David Hummell Greer.

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

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did not stop there. Having once started it went
on. The people had tasted freedom; it tasted
good, They wanted more freedom, from more
houses of bondage, social, civic, economic, mental,
moral, circumstantial ; from more houses of bond-
age. The movement went on, deepening, widen-
ing, strengthening; has since been going on, is
going on now. "Freedom" is now the cry, the
rallying cry of the world, inspiring the Avorld,
inflaming the world, exhilarating the world,
sometimes exhilarating it too much ; making
the world drunk, with freedom ! Human life to-
day, having been delivered from its old bond-
age houses, is out in the Wilderness going wild
with freedom there, or going wild about it. The
part of human life that is not yet there is try-
ing hard to get there, and is getting there more
and more, to freedom. Not for the sake of Avhat
freedom indeed can do, but just for the sake of
freedom ; sporting there, with freedom ; playing
there, with freedom ; a dangerous thing to play
with ; yet playing there, revelling there, carousing
there, with freedom, from the old coercive re-
straints, from the old coercive economies, customs,
laws, conventions !

That is where our human life seems to be to-day ;


not in Egypt, that belongs to the past from which
it has been delivered ; not at Sinai, the Mount of
Obedience, that belongs to the future to Avhich it
has not yet come ; but in the Wilderness, between
them. Does it not seem so ? Look and see. Look
within, some of you, within yourselves and see.
The old religious beliefs, the old religious theories,
which once you found within yourselves, to hold
you, to keep you, to bind you fast — do you find
them now within you ? Do you find them now so
much ? Do they hold you now so much ? Do
they bind you now so much ? Or have you got
away from them a little, perhaps a great deal?
And if you have got away from them a little or a
great deal, what have you put in their place?
Have you put anything in their place ? Or are
you just out in the Wilderness, free indeed from
what you once believed, and thought and had and
held ; free^ and that is all ; just free, with the free-
dom of the Wilderness, bewildering you at times,
perhaps frightening you at times, causing you al-
most to feel at times as though you would like to
go back into the old house of bondage again, with
its old tasks and taskmasters, harsh and hard as
they were, and yet so clearly prescriptive of things
to think and believe and do. But you cannot go


back. The Wilderness shuts you off and shuts you
in. And that is where your inner life seems to-
day to be ; not in Egypt, that belongs to the past
from which you have been delivered ; not at Sinai,
that belongs to the future to which you have not
yet come ; but in the Wilderness between them !

Does it not seem so ? Look again ; not at the
life within, but at the life without. Look at the
life of the State, the modern State, and see how
freedom to-day is apotheosized, deified, made into
a god, doing wonders, Avorking miracles; where
folly becomes wisdom, where bad becomes good,
where wrong becomes right. How ? Kot by the
slow, labored process of a growth, but by the quick,
free process of a vote, a popular vote, unenlightened,
perhaps unintelligent, but no matter ; a popular vote
has done it. As though there were in a vote, a free
and popular vote, some thaumaturgic power, some
miraculous power, some instantaneously transform-
ing power, changing all at once darkness into light,
blackness into white — Freedom becoming a god,
more than a god, doing what God cannot do ; mak-
ing that right which had not been right before,
making that good which had not been good before !

That is where the life of the State, the modern
State, seems to-day to be ; not in Egypt, from


which it has been delivered ; not at Sinai, the
Mount of Obedience, to which it has not yet come ;
but in the Wilderness, between them.

Look again, Avithout, at the social life, and see
how Freedom is invading, wantonly, ruthlessly,
some of the sacredest precincts of human life on
earth, bringing out and holding up to a cold, crit-
ical, public gaze, through the medium of the public
press, the private sanctities of the home. See how
Freedom to-day is severing some of the sacredest
ties of human life on earth, breaking down the
home, making the union of those who have been
joined together for better or for worse, not an in-
violable union with one man and one woman true
till death to one another, but a union at conven-
ience, a union simply at pleasure, and while it
pleases, and then not a union.

You tell me that these are but tendencies. Yes,
but they are tendencies in modern life. We note
them and we feel them a little. And other ten-
dencies, too, there are, toward wild and excessive
freedom, in the same direction working !

