Page images

or it has been subjected to so many mutations, that few can join in it, if they were permitted so to do. The music for a popular audience must be simple, and then, especially if a great multitude unite, it will often be affecting and sublime. The singing in the German churches sometimes occupies an hour, or more than an hour. The number of the hymns and of the stanzas is affixed in large letters to the walls and pillars in various parts of the house, so that there is no confusion or delay in finding the page.

We will only add one more remark. Can the Christian sermon ever produce its legitimate effect in Germany, while the Sabbath is desecrated as it is, or rather where the Sabbath is both theoretically and practically regarded as scarcely more holy than the other days of the week? Is not the devotional observance of the entire Sabbath indispensable to anything like the full effect of the ordinances of worship? Are not meditation and prayer prerequisites to the right appreciation of the instructions of God's house? In other words, is a Sabbath possible when its observance is placed wholly on the ground of expediency, or where the sacred time is limited to the hours of public worship? To go from the market or the counting-room to the church, and from the church to the tea-garden, seens at least to be incongruous. Those, indeed, who are educated under the German system, may and doubtless do derive more benefit from a sermon, than would be possible in like circumstances to an American or a Scotchman. Still, in view of the tendencies of human nature, of man's strange aversion to religious duties, and in view, also, of the actual state of morals and religion in those continental nations, where the Sabbath is disregarded, we can come to no other conclusion than that a day of sacred rest is necessary for the preacher and his hearers, and we cannot but rejoice that in our country and extensively in Great Britain, the entire Sabbath is regarded as holy time. Is not the comparatively pure state of morals and of religion in these countries to be attributed in no small degree to the fact, that the Sabbath is observed, not as a matter of expediency merely, but of moral obligation? In no other countries can those delightful hymns be sung, which represent the day of rest as the best of all the seven, and as a foretaste of the nobler rest above.

Prof. Müller's object in publishing this series of discourses is thus indicated : “ The point of view, in accordance with which the sermons now published, are collected, is shown sufficiently in the title and needs no elucidation. It may be merely remarked,

The Dignity of Man.

221 that by the term Inquirers, those are also included who seek Christ without being conscious of it. And in such, these deeply awakened times seem to be particularly rich ;-men, who from inward disquiet, now grasp at this enjoyment and now at another, in order to find therein the light and peace and freedom, which they can find only by faith in Christ and obedience to his word. Quaerite quod quaeritis, sed non est ubi quaeritis. My most earnest desire is, that the effect of these sermons may be, through God's blessing, to point here and there such an inquirer, who is serious in his investigations, the way to Him-open and yet so hidden—who is himself the Way and the Truth and the Life."

We onght to remark, that the sermons of Prof. Müller are longer and of a more argumentative character than is common with German preachers. In selecting passages from various discourses, we shall, doubtless, impair the effect which they would produce if presented as constituent and consecutive parts of a beautiful whole. Still, the course we have adopted may be more instructive to the American reader.-Tr.)

We extract the following from the sermon on the Dignity of Man.

" In every man, from the beginning, there is a peculiar, living germ, which strives to unfold itself; and the powers of nature and the influence of other men affect him no further than he yields himself to them; yea the more strenuously he unfolds this germ, the more able will he be himself to exert a determining and moulding influence on nature and the human race around him; the less his dependence, the greater his self-reliance. But above this relation to other created powers, in which dependence and independence are so wonderfully mingled, and conditioned one upon the other, there reigns an all-comprehending and commanding Power. It exerts not its primary influence on us after we have been endued with our own life, but it is that to which we owe our being itself, and the germ of our own life and every moment of our existence. This is the all-creating and sustaining power of God, who, according to the declaration of the apostle to the Athenians, made the world and all things therein, and needs not anything, seeing he has given to every man life and breath and all things.

Here we find ourselves in the same relation of dependence with all other creatures over which we have imagined ourselves to be so highly exalted; and, consequently, this consideration



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

seems to remind us of human dependence and weakness, rather than of our dignity. And still exists there not an immeasurable superiority of man over all these creatures, in the fact that we find ourselves to be dependent like them, that is, that we, in distinction from them, are conscious of the dependence that we have in common? With their eyes fettered to the earth, other creatures wander about; they know not whence they came nor whose power they fear; but this we know; to us alone it is permitted to lift up our head above the rushing floods of the Past to Him, in whose hand our being and that of the whole world rests. And it is this fact, that we are conscious that we have our life, and all froin Him, that we are capable of feeling the warm breath of creative love, cherishing its creatures, as it flows all around us, it is this, that raises us above all the other dwellers on the earth. Yea herein we possess a certain freedom from the world and its powers, that we know that we are dependent on God, the Governor of the universe.

