The eye for spiritual things

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CONTENTS. I. The Eye for Spiritual Things. Ps. xix. 1 1 II. The Bread of God. John vi. 33, E.V. 15 III. The Death of Queen Victoria. Isa. vi. 1 29 IV. Neither will they be Persuaded. Luke xvi. 31 ..... 39 V. The Old Things Passed Away. 2 Cor. v. 17, K.V 47 VI. Patience. Rev. xxii. 20 . . . 61 VII. Christ " Gave no Proofs." John xv. 24 . 71 VIII. Hope. 1 Cor. xiii. 13 . . . 81 IX. Idols. 1 John v. 21 . 89 X. Jesus Could Not. Mark vi. 5 . . . 97 XI. Christ's Kingdom. John xviii. 36 . 105 XII. This Mortal must put on Immortality. 1 Cor. XV. 53 113 XIII. The Hope oF Zacharias. Luke i. 68 . 121
  • 1. THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS HENRY MELVILL GWATKIN, M.A. Edited by Glenn Pease DIXIE PROFESSOR OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY AND FELLOW OF EMMANUEL COLLEGE CAMBRIDGE D.D., AND LATE GIFFORD LECTURER, EDINBURGH EDINBURGH T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET 1906 PREPATORY NOTE. THESE are scattered words on many subjects ; but their central thought is this. Christ our Saviour came to destroy nothing at all, save the works of the devil. The knowledge of God is not to be earned by sacrificing reason to feeling, or feeling to reason, by ascetic observance or by orthodox belief : it is given freely to all that purify themselves with all the force of heart, and soul, and mind. Further, the only power that can bring feeling, thought, and will into harmonious action is the personal 1
  • 2. influence of Christ — which St. Paul sums up in faith. From that personal influence all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed, though the doers be those who never heard His name; and to its transfiguring power, if it be rightly received, no limit can be set even in this life. Cambeidge, Febrimry 8, 1906. CONTENTS. I. The Eye for Spiritual Things. Ps. xix. 1 1 II. The Bread of God. John vi. 33, E.V. 15 III. The Death of Queen Victoria. Isa. vi. 1 29 IV. Neither will they be Persuaded. Luke xvi. 31 ..... 39 V. The Old Things Passed Away. 2 Cor. v. 17, 2
  • 3. K.V 47 VI. Patience. Rev. xxii. 20 . . . 61 VII. Christ " Gave no Proofs." John xv. 24 . 71 VIII. Hope. 1 Cor. xiii. 13 . . . 81 IX. Idols. 1 John v. 21 . 89 X. Jesus Could Not. Mark vi. 5 . . . 97 XI. Christ's Kingdom. John xviii. 36 . 105 XII. This Mortal must put on Immortality. 1 Cor. XV. 53 113 XIII. The Hope op Zacharias. Luke i. 68 . 121 XIV. Thomas. John xiv. 5 . . .129 XV. The Woman that was a Sinner. Luke 3
  • 4. vii. 47 . . . .137 XVI. Eternal Punishment. Matt. xxv. 46 . . 145 XVII. Be not ye called Rabbi. Matt, xxiii. 10, 11, R.V 153 XVIII. Personal Influence. 1 Tim. iv. 12 . . 161 XIX. Love Divine. Gal. ii. 20 . XX. Salvation. Matt. i. 21 XXI. Job's Problem. Luke xiii. 4 . XXII. The Prophecy op Caiaphas. John xi. 49, 50 XXIII. The Resurrection of the Body. Luke XXIV. By Manifestation op the Truth. 2 Cor, iv. 2 . XXV. Christ as God. Matt. xvi. 15 XXVI. Free Forgiveness. Luke vii. 41 XXVII. Sons op God. John i. 11, 12 . XXVIII. First the Blade. Mark iv. 28 XIX. Love Divine. Gal. ii. 20 . . . XX. Salvation. Matt. i. 21 XXI. Job's ProbIiBM. Luke xiii. 4 . XXII. The Prophecy of Caiaphab. John xi. 49, 50 XXIII. The Rksukebction op the Body. Luke XX. 38 . . . XXIV. By Manifestation of the Truth. 2 Cor, iv. 2 . 4
  • 5. XXV. Christ as God. Matt. xvi. 15 XXVI. Free Forgiveness. Luke vii. 41 XXVII. Sons of God. John i. 11, 12 . XXVIII. First the Blade. Mark iv. 28 THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS. " The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handywork." — Ps. xix. 1. I. THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS^ TS there one among you who never looks up with -*- admiration to the silent splendour of the mid- night sky? Its grandeur awed primaeval nations, and still fascinates the most cultured. One genera- tion Cometh, and another goeth; and still those glittering stars pursue their course from year to year and century to century. With them seems neither change nor shadow of turning. The stars 5
  • 6. that looked on David look on us, and will look on the earth when thousands of ages shall be past. And their sound is gone out into all lands, for there is neither speech nor language where their voices are not heard. Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades light one country; to another are revealed the chambers of the south. They are splendid even in this murky North of ours; but to the mountains and the desert they shew their fullest glory blazing from a crystal sky. Small wonder if men of old time were " driven to worship " stars that glowed like lamps in heaven. And if we are ourselves in no danger of falling ' Uniyersity of Cambridge, December 8, 1895. 3 4 THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS into star-worship, the reason is not that the old heavens have lost their grandeur in these latter 6
