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FROM THINGS

TO GOD



DAVID H. GREER, D. D.

Bector of St. Bartholomew's Church, New York



NEW YORK
THOMAS WHITTAKER

2 A2?D 3 Bible House



THE NEW YORK

PUBLIC LIBRARY

782895

ASTOR, LENOX AND
TILOdN FOUNDATIONS

R 1917 L



Copyright, 1893,

by

THOMAS WHITTAKER.



THE CAXTON PRESS
NEW YORK.






PEEFACE.



The sermons in this volume were preached
without notes. They were taken down in short-
hand at the time of their delivery, and are
printed as they were reported. Their style, there-
fore, is that of spoken and not written dis-
course, and does not so easily lend itself to
print. Any attempt to change it, however,
would have involved not only a difficult but an
almost impossible task. Neither would it have
been desirable. The chief effectiveness of a ser-
mon is after all the personality of the speaker,
and while it is difficult to import this into the
printed page, it can be done more fully by
preserving than by trying to change the original
form of utterance. As sermons therefore and
not essays these discourses are printed, and it
only remains to be said that the purpose of the
author in publishing them is precisely the same

Ui



IV PREFACE.

as that which he had in preaching them : to try-
to make men see that even the commonest life
has in it something divine, and to help them a
little in the midst of their daily affairs to
pass from ''Things to God.''



CONTENTS.



PAGE

From Things to God,

The Personal Dominion of Christ, .... 14

What is Truth— A Study in Method, . . . . 26

on

The Ladder of Life, ^^

KO

Faith and Machinery ^^

The Co^iing of the Kingdom of God, .... 69

The Christian and the Theatre, 8^

Hiding from God,

112
Mastership,

Walking WITH God To-day, 1^^

The Moral Conflict ; and its Significance, . . 137

Building the Temple of God, 1^1

Preferring Our Own Way to God's, .... 164

The True Vision and the False Seer, ... 176

Sin, and its Deliverer,

204
Conscience,

. 215



Going on Journeys to Find Christ, ....

. 238



226
The Man and the Priest,



Visions,

Christ Greater than Our Thought OF Him, . . 253

The Gospel of the Resurrection, 265

V



FROM THINGS TO GOD.



1 ; FEOM THINGS TO GOD.

Therefore let no man glory in men : for all things are yours ;
Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death,
or things present, or things to come; all are yours ; and ye are
Christ's : and Christ is God's. — 1 Corinthians iii. 21-23.

The Corintliian Church, to which these words
were addressed, was split up, as you know, into
parties and consumed with jealousies. St. Paul
undertakes to correct this state of tilings, not by
discussing and adjusting the relative claims and
merits of the different parties and saying where-
in each was right and wherein each Avas wrong,
but by giving to the members of all of them such
a conception of themselves, so large and so sub-
lime, that in the light of its apprehension their
little, narrow, partisan spirit, with its little can-
kering jealousies, would fade and cease to be.
"You do not belong to parties," he says; "to
partisan schools and opinions, to partisan leaders
and teachers, you do not belong to them ; they
belong to you, and all their thoughts and utter-



Z FROM THINGS TO GOD.

ances, all their gifts and powers, all their things
are yours. Yes," he goes on to say, his mind
having once started in that direction, "all other
things are yours, of the world, of life, of death,
things present, things to come — all are yours, and
ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." From
things, to man, to Christ, to God— that is St.
Paul's conception of the ascending order of the
universe and of man's position in it ; let us take
his thought this morning, and try to read it
after him.

" All things are yours." When St. Paul said
that to the men of his time it was a prophecy.
To-day it is fast becoming a prophecy fulfilled,
and we see now as then they did not see, or
did not see as clearly as we see now, how true it
is that the earth and all things in it are indeed
the property of and do belong to man. They
belong to him, as we are seeing now, in the first
place by a right of ancestral relationship, by a
kind of blood afiinity, or kindred link and tie.
For whether he be regarded as having come out
of the earth by a process of special creation or a
process of gradual growth, he is in either case
the product of the earth, and all the varied
faculties of all the living forms which the earth
itself contains, are seen and reflected in him.



