Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

centred aim whatever, it is open to all who can see how self-devotion and pure principle can make the smallest things sublime. He need not envy any lot, however seeming high and happy, who knows the secret of living and working where he is, in accord with his own highest standard. The universal law of gravitation is just as much present where a pebble rolls as where a world moves; and every life obedient to right, ruled by justice and by love, is caught up into the great order and borne on to ends higher than its happiest dreams.

For Nature and Events will generally shape our ends better than we can do it ourselves. It is far better to live by principle than by plan. I sometimes marvel, reading the lives of men who made epochs, how little they knew of the kind of service they were doing the world. There was simple-hearted John Wesley, who to his dying day thought himself a Church clergyman and wore his gown. He too has left his footprints deep. John Wesley once went to the little town of Epworth where he was born, hoping to preach in the parish church where from his own father's lips he had learned what the Church preached, but he meant to practise. When he arrived at the church door he found it barred against him. Followed by the crowd he went out into the graveyard, and taking his father's tombstone for a pulpit uttered there the prophecy which the Church refused to hear. He departed, but to this day the people of Epworth will show you on that gravestone marks of the feet of John Wesley. Those little hollows represent nearly all that many of his own followers, as well as of the Church, can see of the great and good man; a dent in the old Church, a superstition in the new.

But the revolution which Wesley wrought, and one that can never go backward, is what neither he nor they appreciated,—he showed that a better life could be built

up

outside the church than in it. He proved that the forces of virtue, of character, love, moral beauty, were out there in the churchyard; the church could bar them out, but not bar them in—no more than it could imprison the sunshine. So unconsciously Wesley broke the church charm forever, and liberation has gone on ever since. That is a thing no man could plan. But if we will get the real footprint of Wesley, and not the fancied one at Epworth, it will be in like him building up the very best lives and characters outside the proud pale of superstition. The heaviest blow man or woman can strike at dogma is to render a better life than dogma can produce. When Romanism fell in England it was because the best heart and head were doing such work outside of it that its rites became paltry; and when protestant superstition dies it will be for the same reason. So every honest, true life that is lived apart from those fables and creeds is setting upon the human heart another sign and seal of liberation.

Ah yes, my friend, it is yours too to make on earth the footprint of a man. The timid shall see it and gain courage. They shall say—“See, there stood, there moved a man—a real man. He bowed to no idols, abased his soul to no prejudices, yet was he humble ; he was not restrained by fear, and yet he was restrained; he was no Christian, but what Christian was more faithful

[ocr errors]

and self-sacrificing ?” That is the footprint to make. Time will not efface it ; nature will adopt it.

In our childhood we have pored over the story of that footprint which Crusoe found in the sand. It filled him with terror. Seeing none to make it he fancied it a demon's track. If a man's, it was that of one larger than himself. He built him a stronghold for defence. The tide came up and effaced the footstep. The man who made it was found, and effaced the terror. What remained to Crusoe from the footprint was a better house, a new friend, a larger experience. And so shall the visible footprints of great and small be obliterated by time and tide; but yet invisibly shall such as are true remain for ever. The name of him who made it may be remembered no more, but the service he did shall abide. The terror awakened by the bold step for truth shall pass away, the dreaded innovation turn to a friend. Firm and fearless then, let us move on ; let every step of thought or work be based on truth, friendship, justice ; so shall we leave footsteps on the sands of time

Footsteps that perhaps another

Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother

Seeing, shall take heart again.

ز

[ocr errors]

VII.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM.

(1876.)

« ZurückWeiter »