AYell, what then ? Are we discouraged ? Is the
outlook black and despairing? No. It is bright
and inspiring. From Egypt, to the Wilderness,
and then to Sinai : from Bondage, to Freedom, and


then to Obedience. That is the Divine method of
development. Those are the three stages in it.
We have passed the first ; we have reached the
second ; we are on our way to reach at last the
third. It is the only way in which it can be
reached. We cannot go at once from Bondage
to Obedience. We can only go from Bondage,
through Freedom, to Obedience.

We see that sometimes strikingly illustrated in
the individual life ; in the case of a young man.
He has reached his majority ; he is free ; free from
the bondage of his father's house, of his father's
rule and direction. He goes out into the Wilder-
ness, free! And O, how he feels and enjoys his
freedom ; how he plays with it, and sports with it,
wandering in the Wilderness where and as he
pleases ; sometimes wandering with wild excesses
in it! He is on his way to Obedience. Do not
worry about him, father and mother ; do not break
your heart over him. He will reach it ; sooner or
later he will reach his father's house again; not
perhaps to be again an actual dweller in it ; but the
counsels, the wisdoms, the rules of his father's house ;
— he will see them, he will understand them, he Avill
appreciate them, he will take them to himself as he
never did in his voutli, and as when it Avas or


seemed to be a house of bondage to him. 'Not only
to his earthly father's house will he come, but to his
heavenly Father's house, to Sinai, the Mount of
God, Obedience ; — through the Wilderness !

AVhat we see sometimes so strikingly illustrated
in one individual, in a broad and general way we
see in all life, social, and national, the world life.
The qualities that are in it, the forces, faculties,
tendencies, which in the house of bondage were
hidden and latent in it, must be brought out and
freed first in order thus to be redeemed at last and
tamed. '

If, my friends, we see such forces coming so
freely out, sometimes so excessively and so wildly
out, in human life to-day, that is what they are
coming out for — to be redeemed, all of them ; in
order that the whole of human life — not a part of
it, not a little of it, but the whole of it — and every-
thing that is in it, every force, every passion, may
be at last redeemed.

Then give the people freedom ; freedom to think,
freedom to vote, freedom to live. They may at
times, they certainly will, misuse it and abuse it,
going wrong with it, going wild with it, going
drunk with it ! Yet, give the people freedom and
never despair. It is the Divine method of develop-


ment — from Egypt to the Wilderness, and then to
Sinai : to Sinai through the Wiklerness.

That is the great lesson which in and through
and by means of their freedom the people to-day
must learn — Obedience, obedience to those great
words of God, which, through a Prophet greater
than Moses, and on a holier mountain than Sinai,
He has spoken to the world. It is the lesson which
all of us must try to learn. The wildness that
is in us — and there is a wildness in us — we must
learn to tame, and we shall learn to tame it, through
the experiences and the disciplines and the disillusion-
ments of the Wilderness ; we shall learn to tame it.
We shall be made to learn that life means, that
faith means, that religion means, not bondage and
not freedom, but obedience, to Jesus Christ.

And far beyond ourselves perhaps will that obe-
dience go ; for the fight here in the Wilderness in
which Ave are engaged, as Professor James of Har-
vard says, seems to be not merely a fight for our-
selves, but for the universe as well ; as though
there were something really loild in the universe
which Ave, by our idealities and faithfulnesses and
obediences, are needed to redeem."

So it sometimes seems ; so it sometimes feels ; a
fight here in the Wilderness, Avhose successes of


obedience, reach to other spheres beyond us, work-
ing out some redemption there, which we when
there shall know ! The glory there, the far illumi-
nating glory of obedience here ! The dominion
there, the far extending dominion of obedience
here; the redemption there, the far reaching re-
demption of obedience here, which here and now
we give to those great, commanding words of God,
spoken through Jesus Christ to the world.


Nathan said to David, Tlioii art the man. — 2
Samuel xii. 7.



