Friday, October 6, 2017

Discovering Genius

Two boys, mistreated by their employer, ran away, taking the road to Rome. They reached the Eternal City. Peter was taken as cook's boy in a cardinal's house, Michael could find nothing to do, so he almost despaired and almost starved. But he liked to visit the churches and gaze at the fine pictures therein.

Detail from The Creation of Adam,
portraying the creation of humankind by God
       Something stirred within him, and he took bits of charcoal and sketched pictures on the walls of Peter's attic room. One day the cardinal discovered them. The boys were frightened, and Michael declared that he would rub them all out. But he did not understand the cardinal, who was amazed at their accuracy and power. He took Michael to a drawing-master, and gave Peter a better position in his house. Michael worked diligently and became an enthusiast in his art.
       Michael's other name was Angelo. This was the humble beginning of the man who was a universal genius -- painter, architect, sculptor and poet.
50 Works by Michael Angelo

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Light After Night

Mary Elliot interprets the moral cheer of recurring dawn in these musical lines:

Dawn of the red, red sun in a bleak, aban-
doned sky
That the moon has lately left and the stars
are fast forsaking--
The day is drawing the cloudy lids from his 
bloodshot eye,
And the world impatient stirs -- a tired old
sleeper, waking.

O most unwearying prophet, ever-returning
morn!
Thou giv'st new life to a world grown old,
and marred in making;
With ever an old faith lost, and ever a
pang new-born,
But ever a new, new hope to hearts that 
were well-nigh breaking. 

The Metropolitan. 1834

Friday, July 3, 2015

Heights

       The mind of Christ places and keeps us on the heights, lifting our consciousness from the seen to the unseen, and opening all our little restricted nature to the joyous rhythm of the universal life. What cowards we are when dominated by the seen. We dare not affirm anything beyond the reach of the eye, the sound of the ear, the touch of the finger-tips. But the beauties we see are only reflection of the beauties that are, like Pluto's artizans in the cave, catching only the reflected light from the realm above, the music we hear, the merest jingle of the melodies divine, the things we touch, the superficial, mechanical, material side of reality. Why can't we believe that the unseen things which can be detected from the heights are those that are worth while, because the abiding, the eternal? Only on the heights can we dominate bodily conditions. Robert MacDonald

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spiritual Nobility

A touching tribute to one of nature's noblewomen appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette:

She walks unnoticed in the street.
The casual eye
Sees nothing in her fair or sweet.
The world goes by
Unconscious that an angel's feet
Are passing nigh.

She little has of beauty's wealth,
Truth will allow;
Only her priceless youth and health,
Her broad, white brow;
Yet grows she on the heart by stealth,
I scarce know how.

She does a thousand kindly things
That no one knows.
A loving woman's heart she brings
to humans woes,
And to her face that sunlight clings
Where'er she goes.

And so she walks her quiet ways 
With that content 
That only comes to sinless days
And innocent.
A life devoid of fame or praise,
Yet nobly spent.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Revelation In Us

