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of the naturalists and critics. But from these we have been isolated less and less, until we have come upon a time when thousands of the most cultivated and intelligent preachers in orthodox pulpits, and professors in orthodox seminaries of learning, and laymen in well-cushioned pews, more or less openly accept the views which were anathema to them a quarter of a century back, denounced as atheism and infidelity by the more orthodox, and even in our Unitarian churches regarded with the gravest possible suspicion less than half that time ago.
In the mean time, what has been most characteristic of our position here in our modest work together has, I think, been this: that the new readings have not been a bitter medicine to us, but wine and milk; yea, sweet as honey to our taste. Somehow, in God's good providence, it has been ordered for us that we should not strive against the dawning light, but welcome it with joyful acclamation; that we should not endeavor to minimize the force and meaning of the new interpretations, but should cheerfully take them at their full value, finding in them the deepest satisfaction and the utmost joy and peace, God forever in the world better than one who "sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers," better than any outside deity who made the world and got well rid of it some sixty centuries ago, yet must return to tinker it from time to time, his natural incarnation in humanity infinitely better than his supernatural incarnation in "Jesus, who is called the Christ," and not putting, as that does, a shameful brand on all the other mothers of the centuries and the children born to them in lawful love. And his self-revelation in all nature and all history and all human goodness, truth, and love, is better, immeasurably better, than even the Bible can contain or any course of history or lofty character it can report within its narrow bounds. Take it for what it is, the unconscious record of a thousand years of Hebrew striving after God,and the Bible cannot easily be prized too much; but take it as a complete account of God's self-revelation, and it be
comes a spot upon the sun, and to speak of "the Bible and nature," or "the Bible and humanity," as if here were terms of proximate significance, with the Bible in the lead, is miserable impiety. To say "the Bible and nature" or "the Bible and humanity" is like saying "the drop and the ocean," as if the drop were not a part of the ocean, as if it were not an infinitesimal fraction of the boundless whole.
Yes we have been rereaders here together all these years, and in our new reading of the world and human life and Christianity we have had great satisfaction and delight. But with the rereading has there been no binding back? I have spoken ill what I have already spoken if I have not implied that there has been a great deal of this; of binding back to God, not by a tether stretching back six thousand or two thousand years, and getting constantly more tenuous in the wear of time and tide, but by a present and immediate bond, as of man's body to his spirit, at each minute of the day; the moral law, no arbitrary mandate of antiquity, but generated by a moral universe, and growing ever with its growth from age to age. Nor less has our rereading been implicitly a binding back to man, to what is manliest in him, greatest in his character and history, and so to him of Nazareth, too long obscured by mythological fancies and theological speculations, “above the heads of his reporters," to every deeper insight of the scholars shown in more engaging light, with a more human aspect, voice, and gesture, drawing all men to himself, so making good the prophecy of those words attributed to him in the New Testament: "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." But whereas the traditionalist finds in the past as such the standard of perfection, or in some few years or centuries of it dissevered from the rest, and would bind men back to these as it were with cords of twisted iron, we have not so learned the better way. For us this is to search the past for whatever is most just and noble, sweet and fair, and then bind back ourselves and those we love and those whom we would help to that. And of such there is no lack. It might be extravagant to say
that, if it were all recorded, "the world itself could not contain the books that would be written"; but it would be safe to say that, of what has been recorded, there is enough to make up the bulk of many Bibles, and every noble thought and action in the Bible is recorded with the rest. And there is no imaginary line between sacred history and profane in this inclusion. It is all sacred, equally that which exhibits the struggles and the heroisms of the soldiers and the martyrs of political liberty and political reform, and that which exhibits the struggles and the sacrifices of the saints and heroes of religion. To all these I have sought to bind you back, never happier than when telling you the story of some lofty spirit, if baply I might lure you to the height which was his or her mount of vision, and breathe with you its fresh and bracing air. And how often have we, standing here, reread the lives of our beloved friends in that mysterious light which we call death, and bound back our consciences and our affections, our reverence and our will, to the remembered truth and beauty of their lives!
