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the current of life. The flower will not blast the eye that rests upon its beauty, nor is the innocent life ever poisoned by the flowery mead which it crops. Childhood, fresh from God, has not the aspect of a stained and withered nature, wearied by the world's excitement and worn out by its work. And childhood as innocent as it looks; the facts of the case and their appearance are one and the same. elements proverbially called uncertain, never really deceive. They enter into no covenant with man, nor ever pledge themselves to abstain from injury and harm. He launches his vessel richly laden upon the bosom of the ocean, but the sea enters into no compact to bear it safely to its distant port. The winds may woo it kindly and waft it gently, or tear down its mast and dash its strong timbers against the rock. The ruined merchant may look with saddened eye upon the wreck of his venture, but he cannot say that by the elements he has been deceived. The laws of the universe are the records of truth. Thus the Creator is training us by an outward world of beauty and order for that inward beauty and truth which appeal to no sense, and which in their development perfect the harmony which should ever subsist between the outward and the inward life.
But, further, sin wrongs the soul because it robs it of its strength. All strength lies in proportion and harmony. Sin gives a liberty to passion and an indulgence to evil inclination which are incompatible with the health of man's moral nature. The balance is disturbed, the self-directing power is vitiated, and even the vision of the calm-seeing intellect is dimmed. How clearly is all this brought out to us by facts! See the weakness of Peter when he has denied his Master : he is one moment a stormy blusterer, and the next a stricken, weeping penitent; and in both cases exhibits for our instruction a moral feebleness which proclaims a clipped and shorn humanity.
And does not daily life exhibit the feebleness of all wrongdoing? Look at the untruthful man,— listen to the tones of his voice,-and in word and deed you will alike find wanting the genuine strength of our nature. He who walks in the simplicity of truth can meet any eye, and feels that nothing gives so much strength as being genuine, thorough, and true. As an influence upon other minds that is to last and to effect any great work, goodness is indispensable. It is a great moral law, for which we cannot be too thankful, that to do good we must be good. In vain will any one seek permanently to influence mankind, who carries with him the enfeebling element of wrong-doing-who is swayed by no lofty purpose, sustained by no warmth of heart, nor made tender and gentle by the qualifying influence of human sympathy. The selfish, the cunning, the vacillating, may for a time deceive and mislead the simple and the over-trusting, who have more feeling than perception ; but there is sure to come a time when the soul's light will break forth, when a reaction will seize the minds of the mistaken and the misled; and then the spell is broken, the charm is destroyed, and the betrayed soul looks around for something genuine and true upon which it may lean for strength in the hour of its weakness. Our true life is rooted in virtue; and to seek for strength in any other source is to expect the nightshade to do the work of the sunlight, and the hard and impenetrable rock to be covered with an ample and luxuriant harvest. Of practical Wisdom it has been said, “Let her not go; for she is thy life.” Goodness is the root from which all social virtue should spring, and makes a man potent in all social relations. It is rewarded in the father by obedient children ; in the master, by faithful servants ; in the citizen, by the weight which is attached to his words of counsel ; in the statesman, by the confidence of a great people; in the Christian pastor, by a reverential listening to his words, and a grateful reception of his admonitions and instructions. In all these cases we clearly see that goodness is strength.
It may seem almost superfluous to add, that sin wrongs the soul, because it robs it of its highest happiness. There can
be no happiness without peace ; there can be no peace with wrong-doing. The wicked are like a troubled sea that cannot rest. Peace alone, however, is not happiness, though an indispensable adjunct. There must be progress, there must be growth, there must be a succession of moral developments, or there is not the happiness of a spiritual nature. And if there be the misery of sin, where does the cloud settle, where does the tempest fall, but upon the soul of the sinner? What a strange combination do we see in the same universe and under the same moral sceptre ! How bright and clear are the heavens; how sweet and fresh the vernal season! What melody is raining from the sky; what beauty glows in the light! With what certainty does the young life spring forth, and nature lie basking in the smile of her Author! The blessedness of Deity lies far beyond the reach of mortal sin. The Divine repose cannot be disturbed. The Governor of ten thousand worlds is, amid all fluctuation, without variableness or shadow of turning. And when the death-bell smites our ear,—when the curse of blasphemy is heard,—when the sinful deed is done,— when guilty passion breaks loose, — the Infinite Spirit is not touched; humanity alone is wronged.
“YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.”
BY REV. G. VANCE SMITH, B.A.
MATTHEW V. 45 :
"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
It is the language of some popular creeds that man in his natural state is altogether alienated from God, the child of sin, having an instinctive tendency to what is evil, and requiring the special interposition of the Divine Spirit itself, before he can be released from this wretched condition of native godlessness. It is not easy to see how they who hold this belief can reconcile the undoubted facts of human history with such a declaration. If we can make
any broad and general statement at all respecting the early and natural tendencies of man, it surely is, that, amidst all his wickedness and ignorance, he is a religious being; that the one most earnest longing of his heart has, in all ages, been to find out God : and though, in his efforts to attain some knowledge of the Invisible One, and to bring himself into harmonious relations with Him, he often presents us with the spectacle of the most miserable superstition, or even of the grossest crime, yet all this only proves, in reality, the very depth and intensity of the primitive sentiment, and shews us that, in obedience to its dictates, he is not unwilling to sacrifice even what may be best and dearest to him of his earthly possessions.
It is manifestly impossible for a nature like man's to exist upon this earth, without the accompanying thought of the great Power, or Powers, which lie behind visible things, and give to them their order and life, and effect in them their phenomena of growth and change. We are so constituted, that, as the mind awakes into the conscious possession of life and intelligence, there comes, simultaneously, the feeling of dependence on some vast, unknown, mysterious Being, whatever name may be given to it, whatever qualities or attributes it may be conceived to possess, and whether it be thought of as existing in one or in many forms. Such, analyze and explain it as you will, is the law of our nature; and such, we may add, is the strength and universality of that witness of Himself which the Creator has implanted in the hearts of all men.
But yet, let us carefully observe, in thus admitting the fundamental importance of the primitive sense of God, which is in this
up with our mental nature, we must not forget that the positive knowledge which it gives us is not of a very definite or very exalted character. I mean, that the tendency of man's nature which leads him to God does not, in the first instance, yield him any actual knowledge of the Supreme which is in itself perfectly true, or sufficient for the growing demands of his intellectual and moral powers.
To the illustration of this statement let us here devote a brief space; as well as to the question, from what sources will better light and knowledge mainly proceed.
Very slight consideration will shew us that the most different ideas of God, of His government and character, have actually existed, and do exist, among men. Indeed, it must be apparent that the truth and purity of religious knowledge will always be dependent, in the most important degree, on the state of general and scientific knowledge among any people. If the latter be of a low, imperfect character, so will the former; if, on the contrary, it be extensive and accurate,