Horace Bushnell.

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Since Christ has made us free, why not stand fast in
our liberty ? Yes, but how are we going to stand fast
in liberty, when liberty itself is standing fast in noth
ing, keeping no fixed terms at all ? "Why, it is even
the chief matter of the military drill and the string
ent closeness of it, that by no other means can the
liberties of impulse and inspired momentum be raised.
The cause is nothing till the camp begets a soul for it,
and the camp is disciplined for that end. And the
understanding is, in every qualified commander, that
he never gets the free, great spirit into his men, till he
gets them solidified in drill, under his peremptory
word. He must train their every motion, if possible,
to be commanded by him. And if at any time the
discipline gets relaxed or broken down, then the army,
as he well understands, will be demoralized, because
no common impulse takes them longer, and no grand
martial fire is possible to be kindled in theiiUnspira-
tions. They are no more held in hand closely enough
by the discipline, to put them in impulse and the
swing of liberty. Their cause, however good, inspires
them no longer. Just so the Christian body is pre
pared for the exaltations of liberty, by consenting,
every one, to the exact discipline of a soldier. Keep
ing the walk of Christ, as he would the beat of a sen
tinel, obeying under mandate, taking the rule of duty
in exact observance, inquiring always what God lays
it upon him to do, what place to fill, what sacrifices to


make, what hardness to endure coming under the
yoke thus to learn, he does indeed learn, and finds it
a yoke most easy ; nay, even freedom itself. Just ac
cordingly as he sinks himself in the steadiness and com
pleteness of his obedience, he mounts into liberty.
Here courage springs, and all the free-born senti
ments of inspiration break into play.

This matter of liberty is, alas ! how little under
stood, even by those who most harangue the people
and the political assemblages concerning it. Liberty is
not the being let alone, or allowed to have every thing
our own way. If it were, the wild beasts would be
more advanced in it than all states and peoples. Ko,
there is no proper liberty but under rule, and in the
sensje of rule. It holds high sisterhood with law, nay
it is twin-born with law itself. Even our existence
droops and drags a chain, if it can not touch some
principled way of order, to be ennobled by it. There
is, in fact, no bondage so dreadfully sterile as vaga
bondage ; that which strays and straggles where it
will, and finds no hand of discipline ever laid upon it.
It is in a slavery most dreadful because it has no sig>
nificance to itself. Hence it is that the strictness and
stiffness of the army discipline, that which puts the
soldier under guard because he does not set his eye by
command, or comes on parade with an untied shoe
hence it is, I say, that in such condensation of disci
pline, the army breaks into liberty, rushing even upon
death itself. It does not grope along the roads and
fences vagabond-wise, but it bounds over all barriers by


the word that is in it ; blazing like a fire-tempest in the
faces of the enemy. Self-consideration is gone out,
the word and the cause are all that is left.

This is liberty, and spiritual liberty is close akin.
It is being in such drill under Christ s commandments,
that it has no longer any thought of cost or conse
quences. It goes by no constraint but only by incli
nation, and the more strictly it has learned to obey,
the more exactly, tenderly conscientious, it has be
come ; if it is not slavish in its exactness, but is caring
only to please him that hath chosen it to be his sol
dier, the more gloriously free it will be. There will not
be a galling thing in the service; even the self-denials,
if there be any, will be free. The discipline looks
hard, I confess, when regarded from afar and exter
nally even an apostle calls it enduring hardness
and yet the stringency of it makes it the spring of
liberty. ~No such liberty, no real liberty at all of the
spirit, could be made by any smoother and more re
laxed process. There is a kind of strictness, I grant,
which can well enough be pitied ; viz., the strictness
of cowardly scruple and fear, but when the man is
full up with his law, commanding himself in it, all
such expenditure of pity may be saved. That man
( walks at liberty because he keeps God s precepts,"
and he keeps them not as tugging up anxiously
after them, but as a military body-guard set for
their defense. Plainly enough there is no bondage

