George MacDonald.

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praise God withal. I leave the matter with one remark, that I am well
content to rise as Jesus rose, however that was. For me the will of God
is so good that I would rather have his will done than my own choice
given me.

"But I now come to the last, because infinitely the most important part
of my subject - the resurrection for the sake of which all the other
resurrections exist - the resurrection unto Life. This is the one of
which St. Paul speaks in my text. This is the one I am most
anxious - indeed, the only one I am anxious to set forth, and impress
upon you.

"Think, then, of all the deaths you know; the death of the night, when
the sun is gone, when friend says not a word to friend, but both lie
drowned and parted in the sea of sleep; the death of the year, when
winter lies heavy on the graves of the children of summer, when the
leafless trees moan in the blasts from the ocean, when the beasts even
look dull and oppressed, when the children go about shivering with
cold, when the poor and improvident are miserable with suffering or
think of such a death of disease as befalls us at times, when the man
who says, 'Would God it were morning!' changes but his word, and not
his tune, when the morning comes, crying, 'Would God it were evening!'
when what life is left is known to us only by suffering, and hope is
amongst the things that were once and are no more - think of all these,
think of them all together, and you will have but the dimmest, faintest
picture of the death from which the resurrection of which I have now to
speak, is the rising. I shrink from the attempt, knowing how weak words
are to set forth _the_ death, set forth _the_ resurrection. Were I to
sit down to yonder organ, and crash out the most horrible dissonances
that ever took shape in sound, I should give you but a weak figure of
this death; were I capable of drawing from many a row of pipes an
exhalation of dulcet symphonies and voices sweet, such as Milton
himself could have invaded our ears withal, I could give you but a
faint figure of this resurrection. Nevertheless, I must try what I can
do in my own way.

"If into the face of the dead body, lying on the bed, waiting for its
burial, the soul of the man should begin to dawn again, drawing near
from afar to look out once more at those eyes, to smile once again
through those lips, the change on that face would be indeed great and
wondrous, but nothing for marvel or greatness to that which passes on
the countenance, the very outward bodily face of the man who wakes from
his sleep, arises from the dead and receives light from Christ. Too
often indeed, the reposeful look on the face of the dead body would be
troubled, would vanish away at the revisiting of the restless ghost;
but when a man's own right true mind, which God made in him, is
restored to him again, and he wakes from the death of sin, then comes
the repose without the death. It may take long for the new spirit to
complete the visible change, but it begins at once, and will be
perfected. The bloated look of self-indulgence passes away like the
leprosy of Naaman, the cheek grows pure, the lips return to the smile
of hope instead of the grin of greed, and the eyes that made innocence
shrink and shudder with their yellow leer grow childlike and sweet and
faithful. The mammon-eyes, hitherto fixed on the earth, are lifted to
meet their kind; the lips that mumbled over figures and sums of gold
learn to say words of grace and tenderness. The truculent, repellent,
self-satisfied face begins to look thoughtful and doubtful, as if
searching for some treasure of whose whereabouts it had no certain
sign. The face anxious, wrinkled, peering, troubled, on whose lines you
read the dread of hunger, poverty, and nakedness, thaws into a smile;
the eyes reflect in courage the light of the Father's care, the back
grows erect under its burden with the assurance that the hairs of its
head are all numbered. But the face can with all its changes set but
dimly forth the rising from the dead which passes within. The heart,
which cared but for itself, becomes aware of surrounding thousands like
itself, in the love and care of which it feels a dawning blessedness
undreamt of before. From selfishness to love - is not this a rising from
the dead? The man whose ambition declares that his way in the world
would be to subject everything to his desires, to bring every human
care, affection, power, and aspiration to his feet - such a world it
would be, and such a king it would have, if individual ambition might
work its will! if a man's opinion of himself could be made out in the
world, degrading, compelling, oppressing, doing everything for his own
glory! - and such a glory! - but a pang of light strikes this man to the
heart; an arrow of truth, feathered with suffering and loss and dismay,
finds out - the open joint in his armour, I was going to say - no, finds
out the joint in the coffin where his heart lies festering in a death
so dead that itself calls it life. He trembles, he awakes, he rises
from the dead. No more he seeks the slavery of all: where can he find
whom to serve? how can he become if but a threshold in the temple of
Christ, where all serve all, and no man thinks first of himself? He to
whom the mass of his fellows, as he massed them, was common and
unclean, bows before every human sign of the presence of the making
God. The sun, which was to him but a candle with which to search after
his own ends, wealth, power, place, praise - the world, which was but
the cavern where he thus searched - are now full of the mystery of
loveliness, full of the truth of which sun and wind and land and sea
are symbols and signs. From a withered old age of unbelief, the dim
eyes of which refuse the glory of things a passage to the heart, he is
raised up a child full of admiration, wonder, and gladness. Everything
is glorious to him; he can believe, and therefore he sees. It is from
the grave into the sunshine, from the night into the morning, from
death into life. To come out of the ugly into the beautiful; out of the
mean and selfish into the noble and loving; out of the paltry into the
great; out of the false into the true; out of the filthy into the
clean; out of the commonplace into the glorious; out of the corruption
of disease into the fine vigour and gracious movements of health; in a
word, out of evil into good - is not this a resurrection indeed - _the_
resurrection of all, the resurrection of Life? God grant that with St.
Paul we may attain to this resurrection of the dead.

