Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

equation in the form of passion. We cannot judge candidly or fairly of any question, when our feelings are excited about it.

Wars between nations, with all their misery, loss of life, loss of property, often result from the blinding influence of passion. When a dispute arises between two nations, each looks only at its own rights and its own supposed wrongs. “A little rubbing," says Thomas Burnet,"produces light; a hard knock strikes fire.” Then comes hasty and desolating war, with all its cruel evils. Happy is the nation which at such a time has wise men, true statesmen, at the head of affairs, who will not yield to the popular passion, but guide it and restrain it, and enlighten it.

A strong faith in immortality depends, in no small degree, on the character of the individual. To some men it were harder not to believe in a future life than to believe in it. The majority of mankind, as history shows, are made with a tendency to believe in a hereafter. It was not any argument for immortality which convinced Greeks and Romans, Egyptians, the Ancient Persians, Hindoos and Chinese, the Indians of North America, the Negroes of Africa, that they were to live hereafter. Some instinct of the soul, some necessity of their nature, and no mere logic, was the rock on which this faith was built.

But sometimes you encounter men who find it difficult to believe in a future life. They are, perhaps, like Thomas Didymus, and cannot believe without the evidence of their senses. Jesus did not excommunicate this doubter; he made an apostle of him. So many a man, who finds it hard to believe in immortality hereafter, may believe so strongly in goodness here, that he may be a true preacher of the gospel in word and life. He believes so strongly and courageously in the truth and the good which he sees, that he shall by and by see more. Being faithful in few things, he will be made ruler over many things.

This subject ought to teach us both humility and charity. Humility, because we know in part and teach in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part will pass away. We are children now, only trying to lisp the language of God. How poor is spiritual pride, self-confidence, dogmatism, for us, all of whose opinions are tinctured by the alloy of our own imperfect one-sided nature ! Things look common and unclean, when the commonness is in our own mind. If we are right, it is no merit of ours. A happy organization, a fortunate education, favorable circumstances have helped us. “Who makest thee to differ; and what hast thou which thou didst not receive?

This subject should also teach us charity. If your brother is unable to see the divine truth which you see, he is to be pitied, not blamed. Perhaps he has but one talent, but does more with it than you with your ten. In the other world this poor skeptic may shine, a prophet of God. He found it hard to believe in God, immortality, heaven, Christ, but what he did believe, he acted out faithfully. He gave bread to the hungry, and clothing to the naked; and in the last day he may find that he was clothing, feeding and caring for Jesus Christ, and the Lord may say to him : “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."

XXV.

LATENT GOODNESS AND LATENT EVIL.

THE HIDDEN MAN OF THE HEART.

F we translate this Bible phrase into modern language,

I ,

The heart stands for the source, back of all else, from which our life flows. What we love most, that we are. Wherever our deepest longing goes, there we are going. But this profound tendency of the soul is often a hidden tendency. Then it is “the hidden man of the heart.”

There is a text, often quoted, which says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” But that statement is not logical, nor meant to be so ; it is rhetorical. The heart is often deceitful, but the heart is also often pure. Else why should Jesus say “Blessed are the pure in heart” if there are no pure in heart? Why should he say of Nathaniel, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile ?” If the heart is always desperately wicked, why should he speak of those who receive the word into the good ground of an honest heart ? According to Jesus, and according to all experience, there is latent good in man, as well as latent evil,

But the point which I wish you to notice chiefly is this, that there is in every man a great deal more of good and of evil than we see. That which comes to the surface is

only a small part of the real man. There are depths below depths in all of us — unfathomable depths of possibility; possibilities of generosity, nobleness, love ; possibilities of awful crime, hard-hearted selfishness, utter absence of principle. The moral is, “ Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life;" “ watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation ;" " the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

It is apt to be thought that human goodness and human sin are all comprised in outward conduct — in what we see done and hear said ; in what is apparent to the senses. But, besides this apparent and open morality or immorality, there is also that which is unapparent, secret, hidden. Beside the living waters which come up into the air and light in fountains and springs, and which open under the sky in brooks and rivers, there are the infinite ramifications of unseen underground streams, from which these rivers are forever fed. The tree which we see, rising high into the air, comes from another inverted tree, which we do not see, descending into the ground, and branching out into a great web of roots below.

"Lofty cedars as far upward shoot

As to the nether heavens they drive the root.” The outward human form, full of health, activity and beauty, takes all its movements from the hidden machinery within. Inside of the visible man, whose face and from we see, there is an invisible man of veins and arteries, and another invisible man of nerves, and a third invisible man of bones ; and from the co-operation of these proceed the actions of the visible man. What we see in nature is only the visible outcome of what we do not see.

So, in the processes of the human soul, what we know proceeds from hidden sources which we do not know. We

are conscious of our own thoughts and purposes ; we know that we do many things intentionally. Intention, purpose, voluntary choice, play so important a part in human affairs that we seem to ourselves to determine all our acts by an intelligent purpose. We distinguish animals from men by saying that animals act from instinct, men from reason. I believe animals often act from reason, and I am sure that men often act from instinct. There is the instinct of play, which all children have; there is the instinct of imitation, which causes people to do as others do ; there is the instinct which enjoys praise, and loves the approbation of others; the instinct which makes men take pleasure in the exercise of power, ard a hundred others. These instincts make humanity. We are human beings, and not angels or devils, because we all share these same instinctive tendencies. These pour up into the soul evermore from some hidden fountain within. If a man does not have them, or has them in a low degree, he is so far out of sympathy with his race.

This is the unseen latent life in the soul, from which its conscious. life flows forth. Without it, there would be no such thing as human nature.

But these instincts, common to all men, are no doubt modified, altered, controlled, directed by human will. So we can direct the course of a river ; collect it; dam it up ; make a lake of it; or compel it to divide into a thousand little rivulets to irrigate meadows and plains. But we could not do this but for the perpetual flow of the stream from its hidden fountains, of which we have little knowledge, over which we have no power. We only know the fountain by the stream ; we only know the tree by its fruits; we only know the man by his actions.

Human instincts become very much modified and varied by education. But what is education but the creation of new instincts or the. modification of old ones? What is

« AnteriorContinuar »