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Holding this view of God's gentleness in the treat-
moiit of souls, and finding even the Christian gospel in
it, we ought also to find that his whole management of
us and the world corresponds. Is it so — is there such
a (correspondence?

See, some will say, what terrible forces we have
ravening and pouring inevitably on about us day and
night — roaring seas, wild hurricanes, thunder-shocks
that split the heavens, earthquakes spUtting the very
world's body itself, heat and cold, drought and deluge,
pestilences and deaths in all forms. AVhat is there to
be seen but a terrible, inexorable going on, still on,
everywhere. The fixed laws everywhere refuse to
bend, hearing no prayers, the great worlds fly through
heaven as if slung by the Almighty like the smooth
stone of David, and the atoms rush together in their in-
divertible aflB.nities, like the simples of gunpowder
touched by fire, refusing to consider any body. Where
then is the gentleness of such a God as we have signal-
ed to us, in these unpitying, inexorable, fated powers
of , the world ? Is it such a God that moves by indirec-
tion? Yes, and that all the more properly, just be-
cause these signs of earth and heaven, these undiverted,
undivertible, all-demolishing and terrible forces permit
liim to do it. He now can hide his omnipotence, for a
time, just at the point where it touches us ; he can set
bis will behind his love, for to-day and possibly to

4



6S THE GENTLENESS OF <JOD.

morrow; simply because he has these majestic inexorar
bilities for the rear-guard of his mercies. For we can
not despise him now, when he bends to us in favor,
because it is the bending, we may see, of firmness,
Able to use force, he can now use character, and time,
and kindness. Eeal gentleness in him, as in every
other being, supposes counsel, order, end, and a de-
terminate will. A weak man can be weak and that is
all. Not even a weak w^oman can be properly called
gentle. No woman will so much impress others by her
gentleness, when she is gentle, as one that has great
firmness and decision. And so it is the firm, great
God, he that goes on so inflexibly in the laws, and the
inexorable forces and causes of the creation — He it is
that can, with so much better dignity, gentle himself to
a child or a sinner.

See then how it goes with us in God's management
of our experience. Doing every thing to work on our
feeling, temperament, thought, w^ill, and so on our eter-
nal character, he still does nothing by direct impul-
sion. It is with us here, in ever}^ thing, as it was with
Jonah when the Lord sent him to Nineveh. It w^as a
good long journey inland, but Jonah steers for Joppa,
straight the other waj^, and there puts to sea, sailing off
upon it, and then under it and through the belly of
hell, and comes to land nobody knows where. After
much perambulation, he gets to Nineveh and gives his
message doggedly, finally to be tamed by a turn of hot
v/eather and the wilting of a gourd. Just so goes the
course of a soul whom God is training for obedience



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 89

and life. It may be the case of a young man, setting
off willfully, with his face turned away from GocL
Whereupon God lets him please himself a little in
his folly, and finally pitch himself into vice, there to
learn, by the bitter woes of his thraldom, how nuu h
better God is to him than he is to himself, how much
worthier of trust than he ever can be to himself Or
he takes, it may be, a longer course with him — gives
him a turn of sickness, then of bankruptcj^, then of de-
sertion by friends, then of slander by enemies, taming
thus his pride, sobering his feeling, making the world
change color, but not yet gaining him to the better life.
Then he fetches "him out of his disasters by unexpected
vindications and gifts of mercy, such as soften unwont-
edly the pitch of his sensibilities. A faithful Christian
wife, gilding his lot of adversity before, by her gentle
cares, and quite as much, his recovery now, by the
beautiful spirit she has formed in his and her chiklren,
by her faithful training — making them an honor to him
as to herself — wins upon his willful habit, melts into
his feeling, and operates a change in his temperament
itself Meantime his years will have been setting him
on, by a silent drift, where his will would never carry
him., and changing, in fact, the current of his inclina-
tion itself Till at length, dissatisfied with himself, as
he is more softened to God, and more softened to God,
as he is more diverted from the satisfaction he once had
in himself, he turns, with deliberate consent, to the call
of Jesus, and finds what seemed to be a yoke, to be
easy as liberty itself



40 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

The change is great, na}^ almost total in Ms life, and
yet it has been carried by a process of indirection so
delicate, that he is scarcely sensible by what steps and
curiously turned methods of skill it has been brought
to pass. And so Grod is managing every man, hj a
process and history of his own ; for he handles him aa
he does no other, adapting every turn to his want and
to the points already gained, till finally he is caught by
the gentle guile of God's mercies and drawn to the rock
of salvation ; even as some heavy and strong fish, that
has been played by the skillful angler, is drawn, at last,
to land, by a delicate line, that would not even hold
his weight.