"It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." Galatians 1:16

       There may be some question as to what is the strongest word in the English language. It is either "supreme" or "absolute." Both express power raised to the highest degree. There may be some question as to what is the sweetest word in our tongue. Is it "love" or "home" or "friendship" or "comfort"? There is not so much room to question what is the greatest word in our speech. Ask the jurist, the naturalist, the historian, the philosopher or the theologian, his great word, his incomparable word, and he will tell you it is truth.
       Jesus never said a nobler thing than when He declared, " Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free;" nor prayed a more exalted prayer than that John records: "Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy word is truth." When He uttered that petition, He stood in full sight of two nations, one seeking the perfection of life through wisdom and beauty, the other bent upon the realization of power through conquest and through law. And, in view of these ideals, Jesus said, without apology to Athens or to Rome, "This is life eternal, to know God," said, in substance, "Life at its best, life on the highest plane and in the largest circle; life abundant, life deep and broad and high, belongs neither to the sage nor the artist; neither to the conqueror nor the king, but to the soul possessing, and possessed by truth."
       Truth is of various kinds as to its nature and as to the mode of its acquisition. There are truths that are self-evident. They need no proof, and, generally, proof is not called for. And, if it were, in many instances proof is most difficult. It is an abnormal, not to say subnormal, mind that requires demonstration of the self-evident. Two men were in argument. One said, "We seem not to agree on anything; let us see if we have any common standing-ground. You will admit, I suppose, that two and two are four? "The other replied, "I admit nothing. Two books and two pictures are neither four books nor four pictures. Your numeral adjectives must modify the same nouns!" Then said the first, "Will you admit that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points?" "No," said the skeptic, I will not; it is so in theory, but not invariably so in practice." The argument ended. It was collision with such a mind, perhaps, which led a French philosopher of the eighteenth century to remark that conversation with some people would be easier if it were not for the necessity of using words!
       With the self-evident truths of mathematics and physics most of us are fairly familiar. But with the axioms of ethics and of religion we are not so well acquainted. Consider one of the simplest axioms of ethics as regards property. It may be thus stated: No man ever enriched himself by defrauding another. The law says theft is wrong. This axiom declares it is futile. Some people do not believe it. They insist upon experiment, but in the end, the axiom is self-evidencing. There is one illuminating moment, soon or late, in the life of every unjust man when he sees things as they are, when it dawns -- or flashes -- upon him that possession and ownership are not synonymous terms, that he has been juggling with two and two, confusing straight lines and crooked, and when he pronounces upon himself the sentence he has yet to hear from the Throne of all Equities, "Thou fool!"
"The Light of the World" is an allegorical painting by
William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus
preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened
 door, illustrating Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the
 door and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the
 door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and
 he with Me". According to Hunt: "I painted the picture
 with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by
 Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject."
The door in the painting has no handle, and can
 therefore be opened only from the inside, representing
 "the obstinately shut mind". Hunt, 50 years after
painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism.
       What are some of the axiomatic truths of religion? God, the soul, sin, salvation, prayer. These exist in some form in all religions. If religion be thought of as a picture, these are the primary colors; if as a building, these are the foundation. Our Scriptures never argue that there is a God, or that man is immortal, or that we need to be saved from sin, or that we ought to pray. This Book simply and grandly affirms these truths; but demonstration is not needed. All men believe in God -- all men always have believed in God -- at times. All men pray -- all men always have prayed -- at times. Which is to say, however mad we are, we do have our lucid intervals; however "blinded by the near," we have our moments of farsight; in the great crises of our lives we fall back upon the axioms of religion.
       But, however great may be the number of self-evident truths of every kind, and however they may unconsciously underlie all our ordinary thinking, they are few, compared with that vast body of truths which are not self-evident, but are discoverable. They are benevolently few. It is good for us that most truths are concealed from view; that we must search for them, dig for them, climb for them; for the reward of the truth-seeker is not altogether in the truth he seeks, but as well in the process of discovery. He was wise who said,  'If the great God were to offer me the choice of two gifts, in one hand truth, and in the other the quest of truth, I should take this, not that."
       It is one of the glories of our age that there are increasing numbers of men who reckon not any sacrifice too costly, who count not their own lives dear to them, if by any means they may add to the world's storehouse of truth. There are men in this, and every university, who would much rather discover a new truth in their branch of science than to uncover a pot of gold.  ''Buy the truth and sell it not" is their motto, --obtain it at any price, part with it at no price. The particular truth discovered may not be applicable to life; it may not even be interesting to the world; but if it be truth, they have their reward.
       As a matter of fact, however, many of these discoveries are practicable. The scalpel, the crucible, the retort, the test tube, the microscope, -- these are the weapons with which, in laboratory and machine-shop, humanity's adventurous soldiers have pushed back the horizon of darkness and enlarged the sphere of light and learning and labor.
       Nor are investigation and research alien to the spirit of religion. Nature's laws are but the habits of God. Not alone the devout astronomer, but the devout chemist and the devout biologist and the devout machinist, may say, "O God, I think Thy thoughts after Thee!" Christianity with its dominant social doctrine of the largest possible development of the individual, its doctrine of the development of the individual through vital relationship to all other individuals, its doctrine that no one of us can be at his best until all others are at their best, -- such a Christianity is hospitable to every truth, friendly to every truth-seeker. Not alone the things that are, but the things that ought to be, are for us to meditate, -- ideal conditions of industry, of economics, of commerce, of society. Not alone whatsoever things are true," but "whatsoever things are equitable, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are beautiful, whatsoever things are well-spoken of," -- on them we are to think.
       But there are other truths which are neither axiomatic nor discoverable. They do not evidence themselves, nor do they lie at the end of any process of logic or research. They become known to us, if at all, only by revelation. They are of such a character as to defy analysis and exclude demonstration. But let us not think less of them on this account. There are intimate and far-reaching realms of life where there is no room for the analyst. Such are the realms of friendship and love and conscience and honour. The scientific investigator has no standing there. The pure materialist is helpless there. Falstaff is there with his yardstick measuring honor. See how he does it  "Can honor set to a leg ? No. Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then ? No.
       What is honor ? A word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? Air. . . . Who hath it? He that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it ? No. Doth he hear it? No. 'Tis insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I'll none of it. Honor is a mere scutcheon: and so ends my catechism."
       Here also is another realm, as near to us as friendship and love, as dear to us as conscience and honor, yet equally far from ocular demonstration. It is the realm of faith. Of a truth in this realm Jesus spoke after Peter had confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" : " Flesh and blood hath not revealed this to thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Of such a truth Paul spoke when he said, " This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
       Let pure reason deal with the fact of Jesus' advent, and it will say, " Jesus came to proclaim the love of God and to exemplify the ideal life." But let revelation speak, and lo I it says "Not alone to show how human is the heart of God and how divine may be the life of man, but to lift man up to God, came Jesus Christ from God."
       This is the truth worthy of all acceptation: Underneath are everlasting arms. Underneath what? Underneath our failures and our follies; underneath our weakness and weariness; underneath the problem of the purification, enlightenment and elevation of our lives. He lifts us. He lifts us out of ourselves, above ourselves, our selfish selves, our narrow selves, our little selves, our too-easily-satisfied selves, out of moral impotence, to freedom and power.
       An Oriental Christian pictured his deliverance thus: " I had fallen into a deep ditch from which I could not, unaided, escape. Confucius came, looked down on me, and said, "If you had obeyed my laws you would never have been in such a plight." Buddha came, looked down on me, and said, "Cease your struggling. Repress your desire to escape. Be calm and passionless; presently you will be indifferent to your fate." Another came, looked down on me, and said, "You are not in distress, --you merely think you are. You thought yourself into error; you must think yourself out." Then Jesus Christ came, and saw me, and pitied me, and stooped down and with His strong but tender Hand lifted me out of the pit. Do you wonder I follow Him?"
       This is the great truth of revelation. But it is not all of the truth. The further truth relates to the method of the revelation of God. Paul affirms, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." If there is any esoteric truth in Christianity -- any truth designed for the initiate only -- this is it. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him."
       Self-evident truths are perceived. Discovered truths are apprehended. Revealed truths are experienced. So this truth is not for the acute intellect, nor for the industrious mind, but for the open heart. This explains the saying, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes."
       He who wrote this text to the Galatians, wrote to the Colossians,  'Christ in you (is) the hope of glory." And the Master Himself said something very like it to the Samaritan woman: "Whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
       Power within, uprising and upbearing. Is there anything like it? Look at the mechanism of a canal-lock. From underneath floods of water pour into the basin, lifting its surface, and, incidentally, lifting all burdens that rest upon its surface to higher levels.
       There is a stanza in a recent poem, with which you are familiar, which derives its force from such a symbol:

