« PreviousContinue »
By their senses they
species in mental acuteness and intelligence. know their friends from their enemies, intuitively distinguish between what is proper and improper for their sustenance, and track their prey by the scent. With the same world open to them, and organs of sensation more acute than his, they ought to surpass man in intellectual acumen and thought. But so far from this being the case, their range of thought, or rather instinct, lies on a plane which has nothing in common with the higher developments of human intelligence. Scripture has truly said, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass the master's crib;" in other words, the knowledge of the irrational creation is limited to what concerns their physical welfare, the propagation of their kind, and the preservation of their species. Of the moral or even social problems, still more the questions relating to God, to heaven, or eternal life, they have no conception. The fidelity of the dog is altogether irrespective of the moral character of the master to whom he yields it, as the constructive instinct of the beaver is of the science of architecture, the government of the bee of the science of political or social economy, or the structure of its cells of the geometrical principles which impart strength and compactness to their form. Animals possess no capability of improving their own condition. Whatever improvement or amelioration is effected, whether in the species or their condition, is the work of man. The brute creation are not even sensible of the efforts that have been made to prevent the exercise of cruelty towards them, an object in which they are more deeply interested than any other.
These circumstances, contrasted with the human mind, its aspirations and habits of thought, point to the fact, that whilst man, by means of the physical senses which he possesses in common with animals, has access to the material universe, he has access likewise to a sphere which lies beyond the ken of the bodily senses, and into which consequently no mere physical nature can penetrate. It follows also that his spirit stands in a corresponding relation to that world and its phenomena as his body does to this. It has already been explained that the forces of that world, in common with all that pertains to it, are moral, or more properly spiritual. That world has its sun, the Sun of Righteousness; in other words, the Lord is the source of all that enlightens and animates the soul. The heat of that world is love, and its light is wisdom; and these emanate from the Lord as their fountain : "The sun shall be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be thine ever
lasting light, and thy God thy glory;" "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb was the light (or lamp) thereof." Whence it appears that the passages which speak of the Lord as the Light, the True Light, etc., are not a mere figure of speech, but declare the divine fact that the presence of the Lord fills heaven with an atmosphere of light and love, as the physical sun fills this universe with his rays.
The soul is organized in relation to the universe of spirit as is the body to that of matter. All the arcana of the one world are collated and epitomized in the spirit, as are those of the other in the body. That such is the case follows also from the consideration that the soul is capable of continual progression in love and wisdom; which it could not be were it not in plenary relation with that world, and through that world with the infinite source of these. Hitherto we have considered the relation of the soul and body to their respective worlds in their normal condition. But in an abnormal state of either the relations are disturbed. The eye, for instance, which when in health delights in, and is invigorated by, the return of light, when diseased suffers excruciating torture from its presence. The ear, which in its sound condition luxuriates in the harmonies of sound, when deranged can scarcely endure the slightest whisper. So also with the lungs. The air whereby, in a sound state, they are invigorated and refreshed, when disordered causes them to heave and gasp as if in the last extremity; and the heart, which in a state of health, equally and silently, by its systolic and diastolic action, propels the blood through the system, in a deranged condition labours and palpitates, as if ready to succumb under the effort. The same obtains with the spirit when in a state of disorder; the spiritual agencies whereby it received delight and happiness become intolerable to it. It shrinks from the light of divine truth, and immerses itself in an atmosphere of darkness which it creates around itself. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John iii. 19-21). The presence of God, in which, to the renewed soul, "there is fulness of joy," to the soul steeped in its own corruptions is the cause of unmitigated torment. Its cry is to the rocks to fall upon it, and cover and hide it from the
face of God. Neither can it live in the atmosphere of heaven, whose purity would cause it to gasp like a fish removed from its native element; whilst the pulses of heavenly life would jar upon its very being, and overwhelm it with the consciousness of its want of harmony with the great laws of heavenly being. Hence no sooner had Adam fallen into transgression than we read he hid himself from the Divine presence. The fact then of the existence of the disorders which prevail in the human character is a practical demonstration of the truth of the Scripture testimony of man having fallen-departed from the order in which he was created, and formed an abnormal condition in his soul, whereby its relationships with the economy of heavenly life have been inverted. We may say then with the Preacher, "Lo, this only have I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions" (Eccl. vii. 28).
Hence, too, arises the necessity of Regeneration taught in the Scriptures a spiritual birth whereby the soul is modelled anew into conformity with heavenly order, and restored to a harmonious relation with the economy of God's kingdom a new heart" to pulsate with heavenly affection; a new or "right spirit" to breathe the pure atmosphere of heavenly thought, in short, a "new man," built up after a heavenly model, and restored to the image of God which has been lost. This explains the declaration of the Lord, where He declares the kingdom of God cometh not with outward show,-lo here, or lo there, but the kingdom of God is within you.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL.
III. OUR DUTIES TO THE YOUNG.
BY THE REV. W. BATES.
