The Sentiment in Religion.
A Discourse before the Free Religious Society, of Providence,
From the Press of J. A. & R. A. Reid. Providence:1880.
The Sentiment in Religion.
Man is a born worshiper. He admires, loves, adores as naturally as he breathes. He is rarely without some realization of his own short-comings. He senses a power somewhere and somehow superior to his own. In hours of real triumph, the sensitive nature feels the universe of truth and justice at its back, and in hours of failure and defeat, impressed and oppressed by its seeming unworthiness, it leans for comfort upon the rod and the staff of something which the human eye cannot see, and the human voice cannot describe. We often appear as mere animals, to the superficial vision,—simply well-proportioned bodies; but I believe that in all great efforts of the human mind there is an honest desire to seek the truth, and that men at their best incline toward the good, grasp at realities, and despise shams. I think there is something within us which longs for proof that man is a spiritual being, here and now, if not forever. Modern Spiritualism, whatever else it may mean, and however much it may be involved in that which is unworthy and false, holds, philosophically considered, to this great central idea of the reality, aye, the supremacy of the soul. Nor is this idea the exclusive property of Spiritualists, so called. You will find it at times with all classes of men, not always taking precisely the same form, but always an ever-growing sense in the sober moments of life, that after all it is what we see, or think we see with the page 4 physical eye, which is superficial and fleeting; it is what we cannot or do not see that is deep and eternal. I tremble, look within, and re-examine my own status, when someone says to me, "You are so positive, you belong to a school of thinkers who deal so exclusively with the practical facts of existence, that you are incapable of realizing the world of sentiment, of ideals, of spirit."
I hold in my hand a morning glory seed. It seems a lifeless thing. There is not much to be said about it aside from what experience with other seeds has taught us cannot see any latent power there. It has substance; it is rather hard; it has color; it is spherical. But, taught by experience with other seeds, I drop it into the ground, and by and by the earth opens a little, and a tiny shoot appears; presently I find the seed leaves spreading themselves out in the air, then another little shoot, pushing higher still, to bear more leaves, and finally to open its blossoms at the beck of the rising sun. Now I may dissect the flower, I may know it every part, from calvx to pistil; I may be able to give the structure of the other parts of the plant—the root, stem, and leaves; I may succeed in chemically analyzing the seed; and yet when I have done it all, I have not seen the vital process itself. I had a seed, I have a plant; I had a cause, I have a result. If, with childlike curiosity, I had pushed away the earth before the plant was ready to do it for itself, I should probably have so interfered with Nature as to have destroyed the growth. But whence came the principle of life in that seed, what is the nature of the power hidden within it, what does growth mean, even in that morning glory?
Well, in precisely the same manner, we may trace the results of life and growth through all the wonders of creation until we reach the cradles in our own houses, only to page 5 be profoundly impressed with the thought that the mystery of all mysteries always eludes us, that we stand after all only on the boundary line of knowledge, and that the unknown overshadows, and at times almost eclipses the known.
Now this sense of the immensity of the unknown (I will not say unknowable, because that implies an assumption on our part that some things are absolutely unknowable), but this sense of the immensity of the unknown, here and now, as well as an even more than hereafter, is, it seems to me, an attribute of all thinking beings. Not to make any wider sweep, I can but think that wherever mind exists, this sense of unfathomed knowledge concerning the deepest qualities of man and his environment exists; and just in proportion to the normal development of the mind is the ever-growing intensity of this realization of the universal. The fool may think he knows everything; the wise man feels that he knows nothing.
