« PreviousContinue »
There is a man who has learned how to adjust himself to nature's provision and laws for human needs; and so he has got at the heart of the Infinite Bounty. He does not sit down to lament over the afflicted condition of his people, he does not stop to ask why the Almighty does not do this or that for their relief; but he takes hold of the forces of the Eternal himself, and wields them for his people's good. In the presence of obstacles that would daunt the spirit of most of us, he finds a way to the Infinite Beneficence and makes himself its agent for his people's redemption.
Abundant justification may also be found in human experience for the modern lessons of the remaining parts of our verse. The parable of a host anointing his guest with oil signifies, as we have seen, the bestowal of something beyond the needful supplies for physical existence. It means the rendering of honor and regard by personal service. It recognizes among the obligations of hospitality not merely the satisfaction of bodily wants, but the sentiments and amenities of affection. It means something that touches the heart and solaces. the spirit and honors the person. These are the refinements of hospitality, like the perfume and beauty of flowers. They may be costly, but there are needs of human beings that are higher than the stomach's appetites. Jesus, notwithstanding his ready rebuke for all insincere and ostentatious display, and his compassion for the wants of the poor, allowed the woman to break the precious box of
ointment to express her personal regard, though the ointment might have been sold and the price given to the poor. There are other hungers besides that of the flesh,- hungers of mind and heart, which measure the advance of the higher civilization. And these, too, the Eternal Power, under which they are developed, supplies. The Infinite Bounty covers the needs of heart and soul no less than those of the body. Nature serves man's physical wants; but she does it with an infinite beauty and grace, that gradually charms the savage in him into civilization, and causes the brute instinct to blossom into soul.
Nature, indeed, in this and in manifold ways, is man's constant servant; and hence we are literally correct when we say that the Eternal Power, which works in and through nature, is man's servant as well as educator. A few years ago a scientific man wrote an essay to show the probability that at some time the sun's heat might be mechanically applied for the pumping of water from underneath the sands of the great deserts of Africa, thus fertilizing them into rich productiveness. And thus, he added, that great luminary that has been worshipped as a god would become man's servant. A god transformed into a servant seemed a startling suggestion. And yet the Eternal Power whom all enlightened minds worship as Deity, the God of reason and science, is now and constantly the servant of man. If the earth in any way serves our human wants, if the sun, by which we live and
move and have our being and exert all our power, serves us, if the forces of nature, through the air we breathe, the electricity we put to use, and the gravity that holds us to the globe, serve us, then a fortiori must the Infinite and Eternal Power, of which earth and sun and all nature's forces are but a partial manifestation, be our servant. “A serving Deity!" This thought which our verse suggests may well command our attention a little. longer. And, if there be apprehension lest this conception of Deity shall be wanting in the attribute of "parental love," where, let me ask, shall we find the highest expression and demonstration of love? In that effervescence of passional emotion which, within the breast of its possessor, selfregarding, bubbles and sings of its own felicity? or is it in that other-regarding feeling which at once goes forth in acts of service for the being that is loved? When does a mother show the supreme devotion of her affection? In those moments of rapture when she hugs her children and devours. them with kisses and wants to lavish sweetmeats upon them? or is it in the long hours and wearying days and lengthening years, when, forgetful of self, she is spending her energies, her very life, in serving their manifold wants, on her spent care and strength carrying them safely through the various crises of their ignorance and weakness, though often having to exchange the rapture of personal tenderness for the disciplines of that larger, wiser law which is no respecter of persons? "Love,”
said the old writer, "is the keeping of the laws of wisdom." Nor should this proposition of science. startle Christendom, which, through all its centuries, has been taught that the infinite God humbled himself and came down to earth, and took the form of a servant in Jesus of Nazareth, who washed his disciples' feet. Only the service is not through one man only but through manifold men, and not through humanity only, but through nature. Service and honor are rendered to man by the Eternal, to the end that in man there is created a being who, in turn, honors and serves and carries forward the Eternal purpose. Sang another of the Hebrew poets: "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy power, and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou carest for him? Yet thou hast made him little lower than the gods; thou has crowned him with glory and honor; thou has given him dominion over the work of thy hands." What the Psalmist here says of man being invested with dignity and honor as a sub-ruler in the affairs of earth, holding a responsible part of the divine sovereignty, a rational philosophy and science would indorse to-day.
And, finally, the bounty of nature overruns all actual needs. The Eternal measures out its supplies by no stinted hand. Man may regulate production and distribution, but Nature will fill his cup to overflowing if he will let her. He himself
must watch against her wastes in some parts of the globe, and in other parts his skill must do the work of climate. But Nature's storehouse of various bounty for man's use is inexhaustible. What luxury of power and of life on which he may draw! What wealth of mineral and chemical resources! What teeming fields and forests in the vegetable world! How the seeds are scattered on the winds and storms! Even the birds of the air are their carriers and sowers. They may fall by the wayside, or among thorns, or on stony places; but Nature provides against disaster by the extravagance of her sowing. Beneath the sea, on Alpine snows, over hoary rocks, is wrought the miracle of the all-abounding principle of life. I picked flowers last June which were wedged close between the rocks at the top of Pike's Peak. Make a ruin; and, let it be her own or man's, Nature will gradually weave her green mantle gracefully around it. Go into wilds, where man's foot has seldom trod nor his eyes gazed, and behold there, unseen before, unknown, richness on richness and beauty on beauty, of the living wonder. "Beauty is its own excuse for being," and life ever transcends the powers of death. It is the overflowing cup of the Infinite Bounty which in wilderness and on plains, by the roadside and in our gardens, spills and scatters the seeds from which comes the beauty that charms our eyes and gladdens our hearts. This world has much of darkness and evil. It has storms of rough trial, and many foes of happiness