F. D. (Frederic Dan) Huntington.

Forty days with the Master online

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there is no question what can be learned from it, or
that it suits our modern life and habit of mind in
society and in the Church.

See, first, how the simplicity of the action works
itself into the style of the narrative. Simplicity is
one of the surest marks of truth. It is only when we
get out of nature into criticism, which is apt to be
first self-conscious, then artificial, and then skeptical,
that there is a doubt that everything happened on
that hillside just as it is told. Something is about to
be done such as has not been seen or heard of before.
Imagine yourself one of the five thousand, — no regu-
lar meal since day before yesterday, none at all to-
day. There lie the five barley loaves of the common
size and the ^^ two small fishes." How do you think


a professional wonder-worker, a Simon Magus, any
pretender, would have gone about his prodigy ? How
would fiction, or the stage, or a partisan historian, a
Victor Hugo, the poet who never loses sight of his
reputation, the enthusiastic biographer, magnifying
his hero and himself together, would have wrought
that description which, for fifty generations of men,
was to be read with reverent faith ? Five thousand
hungers satisfied ; five thousand faces looking in
amazement at one another j five thousand pairs of
eyes seeing half a bushel of wheat, without planting,
or harvesting, or flail, or winnowing-fan, or flour-
mill, grow into the feast which becomes a vast sacra-
ment of charity, and yet not a syllable of astonish-
ment put into the record by these sure witnesses.
What does this simple, straightforward style mean ? It
means that these men were too fall of the unspeaka-
ble reality to cry out, ^' Lo, here," or ^^ Lo, there."
Let alone the authority of inspiration. Not till the
laws of intellectual life are reversed, not till students
of language forget its profoundest principles, can they
make impostors out of these evangelists. Nature is
true to nature, answers to herself, testifies to herself,
in a crystal, a song of a thrush, a human voice, or a
Gospel. It sounds unprofessional, perhaps, but I


feel sure that if these New Testament biographies of
Christ had been left more to themselves, if theolo-
^gians had been less anxious to vindicate them, if their
intrinsic majesty and serenity had been let alone by
ecclesiastical door-keepers and apologists, if Christ
Himself in the tenderness and glory of His divine
humanity had been made the immediate object of
faith and the living light of His Church rather than
this or that piece of external evidence about
Him, — then men would have seen that His super-
natural acts were really as natural to Him as
anything in His life; that His miracles were
the necessary outcome of His power and His love,
because now and then He could not otherwise ac-
complish his gracious purposes, or express Himself
so well ; that it was just what was to be expected
that there should be openings around Him of that
higher and more resplendent world out of which He
must have come ; that in fact it would have been
strange and unnatural if, when ordinary things would
not serve His loving purpose, the extraordinary
should not obey Him— the winds and the sea, disease,
dumbness, death— and so here that the loaves and fish
should not be made to fill the fainting multitude as


never before, and the small grow suddenly great in
His almighty and all-merciful hands.

When I think of ivhat He tvaSy even the shining
garments of His Transfiguration appear to me as
fitting raiment for Him as the every-day dress He
wore in the cottage at Nazareth or Bethany.

So much for the fact. Our Lord's superhuman
work and our own best human sense of it agree.
The farther we explore them the more the spiritual
and the intellectual laws harmonize. When a great
company who had been listening to the Master's good
news from Heaven were hungry, nothing was more
likely than that the Master would have ^^ compassion
on them." The food He had fed their nobler part
with was really as miraculous as the bread, and the
one as suitable as the other. When God's children
wanted a knowledge of their Father more than they
wanted anything else, what so probable as that God's
elder Son would come and reveal Him !

Sometime or other, when our human race has
grown more to its maturity, when science has become
more scientific than it is yet by being more compre-
hensive, men will not be content to live wholly in
the narrow limits of their material encampment, this
little door-yard of a planet, but will see ampler and


grander fields opening around them and above them,
answers to thoughts in them that wander through
eternity, and will be persuaded that when the Son
of God is on His errand of unmistakable love what is
to us a miracle will be as likely to take place as our
seed-time and harvest. When education is complete,
the whole material universe will be a symbol and a
type of what eye cannot see and the ears cannot hear.
The perishable and the eternal will be one.

