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At first, his performance will perhaps occasion a smile; but the instance will be found to be an example of that suggestive power which we have ascribed to his sentences. “Man," he says, “is a tool-using unimal.” Infinitely weak in himself, and in physical powers inferior, in various respects, to most animals, yet he can invent, form, and use tools. The very simplest tool being “such as no brute has, or can have.” Well does he add, “ Without tools he is nothing ; with tools he is all.”
The thought may seem an odd one ; but it is one that will bear reflection. It is as important as it is true. Let the reader begin to think of the wide range of machinery, from the spade to dig the ground, the hatchet to cut the tree, the bow and arrow to overtake the deer in his speed, to fetch down the bird in its flight, to the steam-engine ; and when he has thus before him the power of man to increase and multiply his power by the invention and formation of machines, let him say whether the definition, “ tool-using animal” is a mere play on words, an amusing truism.
He quotes Chrysostom, who says, “ The true SHEKINAH is man.” He thus, without intending it, furnishes another and a far higher definition. Man is what the temple, with its appointed services, was. The temple was not complete without that for which it was made and prepared,—the divine presence in the innermost sanctuary, the holy of holies. What would the temple have been, turned into a mere dwelling-house, even though that dwelling had been the palace of a great Monarch? A mass of incongruities. Such is man without any religion at all. He is never found thus but in the lowest state of degradation. There is the architecture of his physical frame; but, for want of an object, his mental constitution has many of its chief faculties undeveloped. His ordinary state, when without the true God, is that of idolatry. Sometimes idols that his hands have made; thus, manifestly, his inferiors. His religion thus carries falsehood on its very front. Shall the maker worship the work of his own hands? The living man the carved piece of wood or stone, the melted and shaped mass of metal ? Sometimes it is a mental conception, perhaps framed out of a fragment of history, a Jupiter. Nay, the ancients went beyond this. Their own devisings declared the true nature of idolatry, without intending it. Mere mental conceptions, virtues, vices, had names given to them; proving that man's heart can give religious honours to such objects as these ; and that the Bible declared a literal truth, without any figure, when it said, “Covetousness is idolatry.” When the old Pagans worshipped Plutus, they only gave a name to the wealth that they adored ; and their practice proved the real meaning of the deification of Venus and Mars. Man is never right, as man, except when the true God is present in his sanctuary, the Shekinah on the mercy-seat, sprinkled with the expiatory blood of the true sacrifice. When the temple is duly inhabited, and the temple-services properly performed, the mystery of man is explained, the wants of man are in progress towards full supply, the restoration of man is plainly begun, plainly advancing.
The following passage has all the eccentricity of Mr. Carlyle's wonted mode of speech; but it is as justly conceived, as it is strongly expressed. Even youth is aware of the existence of the feeling. Manhood knows it well. Happy they who have learned why it was implanted in them, and what direction to give to it. This question answered, man may understand himself, and the true business of life; and because the Bible does answer it, that beautiful description of the evangelical revelation is given to us; it is the Day-Spring from on high shining around us, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
“A nameless unrest urged me forward: whither should I go? Yet forward must I. There was no rest for the sole of my foot, I was alone, alone. A feeling I had, that for my fever-thirst there was, and must be, somewhere, a healing fountain. To many fondly-imagined fountains, the saints' wells of those days, did I pilgrim ; to great men, to great cities, to great events; but found there no healing. Nevertheless, still forward! I felt as if in great haste, to do I saw not what. From the depths of my own heart, it called to me, Forward!”
How truly does the Bible meet man even here, in the most
exigent quality of his nature. Ages ago, David had elucidated this whole subject. The true philosophy of the summum bonum, which neither Plato nor Cicero could explain, and that is as much as to say that it was inexplicable by man, is explained in the opening stanzas of one of the most beautiful lyric poems ever written, (Psal. Ixiii.,) “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” Well might he add, " Thus will I bless thee while I live. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness." Yes; there is a voice in man which ever cries, “Forward!” a power which continually urges him on. But there is another voice heard, a voice from the sanctuary. Does the voice in man cry, “Forward ?” and does man ask, “ Whither?” The lively oracles give the reply, and that reply is, “ To God.” This alone might prove the divine origin of the religion of the Bible. The religions of Paganism do not even pretend to answer the cry. They left the task to the philosophers. The Bible is the only book which undertakes to tell thirsty man where are the rivers of living water for which his whole nature inquires. Here, the very dream is explained, and its true interpretation. Whole volumes of the highest wisdom are found in the brief sayings which this book, and only this book, teaches us to utter, “ Thou WANTEST God!” “Tuou MAYEST FIND HIM IN Christ!”