“And can this consciousness of our dependence on Him exist without some recognition of God to whose power we find ourselves linked with invincible bonds ? Does not our heart impel us to Him the invisible God, who dwells not in temples made with hands, who is Lord of heaven and earth, of uncreated riches, allsufficient in himself, needing nothing, the wise, the holy and the righteous, who has appointed to men the bounds of their habitations, has made known to them his holy will, and will judge them in righteousness? O my friends, let us feel most deeply how highly God has exalted us, in that he has lodged in our bosom the idea of Him, that he has revealed himself in the lowest depths of our spirit, and that thereby only has he made it possible for us to understand for our good his further revelations. And it is this that the apostle means when he asserts that God is not very far from every one of us. Verily he is not a God who has thrust us away from himself at an infinite distance, but he is inexpressibly near. He is near in that we cannot be conscious of our own existence without being conscious of his. He is near in that he has written his holy will in our heart, as our conscience bears witness, so that our will cannot move without coming in contact with the will of God.”

“ And if we inquire for the grounds of this holy nearness of God to our consciousness, the apostle answers, as he proceeds to say, that in Him we live and move and have our being, as some also of your own poets have said, 'we are his offspring. And a 1847.)

The Divine Nature in Man.


[ocr errors]

relation to God is not here affirmed which is common to man with all other creatures, but one which is peculiar to him. All creatures are entirely dependent on God, not merely in their origination, but in their continued existence; consequently they are wholly encircled and pervaded by his all-powerful agency. Yet one only of all the creatures known to us has he elevated to that dignity, that it can be affirmed of him, “he lives and moves in Him,' he is a partaker of his nature. As now he himself is imperishable in his being, so has he communicated an imperishable existence to him who partakes of his nature.

"But in order to understand what is signified by this divine nature, we must recall the simple and yet profound narrative of the creation of man in the beginning of the Scriptures, “ God made man in his own image, in the image of God made he him.' Previously nothing is said of an image of God. When God would see a copy of himself in the world, he formed man. The creatures which are not self-conscious and therefore not conscious of God, and which, since they possess no free will, must be ignorant also of God's holy will, controlled by a blind, natural instinct, cannot bear in themselves the image of God. God is a spirit, and it is only in created spirits that his being can image itself. Nature is, indeed, as Paul teaches us, in the beginning of the epistle to the Romans, a revelation of God; yet it is not for itself; it knows nothing of the wisdom, power and goodness which it praises through its works; it reveals Him only so far as it gives an eye which can recognize in it the footsteps of God. And that there might be such an eye, God formed a being, man, who sees in himself an image and likeness of God. Therefore man, as he is the highest, so he is the last, in the series of God's creations, the expression for the problem of nature and at the same time the understanding which solves the problem; he it is in whom God's creating work rests and celebrates its Sabbath, so that man in his turn might rest in God and in Him keep its Sabbath in the midst of the pains and labors of life; it is in the sons of man, as Solomon says, in whom the creative wisdom of God has its delight, that thereby man again might have his delight in this wisdom. This is the great dignity of man, says a pious teacher of the church, that no less a good will satisfy him than the highest, namely, God.”

" It belongs to the essential dignity of man that he unites in himself those things, which, viewed in themselves, are separated from each other by a wide interval,- dust and ashes and a shining spark of God, a sensuous nature with its impulses kindred to the beast, and a spirit allied to God. A being in whom are joined such diverse powers of action, is certainly one whose destiny in the Divine government can only be great."

In the second part of the discourse, the author considers the actual state of man, his fall from his original dignity.

“ Man was destined to be like God in holy freedom and love ; but when he assumes to be like God in breaking away from him and his holy precepts, then all things are changed into debase. ment and wretched bondage to sin. One may admire the art and cunning, the decision and perseverance which man often shows in sin; yet for him there is absolutely no true dignity but in his rela. tion to God, the source of all power and glory and majesty. Now it is sin which has brought into this relation the deepest discord. Hence in sin, bad as it is in all its manifestations, this is still the worst that it disturbs and perverts in our heart itself the consciousness of God, so that man, with the increasing darkness of his mind, finally falls into the belief that the Godhead is like to images of gold, silver and stone, made by human art, or abandons himself to an utter forgetfulness of God. That consciousness, with its inseparable companion, the conscience, is the salt of the inward life, but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted ? If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Where this darkness seizes the soul, there the enlightening sparks of great thoughts continually expire; the no. bler feelings and efforts are turned into a horrid night, in which the wild beasts of unbridled desires and passions hunt their prey."

“ It is only before a highly exalted creature that this fearful pit yawns; it is only one who partakes of the Divine nature that can fall from God; it is only that that lives and moves and exists in God, that can come to be at variance with Him. This is confirmed by what Paul declares to the Athenians of the consequences which the Divine justice has annexed to sin. He testi. fies of a day in which God will judge the world in righteousness. An unruly beast is killed ; a child not able to foresee the consequences of his actions, when it begins a destructive course, is disciplined and prevented forcibly from accomplishing his designs. Yet not so does God test sinful man; but he judges him in righteousness, he rewards him according to his deeds. And this is something great, in that God makes man responsible for his actions; he recognizes in him a dignity of personal independence, as he does in no other creature on earth.”

« PreviousContinue »