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A HYMN OF HEART'S EASE.
SUNDAY READINGS FOR MAY.
BY PROFESSOR ELMSLIE, M.A.
And quieted mysell;
As a child that is weaned of his mother,
My soul is even as a weaned child.
Let Israel hope in the Lord
From henceforth and for ever."
THE SOURCE OY UNREST.
on the alternate ebb and flow of questioning FIRST SUNDAY.
denial and believing affirmation, finding noRead Job xxvi. and 1 Cor. xiii.
where any firm foothold amid the unstable
tumult of conflicting evidence and incon“Things too high for me."
clusive reasoning. At last out of the conWE E are apt to think and speak as if fusion there dawned on his mind a growing
difficulty of faith were an experience persuasion of something clear and certain. peculiar to our age. It is indeed true that He perceived that not only was the balance at particular periods speculative uncertainty of evidence indecisive, but also that the issue has been more widely diffused than at others, never could but be indeterminate. For he and our own age may be one of them. But saw that the method itself was impotent, the real causes of perplexity in things re- and could never reach or unravel the themes ligious are permanent and unchanging, having of his agonized questioning. A settled contheir roots deep-seated in the essential nature viction forced itself in upon his mind, that of man's relation to the world and to God. there are in life problems no human ingeThere has never been a time, when men have nuity can solve, questions that baffle man's not had to fight hard battles for their faith intellect to comprehend, “great matters and against the dark mysteries and terrors of things too high for him.” It was a discovery, existence, that pressed in upon their souls startling, strange, and painful. But at least and threatened to enslave them. What is it was something solid and certain ; it was this brief Psalm, echoing like a sea-shell in firm land on which one's feet might be its tiny circle the heart-beat of a vanished planted. Moreover, it was not an ending, world, but the pathetic record of a soul's but a beginning, a starting point that led dread struggle with doubt and darkness, somewhere. Perchance it might prove to be telling in its simple rhythm and quiet the first step in a rocky pathway, that should cadences the story, how through the guide his footsteps to heights of clearer light breakers of unbelief it fought its way to and wider vision, where the heart, if not the the firm shores of faith and peace and hope. intellect, might reach a solution of its quesIt reads like a tale of yesterday. It is just tionings and enter into rest. The quest he what we are seeking, suffering, achieving. had commenced had turned out a quest of Yet more than two thousand years have the unattainable, but it had brought him to come and gone since the brain that thought a real and profitable discovery. He had and the hand that wrote have mouldered recognised and accepted once and for ever into dust.
the fact of the fixed and final limitation of The poem must have been penned at a human knowledge. time when the poet's own misfortunes, or It is an experience all men have to make; the general disorders of the age, were such an experience that grows with age and as seemed to clash irreconcilably with his deepens with wisdom, as we more and more preconceived notions of God's goodness, cha- encounter the mysteries of existence, and racter, and purposes. The shock of this fathom the shallowness of our fancied knowcollision between fact and theory shook to ledge. What do we know of God, the world, its foundations the structure of his inherited ourselves? How much and how little! How creed, and opened great fissures of question- much about them, how little of them! Who ing in the fabric of his personal faith. He of us, for instance, has any actual conception
. was tempted to abandon the believing habits of God in his absolute being? You remember of a religious training and the confiding in-how in dreamy childhood you would vainly stincts of a naturally devout heart, and either strive to arrest and fasten in some definite to doubt the being and power of the Almighty image the vague vision of dazzling glory you or to deny His wisdom and beneficence. For had learned to call God, which floated before a long time he was tossed hither and thither your soul, awing you with its majesty and