The incident to which these words belong, as
related at length in the chapter from which the
text is taken, you are doubtless familiar with ; for
it is a familiar Bible story, and except with the
briefest reference I need not recall it to you.
David has done a mean, wicked and cruel thino-.
But he is not aware of it, or he does not seem
to be aware of it, or to have within himself any
consciousness of the wrong. So that when the
prophet comes to him and tells him the story of
another man apparently, whose conduct was char-
acterized by the same kind of meanness, by the
same kind of baseness, David's anger is greatly
kindled against the man ; he is full of indignation,
of righteous indignation, and he said to JSTathan,
" As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this
thing shall surely die ! " And Kathan said to
David, " Thou art the man ! "

Self-deception : that is what for a little while
this morning I want to talk about.

The faculty of the human heart for the exercise
of self-deception is something wonderful, or would



indeed be Avonderful if it were not so commonly
exercised, and in so many ways so often made to
appear. The preacher goes up into the pulpit some
Sunday morning and preaches his sermon to you ;
in the course of Avhich he describes not sin in gen-
eral, nor the exceeding sinfulness of sin, but some
particular sin, some particular fault, some moral
taint and blemish, some moral defect and weakness,
in character or in conduct. And to what he says
you listen, with an attentive and intelligent listen-
ing. But you seem this morning to be a little
more eagerly and keenly attentive than usual ; for
there is a man here this morning, an acquaintance
of yours, a friend. He does not come very often,
but he happens to be here this morning ; he happens
now to be here, whom the preacher seems to de-
scribe, to characterize and portray. How fortu-
nate it is, how providential, that he should be here ;
this day of all days, this man of all men! Yes,
he is here ; the probability is that he came in when
you came in ; that he Avalked up the aisle when
you walked up the aisle; that he sat down and
took his seat when you sat down and took your
seat ; that he will go out again when you go
out again ; you will lodge Avith him, to-day, to-
night, to-morrow, and the day after. And yet.


although you will lodge with him, and live with
him, and walk about the streets with him, and can
never shake him off, you don't know him ; for it is
you ! And you ; you don't know you / you don't
see you ! It is just as difficult to do it with the
moral eye as it is with the physical eye. You see
only a part of you, and not the most responsible
part ; the brain, the head, the intelligence, where
the responsibility lies. It is the other man you
see ; his sin, his weakness, his inconsistency, in all
its blackness and inexcusableness. But your sin,
and your fault, and your inconsistency — you don't
see that ! You think you do ; you say you do ; but
I am not sure that you do. Or if you do, you see it
as something else or less than what it really is ;
less heinous, less culpable, less reprehensible. You
give it another name, a more euphemistic name ;
you put a mask upon it, palliating it by heredity,
extenuating it by circumstance, mitigating it by
both, circumstance and heredity, temperament and
temptation. You put a mask upon it ; in one way
or another you deceive — what a strange, psycholog-
ical process it is — you deceive yourself ahout it !

That is what makes all your Bible reading, and
has made it all these years from your youth up
until now, — or let me sa}^ rather, putting myself in


the same condemnation with 3^011, — that is what
has made all our Bible reading, from our youth up
until now, such ineffective reading; not taking it
to ourselves, nor applying it to ourselves, who are
not in the Bible story, or who do not seem to be in
the Bible story, but only to those who are in the
Bible story ; the baseness of David to David ; the
cowardice of Peter to Peter; the treachery of
Judas to Judas : " As the Lord liveth, the man
that did that thing ought to die ! " we say. And
where is that man ? Does he live in Jerusalem or
Kew York ? And the formalism that is in the Bible
described, and the hypocrisy there portrayed, and
the worldliness there denounced, and the covetous-
ness called idolatry which is there condemned — we
read it there, we find it there, we see it there, in
the Bible ; and we lieej) it there, in the Bible ; shut
up and closed between the Bible covers ; not as the
mirror of us, revealing and showing us, our formal-
ism and our hypocrisy and our covetousness and
our double-dealing, and our inconsistency, and our
serving of God and Mammon ; but as the mirror of
them, of whom the Bible speaks, revealing and
shoAving them, and their formalism and inconsist-
ency and double-dealing.

