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Let us remember that the disciple is not above his Master. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, so will they call them of His household. The powers of darkness will not let the servant follow in his Lord's footsteps without an effort to turn him from the path of life, and faith, and holiness. And the body and the mind may suffer together. But if we dread bodily suffering, and are awed by the fear of bodily death, let us consider how much more severe are the suffering and death that are necessary as a passage into the state of blessedness which is revealed to us and secured for the faithful. To lay down the life of our selfhood, of that self which has been the origin and centre of all our aims and satisfactions in life, which has been the first and the last in all our desires and thoughts, is indeed a trial. But it is well for us that this does not come upon us at once, without warning and without preparation. The laying down of the life is not a single act, but a succession of acts, advancing to a final conflict and consummation. We are gradually initiated into the experience of the labours and surrenders which carry us through the valley of the shadow of death, and bring us into the light and glory of spiritual and eternal life. But in our passage through this dark and dubious way the Lord is with us, and His rod and His staff comfort us.
He is with us as He now is in that Humanity which has become perfected through suffering. He is with us as One who has passed through the way of darkness and death into life, and has become our guide and support in the states of trial which lead to a real knowledge and love of Himself.
The present age is essentially one of rapid advancement, but in nothing, perhaps, is it more conspicuous than in the outspoken tone which is adopted by many of the rising generation in matters of faith and religion. Private judgment and liberty of thought seem to be fast running into licence and unbelief. Old creeds and theories have been so rudely thrown aside that there is some fear of losing the familiar landmarks altogether. Especially is this the case with the young of both sexes amongst the intellectual classes. Having obtained a superficial knowledge of the works of our modern scientific writers, they delight to quote a few high-sounding phrases, and to parade their "advanced views" in a way that is both startling and painful to their hearers. Were this confined merely to such theories as “evolution," "natural selection," and the like, we might well pass it by in silence or ridicule; but seeing that Christianity itself and the very foundations of religion are frequently made the subjects of their attacks, we feel bound to protest against this vicious tone of thought and conversation. It is with this object that the present paper has been written, less, indeed, for the ordinary readers of the Intellectuul Repository than for those whom it may indirectly reach through their influence.
In doing this, however, there is no desire to unduly depreciate the works of our men of science. All honour to them in their great vocation as seekers after truth in material science. It would be difficult to overrate the importance of their work in their own line of research. It is with some of their conclusions that we join issue, and in particular with the philosophy which many of their admirers seek to draw from such conclusions.
Lord Bacon, who had a marvellous power of seeing through and round a subject, once said : “A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism ; but depth in philosophy bringeth man's mind to religion.” Perhaps nothing sounder or truer was ever said, and it certainly seems a severe reproof to much of the fashionable and what we will call drawing-room theology of the present day. Let us for a moment consider this subject in its true light. For some reason or other it seems considered by many, a desirable thing to doubt or deny nearly everything which has been reverently believed by our forefathers during the last two thousand years or thereabouts. The Bible is treated as mere Jewish history or literature. The story of Jesus Christ and all His wonderful words and works is considered a mere collection of traditions and superstitions. “ Evolution” is put in the place of Divine revelation, and the writings of a few authors born within the present century are practically made of greater authority than all the prophets, apostles, and divines that ever lived. Nay, God Himself is called in question. His great name has been degraded from the Infinite Jehovah into the “unknowable,” and His personal attributes and wisdom into a mere abstraction. All this may seem very
clever and striking to those who can believe it, but it is surely very deplorable. If true, it might well make us of all men most miserable, but if false, as we may confidently and unhesitatingly assert it to be, then it deserves our most determined and constant opposition.
Such opinions were natural enough to the ancient Greeks, who knew of nothing higher than their schools of philosophy. They had never heard of any God but those anthropomorphic monsters embodied in
their mythologies, and whom they at last discovered to be no gods at all. They had no Bible, no Divine revelation, no inspired teachers whom they could follow, and in their despair they “ignorantly worshipped” and raised up an altar to the "unknown God.” In the present day, however, the excuse of ignorance can neither avail nor be justified; and those who deliberately attempt to place themselves on a level with the poor pagans who were groping in the dark eighteen hundred years ago, are involving themselves in terrible responsibilities.
For, consider our present position as contrasted with theirs. It is needless to recapitulate the various points of difference. The Book which recounts the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth is in itself sufficient to destroy all parallel between us and them. As compared with the dull lights which confused the ancients (wonderful as were some of their guesses at the truth) it is as a very sun in the firmament of heaven.
Explain it as we may, it is this Book, which we call the Word of God, that has transformed the whole fabric of human society ; and though its real spirit—its inner life—is as yet but dimly understood, still, even in its outer garment, which men have too often rent and disfigured, it has produced changes in the world more marvellous than any within the range of human experience.