Let us also take another lesson from the military


discipline, finding in it how to put a more genial look
on our crosses and required self-denials. Ungenial
and repulsive as the law of the camp may be, there is
no such thing in it as enduring hardness for hardness
sake, no peremptory commandment for command
ment s sake. Such kind of discipline would not be
training, but extirpation rather. And yet how many
of us Christian disciples fall into notions of Christian
self-denial that include exactly this mistake. As if it
were a proper Christian thing to be always scoring,
and stripping, and mortifying ourselves. How shall
we ever be true soldiers, if we do not make a hard
time of it ? how shall we resist unto blood if we do not
make a light, and press hard enough to bleed in it ?
Thus how many who really wanted to be soldiers have
retired into cells, renouncing family comfort and love;
or renouncing marriage ; or renouncing shoes ; or re
nouncing even their consciences taking spiritual di
rectors, by implicit obedience to whose ghastly dicta
tions they may kill out even their private will and
judgment, and all deepest convictions even of their
personality. All which is just as good and no better
than the discipline of an army kept up, not to make
an army, but to unmake the men. No such army dis
cipline was ever heard of. Alas that we should have
it in the church, and that not merely in the ascetic
schools of the monks, but in a presence more subtle
and scarcely less desolating among our Protestant peo
ples. What is self-denial as we most frequently think
it, but a practice of self-deprivation ? And then hav-


ing made our mistake, \ve either put ourselves to it,
making life a desert, and calling it our piety ; or we
only make a feint of compliance, and drop into a piety
more stunted, because it is confessedly wanting in tlie
chief thing. It is very much as if the soldier, instead
of throwing life and home, and every thing most
dear, upon the service of his country, were put to
the drill for stripping them away, no matter for the
country. That would be rank military oppression,
and not any army discipline at all. Let us not
think much of the Christian soldierhood, endured by
the poor monks, in the dismal abnegations of their
so called self-denial ; as little of their groans of bond
age and sorrow, shut in by the walls, where as
prisoners of God, they have spent their weary blight
ed lives ; but let us find instead how dear and free a
thing self-sacrifice may be, when it takes away our
self-seeking, and brings us out in a life of uncalcu-
latinjj devotion to our Master s name and cause.


The truth is, my friends, that our human nature is
made to go a great deal more heroically than some
of us think ; and our soldiers in the field, thank
God", are just now making the discovery. O what
worlds-full of great feeling are given us, if only we
can die into the causes of the worlds ! We make
the soul a vastly more prosy affair than it is, im
agining that self-privation will starve it into good
ness, and penances do the work of repentances.
Why if the fires of patriotic impulse can help our
sons and fathers in the field to rejoice in so great


sacrifice for their country, what pain can there bo
to us in our painstakings, what loss in our losses,
when the love of God and of his Son is truly kin
dled in us?

Let us also note for another lesson, opposite to
this, that the military discipline has as little direct
concern to beget happiness, as it has to compel self-
abnegation. There is so great peace and sweetness
of enjoyment, in the genuinely Christian state and
calling, that such as are highest and most advanced
in it, are in danger of being too much occupied
with what may be called the pious luxury of their
experience. Probably they do not call it by that
name themselves ; but being consciously exalted
above measure in it, they conceive their joy to be
itself a kind of self-certifying oracle and witness in
their hearts. They speak of it often, they magnify
it over abundantly it may be, and fall into a strain
of elysianizing ; as if that were the unquestionable
test of the highest and best way of life. Hence
their great endeavor, the main object of their search,
is to find how their delicious rhapsody began, and
how others also may be wafted into it. If we
call them soldiers, which perhaps they are in a sense,
and if only fit occasion were given, would show
themselves to be, still they are, so far and just now,*
soldiers not. in armor, but lying on some sunny bank,
and celebrating there, in free discourse, the pleasures,
nay the peace, of their warfare ; also in free chorals,
the fervors and inspiring confidences of their cause.


