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“ We live and die; eat, drink, wake, sleep between ;
Walk, talk, like clockwork too ;
If we look only at this, life grows very tiresome. The despair of the Book of Ecclesiastes comes over us, and we say, “ What profit has a man of all his labor that he takes under the sun ?" For all «
For all “things return, according to their circuit.”
But the New Testament teaches another lesson than the Book of Ecclesiastes. It is a proof of the divine origin of these Gospels and Epistles, - that they are full, through and through, of the spirit of hope. They have filled the world with faith in progress, with an undying expectation of improvement, with a trust in something better to-day than we had yesterday. Throughout they cry to us : “The life we sow to-day is seed of something better to come to
We do not plant that which is to be, but only its seed. Our present life, which we are leading now, compared to that which is to come to us, is only as naked seed is to the green and graceful plant which springs from it."
The Old World, of Pagan religion and philosophy, was very much ennuyed. It had grown morose and cynical. It expected nothing, it had little hope left in its heart. One man said, “ It is better to stand than to walk ; better to sit than to stand ; better to lie down than to sit ; better to sleep than to wake ; better is a dreamless sleep than dreams ; death is better than even a dreamless sleep ; and never to have been is the best of all."
Now, I think, that the new life of Christianity consisted very much in giving hope to the world. See Paul, the poor Jew, writing to the Romans, masters of the world, telling them to take courage, and to hope. “Now the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The power of the Holy Spirit! What else but that could have filled the hearts of this handful of Jewish teach· ers with a hope so immense that the despair of mankind gave way before it. As when a glacier pours its enormous river of ice through Alpine ravines, descending into the valleys, it wastes away imperceptibly, and turns to moist vapors, filling the valley with masses of foliage glacier of despair melted in the warm breath of the new Christian life. I want no other evidence of the inspiration of the New Testament than this spirit of hope which fills its every page. Where do you find in it any hesitation, any relapse into doubt, any fear? All sacred books possess this element of hope, and that gives them their power; but most of them hope for better things only in another world and a future life, while the New Testament expects heaven to come first here below. Its daily prayer says, “ Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is done in heaven." The letters of Paul and Peter are full of expectation of Christ's coming to reign on earth. That great expectation of Christ's coming was the seed that the New Testament planted in civilization ; and it has borne its fruits in all human progress.
It is true that they planted not the body which was to be, but naked grain. The faith they planted was of Christ's return in person, sitting on a throne in heaven and judging all nations. That was what the first Christians expected ; perhaps the apostles themselves sometimes expected it, interpreting Christ's own words too literally, when he said he should come in the clouds of heaven, “ with the sound of a trumpet, to summon his elect.” But the truth which Jesus intended in this parable has come to pass. He has come to us, this same Holy Jesus, in all
those Christian influences which have made a new heavens and a new earth. New heavens ; for instead of the old gods of terror whom the Pagan world saw, we now see in the opening heavens the Son of man by the side of his Father. God looks on the world now as its Father and Friend. A new earth; for Christ has made us believe in the brotherhood of man, and that makes all things new below.
Every living seed planted in human history comes up again, but in a higher form. Judaism was a living seed. It had a real faith in the One true and living God. The Jewish religion fell into the ground and seemed to perish. Its sacrifices ceased, its temple was destroyed, its great priesthood came to an end. But go to Rome, and there, in St. Peter's, you will see the Jewish temple worship revived, but in a higher form. There is the priestly procession, the Pope as high priest, the Levites and the altar, there are the great annual festivals. It is Judaism returned. But it is Judaism on a higher plane. If you wish to see what the Jewish worship was, do not go to the synagogue on Warrenton Street, but go to the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Harrison Avenue. I call the Catholic worship Jewish rather than Christian ; but I call it transfigured and ennobled Judaism.
The one thing needful, the only essential in Christianity, is to have Christ formed within us, the hope of glory; hope of glory here, in all forms of growing goodness, generosity, honor; and of glory, honor, immortality hereafter. Christ himself was the seed planted in Palestine, which has come up in Christianity in that new body which pleased God. As Paul said, “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me,” so we all may say, so far as we have any real spiritual life, “I live, yet not I, but Christ, who is love to God and man, lives in me.” Christianity is Christ come up in a new form.
When in the world Jusus worked outward, physical miracles. He works miracles still, but in a new way. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,” but not now by a mere touch or word. If that kind of miracle had been continued, it would soon have become a mere routine too, and been thought a matter of course. So instead, we have the same end accomplished by the same power, only indirectly and mediately in all Christian civilization. We have blind asylums, and deaf and dumb asylums, and sanitary associations. These all proceed from the Christian spirit of humanity, and so come from the seed which Christ's miracles planted. Those miracles were symbols, prophetic of the Christian civilization which was to follow. They were bare grain, to which God gave the body which pleased him.
Visitors to Rome, looking out from its lofty walls over the Campagna, see with delight the long line of arches which cross the plain, converging towards the city from the distant mountains. They are the remains of the ancient aqueducts, which formerly brought supplies of water to the immense population of ancient Rome. Visitors of Chicago are carried down to see a tunnel running two miles under the lake, which brings pure water in inexhaustible supplies to that new-born metropolis of the prairies. The methods differ, the water is the same. Forms change, but the needs of men remain. So the soul of man needs always to drink the same living water of faith and hope. Without it, he dies of thirst, in doubt and despair. What is life without it? What are all the gifts of this world without it? All are vanity and vexation of spirit, unless we have faith in God, duty and immortality. But if we have that, no matter how it comes. The water is the same, whether it is drawn up from Jacob's spring, or brought
through a Roman aqueduct, or spouts from an artesian well, or is pumped up through a Chicago tunnel. So, if we have love to God and man, and have faith in the great and blessed future, if we believe good stronger than evil, and life more permanent than death, it is no matter by what Jewish or Roman aqueduct or modern creed that pure water comes. God gives it the body which has pleased him, and to every seed its own body.