Gems of Illustration - "B" for Beauty etc..
1. Personal Beauty.
(25.) I have found a kind, gentle, and most loving heart under a rough exterior, reminding me of the milk and meat stored up within the cocoanut's dry, hard, husky shell. On the other hand, look at Absalom! What winning manners, what grace and beauty, how much of all that in form and features pleases the eye and ministers to the pride of life, are united in that man to the greatest moral baseness! as if God would show us in how little esteem he holds what he threw away on so bad a man; as if he intended to rebuke the silly vanity which worships at a mirror, and feeds on charms that shall feed the worms of the grave. Nor is his the only case where a fair form has lodged a foul heart, and crimes of treachery and murder have stained the hands of beauty.
2. No Sin in Beauty.
(26.) I will yield to no man in a high and just admiration of the principles, the piety, the energy, the sagacity, and the heroic courage of the Scottish Reformers. Events have justified almost everything for which they were once condemned. Yet I cannot but think that in their devout abhorrence of a sensuous and formal religion, they somewhat overlooked the aid a spiritual worship may receive from forms, if these are in harmony with a devout mind and the apostolic rule, "Let all things be done decently and in order" We sympathize with the zeal with which they stripped the church of meretricious ornaments; but they might have substituted for the gorgeous vestments and heathenish trappings of popery what would have seemed in some respects a less scanty and mean attire. There is no sin in beauty, nor holiness in ugliness. God adorns all his works, painting even the flowers of the field, and bathing their leaves in delicious fragrance. And why then need it have been thought almost a sin to introduce music into his service that gratified the ear, or meet for his worship but within the cold bare walls of a mean and naked edifice ? Many things, indeed, have been unjustly laid to the charge of our fathers. Knox and his coadjutors were not the rude, uncultivated men their enemies represented them, and some, giving too ready credence to popish lies, believed them to have been. It is not to cast blame on them, but to illustrate our proneness to pass to extremes, that I have touched a small fault - one it is easy to extenuate. For what surgeon so skilful as to remove a monstrous excrescence without his knife taking some flesh along with it ? or what vast tree, the growth of centuries, was ever uprooted but it injured the green sward, and tore up some good soil in the meshes of its gigantic roots?
3. Beauty a Good Gift of God.
(27.) Beauty, no doubt, is always a fading charm, and to its envied possessor, in many cases a fatal one. Yet it is a good gift of God and, whether found in human beings, or in the plumes of a bird, the colours of a flower, or the glowing tints of an evening sky, is a source of innocent pleasure ; nor can it be wrong in a Sunday magazine to notice that which men inspired of the Holy Ghost not infrequently mention. They tell us, for instance, that "Rachel was beautiful," and that "Esther was fair and beautiful" They celebrate the charms of Abigail ; and, not confining their remarks to female beauty, they tell us that he whose appearance won the hearts of the maids of Israel, and whose brave battle with the giant formed the burden of their songs, "was of a beautiful countenance." What David gave to Absalom, his guilty and uuhappy son, he probably inherited from his own mother. Any way, it is plain from Scripture that while some races are almost hideous from their ugliness - one of the fruits of sin - the Jewish women were remarkable for their personal charms ; and indeed it is alleged that some of the finest specimens of female beauty are still found among them. This is more than a curious fact. It forms one of those indirect proofs of the truth and divinity of the Bible, which, though indirect., are not the less but the more valuable. The fountain corresponds with the stream : the ancient record with present physiological facts. For it would appear from the Bible that Sarah, the mother of these lovely women, was perhaps the greatest beauty the painter's art has preserved, or poets have sung. Her charms were so remarkable that they dazzled the eyes of Egypt ; and so enduring, that at an age whose wrinkles and gray hairs make other women venerable, she retained all the bloom and loveliness of youth.
1. Playing at Benevolence.
(28.) No doubt the Church of Rome, as children play at feasts or mimic fights, plays at this thing. I have seen the pope, a mere play-actor, entertaining p ilgrims at his table, where, divested of triple crown and gorgeous robes, he gave each with his own jewelled hand a piece of bread and a cup of wine. The ceremony is performed once a year, and is nothing but a drama - the time, Holy Week; the stage, St. Peter's; the actors, the pope and pilgrims ; and the spectators a brilliant assembly - monarchs, princes, cardinals, priests of all ranks, monks of all colours, and a swaying, fashionable crowd met to see him who claims the right to put his foot on the neck of kings, go through a mockery of Christian lowliness and hospitality. But, while the pope may be said to carry out our Lord's instructions in empty mockery, who does it in reality?
