« EelmineJätka »
PASTOR OF THE BROADWAY TABERNACLE CHURCH, N. Y. CITY.
FACE TO FACE.
"Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.”—2 JOHN, 12.
How many things have I had to write to you in that long year of absence now mercifully closed! Things relating to my own personal welfare, which you have regarded in thought and in prayer with an interest so kind and so constant; things relating to your prosperity, upon which I have dwelt continually in thought and in prayer; things of God's providence and grace, as illustrated in the new and varied experiences of the year, in the observation of different countries and nations, in the fulfilment of prophecy, and in the daily confirmation of the Scriptures in the land where they were written ;-things for thanksgiving, for exhortation, for admonition, for edification in knowledge and in holiness, how many such things have I had to write to you, when other occupations claimed the hour, or when for very weariness the pen refused its office. At such times I have said, "I will not write with paper and ink, but will leave all these lessons and teachings of the year to be uttered by word of mouth ;"
*Preached in the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, on the occasion of his return from a tour of fourteen months in the East.
-for I trusted, always, that through a gracious Providence, I would come to you again, and speak face to face. Yet, now that I have come, and do speak face to face, I cannot speak at all of the many things I had to write by reason of the fulness of joy in once more meeting with you and speaking to you. All the many things that so crowded the mind and labored for utterance when oceans and continents intervened, and there was no medium of communication but paper and ink, have for the moment vanished into oblivion. In this first ecstacy of speaking face to face, the liberated tongue demands other and fresher themes than those which have occupied the mind during the wandering exile of a year. As the traveller returning to the bosom of his family, would enjoy awhile the faces of his wife and children, and indulge the feeling that he is at home, before he entertains them with his own adventures and experience, so would I, as a pastor, enjoy the social feeling of a re-union with Christian friends, forgetful of the observations and experiences hoarded up even for their benefit during a long and trying absence. Those many things will, doubtless, come up again in their proper time and place; enough that now through the good Providence of God, I have come to you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.
This very circumstance suggests the theme of my discourse: viz: PERSONAL AND SOCIAL COMMUNION AMONG CHRISTIANS, NECES
SARY TO THE COMPLETENESS OF THEIR JOY.
The social feeling is a vital element of our nature, and fit society is indispensable to the perfection of happiness. Indeed it would seem that this is necessary, not only for beings constituted and related as we are, but for every intelligent being. There is society among the angels of heaven; there is society in the being of God himself.
It may help us to understand the mystery of the Trinity if we regard this philosophical law of being in its application to the Infinite mind. I would not say that the triune existence of Jehovah, as revealed to us in the Scriptures, is the necessary mode of Divine existence, but I do believe that it is the mode in which God has existed from eternity, and not merely a special manifestation of himself for the work of man's redemption. I cannot see how, without some such mode of existence, the divine Being could have been happy, before the creation of angels and men. God is love. But love requires an object commensurate and responsive :-something worthy of it, and that can answer to it. This is necessary, in order that he who loves may find his own perfect happiness in that love. We may, indeed, love unworthy and inferior objects, or objects that do not reciprocate our affection; and in the feeling of benevolence to. ward these we may find happiness as compared with a state of indifference, or with the opposite feeling. But to know the full joy of love we must have an object commensurate with our ca.
pacity for loving;-something that can worthily claim our whole heart, and that can and does respond to our affection. If, therefore, God did not exist in distinct persons capable of mutual love, then in all the eternity that passed before the creation there was absolutely nothing that God could love. But without love, it is not possible that the happiness of a moral being could be complete. Mere existence does not bring to such a being the fulness of joy,-mere intelligence or power does not complete his happiness. He demands something more, and that is the exercise and the satisfaction of his moral nature in love. Now, to deny the Trinity in the Godhead, is to deny to God any object of love, any source of happiness in that long, long period when there was no creation to employ his thoughts and to fill his affections: it is to leave the infinite mind whose very life is love, without love, and therefore without life, for want of an object to call it forth. But the existence of the Supreme Being in three persons, relieves this difficulty. For what infinite joy must there have ever been in the communion of the three persons in the Godhead, one in substance, in thought, and in action, equal in power and glory, reflecting each the other's love, and speaking face to face. Hence the wonderful depth and fulness of the declarations of the Father respecting the Son, "My beloved Son; my well-beloved Son; in whom I am well-pleased; in whom my soul delighteth ;" and hence, also, the longing of the Son to be again with the Father in the glory which he had with him before the world was. There is society in the divine Being-the mysterious, the transcendent fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,-these three in one, perfect in love, speaking face to face, and ever abiding in the fulness of joy.
There is society among the angels of heaven. These were not created mute and solitary. Their worship is a social worship. The Seraphim that surround the throne are not silent emblems of the glory of the Lord; they are living creatures, with intelligence, with affections, with social feelings:-they cry one to another, stimulating each other "to yet loftier praise-they ery one to another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts." Their song is a unison, or a chorus; they are an innumerable company;" seldom do they go forth on solitary errands, but in chosen pairs or in glittering hosts do they visit the earth upon errands of judgment or of mercy.