" Like tides on a crescent sea-beach
When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
Come sweeping and surging in,--
Come from the Infinite Ocean
Whose rim no feet have trod:
Some of us call it longing,
And others call it God."

It is God, and the fact is He comes in with the longing. So said Jesus, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
       This is the blessed truth of the evangel. The Infinite seeks alliance with us. Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, seeks entrance not alone into our lives, but into our consciousness. He seeks it for our sakes. We shall never be all we may be until we are in union with Him. He seeks it for His own sake, for Jesus Christ can never be the Universal Savior He desires to be until all men everywhere are in union with Him.
       It is wonderful how a life may be filled and rounded by fellowship with one true friend, one great and loyal soul. Our personalities come to their best development through our friends, and their personalities reach their highest power through us.
       This is the secret of the Christian life, of the strongest and most radiant souls -- they heard the voice of a Divine Friend saying, "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man will hear My voice and open unto Me, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me." And they were not deaf to the Voice.
       A child once saw Holman Hunt's picture illustrating these words, -- a Kingly figure at the door, a lantern in His hand, the door vine-embowered, and after studying it, said, "I wonder if the door has been shut so long they can't open it?" Presently another solution, perhaps the true solution, occurred to him, and he said, "I know why He is standing there! They don't hear Him, -- they are living in the back of the house!"
       Whatever reason, or whatever notion serving as a reason, whatever pride, or prejudice, or preoccupation, or passion has closed our hearts to Him whose entrance into our affections waits upon our will, let us this day rise up and let Him in! Charles Carroll Albertson

