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and water-courses for the irrigation of the world, those mountain peaks that are perpetual landmarks to those who are far at sea, those summits, where "of pure now purer air mects the approach,” we shall lose the taste of truth, as it bursts from its fountains.
To pay no attention to the perfect forms into which human thought has crystalized, while we are working away at our editorials and sermons, with the desire of influencing men, is as great an absurdity as it would be for the sculptor ever to be chiselling his marble without a look at the dimpled limbs and graceful movements of young children, or the developed strength and beauty of riper age. We need the impulses that come from comparison. We need to know what is a healthy growth. We are acquainted with ministers who will write a great many sermons - good men they are. They read very little. They have a poor opinion of style. They think clearly, and suppose that that is all that they need do. If they ever read the master-pieces of sacred oratory, they speak contemptuously of them, calling them florid, popular. It is true, they are florid, but not in an offensive sense; only as they are adapted to living, breathing men who have blood in their veins, light in their eyes and color on their cheeks. They have what they ought to have, color, life, energy. If these critics were making arithmetics, they ought to make them dry, but sermons should not be modelled after such a standard.
These critics are right, in calling those productions popular. That was what they were designed to be. They were addressed to the people for present moral effect. We wish all who preach, could preach such "popular” sermons.
This evil might be corrected in a great degree by the right use of the highest literature. A full appreciation of the masters in theological literature alone must impart health and vigor. Calvin's Institutes and Commentaries, for example, are all alive. Every paragraph has the glow of health. The blood runs through every line. Thoughts the most subtile or profound are suggested to the mind by striking imagery. The sentences sparkle. They have brilliant fiery points.
To the dull and the dry and the lifeless, such works would be as efficacious as were the bones of the prophet Elisha to the
dead man who was cast into his sepulchre. They would revive them and cause them to stand upon their feet.
Further, let us notice the power that literature has to give repose. When we are wearied by the toils of the day, and by jarring contact with selfish men, when we are fatigued by the stirring scenes through which we are passing, when we are exasperated by traitorous words around us, and depressed by our present anxieties and by our hopes deferred, we can with draw to other society and listen to other words, and to wiser men. We can forget the reports of " Correspondents,” and listen to the truthful chronicles of Froissartor Stowe. We can turn from our anxious survey of the lines and trenches at the front where brothers and friends are lying in heroic endurance, and think of Thermopyla where Greek awaited Persian. We can cease our indignation as we have read of Semmes and the leaders of piratic crews, and read of Drake and Raleigh, of Nelson and Decatur. We can close the exciting pages of contemporary history, and find a calmness of mind as we read how Cromwell fought and reigned. We can leave the speculations of the present, and quiet our spirits with the minstrelsy and fiction of the good Sir Walter. The price of gold is forgotten as we read the Urn Burial of Sir Thomas Browne. Rumors of raids and invasions no longer disturb us, as we learn how Birnam wood came to Dunsinane. Lord Russell's or Secretary Seward's despatches are temporarily sealed with oblivion as we are borne along by the fascinating tide of Bolingbroke's letters. We can leave the questions of finance, of politics, of reconstruction, of foreign policy, of future wars, for time to settle, as we give the hour to Bossuet, to Hawthorne or De Quincey. We can ask Hooker to speak to us of her, " whose seat is the bosom of God, whose voice is the harmony of the world.” Coleridge can enlarge our conceptions of men and Deity. Wordsworth can interpret to us what nature teaches. The world is all before us where to choose. And as we take the wisest and the best to be our companions, and as we utter not a word to all they tell us, uttering better thoughts than we are used to and in a better way, their calm serenity raises us above the smoke and stir of earth, and their perfect harmonies soothe and restore.
We can go higher than this. Disturbed by anarchy and rebellion we can go to the pages, where we shall read, that there is a King who reigns in righteousness, that to him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him Lord. When we hear of wars and rumors of wars we can hear him saying:
" These things must needs be.” Above the waves and the storms we can hear him saying: "Peace be still,” and we are calmed.
Finally, we would not overlook the power that literature has to elevate, refine and spiritualize. The tendency of the world's hard business is to dry up the heart. Very often youth loses all its geniality and freshness in advancing years. The rough encounters all have to meet, the crushiny experiences of human selfishness that unexpectedly arise among men, the absorption of their powers in the work of life, make men hard, destroying every feature of the ideals that filled the vision of early days, and withering up all those feelings that now they term romantic. But when these feelings are gone, and the ideals of youth have vanished, the better part of us is gone.