I SHOULD like to see more efforts put forth to erect school buildings upon improved and model plans; and to see a school established wherever there is a society, no matter how small, for the smaller the society the stronger is the argument in favour of a school; and further, I would say, a school without a church rather than a church without a school. I believe that we might with advantage open mission or branch schools; for it is next to impossible for children to attend regularly and punctually, if at all, a school a mile or more distant from their homes. It would be much easier to take the school advantages to them, than to get them to one central school. The trifling
rent of a room, and a detachment of half a dozen enterprizing persons who loved and knew their work, would be quite sufficient to commence with. There is every probability that such efforts would flow back in astonishing success to the centre, and would in the end grow into distinct societies, and in their turn form new centres.
I should like to see persons more advanced in age and experience willingly come forward to lend their aid; for their presence and influence are more needed than may be generally supposed. And while I am on this point I should offer a word of advice to young teachers, who are in a large majority, that it is all-important that they should endeavour to well qualify themselves,-not only in knowledge but in manners, habits of life, and exemplary brotherly love one to another for the sacred work in which they are engaged, which is not less serious than that of a minister. And let there be no jealousy or strife for position in the school-ambitious to teach the first class or dislike to teach the last; for remember he is wisest who can teach the least. As the Rev. Mr. Potts once said to me when I occupied that honourable position, "It is the post of honour, Walter." Without detracting from the importance of anything else connected with Sunday schools, I would say that a thoroughly good new system, by which our doctrines could be taught in a simple, clear, yet comprehensive and forcible manner, is at the present time the greatest desideratum. Although a New Church, we have not yet devised a new system which shall be a complete channel for the conveyance of the new truths. I am led to think that, in some way or other, teaching by objects will be the way of the future; for who is not more instructed by seeing than by hearing descriptions? For instance, a well-spent week in London will inform a person incomparably more than years of reading about it, simply because the eye, which so evidently signifies the understanding, is the most direct way to the mind. We are accustomed to say that the science of correspondences is the key to understand all objects; but in true order are not objects themselves the voice of correspondences? "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard" (Psalm xix. 3).
Another point to which I would call your attention is the desireability of good vocal music being taught, for it helps immensely to heighten children's interest in the school, and draws out more particularly their affections, which are delightfully expressive in soft, sweet, well-timed singing. I conceive nothing to be so heaven-like as an immense choir of well-trained children singing and chanting the praises of our heavenly Father. Besides, their instruction in singing in the school prepares them for taking part in the service of the church, in which all ought to join as well as in the other parts of worship. If singing were well taught in our schools, that delightful part of worship might be more universally practised, and ultimately come up to my friend Mr. Moore's ideal-"Every worshipper should be a singer and every pew a choir."
There is one more special subject upon which I desire to offer a few
suggestions, namely, week evening entertainments. I am quite of opinion that we ought to provide amusement as well as solid instruction for our children-for our social life demands it; and who ought to supply it so sweet and pure as the church? Our Author says, "That there are diversions of charity, consisting of the various delights and pleasures of the bodily senses, which are of use for the recreation of the spirits." And that "there are various musical harmonies and songs which affect the spirits in correspondence with the affections; and decorous merriment which elates them."-(Doc. of Charity, 117.) We recognize all things which give true pleasure to be of use, when used in an orderly manner, and at proper times; but we know the subtlety of our natural desires, and the possibility there is of these things absorbing too much of our attention. We also know that there is too great a distinction between religion and secular things, and it is a common notion that religion and natural pleasures are enemies to each other.. We believe this to be a mistake, and we ought therefore to show that our religion is one which extends to the whole of life, and show the worldling that it is one which sanctifies everything pleasurable, and makes our life one embodied harmony of joys. The very reason why social pleasure should be connected with religion and our Sunday school is, because each requires the other to season it. But we should be most careful lest we pander to the taste for the sensational and ridiculous. Let us provide entertainments which shall be at once instructive and amusing. If this happy union be observed, the result will be true pleasure, and all will be enjoyed within the pale of the Church. The Church will encompass and sanctify everything, and enjoy a foretaste of that state which we think of and hope for, when we read "at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. xvi. 11). Few subjects require our serious consideration more than this.
You will observe that I have only sketched the leading points of this great subject. It appears to me that the Sunday school and its management offers abundant materials for inquiry and legislation. It is an institution worthy of an annual national teachers' meeting, and I feel confident that such an assembly of earnest persons would not meet to discuss its wants in vain. Now all the points upon which I have touched, appear to me to be parts of our special duty to the young, and there is little doubt that we should be rewarded in an increasing ratio if we only set about the doing of them with a will. But perhaps some people who would rather find fault than mend faults may say that they fail to see so much good in Sunday schools. Perhaps, in a very small degree, there may be grounds for thinking so, but the evidence on the whole is overwhelming to the contrary. As far as it may be true, however, may it not result from want of earnestness on the part of the teachers and assistance on the part of the parents? Whatever may be said against Sunday schools, this is certain, that they came into existence to meet the exigencies of the time when they were first established; and their success has ever been commensurate