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den lift of dark clouds — that bring new visions of truth. It was through a wonderful dream that Peter got that conception of God, new to himself and to the world, which so instantly mastered him.
2. His ready change was also due to the fact that he got sight of larger and more spiritual truths than he had been holding.
When truths, or what claim to be such, are of equal proportion, we balance them, or try one and then the other; but as soon as one asserts itself as larger and finer we accept it instantly. Peter had been used to believing that God was a respecter of persons, but when he caught sight of the fact that God has no partialities, but accepts all men who work righteousness, his truth-loving nature rushed at once toward the greater truth. We have an appetence for new spiritual truth, and take to it readily. Hence every new notion or device that calls itself religious gets certain and quick following, but it only shows how insatiable is the demand for the new. This does not imply that we are to go about peering into the corners of the universe to find new truths, nor that we are to sit down and manufacture them. Truth already exists; there is now all there ever will be. All we have to do is to take it; to hold ourselves open to it; to do God's will, and we shall know it; to read it as Providence writes it before our eyes; to listen to the still voice of the Spirit; to keep a single eye, an open ear, and an obedient will. It is of the nature of spiritual truth that it reveals itself. The fundamental Christian idea is God seeking man, not man seeking God; the latter phrase represents a subordinate idea. We make but a poor figure when we attempt to think out a religion, or even to think our way through one. It is not a search after God, but a revelation of God. The grand movement and impulse are on the divine side. We ourselves can find nothing; we can only take what comes, watch the unveiling of divinity, careful only lest anything revealed escape our notice. The main thing for us to do is to get out of the caves of sin and self-conceit into the open air, where the sun shines and the Spirit breathes. An upturned face, an honest heart, space about us for the Spirit to get access, — these are the conditions of a continually fresh feast of eternal truth.
There is also in such truth a self-attesting power that tends to secure instant reception. When one comes to me with a new machine, or a new theory of government, or of the material universe, or of physical life, I hesitate; but when I see a new disclosure of the divine love, or a fresh exhibition of the value of humility and patience, or of some new adaptation of Christianity to human society, or of the superiority of spirit over matter, or indication that it is other than matter and inclusive of it, I at once believe. It is simply another candle brought into a lighted room.
This self-attesting quality goes farther and becomes commanding. Truth so seen allies itself with God and takes on divine authority. Peter says, “God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” It is one of the subtle workings of all high truth that it vests itself, as by
some instinct, with the divine attributes. No one would call a doctrine of expediency an eternal truth, even if he believed it; a sense of language, running deeper than he knows, would forbid. But this same subtle sense of language almost requires us to put the epithet before love and duty and sacrifice. So vested, truth becomes authoritative and shuts out all hesitation; with Peter, we rise and eat.
I bave had in mind thus far not any new laws of conduct or mysteries pertaining to God, or man, or destiny, but rather fresh and expanding vision of old truths, other sides of many-sided truth. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as new truth ; truth is not a creatable thing, being simply the reality of existing things; but there is such a thing as fresh sight of the truth that now is and always has been and ever will be. To keep ourselves in the way of it is a clear and vital duty. We can hardly do anything worse for our moral growth than to hold it in such a way that it may not change its form, or proportion, or aspect, to us. When we bind it up in a form of words, or let it lie quiet in unthinking minds, or wear it as a sort of charm while we go about our work or pleasure, we have made a very poor and meagre thing of it. Not that one is to hold his faith as in a constant flux, or suffer himself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine, but rather that he should attain the twofold attitude of alertness and passivity: passive to the Spirit that is ever breathing upon us, and alert to note and follow the unfolding revelation of God in the world.
It is, I doubt not, a matter of conscious experience with many, this fresh insight into truth, the germ or heart remaining the same, but taking on new forms and displaying new powers. It is such a relation to truth that keeps the mind delighted with it, exciting it by sweet surprises and inspiring it by new prospects. Thus it becomes living water, springing up into eternal life.
It is a mistake to regard the truths of the Christian faith, even those that are called leading and fundamental, as having a fixed form. Were they revelations from God, they might perhaps be so regarded; but being revelations of God, they imply a process of unfolding. Truth is not something handed down from heaven, a moral parcel of known size and weight, but is a disclosure of God through the order of the world and of the Spirit. This is the key to the history of the Old Testament, the central element of the revelation by the Christ, the method of the Spirit. It is allied to the highest assertions of science, the other side of the arch that springs to meet that which rises out of the visible creation, the keystone of which is God, creator of the world and redeemer of humanity.
Having spoken generally, I shall now speak more particularly of some of these truths, with a view to calling attention to this intermingling of permanent and changing qualities. The aim will be to inspire and aid belief rather than to challenge it, and to touch the themes in a broad and inclusive way, and by no means in the opposite way.
Take first the truth known as the Trinity, though one could wish, with Calvin, “ that the word itself were buried in oblivion.” It has another look to-day from that it wore a hundred years ago. That view, if urged still, makes a very dry, formal, unnourishing thing of it. If, however, we suffer it to be transformed, under the expanding conception of God that has come in with the age, it grows vital and inspiring. It is the characteristic thought of God at present that He is immanent in all created things, – immanent yet personal, the life of all lives, the power of all powers, the soul of the universe; that He is most present where there is the most perfection:
“He is more present unto every creature He hath made
Than anything unto itself can be."
With such a conception of God, it becomes easy to see how there should be a Son of man who is also the Son of God, and a Spirit everywhere present and acting. Revelation and thought so nearly meet that there is no chasm between, and no stress is laid on faith as it passes from one to the other. The formal trinity and the formal unity, the more barren conception of the two, pass away, and God in Christ, filling the mould of humanity to the full, becomes a great, illuminating truth. We may or may not pronounce the ancient phrases, but we need no longer hesitate to say, “ Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;” meaning a paternal heart and will at the centre, a sonship that stands for humanity, a spiritual energy that is the life of men, and through which they come into freedom and right.