In a similar way God manages, not seldom, to gain
back infidels and doubters. First he commonly makes
them doubt their doubts. Their conceit he moderates,
meantime, by the sobering effect of years and sorrow.
By and by he sharpens their spiritual hunger, by the
consciously felt emptiness of their life, and the large
blank spaces of their creed. Then he opens some new
vista into the bright field of truth, down which they
never looked before, and the mole eyes of their skepti-
cism are even dazed by the new discovered glory of
God's light.

Disciples who are lapsed into sin, and even into
looseness of life, are recovered in the same way of indi-
rection. God does not pelt them with storms, nor jerk
them back into their place by any violent seizure, lie
only leads them round by his strong-handed yet gentle
tractions, till he has got them by, or out of, their fascina



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 41

tions, and winnowed the nonsense out of their fancy ot
feeling, by which they have been captivated. And so
at length he gets their feet upon the rock again, nevei
to be moved.

Indeed I may go farther. Even if you desire it,
God will not thrust you on to higher attainments in re-
ligion, by any forcible and direct method. He will
only bring you out into the rest you seek, just as soon
as you are sufficiently untwisted, and cleared, and rec-
tified, under his indirect methods, to be there. Com-
monly your light will spring up in quarters where you
look not for it, and even the very hidings and obscura-
tions you suffer, will give you out some spark of light,
as they leave you. The obstacles you conquer will
turn out to be, in some sense, aids; the discouragements
that tried you will open, when they part, as windows
of hope.

Having traced the manner and fact of God's conde-
scension to these gentle methods, let us now pass on to
another point where the subject properly culminates;
viz., to the end he has in view ; which is, to make us
great. He may have a different opinion of greatness
from that which is commonly held by men — he cer-
tainl}^ has. And what is more, he has it because he
has a much higher respect for the capabilities of our
human nature, and much higher designs concerning it,
than we have ourselves. We fall into a mistake here
also, under what we suppose to be the Christian gospel
itself; as if it were a plan to bring down, not the lofti-



i2 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

ness of our pride, and the willfulness of our rebellion,
but the stature and majesty of our nature itself. Thus
we speak of submitting, or losing our will, being made
weak and poor, becoming little children, ceasing to
have any mind of our own, falling into nothingness and
self-contempt before God. All which are well enough,
as Christian modes of expression; but we take them
too literal]}^ They are good as relating to our wrong
will and wrong feeling, not as relating to our capacity
of will and feeling itself. On the contrary, while God
is ever engaged to bring down our loftiness in evil and
perversity, he is just as constantly engaged to make ua
loftier and stronger in every thing desirable — in capac-
ity, and power, and all personal majest}^ We do not
understand him, in fact, till we conceive it as a truth
profoundly real and glorious, that he wants to make us
great — great in will, great in the breadth and honest
freedom of our intellect, great in courage, enthusiasm,
self-respect, firmness, superiority to things and matters
of condition ; great in sacrifice and beneficence ; great
in sonship with Himself; great in being raised to such
common counsel, and such intimate unity with him in
his ends, that we do, in fact, reign with him.

Take, for example, the first point named, the will;
for this, it will be agreed, is the spinal column even of
our personality. Here it is that we assert ourselves
with sQch fi-ightful audacity in our sin. Here is the
tap-root of our obstinacy. Hence come all the woes
and disorders of our fallen state. Is it then his point
CO crush our will, or reduce it in quantity? If that



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 43

were all, he could do it by a thought. No, that is not
his way. His object is, on the contrary, to gain our
will — gain it, that is, in such a manner as to save it,
and make it finally a thousand fold stouter in good and
sacrifice, than it has been, or could be, in wrong and
evil. He will make it the chariot, as it were, of a great
and mighty personality, inflexible, unsubduable, tre-
mendous in good forever.

So of the intellect. Blinded by sin, wedded to all
misbelief and false seeing, he never requires us to put
violence upon it, never to force an opinion or a faith,
lest we break its integrity ; he only bids us set it for
seeing, hj a wholly right intent and a willingness even
to die for the truth ; assured that, in this maimer, Time,
and Providence, and Cross, and Spirit, will bring it
into the light, clearing, as in a glorious sun-rising, all
the clouds that obscure it, and opening a full, broad
heaven of day on its vision. Eecovered thus without
being forced or violated, it feels itself to be a complete
integer in power, as never before; and having con-
quered such obstacles under God, by the simple hon-
esty of its search, it has a mighty appetite sharpened
for the truth, and a glorious confidence raised, that time
}md a patient beholding will pierce all other clouds,
and open a way for the light.

And so it is that God manages to save all th(^ attri
butes of force and magnanimity in us, while reducing
us to love and obedience. Take such an exarrple as
Paul. Do we speak of will? why he has the will-force
of an empire in him Of intelligence ? let it be enough



44 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

tliat he goes down into Arabia, and that in three years'
time his mind has gone over all the course of Christian
truth and doctrine, helped by no mortal, but only by
God's converse with him, and his own free thought.
Of courage, firmness, self-respect? what perils has he
met, what stripes endured, and what ofiscouring of the
world has he been taken for, unhumbled still, and erect
in the consciousness of his glorious manhood in Christ
— sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet making
many rich, having nothing yet possessing all things;
confounding Athens and Ephesus and the mob at Je-
rusalem, out-pleading Tertullus the lawyer, convincing
Felix and Agrippa, commanding in the shipwreck,
winning disciples to the faith in the household of Caesar,
and planting, in fact, all over Caesar's world-wide em-
pire, the seeds of a loftier and stronger empire by which
it is finally to be mastered.

Such now are God's mighty ones — humble it may be
and poor, or if not such by social position, most effectu-
ally humbled, some will think, by their faith, yet how
gloriously exalted. God renounces all the point-blank
methods of dealing, that he may give scope and verge
to our liberty, and win us to some good and great feel-
ing, in glorious affinity with his own. He wants us to
be great enough in the stature of our opinions, princi-
ples, courage and character, that he may enjoy us and
be Himself enjoyable by us. Hence also it is that;,
when we are born of God, and the divine affinities of
our great nature come into play unbroken, unimpaired.
and even wondrously raised in volume, we, for the first



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 45

time, make discovery of ourselves. Our beads touch
heaven, as it were, in the sense of our regenerated dig-
nity, and joys like the ocean roll through our nature,
that before could only catch some rill or trickling drop
of good. And with it comes what strength, a mightv
will, a sense of equilibrium recovered, an all appropri-
ating faith, superiority to things, immovable repose.

And DOW at the crowning of this great subject, what
shall more impress us than the sublime and captivating
figure God maintains for Himself and his government
in it. Easy enough were it for him to lay his force
upon us, and dash our obstinacy to the ground. He
might not thrust us into love, he could not into cour-
age and confidence, but he might instantly crush out all
willfulness in us forever. But he could not willingly
reduce us, in this manner, to a weak and cringing sub-
mission. He wants no slaves about his throne. If he
could not raise us into liberty and make us great in
duty, he would less respect both duty and Himself.
He refuses therefore to subdue us unless by some such
method that we may seem, in a certain other sense, tc
subdue ourselves. Most true it is that he carries a
strong hand with us. He covers up no principle, tem-
pers the exactness of no law. There is no connivance
in his methods, no concealment of truths disagreeble
and piercing, no proposition of compromise or halving,
in a way of settlement. His Providence moves strong.
His terrors flame out on the background of a wrathful
sky. He thunders marvelously with his voice. And



4:6 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

SO his very gentleness stands glorious and strong and
sovereignly majestic round us. Were be only soft or
kind, bending like a willow to our wicked state, there
were little to move and affect us even in bis goodness
itself. But wben we look on bim as the Almighty
Rock, the immovable Governor and Keeper of the
worlds, girding himself in all terrible majesty when he
must, to let us know that impunity in wrong is impossi-
ble, then it is that we behold him in the true meaning
of his gentleness — how good ! how firm ! how adorably
great! Come nigh thou sinning, weary prodigal, and
acknowledge and receive, in blissful welcome, the true
greatness of thy God ! Be not jealous an}^ more that
religion is going to depress your manly parts, or weaken
the strength of your high aspirations. In your lowest
humiliations and deepest repentances, you will be con-
sciously raised and exalted. Every throb of heaven's
life in your bosom will be only a throb of greatness.
Every good affection, every holy action, into which
your God may lead you, all your bosom struggles, your
hungers and tears and prostrations, will be the travail-
ing only of a princely birth, and a glorious sonship with
God.

Holding such a view too of God's ends and the care-
ful indirections by which he pursues them, we can not
fliil to note the softened aspect given to what are often
called the unaccountable severities of human experience.
The woes of broken health and grim depression; the
pains, the unspeakable agonies by which human bodies
are wrenched for whole years ; the wrongs of orphao-



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 47

age; pestilence, fire, flood, tempest and famine — liow
can a good God launch his bolts on men, we ask, in se-
verities like these? Ajid the sufferers themselves
sometimes w:)nder, even in their faith, how it is that
if God is a Father, he can let fall on his children such
hail-storms of inevitable, unmitigated disaster. No,
suffering mortal ! a truce to all such complainings.
These are only God's merciful indirections, fomentations
of trouble and sorrow that he is appljdng, to soften the
rugged and hard will in you. These pains are only
switches to turn you off from the track of his coming
retributions. If your great, proud nature could be won
to the real greatness of character, by a tenderer treat-
ment, do you not see, from all God's gentle methods of
dealing with mankind, that he would gladly soften
your troubles? And if diamonds are not polished by
soap, or oil, or even by any other stone, but only by
their own fine dust, why should you complain that God
is tempering you to your good, only by such throes and
lacerations and wastings of life, as are necessary ?

Again, to vary the strain of our thought, how
strangely weak and low, is the perversity of many,
when they require it of God to convert them by force,
or drive them heavenward by storm. You demand, it
may be, that God shall raise the dead before you, or
that he shall speak to you in an audible voice from the
sky, or that he shall regenerate your life by some stroke
of omnipotence in your sleep — something you demand
that shall astound 3^our senses, or supersede your free-
dom. You require it of God, in fact, that he shall



4:8 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

manage jou as he did Sennacberib, that he shall put
his hook into your nose, and his bridle into your lips,
and lead you back in that manner, out of sins you will
n<3t consentingly forsake. How preposterous and base
lo ask it thus of your Father, that he will storm you
with his power and thrust you into goodness by his
tbu ider-bolts ! Instead of being jealous, with a much
finer class of souls, that God and religion are going to
reduce your level, you even require to be made little by
him, nay, to be unmade, and even thrust out of your
personal manhood. How mucb better to give a ready
welcome to what God is doing for you and in you,
without force, doing in a way to save and even to com-
plete your personal manhood.

Last of all, let us not omit, in such a subject as this,
the due adjustment of our conceptions to that which is
the true pitch and scale of our magnanimity and worth
as Christian men. It is easy, at this point, to flaunt our
notions of dignity, and go off, as it were, in a gas of
naturalism, prating of manliness, or manly character.
And yet there is such a thing to be thought of, revela-
tion being judge, as being even great — great in some
true scale of Christian greatness. A little, mean-
minded, shuffling, cringing, timorous, selfish soul —
would that many of our time could see how base the
figure it makes under any Christian name. I will not
undertake to say how little a man may be and be a
Christian ; for there are some natures that are constitu-
tionally mean, and it may be too much to expect that
grace will ennoble them all through in a day. Judging



