« AnteriorContinuar »
who are beyond the pale of orthodoxy, are giving themselves up to the wild vagaries of free-thinking and scepticism, though outwardly, for politic reasons, they conform as strictly to forms and symbols as the orthodox. Thus, as regards both those who are within, and those who are outside the orthodox church, there is underneath apparent conformity a striking absence of spiritual faith-that faith which is “ the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.” From the bigotry and dogmatism of traditional creeds to the cold abstraction of rationalism, the entire religious life of the nineteenth century betrays a lamentable want of spiritual insight, and of that direct inspiration which alone can give us light unto salvation. From such tendencies, which characterize the civilization of the present age, India is not altogether free. Decrepit with age as she is in relation to her ancient greatness, and quite in her infancy in relation to modern civilization, she has with peculiar readiness caught this widespread contagion. Politically and intellectually, England is our master. We have been brought up in the school of English thought, and have been inoculated with western ideas and sentiments. Hence is it that we see in India a dim reflection of all that is going on at present in civilized Europe. The physical resources of the country are undergoing wonderful expansion and development, and everywhere we behold daily multiplying signs of material prosperity. The intellectual gloom, which for centuries covered its face, is being dispelled by the rays of liberal education, and the mists of idolatry and superstition are fast disappearing. But alas ! what have we instead of these? The materialism of modern civilization. Utilitarian
views have already spread far and wide among the educated classes, and Positivism counts its followers by hundreds. Few care about the sacred interests of the soul; and those who do, rest satisfied with a few vague rationalistic dogmas. It is certainly the duty of all who are interested in the welfare of India to endeavour to check, in due season, these sceptical tendencies of the age, and to infix in the minds of the rising generation such positive ideas of the higher truths of religion as may enable them to attain the blessings of salvation. To put forth my humble efforts in this direction, so far as my limited capacities will allow, is the main object I have in view in appearing before you this evening. The people of India must be roused from their lethargy and apathy and saved from the dangers of smooth but treacherous materialism. This life of spiritual stagnation that we see around us is woeful ; this spreading infection of sceptical fancies is appalling. The enslaved spirit of the nation must rise and bestir itself freely to the holy activities of the higher life.. That question is or should be as solemn and pressing with us in India now as it ever was elsewhere,-“ What shall I do to be saved ?" And for a proper and practical solution of this question, we must, with sincere and humble hearts, rely on God, and pray without ceasing that He may reveal Himself to us, and purify and regenerate us by the direct action of His holy spirit. For in order that we may be sanctified and saved, we must hold direct and perso. nal communion with God, each for himself, and so feel and establish our relations with Him, that our hearts may be for ever open to His living and holy inspiration. And as God communicates His spirit to us in certain mysterious ways, a proper
comprehension of the secret of such communication is obviously of great importance to our salvation. Thousands, we know, have, in all ages, searched for truth and God in the dry wells of ancient traditions and outward symbols, to satisfy their spiritual thirst; but it was not till they discovered and drank of the deep fountain of divine revelation, that they felt truly blessed with the pure water of saving truth. It is, therefore, necessary to inquire how God reveals Himself to man.
The first manifestation of God is in nature, and it is from this that the earliest religious impressions of men and nations have been derived. This is the primary and ordinary revelation of God, and one which is accessible and intelligible to all alike. Man, in the simplicity of his uneducated mind, and without the aid of logic or philosophy, “ traces nature up to nature's God." He cannot but do so. The universe exhibits on all sides innumerable marks of design and beauty, of adaptation and method, which he cannot explain except by referring them to an Intelligent First Cause, the Creator of this vast universe. Each object in nature reminds us of its Maker, and draws the heart in spontaneous reverence to His infinite majesty. The stupendous Himalayas, the vast deep Atlantic, the flowing rivulet, the fragrant and beautiful rose, the warbling bird and all that is grand and beautiful in the world below, and the heavens above, “ declaré the glory of God and show His handiwork,” and inspire devotional feelings in the soul towards Him who made them. Verily, there are “ tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” But is God manifest in the universe simply as its Maker-who created it, but has no connection whatever with it
at present ? Does the universe bear the same relation to God as the watch does to the watchmaker? Certainly not. The world cannot exist for one moment without God. He is its life and power. He is the power of all secondary powers, the true life of all living beings. He is the immanent power of the world ; its indwelling life. The same power :hat created men and things supports them. They can have no independent power or existence apart from their Maker. In Him we live and move, and have our being.” It is not true, as some would have it, that God created the world, invested each object and being with certain powers, and left them to work independently, according to certain fixed laws. Law simply denotes mode of action, and can have no agency ; while the secondary powers inherent in objects, which indeed act and produce all the striking effects and phenomena we behold in nature, are dependent upon the primary power of the Almighty. God the Creator should not be conceived apart from God the Preserver. If the world is real, it is real because of the divine power which animates
constitutes its immanent vitality. But is it merely the intelligence and power of God that we see in nature? We perceive His goodness in the countless and varied bounties which he showers on us, and which make us gratefully bow to Him as our Merciful Father, who not only makes us live, but renders life agreeable. It is He who supplies our daily wants ; and even before we came into the world He made ample provisions necessary for our sustenance and wellbeing. He taketh care of each one of us, and is the giver of every good that we enjoy. This is a great fact, and cannot be ignored-God's providence. There are some, however, who affect to dispose of it
as a general providence, the effect of God's general administration of the world on each individual life, and, therefore, not a matter for special thanksgiving. The imposing plausibility of such an argument cannot pervert the unsophisticated simplicity of human nature, or restrain its spontaneous and generous impulses. Let these men argue that, as God does not directly give into their hands their daily bread, He con have no special claim on their gratitude, for He shows no special goodness to them. Men with simple and natural hearts will, however, believe that the food they eat, and the pleasures they enjoy, are all the gifts of Providence, the necessary effects of a general economy, it is true, but not less the generous gifts of special kindness to each individual recipient of the same. Between general and special providence there is no difference in fact. It is God's goodness viewed from different standpoints that makes the distinction. The Creator of the universe is the Father of each individual man. All His dispensations are general as regards the world at large, but they are special so far as they fall within the bounds of our individual life, and are respectively partaken by us. The same sun that gives light and heat to millions of men, may be viewed either as a part of the general economy of the world, conducive to general prosperity, or it may be gratefully looked upon by each individual man as manifesting God's mercy towards him. Hence to each of us God stands in the relation of Father, for the manifold blessings He daily confers on us. And thus, while we worship God as the Creator and Upholder of this vast and magnificent universe as a totality, we offer Him the grateful homage of our hearts as our Merciful Father for the particular benefits we derive from His works. Behold the Supreme Creator and