Come next to the motive of the miracle. Certainly
it was not to astonish a superstitious crowd, Christ's
heart lies as open as the landscape to the light.
First in ilis thought always is the first want in His
neighbor. There is the secret of His supremacy ;
this is the heart of this new kingdom which has come
and gained the faith of the world. This ought to be
the central thing, the essential thing, in the creed
and the worship of the Church. ^^ I have compas-
sion on the multitude, for they have nothing to eat."
The Church must learn it again, and, as fast as it un-
learns it, learn it again and again. Here is its doc-
trine, and its practical business. In comparison
with this regeneration of the race by the wonder-
working power of Love, any special wonder is only
an incident or an instrument. To make a few


sick people well, to heal ten lepers, to liberate a poor
frame bent double with I'heumatism, is a symbol. It
illustrates the boundless charity of a Saviour. If
we turn that bounty of the bread, or the blessing of
giving back to the sisters at Bethany their dead
brother to be with them a few years more and then
die again, or the quieting of a storm for a boat's crew
on a lake, if we turn this merciful and beautiful min-
istry of miracle into the substance of His religion, or
make the religion itself dependent on such evidence,
we blunder terribly. ^' Blessed are the pure in
heart," "lam the Light of the world," "'He that
humbleth himself shall be exalted," " Come unto Me
and I will give you rest," — how can any one of these
immortal and undeniable sayings be the more true
for the restoring of a withered hand? This is
Christ's own explanation of His miracles. Come to
Me, He says, for what I am, and because I came
forth — God's life incarnate — from God the Father.
Believe in Me because I give Myself for you. Be
gathered into My Church because / am there,
and there you shall learn My will, be trained in My
school, get holy habits, take sides with My peaceful
army, commune with Me at My table. You shall
help on this slow conquest of sin. You will not


find everytKing even here in the Church in divine
order j the Church on earth will not correspond al-
together to its heavenly pattern ; the visible body
of Christ will not include all of His Spirit, because
men and women who enter it are both faulty and
weak, and they bring in with them their manifold
infirmities. The Church is Mine, He says, I love it,
and gave Myself for it ; you, if you are wise, will
love it, and give yourselves to Me and to one another
in it, and so live as to make it what it ought to be,
" without spot or wrinkle." My healings and feed-
ings of your bodies point you to a deeper cure, a
larger salvation; a richer and more nourishing Eu-
charist. They are means, not an end ; secondary,
not first ; signs, not the substance. He said. Believe
JVIe for what I bring and offer to your souls ; but if
you will not, then believe Me for the work^s sake j
see what the sign signifies, and lay hold of that.
There is something like a tone of rebuke : " Except
ye sees signs and wonders ye will not believe.^'
These miracles are accommodations to your dulness,
condescensions to your low estate. Open your eyes
and see. If you will not or cannot welcome the glo-
rious and loving revelation I offer you in My sacri-
ficial pleading and prayer, in My Sermon on the


Mount, in Mj agony, My tears and blood, and the
patience of My cross, I will be patient still ; here is
medicine for your aching or fevered flesh : here is
the touch of My hand, the hem of My garment, the
five loaves and two fishes 5 let them satisfy you as to
who I am, and why I am come. Only let me lead
you, and bear your children on My shoulders. No
doubt some of you will have to come from a far
country ; no matter, it is coming homewardj ^^ divers
of them came from far." Come any way, by any
road, drawn by the cords of Heaven or by the cords
of a man. You are heavy-laden ; you labor with
dissatisfaction ; you are discontented in your unbe-
lief 5 you are not very successful in your work, and
are disappointed ; you are not very wise, and least
wise when you imagine you are ; you are misunder-
stood ; you have heart-aches that are not to be told.
The hunger is in your soul. Then you are one of
the '' multitude." They are more than five thou-
sand. I have compassion on them all. You and
they all, unless you are refreshed, will '* faint by the

People keeping Lent, or going to a mission, are
told in the churches that there are seven deadly sins.
So there are, and seventy times seven sins that in


your hearts and lives will kill your spiritual life if
you do not fight day and night, Sundays and week-
days, against them. But we do not find in the ordi-
nary list one which Christ our Master, who knows us
through and through, puts always among the first.
This sin is the daily breaking of one-half of that two-
fold commandment where He sums up the whole
law, which, if you mind it, makes you a Christian
and gives you everlasting life : "• Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself.'^ We go around that to make
sure of our own comfort. We leave it out. We
hurry it over. We hide it under doings and preach-
ings that do not strike us so hard and cut so deep.