Conceive of the creation of one solitary being to occupy the vast physical universe. He finds himself surrounded with the grandeur and the ever-varying beauty of the material creation. From the minutest atom to the sublimest orb, all is open to his inspection. His faculties are not limited by a dependence upon physical senses, but with a spiritual intuition he discerns the most subtle laws of nature, and traces each fact and movement to its remotest cause. Yet, notwithstanding this quick perception of material phenomena, so vast is their number, and so end
less their variety, that his mind may find unceasing and untiring employment upon the works of the Creator, and the attributes of God that these display. To him is given the highest range of knowledge, and the highest intellectual pleasure possible to a created, and a finite mind. Moreover, by introspection he learns the laws of his own being; he studies mind, its nature, its capacities, its exercises, its affections-all its intricate and mysterious phenomena;-he finds within himself a spiritual world as vast and as inexhaustible as the material world around him-a world that can enfold within its thought the whole material creation, as the crystalized glass enfolds the curious forms of the artist-trees, plants, flowers, birds, animals, earth, sea and sky, all forms and combinations of material things held within the crystal, and seen through it as through a lens;-and in this pure spiritual world, also, as in a mirror, perceiving the face and the glory of his Maker, he rejoices in himself as the image of God.
Moreover, it is given to this being to hold intercourse with his Maker;-not merely to render homage, but to approach with filial confidence the throne of Infinite Majesty ; to give and to receive love; and in that love to find peace and joy unbounded and eternal. He, the sole offspring of God, may tread as a son his Father's courts; may know, as a son, his father's counsels; may share, as a son, his father's delights;-yet must this intercourse be reverential, and, in part, reserved, the approach of the inferior to the superior, of the subject, though a son, to the Sovereign, though a father, the approach of the finite to the infinite. The society of the creature with the Creator, cannot be like the society of the persons of the Godhead; the creature cannot fathom the thoughts of the Creator, much less can he enter into his counsels as an equal. It is his only to receive, to acknowledge, to love, and to adore. His happiness is the highest possible to his condition, but not the highest of which we can conceive. When enraptured with the beauties of the physical creation he exclaims, "How beautiful, how sublime," he meets at most an echo to the outward ear, not a response to the inward soul. When looking upward with adoring love, he cries "How glorious Thou ;"-though he meet an approving smile, he feels no sympathetic chord vibrating in unison with the innermost fibres of his being, thus stirred at the presence or the thought of God. Communion with God he may enjoy; but for that simpler heartfellowship that his nature craves, he is alone in the wide universe. Sympathy, companionship he has none; and wanting these, he wants also the fulness of joy.
A solitary being thus created in the heaven of thought, would be like a solitary star in the material heaven, which, though pure and radiant as the eye of God himself, would yet wander on in the blackness of darkness for ever. But add to this another and another, and as light answers to light, the scene is already brightened, and the responsive rays break the solitude of univer
sal gloom. Add now to these a glittering host, and while darkness vanishes the morning stars sing together, and the sons of God shout for joy. Thus it is in heaven. There is no solitary praise, no single lyre; but one grand unison or oft-recurring chorus, as Cherubim and Seraphim, telling their raptures, answer each other face to face.
When the first man was placed in Eden, he was not wholly without society. Angels were his ministers. These elder ranks of the creation assisted this their younger brother with their instructions, and cheered him with their songs. But more especially did his Maker condescend to become his companion; and in the cool of the day the Lord God would appear to Adam under some visible form-resplendent yet supportable by his unfallen vision;-would walk with him in the garden, and talk with him as a father with a child. Yet his Maker knew that there was a great void in the life of this infant creature: that an element of his being, essential to the completeness of his happiness, was not satisfied by anything in his surrounding circumstances. It was not enough that, made a little lower than the angels, the head of the whole animal creation, and holding daily fellowship with his Maker, he was placed in a garden of perfect beauty, to dress it and to keep it, and as the vicegerent of heaven, was commissioned to have dominion over this new world. It was not enough that his whole sentient nature was gratified, that all his powers of intellect were employed, and that his moral being was developed to the utmost, under the immediate tuition of Jehovah ;-his social nature was not satisfied; his sympathies as a man were not met; his soul found no responsive element in the whole creation amid which he dwelt ;-for he had not there one equal companion. He could hold no communion with the animal world; and his intercourse with angels, and much more with God himself, was that of the younger with the elder, of the inferior with the superior; wanting in the element of sympathy, of a full correspondence, which gives its charm to the society of equals.
Therefore the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him :" I will provide for him a companion suited to his nature and his wants; -and he gave him such a companion,-made like himself, made from himself, whom he could love as his own, whom he could converse with as his consort ;-not through such media as had heretofore given him intercourse with the spirit-world-but face to face. What joy was added to our first father by this gift, is expressed by his own rapturous declaration of devotion to his Eve, and is thus happily rendered by the poet of the Paradise lost and regained:
"Thou hast fulfilled
Thy words, Creator bounteous and benign,