each, for each is the centre of a circle, wider or narrower, less or more important, according to its nature. Yet what there is of truth in each is equally real, and therefore not to be slighted. To say that the facts in each of these are equally precious because equally true, or to say that the same amount of study should be allotted to each, would be foolishness. To say that the same amount of time may be expended upon each is gross miscalculation, indicating a false estimate of the different parts of truth, as well as of the true value of time. The truth which affects the future, specially the eternally future, must be more momentous than that which influences the present only. The truth which relates to the inner man must be more important than that which relates to the outer man. The truth that goes to make up the link between us and the God that made us, must be unspeakably more precious than that which forms the tie between us and earth, or even between us and each other. The truth which bears upon earthly citizenship and its rights, must be far inferior to that which bears upon heavenly citizenship and its more glorious privileges. These distinctions the age does not consider. Progress in one direction, or at least in one or two directions, it is apt to regard as progress in all directions. Blinded by the magni
tude of its discoveries, and by their present bearing upon society, it overlooks counteractions—it forgets how sadly it is losing ground in many things—it veils the evil, and exaggerates the good; and then reports progress, where real progress there is none.*
To confound or misregulate the degrees of value in truth is at once an error and a mischief. It deranges everything. It is in itself an error, and it leads on to innumerable errors. It is in itself a mischief, and it is the root of endless mischiefs. It is not merely equivalent to the non-discovery of truth; it not merely neutralises the truth discovered, but it draws out of it all the evil of positive untruth, thus making truth the producer of error, good the fountain of evil, light the cause of darkness. So that there may advancement, which by the evil use made of them or the false level assigned to them, become in the end so many steps of retrogression. Has this been duly weighed by those who boast of progress? Have they calculated the loss as well as the gain, the minus as well as the plus, and is it on the ascertained difference that they rest their congratulations? If so, let them boast. It is well. If not, then their estimate is so wholly one-sided, that no credit can be given to it even by themselves.
It is a literary age—it is an age of science—it is an age of far-ranging inquiry—it is an age of discovery-it is an age of action-many run to and fro, and knowledge is increased. But still it may not be an age of progress. The amount of knowledge gained may be nothing to the amount lost; or that which is gained may be so perverted or ill-regulated as to injure instead of profiting.
In these different parts of the world's progress, God is not recognised, or only by a few; or only recognised out of compliment or custom, and in such a way as to place him at an immeasurable distance from the works of his hands. What is there that is good, or true, or beautiful, of which God is not the centre ? And is not the
fast severing God from his works, making man, or chance, or abstract laws, the centre of creation, instead of the living, personal Jehovah,—thus shifting the axis of the universe in order to be saved the irksomeness of coming into contact with Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being ? What, then, becomes of the advancement and the enlightenment of the age ? Can we look upon them in their present stage without suspicion, or can we contemplate their issues without terror? For all science is a lie,-or at least lodges a lie in its very core,-if apart from God and his Christ. All wisdom is foolishness, if independent of him “ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” All inquiry must become a mere maze of scepticism, if separated from him who has said, “ Learn of me.” All truth and goodness are but empty abstractions, if away from him who is the true and good. All beauty is but a torn blossom or a broken gem, if sought for out of him who is its birth-place. All enlightenment is but a dream, if not received from him who is the light of the world, the light of life. All liberty is but a well-disguised bondage, if not found in the service of him whose love hath made us free. All rule and law are but the exhibitions of man's selfishness and ambition and pride, if dissociated from him who is the Prince of the kings of the earth. Nay, and all religion is but hollowness and unreality, if severed from the fellowship of Jehovah and his Incarnate
*" There is at the present day no principle more widely diffused throughout the civilized world, than that which is met with under the names of progression, development, and the cumulative perfection of human wisdom.”—Maitland's Apostolic School of Interpretation,
We hear much of the knowledge of the age. Well: but has not one of its own poets said, “ Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers ?" Yes, knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers ! Knowledge comes, but goodness lingers. Knowledge comes, but the world is as far as ever from peace and righteousness. Its wounds are not healed; its tears do not cease to flow. Its crimes are not fewer : its morals are not purer; its diseases are as many and as fatal. Its nations are not more prosperous; its kingdoms are not more stable ; its rulers are not more magnanimous; its homes are not happier; its ties of kindred or affection are not more blessed or lasting.
“ The proud and high-minded,—who reject it hastily through their much communion with Satan, that prince of all knowledge where God is not known, of all power where God is not acknowledged, and bright archangel of the natural man ; who is now revealing himself in his angelic glories of natural knowledge, natural beauty, natural wisdom, natural freedom, and natural humanity; and mightily prevailing in these lands and in this city against us the ministers of the poor and humbled Jesus, whom methinks we should likewise array in his super-angelic glory, about to be revealed, of King of kings and Lord of lords, in order to expel Satan from this mundane sphere, and proclaim him, in teeth of the usurpation, as the Sun of Righteousness, about to arise and eclipse that Lucifer, son of the morning.”—Irving's Parable of the Sower, pp. 515, 516.
The thorn still springs, and the briar spreads; famine scorches its plains, and the pestilence envenoms the air ; the curse still blights creation, and the wilderness has not yet rejoiced or blossomed. Yet man is doing his utmost to set right the world, and God is allowing him to put forth all his efforts, more vigorously and more simultaneously than ever, in these last days. Nor can any Christian mind fail to look with intensest though most painful interest upon these vain endeavours. We know that they must fail. Man cannot deliver himself, nor regenerate his world. Reforms, republics, constitutions, congresses, change of dynasties, will not accomplish it. Art in every form, science of every name, are bringing into play unheard-of energies for the improvement of this globe, and for giving man the complete empire of earth and air and sea. But the task is superhuman, and each new forthputting of human strength or intellect is only proving this the more. And hence it is with such interest, as well as with such pity, that we look upon the generation around us with its overwrought muscles, its overtasked energies,-toiling unrestingly, and yet failing in its mighty aim, -the regeneration of a world.
There is a secret consciousness of the evil of the times, even among
those who have not the fear of God before their eyes. They see but the surface, indeed, and yet that surface is not quite so calm and bright as they could desire; nor are the effects of the supposed progress quite so satisfactory as they expected it would be. They have their misgivings, though they cheer themselves with the thought that the mind of man will ere long be able to master alì difficulties, and rectify all the still remaining disorders of the world. Accordingly they set themselves in their own way to help forward the regeneration of the world, and the correction of the evils of the age.
Among these there are various classes or subdivisions. There is, for example, the educational class. It labours hard to raise the level of society by the mere impartation of intellectual knowledge ;-"useful knowledge," "scientific knowledge," " entertaining knowledge," "political knowledge;" in short, knowledge of any kind, save that of the Bible, and of the God of the Bible. There is the novelistic class, a very large one, and possessed of far greater influence over the community than is generally credited. It has set itself to elevate the race by exciting what they conceive to be the purer feelings of our nature. Of one school the standard of perfection is romantic tenderness, of another worldly honour,