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apart from all thought of retribution we say it that
can not be gained by all that God has done, or does,
or shows, or suffers, in his Son !

There is yet one thought standing* off alone, as it
were, that demands a right to be itself the conclusion
of this subject. We are always thinking, or trying


to think, that we have reasons, or half justifications,
for not accepting God and religion. God we say is
absolute, and we have insuperable difficulties in ac
cepting any kind of absolutism. God again com
mands, and authority is not pleasant. He maintains
a Providence over the world, and while we like to
have the world well taken care of, there is a good deal
in the method, which is satisfactory to nobody. God
maintains a way of rigid and exact truth, and truth
which admits no variation, tolerates no accommoda
tion, is not agreeable. He is said to be everlastingly
just, and justice is only appalling. His character they
say, is infinitely, spotlessly pure, and the thought of
such purity is not altogether welcome. He requires
repentance for all wrong, and we can not humble our
selves to it easily. He is patient and we do not like to
be endured by mere patience. He is commended to
us as a long suffering God, which is no commendation
to our feeling, for how can we like to be merely suf
fered by long suffering ? So by these many consid
erations, one or all, we are averted from God. And
we half convince ourselves that we are justified in
them, at any rate they are reasons to us, and we
indulgently consent to let them be. But here, as now
we see, you add another and last reason, that God is
moving on you by his love, and you do not like to be
loved in the style of the cross. You turn yourself
away from this, you are offended or put in revulsion
by it, as by all the other so called reasons that are
more severe. It may be good enough for God to love

you, but you can not let him find you inwardly Ly it.
Ah, that in this so perversely excusing mind you are
going in shortly, to make answer before him. And
there bringing forth your reasons all the long cata
logue just named, and especially the last what face
will you put upon it ? Verily I can think of nothing
so dreadful as that this bad mind, going in thither,
is to carry in with it just what it is able never
hitherto to heartily welcome even the love of God.



" When they stood they let down their wings." Ezekiel 1 : 24.

IT is the distinction of all flying creatures that they
have a double apparatus, wings for the air, and feet
for the ground. Accordingly they draw their feet up
under them when they fly, and when they settle on
their feet drop their wings at their side. Thus our
prophet, in the words here cited, puts a touch of na
ture on God s cherubim, as if they, too, when they
settle in their flight, must do it of course in a manner
correspondent " When they stood they let down
their wings."

He intends, of course, no specially religious lesson
here, but the fact he cites may be used, I conceive,
with some advantage, to illustrate a very important
subject of Christian experience, otherwise difficult to
be effectively presented ; also the related fact, that so
many make up what they call a religious life, that has
no really Christian experience in it.

I. The subject of Christian experience, what it is,
and how to be maintained.

This nether element of ours, called Nature and the



world, is a kind of base-level on which we trudge, and
drudge ourselves in our works, and take what grime
of it we must, having faculties of locomotion, feeding,
sensation, natural sentiment, and sense-perception,
coupled with discursive understanding by all which
we act our parts on foot, as it were, and have our
opportunity in the uses given us. Meantime, we
have a higher range permitted us into which it is our
privilege to ascend; with attributes of faith-percep
tion, love-appropriation, spiritual imagination added,
for the sensing of God and the taking of his revela
tion to live in it ; in all which we become aerial crea
tures, so to speak, resting suspensively on things
above the world, and ranging freely in them. And it
is this glorious uplifting that produces the transcend
ent mystery of experience in Christian conversion.
For the major, infinitely nobler, part of our faculty
is here opened out for the first time into worlds above
the world ; even as a worm bursting its chrysalis
begins to fly, or as a balloon, when the cords are cut,
leaps with a bound into the sky. O, what buoyancies
of faculty now take us, all struggling upward after
God ! So that now, becoming spirit, and no more
flesh only, the new inspirations lift us into quite
another range of experience.