Music video by Lauren Daigle performing
"Light Of The World." (C) 2013 Centricity Music

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Poverty Which Maketh Many Rich

      We sometimes come across passages in the Bible with statements that are antithetical and which seem really to contradict one another. One of these is found in 2 Cor. 6, 10: “As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” “How shall we explain this?” How can such a thing be possible?” you ask. Well, let us look into the matter a little. Let us take our dear Savior as an illustration. Surely, He could be said to be poor during His state of humiliation here on earth! His first days on earth were spent in a manger, for there was not room for Him — as it seemed, on account of His poverty — in the inn. Even after having taken up His Messianic calling, this poverty pursued Him. When, for instance, the representatives of the government asked of Him the tribute-money, the common treasury of Jesus and the little group of disciples was found to be empty, so that Peter must needs be sent to procure the necessary coin through a miracle that Jesus wrought. At another instance, Jesus Himself said: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.”
      Yes, He was poor, and yet, did He not make many rich? Could we have asked the hungering multitude in the wilderness after they had filled, and the twelve basketfuls had been gathered of pieces left over from five loaves and two fishes; or the frightened disciples on the Sea of Galilee, whose lives had been saved by the stilling of the tempest; the widow of Nain, whose only son, having been dead, was returned to her living; Lazarus and his sisters after the former had been called forth out of the tomb, — their answer would surely have been in the affirmative. Again, the woman taken in sin to whom Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more;” the malefactor on the cross receiving the forgiveness of his sins and the assurance of a place with Christ and Paradise– in short, the multitude of weary and with sin heavy-laden souls, to each of whom Jesus spoke words of hope, of peace, of joy, saying: “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee,” — could we have asked all these, they would surely have answered that Jesus had, in truth, made them “rich;” that there are no riches to be compared with those that we receive from Him, “who, though immeasurably rich, was made poor for our sakes.”
      But how shall we, who are poor, make many rich? By becoming truly “poor in spirit,” by realizing that we have, indeed, nothing in ourselves. When we have come to that point, realizing that we are poor and helpless, yea, destitute in ourselves, then the Lord can fill our hearts with “riches” that know no measure, with treasures that fade not away, “that neither moth nor rust can corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” From such a storehouse of real treasures we are then enabled, through the grace of God, to “make many rich.” Sermon by Rev. Carl J. Segerhammer.

More Sermons by Segerhammer:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

You Are God!