FROM THINGS TO GOD. 3

*' Hints and previsions of which faculties
Are strewn confusedly everywhere about
The inferior natures, all lead up higher ;
All shape out dimly the superior race,
And man appears at last,
The consummation of this scheme of being" ;
The completion of this sphere of life
Whose attributes had here and there been scattered
O'er the visible world before.
Dim fragments meant
To be united in some wondrous whole,
Imperfect qualities throughout creation.
Suggesting some one creature yet to make,
Some point where all these scattered rays should meet

convergent
In the faculties of man."

And we are seeing to-day liow true it is, as St.
Paul himself so long ago declared, that man is
indeed the heir of all tlie things and all the
forms which all the earth contains ; that by the
right of pedigree, by the right of ancestry, by
the right of descent and lineage, they do belong
to him, they do belong to us.

And they belong to us, too, by possession as
well as by inheritance ; or they are coming so
to belong to us.

'' Canst thou perceive the breadth of the
earth ? " exclaimed the patriarch Job, as though
he were stating some hopeless and impos-
sible task, and lo, we have almost spanned
the skies. " Canst thou send out the light-



4 FROM THINGS TO GOD.

nings ? " lie says again, ^' that they should go and
be thy servants, and say to thee, Here we are."
That is precisely what we have done. And we
have bent the bow of Arcturus, and the sweet
influence of the Pleiades we have succeeded in
binding down to our practical purposes in life, as
on all the waters around the globe we sail. And
the way of the wind we know, and the path of
the cloud, and the secret springs of the seas, and
the place where light dwelleth we do in a
measure know, and nearly all the forces of
nature we have gathered up into our strong right
hand, and are using at our will. And as the
heirs of all the ages in the foremost files of time
all things are ours to-day, of the world of life,
of death. Yes, even of death — and the treas-
ures of gold and silver which those who have pre-
ceded us have fought and died to accumulate,
and the wisdom and the knowledge and the
experience and the apprehensions of truth which
they have fought and died to obtain, and the
battles for civil liberty, for personal freedom in
thought, speech, action, which they have fought
and died to win ; yes the things of death are
ours as well as the things of life. They have
made us rich and great and strong, and will
hereafter make us more so, for not only are



FROM THINGS TO GOD.

things present ours, but the things to come will
be ours, and will give their glory and abundance
to us and minister to our wealth.

Well, then, as much as that of the apostle's
declaration when he says, "All things are
yours," we are able to-day to read ; as far as that
in the movement and course of his ascending
thought we are able to follow him.

But more than that he says, and higher than
that he climbs ; can we go on and read the rest of
the sentence after him ? Can w^e we go on and
climb the rest of the way with him? "All
things are yours, and ye" — oh, wonderful thought
and helpful; great, uplifting, inspiring — "and
ye with all your things, with all your things,
are Christ's." From them, to ns, to Him, — from
things, to man, to Christ.

We are talking about property right to-day ;
that is the length of the tenure line and that
is where, in Jesus Christ, all property right
is lodged. We own and we are owned. Look-
ing down we are masters ; looking up we are
servants, and as all things belong to us, so do
we with all our things belong to Jesus Christ.
Now, observe, he does not say that we ought to
belong to Christ or that we ought to be Christ's.
"You are Christ's," he says. Whether we



6 FROM THINGS TO GOD.

know it or not, whether we confess it or not,
our acknowledgment of it does not make it any
more true ; our failure to acknowledge it does
not make it any less true. 'No matter what
we do, no matter where we are, in the Church
or out of it, baptized or unbaptized, confirmed or
unconfirmed, the fact remains : we are Christ's,
and we cannot change that fact. We may
refuse to recognize it ; we may try to live as
though it were not so, and we may succeed in
living as though it were not so ; but what we
think or do or fail to do about a thing does not
make the thing different from what the thing is,
and according to St. Paul the thing here is this :
we are Christ's — his property, he owns us, we
are his.

What do we call it when we take away a
man's property, when we hold it back in our
keeping and won't let him have it ? We have a
word for it, we call it robbery. And that,
just that, I think, St. Paul teaches and the
whole Bible teaches, is what a person does
when he refuses to let Jesus Christ take posses-
sion of him. He is robbing Jesus Christ, he is
taking away his property from him or holding-
it back and depriving him of his own. It is
just because, it seems to mej this is not more



FROM THINGS TO GOD. 7

clearly and generally understood and recognized,
that there is a hesitancy on the part of so
many people to make a public confession,
acknowledgment, of Jesus Christ, to come into
and join, as it is called, and unite with the Chris-
tian Church. They seem to think that in doing
so, by that step, by that act, by that public con-
fession, they are becoming Jesus Christ's, and
thus and then and there making themselves
belong to and the property of Jesus Christ. And
they shrink a little from the responsibility of
that belonging to Jesus Christ and what it
imposes and involves, and lest thereafter they
should not be able to live consistently with it
and so invite some censure and bring reproach
upon him. But they are Christ's now^ his
property noio^ they belong to him now. Is it
not a censurable, reproachful, and inconsistent
thing to refuse to say that they are % It is some-
thing even to make an acknowledgment of a just
debt ; it is usually the first step toward the pay-
ment of it, and certainly it is not worse but
better to try to pay and fail, than not to try to
pay it or even to make an acknowledgment of it.
Think about that, some of you.

But let us go on and consider what this belong-
ing to Jesus Christ really is, what tt means to us,



8 FROM THINGS TO GOD.

and what it is that it does for us when we once
come to realize and to be conscious of it.

Climbing up through the scale of being only to
ourselves, and going no higher than that, and
looking no higher than that, we do not really
know ourselves nor see the meaning of things.
Like some little child at school who does not
and cannot understand, or understands but dimly
the deep, far-reaching reason and necessity of
his tasks, and would like if he could to escape
them ; we cannot appreciate, we cannot perceive
and grasp the deep, far-reaching reason or
disciplinary necessity that lies concealed in our
tasks. Or like some soldier in battle, who in
the thick of the smoke of the conflict is not able
to recognize clearly and to discriminate between
the different forms which he sees advancing to-
ward him, and thinks that his friends are ene-
mies, and his enemies friends ; looking at things
as we are wrestling with them, we will surely
make the same mistake, and think that those
which are really hai3X)ening to us for our good are
happening for our hurt, or that those which are
happening for our hurt are happening for our
good.

Yes, simply looking at things from the point
of view of ourselves, how can we understand



FEOM THINGS TO GOD. 9

them ; how can we put a right and true appraise-
ment on them ? How could the little seed or
the life that is latent in it understand the things
that happen to it — the decayings, the iDerishings,
the destructions, the crumblings away, in its
deep, dark, prison house, unless it could look
on and see that larger, greater, more abundant
life ; that life of the beautiful flower, that life
of the golden grain, that life of the ripened fruit
to which it belongs, and which all its happenings
are for ?

How could the life of the world in winter see
and understand the things that are happening
to-day — the cold, the frost, the ice-morsels, and
the shrouds of snow around it — nnless it could
look on beyond its immediate self to the rich and
radiant life of the summer's bloom and splendor,
with which it is connected, to which it is moving
on, in which it is fulfilled, and which, through
all these wintry things and all these dark and
cloudy things, it is getting ready to come.

Ah, how can you and I understand the things
that are hax3i3ening now to us — the dark, the cold,
the wintry things, as well as the bright, the joy-
ous, and the summer things — unless we can send
our vision up to some great height beyond us, to
some great life above us, toward which they are



10 FROM THINGS TO GOD.

all determining, toward whicli th.ej trend and
go, and see in that the object which all these
things are for. From things, to man, to Christ.
From them, to us, to Him ! and looking at them
from there, we begin to know them a little and
only then do we know them. Seeing in him the
life to which they are committed, to which they
all belong, we put new values on them and see
new meanings in them. Those sorrows and joys,
those tasks and treasures, which come from
the world and are given to us by life, and those
experiences that come from bereavement and
which have been taught us by death, they are
ours, yes— but that is not all— and we are Christ's.
Seeing that and knowing that, we then know how
to regard them ; we then know what they are
meant to do — not to make U3 a little bit richer or
more prosperous than our fellows, and stopping
and ending there, not to make us poor, or poorer,
not to make us comfortable or uncomfortable,
not to make us light of heart, not to make us
sad. Their aim is far beyond all that, and like
St. Paul they seem to say, and looking at them
from the point of view of the life of Christ, we
seem to hear them say, ' ' Whether we are bright
or dark to you now, whether things of life or
things of death, forgetting what has been already



FEOM THINGS TO GOD. 11

accomplislied in you, this one tiling we do and
we were meant to do, to press you on, to drive
you on, to bring you nearer to Jesus Christ, to
lift you up more and more through sunshine
and cloud, through poverty and wealth, through
all things — to lift you up to the high and emi-
nent place to which you really belong."