Not only are our capacities for pure enjoyment taken away, but our capacity for sympathy with the best of our kind is destroyed, and, as a necessity, our capacity for the highest usefulness is lost. Our very hopes of immortality seem dreams.
One of the great collateral benefits that the word of God confers, is found in this—that it ever renews the fading lustre of that which the world of sight and touch and taste is perpetually effacing. As long as we hear the weekly messages of love we can not quite forget our possibilities of attainment, or fail to see from what height we have fallen, and to what we may re
All true literature is subservient to the same high purpose. The perfect inspiration of the Bible finds no contradiction in the lower inspirations of human genius, when they are not prompted by motives of vanity, hatred and sensual passion, and when they make their appeal to what is spiritual and not what is earthy in man; for they strike the noblest chords within us; they fill us with the loftiest aspirations; they kindle our emulation for that which is exalted; they purge the mind from that which is gross and sensual; they arouse an ennobling admiration for what is lovely and of good report; they foster an aversion toward all that looks down and degrades, toward all that crosses, and poisons, and pollutes.
But the mere application of the understanding is not followed by such results. The profoundest chemist may starve in the midst of the abundance which he analyzes; so the shrewdest critic of the letter may die of atrophy, while the spiritual sustenance of ages is on his table. Knowledge puffeth up, but a loving, humble reception, buildeth up. When the imagination and the affections are called into exercise, the spirit feels the expanding and purifying power.
As a man thinketh so is he. The clear dream, the solemn vision, " telling of things that no gross ear can hear,” this " oft converse with heavenly habitants," 80 changes the soul's essence, that by the help of God, there is more hope that at length it will " gain the divine property of its first being.” Having listened to earth’s best teachers, the ear will be more ready to catch diviner accents, and learn of Him who teaches from the cross.
AFTER THE WAR.
The preëminent thought, the most profound feeling of the nation is, that our government is preserved in its majesty, and our territory in its integrity, now devoted to universal freedom. From either of these results of the war the national heart recoiled at the first, and always with a most intense earnestness. Let who would suffer, let what would perish, these two points must be maintained. Other issues, more or less important among themselves, coming in earlier or later, and made by few or many, had their place and claims. But these two led : the Constitution and the Union. So for the salvation of these, our emotions of gratitude lead off among the joyful feelings following
We are not a broken and shattered Republic, little and greater sovereignties, dashing and grinding against each other, like huge ice islands and icebergs in arctic seas and
under arctic storms. We are yet one, and anchored at our ancient moorings in the temperate zone. Our constitution, the very centre of attack, much in peril, often under cloud, and sometimes the subject of requiem as if departed, still stands forth in its noble proportions and original strength. So the Granite Hills are stronger than the fierce winter tempests; and the spring covers them, as before, with foliage and flocks and fruitful fields.
Great issues have been involved. In the early times of our government they were made ; for the last four or five years they have been bloodily and valiantly contested, and God has defended the right. For long time two civilizations have been struggling in this country for ascendancy. One is of the fourteenth and the other of the nineteenth century. Two theories of government have been in conflict, the one feudal, the other democratic, the one despotic, the other free, the one aristocratic, the other republican.
One civilization, theory and section of the country have been asking that we might go back into a petrification of mediæval Europe; the other, that we might go forward with the current of providence and progress into the America of the twentieth century of Christianity.
The one section ignored the laws of growth, as applicable to national industry and wealth, intellect and morals; and so by painful processes sought to force on the nation the infantile foot of the Chinese and the depressed cranium of the Flat Head Indian. The other section sought to popularize labor, enrich all classes, educate the populace and elevate all into the intelligent morality of the Gospel. So the nation would grow and develop in symmetry and strength and glory. So the progressing ages would not leave us behind. Here and hence the Great Rebellion and our national struggle.
The sections themselves have not been fully conscious of so great a depth, sweep and issue in the contest. the surface, aims of narrower scope, and ends closer at hand, have interested and controlled and led them on. Populations, like individuals, often do their great life work in dreamy unconsciousness of their destiny and success.
Some on both sides have comprehended the bearings of this