  • 7. days. We know what our fathers never knew — that these twinkling points of light are suns like our sun, and many of them hundreds of times brighter than our own sun ; that the measured distance of the very nearest of them utterly beggars imagination ; and that for every star we see with our eyes there are thousands in the ethereal deeps of space around them. Yet many a time our lines have measured them, our balances have weighed them, our spectro- scopes have shewn what they are made of, and our analysis has laid its hand on stars that no man to this day has seen. But where is he that made them all? Where is he that created the heavens, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in ? He is the Lord our God, the Lord of Hosts is his name. The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament sheweth his handywork. If there is any one thing which all nations in all ages have thought manifest, it is the eternal power and divinity revealed from the sky. And yet there are men who tell us that they can see no God in heaven. They say that they have asked, and had no answer; sought, but never found. Fools we might 7
  • 8. answer according to their folly ; but it is not always the fool that hath said in his heart, There is no God. Some of these men are no triflers, but acute and earnest seekers after truth, and we shall be the fools ourselves if we neglect their words. Yet they THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 5 have searched every corner of the sky, and never seen our God in it. The heavens, they say, declare the glory of Kepler and Newton, but not the glory of God. Why is this ? Why cannot they see what seems so plain to others ? Their eyes are as good as ours, and not a star that we can see escapes them. Is the voice of the ages a delusion, or is the mistake in the last word of science ? In one sense the question is not for us an open one. If we know God for ourselves, we can as soon deny the sun that shines in the heavens as the 8
  • 9. light that shines in our hearts ; so that if others cannot see him, we are forced to conclude that there is something wrong with them. But if we say this, we are doubly bound to shew where the mistake is. Two things then are needed for seeing. We must have not only something to see, but eyes to see it with. We need training as much for spiritual as for scientific truth. Just as the astronomer's trained eye sees wreaths of cloud and glimmering points of light where we see nothing but darkness, so the man of God sees wreathing splendours round him, and ghmmerings of mystery to which the natural man is blind. The keenest eye can only see what it has the proper power to see. Some of us are blind to one colour, some to another, and some to all colours ; and there are vibrations which none of us can see as light at all. So it is with spiritual things. One 6 THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 9
  • 10. of us catches one tint, another another, some none at all; and there must be many a glorious colour that is waiting for an eye which can see it. Two things, said a great philosopher, fill me with awe — Conscience within me, and the starlit sky without. These two things are not connected to- gether by accident. If the inner sense is wanting, the outward eyes and ears will see and hear in vain. If a voice from heaven came to us, some would say it thundered. If a spirit passed before our face, it would but speak some truism that we knew before. If we saw creation with our eyes, we should call it spontaneous generation. You will not see God in earth or heaven till you have seen him in your heart. You may see him indeed with other men's eyes, and hear of him with the hearing of the ear; but you will never know him for yourself, however sound and orthodox your parrot-cries may be. The knowledge of God is not to the wise, nor yet to the men of understanding, but to them that seek him with all their heart and all their soul as well as all their mind. Understanding and learning are good gifts, though devils might have them, and human devils 10
  • 11. often have had them. There was a good deal of both in that earthly hell, the artistic age of Italy. But they are gifts whose value depends on the use we make of them. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that lays himself out heart and soul and mind for selfish pleasure, selfish pleasure shall he have, and the curse of emptiness that goes THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 7 with it. And he that lays himself out heart and soul and mind to find truth, as ^ome of these men do, truth shall he find, and its blessing with it. Only if scientific truth is all that he is looking for, he must not expect to pick up spiritual truth by the wayside. The knowledge of spiritual truth no more comes of itself than his knowledge of scientific truth came of itself. He can have them both if he pleases — there is nothing to hinder — but not unless he lays himself out for both. It is true that the two searches have a great deal in common, for the one is far more scientific, the other far more spiritual than 11