And the Word of Life represents this uplifting of
souls in a great many different ways that are yet all
concurrent. " Conversation in Heaven " " liaised
up together to sit together in heavenly places in
Christ Jesus " " Risen with Christ to seek those


tilings that are above " " Ye are come unto the
Heavenly Jerusalem " " They shall mount up on
wings as eagles." The conception is that souls new
born " from above," as Christ speaks, are in this man
ner lifted above, and go clear of the foot-levels of the
world and the mere natural understanding. The.
smother of flesh and sense is taken off, and they

They were creatures of understanding and crea
tures in the higher capabilities of faith ; bat living
in the understanding, in that always looking down,
they saw the coarse, nether element only; so that
when they come to open their windows on God by
their trust in Mm admitting the full revelation of
his truth and friendship they are taken up off their
feet into a higher range of life. They sail abroad in
a kind of upper- world liberty. Duty now is inclina
tion ; truth an infinitely serene element ; perception
broad as Heaven and full as the sea ; and all the de
tentions of world-worship and lust are fallen away.
They, as it were, only see the world, when they look
far down where it lies.

All this by faith ; because when we rest ourselves,
our life and life-character on God, we prove him and
have the sense of him revealed to our immediate
knowledge. But this faith, it must be observed, is
not, as appears to be very often understood, any be
lief in something about God which is not God ; no
belief in a proposition, or truth, or doctrine, or fact,
even though it be an atonement made, or legal justifi-


cation provided these things are things round about,
having, it may be, a certain relationship and prepara
tive concern, but the faith is a wholly transaction al
matter toward God himself, and no mere creditive as
sent or conviction regarding something notional or no-
tionally affirmed. It is the man s new, self-commit
ting, trusting act, by which he puts himself out on
trust, and begins to live suspensively on God, as every
created spirit, whether under sin or clear of it, is
made to live. It is a trusting of person to person,
substantive being to substantive Being, sinner to Sav
iour ; in this manner it is in effect a sublime act of
migration upward into the range of spirit, where it
lives inspiration ally, and has all things new.

Accordingly, just here begins the great struggle of
Christian experience I am wishing to illustrate. Can
the soul thus lifted stay above in that serene element
into which is is ascended ? Plainly enough, it is pos
sible only as we keep good the faith, or, when it ebbs,
renew it. It must be faith too still in the person of
God or of Christ ; not any faith in something about
God and secondary only to what is personal in him.
It must be such faith as lives derivatively from him,
and bathes itself in the revelation or inner sense of his
friendship. And precisely here here and never any
where else is the difficulty ; that the disciple has
gravitations in him still, that pull him all the while
downward, and settle him on his feet before he knows
it. And then, as soon as he" begins to stand, his wings
are folded, of course. Even as the flying creatures


fold their wings instinctively when they settle on their
feet, having, for the time, no use for them. The mo
ment he begins to rest on mortal supports, and find
his hope in mortal good, he ceases in the same degree
to live by faith. And it comes to pass so naturally or
insensibly that he forgets himself. Let us trace some
of the instances and ways in which it comes to pass.

He is a man of enterprise, and begins to think of
independence ; and the independent state that draws
him on becomes, how easily, how insensibly, the non-
depending state. His successes are honest successes.
His economies are only rational and right. But he
does not hang on Providence as he did, in a per
petually sweet, bright confidence. His prayers lose
out their fervors, and his peace flows only as a turbid
river. Even God is far less dear and less consciously
present than he was. How long is there going to be
faith enough left to have the consciousness of his
presence at all?

Sometimes the disciple drops out of faith unwit
tingly, in overdoing the search after evidences of it.
What should be that evidence but the faith itself, even
as the day bring its own evidence ; or, better still, as
we get evidence of warmth by the immediate feeling
of it, when we can not find the heat by any hunt of in
spection or search beside. Suppose he finally gets the
evidence of his divine calling made up. It is made
up in his understanding, of course, and it might as
well be made up by computations in arithmetic. He
has, in fact, descended out of faith to get evidences


that dispense with faith. He wants no inspirations
longer, for he has made good his proofs. Henceforth
he burns, if at all, without flame. He is down upon
his feet, and has really undertaken to be a foot-pas
senger all through.