Probably they have it not in thought, just now, to
be enduring hardness, or in fact that they are under
any call of soldierhood. The elysian property of
their feeling is just now their principal concern ;
and it may be a very considerable danger of their
largely blessed, half ecstatic state, that they will
run to dissipation in it, and die out by and by, into
a state ,of dry ness and exhaustion they will not like
to confess. It is never altogether safe for such as
we, to be simply happy, and that may be the rea
son why the best and solidest of us never are. See
how it was with the great apostle, " fourteen years
ago." He was caught up into the third heaven,
he knew not whitlier, and scarcely any better who
he was in the body or out of the body thrilled
of course with unwonted, unspeakable delights ; but
having been up among God s roses, he came back
with a thorn ! And that thorn, as we can see, was
the life of him. Without it, pervaded all through
with the perfume of his joy, he was no more any sol
dier at all, and scarcely a man. But having a Satan
to buffet him inside in attacks on his infirmities, he
began to glory and be glad in a more sublime fash
ion, having now the power of Christ resting con
sciously on him. That now was a grandly mortal
*style of joy ; for there was a roughness or obstruct
ive element in it. He is not a soldier now T , sunning
himself at his ease on the bank of the river, but he
is in his fighting trim, girded in high liberty for the
onset commanded. We must not think, my brethren,


that the crown or decisive test of our experience is
that we are happy a most pleasant thing it is if
we are but as certainly as our fight is not over,
we must look for hardness to be endured, and woe
be to us if we do not find it.

There is yet one point of this military analogy,
where in fact it is scarcely any proper analogy at
all, but a kind of universal law, running through
all kinds of mortal endeavor, secular, moral, mental,
and spiritual ; viz., that whatever we get, we must
somehow fight for it. What begins in the conflicts
of tribes and empires runs clown through all kinds
of experience. "We have to fight the soil by labor,
and conquer from it our bread. We get knowledge
and mental discipline, by a long, unflinching, steady
battle. "We build by scoring timber, burning clayy
and hewing rock. We build states by scoring con
stitutions, baking laws in the fires of opinion, and
squaring down magistrates for their places by the
cutting edges of our votes. And so we go fighting
on through every thing, and most certainly of all,
in religion. It is waging war, though it be for the
Prince of Peace. Fighting a good fight, is the only
way to finish the course, and the crown of glory
conies in no where, save at the end. And so much
impressed with this fact is our great and truly most
heroic apostle, that he occupies a good part of one
whole chapter in naming off and, as it were, show
ing how to put on the whole armor of God gir
dle, breast-plate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword


and he even conceives that Christ is our captain
leading us on. Then follows another apostle who,
making his appeal to seven successively named
churches, puts them to their task each one, by the
promise, so many times repeated " To him that over-
cometh," " to him that overcometh." And then
passing up through, into worlds above the world,
lie beholds the victors coming in with palms in
their hands, and these, he cries aloud, " are they
which come out of great tribulation ;" and of other
victors if possible more highly ennobled "they
loved not their lives unto the death." And so, in
one view, it is only battle we are waging here all
the time. We open the gate of the kingdom by
great throes often, such as make us bleed. Our
life is the battle in the cause of God, and God
is going finally to emerge in the full honors of his
own most proper and glorious title, THE LOKD OF

To realize, my brethren, a conception so truly sub
lime is, I fear, not possible for some of us, living
in our present key. We are, many of us, living
daintily, I fear, and half theoretically. We have
no persecutions, and we settle into very dainty notions
and habits. There is a want of rugged vigor and
muscle in us. The ring of true metal is wanting.
To please him that hath chosen us to be soldiers
is not so much our thought, as that he will somehow
find a way to please us. O that God would give
us back once more some heroes in godliness, such as


lived in the old time now gone by. Or better, far
better, that lie would gird us all to be total, and
strong, and steadfast, in the cause of our Master-
clear every one of entanglement; sturdy, and stiff,
and simple, and right ; refusing all the softer methods
of the self-enjoying luxury, and having it as call
ing enough, to be in the complete war discipline,
as well as the complete liberty, of eternal obedience
to God.