immeasurable beauty, but evading every haughtiness that is restive of restraint, a selfeffort to grasp it. With gathering years sufficiency that forgets its own boundaries, and widening horizon you watched the and an arrogance that refuses to wield the world's changeful aspects and ceaseless move-sceptre of aught but an unlimited empire. So ments, till nature seemed the transparent it comes to pass, when reason in its restless vesture of its mighty maker, but it was all research is brought to a stop by the invisible in vain that you tried to pierce the thin veil but very actual confines of human knowand behold the invisible worker within. You ledge, it resents the suggestion of limitation, took counsel with science, and it told you and declines to accept the arrest of its onmuch concerning the properties of matter ward march. The temptation that besets and the sequences of force, but the ultimate is twofold. On the one hand pride, irritated cause, that which is beneath, that which by the check, but too clear sighted to ignore worketh all in all, it could not reveal. You | it, is tempted to refuse to admit any truths turned to philosophy, and you traced the it cannot fathom or substantiate, and to deny soaring thoughts of the sages, that rushed the real existence of any realm of being beupward like blazing rockets, as if they would yond its natural ken. This is the characterpierce and illumine the remotest heaven; but istic error of rationalism and positivism. On you saw how, ere they reached that far goal, the other hand, there is in the opposite directheir fire went out, their light was quenched, tion a tendency born equally of intellectual and they fell back through the darkness, pride and self-will
, to refuse the restriction, baffled and spent. You betook yourself to to ignore reason's incapacity, and so to venrevelation, counting that at last you were ture to state and explain that which is inexentering the inner shrine; and you did indeed plicable. Alike in the spheres of science learn much that was new and precious, but and of religion men strive recklessly to resoon came the discovery that here also we move from God's face the veil which His do but see through a glass darkly, and that own hand has not drawn, and irreverently our best knowledge of God is no more than intrude into mysteries hopelessly beyond a knowledge in part. “Lo, these are but human thought to conceive or human speech the outskirts of his ways; and how small a to express. This is the transgression of rash portion we know of them! But the thunder speculation and of arrogant dogmatism, and of His power, who can understand ?” We it is in itself as sinful, and in its conseare, as it were, surrounded on every hand by quences as harmful, as are the blank negamighty mountain peaks, whose rocky sides tions of scepticism. foil every effort to explore the pinnacles that Each of these errors the author of our lie hidden in distant cloud and mist. The poem was fortunate enough to escape. Reachievements of the human intellect are many cognising the limitation of all earthly knowand marvellous, but above and beyond its realm ledge, he does not rage against the restricremain, and doubtless ever shall remain,“great tions and beat himself against the environing matters and things too high for us." bars. He does not take it on himself, by a
foolish fiat of his finite littleness, to decree the SECOND SUNDAY.
non-existence of everything too subtle for his dim
eyes to perceive, or too fine for his dull
ear to hear. Where he fails to understand “Lord, my heart is not haughty nor mine eyes lofty." the wisdom or goodness of God's ways, he
There is in the human intellect an insati- does not intrude and try to alter them, able eagerness, and an indomitable energy of neither does he wildly struggle to compreacquisitiveness. It carries in its conscious hend their meaning, nor madly refuse to ness an ineradicable instinct of domination, submit to them. He adapts himself to the that spurs it to boundless enterprise, and divine dealing, and is content to obey without prompts it to spurn defeat. This lordly insisting on knowing the reason why. He quality of the human mind is the na-curbs in the cravings of his mind, nor will tural outcome of its sovereignty over the suffer the swift stream of his thought to rush physical creation, and the appropriate ex- on like an impetuous torrent, dashing itself pression of its kinship with the creator. It against obstructing rocks and frettingits waters is part of man's divine birthright, and the into froth and foam. He possesses his soul insignia of his nobility. But it brings with in patience, and does not exercise himself it the peril of all special prerogative, the in- in great matters or in things too high for him.” evitable temptation that accompanies the : This attitude of acquiescence is the posipossession of power. It tends to breed a tion imposed on us by necessity, and pre
Read Ps. Xxxvii. and Matt. xi.