The miracle of the loaves cuts deep. The mean-
ing of it is Lenten food.

'* From feasts that perish turn aside

A little space,
O be the flesh indeed denied ;
Our souls an-hungered satisfied

With the sweet feast of grace

" Thou who didst fast so long, so sore,

For our poor sake,
All pangs of earth's vast hunger bore,
Ere thou Thy precious blood didst pour,

Thy blessed body break.


" O Holy Jesus ! hear our cry,
Aud give us strength,
For love of Thee to mortify
The love of self till self shall die,
And leave us Thine at length ! "

/r\ GOD, Who art Love, and Who makest men to be of one
^~^ mind in an house, grant to Thy children who eat of thy
Heavenly Bread to bear one another's burdens in the good will
of a perfect charity, and in service to one another's necessities,
that Thy peace, which passeth all understanding, may keep
our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



It is a distinct aspect of the miracle of the multi-
plied loaves, and of weighty meaning when great mul-
titudes are hungry, that it represents the Master of
men as their Feeder. What is it that we see on the
mountain-side ? The Strong One serves the weak.
The high-born, eternally-begotten of the Father,
passes the dishes to the poor. The Lord of all the
fields where the grain grows, of all the seas where
the fishes swim, is a working-man. The only actual
landlord on earth collects no rent, demands no tax,
is not waited upon. He thinks, cares, labors, for
them that have ^^ nothing to eat." Our question is,
Has the meaning of this miracle expired 1 Because
you and I, between house and shop or field, along
streets where we walk or drive, at the doors of our
churches, see no multitude having literally ^^ nothing
to eat," has the object lesson in Galilee no application
here ? Because He who broke the bread there has


gone to that Heaven to which He lifted up His eyes
and gave thanks, have we no calling to be feeders in
His name and to make His Church a brotherhood ?
Then why does the Church keep this record in her
Prayer Book, and three times a year put it, or its
equivalent, on the lips of her children ? What do
modern congregations believe St. Paul meant when
he wrote to Christians that the Son of Man, " though
He was rich, became poor " ? Did he mean that
being rich Christ made it His business to become
richer and richer, — richer by merciless competition
■with His neighbors, richer by buying cheap and sell-
ing dear, richer by taking every possible advantage
of other men's ignorance or misfortune, richer by join-
ing a ring, or consolidating a monopoly, or manipulat-
ing a market, or paying working- women a fifth part
of what their work is worth, or renting tenements at
twenty per cent profit where fever and filth and vice
go with the lodging, — richer by any game that money
itself, or a sharp brain, or a cruel hand, can play ?
Emptying our Lord's words of the original sense that
He put into them. His orders. His warnings, is no
part of a Christian prophet's business ; yet it is this
very thing, done from favor, from fashion, from
cowardice, that keeps the consciences of a great many


men and women, who say the Creed and respond to
the Ten Commandments, comfortable. The two king-
doms which Christ sundered and held apart, declar-
ing that no man can serve both at the same time, are
as irreconcilable now as they ever were. The Son of
Man came on earth to give ; are most of us living to
give, or living to get ? Are we Christ's people then f
You may fancy that in a prosperous republic the line
that separates class from class has been blotted out
or blurred over. But no; in most congregations it is
as sharp though not so visible as in the fashions and
parlors of society. The better part of the world and
the worse part of the Church conspire to accommodate
the two together, with this result, that the world pays
a pew-tax to the Church, and the Chui'ch, in its finan-
cial policy, its estimate of preaching, its hunt for
popularity, its passion for display, is more and more
like the world. How many parishes are conducted
on the plan of giving the Bread of Heaven to those
who have none of it to eat f How many churches
are built in compassion for those who are far oflf from
the Father's House ? How many of us, individuals,
in our personal following of Him who gave Himself
for us, think first, as He did, or work and give and
pray with Him, for those, near or far, who have not


our privileges, our comforts, out strength or light, —
some share with us of the things that are best in the
world, — or our easy access to satisfactions higher and
nobler than these ?