In tracing; this analogy between the Christian and
the military discipline, I have not said any thing
of a matter that is even painful to be named, the
case and question of desertion. By what state rea
sons and conditions of absolute necessity it is put
down as the greatest of all crimes, and punished
with inevitable execution, we do not require to be in
formed, and the heartrending and truly shocking
scenes that make up the after-breakfast horror of
the camps are alas ! too familiar. The parallel I
will not trace. Are the religious state reasons less
decided ? the mischiefs of Christian desertion less de
moralizing ? the grand necessity here less impera
tive ? Fellow soldiers and comrades, I can not look
down this gulf; for the bottom of it is I know not
where. But this I know ; that, if you do not deny
Christ, he will not deny you, and that if you serve
him in such devotion as to make a cheerful and
glad service, you will never be stolen away from his
cause, by any most seductive bait of treason.



"The throne of God and of the Lamb." Rev. 22: 1.

REGARDING here the mere grammar of the words,
we have a partnership deity presented. Though per
haps the English version, speaking not of the throne
of God and the Lamb simply, but of the throne of
God and of the Lamb, gives a more plural cast to the
words than it need. However this may be, no diffi
culty is created ; for since person, when applied as in
grammar to God, is only a finite figure, derived from
our human personality, a plurality of persons may
represent him as truly as one, and perhaps even a
great deal more truly, because more adequately. It
is indeed a fault of any single name, or symbol for
God, that it presents him too easily, in a too definitely
bounded figure. Nothing, in free use, will save his
dimensions, which does not leave us to behold him in
a maze, by that to be magnified. And if three per
sons, or more, are employed to create the maze, we
have nothing to complain of, provided both the dimen
sions and the personality are practically saved.

But the matter I have now in hand is not the plu
rality encountered, but the name ; to do, in this really


supreme article of the gospel story, what a late able
writer has undertaken for the Progress of Doctrine in
the New Testament showing how a lamb becomes the
Lamb ; a very humble, common name, the highest of all
proper names ; climbing up through long reaches of his
tory, into the throne itself of God. I propose, in other,
words, to trace the ascending progress, issued in the final
ition, of the Lamb.


The ascending stages of this progress we shall best
discover if we glance at the scripture record of the
story. The word lamb begins of course at the crea
ture, and the creature required, first of all, to be cre
ated, having just the qualities of innocence, inoffen-
siveness, incapacity of resentment and ill-nature,
ready submissiveness to wrong, necessary to the in
tended meaning, and the finally sacred uses, of the
word. Lambs of nature were first stage symbols, for
the due unfolding of the Lamb of religion.

Then follows, we may see, a process in which arti
ficial meanings are woven into and about the words
and images provided, by the religious uses of sacrifice ;
for God is now to be displayed in the dear passivities
of sacrifice. Thus the sinning man Abel for exam
ple wants a liturgy for his repentance, one that shall
both move and express the tenderest contritions, the
sweetest hopes and confidences of reconciliation.
Spontaneously therefore, as some think, or more prob
ably by a special appointment of God, he chooses this
most passive, most unsinning, unoffending creature,


and says " Be this for me," offering it in fire, as the
appeal of his faith and his prayer of reconciliation.
Used for ages in this manner, the lamb becomes a
kind of sacred image, and the blood of the lamb an
accepted symbol of reconciliation, or forgiving mercy.

By and by, after many centuries have passed, Abra
ham is put on acting a strange scene of sacrifice in
the offering up of his son ; wherein he is to be carried
through incidents and a story and a struggle of loss,
that will be the analagon, or type of another, still
more mysterious sacrifice, where God provides another,
holier lamb himself. And the story ends in fact in
a strange, enigmatic, yet apparently forehinting utter
ance " God will provide himself a lamb " words
that reached farther than he could even understand
himself, to be sometime fulfilled in the offering of the
cross, as the consummate fact of sacrifice.

]S"ext we come upon another more advanced stage
in the process. For when the Lord is going through
Egypt in judgment it is ordered, for the comfort of
his people, that the blood of a lamb, now become a
sacred element and type of God s all-sparing mercy,
shall be sprinkled on the lintel of their doors ; behold
ing which the destroying angel shall pass by and
spare. Hence that blood of the lamb is called the
token of the Lord s passover. And so the passover
observance was continued for ages after, till it sub
sided, as being evangelically fulfilled in the Lamb of
the cross, and the Christian supper. And the Provi
dential correspondence of the two is curiously noted


in the fact, that as no bone of the passover-lamb was
allowed to be broken, so the cross should break no
bone of its victim.