And so again in our Bible reading, as in our ser-


mon hearing, we try to deceive ourselves ; some-
times by the very process of reading the Bible,
thinking that thereby we are somewhat better, we
try to deceive ourselves. And strange as it seems,
inexplicable, theoretically impossible, we do deceive
ourselves. It is one of those deep, subtle, mysteri-
ous functionings of the human heart, or the human
soul, or the human something in us, which we do
not quite understand. To deceive others about
ourselves, or to try at least to do so and in a meas-
ure to succeed ; that of course we can quite readily
understand. But to deceive ourselves, about our-
selves ; not only to ^vant to do it, and to try to do
it, but to do it — that is a kind of deception which
seems to me to be, something not quite human,
something more than human, or something else
than human ; something ultra-human ; disposing us
to believe, as we reflect upon it, that each of us is
or has two personalities in him, and that one of
them is that exceedingly cunning, crafty, intellectu-
ally blinding, darkening, bewildering, sophisticating
personality that the Bible calls the " Devil " ! But
whencesoever it comes, or whencesoever it is, it is ;
that curious force and power, that curious some-
thing in us, human or ultra-human, whose tendency
is to make us, from ourselves hide ourselves, to our-


selves deceive ourselves, and not to know our-
selves !

To fight against that tendency, to conquer and
overcome it, is the hardest task that human nature
can perform. With a confession of sin not too gen-
eral, not too extravagant either, not too violently
denunciatory, which shows that the self-deceiving
or the self-excusing is still working in us a little ;
but with a confession of sin, honest, fair, candid,
oxLT sin, our besetting sin, our worldliness, our mi-
serliness, our sensuousness ; calling it by its right
name, seeing it as it is, with no attempt to condone
it, — no task I say is harder to perform than that.
And yet, my Christian friends, if there is truth in
the Christian religion, if there is any truth in the
Bible, if there is any truth in the moral nature of
man, if there is any moral truth and equity in this
universe, it is a task that will some day be per-
formed by us, or for us ! And the man who for a
time has been deceiving himself about himself,
through some prophetic voice sounding in his soul,
will at last be undeceived.

In different ways it speaks, that prophetic voice,
with different forms of speech. Sometimes it speaks
through publicity, to a man ; when some sinful
thing which he himself has done, some sinful deed


or act, some sinful habit, passion, indulgence, which
he perhaps in others has so often censured, so often
blamed and condemned, not seeing it in himself, not
knowing it in himself, concealing it from himself —
not only from the world but also from himself — is
by the world discovered, or almost discovered. It
begins to come out into discovery, it begins to
come out into publicity, he begins to fear and trem-
ble that it will come out, for he begins now to see
it as it is ; the self-deceiving mask which he has put
upon it begins now to fall ; he begins to see it as it
is, as he never saw it before ! And O, the horror of
it ! the shame of it ! the guilt of it ; the baseness of
it ; the meanness of it — the right name of it at last !
It sometimes takes publicity to touch and reach
the conscience and to make the conscience work.
And sometimes, too, it does so work, my friends.
AYe have seen it working so, sounding with pro-
phetic voice in the human soul, and speaking and say-
ing there, " The man Avhose sin thou hast rebuked,
censured and condemned ; tliou art the man ! "
And as though some great light, fierce and strong,
beating down upon him from the throne of God,
had pierced his self-deceiving, self-excusing mask ;
lie is made at last to see himself, to know and judge
himself !


It sometimes speaks, that prophetic voice, through
publicity. It seems to be the only way in Avhich it
can speak effectively to some men. To most of us,
I presume, who are here this morning, in another
way it speaks ; not with some loud, harsh, strident,
condemning voice without, but in some soft, still,
low and appealing voice within. There comes a
time Avhen Jesus of Xazareth seems to be passing
by ; the wonderful Jesus of Xazareth of Whom we
learned in childhood, of Whom we have often
heard, of Whom we have often read ; not only in
the Bible but in other books as well ; and yet Who,
in spite of all our efforts to be a Christian, has
seemed so far away, so distant, so remote, like some
great character in history; but now, somehow,
somewliy, we know not how or why, He seems to be
coming our Avay ! He is passing by ; His presence
we seem to feel touching us. His voice Ave seem to
hear calling us, something seems to be happening to
us; something is j our blindness is falling away,
blindness to ourselves ; the worldly film before our
eyes is falling now away ; our self -deceiving false-
ness is falling now away ; and in that self-revealing
light, seeing what Ave are, Ave see more clearly Jesus
Christ and the way in Avhich through Him to be
come wliat we ought to be.