We take our comfort, perhaps pride, in our Church
and its worship. But Christ our Lord will not have
us separate this mystical Body from the deeper mys-
tery of our personal life. What pathetic delusions
the decorations all are if they hide from us the
preciousness of the poorest, meanest, weakest heart
of any son or daughter of the present infinite God.
Look at the sights if you will ; admire them if you
know what they signify. But take care to turn and
look from them to one of these souls that you
neglect or despise outside your door, under the feet
of your pride, God's immortal ill- clad child. A great
European thinker and scholar, lately dead, a real and
not a fictitious philosopher, living in his solitary cham-
ber, apart from people but aWays living among the
spiritual secrets which are the realities, whites this, one
evening, in his diary: ^^ The errand-w^oman has just
brought me my letters. Poor little woman, what a
life ! She spends her nights in going backwards and
forwards from her invalid husband to her helpless
sister, and her days in toil. Resigned and indefati-


gablo, she goes on without complaining till she drops."
^^ Lives such as hers," he says, ^^ prove something."
'^ Ignorance that is deplorable is moral ignorance, that
more vulgar ignorance in men and women who can-
not read the alphabet of humanity, where the selfish
misunderstand the self-forgetful, where luxury is
blind to the beauty of simplicity, where culture misses
the hidden romance and chivalry and tragedy in the
grander theatre and holier gallery of living peo-
ple everywhere." ^' The kingdom of God belongs
not to the most enlightened, but to the best, and the
best man is the most unselfish man." He might have
said, the finest woman is the woman to whom she her-
self is least, and those that need her skill and gra-
ciousness, her smile and hand are first. ^^ Humble,
constant, voluntary sacrifice, — this constitutes the
true divinity, the bond and charm of society," the
light of all the rooms in a house, the strength and
salvation of a state. ^^ Without the worship of duty,
without love of one's neighbor," without patient hon-
esty, without religious ^^ respect for law, the whole
social fabric falls to decay. Neither letters nor art,
neither luxury nor industry, neither the custom-house
nor police," neither the splendor of public spectacles
nor badges of fortune, can keep safe at last any


structure of which the four foundations are not equity
and charity, righteousness and truth. And there-
fore it is written^ ^ The last shall be first.' " And,
as if that were not plain enough, ^' you that are first
shall be last.'' '^ Society rests upon conscience not
science," though science may build, and art adorn
the edifice. Be not deceived^ '^ Civilization is fore-
most and finally a moral thing. To every other
architect one greater than any of them says, from
eternity to eternity, ' Thou fool, this night thy soul
shall be required of thee.' "

The Church is made by the Feeder of the people
to be for Him a Feeder of the people. Not one of us
but can bear a part in that beneficence and share in
that glory, like the common men that handed the
bread to the ranks on the hill, like the lad with the
loaves. Who is the wiser man ? He who in the
meekness of his wisdom knows how to converse
kindly not patronizingly, with the lowest ; who stops
in the race for money or knowledge to hear the story
of wrong or misfortune, who brings the fruits of edu-
cation or enterprise and spreads them before hungry
minds ; who opens paths of industry to the idle, the
unskilful, the criminal; who pays not only wages but
respect to laboring men or women, and refuses reapect


to them who do not ; who does his best to refine
heartless wealth with Christ-like tenderness ; who
summons shame and law together to emancipate pale
children from the slavery of the factory and the mine;
whose study it is

'* How best to help the slender store,
How mend the dwellings of the poor,
How gain in life, as life advances,
Valor and charity more and more."

There are two feasts, both sacramental, — one at the
memorial altar of the one Sacrifice made once for allj
the other wherever Christ in His disciples toils, suf-
fers, dies, for mankind.