2. Wide Reach of Benevolence.
(29.) But though the people and saints of God have the first, they have by no means the only claim on our good offices, All mankind are bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. Unhappily buried with us in the ruins of the fall, but also mercifully embraced in the covenant of salvation, those against whom equally with us Justice closed the gates of Eden, but to whom equally with us Mercy opened the door of heaven, the lowest savage that roams his forest may address us saying, "" Am not I a brother?" nay, the vilest creature that nightly prowls the streets for prey, Am not I a sister?" And - for piety toward God is the true parent of pity toward man - if imbued with the love and spirit of Jesus, the sight of a fellow-creature suffering, and by the mouth of every wound imploring help, transforms me into a good Samaritan. Nature, as well as grace, has her claims; and they must adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, whose benevolence, irrespective of creed, colour, country, or even character, rises like the sun, and falls like the sunshine upon all.
1. The Bible Adapted to all Classes.
(30.) The oldest, truest, and best of books, this Book, for the rules it supplies for this life and the hopes it presents of a better one, is adapted to all classes of society ; and should be equally valued by all. This was well expressed by two very different, but both impressive, scenes. There, in yonder palace where a royal lady, about to leave our shores and rise in time to the position of a queen, receives a deputation. They have come to offer her in the name of the women of our country a parting, marriage gift. It is no costly ornament, fashioned of gold and flashing with precious gems - diamonds from Indian mines, or pearls from the deep, such as the wealth and willingness of the donors could have purchased. A healthy sign of the age, and a noble testimony to its religious character, the gift is a copy of the Holy Scriptures - this, as in long centuries hence it will be told, was the marriage gift it was thought worthy of a Christian nation to bestow, and worthy of a royal princess to receive. And there also, on yon stormy shore where, amid the wreck the night had wrought, and the waves, still thundering. as they sullenly retire, had left on the beach, lies the naked form of a drowned sailor boy. He had stripped for one last, brave fight for life and wears naught but a handkerchief bound round his cold breast. Insensible to pity, and unawed by the presence of death, those who sought the wreck, as vultures swoop down on their prey, rushed on the body, and tore away the handkerchief : tore it open, certain that it held within its folds gold ; his little fortune ; something very valuable for a man in such an hour to say, I'll sink or swim with it. They were right. But it was not gold. It was the poor lad's Bible - also a parting gift, and the more precious that it was a mother's.
2. The Bible as a Subject of Study.
(31.) Now, although over the whole surface of our globe, plants of all forms and families seem confusedly scattered, amid this apparent disorder the eye of science discovers a perfect system in the floral kingdom; and just as - although God has certainly scattered these forms over the face of nature without apparent arrangement - there is a botanical system, so there is as certainly a theological system, although its doctrines and duties are not classified in the Bible according to dogmatic rules. Does it not appear from this circumstance, that God intended his Word to be a subject of study as well as faith, and that man should find in its saving pages a field for the exercise of his highest faculties?
3. Something in the Bible for Every Person.
(32.) Our globe floats in an ocean of air, and that ocean descends to the bottom of the deepest mine, and also rises to the summit of the highest mountain ; it covers continents and seas alike, and as an element of universal life is found in all dwellings, and is fitted for men in all variety of conditions. So it is with the word of God. Thus, whether they dwell in a palace or prison, whether they celebrate a feast or observe a fast, whether they are prosperous or unfortunate in business, whether they hang rejoicing over a cradle or sit weeping by a coffin, whether they enjoy health or lie pining on a bed of sickness, whether they are occupied with the things of this world or of the next, whatever be the relation in which they stand to others, that of sovereign or subject, parent or child, brother or sister, companion or neighbour, bosom friend or deadly foe, there are none but will find something in the Bible written for them and their case.
4. Treasures of the Bible.
(33.) Within the two boards of the poor man's Bible is a greater wealth of happiness, of honour, of pleasure, of true peace, than Australia hides in the gold of all her mines. That, for example, could not buy the pardon of any of the thousand criminals whom a country, weary of their crimes, once cast on her distant shores ; but here is what satisfies a justice stricter than man's, and procures the forgiveness of sins which the stoutest heart may tremble to think of.
5. Fanciful Resemblances Seen in the Bible.
(34.) The Romans, bringing to the invasion of our country tender recollections of their own, on reaching the top of the hill which looks down on the Tay, exclaimed, Behold the Tiber ! And under the influence of feelings stronger than fear, more sacred than grief, and loftier than patriotism, fancy has created resemblances and seen things in the Bible that had no existence other than in a pious imagination. One example of that shines in a constellation of southern skies, and another blooms in the flowers of our conservatories. It was the reverence and love of Jesus Christ in the bosom of the ancient mariner, which, working through fancy, when his ship first ploughed the waters of southern seas, saw suspended in the heavens and formed of brilliant stars, and looking down on the world, the tree on which its Saviour hung; and it was the same piety that discovered in the passion-flower an imitation by the hand of nature of the instruments of our Redeemer's torture, and of the halo which now crowns his head in glory. And it is the same piety which, by a pardonable mistake, has in some instances discerned types, symbols, and shadows of Jesus in the Bible, that belong more to the regions of fancy than of fact.
