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God. Perception, I say again, as opposed to, and contradistinguished from, Imagination on the one hand, and Abstraction on the other. I am not going to deal with imaginary deities. You know the world in all ages has imagined and adored false gods and goddesses by the thousand and by the million. With these I have no concern. My object is not to conjure up before your eyes that strange and fantastic group of deities which man's imagination has chiselled and painted in the course of ages. I am not going to revive the vast pantheon of Egyptian, Grecian and Roman gods. Rest assured, my friends, I am not going to draw upon my imagination. The world has had enough experience in that direction. Imaginary deities, deities of all shapes, sizes and colors, angels, saints, monsters, birds, beasts, and creeping things, hills, rivers and trees, have all had their day. The imagination, albeit so fertile, seems to have exhausted its resources. And woe to him who ventures in these days to add the already overcrowded pantheon of the world's fabled gods / Far be it, therefore, from my heart to revive the worship of imaginary deities. Even their very memories I will dismiss from this assembly as most unwelcome. But if I warn you against imagination, against the worship of unreal gods and goddesses, I must at the same time guard you against being carried away by imagination in the opposite direction. For, believe me, man can by imagination create things which are not; and by imagination too he can dismiss and banish, ignore and deny things which really exist. By imagination the mind brings in that which is not; by imagination it sends away that which is. We may imagine false deities, and we may, on the other hand, imagine away the true Deity from among us.
remind you of the man in the fable, who accidentally stumbled and fell down on the ground, but would not allow his neighbours to help him to rise, for he said he considered their efforts to restore him futile, as he was made altogether of fine crystal, and having fallen down he had unfortunately broken himself into pieces. I may also call to your mind that other. Indian story, in which a man is represented as having persuaded himself to believe that somehow his eyes had left their proper place and got transferred to the posterior part of the head, and when this man's friends came to see him, he seriously asked them to go behind, as he could not see things which were before him ! Now this man's imagination doubtless deceived him. To imagine that things really before us are not before us, argues indeed a dangerous species of idiotic imagination, and a lamentable type of mental derangement, from which every sane man ought to be free. for one moment believe that your God is not present here? Can you banish Him from the mere fiat of the will ? You can no more banish God from your minds than you can banish the pillars of the Town Hall from the field of your vision. Verily, the Lord your God is an omnipresent and immanent Spirit, whom it is impossible to imagine away. Neither shall ye imagine into the mind unreal dei. ties, nor shall ye imagine away the True God. How many, alas ! turn away from His presence ! Man seems unwilling to see God face to face. Whether it is because of his worldly habits and carnal propensities, which shun the very presence of the Lord, or in consequence of a sense of inability to realise Infinity, I will not undertake to determine. But so it is, and thousands and tens of thousands of men to-day, seem content to believe that the Lord
is a hidden reality, and never reveals Himself, and that no man however devout, can at all see Him. They look within and without, and see nothing but an extensive void, in the midst of which they prefer to adore an unknown and absent Thou. They ad. mit that the Lord is omnipresent, but do not care to feel or realise Him as such, Seers and prophets may have seen Him, but they think they are for ever debarred from His presence. What then does omnipresence mean? Shall humanity imagine away the Present and the Real into the regions of the shadowy and unreal ? And shall I flatter such dreaminess, and humour such fancies ? God forbid. Gentlemen, if I do not blindly serve Imagination, neither do I idolize Abstraction. My Divinity is equally removed from either. Neither the painted fiction of ancient mythology nor the polished abstraction of modern metaphysics finds a place in my philosophy of vision. I abjure both as false. If you wish to see God, you should take care that, in giving up the creations of gross imagination, you do not plunge into idealism, the worship of pure abstraction. Are you going to accept as your God the mere idea of Divine power, the idea of infinite, Wisdom, the idea of Love, or the idea of imma-, culate Holiness? Is an idea God? Is thought Deity? It is one thing to think of attributes, aud cognise separate and abstract qualities, and quite another thing to perceive an object. Your knowledge of Divine attributes may be thoroughly correct. But in thought you abstract those qualities and take them piece meal. What are these Divine attributes, wisdom and power, love and holiness, but broken lights ? They are the results of a severe and crucial analysis--the fragments of a divided substance. You have broken the nature of the True
God into small bits for the sake of convenient apprehension. Not being able to take in the whole, you divided it by sharp analysis, and try to think of separate attributes and qualities one after another. This, indeed, is no vision. Synthesis is essential to perception. In order that you may see God face to face, you must concentrate in a focus all these scattered and broken lights, and apprehend them in synthetic unity. Not fragments of abstract notions flitting before the student of philosophy, but the perception of the Living God, the Personal One, Centre and Substance of the highest conceivable attributes, that is God-vision. In it humanity sees the indivisible and undivided Deity as a whole. In all acts of perception, there is an immediate and direct reaIisation of a real entity, an object or a being viewed not as multiform phenomena, but as a substantial unity. When we see outward objects, we do not deal with abstractions. When I see you, ladies and gentlemen, I see not ideas, I see not fancies; I see realities present before me. I am surrounded on all sides by real persons, not ideas of persons. It is not a sheet of canvas spread before me, upon which are painted in life-like colors figures of men and
It is not an ideal projection of my own consciousness that I see before me. I am sure I am not addressing so many ideas and notions seated before me. No. These are all stern external realities, which meet me at every turn, and leave an image upon my eye and upon my mind. I cannot believe that these are so many notions and ideas drawn out of my own mind. In perception we do not deal with the thoughts of our inner consciousness ; but we directly and immediately apprehend and seize outward objects and realities. It is true that the senses take cognizance and can take cognizance only of
phenomena and qualities. But these are intuitively and immediately referred to an abiding substance, and viewed as a totality. There is a substratum or substance beneath all these phenomena to which these phenomena belong. There is something to which these qualities and properties appertain, something in which they reside. Whenever we speak of things we have seen, we speak not of mere color and shape and other properties, but of objects possessed of these qualities. In perception we apprehend a unity of substance under a multiplicity of phenomena. This is true of God-vision. When I talk of the perception of God, I do not mean abstract attributes, but I speak of the Divine Person as He is ; not multiplicity of attributes, wisdom and holiness and power and love ; but the aggregate of all these attributes in the unity of the Godhead. He is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever, the same immutable and unchangeable God, in whom there is no variableness, no vicissitude or change, a permanent substance, a Personal God in the midst of an endless variety of phenomena and attributes. Gentlemen, I do not mean to decry or depreciate abstraction. It is good in its own way. Doubtless it is essential to science. It is an indispensable and valued instrument of thought. But it falls within the province of logic. Its uses are in the domain of metaphysics. Whoever wishes to philosophize concerning the attributes of God must deal in abstraction. Our present concern is not philosophy or reflection, but perception. We desire not to think of particular attributes of the Deity, but to behold Him as a complete unity comprising all His attributes. Shun, then, both imagination and abstraction. If ye wish, my brethren, to enter the haven of beatific vision, let the mind steer clear of the Scylla and Charybdis of unreality and abstrao