Now wherever this sense of the unknown prevails, worship is natural. Worship is our attitude toward that which we feel to be beyond us and above us. And since this sense is universal to all thinking beings, I believe worship must be universal also. So when we grow big enough to tolerate differences of method, to see through the special to the universal in history, we shall discover the truth of the statement that man may always be said to be, at heart, on the side of beauty and goodness. The old Egyptian kneeling before the Sphinx, the Greek worshiping his statue of Venus or Apollo, the Brahmin and the Buddhist bowing at the feet of a metallic Brahma or Buddha, the Catholic with his statue or painting of the Virgin Mary, and the Protestant Christian with his Christ Jesus—are each and all worshiping; and worshiping what? Not so much the great figure, silent as the grave, not the page 6 beautiful marble seemingly instinct with life, not the gold, the silver, or the bronze, not the painting, not even the historic man of Nazareth, hut simply their own highest ideals for the time being represented in these material forms. I said worship is the attitude we hold toward that "which we feel to be beyond and above us. Let me say now, it is the homage we pay to our highest ideals. This definition is entirely consistent with the view generally entertained, that religion is the homage of the soul to its god. For what is the god of any soul but its highest ideal? The highest power conceivable to any one of us is the infinite or the universal; or, if you choose, God What his attributes are, whether he be personal or impersonal to the human soul, depends entirely upon that soul's ideal of him. Hence, I think, we reach the conclusion, that while the forms, the ceremonies, the instrumentalities of worship are constantly changing, worship itself is native to the human soul. It grows out of human nature, it is fostered by human experience, it has a controlling influence upon human growth and development. It is ministered unto in various ways. In the calm quiet of one's innermost being, when he seems alone with the universe; in the complications of social and industrial life; in the gathering of kindred minds to seek and know the truth; comes the still, small voice of the spirit, to whose winsome pleading the earnest soul responds. It may be with or without a word or a gesture, but the understanding is complete. The heart says, "Take me, O Divine Ideal! I am weak and thou art strong, I tremble and fall but thou standest erect, I am a slave to my passions but thou art blessed with the freedom of virtue,—lift me out of the mire of my own animalism and make me wholly thine; strong as thou art, true as thou art, pure as thou art." It is the lower self appealing to the page 7 higher self; it is the devil of bad inheritance or bad education within us reaching forth to the god of strength and virtue also within us, and saying, save me, miserable sinner that I am, by thy eternal truth and beauty.
"Angels of Growth, of old in that surprise
Of your first vision, wild and sweet,
I poured in passionate sighs
My wish unwise,
That ye descend my heart to meet,—
My heart so slow to rise!
Weak, yet, in weakness I no more complain
Of your abiding in your places;
Oh, still, how e'er my pain
Wild prayers may rain,
Keep pure on high the perfect graces,
That stooping could but stain.
Not to content our lowness, but to lure
And lift us to your angelhood,
Do your surprises pure,
Dawn far and sure
Above the tumult of young blood,
And star like there endure.
Wait there, wait and invite me while I climb,
For see, I come!—but slow, but slow!
Yet ever as your chime,
Soft and sublime,
Lifts at my feet, they move, they go
Up the great stair of time."
We all see such visions as that, and all long to realize them in our lives. And so, it seems to me, that the protest which Free Religion has always made and must continue to make, is not a protest against worship but against certain forms of worship. Not that some form may not be necessary to expression of any kind, even the highest, but that it is objectionable the moment it becomes mere form. It was against ceremonialism, it was in the name of simplicity and naturalness that the dissent from the church service was made. I hope we did not think page 8 that beneath all that formalism hearts might not be as true as ours, and souls aspire for some higher good, even as our souls aspire. I think what we need to recognize now is the fact that in the most precious moments of existence the Catholic, the Evangelical Protestant, the Liberal Christian and ourselves, are all drawn toward the divine, and so all become, for the time being, more divine. We are all worshipers, each expressing his adoration by such methods as commend themselves to his mental and spiritual nature, but all responding to the inward call.
If I am correct thus far, we are now brought naturally to the question, what shall be the worship of the immediate future for us? We shall all agree at once that it must be such as shall commend itself to the human reason. In the past, that has not been essential. Men have recognized the authority of supposed infallible leaders and books, and little encouragement has been given to the exercise of the reasoning faculty. But now the case is reversed. The fallibility of all books, and of the best of leaders has been clearly shown, and the rightful supremacy of the individual mind established. We cannot, we need not surrender one jot of what has been won in that great battle. On the contrary, worship for us depends absolutely upon its maintenance without amendment or qualification.
