Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

No doubt the corruptible body weighs down the soul. In one' point of view there is no correspondence between them; they are deadly foes. Here is a poor soul struggling to get at some truth, some beauty, some love, some goodness, and it is imprisoned in a body which will not let it do so. The bodily organization is dull and heavy, is unvivacious, is coarse and unrefined ; it tends to irritability and wilfulness, instead of sweetness and beauty. It is a tragedy in which we are all actors. The soul aspires, the body drags it down. We have gleams of heaven; we are caught up to God; and presently we find ourselves far down, with thick clouds of earthly gloom and mist between us. We have the treasure, but we have it in earthen vessels.

In all men there is some hereditary depravity. Some persons have a good deal of it; but they are not responsible for having it. They are only responsible for not trying to conquer it, and cure it. If they indulge it, if they defend it, excuse it, lie about it, or try to make it out to be right, then they make it their own, and become responsible for it: not otherwise. Their ancestors, a thousand years ago, may have been Norman pirates ; from them still runs in their veins, perhaps, some rudeness of feeling or stubbornness of will.

They are not to blame for it ; but it is their business to refine it - to get rid of the rudeness, and keep the strength. Their ancestors may have been dark fanátics, and have helped burn witches or heretics ; and so some black drops of that blood may make them wish to put down by will the Reformers of to-day. But it is their business to put down, not the innovators, but their own feeling about them. God will take care of the radicals ; our business is to take care of ourselves.

Nevertheless, the body is, with all its defects, the clothing for the soul. All clothing does, in some sort, begin to correspond with the wearer, and to express a little his tastes

and ideas. We see a man's mind somewhat in his dress, just as we see it a little in his handwriting ; in the way in which he speaks or walks ; in the church he goes to, the profession he chooses. All these signs fail ; still they are signs. So there is a truth in the sciences of Physiognomy and Phrenology, though they may often fail. The body ha: some kind of correspondence with the mind. The dress of a Turk corresponds with his dignified character, his quiet ways, his slowness and solemnity. He cannot run about in it, or climb, or jump; and he does not wish to. He is too solemn for that.

Thus the human body has some sort of analogy to the soul that it wears. You look at a face, you hear a voice, you see the gestures, and an impression is made on you of character. That impression is often the best and most reliable means of knowing a man's character. It is spontaneous. It shows, whether he will or 'not. He may try to conceal his purpose, but it speaks from his eye; it gives inflection to his voice; it inspires involuntary distrust. There is something false and hollow in the sound of this man's words, because his intention is false and hollow. There is something convincing in this other man's speech, apart from what he says ; it is the sincere tone, the truthful emphasis, the inflection born not of the rhetorician's teaching, but of the pure soul itself. Men judge others, by their actions ; women, more sensitive to the slighter influences, judge people by the impression they make on them. They are very apt to be right in their judgment, for this impression is the effluence of our total nature, which we cannot make and cannot hinder, and which tells the story better 'than our words.

Some people argue as though this body were all bad, and say that in heaven we shall have none, but be floating about the universe, pure disembodied spirits. Paul does

not say that ; he says the opposite; body is to remain, but the mortal part of it is to be swallowed up of life. Body, in its lowest form, is a mystery of wonder; the human body is the most wonderful and beautiful thing on earth. It is a muddy vesture of decay, but it is also a transparent veil through which the soul shines. Look at it in little children, before it is degraded by toil or sin ; what grace and charm in their looks and motions ! See it in its ideal forms in the statues of Greece ; what grandeur and dignity in the Apollo of the Vatican ; what overflowing grace in the Amazon of the Capitol, or the Flora of Naples ! Now these forms give us hints of a more idealized, and higher beauty; In the future life, the body,“ vital in every part, cannot but by annihilating die." Sown in corruption, it rises incorruptible; sown mortal, 'it rises immortal. Sown weakest of all earthly creatures, needing clothing to keep out cold, and houses to protect it from weather ; unable to move through water like the fish, through air like the bird ; behold ! it rises into power, perhaps fleeter than the electric current, more luminous with thought than the sun with light, yet a body still, the human body still. Not unclothed, but clothed upon ; mortality swallowed up of life.

A soul sheathed in a crystal shrine,
Through which all its bright features shine;
A soul whose intellectual beams
No mists do mask, no lazy steams;
A happy soul, that, all the way

To heaven, hath a summer's day. The thought the apostle expresses, “That we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon," is a very important one. It is an essentially Christian idea; it distinguishes the Christian view of morality from the natural view. It characterizes the Christian view of truth, the Christian view of religion, and the Christian view of immortality.

Not unclothed, but clothed upon,— let us see what it

means.

The Christian view of all growth and progress is by addition, not subtraction ; by building up, not pulling down; by positive means, not negative; by attraction, not repulsion; by love of good, not fear of evil ; by hope of heaven, not terror of hell ; by power of love, not power of law ; by Christ as a forgiving and saving master, saying, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more ; not by punishment, condemnation, and hell fire. Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil. The only damnation Christ knows is loss; that when light has come into the world, some men choose darkness, and so lose the light.

Most reforms and inventions come by improving what we have. The first farmer probably stirred the ground with a sharp stick. After a while came a man who fastened another to it, and so made the original plough. By and by, a piece of iron was substituted for one of the sticks, and that is essentially, the plough of to-day. The first men lived in caves ;, after a while they made huts of branches and bark; then of stones, then log cabins, until at last you reach a palace on the Grand Canal of Venice. The wool from a sheep's back was twisted with the fingers, next with a distaff, then with a spinning-wheel, at last the same thing is done by the spinning-jenny, and mule-spinning by steam.

The Puritans and Quakers tried to unclothe religion of all its rites and ceremonies. They took off its royal robes of architecture, painting, statuary, music, and left it bare. That was a mistake. They should have exchanged the earthly dress for a higher and more heavenly one.

This is the Christian principle, and it applies in a thou

sand ways.

Here is a boy who has done wrong. He is a culprit; he has stolen, or he has committed some other offence. The

course.

law arrests him and puts him in prison. This the law must do; for the business of law is to prevent offences, to keep them from going on and from getting worse. But the law cannot cure the criminal ; it can only stop him in his evil

After a while, law opens its hand again and lets the criminal go. He is not cured, so he begins again, and falls into the clutch of law again, and is stopped again, and let go again, and begins again, and so on, ad infinitum. That is all the law can do

arrest evil, and check it for a while. It cannot cure it. It is merely negative power. But to cure evil, a positive power is needed. You must show the boy some good thing ; you must attract him toward a better life ; you must give him an opportunity for something better. Law takes off for a little while his old clothing of sin ; Christianity must clothe him with a house from heaven.

Any home is better than none. If you cannot get a house, take a cabin. If you cannot have a cabin, then have a tent; if not a wall tent, then a shelter tent; but if not that, then find a tree or a cave.

Mentally, we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed upon. Mental progress does not consist in losing the old knowledge, but in adding to it new. The principle of conservatism is a sound one. Keep your present faith till you can get a better one. The greatest of modern philosophers, Descartes the John the Baptist of all modern reform emptied his mind of all its belief in order to begin at the beginning. He started with no belief except in his own existence. “I exist,” was all that he would begin with. He thoroughly unclothed his mind of all its thoughts. But men not are made to live so. Anything is better than perpetual doubt. We have no mental progress so. “ To him who hath shall be given." The man who believes something, can go on and believe more. A perpetual seeker, with no past be

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »