David Hummell Greer.

Visions : Sunday morning sermons at St. Bartholomew's, New York online

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3 3433 06826672 9




Rector of St. B?.rtho]ome\v's Clnncli, New York

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Copyright, 1898,


The sermons in this volume were not delivered
with any reference to the subsequent publication of
them ; and the only audience which the preacher had
in mind when he preached them was the audience
immediately before him. This will explain, if it
does not excuse a redundancy and fragmentariness
of style, which if not essential to direct discourse, are
not incompatible with it, but which, in the prepara-
tion of an essay to be " harvested with the quiet
eye " would naturally be avoided. This, however,
is not a book of essays, but of sermons, or rather of
the reports of sermons Avhich were delivered orig-
inally withoj'if manuscript, and which are here
printed, Avith a ,few . verbal exceptions, precisely as
they were preached. Some persons who heard
them, and who thought* that they were helped by
them, have expressed the desire that they might be
published, and that is why they are now put forth
in this more permanent form.


5 ' ' t



Vision Through a Veil 9

Vision Through a Man 19

The Twilight Vision 31

The Vision of Mystery 43

The Vision of Doubt 53

Vision Books 67

The Christian Vision in Us 79

The Vision of the Divine Purpose 93

The Vision of the Divine Method; or, Bondage,

Freedom and Obedience 105

The Self-revealing Vision 117

The Self-evidencing Visions 129

The Critical Vision, and the Loving Vision .... 141

The Vision of a Spiritual Guide 155

The Vision of Death 169

The Vision of Life 183

The Vision of Hell 195

The Vision of Heaven 207

The Vision of Good Making Evil 219

Visions in High Places 231

Visions in the Wilderness 243

The Vision of Social Unity 259

The FrLFiLLiNG Vision 273



A7id the children of Israel sate the face of Moses^
that the si' hi of Closes'' face shone: and Moses jjut
the veil uj)0)i his face. — Exodus xxxiv. 35.



Moses is here represented as having been on the
mount in communion with God, and as having there
received some vision of God, so exceptionally and
transcendentally bright, that the face of Moses was
transfigured by it. Then, when he came down
from the mount to the people to give that vision to
them, he is represented as putting a veil upon his
face. And why ? In order to conceal that vision '?
No, I think not, but in order to ^reveal it. That sug-
gests the topic on which I wish to speak this morn-
ing — The Vision of God through a Veil.

There is no subject perhaps of physical inquiry
more fascinatingly engaging, because so continually
elusive, or which has received more attention upon
the part of physical students, than the inquiry con-
cerning light. Different theories about it, as you
know, have been at times put forth. The latest
theory, as you also know, and the one most gen-
erally and widely accepted, is this : That light
is a wave of motion in the surrounding ether,
whose velocity of undulation is so great that it pro-
duces the phenomenon of vision. But what is that



wave of motion ? Can we see it ? We can 7iot see
it. And the curious thing about light, and the
paradoxical thing, is this : That while it is the
condition of all visibility, it is itself not visible, and
can only be made to appear through the medium of
other things on which it strikes or falls; on a bit
of bamboo rod for instance — or a piece of glass, or a
human face, or a marble column, a stone wall, a
city, a world, a star, whether a burning star like
the sun or a burnt out star like the moon — it can
only I say be made to appear through the medium
of something else. Light, in other words, is re-
vealed Avhen it is veiled. It is revealed through a
veil, and only through a veil. Take away the veil,
every veil, cities, houses, lands, waters, worlds,
stars, every veil which, by resisting the light,
makes it visible, then, while existing just the same,
it is not visible.

That is the curious thing about light, yet the in-
disputably true thing, that it cannot be made to ap-
pear except by means of a veil.

What is true of the outer light is true of the in-
ner light; true of the light of the mind, Avhich we
call "tliought." AVe cannot see " thought " in it-
self. It is m)i in itself visible. IIow does it be-
come visible? Only by coming into contact with,


impinging upon, then struggling through, those lit-
tle meshes of words in that marvelous veil of lan-
guage, which so proverbially conceals as well as
reveals; not letting ^ the thought all out, in its spir-
itual entirety and nakedness, for then it would still
be pure thought and invisible, but by offering some
kind of impedimental resistance to it, hitting it,
striking against it, and so, like the spark in the flint,
making it shine and appear.

And the same is still more true of that more in-
ward light, which we call the " light of the soul."
We cannot see that light of the soul, for light can-
not be seen. The condition of all visibility, it is
itself invisible. How is it made to appear, that
light of the soul ? Through the veil, the fine, the
beautiful veil of art, song, music, poetry, worship ;
or high, aspiring aim, reaching toward and strug-
gling through some high ideal expression in conduct
and in life. It cannot all get through, ^o man
can wholly be what in his best and purest moods
he wants to be. Something holds it back ; yet by
holding it back seems to let it out, seems to let it
through. Sometimes it is a great joy that cannot
be fully embodied, which it struggles through.
Sometimes it is a great grief that cannot be fully
disclosed, which it struggles through. Sometimes


it is just the great sob or sigh of an inarticulate
prayer, which it struggles through, in a groaning
that cannot be uttered, holding it back, yet letting
it out, as through the meshes of a veil, which con-
ceals as well as reveals that spiritual light of the

Now let us go on a little further. Physical light ;
mental light ; spiritual light : God is Light. If that
be true, what follows ? This follows : That the
only vision which we can have of God is a vision of
God through a veil. Some of us it seems to me do
not quite understand that. We do not take it in,
and are disposed to think that the only way in
which we can have a vision of God, clear and full
and sure, is by taking away the veil, or drawing
aside the veil. AYe are like those friends of the
Greek artist, who, in coming to look at the picture
which*the artist had painted upon the canvas, asked
him, you remember, to draw aside the curtain to
let them see the })icture, and to whom you remem-
ber the artist replied, " The curtain is the picture."
That was all there was to see ; the curtain. Yes,
all there was to see, but not all there was. The
curtain was more than a curtain. The curtain was
a veil, ivvcaliiig the artist who painted it, whose
inner ai'tist light, whose inner genius light, just be-


cause it was light, could not have been revealed in
any other way. And the curtain was the j^icture,
of the artist, or rather of that inner spiritual light
which constituted the artist in his essential self,
expressing, revealing, and giving to those who on
the painted curtain looked, the vision of that light ;
and of which, if the curtain had been taken away,
they would have had no vision, and could have
had no vision.

Even so are we, in looking at and thinking about
this wonderfully painted curtain of physical nature
before us, sometimes moved to say, or wish, " O,
that the curtain might be drawn aside a little, that
Ave might see the picture, the wonderful picture of
God." And the curtain is the picture, revealing
God, giving the vision of God, who could not be
revealed in any other way. For God is Light, and
light cannot be seen in itself, it can only be seen
through a veil; and God cannot be seen in Him-'
self, He can only be seen through a veil. And
that is what it seems to me this curtain, this great
curtain of nature is, which in its infinite bigness
through the telescope we see, Avhich in its infinite
littleness through the microscope we see ; that is
what it seems to me this curtain of nature is ; not a
curtain only, it is a curtain that is more than a cur-


tain ; it is a curtain that is a veil, the veil of God,
cominof to us as Moses came down from the mount
Avith the veil upon his face.

Doesn't it look like it ? Think a moment. Se-
creting yet disclosing, just as a veil does. Conceal-
ing yet revealing, just as a veil does. Holding
back the light, and resisting it; letting out the
light, and liberating it ; the light of wisdom, of
power, of beneficence, of love, of goodness, of God ;
not without some little shading in it, screening it,
and hiding it, yet letting out that light, of goodness,
and of God ; letting it out, through a veil !

Is there any other word which so finely and fitly
describes ^vhat physical nature is ?

But physical nature is not the only veil of God.
Human nature is a veil of God; finer, thinner,
more attenuated, of more delicate fibre than phys-
ical nature, revealing God more clearly, more
fully ; giving to us in many ways not a larger
vision of God, but a better vision of God ; in whose
human powers, the heart, the conscience, the sover-
eignty of the will, the freedom of the spirit, the
majesty of the mind, the indissoluble integrity
of the personality ; in whose human powers exer-
cised so nobly, so beneficently, upon the earth at
times, the light of God appears.


Have we not seen it, my friends, shining through
the story of human life, with its heroisms, not only
on the battlefield, but in the daily round of the
household and the home, in its sufferings, in its
chivalries, in its sacrificings of self in behalf of
some great cause, principle or truth, "daring the
right, and disregarding alike the Yea and Nay of
the world " ? In its human loves, stretching out
its human hands to heal, to help, to bless, with its
holy benedictions, the family and the nation ; in the
mother, the soldier, the patriot, the apostle, the
martyr, the prophet? AYhat does it all mean?
What does it all seem to be, but the light of God
struggling through the veil, this "veil of human
flesh " as Saint Paul calls it, so aptly and so Avell ?
Holding back the light, yet letting out the light, as
through the meshes of a veil, and causing it to ap-

But if this human veil has some fineness of text-
ure in it, it also has some grossness of texture in
it, thick, hard, coarse, darkened, by passion and sin,
baseness, vileness, meanness ; cruelties, wrongs, lusts
of the flesh and of the eye, through which the
light of God cannot so brightly shine ; yet even at
times shining a little through all that, like a dia-
mond in the dirt. Once, however, and only once,


in the best judgment of the civilized world, there
appeared a form Avithout grossness, without blem-
ish, without sin, with a fineness of texture so fine,
so purely and spiritually fine, that it seemed to have
been fitted and made in some purely spiritual way,
to be the veil of God, so responsive to God, that
there we see, as nowhere else, the vision of Himself
— God coming to us in Jesus Christ with the veil
upon His face.

O, men and women, searching for God, and cry-
ing out at times and saying, " O, that Ave knew
Avhere Ave might find Him ! " God is Light ; there-
fore. He can only be revealed through a veil, and
in Jesus Christ most brightly, most clearly is that
veil of God. The love that shone in Jesus Christ,
it Avas the love of God. The glory Avhich appeared
in Jesus Christ, it Avas the glory of God ; Light of
light, God of God, very God of very God, com-
ing to us as Moses came doAvn from the mount,
Avith the veil upon his face !


/ see the heavens opened^ and the Son of man
standing on the right hand of God. — TiiE Acts
vii. 50.



That was the vision which Saint Stephen saw, the
vision of heaven and God through the medium of
a man, opening heaven, near to God, very near,
representing God, His power. His authority. His
sovereignty, His right hand. That was the vision
which he saw ; and the question of how lie saw it,
whether objectively or subjectively, physically or
spiritually, with his ej^es or with his soul, while in-
teresting, of course, is not to us important. That
is not our question. Our question is — Do Ave see
it, that vision of a man, opening heaven, revealing
God ; do we see it ? Let us inquire.

First, let me speak of the need to-day of some
such vision as that. Man is a born discoverer — so
at least it seems — with the instinct always in him
to discover something new. Down to the present
time in the history of the world, or up to the present
time, whichever way we put it, that instinct of dis-
covery in him has had a fairly sufficing use and
exercise in the attempted discovery of the world
itself, as the house in which he dwells. That
discovery now, however, has been almost com-



l)leted ; and with the exception of a few untenanted
and perhai)s untenantable rooms, at the extreme
northern end of the house and the extreme south
ern end, and which we designate as the " Poles " of
the house, there is nothing much left to discover of
this territorial house, this geographical Avorld. It
has been })retty much all discovered and opened
up ; and not only been discovered, but also now, as
never before, it has been possessed, occu})ied, moved
into. And civilized man is now established in his
big, cosmic dwelling-house, with a very complete
and comfortable kind of establishment in it.

