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of the universe. Tempted of good are we, as well as by the bad, so tempted that the wonder is that anybody can be tempted by the power of lower things to take the lower road. As I think of the temptations to falseness, baseness, envy, mean and brutish sin, and, over against these, of the temptations to nobility and generosity, to purity and truth, to heroism and fidelity, I sometimes wonder that there is any badness in the world; that all are not enticed by the beseeching loveliness of virtue to abide forever in her house.
Tempted of God are we by all the tender and majestic beauty of the world. I thought I never saw the world so beautiful as it was last Monday,* as I went from here to Boston on the train. Partly it was no doubt by sense of contrast with our city streets with their mad rush for all those ugly, useless things with which the Christmas, time tempts the unwary purchaser; † partly in contrast with their evernarrowing dome of blue. A judicious critic at the Academy consoled himself with the reflection that the ladies "marching single in an endless file" before the pictures concealed nothing lovelier than themselves. That cannot be said of our elevated railways, nor even of the handsomest of the great commercial buildings and hotels by which we climb to heaven. But it was not by force of contrast only that my ride unrolled for me a panorama of unwearying delight. The beauty that engaged my eye and heart was not merely relative, but absolute. It was in "the volleying rain" that rattled on the windows of the car, making all manner of exquisite parabolas and intersecting lines. What is there meaner than a cinder in your eye? but how pretty those imprisoned in their several translucent drops and whirling round with ceaseless motion ! How curious to me! yet possibly, I thought, for one acquainted with the law of such relations, an illustration of those laws that keep the universe
*Dec. 7, 1891.
† Correcting the proof of my sermon after Christmas, I am reminded that there were many pretty, useful things also, and that even the ugliest were sometimes made most beautiful by the love that gave itself with them.
in time and tune. How beautiful, moreover, were the hurrying clouds, great masses of them, with outriders here and there posting across the sky! and how beautiful the leafless trees, so shapely in their naked strength and grace that I could not but wonder whether their beauty unadorned with summer's drapery was not adorned the most! At least, the absence of that drapery revealed the lovely contours of the hills, and its faded splendor embrowned the nooks and hollows with a tone more restful than June's flashing green; while, if my sense craved something of more positive tone, there was ever and anon the purple and the gold of grasses in the swamps and meadows and along the margin of the booming sea. What day of brightest sunshine could, I thought, compare with this!
The next day but one I had a chance to judge. There never was a brighter or a bluer day, the blueness of the overflowing streams paling, but shaming not, the blueness of the sky. Which was the lovelier,— the gray day or the gold? In truth, I have not yet made up my mind, and think I never shall. And what is the moral of the parable? That Nature is at any time more beautiful than words can say or heart can hold, when we come straight to her and look her fairly in the face. The great singer, questioned as to the most beautiful of operas or songs, replied, "The one I happen to be singing." So Nature's loveliest aspect is that which for the time she wears. And still I dally on the threshold of my inmost thought: Tempted of God are we by all the tender and majestic beauty of the world. Only a step, and I am safe within. For many times those days I found myself asking how it was possible for men to build against such skies and hills and by such shining streams such miracles of ugliness as were many of the structures housing their throbbing industries and their domestic peace or strife; * and many times, if not as many, I found myself making little psalms of gratitude to those who had so
*But housing oftentimes, I know, the energy which made the speed and comfort of my ride and spiritual things immeasurably pure and good.
wrought that their houses and their barns seemed but the sweet continuance of Nature's plan, so that she gladly gave them place, and granted them, if not an equal date with Andes and with Ararat, an equal date with century-growing trees and the alluvial hills. And then I thought, But what a little part of all the boundless beauty of the world is that which I have seen in these two days and along these two centuries and a half of homely landscape back and forth, and what are "the huts where poor men lie," the sumptuous villas of their rich relations, in comparison with the lives that poor and rich build up from earth to heaven? And, if the temptation of the beauteous world for all who build in wood or brick or stone is clear and strong to make their work so harmonize with Nature's plan that it shall not be a blot upon her loveliness, should not the temptation of God's world of beauty perfect and entire be irresistible for all men working in the imperishable materials of the intellectual and moral life to make their lives by their simplicity and sincerity, their noble forms of action, their lovely ornaments of art and song, worthy such fair and glorious environment as that in which they have been set? Our senses are, we hear, the posterns by which treacherous sins come in and spoil our heavenly city. "In my flesh," said the apostle, "dwelleth no good thing." But, however it may be with the other senses, is not that which is our bountiful purveyor of the vision of all fair and perfect things a splendid portal for the welcome of our best allies, a sally-port through which our nature's banded strength may stream to victory? So thought at least our Emerson, when he sang :
"Daily the bending skies solicit man,
The seasons chariot him from this exile,
The rainbow hours bedeck his glowing chair,
Tempted of God are we not only by the tender and majestic beauty of the world, but by the course of human
history, by the seal that course has set on all nobility of word and deed. "Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down!" the ancient psalmist prayed. But if He could, and walk our streets with us, and explain to us across our tables what he would have us do, I do not see how he could make any plainer than he has made by the course of history what are the things belonging to our peace. If the course of history does not show that the Power which is central to humanity is a Power that makes for righteousness, then is it altogether dumb. If the whole course is too stupendous for the imagination and the heart, detach from it any striking epoch,— that of the Commonwealth in England, that of our Revolutionary struggle, that of our anti-slavery struggle and our Civil War,- I do not see how men can read of such things and resist the strength of their temptation to the best and honorablest things. The other day I dipped into Green's "History of the English People" for some special fact in the last years of Elizabeth or the first of James. But I had trusted myself to a flood on which I was as helpless as if I had embarked above the rapids of Niagara and ventured out on their resistless tide. I was swept along from one decade to another with an ever quicker pulse and stormier heart, and at the end found myself asking how it was possible for men to read of such things and resist their impulse to the generous and brave and true. The question, “Can virtue be taught?" is one that Plato asked. "Not much," we answer him, "by formal precept; plentifully by the divine contagion of the high and true in literature and living men." To breathe an atmosphere of high nobility is to grow strong for the resistances and conquests of the moral life. And such an atmosphere bathes every height that marks the conflict of man's living spirit with the strength of old abuse and vested wrong.
But it is when the great movements of history centre in great personalities that they become the temptations of God to high nobility in the most obvious and impressive way.
It leaps up-oh, how much more proudly and rejoicingly! when we behold the splendors of heroism and fidelity and sacrifice that enrich the firmament of history. If we would not be led into temptation to right-doing stronger than we can resist, let us avoid, as wise men would the hopeless gate, the pages which recount the histories of good and noble men, not only those of brilliant action, but those of quiet thought,-friends and aiders of those who would live in the spirit. And what volume and momentum to the temptations of the highest to its height have been added by the printed book! I have seen many mottoes in men's libraries. One I have never seen, I think, would be the best: Seeing that we are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us." "As good almost kill a man," said Milton, "as a good book; for a good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life." How many such look down upon us from our shelves! Then most, it seems to me, the precious life-blood throbs in them when they make real for us the personality of the great and good. With such presences and helps,
"My heart leaps up when I behold
may be wilderness without,
But all men have not libraries about them, books on their shelves which clang like spear and shield to stir their pulses to a knightly temper and resolve; and all men do not know the course of history, and feel the force of its temptations to all truth and right. All this is so; but in the width of Christendom there are few who have not one book, the New Testament, which is the precious life-blood of one master