*' I stood outside, and looked within ;

These banquet doors were flung full wide,
I saw my own heart stained with sin,

And Thy dear face, Thou Crucified I
The very hands that broke the bread

Bore nail-prints suffered once for us,
Thorn-marks upon the Sacred Head,

Thine arms outstretched, as on Thy cross I

" Out of my famished heart I cry,

* At last, at last, is this Thy House ?
Feed me, my Saviour, even me,
With all these happy ones who com© !


I Lave l)nt tears to ofifer Thee !

With this Thine holy feeding sweet,
I have no veords I I " come and see,"

And, hungry, kneel here at Thy feetl' *'

"OLESS, O Lord, we beseech Thee, all those who are devoted
to serve Thee in works of charity, in the training of the
young and reclaiming the fallen,— those who visit the sick,
minister to the poor, instruct the ignorant, and lead back to
the Father's House them that are astray. Accept their labors,
and grant that while they sympathize with others in their
necessity they may bring them to share the joy of the divine
life wherein they live, may comfort the sorrowful with the
consolation wherewith they are comforted of God, and may
with them attain to that spiritual perfection which they desire,
through the merits and mediation of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.



The Master appeals to other parts of us than an
underlying, inborn, unextinguished, undeveloped
sense of righteousness, and even a latent desire for
it. But He does appeal to that. If He did not His
message would hardly be a Gospel, and it is not cer-
tain that He would have set up a kingdom of Heaven
on the earth.

Yet we must face a sad fact ; we must make
a perplexing and mortifying admission against
the credit of our human nature and kind. Some
doubter will say. What if this high desire, this
blessed aspiration, this passion for the living water
does not burn in my heart, and the thirst for dead
and dirty water does ? The prophet hears it said
back to him, with appalling frankness : " You tell
me I must desire what I do not desire, and you tell
me not to want what my senses and ambition and
vanity do want, — the present pleasure, the fortune


and equipage, the money in the bank, the style, the
frolic, the ^^ king's meat and the king's wine " for
fashion is king, this world's ^' good time." How
shall I begin to get me up to the higher and nobler
and cleaner life ? What shall attract and draw me
to that other '^ well," deeper and older than Jacob's,
the well you tell me of springing in the heart of
Christ ? Tell me this, or you mock me with a
mirage of the desert, or a will-o'-the-wisp of the
bog. You may keep on repeating from your pulpit,
^' Whosoever is athirst let him come," but you only
tantalize me with the phantom of an imaginary joy,
and I am as far off from your kingdom of Heaven as

But let us look a little closer. That Master
who knew all that is in man and woman, in every
bold man's and every yielding woman's heart,
and needed not that any should testify, knows this
about you too. He knows that your difficulty is not
beyond His reach. To this end was He born, and
for this cause came He into the world, that He might
show you, uncover you, interpret you, to yourself. Are
you sure that a capacity for a better life, after all,
is not in you, and with the capacity some aspiration
towards it; are you sure that the longing after loftier


aims and purer affections, tlie friendship of God
and the self-sacrificing charity of Christ, is really
dead in you, or is it only smothered by your senses
or hidden under rubbish or narcotized and paralyzed
by the drugs and gases of a sorceress that has
tempted you 1 Is it quite certain that never, at any
time, anywhere, when you were alone, at night, when
you have been sobered by bad news, or sickened, or
disappointed, or betrayed, when you have seen the
misery that your own folly or lust has created, or
when you have been cheated by man or scorned by
woman, when your plans failed or flesh ached, sure
that never, anywhere, in any better hour, something
said in you, I wish I were pure and right and true ;
I wish I were out of this bad, low, selfish way, for it
gets lower and lower ; I wish I were what I know I
ought to be ; 1 wish that God and I were friends, and
that His candle shined upon my head ? Well, that
was the thirst. It came, but it did not stay.
You had it, but you did not keep it. Worse yet,
you did not ask God to satisfy it, and so you thirsted
again, and you will thirst again and again, as your
Lord told the woman, and the thirst will heat itself
into a fire. You were wrong then when you said you
were satisfied. You misunderstood, misjudged,


abused yourself. Christ knew you better. Nobody

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonForty days with the Master → online text (page 9 of 16)