Then we begin to understand them a little,
we begin to see some light. Then we begin
to understand ourselves a little — those deep
and fervent longings which in our hearts at
times we do so strongly feel ; those dumb yearn-
ings, prayings, passionate aspirations, earnest
searchings after something, we know not what
exactly — we understand them a little. We see
the meaning of them, those tremblings and quiver-
ings of the soul, as though it were on the margin
of some deep and mystic joy, as though the
breath of some infinite life had touched it :
feelings, aspirations which we cannot voice, and
which we call on music and song, and heaven
and earth, and beauty and religion, and united
prayer and worship and praise, to help us
to express. It seems to me that what it all
means is this, that there is something higher in
the scale of being than that point to which as
yet we have been able to come, that to something



13 FROM THINGS TO GOD.

greater, better, more, we do in fact belong; *^ye
are Christ's " it means, and Christ's mighty spirit
is stirring in our hearts. It is his life we feel, his
voice we hear, seeming to say, as he is so are we,
or so at least we will be. And the little buried
seed will ripen into the rich golden grain, and
the wintry earth will burst and break and laugh
at last in the summer's beauty and bloom ; and
the hopes and the aspirations which the winter's
frost and snow cannot kill in us but only seem
to intensify, will be fulfilled in Christ.

That is the message, men and women, it seems
to me which the Christian gospel brings to us.
It shows us what that is to which we really be-
long ; it says to us, "You do not belong to a
life that is poor and weak, and worldly and
selfish ; you do not belong to sin and pride and
jealousy and strife ; oh, see the great and
wonderful life which the gospel story proclaims;
the life that has conquered sin, the life that
many of us believe has conquered death ; the life
that has moved so luminously across earth's
darkened sky, that has given such cheer and
courage to darkened hearts and homes — that is
the life to which you really belong.

'* Ye are Christ's," ye are Christ's, is its ringing
cry ; and — Christ is Gfod's. For nowhere in the



FEOM THINGS TO GOD. 13

universe, on its loftiest eminence, on its highest
ground, is there anything more divine than that
life of Christ. Trying to live that life, and day
after day to make it ours, not in name merely
but in fact, we more and more realize that
we are moving on and on, we know not where
exactly, but toward what is most divine in the
universe. We are not going down to loss and
waste, but going up to permanency and gain ;
not going down to defeat, but going up to
victory; not going down to death, but going
up to life : and more and more we feel that
the trend of all creation is toward the very
highest, is toward the very best — from things to
man, to Christ, to God ; who

"Dwells in all
From life's minute beginnings, up at last
Toman . . .

And, man produced, all has its end thus far
But in completed man begins anew
A tendency to God."



THE PERSONAL DOMINION OF CHRIST.

Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. —
Hebrews xiii. 8,

Eighteen hundred years ago St. Paul wrote
to the Corinthian Christians '*the fashion of this
world passeth away," and all human history is
an illustration of and a commentary upon the
truth of his words. Change and decay are the
order of human life, and things which are appar-
ently immovable are not able to stand "'gainst
the tooth of time and razure of oblivion."
There are certain periods, however, in the his-
tory of mankind, when the changes in society
are exceptionally rapid and radical. Such a
period was the fourth century of the Christian
era, was the century of the Schoolmen, was the
century of the Crusaders, was the century of the
Reformation, and such a period seems to be this
nineteenth century also, which has witnessed
both more numerous and rapid if not more radi-
cal changes, in certain directions at least, than
any other period of equal duration in the whole
previous history of mankind .

