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shall be light as the day. The darkness thereof and the light thereof are alike to Thee. . . Thy eyes did see my imperfect being, and in Thy book all shall be written."1
Again, how forcibly does the voice of conscience remind me that God is a providential Governor, that He takes a fatherly interest in us, and that He is swayed by our prayers! This consoling truth forces itself on all men; not only on the religious and virtuous, but on the infidel and libertine in the hour of danger and distress. At that supreme moment they all instinctively cry to God for help.
Toward the close of the late war, I happened to be on board of a steamer that was plying from New Orleans to New York. The passengers comprised both army officers and civilians of various denominations, some perhaps professing no religion at all. Many of them gave themselves up to boisterous mirth, and indulged freely in intemperance and profanity. The voyage was most propitious till we came abreast of the Jersey shore where, about midnight, a serious accident occurred to the machinery, and converted the fleet sailer into a huge, helpless log drifting about at the mercy of a rough sea. Toward morning, a steamer, seeing our distress, hastened to our relief, and attempted to tow us to the Chesapeake Bay. But when we were nearing Cape Charles, the sea became very stormy, a strong wind beating landward. To add to our
1 1 Ps. CXXXVIII.
danger, the hawser that bound us to our consort broke, and our rudder became unmanageable. As soon as the passengers were made fully aware of their critical situation, all indecent language ceased; and the same lips that, a short time before, were polluted by ribaldry and profanity, were now devoutly invoking the assistance of a kind and merciful Providence. How true it is that infidels are scarce in the hour of danger! In the moment of dire distress and in the face of death, their number can be counted on one's fingers.
The voice of conscience, it is true, may be silenced and the spiritual sense blunted by a life of habitual sin and a neglect of divine inspirations, just as our sense of hearing is impaired by the ceaseless hum of the factory. But like Banquo's ghost, it will never down. Let a serious moment come in which we incline our ear to its whisper, and the Divine Voice will reassert itself and claim a hearing. While the voice of God is inaudible amid the tumult of the passions, it becomes more distinct in the soul by religious education, good companionship, and especially by prayer and meditation. For just as our sense of hearing is rendered more acute by attention and exercise, so do we catch the faintest whisperings of God's voice in our soul by habitual communion with Him. If men will make any pecuniary sacrifice; if they will travel from city to city consulting eminent physicians, in order to recover their lost or impaired hearing, that they may again enjoy the
familiar conversation of friends and relatives, should not we be still more zealous to improve our spiritual hearing, that we may the better enjoy sweet converse with God?
O blessed are we if we listen devoutly to the Divine Voice, and if we can say with Samuel: "Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth!" Blessed are we if, with Saul, we can say: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?"? Then, indeed, like the Patriarchs of old, we may be said to walk with God. Then is "the kingdom of God within us;" for, surely, God's kingdom is there where He triumphantly reigns. And where does God rule so absolutely as over a soul obedient to His voice? Then how clear becomes the path of life before us! How distinct and well-defined is the knowledge of our duty! Then, by a certain interior illumination, we can decide for ourselves a complicated moral question more readily than a learned theologian can by a process of reasoning.
How instinctively we then shrink from the faintest shadow of sin! We can detect the enemy though he appear before us in the most specious garb of innoOr if we occasionally lapse into a fault (for lapse we sometimes shall), God's reproach will be so tender and our own sorrow so genuine and spontaneous as to leave no sting behind.
And if the Divine Voice is so mild in His reproaches, how sweet are His words of approval !
Then shall we comprehend the force of the Apostle's words when He says: "This is our glory, the testimony of our conscience." We shall drink in the joy, the delight, the melody of the Divine Voice resounding within us. Our understanding, our will, memory, and imagination will, like a joyous and united family of children, dwell securely under this paternal Voice so gentle yet so strong, so exacting yet so endearing.
THE OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD.
"God is near you," writes Seneca to Lucilius, "is within you. A Sacred Spirit dwells within us, the observer and guardian of all our evil and our good. There is no good man without God." "What advantage is it that anything is hidden from man? Nothing is closed to God. He is present to our mind and enters into our central thoughts.'
Such are the luminous expressions of a Pagan writer taught by the light of reason, unless indeed, as some think, he was instructed by St. Paul; or, at least, that he read his Epistles. And the learned Canon Farrar places several passages of Seneca's writings side by side with those of the Apostle, to show the close resemblance between them not only in sentiment, but even in expression.
God is present everywhere in three ways: by His essence, by His knowledge, and by His superintending power.
1Letter 41st to Lucilius.
2 Letter 83rd.