It needs but to cast our eyes down the stream of time to be convinced of this. What was mankind up to the period known as the Christian era ? Many great nations and wonderful men had lived and flourished; but if history is to be accepted as evidence, we know that our race was, as a whole, still sunk in ignorance and degradation. Revelations of various kinds had, it is true, been made from time to time. Ancient Egypt and Greece and Rome had developed the arts to a wonderful degree, and a high state of civilization had existed in those countries for many centuries. It was chiefly, however, the æsthetic and outer part of our nature that had been thus cultivated. The inner or spiritual side remained for the most part unchanged. The human heart had yet to be regenerated. No mere advance in art or external civilization could transform man's fallen nature into its original image of purity and love, and thus we find that the ages of highest culture in Rome and Greece were coincident with vices and cruelties more refined and terrible than the world had ever seen.1
Suddenly, however, when humanity was thus at its lowest point, and in danger of absolute destruction through its own corruptions,
1 A striking picture of the state of society at the time of the Christian era is given in Farrar's Seekers after God.
a light rises on the castern horizon to herald the Saviour of the world, —no material sun or star which should dazzle men's outer eyes, but a serene orb of transcendent effulgence glowing in the spiritual heavens, and seen only by a few shepherds and Magi, who hastened to bring their gifts of loving worship and adoration to the feet of their new-born Redeemer! We know, alas ! that this lovely story is now deliberately rejected by modern sceptics as an interesting myth. Science sneeringly denies what she can neither explain nor comprehend. We will not stop to argue on a subject which seems to us above argument, though if need were, there is no lack of them. The fact remains, that with the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem commenced a new age in the history of humanity. Gently and feebly at first, the new light began to illumine the dark places of the earth. There was no tremendous convulsion among the nations; no army of Crusaders going out to battle as in later times, but a handful of humble, unlettered apostles went forth, without scrip or purse, preaching the new gospel of "peace on earth, good-will to men.”
We know the result. The men theinselves met with torture and death, but the truth which they preached prevailed. Pagan Rome and Athens became Christian, and by degrees the new dispensation permeated the whole world. Eventually, it is true, the pure doctrines of Christianity became perverted and almost overwhelmed by a flood of scepticism and error. This, however, in no way disproves what was stated above, that the world owes its present marvellous state of advancement to the birth of Christ and to the power of His Word. For we believe that His star has again been in the East, and that a new dispensation of heavenly truth has been given to man, to bless and regenerate him, and to lead him back to the paths of peace and righteousness. Well may those rejoice who are permitted to witness this light, and fervently should they desire that others may be able to see and rejoice in its beams !
We sometimes hear it gravely stated that all the civilization and progress we see around us is simply the result of the gradual evolution of society, but how insufficient is this to explain the astounding power of Christ's Gospel! Consider for a moment what was the state of the Jews in the year A.D. 30. They were sunk in superstition and corruption. Could the Sermon on the Mount or the Gospel of St. John, still less the wonderful Being from whom they were derived, have been evolved from such a people--a race that to this day demand an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth? The mère supposition seems to involve an absurdity, and is revolting to our higher perceptions. And yet the admirers of Strauss and Spencer, and other writers
of the same school, are deliberately calling in question these Divine revelations, and setting up an abstraction called the unknowable" in their stead. Men of this sort are worthy of the stigma which Cicero cast upon the sceptics of his day. In one of his letters he speaks of those who denied the doctrine of the immortality of the
certain minute philosophers ;” using a diminutive even of the word little to express the contempt in which he held them; and in another passage he declares "he would rather be wrong with Platu than in the right with such company."
If this was the opinion of Cicero, a stranger to the teachings of revealed religion, what shall we say who rejoice in this day of marvellous light? May we not in all humility remember St. Paul's warning to the church at Corinth, to "cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God?"
Swedenborg reminds us that a single grain of sand placed before the pupil of the eye is sufficient to shut off the rest of the entire surrounding view. Surely the vision of some of our great men of science has thus become obscured in regard to spiritual things, and those who are blindly following in their footsteps are in danger of being grievously misled. Man requires for his guidance a personal and loving God, to whom he can look up and address as Father which art in heaven.” This can only be found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself has taught us so to pray.
In the revelation of His Second Coming made known to us at this day we are brought nearer to Him than in former dispensations, and in this we may find a sufficient and only answer to the subtle reasonings of modern philosophy and science.
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.
You will find the text in the Book of the Prophet Nature, the 1st chapter and 1st verse ; also in the last chapter of the same prophet and the last verse. The words of the text are these—The Principle of Continuity.
I have illustrated for you, my friends, from its natural side, the principle about whose spiritual application we are now to inquire ; but it will be well, before passing on to the consideration of continuity in