« ForrigeFortsæt »
The Divine example was given for us to follow. We are to walk in the path which He has trod, and the life of God in the soul of man is the Jesus incarnated afresh. That life would never have been recorded, this prophecy would never have been given, were it not that we can live it also, that we can fulfil the prediction in ourselves. The bloom of health may not be ours, the sprightliness of youth may have gone never to return; but yet the dew of heavenly truth
descend upon our minds, refreshing them, gleaming in our eyes, ringing sweetly in our voices, and giving a very juvenile buoyancy to every gesture and to every act. Often may the lines seem to us to be cast in far from pleasant places, but let us remember that Nazareth of Galilee is the scene of the Christian's earliest triumphs. To bear
with youthful elasticity against misfortune, pain, or loss, to press forward with unbroken ardour to a higher state of moral excellence; to speak peace to the wretched ; to whisper to the mourner hope; to be as light in a dark place, and a dew of blessing to those who are thirsting for the waters of salvation,—these are the proofs that this text is being made a reality in ourselves. And to you, my young friends, to some of you who may
not even know what the dew of youth can be; to those, if there are any such here, who do not like to be troubled with theology, who despise study, and who do not care to think two consecutive thoughts of a deep and serious nature, let me still beg you to ponder over this one passage. Some there are, unhappily, who have as yet had no dew of their youth at all. Some there are who never felt the indefinable longings, the quiet pensiveness, the delicate poise of earnest thought, like the swaying of a young eagle with outstretched unmoved wing upon a sunmer cloud, while it
gazes There are too many who know nothing of those dew-clad musings of the youthful spirit which find vent in loveliest verse, in fervid speech or in gentlest action, and which prelude the noblest raptures of the human soul. There are, alas ! crowds of men and women, who think as it were in the outside of their natures, who live on the outside, who eat and drink on the outside, and who, amid the turmoil of their worldly wilfulness, have never allowed the heavenly dew to fall., We are all of us too much disposed to live on the mere surface of things. Have we from boyhood or from girlhood grown up with our minds full of sorry amusements, of pitiful crosses, and of petty cares; have we never had a true friend ; have we sought to fill the aching void, or to find refuge from ourselves, in the fopperies of the merest social acquaintanceship, or in the dangerous pursuits of selfish joy? Then to us the Lord yearns to say, “ Thou hast the dew of thy youth.”
“Dew” corresponds to the influx of spiritual truth into the natural mind of man, and the spiritual “youth" of the individual is like the moral youth period of the world ; it is the second state of heavenly excellence. As the most Ancient Church represented the glorified childhood of the celestial man, so the Ancient Church, signified by Noah, embodied the glorified youth time of the spiritual man. And as Noah had to undergo a full series of preparatory labours and reforming trials, so must it be with us, if the heaven of our souls is ever to “ drop down dew." We must lay all our little carès and difficulties before a higher power; we must prayerfully put away our petty sins and unkindly feelings, we must realize our purpose in life, and in faith and hope begin building the ark of our safety according to the pattern shown us by our God in His holy Word. We must in patience and humility persevere through our special temptations, relying on the Divine power to save, though the waters flow over our souls. So at last will the heavens become serene, our feet shall rest in the spiritual Ararat, we can again go forth to our duties with a youthful delight and an elastic vigour which we never knew before ; and when that state is reached, though clouds may supervene, yet we have the assurance that the sweet and many-coloured bow of promise shall be seen in the cloud.
Then the night may come, but it will not be stormy: it will be a night of stars, and the soft descending dew will complete the fulfilment of the prophecy given in the text.
One word in conclusion. Though earthly times and states are mentioned in the Bible to afford us spiritual lessons, let us never imagine that the states of a man's mind and heart are subject to the conditions of his natural bodily existence. Does the mind grow old with the body? Does the heart become paralyzed or decrepit with the limbs? Perish the foul, the unworthy, thought! Yet sad it is, that some men and women do work this direful evil in themselves. Some there are who voluntarily bend their backs to soul-destroying cares ; who feed their spiritual natures with the mouldy bread of unsatisfied desires ; who paralyze all their true aspirations, and become spiritually decrepit by their miserable subterfuges to obtain those worldly things which death shall for ever take from them. But does the good heart and the noble mind grow old ? On the contrary, to grow in goodness is to grow young. During each succeeding year of a good woman's, or a good man's life, the dew of angelic wisdom falls
more sweetly on the soul; the yearnings of an elastic confidence gleam more brightly through the tears of age; the pulse beats more evenly with a fairer and a fuller life. Theirs is a joy over conquered lusts, the rapture of a mind in unison with all that is divinely young; the upturned smile of man to the beaming face of God! So the sweet Psalmist is heard again, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning. Thou hast the dew of Thy youth."