THE SECRET OF REST.
scribed by wisdom. But, as a matter of fact, struggle, and made perfect through suffering. its practical possession depends on the pre- Therefore it was a peace strong and majestic, sence of a certain inner mood or disposition. and the story of His life is the world's greatest We have seea that the denials of scepticism epic. A life that commenced with effortless and the excesses of dogmatism are alike the attainment, proceeded in easy serenity, and offspring of pride, and spring from an over- ended in tranquillity, were a life without a estimation of the potency of reason. There history, pleasant but monotonous, devoid of fore, as we might expect, the poet's simple dramatic interest, and destitute of signifiacceptance of limitation and contentment cance. The young cadet, in his boyish bloom with partial knowledge are due to the fact, and unworn beauty, furnishes the painter that he has formed a modest estimate of him with a fairer model, but the grizzled hero of self. “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor a hundred fights, with his battered form and mine eyes lofty." His submission to restraint furrowed face, makes the greater picture. It has its root in humility. He does not exag- means so much more. And it means more gerate his capacity. He takes the measure precisely because the tried valour of the of his mind accurately. He does not expect veteran is so much more than the promise of to be able to accomplish more than his abili- the untested tyro. Innocence unsullied and ties are equal to. It seems to him quite untried has a loveliness all its own, but it natural that men should not be able to com- lacks the pathos of suggestion, the depth of prehend all God's ways. It is to be expected significance, and the strength of permanence, that there should be many things in God's that make the glory of virtue that has borne operations beyond their knowledge, and in the brunt of battle, and has known the bithis thoughts passing their understanding. It terness of defeat, the agony of retrieval, and is, therefore, no matter for surprise that men the exultation of recovered victory. We should encounter in God's universe “great talk proudly of the faith that has never felt a matters and things too high for them.” Nay, doubt, that has been pierced by no perplexity, the wonder and disappointment would be, if and shows no mark of the sweat and stress there were no mysteries, no infinitudes trans- of conflict. We look askance on difficulty of cending our narrow souls. Would it gladden faith, have no mercy on lack of assurance, you, if indeed God were no greater than our and reckon them happy who are convinced thoughts of him? What if the sun were no without trouble and believe without effort. brighter and no vaster than the shrunken, Thai is not quite the Bible estimate. The dim, and tarnished image of his radiance Psalms echo with the prayers of hard-pressed framed in a child's toy mirror. Alas! for faith, and throb with the cries of agonized us, if God and the universe were not immea- doubt. The New Testament speaks of faith surably grander than mankind's most majes- as a fight, counts them happy who endure, tic conceptions of them ! Measuring ourselves and pronounces blessed the man who enthus, in truth and lowliness, over against counters and overcomes temptation. If God, who will not say with the poet of our
“strait is the gate and narrow is the way Psalm, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, that leadeth unto life,” how should faith be nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise easy, since faith is that gate, that way? The myself in great matters or in things too high truth is, that we invert the divine standard for me.”
of values, and put last what God puts first.
We count enviable the landlocked harbours THIRD SUNDAY.
of unthreatened belief, that are protected from assault by their very shallowness and
narrowness. We are blind to the providen“Surely I have behaved and quieted myself.” tial discipline which ordains that men should Peace bulks largely in all our dreams of wrestle with difficulty, and in overcoming it ideal happiness. Without repose of heart attain a tried and tempered faith possible we cannot conceive of perfect contentment. only to those who have passed through the But we must not forget that the peace of furnace of temptation. For sinful men there inexperience is a fragile possession, and can be no real strength that is not transthat the only lasting rest is the repose muted weakness, no permanent peace that is that is based upon conquest. We speak not a triumph over rebellion, no perfect faith with languid longing and ease-seeking envy that is not a victory over doubt. The saints of the peace of Jesus, because we for that have most reflected the spirit of Christ get that His
peace was a peace constituted formed their fair character, like their Master, out of conflict, maintained in the face of in lives of which it may be said, "without
Read Ps. lxxiii. and Heb. xii.
CALM AFTER STORM.
Read Ps. xlvi. and Phil. ii.