Here I might make an end and none the less your thoughts would go right on to be with those who, since we parted in the early summer, have been parted from the company of earth's loftiest spirits. This is no time and here is not the place for any reading or rereading of the lives of Whittier and Curtis; and what need is there for me to seek to bind you back to them in any surer loyalty than will be the natural motion of your grieved and faithful hearts? They were rereaders both of the old texts of politics and religion, and found in them brave new meanings for the poor, sorrowful, and blundering time; and who more eloquent than they to bind men back to everything that is most noble and inspiring in the traditions of the past! For these men, so different in some respects, had much in common in their lives. Curtis was, of all men, the most easily at home in any company of cultivated people, without the least assumption of that superiority which others willingly accorded him; while Whittier was the shyest of the shy in social companies. But they
were very much alike in the extreme simplicity of their daily lives, in their complete indifference to all those showy and luxurious things which are so generally attractive to the modern man. And, though one found in poetry and the other in oratory the most suitable organ of expression, Whittier was as eloquent in his poetry as Curtis in his orations. Each liked to sound the changes on resounding names; and how many of Whittier's poems are ringing speeches none the less because they are obedient to the laws of rhyme and rhythm? But to this formal similarity was added one of a much deeper strain. The "wingèd hippogriff, Reform," invited both of them to ride. Whittier was the first to accept the invitation, naturally, as being by seventeen years the older man; but then, too, he came a little sooner to himself after brief trial of such husks as Caleb Cushing fed to his political retainers. Whittier had been writing Abolitionist editorials and singing Abolitionist songs for twenty-five years when Curtis joined the great crusade in 1856. When the war was over and slavery had been abolished, though he and Whittier were reformers still, they moved on different lines,- Whittier intent to tame the savagery of the traditional theology and humanize its God, and Curtis to expose and to destroy the system of partisan reward and punishment in the civil service of the government. But, with different gifts, there was the same spirit, and each was interested heartily in the other's work. Curtis was easily first in the political reform. Had Whittier a second in the religious field? "Let me write the of a people, and I do not care who makes its " -"laws," says the proverb, and I say-"theology." And I doubt if Beecher, or any of the theologians, has done so much to "ring out the old, ring in the new" and better thoughts of God and man, and life and death, and what is after death, as Whittier has done with his glad songs of faith and hope and love.
Neither Whittier nor Curtis was a stranger to these walls and to the little company that gathers here from week to But Whittier's presence with us here was only in the
holy spirit of his hymns and spiritual songs; and it has always been a pleasant thought to me that, as we have sung them, our debt was not to Whittier alone, but also to Samuel Longfellow, the first minister of our society, who has done more than any one else to give the thought and feeling of Whittier currency in our churches. For you will notice that Whittier wrote few hymns as such. He wrote too easily to stop at the fourth or fifth stanza. The hymns we sing as his have for the most part been taken, here a little and there a little, from much longer pieces; and Mr. Longfellow has gen. erally done the work, and, next after him, Mr. Gannett. They are in all the hymnals, all the churches, lifting up the hearts of men to holier things.
But Mr. Curtis's frequent presence with us here was not only in the spirit. How often we have crowded all these seats and aisles to hear his genial characterization and his lofty praise of men whom he admired and loved,- Thackeray, Dickens, Phillips, Sumner, Sidney, Bryant,-or some such noble plea as his "Scholar in Politics" or his "Political Morality"! Nor could we have any feast of honor or commemoration here without him to grace it with his presence and his speech, witnessing not more his personal kindness to you and me than his devotion to our Unitarian faith, which he ever apprehended in the broadest and the deepest way. How generous he was with us, this busiest of men!
For myself I dare not try to say how sweet and precious I' have esteemed the privilege of knowing well this peerless gentleman, and seeing much of him in the personal relations of the social circle and his quiet home. The possibilities of human nature have been exalted to my mind by this experience. I did not know before that there could be such union of the utmost strength and the most perfect gentleness in one warm and loving heart. I did not know before that one could be so great, so honored and admired, and yet so simple as to make you forget all about it when you met him face to face, nor that one could get so many wounds from faithful friends and others in the political arena, and yet show no scars.