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Ruler of the universe-infinite in wisdom, power, and goodness-immanent in matter, upholding it, and quickening all its movements, and mercifully dispensing joy and blessings to all His children. Such is the revelation of nature.
But is God manifested only in matter? Is the volume of nature His only revelation to man-the only source from which we are to derive our knowledge of His nature and attributes, and our relations and obligations to Him? Does He call forth our homage and gratitude simply by His wonderful manifestations in the world of matter, and His merciful dispensation of physical comforts ? No. There is another revelation ; there is God in history. He who created and upholds this vast universe, also governs the destinies and affairs of nations. The same hand which we trace in the lily and the rose, in rivers and mountains, in the movements of the planets and the surges of the sea, regulates the economy of human society, and works, unseen, amid its mighty revolutions, its striking vicissitudes, and its progressive movements. History is not what superficial readers take it to be, a barren record of meaningless facts,-a dry chronicle of past events, whose evanescent interest vanished with the age when they occurred. It is a most sublime revelation of God, and is full of religious significance. It is a vast sermon on God's providence, with copious and varied illustrations. Grecian mytho. logy represents Zeus, the supreme ruler of the universe, as the father, and Memory as the mother of Clio, the muse of history, thereby showing that the nature of history is partly divine and partly human. In fact, history is not altogether secular ; it is sacred. If, instead of merely looking on the surface of facts and events, where only human agency
is visible, we dive beneath and trace them to the great principles which underlie them, and the energies which brought them about, we shall find that the source of all the wisdom and power they display iş God. Like nature, history reveals the marvellous workings of providence. But in what manner does God manifest Himself in history ? Through Great Men. For what is history, but the record of the achievements of those extraordinary personages who appear from time to time and lead mankind ? And what is it that we read therein · but the biography of such men ? The history of the world, says Carlyle, is the biography of great men. The in. terest of nations and epochs centres in them : eliminate them, and you destroy all history. It is with the masses of mankind as with armies : they act by their leaders, themselves unknown and unnoticed. In reading of battles, we invariably miss the names of the thousands of common soldiers who fight on either side, and meet the names only of their cap. tains and leaders ; so in the vast history of the world we miss the names of ordinary men, whom Victor Cousin justly calls “the anonymous beings of the human species ;" only the names of great men strike the eye, and rivet our interest and sympathy. Such men take the lead in all the great movements of the world : the multitude always follow, They prominently stand forth in the van of society, and can hardly be confounded with ordinary men, A great man is a giant amongst a race of pigmies ; he towers above the level of ordinary humanity. His greatness is unmistakable, It is through these great men, these leaders of mankind, that God reveals Himself to us in history ; in short, they constitute what we mean by “God in history."
Great Men have also been called Representative
Men, Geniuses, Heroes, Prophets, Reformers, an ! Redeemers, according to their various functions and characteristics. Let us now proceed to inquire what it is that constitutes great men ; what are the distinctive features in their character which give them pre-eminence, and distinguish them from ordinary humanity.
But who are they, some may ask, on the very threshold of the inquiry, that we should be so anxious about them? The student of history may study their career with a view to satisfy his literary curiosity, and add to his stock of historical knowledge, and may feel astonished as he reads their wonderful exploits ; but beyond this, what are they to him? They lived and died like other men, performing their respective parts in the amphitheatre of history ; probably they did great good to their country, and evinced extraordinary ability and wisdom, and for all this posterity will readily give them credit. But what moral interest can we feel in them? Whatever importance they may possess as leading historic characters, are they of any religious importance to us? Yes, they are of the deepest interest and importance to our souls. They are destined to subserve the most momentous purposes in the moral economy of all men, of whatever race, or country, or age. With what is purely personal, local, and contingent in them we have certainly nothing to do ; but that which is divine and universal in them, that which makes them great men, deeply concerns us all, for it is God's gift to us. Nations rise and fall, revolutions and wars make a wreck of society, but true greatness always lives—a standing miracle and an abiding revelation-to speak unto endless generations, and unto all the nations of the earth, of the inscrutable riches of God's wisdom, power, and good
This is the sublime purpose of the lives of great men : this makes every one of us feel a deep moral interest in them, and leads us to place ouiselves in an attitude of reverent loyalty towards them, that we may receive from them the precious boon which they were designed and destined by God to confer on us. We cannot dishonour or trifle with them ; we cannot dispose of them as mere great historic characters with empty praise and admiration ; we must regard them as God's manifestations to each one of us, and so open the whole heart to them, that it may be filled with all that is great, noble, and divine in them. We should so love and revere them, that under their influence, and with their aid, we may find Him whom they reveal.
Great men are sent by God into the world to benefit mankind. They are His apostles and missionaries, who bring to us glad tidings from heaven; and in order that they may effectually accomplish their errand, they are endowed by Him with requisite power and talents. They are created with a nature superior to that of others, which is at once the testimonial of their apostleship, and the guarantee of their success. They are not made great by culture or experience : they are born great. They are ordained and sanctified as prophets at their birth. They succeed, not because of any ability acquired through personal exertions, nor of any favourable combination of outward circumstances but by reason of their inherent greatness. It is God's light that makes them shine, and enables them to illumine the world. He puts in their very constitution something superhuman and divine; hence their greatness and superiority. They are great on account of the large measure of divine spirit which they possess and manifest. It is true they are men ; but who will
deny that they are above ordinary humanity ? Though human, they are divine. This is the striking peculiarity of all great men. In them we see a strange and mysterious combination of the human and divine nature, of the earthly and the heavenly. It is easy to distinguish a great man, but it is difficult to comprehend him. A deep mystery hangs over the root of his life : the essence of his being is an inexplicable riddle. Who can solve it? That some nations have carried their reverence for prophets so far as to deify them, and worship them as God, or rather God in human shape, does not in the least appear to me surprising or unaccountable, however guilty they may be of manworship. For if a prophet is not God, is he a mere man? That cannot be. Such an hypothesis would not adequately explain all the problems of his life. The fact is, as I have already said, he is both divine and human ; he is both God and man. He is “God-man, He is an “incarnation" of God. Yes, I look upon a prophet as a divine incarnation ; in this sense, that he is the spirit of God manifest in human flesh. True incarnation is not, as popular theology defines it, the absolute perfection of the divine nature embodied in mortal form ; it is not the God of the universe putting on a human body,--the infinite becoming finite in space and time, in intelligence and power. It simply means God manifest in humanity ;-not God made man, but God in man. Man, however great he may be, however excellent and divine his character, is human, and, as such, liable to all the imperfections and infirmities of man, and the thousand evils which flesh is heir to. He is not generically different from the human kind, but is simply exalted above it in degree. Made of the same flesh and blood, endowed with the same constitution as ordinary men, he is far