Now with these two points in view—the universality of the worshipful spirit and the adoption of only those expressions of worship which meet the approval of the enlightened reason—let us see how we must needs stand toward recognized forms of worship at the present time. Of course I need not stop to consider the Catholic's attitude before the crucifix, or the Evangelical's use of the rite of baptism, or the Liberal's participation in the Lord's Supper. These are all condemned by our individual reasons as superstitious and corrupting pieces of page 9 formalism. That is our judgment of them, though we do not say, at least, I do not say, that they may not be helps to some in whom as yet the reason has not assumed its rightful sway. I incline to think they sometimes are helps to such. But we can have no part in them. So I pass them by without more extended comment, to treat of a phase of this question which is of more immediate interest to us, and concerning which there is greater difference of opinion.
I listened, recently, to a discourse on the subject of Prayer, by an Evangelical clergyman of independence and prominence. His idea may be briefly summarized, thus: Prayer implies, first, faith in a personal God; second, it is real only as it is the definite, verbal expression of a conscious need; third, thus indulged in, it promotes sympathy between man and God; fourth, it creates submission to his will. This idea of prayer is greatly in advance of that possessed by the inhabitants of Thibet, who are said to use written prayers, placed within a huge leathern cylinder which stands upright in a frame. The cylinder is set in motion by pulling a string, and a little bell rings as often as the prayer is repeated. But look for a moment at this modern, somewhat advanced Evangelical idea of prayer. It assumes that God is a personal being; that he will not give everything it is desirable for us to have without the asking; that he will give us many things simply because we ask him for them; and still further, that these many things include material as well as spiritual blessings. This, it will be observed, settles at once a question which every scientific mind knows to be unsettled, viz.: the character of God. It also assumes as settled that God's method of working is one of constant interference with, and suspension of his page 10 own laws. For if all results are the inevitable effects of certain causes, if the like causes always produce the like results, why should we ask God to make any exceptions, bow can he make any exceptions? And yet the learned Doctor has seen more clearly than many liberals have seen that he has the only basis for prayer as addressed to God in the expectation of a direct and practical reply. If God be a person, if his laws are constantly undergoing change and revision, then it is certainly in order to petition him, but not otherwise. To say "Our Father who art in Heaven," assumes the question of personality settled. To say, "Give us this day our daily bread," assumes the question of law settled. And prayer in the ordinary sense has, and can have, no other justification. Go with me to-day into the more liberal Unitarian churches, and you will find most of their ministers assenting mentally to the proposition that the personality of God is not known, and yet you will find them all addressing him as a person in their prayers. Nothing shows more plainly how we each of us construct a God for ourselves than the phrase "Our Father in Heaven," so prevalent in Christianity. That belongs to an age when women were subordinated and enslaved to men. Theodore Parker held a far higher conception, and said, "Our Father and our Mother, God." But the most radical thought of to-day cannot find proof of personality, even now, and so remands the whole question to the realm of the unknown. While it remains there the thoughtful mind will protest against any assumption of definition, even in our prayers.