14



THE PERSONAL DOMINION OF CHRIST. 15

Naturally, therefore, at such a time as this,
when so many and great changes are taking
place in society, in the Church and in the State,
when no change seems to surprise us any more,
and we are only surprised if after the lapse of a
little while no great change occurs— naturally,
I say, at such a time as this we are disposed to
inquire what is there that will not change ; to
which we can, in the midst of things that are
passing away, with a feeling of security cling,
and upon which we may with a proper con-
fidence rest. It is in response to this line of
inquiry that I will ask you this morning to con-
sider, first, the fact itself, and then the signifi-
cance of it, that, despite all the changes that
have taken place in the past, that are taking
place in the present, or that will take place in
the future, Jesus Christ has been, is, and in my
judgment always will be, yesterday, to-day, and
forever, the one abiding factor in the ever chang-
ing economy of our human life. I do not mean
to say, of course, that the speculative beliefs of
man concerning Jesus Christ have been subject
to no variation, or that there have been no changes
in what is commonly called the world of reli-
gious opinion, for in the face of facts that are
patent to every intelligent observer, how could I



16 THE PERSOT^-AL DOMITTIOl^ OF CHRIST.

or anyone trutlifiilly say that? Bii6 what I
mean is this :

The personal dominion of Christ over the
hearts and consciences, over the lives of men, by
all the changes that have taken place, has not
been in the slightest measure disturbed, but has,
on the contrary, strengthened and increased, and
has widened more and more "with the process
of the suns." This, I maintain, is a histori-
cal fact. We do not need to prove it ; it is
before our eyes ; we can see it ; in our immediate
audience, we can hear its voice ; and with our
hands we can touch and handle and come into
contact with it.

The first disciples of Jesus had to walk by
faith in him. His claim to a perjDetual dominion
they had to take on trust, for he had not yet been
lifted up in the sight of the world. His attract-
ive power had not been widely felt ; it had not
yet been proved. But to-day, it is not so neces-
sary to walk by faith in Christ. And with the
manifestations of his power throughout all civili-
zation and around us on every hand, pervading
our best political institutions, permeating our
best social economy, leavening our literature,
glorifying our art, inspiring our philanthropies,
influencing more or less the whole broad move-



THE PERSONAL DOMINION OF CHRIST. 17

ment of our modern conduct, and emanating
from a character wliicb, even after the lajDse of
nearly nineteen centuries, is still regarded as
the ideal life of the world, to-day we can walk
by sight ; and the personal dominion of Jesus
Christ, unexhausted by time, unweakened by
social changes, unimpaired by political revo-
lutions or ecclesiastical perversions, is before our
eyes as an iinimpeachable fact.

But then, it may be said, this after all is not
an exceptional fact, for there are other religions
in the world besides the Christian religion, older,
some of them, and having more disciples. And
that is true, but the influence exerted by those
other religions is not the personal influence of
their founders. They would, in fact, survive
without their founders.

Take away Mahomet, and Islam still remains;
take away Buddha, and the "light of Asia,"
such as it is, still shines ; take away Zoroaster,
and the fire still burns with unabated brightness
on the Persian altar and hilltop ; take away Con-
fucius, and the primitive religion of the Celestial
Emjiire is in no way impaired ; but take away
Jesus Christ, and Christianity is gone. His name
is stamped on every page of the New Testament
writings and on every chapter of ecclesiastical



18 THE PERSONAL DOMINION OF CHRIST.

history ; it is found in every creed, in every
liturgy, in every form of worship ; for Christi-
anity, in its essential and distinctive character,
is simply Jesus Christ and the influence which he
exerts. And so, from the very outset, wherever
the great tidal wave of the Christian religion
swept in its propagandist path among the peoples
of the earth, from the shores of Palestine, across
the waters of the Mediterranean, through the
mountains of Asia Minor, along the banks of the
Danube and the Tiber, to the far-off coasts of
the British Isles, it is the form of the personal
Christ that is always seen on the topmost crest
of the wave, commanding attention, provoking
thought, eliciting homage and love. While,
therefore, there are other religions in the world,
of venerable age and with numerous disciples, it
is none the less true, as Mr. Lecky remarks,
that "it was reserved for the Christian religion
to present to the world an ideal character, which
through all the changes of eighteen hundred
years has filled the hearts of men with an im-
passioned love, which has shown itself to be
capable of acting on all ages, nations, tempera-
ments, and conditions, and which has exerted so
deep an influence that it may be truly said that


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