And now, having done all this, having discovered
now the world, and prett}" well opened it up, as the
house in which he dwells ; and having, too, to a
great extent, taken possession of it — having done
and discovered all this, what will he try to discover
next y AVhat is there left to discover ? What is
there left to do ? What Avill he try to do ? Will
he simply go on trying to live, in his big dwelling-
house, pretty much in the same way in which he is
living in it now, with a few more cosmic conven-
iences and contrivances and adornments in it, which
are not so different after all from those lie has already,
nor piodiicini^- in it either a different type of life ?
That hardly seems enough. It is not enough, to


gratify, to satisfy, what every man on earth seems
born to be, and do. He is a born searcher, discoverer,
Avith the instinct in him to tr}^ to find something
strange and new ; and unless, having discovered and
opened up the world in which he is living now, he can
somehow discover and open up to some extent
some other kind of world, he will not be contented
in the world in which he is living now.

So, as a matter of fact, to-day, we often see and
find him, not contented in the world. Why ? Be-
cause he does not have it ? Xo ; but because he
does have it ; and because that is all he has, and
that is all he sees, the world ; and the world to-day
is getting a little old to him, and faded and wrin-
kled and commonplace, and he wants a new and
different world ; crying for it, like the child for the
moon, and not to be appeased because he does not
have it and nobody will give it to him !

We hear a great deal said to-day about the discon-
tentedness of the people who do not have much in
this world, and of how that discontentedness, associ-
ated as it so often is, with a deep and growing sense
on their part of injury and wrong, is becoming
formidable and threatening to the stability of our
modern society. Ah, if they only knew of that
other discontentedness, deeper, greater, so much


more bitter, so much more embittering, drying up
or jioisoning the very springs of life, of those other
people who do have much in this world, and ^vho
do not have anything else ! what a surprising reve-
lation it ^vould be to them, as perhaps some day it
Avill be, when they are w^here the people are whom
now so much they envy and are so jealous of. Then
they too will find when they have succeeded in
opening up fairly well the world in Avhich they are
living now, that they Avill be as much as now, or
more than now, discontented in it, unless they can
go on and try at least some other world to open up
and find.

That is Avhat so many, in so many ways are try-
ing now to do. In academic and philosophical Avays,
in radical and conservative ways, in biological ways,
" turning the gaze within," looking into man and
all that bears on man ; looking into man, the dis-
coverer of the world, and trying to discover the
discoverer himself, hoping thus to find in the dis-
coverer himself some new kind of world.

Then again in other ways, are they trying to
do it, not so academic and philosophical, but queer,
strange, bizarre; in all those Christian Sciences,
faith cui'es, Telepathies, Theosophies, Esoteric
Duddliisins, and other subtle occultisms, Avith


whose nomenclature I am not familiar, but which
seem to be cropping up and cropping out all around
to-day. There may be something in them, some-
thing good and true — I do not know whether there
is or not. There is usually something good in
everything. But what to me they chiefly mean, or
chiefly show, is this: that the vision which men
have to-day of this present world, so clear, so bright,
so full, is not enough. Some other vision they must
have, of some other world, and that vision of some
other world, in all these strange and novel ways
they are trying to-day to find, and thinking perhaps
that they do.

Then again, what is the significance of that grow-
ing interest in religion which, in spite of its world-
liness — yes, hecause of its worldliness, is coming to be
one of the symptomatic features of our time ; which
shows itself not only in controversies and discus-
sions, about creeds and doctrines and the diff'erent
books of the Bible, and what they mean and are,
but also in a growing disposition upon the part of
many to-day, after they have become fairly well off
in the world, seeing it, having it, or a good part of
it, to become themselves religious — not much })er-
haps, but a little. Yet Avhy even the little ? AVe
know the motive which is so often attributed to


them. *' A little religion," it is said, " is quite a re-
spectable thing. A little religion is quite a fashion-
able thing." When such persons put on a little re-
ligion, by going to some Church, taking a pew in
some Church, which is said to be fashionable they
can thus maintain, it is said, by means of such little
religion, a more respectable look and appearance,
and standing in the world. I do not believe it ! It
may be the case, to some extent, with some ; yet
even in their case there is another and deeper mo-
tive in them, so deep perhaps that they are not
conscious of it ; nevertheless it is in them. To some
extent, and in some way, people must be religious
to-day. They must be, or they will die ! They can-
not get on without it. The very fact of their
Avorldly life, seeing it, and having it so much, will
be their death ! " A lamp's death, when replete
Avith oil, it chokes. A stomach's death, when sur-
charged with food, it starves. The lamp, o'erswims
with oil ; the stomach flags, loaded with nurture ; "
and the man surcharged with the world, and noth-
ing else, " that man's soul dies ! " And people must
be religious, a little, to keep themselves alive.

