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been tested by a wide experience in all ages, lands, and conditions, that surely is good. If, still further, it be something that in all its course has shown its purifying and elevating power; if its individual trophies are numbered by myriads and millions, and its benign effects permeate society; if it be such that a full conformity to it would make a pure, yea, a perfect being and a perfect society, — that must be good, supremely good. It bears the image and superscription of God. It is bound up with the transcendent interests of humanity. It is the supreme law of our being, towering over all speculations, difficulties, or objections. In spite of everything — question, cavil, temptation — we are bound to hold it fast with the whole energy of mind and heart.
IV. The legitimate issue, when we have thus proved and held fast, will be "that which is good."
No doubt there will come many a reversal of popular opinions and current estimates. A good sifting leaves more chaff than wheat. There are fashions in speculations as much as in clothes. A French modiste sets the one, and perhaps a German the other. The multitude follows its leader. But time tests all things. The speculative craze passes by. Kant, Fichte, and Hegel, each had his day and his following. The peculiar Darwinism of Darwin had to be changed before he died. Pessimism has charms for the bad, and doubtless to the bad it will go. What mountains of hypotheses are buried deeper than the fossils of the Tertiary - extinct species ! Some of them were deinotheriums, "dreadful beasts," long ago stone dead. Others of formidable size, mastodons of speculation, perished in the general freeze. Clumsy dodos flopped and hobbled round the old Dutch navigators, and great auks of science flew away within the memory of man. Doubtless there are plenty more to follow the trail of the departing buffalo. And how the latest form of speculation commonly splits into schools! Yet all these testings of error bring us nearer to the truth.
For amid all the risings and the fallings, the comings and the goings in the empire of thought, there is one thing that stands the test, that holds fast on its way, and is to be held fast to the end : “good” in every way, sustained by the evidence of the ages, tested by the experience of the world, purifying and ennobling wherever it has gone. I need not tell you what it is. On the open plane of evidence it has stood the test of nigh two thousand years, under every conceivable form of attack, from the great concentering batteries of the heaviest ordnance down to the sword and spear, the hand grenade, the tomahawk and scalping knife. It stands unshaken. Its multitudinous spires, pointing upward to their origin, are steadily belting the earth, and its facts and influences have become factors in all modern civilization. The anti-Christian lecturer in the date of his announcements must commemorate the birth year of Christ.
As matter of experiment, its witnesses rise up through the ages past; they come thronging from all parts of the globe, from the Malagasy, the Choctaw, the Hawaiian, in the lowest sphere of life, to Faraday, Miller, and Brewster on the heights of science. It can show more trophies rescued from vice in a year than any other influence through the annals of history; more men lifted to the height of generous, magnanimous, and thankless self-abnegation, a myriadfold, than all other forces together. There is no range of thought or action or life which has not been touched and quickened by its light and life giving power. What it has done for the family and the home and its presiding genius, who needs to be told again? How piteous is the protest of a noble lady (Mrs. Lathbury) against the hardening effects of agnosticism on her sex! Who would have for his mother, his wife, his sister, an open repudiator of the gospel of Christ ? God in mercy forbid ! For its effect on the vitality and well-being of society in its various relations, look around on the Christian Protestant nations and behold the monument. Where else have scientific investigations fully fourished? And the spirit of liberty under which all else has found shelter, have not Hume and Macaulay and Hallam and Froude and Guizot told us whence it came? Of the relation of Christianity to sound learning as seen in the origin of the old universities, the modern colleges, and the American free school system – why repeat the ofttold tale? When the arts of civilized life have grown and flourished in Christian states, who is it that by devoted lives of toil and self-denial have conveyed these, and the comforts of living — to say no
Spencers, your Haeckels and Bastians, Tyndalls, Huxleys, Cliffords? I doubt whether the world can show a dozen instances in which the men of this stamp have lifted a finger in the good work except for pay. It has been left for the missionary of the cross to carry, not alone the gospel, but all good things else, for the life that now is, as well as that which is to come.
This same divine Word has furnished to man his highest ideals : of the true freedom, consisting in the fullest ascendency of reason and law; of the true heroism, that conquers self; of the true benevolence, which lives in the welfare of others, and has filled the world with its fruits. In the Roman empire in the time of Trajan I trace but one charitable institution — though there may have been others — an orphan asylum maintained by Pliny; in the one city of London, years ago, there could be counted up three hundred.
How the brightness of the gospel spreads beyond the range of spiritual life alone, and tips all things with its light! It has furnished the highest sphere of human attainment, and even the noblest range for human genius. Except in sculpture, high art has reached the goal chiefly under its inspiration. What are the themes that have called out the triumphs of the painters, masterpieces of Angelo, Raphael, Da Vinci, Guido, Rubens, Titian, Tintoretto, Domenichino, - but sacred themes ; - Madonnas, Magdalens, prophets, martyrdoms, the Adoration, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Deposition, the Last Judgment? In the realm of music, what has ever so profoundly evoked human
genius, or filled the human heart, as the great oratorios; — the Messiah, the Creation, Elijah, Saul, Israel in Egypt? And where have been embodied the grandest conceptions of architecture, but in the great cathedrals, as at Cologne, Florence, Milan, Strasburg, Rome?
Poetry has here attained its noblest possibilities. We will say nothing now of Dante, Milton, Spenser, Wordsworth, or the hymns of the ages. Grant that Shakespeare is not a religious poet, and that you can scarcely guess whether Catholic or Protestant. But it has been well said by Shairp: “The light by which he viewed life was the light of Christianity. The shine, the shadow, and the color of the moral world he looked upon were all caused or cast by the Sun of Righteousness.” Were such characters as Macbeth or Hamlet, Lear or Wolsey, or Imogen, Cordelia, Ophelia, possible to Æschylus in Athens ? How his Brutus, Portia, and even great Cæsar, swell beyond the dimensions of the Roman empire !
Here too alone are found the ideals of the perfect manhood, and, with whatever shortcomings, the steady progress toward it.
Count up easily all the truly great characters beyond the range of revealed religion. But within that range, where begin and where end ? Abandoning all attempt to speak of the gentle or noble or heroic personages of the later Christianity, when we turn to the sacred volume, and make all deductions for their faults, what colossal characters confront our eyes ! I see the great Friend of God walk forth from Haran and move through Palestine, mighty in his matchless