Thursday, March 26, 2015

 The following piece is by James Martineau, and he discusses the difficulty we have in recognizing God's presence, although he lives and is ever around us. He initiates a relationship with us continually, but we miss it, calling events common. He makes a comment that sometimes we find Him by a new insight of duty, which I illustrate by the photo.  

"God is ever living in us and around us, he does not enable us to compare his presence with his absence: if we miss him, it is from his perpetual presence and nearness; if we meet him, it is not by feeling after him abroad, but by dropping inwards and returning home. The differences by which he is revealed are in us and not in him; in our faculty of recognition, by no means in his constancy of action. His light is alive in the very hearts that neglect or deny him; and in those that most own him He is visible but not apparent a thousand times for once that it flashes on their conscious eye. But there are moments when the beauty of the universe looks in at us with a meaning quite divine; or a new insight of duty opens a path, which he alone could show. In these instances, we strain no ingenuity to discover him; it is he who comes to us and finds us; his presence rises of itself, and the revelation is spontaneous. Our sole concern is to accept it, to revere it, to follow it, to live by it.

  Thus the true attitude of the devout mind always involves a certain quietism and self-relinquishment. Instead of pressing curiously forward, it sinks in meditation back, rests upon the moment as divine, and feels the very pavement beneath its feet as holy. It has neither any distance to go, nor any time to wait, in order to close in with the Spirit of God; only to own and trust him now and here, -- to pass into his hand with simple faith, a disarmed and un-reluctant captive to his will." James Martineau.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

   "Not all that dwells in God's thought and lives in his heart has he put forth; and vast as is the field, and sublime the record, of creation; solemn as we find the path of life, and awful the insight of the conscience; these are but a part of his ways; and there is yet a hiding-place of his thunder that none can understand.

Everything in him is infinite; and all the splendor of his revelation in the old earth and in the older sky, and on the heart of humanity, and even in the unique life of the Man of sorrows, are but a few front lines of light, streaking the surface of immensity. He says to us much; but he is silent more." James Martineau painting by Karen Holland. 
  "When we willing sin against God, the transgression drives us from before his face, and we wander in awful solitudes like Cain did. But the banishment is too dreary to be borne. We are first stopped in our flight to sit down and think upon our shame; and then we are drawn to steal back, and seek, though doubtfully, our old neighborhood again; and its dear looks smite us to the heart, till we lift up our voice and weep aloud, saying 'If perchance the Lord would look upon our tears'; and at length we hint our prayer no more, but catch his very eye, and say 'Lord put me to grief, but don't cast me off: not from thine absence but from thy hand, let me receive thy chastisement: let me be stricken, but bear with me here: thy darkest frown is better to my soul than the dry light upon the wilderness of exile.' And with this self-surrender there comes an unexpected peace, so sad and solemn that surely it is the response of God; and must be accepted as a token that, truly, "The contrite heart he does not despise." 
James Martineau, painting by George Frederick Watts, Eve repentant. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

  "True charity is not that which thinks lightly of evil, but that which is slow to believe in it; whose presumptions are ever those of a trustful and holy heart; and which, even when a brother's guilt is indisputably clear, thinks, amid its shock and grief, that he has fallen from his real nature, and cannot be at peace with himself, that there must be a better soul behind, where God's long-suffering solicitation may find a hearing yet; and that any how, through whatever suffering and discipline, the right ways of heaven, the everlasting sanctities, must triumph in the end. And so it is, that without faith there can be no charity." James Martineau.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

 It was Saturday night, and the widow of the pine cottage sat by her blazing fire with her five tattered children by her side endeavoring to lift the heavy gloom that pressed upon her mind. For a year her own feeble hands had provided for her helpless family, for her husband had passed away and she could think of no friend in all the wide and unfriendly world around. It was mid-winter and the snow lay heavy and deep through all the surrounding forests. The last herring smoked upon the hearth before her. It was the only article of food she possessed. In latter times Providence had deprived her of the companion in the person of her husband. Yet to this hour she had been upborne; she had not only been able to provide for her little flock, but had never lost an opportunity of ministering to the want’s of the miserable and destitute.
  The indolent may well bear with poverty while the ability to gain sustenance remains. The individual who has but his own wants to supply may suffer with fortitude the winter of want; his affections are not wounded, his heart not wrung. The most desolate in populous cities may hope, for charity has not quite closed her hand and heart and shut her eyes on misery; but the industrious mother of helpless and depending children, far from the reach of human charity, has none of these to console her. Such a one was the widow of the pine cottage; but as she bent over the fire and took up the last scanty remnant of food to spread before her children her spirits seemed to brighten up, as by some sudden and mysterious impulse, and Cowper's beautiful lines came uncalled across her mind:

                        "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
                           But trust Him for his grace;
                        Behind a frowning providence
                           He hides a smiling face."

The smoked herring was scarce laid upon the table when a gentle rap at the door and loud barking of a dog attracted the attention of the family. The children flew to open it, and a weary traveller, in tattered garments and apparently indifferent health, entered and begged a lodging and a mouthful of food. Said he, "It is now twenty-four hours since I tasted bread." The widow's heart bled anew, as under a fresh complication of distresses, for her sympathies lingered not around her fireside. She hesitated not even now; rest and share of all she had she proffered to the stranger. "We shall not be forsaken," said she, "or suffer deeper for an act of charity."
  The traveller drew near the table, but when he saw the scanty fare he raised his eyes towards heaven with astonishment. "And is this all your store?" said he;
"and a share of this do you offer to one you know not? Then never saw I charity before. But madam," he continued, "do you not wrong your children by giving a part of your last mouthful to a stranger?"
  "Ah," said the poor widow, and the tear-drops gushed from her eyes as she said it, "I have a boy, a darling son, somewhere on the face of the wide world, unless heaven has taken him away, and I only act towards you as I would that others should act towards him. God, who sent manna from heaven, can provide for us as he did for Israel; and how should I this night offend Him if my son should be a wanderer, destitute as you, and should have provided for him a home even poor as this, were I to turn you unrelieved away!"
  The widow ended, and the stranger, springing from his seat, clasped her in his arms. "God indeed has provided just such a home for your wandering son, and has given him wealth to reward the goodness of his benefactress. My Mother!
O, my mother!

  It was her long lost son, returned to her bosom from the Indies. He had chosen that disguise that he might the more completely surprise his family, and never was surprise more perfect or followed by a sweeter cup of joy. That humble residence in the forest was exchanged for one comfortable, indeed beautiful, in the valley, and the widow lived long with her dutiful son in the enjoyment of worldly plenty and in the delightful employments of virtue; and at this day the passer-by is pointed to the luxuriant willow that spreads its branches broad and green above her grave, while he listens to the recital of this simple and homely, but not altogether worthless tale. From "Perfect Jewels." Painting by Frank Holl.