Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

dom and gondness of an Ineffable Creator, who is self-existent and eternal, “in whom we live, and move and have our being." And remembering how man in art imitates the Creator-how completely dependent he is for success on Divine Providencebow appropriate-looking up through the uncurtained transept of the Crystal Palace to the heavens, from the works of man to the Infinite and Eternal Worker, God--are the lines of Milton :

“These are thy glorious works, Parent of good!
Almighty! thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair. Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sitst above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works. Yet these declare

Thy goodness beyond thought and power divine." A third lesson, and growing out of the preceding, is the im. mortality of the human mind. Among the numerous objects of art exbibited in London, were many that embodied man's " longing after immortality”-that spoke of his lifting himself up to a lottier sphere-that told of his wish to be surrounded with a halo more brilliant and enduring than can attach to material things. A deep, though dim consciousness of a higher existence prompted the artist to task his powers to conceive and execute what might approach to his idea of a brighter and higher bliss than earth affords. The spiritual is therefore seen struggling with the physical, and though often defeated, still struggling for the victory. And what is this but the essence of the soul asserting superior existence? This struggling through material forms, and rising out of them to communion with spiritual beings—this longing after immortality--this enriching of the soul with the spoils of time as its furniture for the great future, is nothing but the educating of the Divine offspring within usthe creation of God in his own image, and for the enjoyment of Himself where the spirits of just men are perfect. This glimpsing at things purer, nobler, and more enduring than the things of earth, is proof of man's higher and nobler nature. In the ambition of the artist to produce a work which his admirers vainly call immortal, we see a craving for some future exist. ence. This is, however, a very limited view of the intellectual domain. The empire of the emotions, social affections, moral feelings, and religious capacities of the soul, are yet untouched. Nor is any account here taken of conscience, and of the capability of knowing, and loving, and serving the Creator ; and yet even from this partial view of the subject, no slight conviction is de. rived of the immortality of the nature that possesses such attri. butes. It cannot be that there is no difference between the Crystal Palace and the minds that built and filled it. It cannot be that the artist expires when his workmanship ceases. It cannot be that a being, possessed of unbounded capacities for improvement, is destined to advance only a few steps in his proper career, and then be arrested in his course forever. It cannot be that a life of thought and feeling which contains the germs of bigher thoughts and feelings, awaiting, as essential to their full development, other influences than those that are shed on eartb, is to be succeeded by eternal unconsciousness and oblivion ; and that a soul which finds in the present life a range too narrow for the full and vigorous scope of its nascent pow. ers and feelings, is to be disappointed in its earnest longings and deep-seated hopes. The difficulties involved in such a supposition are even greater than the mysteries connected with immortality. To say that man perishes as the brute, is to charge the Creator with having begun a design, which he has thrown aside as useless-with having given a promise that is broken-as though the great Architect had constructed a portico to a magnificent temple, and then stopped short in his work, and breaking it down, scattered its beauty in the dust. It is true that absolute certainty of a future existence is attained only by believing the testimony of God, which is two-fold, internal consciousness, and his written Revelation. It is by the Gospel of the blessed God that life and immortality are brought to light; still, such a construction as the Palace of Glass, with its contents, is a palpable, world-wide acknowledgment of the superiority of mind over matter, and that superiority indicates a greater destiny hereafter. Through its multitudinous corridors, Immortality rises upon the age of reason, in the hazy distance, and in the Word of Eternal Truth, found within its precincts, Eternal life is carefully reve:aled.

If the vast material Universe bears witness to the existence and character of the Great First Cause-if the invisible things from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, and if the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork, how much more does the soul of man, with all its powers and capacities, its intellect and genius, and above all, its moral and religious susceptibilities, bear testimony to the being and attributes of the Creator! The whole universe is an illuminated volume of God's thoughts, written out for the benefit of his intelligent creatures. The great or beautiful that is in man's imagination, and the curious, elegant, and admirable work of his hands, fashioned according to the intellectual type within him, runs back to the infinite source of intelligence and to the ineffible origin of mind. Min has nothing-earth, though full of beauty and goodness, has nothing innate or self.created. All is derived from above. What then must that unrevealed fount of beauty and goodness be, of which all the choice thoughts and beautful imaginings of the best and greatest men from the beginning are but as drops to the ocean. What must that glory

be, that eye hath not seen, nor human heart conceived of? I would mention as

A fourth and last lesson, that seeing we are the creatures of an ineffable Creator who has formed us for happiness and immortality, we should as our first and highest duty fear Him and keep all His commandments. We should appreciate our blessings, social and political, and cultivate charity and gratitude. We are a spectacle. The principles of civil liberty, of religious freedom, and of a free government under well defined, clearly written constitutional laws, are entrusted to our keeping. Whatever may become of other nations in the coming struggle of Europe, Americans must be true to themselves and be equal to the occasion. No obscure part of the world's great drama is to be acted by us. Our banner is on the outer wall, and what we do must be done in the face of an eager world. We must be true to the great cloud of witnesses that encompass our path of duty.

