Friday, February 27, 2015

The following piece is so well done and speaks to the doubts and then the truths of our faith. Is our faith but a phantom and well intentioned fantasy? James Martineau addresses this so eloquently.

"We must beware of the disposition to look at faith instead of living in it; to own it as a noble fact in human nature, without becoming personally committed to it; to feel interest in its representations, but evade contact with its realties. Men discuss with the lips each other's creeds, instead of going into silence with their own God. There clings to us some untrustful feeling, something that keeps us mere lookers-on, and hinders the surrender of our minds to the divine captivity that makes their freedom. If I were to try and express the sort of doubt which saps our moral strength, I should do it in the language of a theory which pervades the atmosphere of modern thought, and may well affect us, though we know it not. 
 "Religion," we perhaps think, "is a beautiful creation of the human soul, the embodiment of her highest aspiration and intensest hope, her acknowledgement of Law, her sigh of guilt, her gaze of love, her solace for death, her picture of eternal perfectness. It is at least her sublimest effort, and an affecting testimony to the sweet and solemn depth of her nature. But whether, as she wanders through its scenery, she wakes and sees, or only dreams, is more than we can surely tell. Perhaps she has made her creed by giving names to the shapes of thought within her, and then turning them out to dwell as visions in the external space and light. As fear calls up the ghost it dreads to see, and grief projects upon the air an image of the dead, so perhaps may human faith only paint its heaven and invent its God." 
This is the misgivings which weakens the present age for great enterprises, and fills it with a certain tolerant sadness, patient of human trusts, but uninspired by them.

No man of faith will let it remain doubtful whether his religion is a mere phantom-world, floating across the wall of thought; or accept compliments upon its majesty and grace, as if it were a free creation of his soul. Talk to him as if his religious reality was only relative to him, and is not really known to the eternal universe, and your very gentleness insults and hurts him.

"I speak," he will reply, "Of what I know, and testify that which I have seen; and if you receive not my witness as true, spare me your praise that it is a beautiful sentiment. The divine objects I announce are there, and the light by which I see them has no glory but as it flows from their reality; were it self-kindled, it would be but a darkness turned into fire."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

  "If you have spent most of your time in school, learning life from books and your solitary meditations on morality, poetry, and theology; you will find as you go out into the world that you have formed a wrong measure of men and things, unless you correct what you've learned by careful experience and mixed observation.
You will raise your standard of men's character much too high at first: and then from disappointed expectations, it will sink too low afterwards.
After all has been read and studied about men, we are better off if we wait and see what things are instead of trying to anticipate the results. You know more of a road by having travelled it than by all the opinions and descriptions in the world. You will find the business of life conducted on a much more varied and individual scale than you would expect. People will be concerned about a thousand things that you have no idea or interest in, and they will be utterly indifferent to what you have the greatest interest in.
You will find good and evil, folly and discretion, more mingled, and the shades of character running more into each other than they do in the psychology charts.
No one is equally wise or guarded at all points, and it is seldom that any one is a complete fool." William Hazlitt.

I think the same principles apply to the spiritual graces as this quote by Thomas Brooks illustrates.

“It is a hard thing, if possible, to find a soul that is generally rich; that is rich in every grace, that is rich in faith, and rich in wisdom, and rich in love, and rich in patience etc. Abraham was rich in faith, and Job was rich in patience, and Moses was rich in meekness, and David was rich in zeal; but none of these were rich in every grace. And so in these days you may find one Christian rich in one grace, and another Christian that is rich in another grace; but where will you find a Christian that is rich in every grace? Such that are rich in some graces, are yet very defective and lame in other graces. The saints once at Rome were richer in wisdom and knowledge than the saints at Thessalonica, and the saints at Thessalonica were richer in faith, love, patience and charity than the saints at Rome." 

Friday, February 20, 2015

  The world is embroiled in politics, my Facebook page is filled with complaints from top to bottom.
I ran across this piece by Washington Irving that may give comfort to the younger citizens, and help check the agitated. Things haven't changed much, and I'm not denying there are many issues that must be addressed, but I think this presents a balance.

  "Just ordinary people are a distinct species of our population, neither rich nor poor, learned nor unlearned, proud nor humble, gay nor sad, fashionable nor unfashionable -- in all respects a golden mean; they have let us say, an old-gold finish that doesn't dazzle but wears well. I have one of them particularly in mind; a retired farmer living next door. Of a pleasant morning he walks leisurely down to the post office and returning, looks over the daily paper with its grist of thrillers; after a time the sheet slips form his grasp and flutters to the floor while the reader, not at all agitated, lapses into a comfortable doze. "Uncle Bill," as we call him, has the plain practical wisdom of just ordinary people.
"I guess it'll come out allright," he says; "they's allers got to be about so much stewin' whether its meat, veg'tables, politics or gov'ment."

Irving does not disparage the ordinary people, far from it; it is from this group that we find our leaders. With an education and the start they have in life, which is "unfettered by artificial ideas, and with the vigor of original minds and strong bodies carried the abilities, the independent spirit and the excellencies of just ordinary people." He explains it this way -- 
"Of the three classes into which our people readily admit of being divided, the middle section stands as the conservative portion, serving as a shock absorber to the immature policies and half truth agitations which are ever emanating from the lower strata of society, and for the arrogant and predatory activities of the higher. Just ordinary people thus occupy the pivotal portion of our national teeter-board, and with the see-sawing members at the extremities conspicuously making faces and throwing things at each other, the middle portion serve to maintain as a fulcrum a good and safe balance and to preserve order, though itself unnoticed and receiving no credit.
Uncle Bill looks at the situation in the same way, but under a somewhat different light: "It's allers a good plan," he says, "to put for the middle one of a three-hoss team, a stiddy old animal, and the skittish nags on each side of him; val'able lives and big expense have been saved by keerfulness of this kind."  

Washington Irving.

  I like the following quote regarding our influence on others. He suggests, as I understand the quote, that without words we will reprove others if we walk in holiness and love. Not that we walk in a way contrary, or in a way that openly rebukes or refuses to associate or separates from, but rather, we walk the same way but higher, noting the good, with noble aims, charitable in our discourse, loving in our conversation.

 "We reprove each other unconsciously by our own behavior. Our very carriage and demeanor in the streets should be a reprimand that will go to the conscience of every beholder. An infusion of love from a great soul gives a color to our faults which will discover them as lunar caustic (silver nitrate), detects impurities in water. The best will not seem to go contrary to others; but as if they could afford to travel the same way, they go parallel but higher course.
Jonson says, --
"That to the vulgar canst thyself apply,

Treading a better path, not contrary.'
Thoreau, picture by Max Ginsburg. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

  "Life must sing as June progresses from deeper green to deeper green, from timid colors to bolder ones, from delicacy to robustness.
  The moment hesitates between the chill northeast wind and the hot one from the west. Uncertainty is part of its charm. It wrecks hopes by a dash of cold rain and brings them back by a smile of sunshine. Warm rains fall and the forces of the earth take new strength and fill earth and air with beauty.
  The log fire still has its use, the outdoors their occasional opportunity. Beauty must not be obvious and need not be consistent. It may fail to conform to regularity and yet not suffer a charge of fickleness.

  Expectancy is part of the rational prospects and it is satisfied by surprises, by delays and gratifications. Consistency might mean monotony." Clifford Raymond.

 When I first read this I was lost but intrigued; now that I've read it a number of times I understand   the likenesses of the month of June, with all its changes and inconsistencies, to our lives.