By a very common mistake, the disciple who is
losing ground, instead of going back to his faith, puts
his will into the struggle, and thinks to recover him-
self by his will. Fighting out his battle now by self-
endeavor, he makes it a losing battle, of course. De
feated and discouraged, he knows not how, he an
swers, with a sigh, Am I not doing everything for
success ? Yes, every thing but the only thing, viz.,
to believe in God; that is forgotten. And what can
he do by his mere will-force and resolvedness, when
the heavenly trust is wanting ? He might as well
think to leap out of the Gulf Stream by the spring of
his feet. The harder throes he makes, the deeper he
sinks, of course.

Another class of disciples, of a naturally faithful
habit, when their fervors abate, and their enjoyment
of God ceases to buoy them up, seeing no help for it,
subside, as it were dutifully, into a mere routine prac
tice, or observance of times. They gravitate down
ward on regularity ; consenting thus to a regulation
service on foot, since it can no longer be a service in
impulse and liberty. Unblest and dry, they are none
the less punctual and exact. They mean at least, to be
faithful ; and they hope there may be some good in it,
only of a duller sort than it should be. Perhaps


there may ; only how much better if they could be
sure of some little faith in their faithfulness ; which,
if they had it but as a grain of mustard seed, would
kindle, at least, an observable fire. Had their faith
but a one-wing power, it ought, in the napping, to lift
them visibly a few feet upward now and then.

Sometimes again it happens, that a disciple who is
losing ground, is taken advantage of by the plea of
worldly conformity, and tempted to make his losing
more complete than he knows. He thinks he can do
more by a more winning address, that more readily
propitiates favor. So he shortens the distance be
tween himself and the world, that he may shorten the
distance between the world and himself. He under
takes to be more human, expecting to be as much
more Christian, and becomes, in fact, as much less
Christian as he is more human. I grant the possi
bility of an over-austere practice, that may fitly be
softened ; but this study of conformities is a wonder
fully delicate matter, which none but a man of inflex
ible tenacity should ever dare to indulge ; nor even he,
save as he is high enough lifted by his faith in God to
suffer no bent downward, but in social recognitions,
or Christian pity and tears. Cultivating the conform
ities is only a plausible way of being mired in them.
Buying off the world by taking its manners, shows,
fashions, and pleasures, turns out, almost certainly, to
be a selling off to the world and joining it. A con
versation above is the same thing as living above,
and whoever undertakes to grade, and guage a


smoothly fascinating, ground-surface road will, of
course, be moving on the ground, and not ascending
into faith at all.

To give one illustration more : it often happens
that a disciple thinks to steady and fortify his faith,
by a more practiced investigation and deeper studies
in matters of opinion. And it is not to be denied ,
that certain benefits may thus be gained. But the
difficulty is that when he gets occupied in questions
of the understanding, he is likely to be engrossed by
them, and seek his light in them, having it no more
by faith at all. Then, of course, he is down upon the
levels of mere Nature. Hence the fact so often re
marked, that young men going into theologic studies
are apt to lose ground visibly, to the grief of many
friends, in their piety. They pass into a sphere where
scheme and system are building, and get stalled in the
industry of the head. They forget that opinion
builds from below, and undertakes to be a pillar by
its own firm standing. "We think, it may be, that we
touch bottom, and get sure footing in it ; but the fatal
thing is that it is a footing more literal than it should
be a standing that is on the feet. We are going, as
we think, to be kited or aerially floated no more, and
will now have things in the solid. But our solidity
turns out to be a living on the dry nuggets of articu
lated deductions, and not on the uplifting grace of
God s inspirations. We settle thus out of grace into
formulations of grace, when, of course, our wings are
down. Would that a great many thousands of