There is far less uncertainty among liberals concerning the method of God's working than concerning his character. It is the general view of all liberal bodies, in as well as outside the church, that this universe is subject to constant, unchanging, omnipresent law.page 11
Freaks are out of order, miracles are out of order, superhuman beings are out of order. There are two methods in vogue of explaining the miracles of Jesus and other of the world's religious leaders, as there are two methods of explaining the phenomena of modern Spiritualism. One is to deny the accuracy of the record; the other to admit the fact, but to claim that it is in accordance with some natural law which we do not understand. It is not my present purpose to inquire which is right and which wrong, or whether both may not be partially right and both partially wrong, but simply to call attention to the fact that both deny any suspension of, or interference with, natural law. The learned Evangelical to whom I have alluded said, in his sermon on Prayer, "Bread will not come from the field or fruit from the trees without the asking. God can and does give both in response to human prayer." Now, I do not believe, and I do not believe the Doctor believes, that prayer, in the sense in which he uses the word, has anything whatsoever to do with raising grain and making bread, or with setting out the tree and plucking the fruit. No argument could induce a dozen men in our city to go out into some open field and pray for bread and fruit, in the expectation of getting them in that way; and why? Simply because it is scientifically known that the way to get bread is to have the mind of man select the soil, the hand of man sow the field, reap the crop, convert it to flour, and thence to bread by a well established process of scientific procedure. Underneath all this operation are certain natural laws. Obedience to these brings bread without prayer, without even a thought of God, and it will not come in any other way,—we all know that. Every intelligent person knows it, whatever may be his theology. If bread would come simply for the asking, all these page 12 natural laws would be broken, but we know, or may know, they never have been broken, and we believe, many churches believe, God would not be God if he could break his own laws. Very well then, why ask him to break them. Why should I, like some spoiled child, ask to be relieved of the natural consequences of my own action or inaction? I find myself in a world full of beauty and opportunity. It invites my study. It promises me certain rewards if I conform to its laws. "Don't stand there," it seems to say, "don't stand there, Micawber-like, waiting for something to turn up; don't expect some higher power to do your work for you; be a man, put your shoulders to the wheel and do a man's work." There is something robust in the way in which Mother Earth deals with her children. She asks no pretentions, no professions, she will tolerate no shilly-shallying, she wants real allegiance, and will be satisfied with nothing less. This superficial idea that the outward attitude, the word of prayer is of any consequence whatever, save as it commends itself to the individual reason, gives rise to superficiality throughout all religious life. Indeed, it helps to make religion a garment which can be put on and off at will, instead of an essential element of the life-blood without which the soul could not for a moment exist. It has been said, that some persons set up religion in their day of distress, as a man holds an umbrella over his head in a summer shower, but the storm passes by, and religion is cast aside as the umbrella, to lie with rubbish in a corner till the next storm comes.
"The Lord and the doctor we alike adore,
Just on the brink of danger, not before;
When the danger is past, both alike are requited—
The Lord is forgotten, and the doctor slighted."
So with the growth of free thought has come a broad page 13 ening of religious ideas, and everything limiting religious sentiment to stated forms and times of expression has been condemned. Free thought has rebelled against and undermined this, as very many other of the old conceptions.
Now, in so doing, it has quite naturally been misunderstood. Perhaps there are not more than five or six congregations in this country before whom I could safely make the statement that I cannot conscientiously repeat the Lord's prayer. The Lord's prayer, says some one; why, around that for ages has been entwined the unselfish love and reverence of millions. I know it, and side by side with such sincere and earnest souls and enveloped with something of their own pure aspirations, I can sometimes stand and worship, but I must be silent. The spirit, at its best, commends itself to my heart, but the words do not commend themselves to my mind. Love may accept the one, but reason must reject the other. Do you not then believe in prayer? Have you no spirituality? Can it be that your religious nature has become so utterly" dwarfed as that? Ah! friends, we know not what we do when we condemn thus those who do not accept just what we accept. Saying, "Our Father who art in Heaven" never made a man spiritual; failing, or even declining to say it, never made him material. It is the attitude of the body and the words upon the lips which make prayer in the old conception,—that conception we reject. It is the attitude of the soul which makes prayer in the new faith,—that faith we accept. But I think I hear someone say, you do not state the church position fairly. You say that to it prayer is simply the attitude of the body and the words upon the lips. Very well, let me explain what I mean by that. Take one example of it. At a given hour on every Sunday morning, the minister is to offer up a page 14 prayer and the congregation to follow him in it with the spirit, making it practically their own. At the appointed time, therefore, it becomes the duty of the one to pray, and of the other to join in spirit in the prayer. If the minister should omit the prayer, he would, in nearly all churches, be charged with a neglect of duty. The burden of the argument, in all save the most liberal denominations, and, I think, to a large extent, even with them, is, prayer is a duty. Now, in my conception of prayer it can never be a duty; nay, the moment it becomes a duty, it is no longer prayer. Physical hunger is a good thing, it leads us to supply for the body at stated times nourishing food, but who ever heard that it was a man's duty to be hungry. Spiritual hunger is an infinitely good thing, but it must be, spite of all we can do and say the real thing will be, spontaneous. When the soul feels its own needs it longs for help, and then takes the attitude of true prayer.