VICTORY BY SURRENDER.
a weaned child.”
were fightings, within were fears.” The way of faith is less arduous than it is for others. of the cross has ever been a way of conflict, But in almost every life there come crises, and it is they who come out of great tribu- when this same battle has to be fought. For lation that enter into the rest that remaineth. it is not always easy to be content to trust The deep lakes that sleep in the hollows of without seeing, and to follow God's leading high mountains, and mirror in their placid in the dark, when the way seems all wrong depths the quiet stars, have their homes in and mistaken. There are things in life that the craters of volcanoes, that have spent rudely shake our faith from its dreamless their fury, quenched their fires, and are slumber, and sweep the soul away over the changed into pools of perpetual peace. dreary billows of doubt and darkness. There
There breathes through our Psalm an at- are times when, to our timorous hearts, it mosphere of infinite repose--a subdued rest, seems too terrible to be compelled just to like the hush of a cradle song. Nevertheless, trust and not to understand. Such conflicts if we listen closely enough to its music, come to us all more or less. Painful and we catch under its lullaby the low echo of a protracted the struggle sometimes is, but bygone anguish, the lingering sob of a not necessarily evil, not even harmful. For, vanished tempest. Nature's most exquisite if we do but fight it out honestly and embodiment of calm is the sweet, fresh air bravely, the fruits will be, as they were with that is left by a great storm; and the per- our poet, wholesome, good, and peaceable. fection of the Psalm's restfulness is that it consists of unrest conquered and transmuted.
FOURTH SUNDAY. For the poet's peace is the result of a great struggle, the reward of a supreme act of selfsubjection. “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself;" or, preserving the imagery “As a child that is weaned of his mother, my soul is even as of the words, “Surely I have calmed and hushed my soul.” His submissiveness had It is good to cheer men on in a noble strife not been native, but acquired. His lowliness by speaking of the certainty of victory, and of heart was not a natural endowment, but a by the story of heroic deeds to nerve their laborious accomplishment. His acquiescence arms for battle and stir their hearts to war. in God's mysterious ways was a thing not But that is not enough. They want more inborn and habitual, but was rather the
calm than that. They want to learn how to wage that follows a storm, when the tempest has a winning war, how to secure the highest moaned itself into stillness, and the great triumph, how out of conflict to organize waves have rocked themselves into unruffled peace. In the good fight of faith what is rest. For his soul had once been rebellious the secret of success ? Has our Psalm any like a storm-lashed sea dashing itself against light on that point ? By what method did the iron cliffs that bounded its waves, and the poet still the turmoil of his doubt and impetuous like a tempest rushing through reach his great peace? The process is finely the empty air, seeking to attain the unat- pictured in a homely but exquisite image : tainable, and spending its force vainly in - Like a weaned child on its mother, like a vacancy. He had longed to flash thought, weaned child is my soul within me." lightning-like, athwart the thick darkness does that mean ? Torn by an insatiable that surrounded Jehovah's throne, and to longing to know the meaning of God's myslay bare its hidden secrets. It was all in terious ways, , he had struggled fiercely to vain. Hemmed in on every hand, beaten wring an answer from the Almighty. His back in his attempts to pierce the high heart was long the abode of unrest
, and heaven, baffled in every effort to read the storm, and tempest. At length peace falls enigma of God's ways, he had been tempted on the fray; there is no more clangour of to revolt, and either to renounce his trust in contention; all is quietness and rest. How the Almighty's goodness or to refuse to sub- is this? Has he succeeded in solving the mit to His control. It cost him a hard and enigmas that pained him? Have his cravweary struggle to regain his reliance, to re- ings for an answer from God been gratified ? store his allegiance, to calm and hush his If not, how has he attained this perfect resoul.
