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a holy destiny, a righteous fate, an absolute judge. This system is often taught and received, sometimes as Unitarianism, sometimes as Rationalism, sometimes as Phrenology. But it may always be recognized, under whatever name, by this, that it makes justice the highest attribute in God, and obedience to Divine laws the chief duty of
These two systems of belief will in general produce their appropriate results. A backsliding theology will produce a backslidden character in those who hold it. A Paganized theology produces a spirit of fear, of anxiety, a servile piety. It palsies the best life of the soul, makes the man afraid to seek for truth, fills him with superstitious terrors, and changes a religion of joy and progress into one of gloom and austerity. Christianity ceases to be attractive; a shadow falls over the world, life is dark, and death awful. Piety, instead of being childlike love, becomes servile fear; for just as perfect love casts out fear, so will perfect fear cast out love.
“IF THE TRUMPET GIVE AN UNCERTAIN SOUND, WHO SHALL PRE
PARE HIMSELF FOR BATTLE ?”
'HERE are many sounds in Nature which are uncer
tain and yet pleasing. The murmur of the winds among the leaves of the forests; the soft, regular lapse of the waves on the sandy shore; the roar of Niagara, confused with the cry of blended and intertangled voices, as though every particle of water in falling uttered its own wail of grief, or shout of exultation or scream of fear; the hum of insects on a summer's day; all such sounds are uncertain. Yet all awaken in us some feeling, convey some sentiment. The murmuring voices of Nature seem to express longing and aspiration ; they sound almost like prayer and praise.
No wonder that the Bible should animate Nature with a soul; summoning the sea to praise God; making the hills clap their hands; the storms to move as God's messengers, shouting their triumphant strains of tempestuous applause ; and calling the thunder the voice of God. These sounds of Nature are so plaintive, seem so like the inarticulate voice of a child longing to express itself, that the Apostle Paul seems to say that Nature groans and sighs and wails to be emancipated from some burden of grief. As your dog looks at you with wistful eyes, as though he longed to commune with you and could not, so the whole creation
looks up to God with its aspect of longing, and utters all its inarticulate murmuring voices of gratitude. Bettina Brentano, in one of her letters, says: “When I stand in the night alone with open Nature, it seems a spirit, praying me to give it redemption. Often I have had the feeling that Nature was begging me for something tearfully, and it grieved my soul not to be able to understand what she was asking.'
The poets sometimes regard these uncertain sounds as the voice of God :
“What if all of animated Nature
Be but organic harps diversely framed,
And, sometimes, reversing this Pantheistic tendency, they make Nature a living thing, crying to God from the mountain tops and ocean depths, as Coleridge, in the vale of Chamouni, calls on the majestic Alps to be a dread ambassador from earth to heaven ; and tells the silent sky, the stars, and the sun, that “ Earth with her thousand voices praises God."
These voices of nature, therefore, though uncertain, are often full of expression. But of man's voice we require more. We ask that it shall be distinct and clear ; that it shall convey meaning, that it shall not darken counsel with vague utterance.. God has given to man the Word, the marvellous gift of articulate speech. This is one of his distinctions from the lower orders. Their speech is inarticulate. Their parts of speech are all confined to interjections. They say, O! and Ah! but they have no words. The proof of this (as I have before said) is, that if birds, for example, had a verbal language, we could learn it, in time, just as
we can learn the Chinese or Hottentot language. God has given verbal language to men, and they should no longer use uncertain sounds.
To speak plainly, distinctly, with precision, is one of the first accomplishments to be studied, and one of the last to be fully attained. Education begins and ends in telling us how to express ourselves. For the word, in ancient languages, means not only utterance, but also the reason which lies behind utterance. Where the Bible says, 6 The Word was with God, and was God,” it means that every
revelation of God is God himself, coming to man. Revelation is not something which God said a long time ago, which is put in a book; but it is God speaking to us now, through the Bible, through Christ, through history, through life, and experience ; through every inspiration of love and hope and trust and sorrow. So every true speech of man, is man himself. My friend gives himself to me in his speech. If his speech is obscure, perplexed, uncertain, vague, then he is not in it. But a fulness of thought and life makes language very clear.
That is why we like simple, direct, straightforward talk. It is sincere, it is moral. Vagueness often comes from a double mind, which does not know exactly what it thinks, and so does not know what to say. It has no inward truth; so has no outward truth. Vagueness is of the devil ; for the term devil is, perhaps, derived from a word which means to divide or make double; and is opposed to singleness and sincerity.
To learn to be intelligible, therefore, is one of the most essential elements in moral as well as intellectual culture. “Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay," says Jesus; “for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil.” Uncertain sounds, inexact expressions, extravagant utterances, come of evil. They mean that the speaker cares more for effect than for truth. They mean that he is speaking in
order to produce an impression on his hearers, not to convey his own conviction ; that he is trying to please, to persuade, to make them like him, and admire him.
Young people, especially, get into a habit of using extravagant expressions, which do not, after all, produce as
uch effect as a more restrained and exact statement. If I should tell you that I saw a million men on the Common, yesterday, it would not impress you so much as if I said that there must have been, at least, ten thousand. Professional story-tellers get a habit of exaggeration; their stories run so into the marvellous that at last they do not astonish us at all, for we do not believe them at all.
Perhaps the most uncertain sounds of all are the words of a politician. Politics, the government of a State, the laws which affect a nation, ought to be the most elevating of pursuits. But it is like religion or art or poetry. They ennoble those who give themselves to them with sincerity and love ; but make a trade of them, and they degrade to the utmost. Make a trade of religion, and you become a hypocrite. Make a trade of art and you become a charlatan. So make a trade of politics, and you have a man who goes about, with a smile on his face, agreeing to what every one says, and, when he says anything himself, putting it in such a cloud of words that the thought, if any were ever there, is effectually concealed. One of the remarkable exploits of Abraham Lincoln was that he expressed himself so as to be understood. His healthy Saxon English dispelled the miasma of falsehood which hung over Washington, “ And one of Plutarch's men talked with you, face to face.”
In great conflicts, when principles are at stake, uncertain sounds are the refuge of timidity. There are always a great many people who like to be neutral, who cannot make up