In another short sentence he points out a fact which, the moment we truly perceive its meaning, illustrates another beautiful adaptation between the Bible and human nature. “Man is, properly speaking, based upon hope; he has no other possessions but hope; this world of his is, emphatically, the place of hope.” Truer than perhaps the writer at the moment thought. Our God is “the God of hope ;” our Saviour, “the hope set before us." Among the gifts of God is, “ a lively hope ;” “a good hope through grace.” Nay, the faculty itself, properly instructed and directed, is consecrated into an integral part of inward and abiding religion : this consists not only in faith and love, but, likewise, in hope.. We will only add another sentence to the present paper. It is keenly sarcastic, but it is most true. Its brief expression embodies a large and powerful argument to which it would be well if all who are assailed by the mocking and destructive infidels of the day would give their serious attention. Addressing Voltaire, whose true character he evidently understood, he thus speaks: “ Wilt thou help us to embody the divine Spirit of that” (Christian) “religion in a new Mythus, in a new vehicle and vesture, that our souls, too like perishing, may live? What? Thou hast no faculty in that kind? Only a torch for burning, and no hammer for building ? Take our thanks, and thyself, away."
Yes; this is all that the prince of modern infidels could do. Torches he and his followers had; but even the torches could not make daylight. Torches for burning! As for building, the whole party could not muster a single hammer amongst them all. They could destroy: they could not construct. There is more light in the very shadows of pure day, than in all the blaze of their torches and conflagrations. Even in the deep obscurity of Popery, he who will use his eyes, may perceive the difference between what is shadow and what is light. It was this which, by God's blessing, guided Luther into the position which made him a reformer. The genuine direction of Voltairism may be shown by two words. Voltaire was a scholar, a poet, a man of elegance and refinement. And (borrowing an allusion from the Hindoo transmigration scheme) when his spirit had done its work, the next body in which it appeared, was the poor, wretched ribald, Tom Paine. From Voltaire to Tom Paine!!!
SENTENCES FOR REFLECTION. Ir thou art wise, thou wilt contract the subjects, both of thy joys and thy fears : and it will be time and pains well spent so to abate the one, that thou mayest likewise diminish the other.*
* Provided always they refer to secular objects. founded, is not applicable to spiritual concerns.
The remark thus well
Thy life ought not to be taken up in empty impertinencies and fantastical ideas, but in useful practice. Wisdom is the result of experience, and experience of repeated acts.
When thou receivest injuries, if thou art a good man, thou wilt be more concerned for the malice of thy adversary than for thy own wrongs; and wilt sooner be moved to compassion than anger.
Books and study teach only generals; experience informs us in particulars, and giveth us the best and only useful knowledge; and it is multitude of years only that can make thee experimentally and truly wise.
It will much tend to thy peace to be silent of others, and not to believe promiscuously all that is said, nor easily to report what thou hast heard, nor to lay thyself open to many.
Words of scandal are but words; they fly through the air, but hurt thee not, unless thou receivest them. In short, if thou be guilty, be willing to amend ; if thou be innocent, resolve to suffer.
When the last hour shall come, thou wilt have a far different notion and opinion of things, and of thy whole life that is past; and be exceeding sorry, but all in vain, that thou hast been so remiss and careless.
So great a part of the comfort of life depends upon a man's good correspondence with those that are near about him, that I think thou canst not love thyself unless thou lovest thy neighbour also.
When there is no recreation or business for thee abroad, then mayest thou have a company of honest old fellows in leathern jackets in thy study, which may find thee excellent divertisement at home.
I would have thee have understanding, but not a flux at the mouth. Too much reasoning looks like jangling. If thou hast a solid judgment, thou wilt reason no more than what is fit.
Trust not presumptuously to thy repentance and resolution of amendment: nature will sometimes lie buried a great while, and yet revive upon occasion of a temptation.
When thou doest a kindness, do it frankly before it be