Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

experience that responds to what I have affirmed, if you have always been so just and pure and kind that you have no regret or shame whose energy you can transmute into heroic purpose, into stern resolve, into a high devotion and a holy will, it is still possible that you may bring to those less fortunate, if they are so, a generous expectation that shall cooperate with what is best in them in saving them from what is worst.

Said I not truly, then, that whether or not we have in these relations of the moral life a natural law extended into spiritual things, we have at least a wonderful analogy, and one that is of various suggestion all compact? Wide is the range of illustration. The energy of disappointment and despair produced by limitation and defect, the energy of sorrow for our dead, of hopeless passion and of ruinous loss, the energy of noble shame for good things left undone and ill things done, all this can be transmuted into energy of use and good and helpful holiness, as certainly as light and heat and electricity and magnetism and chemical affinity and mechanical force can be transmuted into each other. It is a gospel of deliverance, of hope and cheer. It cannot be but that it has for some of you, has or will have some day, a meaning answering to your need. Let this great law which has so many illustrations have unimpeded scope in the economy of your joy and sorrow, peace and pain. So good shall come, if not straightway, or evidently to you at any time, yet soon or late to some one in God's world.

"Not out of any cloud or sky

Will thy good come to prayer or cry.
Let the great forces, wise of old,
Have their whole way with thee,
Crumble thy heart from its hold,
Drown thy life in the sea.

"And ages hence, some day,
The love thou gavest a child,
The dream in a midnight wild,
The word thou would'st not say,-
Or in a whisper no one dared to hear,-

Shall gladden earth and bring the golden year."


"The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart ;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows,-
The happy days unclouded to their close,
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows.
White as the gleam of a receding sail,

White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are,- a Fairy Tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream."

We all have such holidays. The 11th of September is one of mine. It brings back to me the day I went away from home to school for the first time in 1857, and the day of my first preaching here in this church and at this desk in 1864. I keep it tenderly wherever I may be. I remember how I kept it at Lugano, the delightful city on the Italian lake of that name, how that first rainy morning here came back to me, and the faces that have vanished into the infinite azure, and the voices that are forever hushed. And a fortnight ago I kept it all day long, and especially in the evening, when I sat in the doorway of my summer tent, and looked out upon the western hills, behind which the sun had just withdrawn. The shadowed hills were backed against a sky of gold that softened upward into amber, rose, and violet, until at length it merged into the pale and then into the deeper blue. But I could hardly see the sky for the faces that shone out upon me


from the deep of memory's sunset air,― not only those that have put on immortality, but those of youth and maid that have grown stronger and better with the lapse of time, and those of very little folk who were new to earth at my first coming here, and who now talk politics, and vote, and love and marry, and have children of their own, and are doing the work of full-grown men and women "in this loud, stunning tide of human care and crime."

And with this thinking of faces and of friends, and of the sad or joyful changes time had wrought upon our company, there came the thought of what I had done, or tried to do, as a minister of religion in these eight-and-twenty years. And, as I thought along this line, there came into my mind the two derivations of the word Religion, which have enlisted the approval and defence of different students of this matter. One set is convinced that the word comes from relego, which means to reread; and another set is equally convinced― and much more rationally, it seems to me that it comes from religo, which means to bind back. This would make the original meaning of the word a ritualistic meaning, some bond of ceremony or observance; and it is much likelier that some such meaning attached to it in the early times than that it had the meaning of rereading, which is much more abstruse, and therefore much less likely to have been entertained by primitive and simple men, if those were such who first used the word religio for those things which expressed the sense of their relation to an unseen power or powers.

Of course, it does not follow that, if either origin could be fixed with certainty, that certainty would fix the meaning of the word "religion" for all time. The New English Dictionary makes nothing plainer than that the meaning of words is one of the most variable of all things, and that to hold one to the original meaning of a word would be frequently embarrassing, if not absurd. 'Paul, a villain of Jesus Christ," read the earlier translations of the New Testament. Villain meant servant then. Insist upon its meaning that or nothing now, and many a politician, manufacturer, merchant, editor, would


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

be going around without his proper designation. Then, too, religio was a Latin word; and there is no reason why the Latin people should be intrusted for all time with the meaning of the facts we call religious, especially as they had little genius for religion.

Whichever way it was, the fact is clear enough that, in its historic manifestation, religion has been at one time and another a rereading and a binding-back, justifying either derivation as a symbol of the concrete reality, whatever philological science may decide. Nay, more: at one and the same time it has been both together, not in friendly unity, but in strenuous opposition. Might we not even say that at every period of history there has been a religo and a relego interpretation of religion, and a party representing each interpretation, one for binding back men's thought and feeling, ritual and life, to some traditional standard, and another for rereading the facts of life, the lessons of experience, the mystery of the fair and teeming world?

The religo men, the traditionalists, have always been in the majority. They have been the ecclesiastical party; the priests as opposed to the prophets, as one sees them in the Old Testament; the Pharisees and Sadducees, as we see them in the New Testament, opposing the free spirit of Jesus. And Christianity had no sooner begun its course: than the same difference began to appear within its boundaries, the Jerusalem party bent on binding back the nascent faith and worship to the Jewish law and ceremonial, and Paul as firmly bent on rereading and revising the traditional inheritance. And from that time to this the rereaders have always been the heretics, the schismatics, and the religo folk have been the people of the creeds and catechisms, the councils and the inquisitions. And they have put the rereaders to death with fire and sword, buried them alive in dungeons, expatriated them, despoiled them of their possessions or, when these things were no longer possible for a world which, though lame and blind, does somehow stumble toward the light, visited them with every manner of

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »