Horace Bushnell.

Sermons on living subjects online

. (page 17 of 29)
Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 17 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

trade on the other ; only that on one side it is so near
to the confines of beneficence that it consciously passes
over. A more gentle, genial, and genuine influence
on the man could hardly be devised.

It is yet another and very great moral advantage of
trade, that it is just the calling in which a chri&tian
man will best learn the uses of money. If he began
as a Christian at the true principle of Christian living,
he put himself in bonds, so to speak, to consecrate all
his successes to God. And then, from that point on-


ward, he has not been after money for money s sake,
but as capital for other kinds of works ; sometimes
secular and sometimes religious. He handles what
he gains by trade in turns of nimble investment, and
never hoards it. The agriculturist and the small ar
tisan handle money slowly in restricted quantities.
It stays long in their hands before expenditure ; they
look at it often, and begin to think fondly of it. In
this way they very often become misers. But the
merchant almost never is a miser ; for the money that
he gains signifies nothing to him, save in the footing
of his balances. It freely comes and freely goes, and
he turns it as readily into goods as goods into money.
Money in fact is to him but one of the kinds of goods ;
more valuable if at all than any other, because it is
more easily convertible. And for just this reason it
is that our freest and largest benefactors in the mat
ters of public charity and religion, are commonly men
who have gotten their success by trade because their
notions are not stunted by the small amount of money
needed in carrying on their transactions, and be
cause what they get is expected to go and not to

Hence, I conceive, it is going to be discovered, that
the great problem we have now on hand, viz., the
christianizing of the money power of the world, de
pends for its principal hope, on the trading class in so
ciety. Talent has been christianized already on a
large scale. The political power of states and kingdoms
has been long assumed to be, and now at least really

IN TRADE,. 205

is, as far as it becomes their accepted office to main
tain personal security and liberty. Architecture,
arts, constitutions, schools, and learning, have been
largely christianized. But the money power, which
is one of the most operative and grandest of all, is
only beginning to be ; though with promising tokens
of a finally complete reduction to Christ and the uses
of his kingdom. In our late civil war, the money
power, for the first time, so far as I know, since the
world began, laid itself fairly on the altar, and gave
itself, in heartily-pledged devotion, to the public wel
fare. It even took up, we may say, the nation s
heavy and huge bulk, and bore it grandly through on
its Atlantean shoulders. Every thing we have for
public love, was the maxim even of money, and there
was never before a fiscal campaign to match the sub
limity and true majesty of the spectacle. It was the
money power standing sponsor for the nation, in its
terrible baptism of blood. Now what we wait for,
and are looking hopefully to see, is a like consecration
of the vast money power of the world, to the work,
and cause, and kingdom of Jesus Christ. For that
day, when it comes, is the morning, so to speak, of the
new creation. That tide -wave in the money power
can as little be resisted, when God brings it on, as
the tides of the sea ; and like these also it will flow
across the world in a day. And such a result, I con
ceive, we are to Iqok for largely, to the merchant
class of disciples. Trade expanding into commerce,
and commerce rising into communion, are to be the


outline of the story. When the merchant seeking
goodly pearls all the merchant race, find the pre
cious one they seek, and sell their all to l)\iy it,
they will make it theirs.

The question I began with " How to be a Chris
tian in trade ?" is, I think, now sufficiently an
swered. At the end of this review, I think it will
be agreed, that there is no calling in which a chris-
tian may grow faster, and rise higher in all holy
attainments. After he has once learned how to
enjoy God in his calling, how to carry Christ di
rectly into his works, and do all in the higher con
sciousness of Christ revealed, his satisfactions will
be great, his increase rapid, his strength immov
able, and his very sleep elysian. And what is a
nobler sight to look upon, than a Christian mer
chant, standing at the head of his operations ; thriv
ing in the small, or rolling up his immense income
in the large ; doing every thing squarely, as in terms
of business, and not in a fast and loose manner, yet
with a Christian heart as flexible and free, and as
little hampered by the mechanism of trade > as love
itself must ever be ; then passing out among his
kind, to look about for objects wanting his aid ;
standing as a bank of charity for all good neces
sities to draw upon ; resorted to with confidence by
all who are forward in good works ; spreading his
generosity well up toward the limit of his surplus
means ; firm in credit ; honored for his word of


promise ; sought unto in trust by the righteous, and
remembered in the prayers of the poor is there on
this earth a character more to be envied, or more
genuinely Christ-like than he ?



"While we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the
things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are tem
poral, and the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Cgr. 4: 18.

THERE is a great deal said about looking away from
the tilings of time, to the things of eternity ; and
Paul, I suppose, is credited with this idea on the score
of the language here cited. Whether he would ac
cept the credit is more doubtful. It certainly is no
conception of his, that we are to ignore the temporal,
and go clear of it, in order to being fixed in the eter
nal. Indeed this kind of prescription, so constantly
reiterated, and soaked in, as it were, by a long dull-
minded usage, is really about the sleepiest and most
noxious drug that Christian living has ever had put in
its way. I acknowledge that these temporals are
often too much like the temporalities of the Pope,
and keep the eternals a great way off. But if we lay it
down, that we are to really look away from time,
when we look at, or in order to look at, eternity, we
make a very hard case for practice; for what figure is
any one likely to make in the realizing of things eter
nal, when he has even to push the "world out of sight,


in order to see them. Have we not also a suppressed
or subtly instinctive sense of something unpractical in
the attempt ; as if it were a forced view of life, more
ascetical than practical. How can we think, in real
earnest, that such a world as this was made just to be
looked away from ? And if we try to do it, tearing
our mind away from the visible and the temporal, and
requiring it to see only what is invisible and eternal,
how certainly do we find the air too thin to support
our flightv endeavor, and drop away shortly on the
ground, held down to it, after all, by temporal weights
and visibilities we can not escape.

And just here I apprehend is the reason in great part
of that inability to realize, or give a sound existence
to spiritual things of which so many complain they
misconceive the problem. It is not to literally look
away from temporal things in order to see the eternal,
but it is to see the temporal in the eternal, or through
it and by means of it. These temporals I conceive
are the scabbards of the eternal, or the capsules in
which it grows, or the matches. whose fires are kept
hid in their bodies. Paul I am sure had no other
conception. By not looking at the temporal things,
he means simply not fastening our mind to them, or
upon them, as the end of our pursuit ; for he calls
them "things that are seen" which implies that, in
another and more simply natural sense, they are
looked at ; for how can they be things seen if they
are not ?



There is then, I am going now to show, & fixed rela
tion between the temporal and the eternal, such that we shall
best realize the eternal by rightly using the temporal. We
shall best conceive the true point here, by observing
the manner of the apostle himself; for it was one of
the remarkable things about him as a Christian, that
he was so completely under the power, so sublimely
invigorated by the magnitudes of the world to come ;
longing for it, testing himself in it, and carrying the
sense of it with him, into the hearts of all who heard
his preaching. Things temporal he saw a great deal
more penetratingly than any mere worldly mind
could ; saw far enough into them, to discover their un-
solidity, and their transitory and ephemeral conse
quence, and- to apprehend just so much the more dis
tinctly, the solid and eternal verities represented by
them. Things and worlds are passing shadows all
that pass away. The durable and strong, the real conti
nent, the solid landing-place, is beyond. But the pres
ent things are good for the passage, good for signs, good
as shadows. So he tramps on through them, cheer
ing his confidence by them, having them as reminders,
and renewing, day by day, his outward man by what
of the more solid and glorious future is so impressively
represented and captivatingly set forth in them. He
does not refuse to see with his eyes what God puts
before his eyes. He has noted the successions, and
phases, and forms of things. He distinguishes God s
stamps and signatures upon them, takes the whole or
der and architecture of the creation as a type of God s


great mind, and rejoices that the invisible things of
God, even his eternal power and Godhead all the
truths eternal are, from his creation, clearly seen.
He loves society also ; rejoices in its new prospects,
now that the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus is set
up in it. And what is more than all, more than the
creation, more than society, more than all things tem
poral and visible, Christ, the Son of God himself, has
come out in his eternity, to be incarnate in these
scenes, and live in them and look upon them with his
human eyes. And so these all are hallowed by the
enshrining, for a time, of his glorious divinity in them,
becoming temporalities redolent of his eternity. And
so, as every thing was raised in quality, even from the
grave he perfumed by lying in it, up to the stars he
looked upon, all, all, this wondrous furniture is
changed and blessed, and hallowed by the life he lived
here in the flesh. In a world thus glorified, it would
not have been wonderful if Paul had even been ready,
looking round upon these ranges of things we call
idols and hinderances to religion, to say, " let us
make tabernacles and stay." And yet Ife did it not.
If Christ had been here, Christ also had gone ; to go
therefore and be with him was far better. Christ had
come too, not for society s sake, not to beautify and
heal and gild society, or to get up any paradise in
these temporalities, but only to bring us on, or rather
off, and establish us in the grand eternals of his king
dom on high. Our apostle looked thus on the things
that are temporal as not looking on them, but as look-


ing straight through, on the things eternal, which they
represent and prepare. He looked on them just as
one looks on a window-pane, when he studies the
landscape without. In one view he looks on the glass.
In another he does not. Probably enough lie does not
so much as think of the medium interposed at all.
Or, a better comparison still is the telescope ; for the
lenses of glass here interposed, actually enable the
spectator to see, and yet he does not so much as con
sider that lie is looking on the lenses, or using them at
all h e on lj looks on the stars. So also the apostle
looks not on the things that are temporal, even while
admiring the display in them of God s invisible and
eternal realities. He looks on them only as seeing
through ; uses them only as a medium of training,
exercise, access unto God. Their value to him is not
in what they are, but in what they signify.

Thus it is a true use, I conceive, of things tem
poral, that they are to put us under the constant all-
dominating impression of things eternal. And we
are to live in them, as in a transparency, looking
through, ev6ry moment, and in all life s works and
ways, acting through, into the grand reality-world of
the life to. come.

Having gotten our conception thus of the apostle s
meaning, as well as a good argument from his re
ligious habit and character to prove it, let us next
consider the fact, that all temporal things and works
are actually designed or planned for this very object ;
viz., to conduct us on, or through, into the discovery


of things eternal. Every existing thing or object in
the created empire of God, all forms, colors, heights,
weights, magnitudes, forces, come out of God s mind,

covered all over with tokens, saturated all through

~ . &

with flavors of his intelligence. They represent God s
thought, the invisible things of God ; and an angel
coming out into the world, instead of seeing nothing in
them but only walls, would see God expressed by them,
just as we are expressed by our faces and bodies. The
invisible things of God, all his eternal realities, would be
clearly seen. ]S~o, we do not become worldly by look
ing at things temporal, but by not looking at them
closely enough, and with due religious attention. We
first make idols of them for their economic uses and
their market value, and then, having begun our wor
ship, we go on with it, having our eyes shut. "Why
should we look in, to see divine things in them, when
we are already so far captivated by what they are
worth in possession ? How different, for example,
would they be, if we could but stay upon them long
enough, and devoutly enough, to see the prodigious
workings hid in them. We should find them swing
ing and careering in geometric figures, weighed and
spaced in geometric proportions ; and what are these
but thoughts of mind and laws of thought eternal in
their very nature ? It comes out thus to us, in these
stellar magnitudes and motions, that they must be
somehow rolling and wheeling inside of some mind,
as if they were its proper thinking which indeed
they are. Again what do we find as regards material


substances, save when we are just hoarding them for
gain, or devouring them for pleasure uses that ad
journ intelligence but that they are composed of
atoms joined by count in the exact notations and
formulas of arithmetic ? So that, in our chemistries
we think out the world all the orb-matter of the
sky, all the earths and rocks and crystallizations.
The significance, in this manner, of the substances is
not so much their substance, as the eternal laws we be
hold in them. Mind, we see, penetrates them all ;
they are all bedded in mind. Necessary truth, the
eternal absolute truth of mind, that which being must
be forever, fills and orders them all, visibles and tem
porals though we call them.

The same is true of all the multifarious, seemingly
inexact orders of animated nature. Bone, flesh, cir
culation, innerving force, what do they make but a
composition that appears to almost think aloud. And
so evident is it, that these classifications of life, ani
mal and vegetable, are related to mind, that Mr.
Agassiz puts them down as premeditations of God,
eternal orders of the thoughts of God which, rulin^

D v3

creatively in them, make them, in that manner, not
visibles only, but intelligibles, possible objects of

There is yet another and more popular way, in
which these temporal and visible things carry forces
and weights of eternity with them they are related
as signs or images, to all the most effective and most
glorious truths of religion. They are all so many


physical word-forms given to make up images and
vocables for religion ; for which reason the Scripture
is full of them, naming and describing every thing by
them by the waters and springs that quench our
thirst, by the bread that feeds our bodies, by the grow
ing corn in its stages, by the tares that grow with it,
by the lilies in their clothing, by the hidden gold and
silver and iron of the mountains, by the sea, the
storms, the morning mist, the clouds, the sun, the
starry host, the deep central fires of the ground, and
the sulphurous smoke they expel every thing we
look upon is an image of something otherwise not
seen, a lace that looks out, as it were, from God s
eternity, and carries God s meanings on it. Our com
plaint therefore that temporal things hide the eternal
and keep them out of sight, is much as if one should
complain of telescopes hiding the stars, or window-
panes shutting out the sun, or even of eyes themselves
obstructing the sense of things visible. There is a
way, I know, of handling these temporals coarsely and
blindly, seeing in them only just what a horse or a
dug might see. A brutish mind sees only things
in things, and no meanings. If it were possible for
us to ignore every thing but what is temporal, we
could be as perfectly unspiritual as the animals them
selves. And a great many minds wholly given to
things are doing what they can to make this attain
ment. But it can not be said, without the greatest
wrong to God, that he has given us these temporalities
to live in for any such use. It would even be impos-


sible to make up a world of so many temporal things
and so many temporal occasions, and keep God s light
shining on their faces more visibly, or keep his ever
lasting verities more effectively present to every soul.
Spirituality of habit and thought could not be made
more possible, or the lack of it more nearly impossible.

Hence also the fact so often remarked, that forms,
colors, objects, scenes, have all a power so captivating
over childish, and indeed over all young minds. Thus
we note the irresistible impulse of infants to handle
every thing, which means, in fact, if you study the
matter a little, that every thing is handling them,
looking into their hearts, filling them with images
and shapes, and all the various timber of thought.
At first they will cry after the moon, or the fire ; next
they will run after the rainbow ; and then, as in high
youth, will see all things dressed in such colors of de
light, as to be almost bewildered in their eagerness to
be everywhere, and seize all things at once. Now we
are not to think that it is the mere quantities or sub
stances of the things, but their senses or significances,
that take such hold of the soul s appetite. They cap
tivate, because they are related all to thought, truth,
feeling, and offer a drapery to the inborn, scarcely
waked affinities of the mind ; because, in fact, they are
. the faces and forms of God s thought ; existences
analogous to whatever is highest and closest to di
vinity, in our human mold; poems for the eyes, in
which the subject is God.