That is the voice pleading with men, entreating
men, inviting men, so often heard, and which per-
haps is speaking now to you ; not to some man
somewhere, you don't know where ; some vague,
indefinite, nondescript, abstract kind of man, like
humanity in general. ]S"o ; he is speaking to a
man, pleading, inviting, entreating. Where is he ?
Not a man who stayed at home this morning, but
a man who came out this morning — Thou art the
man ! Jesus Christ wants you, needs you ; you
need Jesus Christ, to show you what you are, what
you ought to do, what you ought to be ; to help
you to do it, to be it, to live it ; a brighter, gladder,
purer, stronger, and braver life ! speaking now to
you and saying, " Thou art the man ! "


Some mocked ; and others said^ We will hear thee
again of this matter. — The Acts xvii. 32.



That was the effect produced upon his audience
by the preaching of Saint Paul at Athens. Not un-
like that is the effect which the preaching of the
Christian faith has elsewhere produced. It has not
always received unanimous assent, but only partial
assent ; and while it has appealed to some it has
not appealed to others ; not of necessity because it
is different, in different times and places, but be-
cause they are different, and do not have within
them, or do not feel within them, in the same meas-
ure, in the same degree of activity, that need of the
Christian faith which responds to the Christian
faith, and which constitutes one of the strongest
vouchers of the Christian faith.

And that is the subject, or that suggests the sub-
ject, to which I ask your attention, namely : The
Christian Evidences in us ; or. Finding in Ourselves
the Proof of the Christian Faith.

In one of his interesting essays, Professor James
of Harvard compares the world or the government
of the world to a lock ; and, in order that we may
ascertain what kind of a lock it is, moral or un-



moral, Nature, he says, has put into our hands two
kej^s. If we try the moral key and it fits, it is a
moral lock. If we try the unmoral key and it fits,
it is an unmoral lock, or an unmoral world. And
that is good evidence, and the best we can have, of
what the Avorld is.

Xow, the same simile may be used, not only with
reference to the world, but Avith reference as well
to the people in the world. They, too, may be
likened to locks. Some keys fit them, and some do
not ; and the keys which fit some of them do not
fit others of them. For there are in the world all
sorts of people, with different structural complexi-
ties and temperamental arrangements and adjust-
ments and combinations, requiring different keys to
open and unlock them. The key that tits the
grown-up man, that opens him, to which he re-
sponds, does not fit the child. It may be in itself
a very good key ; or, dropping the simile, it may be
in itself a very good thing, wise and right and true ;
but the child does not perceive it ; he cannot per-
ceive it because he is a child ; and if when he hears
it he does not mock and deride it, he does not very
much desire to hear it again.

And the case of the child with reference to the
man is the case of the man liimself with reference


to other men. What seems right and trne to the
man who is a scholar, with his scholarly tastes and
instincts ; to the man who is not a scholar does not
seem right or true, but foolish perhaps, and Avrong.
As the remark or the sentiment attributed to the
late Professor Agassiz, might seem to some of us —
that he had no time to make money. Ko time to
make money ! How silly ; how absurd ! Some
mock. Others there are of us perhaps to whom
that sentiment appeals. It fits us ; it suits us ; we
respond to it, and are moved perhaps to say, as we
hear it by some setter-forth declared, " That is
good ; that is right ; that is true ; there is some-
thing more worth while to which to give our time
than simply the making of money. There is some-
thing in that ; we will hear thee again of this mat-

So in regard to other sentiments, other ideals in
life, or other ideals of life. If they appeal to us,
we think them right and true. If they do not ap-
peal to us, we do not think them right and true.
And the proof of what they are is not in them, but
in us. We are the proof, than which there is for

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