the more gifted souls could not find the meaning of

Our conclusion, then, is that all unsteadiness,
wavering, collapse in Christian living, is caused some-
low, in one way or another for the ways are num-
lerless by dropping out of the simple first faith, and
eginning to rest on supports from below. The
moment any disciple touches ground with but the tip
of his foot, and begins to rest himself but in part on
earthly props, a mortal weakness takes him and he
goes down. And there is no need of it. Nothing is
more simple than this law of trust. God, too, is a
being faithful enough to be trusted in at all times ;
and if the disciple is faithful enough to abide in his
trust, he will abide in God, and have God s inspira
tions in him, move in God s liberty. If at any time
he begins to subside, a calm and loving return to his
trust will assuredly recover him. And he is not
obliged, living in this key, to remit or let go any of
his studies, or toils, or engagements. He will only
carry himself the more steadily in them, and with
less friction of disturbance, that his soul is rested in
God by his faith. Sometimes it may be that his faith
is shut in by morbid vapors, obscurations from dis
ease ; but then he has only to believe the more strong
ly, waiting for his obscurations to be cleared. He
need not ever be troubled or put in concern by them.
Even the sun has obscurations; but above them it
abides in the tranquillities, and waits till it has burned
a way through.


II. It will be seen by help of the same illustration,
how it is that a great many persons who mean to be,
and really think they are, disciples, miss ever going
above a service on foot, by not conceiving at all the
more ethereal range of experience, into which true
faith would lift them.

They undertake, for example, to become reformers
and philanthropists, and really believe that they are
more superlatively, genuinely, Christian in it, than
others who have more to say of experiences. They,
at least, mean business in their religion ; caring little,
as they think they ought, for the fervors that are not
fervors of work. Their argument, or operative power
is commonly human opinion, and the combining and
rolling up of great masses of opinion is the means by
which they expect to carry their projected reforms.
In such a mode of action, censure and storm and fiery
denunciation are naturally close at hand ; and are not
much further off when they assume to be wielding
most especially the motive principles- of religion.
They would be very much hurt by any reluctance to
own them as disciples ; and yet they do not even con
ceive themselves, many times, that they are disciples
because of their repentances, or prayers, or the
sensing of God by their faith, or by meekness, pa
tience, or any other grace that separates them from
the world. Their element is agitation, seldom any
way of appeal that bears a look of Christian peace or
repose. They have much to say of love ; but they
visibly hate more strongly than they love. Their very


philanthropy is pngnant and oppugnant, and works
altogether by that method. Sometimes the reform
they are after is a good one, and is sorely wanted ;
which makes it the more sad that they must drive it
by mere human force, going never above, to descend
upon it by inspirations there kindled, but keeping
their feet and warring with the evils to be removed
hand to hand, on the same level with them.

Sometimes, again, there is a way of self-culture at
tempted in the name of religion, which is not in any
proper sense religious, having no element of faith in
it, and expecting no uplifting help from gracious in
spirations. The self-culture is what a man may do
upon himself; mending his defects, correcting his mis
takes, chastening his faults, tempering his passions,
putting himself into the charities he has learned, from
Christ perhaps, to admire, finishing himself in the
graces that have won his approval or commanded his
respect. But the work is a far more hopeless one
than he imagines, and is almost sure to result even
visibly, in more- affectations of character than are
likely to be much approved. Besides, it holds him to
a continual self-contemplation which is selfish, and
keeps him all the while filing and polishing on his
nature by his will ; which is, in fact, the most weari
some possible, or rather impossible, kind of self-at
tention. The old faults conquered, too, will be coming
back~6n him just when he is conquering another set.
And, turning round to fight them off, he will find the
whole swarm loose upon him again ; till, finally, get- ,


ting worried and vexed and soured and discouraged,
he virtually, though perhaps not consciously, gives
over his whole undertaking. O, if he could have gone
up to Christ, or to God, in a true faith-culture, and
let his faults fall off, as blasted flowers fall off the
trees, dislodged by the life-principle in them, his beau
tiful thought of finishing a character would have been
how easily put forward without a care, too, and in
the sweetest liberty. No man finishes a character
who does not go above himself, and take the culture
of God s own Spirit ; by that growing out a character
from within which can not be manipulated inwardly
from without. If there be any good gift that cometh
from above, and can not be made below, it is char