  • 12. their narrower votaries imagine. Still they are not the same, and the one will not do duty for the other. If serious men tell us that the heavens declare no God to them, I am perfectly willing to believe them. I make no charge of any sort against them ; only I say that they are going to work the wrong way. It is not the simpletons only that have seen a God in heaven, but many of the brightest and best of the children of men. Even science can shew us no such mighty cloud of witnesses, of those who speak of that they know. If our friends cannot see what these have seen, let them seriously bethink themselves whether they understand all the terms of the ques- tion, before they take upon them to set aside our answer. It may be they have not well considered how serious a matter is the search for God. They have acuteness and learning, diligence and candour: 8 THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 12
  • 13. what lack they yet ? The answer is that as spiritual knowledge covers a wider range than scientific, the search for it will call for wider powers. The man of God is much the better for acuteness and learn- ing, and can do nothing at aU without diligence and candour ; but these are not all that he needs. The broad difference of spiritual from scientific knowledge is that it has to do with a living God, and not with lifeless matter, and therefore appeals to the whole man, not chiefly to the reason. This is what we mean by saying that there is no spiritual knowledge without faith. But let there be no mistake here. It is not faith to receive truth itself as a mere corpus of doctrine from others, much less to profess our firm belief of what we think in our hearts is most likely to turn out false. The unseen is the realm of faith, not the unreasonable. Neither is faith the mere assurance of salvation, which may be no better than the assurance of Ignorance at the gate of the celestial city. But neither again is faith to be limited to things which science can discover. If our knowledge of mere life is limited in every 13
  • 14. direction, not only by scientific difficulties, but by deeper psychological mysteries which there is no reason to suppose that science will ever penetrate, surely it is idle to fancy that reason alone can fully explore the mystery of mysteries that underlies the rest. Faith is a manifold thing. It has a purely natural side of mere belief, which is strictly scientific THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 9 in appealing to reason, and calling for proof suited to the question in hand. And there is no faith unless this side is satisfied. The faith which scorns to pass through the gate of reason is none of our faith. The Lord himself never asked for blind belief, and the disciple is not above his master. All that churches or councils can do is to bear witness of their own belief and experience. They have no peculiar com- mission to discover truth, b.6 peculiar inspiration to declare its meaning. Their decisions are as fallible as others, and it is not less unspiritual than un- scientific and untruthful to accept them without 14
  • 15. regard to evidence. So then, if reason bars the way, we can go no further. Whatever is clearly contrary to reason, like some common theories of the Lord's Supper, is plainly self-condemned. Only we must be sure that reason does bar the way. Much that we cannot fully explain, like the Incarnation, is not only not contrary to reason, but absolutely true to the deepest needs and instincts of human nature. It belongs not to the unreasonable, but to the un- foreseen. If now we can pass on to the spiritual side of faith, we find it complex. As reverence, trust, and love are the answer of the whole man to the love of men, so faith is the answer of the whole man to the love of God. Of the whole man, not of the reason only, or even chiefly. It is not the cold assent of reason, as to some scientific fact which has nothing to lo THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 15
  • 16. do with our inner life. It is not the pale radiance of aesthetic admiration, playing idly round some human Christ who never rose with power from the dead. It is not the passing heat of spiritual excitement, which is quickly raised and as quickly dies away. It is the stedfast fire of love divine, which alone has power to fuse together the whole complex of heart and soul and mind in a glowing flame of love to him that loveth us, and with his own blood loosed us from our sins. Faith is the beginning, and faith is the end of spiritual knowledge. And faith is not a peculiar mystery of Christian orthodoxy. By their fruits ye shall know them; and many a misbeliever brings forth fruits of the Spirit in love and gentleness and temperance, though joy and peace may never visit him. There is true faith according to its kind in every work that is done on the face of the wide earth for the sake of love and duty, back to the Three Hundred in the pass, and down to the child in the slums who shares his last coppers with one who needs them more than he. In every nation he has 16
