« PreviousContinue »
age to that of entire self-dependence and responsibility; when the wide world opens before him with its boundless horizon, and from its infinite possibilities he is to choose once for all his unknown path. We know it, for we have passed through it, and felt, mingling with the excitement and the hope, the solicitudes also that will come at times in view of the solitary struggle. The question now lies before you, and each of you, whether your departure hence shall be a going up or a coming down. And that hinges on the further question, with what agencies you cast in your lot; whether or not your lives are identified with what is good and lovely and true and holy. Choose then your position on the side of every righteous cause, of every high principle, of every right measure, of every benign enterprise. Calmly and firmly maintain your loyalty to these things without fear or anxiety. Standing on the height where the old patriot stood, you may say to each baser appeal, each paltry ambition, each seductive snare, and each petty strife, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down to you."
You need not much concern yourselves then for your position or estimation. They will take care of themselves. You will find your level. . You shall reap as you sow. No one can greatly harm you but yourself. He that is intangible shall be intact. Nehemiah grandly reared his massive wall; Sanballat and Geshem gnashed their teeth and passed away.
Make your whole life a good work. Let every legitimate joy and pleasure find a place therein, but let all be chastened by the deep undertone of sober earnest.
Above all, rouse yourselves to the noble ambition of doing good, and reap the blessedness of being a blessing. Lift your eyes to the height of the occasions and the breadth of the opportunities in these stirring times. In your riches of ability or influence or wealth, learn the privilege of laying largely on the altar of Christ; or in your poverty of all these, bestow like one who gave more than they all, because she gave from the full heart. So may your lives flow happily along. Return hither from time to time, three, or ten, or thirty, or fifty years hence, able to say: “I have been doing a great work and have not come down"; or, perchance, before that time stand before the throne of God saying, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”
PROVE AND HOLD FAST.
BACCALAUREATE SERMON, JUNE 20, 1880.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. — -1 THESSALONIANS 5:21. TO “prove
“prove” is here, as often, to put to the proof, to
test. Thus “I go to prove them”; “believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits.” The injunction of the text is a word for the times, as well as for all times. It presents to us the liberty, “all things,” the obligation, “prove,” the condition, “ hold fast,” the legitimate issue, “that which is good,” of putting things to the proof.
I. The liberty of putting to the proof. It is universal. “ Prove all things " is the word. We live in an open world. There is no Bluebeard's chamber in God's universe. As divine Providence says, “What will you have? pay for it and take it,” so it adds : “What will you know ? search for it and find it.” For thousands of years God's book of Nature has been waiting with her pages wide open, saying, “Come and see." She said it to those who having eyes saw not ; who would see neither how the fire burned nor how the dewdrop formed, that the glacier crept or that the great earth dashed along. But when the seer came, a Priestley, a Wells, a Tyndall, or a Copernicus, she frankly told him her open secret. From her own resources she has even lent him the possible combination whereby he could vastly supplement the narrow limit of his imperfect senses, and has kindly set such a mark on the elements themselves that he may recog. nize by its own distinctive lines the hydrogen of the distant star.
Nature lures us on to the investigation by the marvelous order that makes investigation possible. It offers itself as no chaos but a cosmos. The reign of chance or disorder would make rational inquiry useless and science hopeless. But now rational system reigns through the universe, and on that supposition and that fact alone science takes her stand. The mind that feels and gropes its way along the line of inquiry is but feebly following the lead of the vaster Mind that made and arranged it all; and every successful struggle of the finite spirit to seize the clew is evidence of the infinite Spirit whose mighty thought it disentangles and faintly apprehends. Rational science of the creation were a chimera but for a rationally framed creation. Man stammeringly spells out the ancient record of God. His only obstacles are his own indifference, indolence, haste, and presumption.
In like manner God's Book and all its contents are open to fair and honest investigation. It is not only open, it is exposed. Its utterances through the centuries lie along conterminous with the lines of secular history, physical research, and metaphysical and moral science. God himself claims supreme love on the ground that he deserves it. No man's heart ever submitted to God but his reason and conscience had submitted first. Abraham was suffered reverently to ask: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” God says : "Come now, and let us reason together.” Christ answered the inquirer: “Come and see," and the disciple next day told the doubter also: “Come and see.” Christ's reply to John's disciples was: “Go ... and tell John the things which ye do hear and see”; and to his enemies he frankly said : "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not "; and again, “ If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin.” He once even condescended to submit his person — the spear wound and the nail prints
to the scrutiny of his moody follower; although I have always persuaded myself that the disciple did not subject him to the useless indignity.
It has always been true that “the entrance of his word giveth light,” intellectual as well as moral. From the bottom of the scale to the top, it has been a stimulant of active thought. Scores of races owe their illumination and their whole literature to the missionary of the cross, and many more than a hundred languages have been first reduced to writing to convey the word of God. In the gardens of Christianity not only have the highest forms of thought been quickened to life and kept in bloom, but in its peaceful bowers alone has science achieved its modern triumphs. The sunlight it radiates on every hand becomes in due time so surely and so widely diffused that all attempts, whether of king or pope or people, to arrest the process at some given point have been in vain. Yet the real martyrs of science have been few indeed. All