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A Vision Realized, A Life Story of Rev. J. A. Oertel, Artist, Priest, Missionary. By J. F. Oertel, Milwaukee: Young Churchman Company.
This a record almost autobiographic because largely compiled from his own writings and those of his wife, relating the vicissitudes and changes with many failures and disappointments during a long and singularly laborious life of one who imbued with a religious enthusiasm through his art to preach Christ and tell the story of salvation to the world always kept his eye on the goal he was striving to win, and in whose artistic career there was no variation of purpose. Art of a teaching and religious character does not appeal to the popular mind in a materialistic and sensuous age, and we are not surprised to learn that the genius of this versatile and gifted man received but tardy public recognition. The book contains some twenty-two sample illustrations of Dr. Oertel's paintings and sculptures, notably the very beautiful" Figure of Christ" painted for Christ Church, Dayton, Ohio, a Reredos and Altar in the Church of the Incarnation, Washington, D. C., carpenter work, carving and painting all done by the same master hand, and the design of the Reredos for the Quincy Cathedral. Few, perhaps, know that the familiar picture the "Rock of Ages," which has been described as the most popular American religious painting, was done by Dr. Oertel, he, by the way, being done out of the copyright through a legal technicality. In a letter from Mrs. Oertel, written to her husband in 1886, we find an apt conclusion: "This is the way the dear man has gone through the world, giving on all sides, his ministry a voluntary one, only accepting a small remuneration now and then where absolute necessity made it imperative.
is a curious life of self sacrificing endeavor which is not often told."
W. H. B.
A Magazine of comment, criticism and review dealing
Variations on an Old Theme
URPLE iris flaunted its imperial splendor against the vivid green of the box border. Purple lilacs, their heads just moving in the light breeze, shut in the garden and almost hid the grey walls where the little ferns were clinging with difficulty to the scant earth in the crannies of the stone. On the trellis purple wisteria hung in luxuriant masses. In the distance stood the mysterious purple hills. The sky repeated the color-note when a purple cloud, edged with crimson, hid the departing sun. The fountain, whose falling spray hardly broke the silence, reflected the brakes that grew upon its edge their shadows curiously cut from moment to moment by the golden flash of the fish that swam endlessly around it. Peace, the peace of coming twilight, calm and deep, lay upon all the world: and then was abruptly shattered. From the cottage came the faint cry of a child, a baby in pain. It threw a discord athwart the purple harmony, a keen note of interrogation, into a mind just lulled to satisfied acceptance of the world. The purple notes were already changing to black when again the child's wail came to me mingled with the soothing tones of a mother's voice. Thine arrows are very sharp, I murmured.
There is small profit, it may be, in going over and over again questions which in the nature of the case cannot be settled, and on which the wisdom of the saints has spent itself without reaching conclusions which will satisfy all the terms of the problem. It were presumption to expect to add anything important toward a better appreciation of what is called the problem of pain. And yet, just because of the perplexing nature of the questions and because pain is a living problem in each experience, we cannot well avoid the attempt to reach some practical attitude toward it for ourselves. It is not that the existence of pain offers a fascinating subject for philosophical speculation: but that it is a reality in everyone's life thrusting its arrows into his deepest experiences. No one can ignore it; no one can be indifferent to it; no one can get spiritual ease unless he has managed some adjustment of it . to the working theory of his life. He may in the end find that his own working hypothesis of it is but very partially satisfactory; still partial satisfaction is more tolerable than just shutting one's mind and pushing the whole subject aside as one into whose dark places no light can penetrate. And one's excuse for saying anything at all publicly on the subject must be that one has not found the subject of pain altogether bewildering, but has found a personal adjustment to it possible; and that one feels that what has helped one to face the pain of life not altogether without cheerfulness and joy may find others who can be helped along the Way of the Cross by what has proved helpful to oneself.
We have a way of talking about pain as a mysterious and insoluble problem, thus cutting ourselves off at the outset by our initial assumption from any hopeful results in handling the matter. But pain cannot be an insoluble problem if we approach it with a belief in God. Given that belief, pain must have a meaning-it must somehow "make sense " with the other phenomena of life. Just what "sense it makes neither you nor I may be able entirely to see: but we may see enough to convince us that the answer lies along certain lines of thought and that the following of those lines is a real
approach to understanding an approach sufficiently near to make our ignorance of the ultimate word of reconciliation tolerable.
An insoluble problem, I take it, is one in which we are ignorant of one or more of the terms. We know some of the terms and have to supply the missing ones by an hypothesis which, just because it is an hypothesis, lacks perfect certainty. The conditions of the problem admit that various terms may be supplied, none of them quite convincing. The missing term in the problem of pain is often taken to be the why of creation
- why did God make a world subject to pain? for it is not possible to deny that pain is not an accident but an integral factor in creation. It is not possible to attribute the painelement in creation to sin; pain is a necessary result in beings so nervously constituted as are the animal creation. Under no conceivable conditions can such beings be without suffering. God created, and in creating willed that suffering should be. Is not this very statement an indictment of His goodness? It seems a large price to pay for any ends we can perceive; and, granting ends greatly to be desired, would not goodness have attained them otherwise?
But are we putting the problem quite fairly? This assumption, for instance, that pain is a heavy price to pay for the ends of creation is that true? Each one's answer will, no doubt, depend on his understanding and appreciation of those ends. But, speaking for myself, it does not seem to me a heavy price to pay for the end of creation if that end be union with God. If pain be an indispensable factor in the development of a spiritual being into ultimate God-likeness, to union with the Creator, I think the price does not seem exorbitant. Little as one can see and know and understand all that is involved in the words, " union with God," one can yet understand enough to feel that the attainment of such union more than compensates for what we spend in the way of suffering for its attainment. We are, in fact, willing to spend heavily in the way of pain for much inferior ends. We do meet cheerfully the demands of life for sacrifice and self-limitation when our ends are worldly
success, intellectual enrichment, the good of society. So far from thinking demands for sacrifice a matter for resentment and rebellion, we think contemptuously of those who are unwilling to meet such demands and decline to trouble their own ease and comfort for the sake of noble and unselfish endeavor. Humanity judges clear and true in this matter when it calls men great who have gladly toiled and suffered to enrich mortal life, and does not waste pity, as our phrase is, upon those who have so toiled and suffered; and surely anyone who has learned to appreciate that gift of God which is eternal life will waste small pity on himself when he finds that the way to it is a way of pain. The end justifies the means; that is, displays them in the light of their accomplishment and makes them acceptable.
Again: were we accurate in saying that the missing word of our problem was the why of creation? I think not. The why of creation is not unknown; it is the love of God. Creation is the out-flow of God's love of which the in-flow is the final union of Creator and creature in the perfect bliss of the heavenly life. That love, in the working out of its ends, shall work though pain among other means only implies that pain is a favorable means to the end. As a means it is no more mysterious than any other — happiness, for instance. Happiness is as mysterious to me as suffering. I am just as unable to answer the question, Why am I happy? as the question, Why do I suffer? I accept them both as divinely ordained factors in my life, put there for the ends of love. We ask, as we listen to the cry of the dying baby, why does it suffer? But are we prepared to follow up our thought and say: it is unjust that the baby should suffer? Can we bring ourselves to say that? Do we not feel that we are nearer the truth if we say that the sick child is a manifestation of God's love, as true a manifestation as his rosy-cheeked brother? Its brief and pain-stricken life is one mode of the divine ordering of human life; that is all. Are you prepared to condemn the mode, and say that the only allowable mode of God's self-showing must be one pleasant to man? Our Lord did not choose the bird that sings for our