So in these various ways, and many more besides,
we are nuide to see, that what so much we need to-
day and are trying so hard to find, is something like


that vision of another world, of an open heaven
which Saint Stephen saw. Can we then that vision
have, that vision see to-day ? I think we can. And
how ? In the same manner precisely in which Saint
Stephen saw it. How did he see it ? How was he
made to see it ? Not by a labored argument ; not
by a discussion, curious or critical or philosophical ;
not by evidences or proofs, or what we usually call
evidences or proofs. Through the medium of a man
he was made to see it, opening heaven, another
world, revealing to him God !

Can we not understand it ? Have we not our-
selves at times had such a vision as that, in such a
Avay as that — through a man, an acquaintance per-
haps, a friend, a human life like ours, truly and
thoroughly human, sympathizing with ours yet
more than ours, and above it, Avhich seemed to be
moving on a higher plane than ours, with a stronger
faith than ours, better, purer, with a higher motive
in it, guiding it, controlling it, transfiguring it, and
seeming to us to come from a higher world than
ours ? Have we never had, every one of us, the
vision of such a life, in some man, perhaps some
Avoman, some person at least, who, as we stood be-
fore him, in his immediate presence, feeling then his
power, his quickening influence resting then upon


US, seemed to scatter and banish and drive away all
our doubts and questions ? Standing there before
him we did not have any doubts. If we did for a
moment, it was only to be ashamed of them. We
did not think them then. We did not speak
them then, for we were seeing- then the vision
of another life, of another world, of an open
heaven, through the medium of a man ! What that
man himself believed, we did not know ; we did not
think to ask. Whether he was heterodox or ortho-
dox we did not know ; we did not care to know.
We only knew that he seemed to us to be standing
at the right hand of God.

Surely we have all had, sometime, somewhere, in
the past, such a vision as that. Such a vision as
that, my friends, is passing before the face of the
civilized world to-day. The Christmas vision ; on
which the civilized world is beginning to-day to
look, and which, as it looks upon it, scatters for a
wliile at least, its shadows and its clouds ; or which,
by its brightness, resting on the clouds, piercing
and pencilling the clouds, is making beautiful the
clouds ; and awakening somehow in the heart of
the civilized world to-day, a peace, a joy, a glad-
ness, like a stirring music thrill, too deep, too high,
too l)ig, Uh) something gre:it for words ! "


What is it the vision of ? Of a man ? Yes. Of
a great, and good man ? Yes ; great and good, but
greater than the greatest, higher than the highest,
better than the best ; coming to us strangely — it
woukl be strange if He did not so come — in and
through Whose vision another vision shines, as
through the vision on the earth of no one else it
shines ; of another life, of another world, revealing
to us God, His power. His authority. His sov-
ereignty. His right hand reaching down and touch-
ing and resting on the earth ; guiding, controlling
the earth ; helping us here to live, as here we ought
to live, as here we want to live, with patience, with
endurance, with courage, by opening heaven to us !

That is the Christmas vision. In larger and fuller
measure that was the vision Avhich Saint Stephen saAV ;
the vision of heaven and God, but the vision of
heaven and God through the medium of a man.
As it came to him, so must it come to us, so must
it come to all ; not by the argument of a man, not
by the philosophy of a man, not by the teaching or
the preaching of a man, but by the vision of a man.
And above all, by the vision of Jesus Christ, in
AYhom as in no one else we see the vision of God.

My friends, do we have that vision, of heaven
and God, through Jesus Christ ? If we do, then do


we liave and see the best, the brightest, the truest
thing it is possible for us to see. And in the light
of that vision, another vision we see ; the vision of
man in the future years, dwelling upon the earth,
exalted, inspired, more and more redeemed, living
in two worlds, this world and another, lifted up,
standing as in an open heaven, at the right hand
of God !


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