Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

engrossed with the marvels of the macrocosm. The still greater wonders of the microcosm have been ignored or forgotten. The language of very many thinkers nowadays is the first hast}' utterance of the Psalmist—" What is man?" And the answer they give to the question is this: Man is but a mote in the sunbeam, a grain of sand in the desert, a ripple upon an infinite ocean, an atom in immensity. They forget that he is an atom which feels and knows and thinks, which imagines and reasons and hopes and loves,—an atom that can transcend its normal limits in space, and " dwell far in the unapparent" in communion with the Unseen,— an atom that believes itself endowed with "the power of an endless life." The Psalmist, on second thoughts, perceived that his feeling of despondency had been illegitimate. "Thou madest man," he continues, "a little lower than Thyself; Thou gavest him a nature like Thine own, differing in degree rather than in kind; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour; Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet." This will be the ultimate conclusion of the deepest and the truest thinkers. The profoundest philosopher America has produced, who has recently taken to his rest in a ripe old age, combined in a remarkable degree the intensest appreciation of nature with the intensest appreciation of man. No one ever thought more of nature than did Emerson; but he. believed, truly enough, that she derived much of her glory from her relation to us. "0 rich and various man," he exclaims, "thou palace of sight and sound, carrying in thy senses the morning and the night and the unfathomable galaxy, in thy brain the geometry of the city of God, in thy heart the power of love and the realms of right and wrong!"

The doctrine of man's paltriness is no less pernicious than erroneous. So morbid a belief must react injuriously upon character. There is nothing more enervating than depression; and the worst form of depression is self-contempt. In one of his most interesting letters of advice to a young convert, Pelagius says he will begin by laying down what human nature can do, lest, from an insufficient conception of its powers, too low a standard of duty and exertion should be taken. Men are careless in proportion as they think meanly of themselves; and it is for this reason, he adds, that Scripture so often endeavours to animate us by styling us sons of God. I'elagius was right. We should resist every attempt, whether proceeding from scientists or religionists, to make us take a paltry view of man's place in the universe. Such attempts can only proceed from science or religion falsely so called They are based, as I have shown, upon an untrue assumption. They are condemned alike by fact and by Scripture. And if we allow ourselves to be influenced by them, the result will be disastrous in the extreme. If we believe that we are more insignificant than the dead and mindless world around us, we shall never give ourselves much trouble about character. A certain amount of prudence, of course, is necessary for self-preservation, and for procuring the esteem of our fellow-men, without which life would be unendurable. So far, we may be prudent—or, as it would be euphemistically called, virtuous. But beyond this we shall not care to go. On the other hand, if we remember that our spiritual nature is akin to God's, made only a little lower than His, made perhaps as nearly like His own as it was possible for God Himself to make it, then we are stimulated to cultivate the manhood with which we have been endowed—to agonise, if need be, till we become perfect, even as He is perfect.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

A RE these two statements reconcilable with -^ one another, and with the facts of experience? They seem to be contradictory; but they are not, on that account, to be rejected—for an apparent paradox is often the most accurate expression of a truth. This is illustrated by the celebrated quarrel regarding the nature of a certain shield. One person said it was made of gold, and another that it was made of silver. They were both right and both wrong. They had been looking at it from different points of view, and one had seen only the inside, which was silver, the other only the outside, which was golden. The attainment of truth always involves a combination of partial views, and often requires the reconciliation of apparently irreconcilable facts. Till we have reconciled the contradiction, however,—till we have removed the difficulty,—we cannot accept them both. It is just as impossible to hold a theological contradiction as to think that twice two make five. If a man professes to believe statements which appear to him to be contradictory, he is not manifesting faith,—he is, in plain English, telling a lie. Still, we are perhaps never more likely to be on the track of truth than when we are examining seeming paradoxes.

That "God is a consuming fire" cannot be doubted. The nature of the unseen Power that punishes the wrong-doer will always be a matter for controversy; but the fact that retribution, in some form or other, follows sin, has never been, and can never be, disputed. Professor Huxley, in one of his lay sermons, has the following striking passage: "The happiness of every one of us (and more or less of those connected with us) depends upon our knowing something of the rules of a game, infinitely more complex than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages— every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chess - board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the

« AnteriorContinuar »