The heroes and statesmen of our short but glorious past, by their wisdom, prudence, treasure and blood, have bequeathed to us the priceless patrimony of a healthful, vigorous, political constitution and free institutions. We must be true to coming ages

-to the countless millions that are stretching their hands from the bosom of time and calling on us for help. And by being true to our fathers and to ourselves, and to the solemn interests entrusted to us, the Union shall be preserved in violate

“ 'Till wrapt in flames the realms of ether glow,

And Heaven's last thunder shakes the world below."

Our origin and history, our constitution and laws, though in their infancy, our army and navy, our growth, expansion, increase in numbers, and our wealth, present points of interest, forms of grandeur, specimens of activity and developments of powers, which are an astonishment to the other and older cultivated portions of our race-themes which they are studying as great theorems in the science of civilization;-while our brethren of distant regions, in Africa and Asia, and the islands “afar off upon the sea," still savages or half barbarous, as they gaze on the signs of our glory, or listen to the tale of what we are and where we are and what we do, are filled with a vacant and bewilderiny kind of wonder. The position Providence has assigned to us is one we cannot shrink from. It would be treason to the principles and hopes we represent to falter or fail in our duty. We must be the model nation for the world, of self-gov. erned, law-abiding, honest citizens. And in order to this, eternal vigilance must be given to the cause of popular education kuowledge, secular and religious, must be universally diffusedthe Gospel of Christ be everywhere preached--the Bible have

free course and be glorified in all the affairs and departments of life.

When Pythagoras demonstrated the geometrical proposition, that in a rectangular triangle the sum of the two lateral squares is equal to the square of the hypoteneuse, it is written, that he ordered a sacrifice of one hundred oxen. What offerings of gratitude, my fellow-citizens, have we made for all the many discoveries of modern times? What have been our thank-offerings for the printing-presses, the railways, the steam-ships, the telegraphs, the steam printed books, the free institutions-good gifts of our God to us? By the progress of human arts, the increase of substantial comforts and of medical knowledge, the average of human existence has been lengthened many years. Have we been careful to give to the Author and Sustainer of our being at least the one day in seven which he claims as his own ? He has favored us with the means of swift transit. Are we extending the knowledge of Him,

“ Far as the ocean waters roll,

Wide as the shores are spread ?"
“ Truth makes our children free at home,

Oh! that our flag unfurl'd
May shine, wher'er our children roam,

Truth's banner round the world." It is the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush on Horeb's awful summit that has given us the precious things of Heaven, the precious fruits brought forth by the moon and sun, and the chief things of the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the lasting hills, the precious things of the earth and the fullness thereof. To Him be all the praise, forever and ever. Amen.

SERMON DXCVII.

BY REV. WILLIAM CLIFT,

STONINGTON, CT.

FOLLY OF AMASSING WEALTH FOR CHILDREN. “Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun ; because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

"And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity."-ECCL. ii, 18, 19.

The doubt, which Solomon expresses in the text, is thought to be solved, and the men of modern times, with almost unvarying uniformity, leave the result of their labors to their natural heirs, not doubting their competence to use it wisely. Where the wisdom of Solomon could only see an even balance of probabilities, they see a certainty, and instead of hating their labor from any apprehension that the man who shall come after them will abuse his inheritance, they delight in it, as the one thing needful for him. If they can but place him above want, and make him realize a life of luxurious ease, they attain their highest aspirations. Toil and danger are sweetened by the prospect of the brilliant career that awaits the heirs of their fortune. And this is the result to which nearly all classes, both in the church and out of it, come, notwithstanding that the adverse teachings of nearly three thousand years have been added to the wisdom of Solomon.

This experience fixes the rule with rare exceptions, that inherited wealth tends to make a man a fool, whatever may be his native endowments. And yet, every man who hoards money for another generation, is confident that his own children shall be an exception, and labors industriously to leave them a fortune. The great ends of life and the noble uses of wealth are lost sight of, that he may repeat an experiment, which Providence has suffered to be repeated in all ages, and which will continue to be repeated, until men see the folly of their cravings for the generation that is to come after them, and labor wisely to better the condition of their own.

In nine cases out of ten, at least, after a man has met his own reasonable wants, and those of his family, he hands over his surplus wealth to his natural heirs. Instead of using it himself as a talent entrusted to him by his Maker, he throws off this responsibility, and bequeaths it to his children, to be used by them, not knowing whether they shall be wise men or fools. We are at a loss to determine whether this is the result of design, deliberately cherished through life, or whether surprised at death's approach, men thus dispose of their property, when they can hold it no longer. As the most lenient view of human nature, we are inclined to believe that it is one of the many ways in which procrastination cheats us of present usefulness and happiness. The money that comes only by the hard toil of the hands or the head—that has been accumulated by the aching limbs and the throbbing brain, we are slow to part with. If it must go, we are anxious that it shall do the most good possible

« AnteriorContinuar »