"This rising from the dead is often a long and a painful process. Even
after he had preached the gospel to the Gentiles, and suffered much for
the sake of his Master, Paul sees the resurrection of the dead towering
grandly before him, not yet climbed, not yet attained unto - a
mountainous splendour and marvel, still shining aloft in the air of
existence, still, thank God, to be attained, but ever growing in height
and beauty as, forgetting those things that are behind, he presses
towards the mark, if by any means he may attain to the resurrection of
the dead. Every blessed moment in which a man bethinks himself that he
has been forgetting his high calling, and sends up to the Father a
prayer for aid; every time a man resolves that what he has been doing
he will do no more; every time that the love of God, or the feeling of
the truth, rouses a man to look first up at the light, then down at the
skirts of his own garments - that moment a divine resurrection is
wrought in the earth. Yea, every time that a man passes from resentment
to forgiveness, from cruelty to compassion, from hardness to
tenderness, from indifference to carefulness, from selfishness to
honesty, from honesty to generosity, from generosity to love, - a
resurrection, the bursting of a fresh bud of life out of the grave of
evil, gladdens the eye of the Father watching his children. Awake,
then, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give
thee light. As the harvest rises from the wintry earth, so rise thou up
from the trials of this world a full ear in the harvest of Him who
sowed thee in the soil that thou mightest rise above it. As the summer
rises from the winter, so rise thou from the cares of eating and
drinking and clothing into the fearless sunshine of confidence in the
Father. As the morning rises out of the night, so rise thou from the
darkness of ignorance to do the will of God in the daylight; and as a
man feels that he is himself when he wakes from the troubled and
grotesque visions of the night into the glory of the sunrise, even so
wilt thou feel that then first thou knowest what thy life, the gladness
of thy being, is. As from painful tossing in disease, rise into the
health of well-being. As from the awful embrace of thy own dead body,
burst forth in thy spiritual body. Arise thou, responsive to the
indwelling will of the Father, even as thy body will respond to thy
indwelling soul.

'White wings are crossing;
Glad waves are tossing;
The earth flames out in crimson and green:

Spring is appearing,
Summer is nearing -
Where hast thou been?

Down in some cavern,
Death's sleepy tavern,
Housing, carousing with spectres of night?
The trumpet is pealing
Sunshine and healing -
Spring to the light.'"

With this quotation from a friend's poem, I closed my sermon, oppressed
with a sense of failure; for ever the marvel of simple awaking, the
mere type of the resurrection eluded all my efforts to fix it in words.
I had to comfort myself with the thought that God is so strong that he
can work even with our failures.


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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldThe Seaboard Parish Volume 2 → online text (page 12 of 12)