Now see the difference between the old and the new idea. The individual who has not been trained to and accepted the idea that prayer must be made to a personal God, who in answer thereto will extend special favors, in violation, or at least suspension of his own laws, sits with others with whom he is cooperating in some religious work. Before he and they can work successfully together they must have some bond of thought and purpose. On the one side, we will say they desire to study truth; on the other, they desire to apply it to practical, every-day life. Whatever may be their intellectual differences, they have this desire in common. Now the old idea of prayer comes in and says: "Our Father who art in Heaven," and by the time the end of that line is reached, the unity of this desire is broken, and the thought has been diverted to the attitude of the body, to the char page 15 acter of God, and to the place or condition which men call Heaven. In such case this formal prayer has not only not helped, it has absolutely defeated true prayer. Now observe the approach of the new idea of prayer. Here is this two-fold desire to learn the truth and do good. Let that desire be evolved. Naturally-when its possessor sees he cannot accomplish all he would like to, he becomes impressed with his own weakness, then he feels the need of strength greater than his own, and then he feels how necessary it is that he should place himself in line with nature's laws. To him
"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire
Unuttered or expressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
True prayer is not seeing, it is feeling. It is not a process related to the mind, it is a process related to the heart. The thing which in all churches bears its name involves mental conceptions, and is not therefore, in my judgment, consistent with the purest worship.
Can we then never express our soul prayers? Most certainty we can. The protest we make is against form and ceremony, against word worship which is tinctured with theological notions. But whatever expresses "the soul's sincere desire," whatever helps our feeling after the true, the beautiful, and the good, that is legitimate prayer. It is sometimes said we do not have prayer here. We do not in the old sense, we do emphatically in the new. Most of our hymns are prayers, not because addressed to any one, but because they minister to the longing common to all our hearts for a better, a truer, a purer life. Such prayer leads to effort. The ideal seen, the desire to attain it felt,—these give the impulse to all noble action; and every great step taken in personal progress, page 16 every unselfish act performed for the social good, is, in this sense, the result of prayer.
"Devoutly look, and naught
But wonders shall pass by thee;
Devoutly read, and then.
All books shall edify thee;
Devoutly speak, and men
Devoutly listen to thee;
Devoutly act, and then
The strength of God acts through thee."