The child or youth thinks not of it, and yet the


power of the fact is on him. The real and true ac
count of the fact is, that the eternals are in the things
looked on so eagerly -by these young eyes, shining out,
filling them with images, starting their thoughts,
kindling fires of truth and eternity in their spirit. As
age advances, the eagerness of observation slackens,
but the old man who has lived on many years, won
dering all the while where God is, and where the
eternal things are hid, has all the images in him, so
that when the Spirit has opened his understanding to
their significance, it is as if the visible things of God
had been pouring all their contents into his bosom,
and he did not know it ! O what a glory, what a
power of eternity is in them now strange that I
should have chased these things so eagerly in my
childhood, not knowing why; stranger still that I
should have sought and followed and worshiped them
so long in my manhood, and valued them only as
things !

Again, it is the continual object and art of all God s
management, temporal and spiritual, secular and
Christian, to bring us into positions where we may
see, or may rather be compelled to see, the eternal
things of his government. So little reason have we
to complain, as we do continually, that our relations,
occupations, and works, take us away from the dis
covery of such things, and leave us no time or ca
pacity for it. Thus, at our very first breath, we are
put in what is called the family state. In the provi
dence of it we live. By the discipline of it we learn


what love is, in all the severe, and faithful, and tender
offices of it. And so, as it were from the egg, we are
configured to the eternal family state for which we
are made.

So, also, if we speak, or revelation speaks, of an un
seen government or kingdom; where we get the very
form of the thought from our outward kingdoms
below. So if we speak of law, punishment, pardon,
or judgment-seat justification these all are notions
prepared in us by the civil state, and by that means
inserted in our thought, for the higher uses of the
eternal government in our souls.

Meantime the ordinance of want and labor, and all
the industrious works and cares of life fearful hin-
derances, we say, to any discovery of God what are
they still but works and struggles leading directly in to
his very seat ? What do you do in them, in fact, but just
go to the earth and the great powers of nature, to invoke
them by your industry, and by your labor sue out, as it
were, from them, the supply you want ? And when
you come so very close to God, even to the powers
and laws which are his reigning, everlasting thoughts,
what temptation have you to lift your suit just one
degree, and make your application even to God Him
self! It is the beautiful characteristic of industry
that, instead of taking us away from God, and things
eternal, it takes us directly towards Him, and puts us
waiting on the seasons, the soil, the mechanical pow
ers, which arc but the faithful bosom of God Himself;
and there we hang, year by year, watching for our


supplies and the nutriment that feeds our bodies.
Oar very industry is a kind of physical prayer, and
the business itself of our busy life is, to watch the
gates of blessing he opens upon us. His smile feeds
us, . and his goodness ever before us leads us to re

His scheme of Providence also is adjusted so as to
open windows on us continually, in this earthly house
of our tabernacle, through which the building of God,
not made with hands, may be the better discovered.
God is turning our experience always, in a way to
give us the more inward senses of things, acting al
ways on the principle, that the progress of knowl
edge, most generically and comprehensively regarded,
is but a progress out of the matter-view into the
mind-view of things ; for all the laws, properties,
classifications of objects, as we just now saw, are
thoughts of God made visible in them ; so that all the
growth of knowledge is a kind of spiritualizing of the
world ; that is, a finding of the eternal in the tem
poral. For God will not let us get lodged in the tem
poral, but is always shoving us on to what is beyond.
Whoever undertakes to build him a paradise in things
and stay in them, is either defeated and driven out of
his project, or is compelled in deep sorrow to find, that
what he took for pure delight is destitute of all satis
faction ; a dry cup, or even a condition of bitter suf
fering. The fires that fell on Sodom are scarcely a
more- visible sign that Lot s family are. to be dis
lodged and flee, than these scorching fires of Provi-


dence, falling on our temporal state, are that we are
not tt> stay here, and shall not ? And so God is com
manding us off, every hour of our lives, toward things
eternal, there to find our good, and build our rest.
Sometimes he does it by taking us out of the world,
and sometimes by taking the world out of us. Or
again he sometimes does it by breaking in a way for
his divine light, through the incrustations we have

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 17 of 29)