J. W. T.
Verus. It is some time since I last saw you, and many changes have happened to each of us, but when we meet it seems as though the spirit of the old times came back, and we were again struggling together to catch some gleam of the eternal truth, and trying how best to communicate it to others.
Amicus. Yes; I do not forget the benefit we derived from our literary efforts, feeble as they were, for it is only by repeated efforts that we can become strong. The old painter, I forget his name, who said, “ Not a day without a line,” had the secret of success, and Michael Angelo intensified the truth when he replied to the selfsatisfied critic, "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."
V. I know you act according to both sayings, for you are always at work, and striving to do higher work. I frequently reproach myself with indolence, reading as I do for pleasure only in a desultory way.
A. I sometimes almost envy your leisure for reading, I have so little time.
V. It is one thing to read, another to remember. Besides, constant reading is apt to stifle thought rather than encourage it, and it is only by thinking for ourselves that the mind gains strength. I feel the force of that passage in old Thomas Fuller, where he says that one day a rich dunce flouted a poor scholar, saying, “Good-day, scholar without any books;" but the next day the poor scholar, visiting the dunce's study, and seeing it crowded with books, said, “Good-day, books without a scholar."
A. And yet when you have the books you can refer to them, even though the object of reading is to accumulate knowledge in the
memory as food for reflection. I like to look over your books to have a glimpse of the old writers. It seems like entering a new world to read their homely, rude, yet strong, thoughts, after the polish of to-day. I am, however, glad to see that you are writing again; but you exalted faith rather too much when you said it was the greatest Christian need.
V. Why do you think so ?
A. Because to me it seems that love is higher than faith, and is a surer sign of religious growth.
V. You are right, but that does not determine the need. The need may be the greater for the lower virtue, if the age lacks its possession; and when I can scarcely take up a magazine or review without finding some article on the conflict between science and religion, or religion and rationalism, and note how so many people are frightened by the developments of science, I feel that, although there is much religious controversy, practical faith may be loosened from her moorings, if faith be regarded as a result of dialectic skill, instead of an emotional activity caused by the inner perception of God directing
A. I think with you that living faith is greatly needed, and if you regard it as the stepping-stone to a higher life, I should agree with you also that it is the greatest Christian need; for it is evident that where faith is regarded only intellectually, a man is apt to measure his religious progress by the increase of his knowledge, instead of by the increased purity of his life. But if faith be emotional, it arises from the heart, and is more likely to influence our actions. That is why the Bible stories of faith are so powerful. Abraham, when he was about to offer up his son Isaac, had trust in his God although it seemed hard to part with the child of his old age; and Joseph seems always to have been resigned to the adverse circumstances of his early career, in consequence of the abiding sense of God's presence with him.
V. It is so throughout the Bible. I like to picture to myself those scenes as though they were passing now; it makes the lesson more vivid.
A. We are too apt to regard the Bible as only Jewish history, and test it by the logic of probabilities. To me it seems a grand revelation of human nature in its weakness as well as its strength; and every reading of its sacred pages should deepen our faith in the possibility of human progress.
V. That reminds me of the thought that has sometimes occurred to me with respect to faith, that it is more necessary to us in our seasons of prosperity than when all is dark and drear.
A. In prosperity, while all sails smoothly, we imagine it results from our own skilful management of the vessel, and think little of the Giver of the favourable breeze, but when “dark lowers the tempest overhead,” we think of Him who rules the tempest. Do you remember that passage in Habakkuk respecting faith in the time of adversity, where he says, “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” It is a beautiful passage.
V. Your simile of the vessel in fair and stormy weather teaches another lesson—that self-exertion is necessary ; because without skilful management in either weather there may be danger. And so with faith. It requires our own activity to make use of whatever means God gives us.
A. I see you do not deny the value of works, although you say the advocate of works is apt to despise the aspirations of faith.
To me it appears that both are necessary in the Christian life, and should not be separated in our conceptions of true religion. I like Selden's saying, “It was an unhappy division that has been made between faith and works. Though in my intellect I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both light and heat; but yet put out the candle, and they are both gone, one remains not without the other, so 'tis betwixt faith and works."
V. Some people seem to think that faith is useless, because it relates to what is beyond our experience. But the greater part of our knowledge is taken upon trust from others.
A. Yes; it is so in the world around us. It is only the few who have really become cognizant by experiment of the laws which effect the changes of nature ; and our knowledge is derived from their teaching. The apparent is often very different from the actual. And if it be so in external nature, may we not say it is so with regard to our spiritual nature ?
V. When the thunder and the lightning and the storm are sublimely at work, it is seldom they are felt to be pleasant, but the earth is richer through their action, and the air is purer. When the soul is