Now let me apply these views to two or three events which occur, sooner or later, to nearly all of us. First let me say a word about their application to the marriage service. I hardly know from which idea I shrink most, that involved in the old unmeaning and untrue forms of the church, or that of some liberals which would make marriage a mere commercial transaction. If there is ever an occasion when two hearts are likely to be in a religious mood, it is when they are about to enter this relation. If they are not cherishing high desires for the future, if they are not resolving that they will make their union one of souls, as well as and more than of bodies, if all that is best in them is not at this supreme moment of happiness enjoying unquestioned control, then it seems to me their marriage is on too low a plane to be blessed either to them or to the world. Well, in this aspiring, this deeply worshipful mood, nothing expresses the mutual sentiment so well as simple, natural religion. I cannot but protest against the prevailing low ideas of womanhood which creep into the church ceremony, that which makes woman an appendage and thing of convenience to man; I must protest also against the hypocrisy and falsehood engrafted upon it, as, for instance, where the, man is made to say, "With all my worldly goods I thee endow," which is, in nine cases out of ten, a lie; but page 17 most of all, I protest against the formalism, which, in the liberal as in the conservative church, drowns the sentiment of the hour in the repetition of words which have lost all freshness and beauty, if, indeed, they ever had them. This on the one hand. But I protest also against what seems to me a most materialistic idea, that of making the service a simple, legal recognition of a legal contract. It is wise, it is necessary, I believe, in the present condition of the world, that the state should recognize the institution of marriage, and make certain regulations for its accomplishment, provided these regulations never violate the principle of equal rights under the law, but that is all the state can do. Its function is a clerical one. It knows nothing, in the nature of the case it can know nothing of sentiment. Now, the real authority for a marriage is in the two hearts which have been drawn together in mutual love. It is a sentiment, guided by the reason truly, but primarily a sentiment still; and the only power on earth which can meet that sentiment is religion, not church religion, not theology, but the religion of pure aspiration and disinterested service. So, when two human beings stand in the presence of near and clear friends, to publicly acknowledge the affection which has drawn them together, and in obedience to which they are about to become husband and wife, I would have the religion of the heart preside. Not with superstitious forms (there is no superstition in true religion), but to express, or to try to express, in warm, simple, direct language, the aspirations common at such a moment to all true lovers. I do believe that we should hold high in the realm of ideals, in the realm of spirit, here and now, all these sacred experiences of life, among which stands preeminent to the lofty soul that relation which brings two sympathetic beings into life-long cooperative service and growth.page 18
There is another experience, from which none of us are exempt, where the sentiment in religion is the only fit presiding genius. If ever the heart should speak, and nothing but the heart, it is when we are looking for the last time upon the form no longer instinct with life, and kissing the lips which can no longer return our heart's greeting. And jet, just here as nowhere else, the customs and superstitions of the past remain, to jar and grate with unmerciful materialism upon the sensitive nature. Of all harsh, irreligious, inhuman things, I know of nothing' equal to a funeral given to the observance of forms, or to worldly display. I hope that when 1 die there may be no unmeaning words said over my body. If there be anywhere a man or a woman of any race, condition, or color, of any position in life, in or out of the professions, who has known my heart, and feels a pang of regret because I am gone, let him or her be heard. Let the simple, heartfelt language of friends be my only eulogy. The true minister, as it seems to me, will speak on such occasions not as an official, but as a friend. He will appeal, as well as he may, directly to the heart. He will recognize that in such hours of trial, theology must give way to sentiment, and even the reason soften its attitude toward the affectional nature. The real comfort for the stricken soul, if I mistake not, is not to be found in any appeal or argument addressed to the mind, but rather to leading the heart to a sense of the blessing the lost companionship has been to it; to how much less, life would have been without it; how precious is the memory it has left; how satisfactory the hope that some day the dear one may be seen again; and how certain, certain whether seen again or not, that all is well with him, and will be well with us forever. All this, as it seems to me, belongs first and chiefly to the realm of sentiment. It belongs to that class page 19 of questions too great to be scientifically solved in the present condition of the world, but which no one can say are not therefore realities, possibly deeper and broader and higher than science can ever grasp. In the simple faith of the spirit why may we not eliminate theology and metaphysics from our thoughts of the dead, and minister more fully to that religion of the heart, after all, the only religion which at the hour of parting is not a mockery and a sham?