Next we trace another stage of advance, in that
strangest and, humanly speaking, most unaccountable
of all scriptures, the Messianic picture of a mighty
suffering some one, in the 52d and 53d chapters of
Isaiah. The prophet has no name for him, breaking
directly into his picture and saying, as for Ged " Be
hold my servant," able only to present the nameless
great one by his own wondrous figure itself. If he is
a mortal, there was never any such mortal conceived
or heard of before. The unbelieving critics have
never been able to make out the picture. What being
is he, they have asked in vain, who, inverting all the
ordinary modes of judgment, is " to sprinkle many
nations," and " be exalted and extolled and be very
high," and " see his seed and prolong his days ;" be
cause he is " brought as a lamb to the slaughter," and
" hath poured out his soul unto death ;" because " he
has made intercession for the transgressors ;" because
" he is despised and rejected of men," " wounded for
our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities;" be
cause in short he is the lamb " on whom God has laid
the iniquity of us all ?" There stands the picture on
the page of prophecy who shall ever be seen to an
swer it ? Centuries come and go, but the lamb that
is to be, struggles all this time in the womb of Provi
dence expected and not seen, yet waiting always for
the birth.


At last the fullness of time is come ; when a strange
new prophet appears, announcing the kingdom of
God now at hand. And he breaks out suddenly at
his preaching and baptism by the Jordan, as a particu
lar unknown man is seen approaching to claim the
baptism, in the strangely worded salutation "Be
hold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the
world." Now at last the advances and preparations
of so may ages are ended, the Lamb of God is come.
Only what conceivable impulse, if not the direct im
pulse of the Spirit of God, could have opened the
prophet s mouth in this strangely-worded salutation ?
And who is he that he should bear this appellation ?
That will be known some three years hence more per
fectly. When this wonderful, only spotless being of
the world, after having breathed purity and love on it
for so long a time, goes to his cross in dumb submis
sion to his enemies, and dies there staining the fatal
post with his blood, having yet no bone of his pass-
over-body broken, we begin to catch some first inti
mation of the prophet s meaning, when he declares
" he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter," also of the
New Testament prophet in his strange salutation
" Behold the Lamb of God." And then what does he
himself do, three years after, when he encounters the
two disciples going back, heavy-hearted, into the coun
try, but open to them all the ancient scripture, show
ing outrof it how certainly Christ ought to suffer, and
so to be the Lamb of prophecy. And what does he
give them to see, in this manner, but that all sacri-


fice and passover are now fulfilled forever in his divine
passion ?

Then, passing on a stage farther, we are completely
certified and cleared in our impressions, by the discov
ery that, at this same Lamb and passover blood, all
apostolic preaching begins. God s new gospel of life
is the revelation of the Lamb. For this, says Philip
to the eunuch, is the prophet s " lamb that was dumb
before his shearers." And this, says Peter, is " the
precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot." And this again is Paul s " propi
tiation," " reconciliation," Christ " made sin," to bear it
clean away, and in fact his whole book of Hebrews beside.

Then once more the progress of idea and doctrine
that has been advancing stage by stage, from Abel s
day of sacrifice onward, and is now published, far and
wide, by its apostles as a gospel of salvation for man
kind, culminates, in full discovery, at its true last
point, in the scripture book that, for that reason, is
called the Revelation of Jesus Christ. No matter
whether these openings of heaven to John reveal
scenes of worship literally transacted there, about the
throne, or only visional images and machineries be
held above, that represent so many chapters of future
world-history coming to pass below ; . no matter
whether the last two chapters open the real paradise
of God above, or only prefigure a regenerated moral
paradise on earth. Still in all these visions, whether
read in one way or the other, the Lamb of God is seen
to be now in the ascendant, receiving his divine hon-

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 26 of 29)