  • 17. faith who feareth God and worketh righteousness, for he is accepted with him. And the man that walketh in darkness and hath no light — if only he walks uprightly and judges righteous judgment, he too shall see the mystery of the truth and duty that he loved unfolded in the loving face of him that liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore. THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS ii " And judges righteous judgment," I said. This is the question for the sceptic, and he must not evade it merely because we may not ask him to his face. I took him at his best, and meant it for no empty compliment. He is acute and learned, diligent and candid. So far as reason goes, his work is perfect. But is he equally willing to see light that may first reach him some other way ? Is there nothing in childhood or fatherhood that speaks of a heavenly Father ? Is there nothing in human love with all its weaknesses that points up to a love that is stronger 17
  • 18. than death ? Is there nothing in human forgive- ness and self-devotion that may help him to beUeve our story of a Son of God who gave himself for men ? We are not dealing fairly with the Gospel if we forget that it is presented to us not as philosophy or science or law, nor even as history, but as the revelation of God. And if such a revelation there be, we may expect to recognize the love of God as we recognize the love of men ; by instinct and af&nity rather than by conscious reasoning. So far I have treated the sceptic as a man of candour, as indeed he often is. In that case he is simply looking to reason only for what reason alone cannot give. How far this may be sin I take not on me to say ; but at all events it is an imperfection if he leaves powers unused that might help him in the search for truth. But let him not flatter himself that he is candid as a matter of course — still less 12 THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 18
  • 19. that he owes his candour to his scepticism. True candour is not so common as society requires us to assume. Most men are such creatures of custom or passion that they can scarcely pretend to candour at all. They just catch at the first thing that comes iu their way, and call it common sense. Even those of us who really aim at truth are continually misled by pride or hatred, by sloth or carelessness, by evil thoughts of all kinds — for every base or selfish thought is so much cloud that hides the truth. The sources of error are far more commonly moral than purely intellectual. This is the rule — that error is commonly moral — and if the sceptic is no exception to it, neither are we. It is not knowledge or orthodoxy that raises us one step above the devils who believe and tremble. We too who hope in God will need to purify ourselves, even as he is pure who dwelt among us full of grace and truth. There is no paradise of idleness even for us who have seen our Saviour shining on us like the sun in heaven, and felt the touch that endues both heart and soul and mind with power from on high. 19
  • 20. Though the clouds of doubt may never again over- shadow us, the mists of sin that are always rising in dense and stifling masses round us are even more effective to hide the light from us. There is no heroic way to heaven — ^none but the old prosaic road of faithful effort and unwearied vigilance. That is the road our Leader trod before us ; and it is only while we trace the narrow pathway where his feet THE EYE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS 13 have been that we can see the splendour of the unseen world through which our journey lies. Only so shall the heavens declare his glory to us, and the earth his righteousness, that we may live, and rejoice before him for ever. 11. THE BREAD OF GOD. 20
  • 21. 15 " The bread of God is that whicli cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world." — John vi. 33, K.V. 16 11. THE BREAD OF GOD/ "DLESSED be the Lord our God, whose mercy has -^ preserved us through the perils of the year to welcome the returning light of Christmas Day. How natural the old festival seems, with its tidings of joy 21
  • 22. and gladness — the old festival our fathers rejoiced in, and their fathers before them, through all the genera- tions of Christian Englishmen. True it is that last • year's festival is not come back unchanged. Names that were great and mighty then are only memories now, and voices that we loved shall speak no more in this world, and new lives are unfolding of those whom Christ is training to be teachers and evangelists of children yet unborn. The years shall come and go, the nations rise and fall ; but the witness of Christmas Day remains the same ; and age after age till he come shall hear its glorious message of a Son of God who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven to take our nature on him and be the Son of Man for evermore. Yet Christmas Day was not always the landmark of the year it is to us. We cannot trace it back like ' University of Cambridge, Christinas Day, 1898. i8 THE BREAD OF GOD 22
  • 23. Easter to the earliest times. Far into the Nicene age the Epiphany was the great winter festival, commemorating Christ's manifestation generally, and his baptism in particular, with a secondary reference to his earthly birth. Christmas Day was of Western origin, closely related to the birthday of Mithras on December 25, and possibly to some other heathen festivals. It first appears at Eome in 360, and thence spread eastward. In the West it became a principal festival, and the Epiphany was limited chiefly to the visit of the M
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