But I beg you will not think because I have mentioned these special experiences, that I hold the sentiment in religion to be an occasional thing only. It ought to fill the whole of life with its pervading sense of the unseen. Our community has been twice startled within a year by the downfall of two of its citizens,—one a high official in the government service, whose life unfortunately has not been all that could be wished; the other a merchant, enjoying a large share of the esteem and good will which supposed integrity is sure, sooner or later, to win. Nor are these the first instances in our loved New England, or even in our own city, of the moral failure of men who had gained public confidence, and some of whom had been held above all reproach. It is not our province to pry our way into homes desolated by a visitation worse than death; by no possible effort can we or ought we to gaze upon the an-guish of near and dear friends, crushed to the very earth; least of all can we know the innermost secrets of the thief and the forger, and how infinite justice and mercy would deal with them; but there is a lesson from all these sad events which it belongs to me in this discourse to draw. In the long line of defaulters and forgers, for the past eight or ten years, you will find nearly every shade of religious belief represented. No acceptance of an Evangelical creed, no assent to the doctrines of Spiritual- page 20 ism, has been proof against temptation, when it has come. And I am here to-day to say that in my judgment, no merely intellectual process of any kind can ever be such proof. Orthodox deacon and radical come-outer are both likely to fall in some moment of great temptation, should such ever come to them, unless their hearts get into religion, and religion gets into their hearts. Unless, in other words, they come to a realizing sense that the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal; that the worldly prizes we sell our highest selves to gain, are short-lived and deceitful, but the character which grows out of a pure and worshipful life of the spirit is surely immortal!
And so if you ask me what man then is safe, I answer that man, and that man only, who feels the superiority of the unknown to the known, and so spends his whole life in what we may call the worship of the pure heart. He has placed himself in line with Nature, and all her laws are on his side.
"The wind ahead, the billows high,
A whited wave, but sable sky,
And many a league of tossing sea
Between the hearts I love and me.
The wind ahead! day after day
These weary words the sailors say;
To weeks the days are lengthened now,—
Still mounts the surge to meet our prow.
Through longing day and lingering night,
I still accuse Time's lagging flight,
Or gaze out o'er the envious sea,
That keeps the hearts I love from me.
Yet, ah! how shallow is all grief!
How instant is the deep relief !
And what a hypocrite am I,
To feign forlorn, to 'plain and sigh!
The wind ahead? The wind is free!
Forevermore it favoreth me,—
To shores of God still blowing fair,
O'er seas of God my bark doth bear.
This surging brine I do not sail;
This blast adverse is not my gale;
'Tis here I only seem to be,
But really sail another sea,—
Another sea, pure sky its waves,
Whoso beauty hides no heaving graves;
A sea all haven, whereupon
No helpless bark to wreck hath gone.
The winds that o'er my ocean run,
Reach through all worlds, beyond the sun;
Through life and death, through fate, through time,
Grand breaths of God, they sweep sublime.
Eternal trades, they cannot veer,
And, blowing, teach us how to steer;
And well for him whose joy, whose care,
Is but to keep before them fair.
O, thou God's mariner, heart of mine !
Spread canvas to the airs divine !
Spread sail! and let-thy Fortune be
Forgotten in thy Destiny.
Would earth's dark ocean suck thee down?
Earth's ocean thou, O Life! shalt drown;
Shalt flood it with thy finer wave,
And, sepulchred, entomb thy grave!
Life loveth life and good; then trust
What most the spirit would, it must;
Deep wishes in the heart that be,
Are blossoms of necessity.
A thread of law runs through thy prayer,
Stronger than iron cables are;
And Love and Longing toward her goal
Are pilots sweet to guide the soul.
So life must live, and soul must sail,
And Unseen over Seen prevail;
And all God's argosies come to shore,
Let ocean smile, or rage, or roar."
I heard the other day of a minister who had been trying to give his little child an idea of God. Selecting from time to time some good quality in various people whom she knew, he would say, that is a part of God. One day a certain good man, who is nearly all spirit, rang at the door, and the little girl seeing him ran to her father with beaming face, exclaiming, "Oh, papa, papa, the whole of God has come." Friends! It matters comparatively little what we believe or do .not believe, but when our souls bow in reverence at the shrine of Truth and Beauty, when our every act and word and thought becomes a true prayer, lifting us to the highest ideals of purity and love—then, and then only, the whole of God has come.
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