Page images

tered in the wind and were turned over with a great rustling, and we remember how the bass, baritone, tenor, contralto, and soprano voices commingled. They had for many days been rehearsing the special program that it might be worthy of the corner-stone laying. The music at the laying of corner-stones is always impressive.

In my text God, addressing the poet of Uz, calls us to a grander ceremony-the laying of the foundation of this great temple of a world. . The corner-stone was a block of light and the trowel was of celestial crystal. All about and on the embankments of cloud stood the angelic choristers unrolling their librettos of overture, and other worlds clapped shining cymbals while the ceremony went on, and God, the architect, by stroke of light after stroke of light, dedicated this great cathedral of a world, with mountains for pillars, and sky for frescoed ceiling, and flowering fields for floor, and sunrise and midnight aurora for upholstery. “Who laid the corner-stone thereof, when the morning stars sang together ?”

The fact is that the whole universe was a complete cadence, an unbroken dithyramb, a musical portfolio. The great sheet of immensity had been spread out and written on it were the stars, the smaller of them minims, the larger of them sustained notes. The meteors marked the staccato passages, the whole heavens a gamut with all sounds, intonations and modulations; the space between the worlds a musical interval, trembling of stellar light a quaver, the thunder a base clef, the wind among trees a treble clef. That is the way God made all things a perfect harmony.

But one day a harp-string snapped in the great orchestra. One day a voice sounded out of tune. One day a discord, harsh and terrific, grated upon the glorious antiphone. It was sin that made the dissonance, and that harsh discord has

[ocr errors]

been sounding through the centuries. All the work of Chris. tians and philanthropists and reformers of all ages is to stop that discord and get all things back into the perfect harmony which was heard at the laying of the cornerstone when the morning stars sang together.

Before I get through, if I am divinely helped, I will make it plain that sin is discord and righteousness is harmony. That things in general are out of tune is as plain as to a musician's ear is the unhappy clash of clarionet and bassoon in an orchestral rendering. The world's health out of tune; weak lung and the atmosphere in collision, disordered eye and noonday light in quarrel, rheumatic limb and damp weather in struggle, neuralgias and pneumonias and consumptions and epilepsies in flocks swoop upon neighborhoods and cities. Where you find one person with sound throat and keen eyesight and alert ear and easy respiration and regular pulsation and supple limb and prime digestion and steady nerves, you find a hundred who have to be very careful because this or that or the other physical function is disordered.

The human intellect out of tune; the judgment wrongly swerved, or the memory leaky, or the will weak, or the temper inflammable, and the well-balanced mind exceptional.

Domestic life out of tune; only here and there a conjugal outbreak of incompatibility of temper through the divorce courts, or a filial outbreak about a father's will through the surrogate's court, or a case of wife-beating or husband-poisoning through the criminal courts, but thousands of families with June outside and January within.

Society out of tune; labor and capital, their hands on each other's throats. Spirit of caste keeping those down in the social scale in a struggle to get up, and putting those who are up in anxiety lest they have to come down. No wonder the

old pianoforte of society is all out of tune when hypocrisy and lying and subterfuge and double-dealing and sycophancy and charlatanism and revenge have all through the ages been banging away at the keys and stamping the pedals.

On all sides there is a perpetual shipwreck of harmonies. Nations in discord without realizing it, so antipathetic is the feeling of nation for nation, that symbols chosen are fierce and destructive. In this country, where our skies are full of robins and doves and morning larks, we have for our national symbol the fierce and filthy eagle, as immoral a bird as can be found in all the ornithological catalogues. In Great Britain, where they have lambs and fallow deer, their symbol is the merciless lion. In Russia, where from between her frozen north and blooming south all kindly beasts dwell, they chose the growling bear; and in the world's heraldry a favorite figure is the dragon, which is a winged serpent, ferocious and dreadful.

And so fond is the world of contention that we climb out through the heavens and baptize one of the other planets with the spirit of battle and call it Mars, after the god of war, and we give to the eighth sign of the zodiac the name of the scorpion, a creature which is chiefly celebrated for its deadly sting. But, after all, these symbols are expressive of the way nation feels toward nation. Discord wide as the continent and bridging the seas.

I suppose you have noticed how warmly in love drygoods stores are with other drygoods stores, and how highly grocerymen think of the sugars of the grocerymen on the same block. And in what a eulogistic way allopathic and homeopathic doctors speak of each other, and how ministers will sometimes put ministers on that beautiful cooking instrument which the English call a spit, an iron roller with spikes on it, and turned


cords ascend from hell. All hatreds, feuds, controversies, backbitings, and revenges are the devil's sonata, are diabolic fugue, are demoniac phantasy, are grand march of doom, are allegro of perdition.

But if in this world things in general are out of tune to our frail ear, how much more so to ears angelic and deific. It takes a skilled artist fully to appreciate disagreement of sound. Many have no capacity to detect a defect of musical execution and, though there were in one bar as many offences against harmony as could crowd in between the low F of the bass and the high G of the soprano, it would give them no discomfort; while on the forehead of the educated artist beads of perspiration would stand out as a result of the harrowing dissonance.

While an amateur was performing on a piano and had just struck the wrong chord, John Sebastian Bach, the immortal composer, entered the room, and the amateur rose in embarrassment, and Bach rushed past the host who stepped forward to greet him, and before the strings had stopped vibrating put his adroit hands upon the keys and changed the painful inharmony into glorious cadence. Then Bach turned and gave salutation to the host who had invited him.

But worst of all is moral discord. If society and the world are painfully discordant to imperfect man, what must they be to a perfect God. People try to define what sin is. It seems to me that sin is getting out of harmony with God, a disagreement with his holiness, with his purity, with his love, with his commands; our will clashing with his will, the finite dashing against the infinite, the frail against the puissant, the created against the Creator.

If a thousand musicians, with flute and cornet-a-piston and trumpet and violincello and hautboy and trombone and all the wind and stringed instruments that ever gathered in a Düssel

« PreviousContinue »