THE GENTLENESS OF GOD. 49

them in all charity, it must none the less be our con-
ception for ourselves, that God is calling us even to be
great, great in courage and candor, steadfast in honor
and truth, immovable in our promises, heroic in oui
sacrifices, right, and bold, and holy — men whom he is
training, by his own great spirit, for a world of great
.sentiment, and will, and might, and majesty. For when
we conceive the meeting in that world, and being there
compeers with such majestic souls as Moses, and Paul,
and Luther, and Cromwell, nay with thrones and do-
minions otherwise nameless, we do not seem, I confess,
to be so much raised in the sense of our possible stature
in good, as when we simply meditate God's gentle
methods with us here, to raise our fallen manhood to its
place ; his careful respect for our liberty, the hidings of
his power, the detentions of his violated feeling, the
sending of his Son, and his Son's great cross, the silent
intercessions of his Spirit — all the changes through
which be is leading us, all the careful trainings of care
and culture by w^hich he is bringing us back at last,
stage by stage, to the final erectness and glory of a per-
fect life. Even as when the mother eagle lifts her young
upon the edge of her nest, holding them back that they
may not topple off, and puts them fluttering there and
waving their pinions that they may get strength to lift
their bodies, and finally to scale the empyreal heights.
And when we shall be able, ascending thus our state
of glory, to look back and trace all this, in a clear and
orderly revieW: what a wonderful and thrilling retro-
spect will it be.

5



50 THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

Conscious there of powers not broken down or
crushed into servility, but of wills invigorated rather by
submission, with what sense of inborn dignity and
strength shall we sing — Thy gentleness hath made us
great. All the littleness of our sin is now quite gone.
We are now complete men, such as God meant us to be ;
— great in the stature of our opinions, great in our
feelings, principles, energies of will and joy; greatest of
all in our conscious affinity with God and the Lamb.
Be it ours to live, then, with a sense of our high calling
upon us, abiding in all the holy magnanimities of love,
honor, sacrifice and truth ; sincere, exact, faithful,
bountiful and free ; showing thus to others and know-
ing always in ourselves, that we do steadily aspire to
just that height of good, into which our God himself
has undertaken to exalt us.



III.

THE INSIGHT OF LOVE.



^^ She hath done what she could; she is come aforehand
tc anoint my body to the huryingy — Makk, xiv. 8.

It takes a woman disciple after all to do any most
beautiful thing; in certain respects too, or as far as love
is wisdomi, any wisest thing. Thus we have before us,
here, a simple-hearted loving woman, who has had no
subtle questions of criticism about matters of duty and
right, but only loves her Lord's person with a love that
is probably a kind of mysterj^ to herself, which love
she wants somehow to express. She comes therefore
with her box of ointment, having sold we know not
what article, or portion of her property, to buy it, for
it was very costly, and pours it on the Saviour's head —
just here to encounter, for the first time, scruples, ques-
tions, and rebuffs of argument. For though she is no
casuist herself, no debater of cases of conscience, there
are abundance of such among the Lord's male disciples
present, Judas among them, and they have more rea-
sons, a great many, to offer than she, poor child of love,
has ever thought of. "Hold woman," they say, and
particularly Judas in the representatiou of John, "WJiy
this extravagance and foolish waste ? Is not the Lord



52 THE INSIGHT OF LOVE.

always teaching us to consider the poor, and do good in
every thing, and what immense good might you have
done, had you sold this ointment and put it to the uses
of beneficence ; why, the trains of benefit you migh
have set agoing by the money are even endless, and
now it is thrown away for just nothing." She makes
no answer, has nothing at all to say, and does not see,
most likely, wby she has not been as foolish as they think.

But Christ answers for her. " Ko, children, no," he
says, "do not trouble the woman, she has an oracle in
her love wiser than yours that you. have in your
heads ; she has done a good work on me, fitting, alto-
gether, to be done by her, if not by you. ISTay, she
has even prophesied here, taken hold practically of my
future — just that which I have never been able to make
you conceive, or guess. The poor you have always with
you, be it yours to bless them, but me ye have not always.
She is come aforehand — dear prophetic tribute! — to
anoint my body for the burying. Is it nothing that
1 die in the fragrant odors of this dear woman's love?
Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be
preached throughout the whole world, this also that this
woman hath done, shall be told for a memorial of her."

Ko such commendation was ever before or after con-
ferred by the Saviour on any mortal of the race. He
testified for the Gentile centurion, that he had found no
such faith as his even in Israel. He tacitly commended
his three favorite disciples, Peter, James and John,
by the peculiar confidence into which he took them.



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