Ritualism is another foot-passenger that having no
sufficient conception of faith, has, of course, no better
conception of the higher ranges of life prospected by
it. There is, in fact, a gravitating principle in us all,
that settles us down upon the ritual way when it can.
Bound to have a religion of some kind, because we
have a religious nature, we begin, almost unwittingly,
to have one that is manipulated by our senses and
sensuous tastes. We are caught thus by the forms.
They are beautiful, and a fine-looking, comely religion
they make. All the better that they are so nearly
level with our natural faculties, and just as easy to be
used without faith as with ! These reverential rounds
and airs, these priestly ceremonials what a charm of
worship is in them ! How convenient, also, to have a


religion that works secundum artem, and lets tlie faiths
and fervors take care of themselves ! Saying prayers,
too how much better and easier than to pray, and
find how to be heard. Having gotten thus a good


sufficiency of religion below, and settled their feet
down squarely on it, they really think it a considera
ble improvement. But the sad thing is, that, instead
of raising the disciple up in glorious inspirations, and
giving him free wing, they humble him and keep him
down ; so that, if at any time his native longings set
him on being more earnest in them, they become, in
fact, a superstition.

Again, there is a class of men outside of the church,
or sometimes in it, who undertake to be religious or
Christian, and really suppose they are because of a
certain patronage they give to the church and the
word. What they do not bring in fellowship they
propose to add by counsel and management. Con
sciously not being in the gift of spiritual discernment,
their tastes will be the better, and they will the better
know what excesses are to be restrained, and what
aberrations avoided. And, as there are always a
great many reasons why a thing should not be done,
.to any single reason why it should, they assume, as
they are rich in the negatives, to be specially quali
fied critics. These critical powers, too, they propose
to contribute for the benefit of the cause ; while
others less gifted in such matters may contribute their
prayers ! Of course, these negatives belong not to
the range of the Spirit and the glorious proprieties of


God ; but to the nether world of fashion, or opinion,
or custom, and are only rude, blind prejudices at that.
The sermon has too much faultfinding. The deacons


are too ready to appear on all occasions. It would be
much better if the brethren would be more silent.
The women are a great deal more forward and stren
uous than belongs to their sex.

O, these unilluminated wisdoms, that have only
feet and no wings at all it is as if eagles had fallen
out of their element and descended to be cranes,
pleased that the legs they stand upon have grown so
tall and trim, and are able to wade in such deep
water ! But, alas ! for these infantry birds ; if they
could but drop their uncomely stilts, to soar as- eagles
do and burn their wings in the sun, they would be as
much higher in their range as they pretend high
standing less. Giving themselves over in trust to the
Saviour, instead of giving their opinions and tastes,
their patronage of his cause might cease, and their
contributions to it have a worthier significance.

Once more, there is a class who distrust all the sup
posed experiences in religion, doing it thoughtfully, as
they suppose, on grounds of sufficient reason. All
visions and revelations of the Lord they disrespect.
It offends them to hear any thing said of spiritual
discernment, or the discerning of spirits, or of special
gifts, or of divine monitions, or of answers to prayer,
or of calls to particular duties and works. They like
to see things keep the level of Nature more nearly,
and observe a more prudent and judiciously rnod-


erated way. Inspirations are nothing ; judgments
every thing. And they have it as a maxim, that soar
ing experiences of every kind, all supernatural up-
liftings and fervors, are only fantastics that had best
be avoided. Now Moses was a great lawgiver, and

O O *

has always been considered a very solid man ; but he
was most certainly in a different way. Or, taking a
later and more strictly Christian example, the Apostle
Paul, what shall we say of that story he tells the Cor
inthians of his very strange experience " fourteen
years ago?" Perhaps he was a little bewildered by
it himself, and has kept the thing under advisement
all this time, to be sure of it. But he is able now,
as we see, to glory somewhat. Was he not caught up

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