pose ? His peace is the peace of a weared There was nothing wonderful in this con- child. Not, therefore, by obtaining that flict, nor anything exceptional in the expe- which he craved has he found rest ; for the rience. It is the common lot of men. True, rest of a weaned child is not that of gratifithere are some natures for whom the tenure cation, but of resignation. It is the repose
not of satisfied desire, but of abnegation and miniature of the strife that had surged to submission. After a period of prolonged and and fro in the poet's soul. Pained and perpainful struggle to have its longings an- plexed by the mystery of God's ways,
, swered, the little one gives over striving any foiled in his efforts to fathom them, denied more, and is at peace. That process was a all explanation by the Almighty, he was picture to our poet of what passed in his own beset by the temptation to abandon faith heart. Like a weaned child, its tears over, and cast off his allegiance to his heavenly its cries hushed, reposing on the very bosom friend. But he saw that that would not solve that a little ago excited its most tumultuous any enigma, or lighten the darkness. Rather desires, his soul that once passionately strove it would confront him with still greater difto wring from God an answer to its eager ficulties, and leave the world only more empty, questionings, now wearied, resigned, and dark, and dreary. Then, benumbed and submissive, just lays itself to rest in simple tired out, he gave over thinking and arguing, faith on that goodness of God, whose pur- and was content for a little just to live in poses it cannot comprehend, and whose the circle of light and sunshine that ever is ways often seem to it harsh, and ravelled, within the great darkness. Gradually it and obscure. It is a picture of infinite dawned upon him that in the world of men's repose and of touching beauty--the little experience there was much, very much of one nestling close in the mother's arms, its goodness that could only be the doing of the head reclining trustfully on her shoulder, God that moves in the mystery and in the the tears dried from its now quiet face, and darkness. The warmth of the thought crept the restful eyes, with just a lingering shadow into his heart, softer feelings woke, love and of bygone sorrow in them still, peering out lowliness asserted themselves, and at length with a look of utter peace, contentment, and he became content to just trust God spite of security. It is the peace of accepted pain, all perplexities, partly because there was so the victory of self-surrender.
much undeniable proof of His tenderness, and The transition from doubt to belief, from partly because there was more of rest and strife to serenity, is remarkable. We want comfort in this course than in any other. to know what produced this startling change of mood, what influences fostered it, what
FIFTH SUNDAY. motives urged it, what reasons justified it. Perhaps a glimpse, a suggestion of the
Read Gen, xxxii, and Rev. vii. process is hinted in the simile chosen from child life. The infant takes its rest on the breast of its mother-of its mother whose "Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.” refusal of its longings caused it all the pain Who has not wondered why there is so and conflict, whose denial of its instinctive much mystery in the universe, such perdesires seemed so unnatural and so cruel. plexity in our life, and in revelation itself How is it, then, that instead of being alie- why so many doubts are permitted to assail nated the child turns to her for solace in the our souls and make it hard for us to be sorrow she caused, and reposes on the very Christians ? Is this wisely or kindly ordered ? breast that so resolutely declined to supply Perchance it is necessary, but is it not evil ? its wants ? It is because over against this Can warfare ever be aught but loss and not single act of seeming unkindness stand un- gain ? The question is natural, but the numbered deeds of goodness and acts of answer is not uncertain. The fight of faith fondness, and so this one cause of doubt and is a good fight. Success means no bare of aversion is swallowed up in a whole atmo- victory, but one crowned with splendid spoil. sphere of unceasing tenderness and love. Be- We shall be the better for having had to sides, rating the apparent unmotherliness at fight. The gain of the conflict shall outthe very highest, still there is no other to weigh all the loss, and in the final triumph whom the child can turn that will better the victors shall manifestly appear more help it and care for it than its mother. So, than conquerors. This is no paradox, but since it cannot get all it would like, the the common law of life. The same principle little one is content to take what it may rules in the homely image of the child. have, the warmth, and shelter, and security Weaning is not needless pain, is not wasted of its mother's breast.
suffering. It is a blessing in disguise. The This process of conflict between doubt and distressing process is in truth promotion. trust, rebellion and resignation, which half It is the vestibule of pain that leads to a unconsciously takes place in the child, is a maturer and larger life. In like fashion the
TIE RECOMPENSE OF FAITH.