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Psalm 86: 10

The Cross by John Donne

Since Christ embraced the Cross itself, dare I
His image, th’image of his Cross deny?
Would I have profit by the sacrifice,
And dare the chosen altar to despise?
It bore all other sins, but is it fit
That is should bear the sin of scorning it?
Who from the picture would avert his eye,
How would he fly his pains, who there did die?
From me, no pulpit, nor misgrounded law,
Nor scandal taken, shall this Cross withdraw,
It shall not, for it cannot; for, the loss
Of this Cross, were to me another cross;
Better were worse, for, no affliction,
No cross is so extreme, as to have none.
Who can blot out the Cross, which th’ instrument
Of God, dewed on me in the Sacrament?
Who can deny me power, and liberty
To stretch mine arms, and mine own cross to be?
Swim, and at every stroke, thou art thy cross,
The mast and yard make one, where seas to do toss.
Look down, thou spiest birds raised on crossed wings;
All the globe’s frame, and sphere’s, is nothing else
But the meridians crossing parallels.
Material crosses then, good physic be,
And yet spiritual have chief dignity.
These for extracted chemic medicine serve,
And cure much better, and as well preserve;
Then are you your own physic, or need none,
When stilled, or purged by tribulation.
For when that Cross ungrudged, unto you sticks,
Then are you to yourself, a crucifix.
As perchance, carvers do not faces make,
But that away, which hid them there, do take:
Let crosses, so, take what hid Christ in thee,
And be his image, or not his, but he.
But, as oft alchemists do coiners prove,
So may a self-despising, get self-love.
And then as worst surfeits, of best meats be,
So is pride, issued from humility,
For, ’tis no child, but monster; therefore cross
Your joy in crosses, else, ’tis double loss,
And cross thy senses, else, both they, and thou
Must perish soon, and to destruction bow.
For if the’eye seek good objects, and will take
No cross from bad, we cannot ‘scape a snake.
So with harsh, hard, sour, stinking, cross the rest,
Make them indifferent; call nothing best.
But most the eye needs crossing, that can roam,
And move; to th’ others th’ objects must come home.
And cross thy heart: for that in man alone
Points downwards, and hath palpitation.
Cross those dejections, when it downward trends,
And when it to forbidden heights pretends.
And as the brain through bony walls doth vent
By sutures, which a cross’s form present,
So when thy brain works, ere thou utter it,
Cross and correct concupiscence of wit.
Be covetous of crosses, let none fall.
Cross no man else, but cross thyself in all.
Then doth the Cross of Christ work fruitfully
Within our hearts, when we love harmlessly
That Cross’s pictures much, and with more care
That Cross’s children, which our crosses are.



Friday, April 3, 2015

The Eternal Life is Indescribable!

      I have often thought if I could only tell or picture eternal life I would have but one sermon and I would tell it out. I would go to civilized nations and I would go to heathen nations and I would tell it out. But I can’t do it. I have tried many a time to describe what it is, but I don’t know somehow or another it seems as if my tongue was tied; it seems to me if I could only picture what the gift of God, what eternal life is, that the people would come to God this morning–that men, women and children would flock into the kingdom by hundreds, if I could only picture what it is. There is nothing we value in this world as we do life. A man will go around the world to lengthen out his life a few years. If he has got wealth he will give money by thousands if he can get medical aid. But this is a world that is filled with sorrow and separation. As I look over this audience I see the emblems of mourning all through the congregation. Not a circle that has not been broken–and many a dear circle has been broken since I stood on this platform last. Death is constantly coming in and taking away this one and that one, and in many you see here and there the natural force is becoming abated and they are tending towards the grave. And so we think life is very sweet here; but just think of the life in the world where there is no stooping form, no gray hair, where the natural force never becomes abated, where the eye never grows dim, where the step is firm and moves on and on through the palaces of the King, where perpetual youth stands on your brow forever, a city where death never enters and sin never comes, a city where all is bright and joyful, a city without a night in it, a city without pain, without sorrow, and without death. Think of it! Not only that, but a city where we shall be with the King himself, and be in His presence. Yea, better still, where these vile bodies shall be found like His own glorious body and shall reign with Him forever! That is eternal life. Why, what are your bonds and stocks when you get to looking at eternal life? Why do you want to go on the Board of Trade and make a few thousands or a few millions? What is that? Think of life forever; a life that is as pure as God’s life, that floats on and on unceasingly through joys that last forever. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. You may have it this morning. Come, friends, will you seek him? If you will take my advice you will not go out of this house this morning without seeking eternal life–without making up your mind that you will seek it. by D. L. Moody

Related Content:

Winning One

In St. John’s Church, in the little town of Beverly, England, one stormy evening in December, 1853, a meeting of the church missionary society was being held at which a scant audience was present, including just one young man, who on the Sunday previous had been particularly invited to attend. the vicar of the church, the Rev. A. T. Carr, suggested a postponement, but the speaker, a venerable rector of a near-by town, replied that those who had braved the storm were entitled to hear the message intended for them. The service over, that lone young man trudged homeward, when the thought came to him: “I was the only young man there. Why should not I become a missionary? May not the Lord have something for me to do in heathen lands?” The resolution was made. That young man was William Duncan, who has since been recorded in history as “The Apostle of Alaska.” His missionary success among the native peoples of the Alaskan coast have won the admiration of the world.

To win the one is sometimes to win the many.

Related Content: God saves one, in order to save many.