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uproot the largest trees, and roaring seas which the rock itself cannot resist. And on the same coast the great naturalist wondered at the clouds of frail butterflies which passed his ship far out at sea; just as a more recent traveller marvelled to find the same winged beauties fluttering with impunity on bleak, wind-swept mountain heights of nearly eighteen thousand feet.
Kay Robinson shares in the astonishment of these distinguished observers. "It is a curious thing that the extremes of heat and cold seem to be most easily endured by the flimsiest creatures. What is it that, when the frost is splitting our strongest metal waterpipes, protects the tiny tubes of life-giving moisture in the almost spectral organism of a gnat? Larger things get frost-bitten and perish. In tropical countries the tiniest insects brave the blistering midday heat which shrivels the larger herbage, and drives men, birds, and animals gasping under shelter. In India a small blue butterfly flits all day about the parched grass or sits in full blaze of the sun, where metal or stone becomes so hot that it burns the hand. What heat-resisting secret resides in the minute body of that little butterfly, scarcely thicker than notepaper? Nature's power of preserving life touches the miraculous."
The saints have the least reason to be afraid when they most feelingly recognize their utter weakness and dependence. He who puts into the most delicate forms of animal and vegetable life such secrets of resistance. or evasion, fortifies the heart of His feeblest children with sublime increments of vitality and victory. Does sickness or misfortune reduce us to insignificance?
Precious are the privileges of insignificance, as we may see everywhere in the lowly forms of nature. "More surely than the eagle escapes the arrow, the animalcule escapes being crushed.". Do the bitter blows of life destroy our confidence in our own understanding and sufficiency, and leave us nothing but to wait and trust? Sings the old poet, "Love's passives are his activ'st part"; and truly the soul is never more magnificently strong and safe than when tribulation, shutting it up to simple love and trust, causes it to behave itself like a weaned child.
In submission, contentment, gentleness, humility, and patience the sovereign energy of love asserts itself as rarely in action. The active and passive virtues are two sides of one shield, but the deep significance of our Lord's life is that the passive graces constitute the golden side. Gentleness, long-suffering, and endurance are of the essence of the divinely great and heroic. Do the sorrows and severities of life feelingly persuade us of our frailty, and bow us to the earth? We prevail by yielding, we succumb to conquer, like those sea-flowers which continue to bloom amid the surf when the rocks are pounded. In acquiescence and diffidence, in yieldingness and clinging, do we triumph, as the fern survives geological cataclysms and the butterfly the blizzard.
In celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles the Jews are required to make their booths sufficiently frail that the stars may be seen through them: thus through the rents of the body and the dislocations of circumstance are we kept face to face with the claims and hopes of a higher world, and the fragile booth in which we
painfully dwell is a safer refuge than the walls of iron and gates of brass of a carnal security. The humbled, bruised soul is far from conceits and presumption. There is a temper of bravado, a jingoism of life, of which we may well stand in fear; but the habitual sense of our own nothingness before God, and of our entire dependence on His grace, is a state of salvation, a presage of full and final victory.
THE DILEMMAS OF DUTY
In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant; when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace.-2 KINGS v. 18, 19.
N the main the path of duty is sufficiently clear, but not always. Baffling situations arise, and it is difficult to determine what is right and best. And the more sterling the character, the more likely are these delicate questions to arise. The majority are not troubled about bowing in the house of Rimmon because they grovel before the idol; but there is a bewildering zone to every sensitive soul, a twilight region of conflicting duties. The subject is by no means academical. A complex civilization tends to multiply ambiguous situations, and we could easily compile a considerable list of the singular positions in which godly men find themselves, and of the curiosities of compromise into which they enter. Dean Farrar remarks on this passage: "The only rule which sincere Christians can follow is to have no truce with Canaan, no halting between two opinions, no tampering, no compliance, no connivance, no complicity with evil—
even no tolerance of evil as far as their own conduct is concerned. No good man, in the light of the gospel dispensation, could condone himself in seeming to sanction-still less in doing-anything which in his opinion ought not to be done, or in saying anything which implied his own acquiescence in things which he knows to be evil."
But these excellent commonplaces do not help us. The fact remains that various evils are subtly interwoven with the very fabric of society, and the most delicate situations and problems of duty arise. Life is charmingly simple when we dwell in a cottage in a vast wilderness; but let us make the immense initial compromise of entering into society and its manifold relations, and a train of compromises is inevitable— compromises which often impinge on morals and religion. In medical, legal, military, political, and commercial life, righteous men find themselves in positions in which, to say the least, they are uncomfortable, and where they are required to act in a way that goes against the grain. In this sadly disordered world pious men are confronted by problems of conduct apparently as insoluble as the squaring of the circle. They can cut the knot by getting out of the world; but if they are to abide in their calling, they are entangled by associations which in certain particulars conflict with their faith and feeling.
On the whole, Elisha thought it best for Naaman to continue with his Syrian master. "Go in peace." Farrar thinks that Elijah would have refused this sanction, but there is no reason for this supposition. St. Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians (viii.