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their reading is so Lilliputian. It is the dwarfing of many a son that his parents lay on him no duties and responsibilities. It is the belittling of many a business man that he sees nothing nobler than money. And so some Vanderbilt dies worth his scores of millions ; he dies, and who cares? It is the pitiable condition of many a fine lady that she never thinks of anything but her laces and her jewelry, her presents and her parties, and the endless replenishing of her wardrobe ; and so the capacity of her soul grows smaller than that of the little thimble that she never wears.
It is the great misfortune of a church when it hears from the pulpit nothing but prattle and small talk, instead of the high truth of God whereby Christ declares that his Church is to be sanctified.
In some degree from amidst the same scenes may draw either food or poison. The most distracting household cares may be dignified by thoughts of duty and of God in them; and she that has those thoughts, whether mistress or maid, is a true woman. The pettifogger and the judge may explore the same laws, the one on the track of paltry quirks, the other of broad principles; and the one grows smaller and the other greater as long as they live. As David's gaze swept over Judæa and the cattle upon a thousand hills, where those cattle, and perhaps their owners too, saw nothing but the green grass, David saw the glory and goodness of God. And if he had not, then had we never heard of David or his song. The illiterate Bedford tinker lay twelve years in Bedford jail. Instead of reading
there only those blank stone walls, he pondered and dreamed over the matchless volume of divine inspiration, and from that education sprang the marvelous allegory which fascinates the Scotch peasant and the nursery child, extorts the admiration of Cowper and Southey and Johnson and Macaulay, and is steadily making its Pilgrim's Progress through the languages of the world.
Contact with the highest thoughts and influences makes the highest training. But the highest of all conceptions are those that are of the great God : his being, his law-giving, his loving, his planning, his working, his redeeming — incomprehensible in full, yet expanding every power and capacity, as man stretches himself toward their infinity. Accordingly it is not theory but fact that these themes have laid deeper, firmer hold on human hearts than all other themes together. So when God sent Moses to the children of Israel he gave him this text, “I AM THAT I AM”; thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, “I AM hath sent me unto you”; God eternal, God self-existent, God unchangeable, God self-contained, and God self-revealing in all the fullness of infinite love and patience, — this transcendent theme, itself unfathomable, was yet to fathom all the depths of man.
It is upheaving the world. Do we ever wonder what gave such success to the career of Mohammed ? It was the sudden breaking in of certain great live truths upon a mass of petty mummeries and falsehoods. There was a widespread Oriental Christianity of silver crosses and wax candles,
priestly robes, picture idols, and saints' bones. In upon these wretched puerilities burst a strong man all aglow with the idea of the one great God, his living presence and resistless will — Alla-hu-akhbar, -“God is great ”; and it swelled in the great vein on Mohammed's forehead and rode forth on the white horse of “Taric the one-eyed,” and gleamed on the scimiter of Saladin, and pealed from every minaret, till a hundred and eighty millions had yielded to its sway. By the intense positiveness and brightness of its one central truth it swept all before it. Now that it too has become a formalism and a pure Christianity has met it, the crescent is waning before the real cross. Its main strength now in its chief stronghold is the power of the sword.
A great truth incarnated is concentrated power — the true lever that moves the world. It has grown to be a fashion in certain quarters to decry theology. Never was a more empty clamor. Theology — what is it? It is the doctrine of God. And who or what is God but the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things, the concentration of all that is great and good and glorious and lovely? And next to God himself the strongest thing in this world of ours is the doctrine that is from God and of God, springing to life in human souls. Yet under this shallow drift of thought, how many a worshiper could almost say like the Indian chief to Sir John Franklin, “ I am an old man and have never seen God,” or could even go to his religious teacher and say as those Greeks to Philip, “Sir, we would see
Jesus.” For these themes are not to be dispatched by uttering the two words “God” and “Christ.” They are momentous realities to be not only seen, but contemplated and studied and felt in this light and that light and the other light before we know them or adore them or love them as they are. A man does not take in Niagara as he rides over the Suspension Bridge on a railway train, though he might in a sense say he had “seen the whole thing.” He must go to it, and spend hours upon it, from Table Rock and from under the sheet, from the one side and from the other, from the bottom and from the top; he must sail up to its foot in a little steamer and cross below in a little rowboat, and toil up the banks; he must lie there by the hour and watch the waters as they come pouring and incessantly pouring. He must let his imagination loose and seem to see them pouring through the ages past and the generations to come, before he comprehends this one of the far-off workings of the great God. Much more is God himself to be contemplated, and pondered, and gazed upon, till, beholding as in a glass the glory of God, we are changed into the same image. So did Edwards ponder the whole character of God as he walked back and forth day after day in the grove at Northampton, or rose by night to minute down his deep thoughts of his Maker, till he seemed to himself like a "little flower opening its blossoms to drink in the light of the sun." And such he was.
. But he was more -- the giant oak of his day. Those disclosures of God, the great "doctrines of grace" on which he
loved to think and to speak, and to which he gave his life, irradiated his soul, built up his strength, and made him a man of power who left his mark more deeply stamped for a century on the church of America than any other uninspired man. The profoundest thought was the ally of the highest piety. The Church has seen three other men of gigantic might and molding power since the apostles - Augustine, Luther, Calvin. They too were men who reveled in great principles. These were the rod of their strength and the wand of their magic. No uninspired man, perhaps, has by his preaching led more souls to heaven than George Whitefield. But of Whitefield says President Edwards, who knew and heard him, that certain vital truths or doctrines, which he specifies, were his “darling subjects,” which, says another of his hearers, he seldom omitted from a single discourse; and which he turned all blazing on men's hearts till they melted down. Thus he became a son of thunder and a son of consolation, whom neither bishops nor brickbats could overthrow. A strong man standing for eternal principles is a man who cannot be suppressed. A church that is filled and vitalized with God's word in all its breadth of scope is armed with that which He himself has said is sharper than a two-edged sword.
Few classes of men have so exhibited the power of daily contact with the highest themes as those men whose lingering influence, after the lapse of two centuries, so disturbed the peace of the slaveholder, and at whom small men of the secular press still keep up