6. The Benefits of Studying the Models of Piety and Virtue found in the Bible.
(35.) A visit to Italy is the aim of every artist. Ordinary travellers crowd its palaces, churches, and galleries, to gratify a common curiosity, or enjoy the pleasures their treasures yield to every cultivated mind. Artists seek that beautiful land for a higher purpose. To them it is what our schools and universities are to the student of languages or of science ; and they regard a visit to Italy as such an important, if not essential, part of their education, that I have known a sculptor, on emerging from the straitened circumstances through which he had risen to fame, leave home, wife, and children to go there, and enjoy in mature years the benefits which the poverty of his youth denied him. By a long, careful, and ardent study of their works, the artist hopes, and not without good reason, to catch the spirit of the great masters. Thus he seeks to refine his taste; to form a high standard of excellence; and to acquire an eye and hand whereby to approach if not equal, to equal if not surpass, the triumphs of ancient art. And as the artist who repairs to Rome, or Florence, to fill his eye with the works of the great masters imbibes somewhat of their genius, and learns thereby to excel in sculpture, architecture, or painting, the Christian will derive a similar advantage from studying those excellent models of piety and virtue which are found in the biographies of the Bible.
7. Facts in Natural History Corroborating the Testimony of Scripture.
(36.) Forming new fabrics; discovering new metals; learning how, as in ships, to make iron swim - the sun, as in photographs, to paint portraits - the lightning, as in telegraphs, to carry messages - and fire and water, as in locomotives, to whirl us along the ground with the speed of an eagle's wing - man has, to use the words of Scripture, even in our own time, "found out many inventions" Yet he has not added one to the number of our cereals during the last four thousand years. He appears in fact to have started on his career with a knowledge of these; a knowledge he could have obtained from none but God. He it was who taught him the arts of agriculture - what plants to cultivate, and how to cultivate them. There is that indeed in the nature of wheat, barley. and the other cereals, which goes almost to demonstrate that God specially created them for man's use, and originally committed them to his care. These plants are unique in two respects - first, unlike others, the fruits or roots of which we use for food, they are found wild nowhere on the face of the whole earth; and secondly, unlike others also, they cannot prolong their existence independent of man, without his care and culture. For example, let a field which has been sown with wheat, barley, or oats, be abandoned to the course of nature - and what happens? The following year a scanty crop, springing from the grain it shed, may rise in thin stalks on the uncultivated soil but in a few summers more, every vestige of it has vanished; "nor left a wrack behind." A more than curious, this is an important fact. It proves that those grains which form his main subsistence cannot maintain themselves without the hand and help of man ; arid proving that, it proves this also, that man started on his career a tiller of the ground - no such being as infidels in their hatred of the Bible represent him to have been - a naked savage, ignorant alike of arts and letters, little raised in intelligence above the wild animals in whose dens he sought a home, and of whose prey he sought a share. This fact in Natural History corroborates the testimony of Scripture ; and shows its, in fields where every stalk stands up a living witness for the truth of the Bible, the revelations of God's word visibly written on the face of Nature.
1. The Christian's Body a Nobler Temple than Solomon's.
(37.) To say nothing of the divine nobility grace imparts to a soul which is stamped anew with the likeness and image of God, how sacred and venerable does even this body appear in the eye of piety ! No longer a form of animated dust ; no longer the subject of passions shared in common with the brutes ; no longer the drudge and slave of Mammon, the once "vile body" rises into a temple of the Holy Ghost. What an incentive to holiness, to purity of life and conduct, lies in the fact that the body of a saint is the temple of God! - a truer, nobler temple than that which Solomon dedicated by his prayers, and Jesus consecrated by his presence.
2. A Shrine of Immortality.
(38.) In popish cathedral, where the light streamed through painted window, and the organ pealed along lofty aisles, and candles gleamed on golden cups and silver crosses, and incense floated in fragrant clouds, we have seen the blinded worhipper uncover his head, drop reverently on his knees, and raise his awe-struck eye on the imposing spectacle; we have seen him kiss the marble floor, and knew that sooner would he be smitten dead upon that floor than be guilty of defiling it. In how much more respect, in how much holier veneration, should we hold this body? The shrine of immortality, and a temple dedicated to the Son of God, it is consecrated by the presence of the Spirit - a living temple, over whose porch the eye of piety reads what the finger of inspiration has written.. - " If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy ; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."
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