Page images
[ocr errors]

affords. There is no truth it does not welcome, no science that it fears. If we could make it known to all the people of Brooklyn as it is known to us in our most serious hours, these narrow walls—no, nor the widest in the city — could not contain the company that would throng to do it honor and to sound its praise abroad.


HOWEVER it may be about our prayers to God, how is it, do you think, about God's prayers to us? You have not thought, perhaps, that there are any such prayers. But there is certainly a beautiful suggestion of them in the New Testament phrase of the apostle, "as if God did beseech you." This, also, is one of the phrases that the revisers have despoiled, so that now it reads, "as though God were entreating by us." But the old meaning is not gone; and, if it were, it would not make a particle of difference. Every good thought of the old mistranslation is just as good to-day as ever and just as much a divine revelation and a word of God, for what makes any saying or writing a divine revelation and a word of God is the beauty and the truth and the help that there is in it. That is the most inspired which is the most inspiring. This cannot be insisted on too often or too earnestly, so long as the majority persist in seeking for the signs and proofs of inspiration and revelation in some particular place or time or personality.

As if God did beseech you! The phrase as it occurs in the New Testament is but a figure of speech. It says 66 as if." It does not say that God does pray to us, that he does beseech us. And yet that he does actually do so is one of the most obvious things in the whole range of our experience. And while to many excellent people the wonder of the centuries has been that God has not answered their prayers, or the prayers of other people better or more religious than themselves, the real wonder all along has been that God's prayers to men have so often met with no response or with only the faintest and most superficial. Is it not so? Consider just a few of these innumerable prayers

that like a fountain rise continually from out the world's great heart, and then find me mistaken in this strong assurance, if you can.

One of them is the habitual order of the world. Of course, this is a circumstance which makes a different impression now from what it did in the faint red and greyish morning of the times. Who does not know Richard Hooker's large and sumptuous affirmation of the significance of order in the world, or, as he called it, law? "Of law," he said, "there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage,the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power." But there was a time when many people were extremely disinclined to this way of thinking about law, a time when the difficulties of science were the consolations of faith, and the victories of science were its despair. Every field annexed to the demesne of order was supposed to make so much narrower the range of God's complicity in the world of matter and of man. It must be confessed that the scientific people were often quite as foolish as the religious in this matter; for they imagined the same foolish thing, only, where the religious were anxious and frightened, the scientific, especially the smaller kind, were arrogant and hilarious, and did their best to aggravate the anxieties and fears of the religious with the assurance that in a little time they would have a world without God. But there could hardly be a grosser misconception than that the order of the world, or rather the sense of this order, had always been opposed to the feeling of God's presence in it until very recently, when a few philosophers and poets came to the help of an atheistical science and a trembling faith with the assurance that more law meant more God, and that the mysteries of law were more religious and inspiring than the mysteries of ignorance and blind credulity had ever been. The Old Testament abounds in praises of the orderly arrangement of the world,-"The sun knoweth his going

down," "Seed-time and harvest shall not fail," and so on. And these orderly arrangements are cited as the proofs of God's protecting care. New every morning and fresh every evening are the pledges of his constant love.

But what did I mean by saying that law, or order, is one of the prayers of the beseeching God? I meant that the order of the world has always been an invitation and an exhortation to mankind to make its life an orderly and lawabiding thing. The ordered circumstance of life has in all ages been an answer to this glorious prayer, whose words are constellations, galaxies, sun, moon, and stars, the faithful seasons, gravitation, weight and measure, heat and cold. It is the order of the material world that has initiated and enforced the order of the human world. This has ticked into time with that as one clock, in the fable, ticks into time with another clock. Man in his orderly arrangements does but "fetch his eyes up to God's style and manners of the sky." The very secret and the end of life is the harmony of organization and environment. The unhappy man, the unsuccessful man, the wicked man, is simply a misfit, a round peg in the square hole.

Now, when I said that the wonderful thing is not that God does not answer our prayers, but that we do not answer his, I did not mean that we do not answer his at all. To say that would be a foolish or a wicked misrepresentation; for the answer to God's great prayer of law and order has been only less glorious than the prayer itself. It is as glorious as all the manifold arrangements of our human life that are conformed to the regularities of natural law, to the seasonal changes, to the properties of matter, magnetism, electricity, chemical affinity, and so on. By the known properties of steam God prays men to make their boilers thick and strong; by the known properties of wood and iron he prays them to lay this way and not that their beams and rafters and the fair courses of those gleaming stones with which they build the habitations of their peace, the monuments and temples of their pride.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »