Paths To Power - Power Through A Vision Of God
( Originally Published 1905 )
"And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame o fire, out of the midst of a bush, and he looked, and behold! the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed." Exod. iii. 2.
THE person and the scene are most familiar. It is Moses, the serious, no longer young, man, pausing on the threshold of a great career to behold the vision of God, and in it to find the secret of power for a long and hard life. Every man brings his history with him. This is the boy, now filled with the energies of manhood, who had been hidden from the fiendish eye of the slave power in Egypt, and who had floated with the tide in the little ark of bulrushes made by a mother's loving hand, and watched by a sister's anxious eyes. This is the lad, now wise with the learning which later made Greece and Rome, Germany and England, stand mute before the Pyramids and Sphinx, who had walked in the royal paths of Pharaoh's daughter and listened with a brain all crowded with far-reaching policies and alluring prospects to the brooding message of the Nile. This was the youth, now more deeply musing upon a man's problems, who had once been stung with anger at witnessing a blow from an Egyptian master upon the back of an Hebrew slave. He executed a swift vengeance, and hid the lifeless body of the tyrant in the sand. Then he had fled from the palace of royalty, and found the tenderness of human love in his exile. And now, at the moment of this scene, he has left the flock of Jethro, which he has been keeping near the Mountain of God, and found himself at a cross-roads in life. This old record still breathes of that pastoral beauty and still holds the sublimity of that historic spot:
"And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and he looked, and behold! the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed." And Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight why the bush is not burned." And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said "Moses, Moses," and he said, "here am I." And He said, "Draw not hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. "Moreover," he said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God."
The great truth to whose light and helpfulness I want to bring all the other truths which are illuminated in this significant occurrence is this, that in a true vision which the soul obtains of God, and in the method by which God vouchsafes that vision, lies the secret of power. Moses never before had an intelligent, and therefore adequate, hold upon himself; never before had he a just conception of how his own life took hold of other lives and bound itself up with the fate of human society and the reign of God the world. In the vision of God he gained the vision of himself as a being of duties and opportunities.
It is interesting to study the inner life of Moses before the vision of this burning bush and afterward. Nothing in the whole Bible more clearly than this gives the portrait of a man's spiritual self in those moments of mingled hotheadedness and indifference which are likeliest to occur before he finds God and himself in some hour of commanding vision, contrasted with the portrait of that other self when, by that vision, he has become an intelligent and conscientious force which knows no wasteful outburst of energy nor a moment in which its constant vitality is not at work. Years before Moses had felt, in that sympathetic and unintelligent way in which men feel the pressure of great wrongs, especially the atrocity of Egyptian bondage. He himself was an Hebrew in blood and inherited mental method. When an Hebrew was receiving the cruel stroke, he dispatched the Egyptian boss immediately. Was it patriotism? It was an unregulated and thoughtless outburst of indignation, which, so far as we know, did not spring from or leave a single fruitful purpose in his heart. Indeed, it left him poorer as to the equipment which a constructive reformer must have, rather than richer. There is always something enervating and dissipating in those fire sweeping movements of the soul which kindle when the outbursting flame has not come from a great truth or a torch-like principle lighting men on to a definite goal. He had to leave the very place where he ultimately had to do his duty, if ever it was to be done. Moses fled from the court of the king, and after years of love and exile,. wherein not a word is spoken, so far as we know, of the unchanged problem which he encountered in that beaten slave, and which he does not seem at all to try to solve, we find him an Oriental shepherd. He is well married; why should he trouble himself about the big world and its perplexing questions? He reclines on the soft turf and counts the feeding flocks of a rich father-in-law; why should he worry about the people who are unfortunate enough to be in slavery, and fortunate enough to care little about it? Let the fanatics take care of those matters. He once was all ablaze, too. And he may think, as he looks out from the mountain-side over the delightful valley, that his enthusiasm cost dearly enough. Many men emptied of real power by a sudden discharge of very worthy wrath feel just that. But now, before the wretched self-content which keeps many a well-housed son-in-law and many an untroubled man from being of service to his race just before that self satisfied, comfortable, and easy life puts its cheap crown on, the native man in this shepherd has wakened to behold the vision of God. He sees the burning bush, and it means the revealing omnipotence of righteousness and the glowing but perpetual victory of truth. It gives another aspect to everything.
Many a man has had all his experience, save the recognition of the burning bush. You, too, have been living in a world full of sin and cruelty and crime. In your ardent youth you have seen some proud iniquity beat its slave, and you have hurled yourself against it to put it out of existence. But there has been no guiding principle at the bottom of your act, no peerless truth lay like a revelation in your soul, no profound righteousness shone like a star above the swelling anger of your indignant spirit. More than these, no historical movement growing out of God's perpetual program authenticated your act. And that experience in trying to help the world has left you so much less strong. It has exiled you from the very society in which you expected to shine, and where you ought to have influenced men. It has so thoroughly impressed you with the littleness of your own power and the loneliness of your single effort that you are half ashamed that you tried to do any-thing at all. As with Moses, domestic life is now your chief concern. You have retired. To be well fed and well clothed mean more than they ever meant. To have a respectable income, even if it comes only by a fortunate marriage; to be sure of an easy, quiet life; to muse about nature; and at a great distance to pity the unfortunate these are now of seductive value. When men talk with enthusiasm about other flaming truths of God, it is enough to remind them that once you were on fire, too, and that you burned out with great rapidity; also, that these glowing moments are engagingly brilliant, but full of dangerous heat and consuming flame. Your dead Egyptian did not save Israel.
Now, shall we stop there? Our lawless, anarchic attack upon wrong had no hope of right in it. No vision of the Permanent Righteousness working in and through all man's life shone through it. Is it possible that God has not for us all the revelation of Himself in the burning bush? Is it not certain that this same transforming power which then appealed to Moses and made out of a self-contented and easy life, a life whose flood of beneficent influence reaches the world of to-day, waits in the as yet unrecognized flame in some commonplace fact along the pathway of our lives, to transform us and to save?
Look at Moses after this vision! He has found God; and he has found himself as a man of duties and opportunities. Before he was easy and content; now there blazes in his spirit the flame of truth which shall become an ensign for the great revolution. It is fed upon a permanent and living experience. No longer shall the beautiful pastures enchant his spirit; now no foot of land shall be but cursed to him so long as Egypt bears the footstep of a slave. Before he was isolated and knew nothing of that fellow-feeling which soon made the life he lived and the life his kinsmen lived one. Now the full responsibility of humanity is upon him. He has a consciousness of being and living in the presence of God, and the luxuriant and selfish individualism goes out as the true sense of personality comes into him. How strange and new is everything! This thing is God's affair. Over the splendid sky under which he was delightedly watching the flock, was written, "Let my people go!" On the rock against which he leaned, or in whose shade he fell asleep aforetime, quivered the words, "Let my people go!" In the playful brook and along the broad river on whose banks he had stood in easy grace and pastoral mood, there sounded the alarm to Pharaoh, the tocsin of war to the Egyptian throne, witnessing to the first movement toward freedom for the hapless slave, "Let my people go!" God had revealed Himself to Moses, and Moses was a transformed man.
What was that burning bush to Moses? What is it to men to-day? It was and yet is the vision of the fact that truth will burn, and by its burning, illuminate, and yet it is inconsumable. Principles will flame with living fire and make the very air to glow and quiver with heat, yet they are indestructible. Right, love of God, and love of man, will blaze in their significance and tremble with their withering or beneficent fire, but they know no consumption nor waste. They cannot be reduced to ashes; they are as eternal as God. That little thorn-bush which Moses saw has gone down into history. But it is not alone. It may be, it ought to be, in your experience and mine. It will be so, if we permit our God to reveal Himself to us. Do not think of it as an item of ancient history a thing only of the irrevocable past. It is a permanent fact in God's spiritual universe. Wherever any noble creature of God has seen the truth, which, through a thousand heated struggles has burned its way into the damp air that men breathe, and perpetuated its existence while it has made tropics in some polar region of public sentiment wherever a man has seen it safe after all the fury of fire, still standing and burning with a divine glory there has been the vision of the burning bush. Wherever any soul has observed a flaming principle, which, through dismal times has sent its illumination afar, still blazing after the eyes of men have been entranced by its revelation, waiting also while it glows with the fervor of God, and lighting up a new era or scattering the darkness of some new danger there has been the vision of the burning bush. Wherever the quenchless right which has trembled with the divine fire through long ages, and warmed the chilly air and made bright the landscape around it, is seen even yet to abide in the furnace-heat of its old splendor and awaken men to new duties óthere is the burning bush. Wherever some great heart feels the inextinguishable love of humanity which has known the drenching rains of centuries of doubt and despair, and still believes that man is God's child, and is ready with the old inconsumable enthusiasm to brave defeat and endure danger for man's sake there the burning bush of Moses stands, and there a new Moses finds God.
What a commonplace thing was that little bush! Many a man had passed it and seen nothing. Moses, it may be, had looked at it before, but no revelation came until God shone in it and gave to its very commonplaceness the Divine glory of His presence. Yet that is the way of God in the whole history of human life. This is the history of power. The revelation of Himself in the commonplace is one of the most interesting facts of God's dealings with men. God will not overwhelm his fine souls. He will educate them into fineness of sight. And the more we see of the nature of this burning bush the more we discover of the educational fitness of this characteristic of the event I mean its littleness.
We all know that the point in every man's history, where he becomes the true and earnest man he ought to be, is where he is taken with the permanency and missionary quality of truth and right and love. "Try and enter by the small door, " said Jesus. He went so far as to say, "Blessed is he who not having seen at all, yet has believed." Power comes by the quality, not by the quantity of revealed fact to a man. Love lives by loving. Truth is truest when burning. How shall a man know that? It is certain that God must get him to feel this, in utter independence of bulk or size or the multitude of the circumstances in which truth comes to him. What did Moses find in the burning bush which was not present in the controversy with the Egyptian taskmaster? Then, if he had stopped his indignation long enough to get an intelligent view of the facts involved, he would have read on the big sky the same vast realities. Right was right then. Truth was the indestructible thing then. Love of humanity was the same great power then. It was just as bad to whip that poor Hebrew; Egyptian slavery had the same rotten foundation as to principle then. The same enthusiasm for humanity thundered against the outrage of a nation in bondage which spoke after the vision of the burning bush. There was just as much in the earlier contest with the Egyptian to create a reformer, just as much of principle and righteousness involved, as there was in the burning bush. But there was not as much of Moses. How did the bush arouse this man? Why, God was in itó that made the decisive difference. Never before did Moses see God shining in the truth that he was to feed upon through a long revolution; never had he seen the Omnipotent One behind the principle of it all. It was unilluminated and meaningless without God, and it had not yet roused him. Never before did he know that his love for man was God's love for man in him. All this the burning bush, with its voice, taught him. That bush without the flame was as unsignificant as abstract truth without God in it and through it is always unsignificant. That bush, dry and thorny, without the flame, was just as significant as is much of what we talk of as our love of humanity, where no God of love shines through it, and, as He makes it blaze, still keeps it from destruction. Only God's interest in abstractions makes them realities of life.
Just this makes the difference in men of a certain sort and their working power. Many good men have the paths of their lives hedged by the same bushes, the same uninspired principles, the same unilluminated truths, the same impersonal righteousness. These are as meaningless oftentimes as was the bush by the wayside. But some rare men have seen be-hind and within the abstract truth, the personal Head of the universe! Around and through the principles which they rely upon, are the glory and power of the Sovereign of men and things. Shining through the fact of righteousness is the righteous God. Great is the hour for him, when a man sees that. O what a change this vision makes in men! Now, and ever after, they are ready for effort and service. They are practical idealists, while others by their side are speculative only. They are for action, while the others are content with meditation only. And the history of human helpfulness attests the significance to mankind of that moment in the life of any pastoral, quiet, self-satisfied Moses, when the same fact which was but a thorny and cold thing to another soul begins to glow and burn and at last to speak to him with the personal voice of God. That is the burning bush.
It is a great thing to know that along one's path-way are such things as great principles and eternal right and valid truths; but it is much more when a man cannot look upon a great principle without seeing and hearing in it the authority of God over his soŻl. Don't put yourself off with anything which goes less deep than this. Information is no substitute for experience. Around the person of every Moses of reform or helpful serviceableness to mankind, there have been noisy multitudes who were able to tell more about the growth and history of the bush than Moses knew, or needed to know. It is the soul who hears and confesses the voice of God in the flame he alone leads every Israel out toward the land of promise.
Right here, then, I think we may return to think a little more of God's most interesting method of leading men, as it reveals itself in the mind of Moses. I have spoken of the commonplaceness of that bush. None but the Divine Educator of Moses would have revealed the secret of heaven and earth there. And yet, in the burning bush always every Moses first sees and hears God. The burning bush is the testimony to the presence of infinity, all unrevealed to our eyes often times, in the least important of the circumstances and occasions of life. Never until Moses could see and hear God in that little flickering flame, in the modest and unattractive bush by the wayside, could he or would he have been the man out of whom the beneficent revolutionist and statesman of coming days might come. Truth is truth, right is right, principle is principle, everywhere. O if we only could feel this! A man who can never see the divine authority of truth until some great council or convention proclaims it has none of the material in him for human leadership. He who never recognizes principle, until its illustration is drawn huge upon the skies of history and colored into its vividness by a nation or a church, has none of the seer in him; and the seers lead the world. God might have spoken to Moses by some big event, in some vast way. That would have fitly shown how massive God's hand or voice was, but that would not have found the interior and essential Moses which the trying future would demand. Moses had work before him to do, as has every man, which must be left undone by any soul whose sight is not fine enough to discover the significance of that incandescent bush, and whose ear is not deft enough to catch the voice which spake in the midst of its flame. Never has there been a great leader or a real helper of men who has failed to see that truth, principle, right, each is one. That eye alone can understand the larger which sees intelligently the less. A man must know the infinity inside the right, burning but inconsumable, which is trampled upon or struggled for, in some neighborhood event in human life. He must be able to see the Divine Self inside the principle which shines above any little transaction of man with man. Only so can society create a commonwealth. He must know the God in the right or the truth which is begging for championship in some insignificant occurrence, in the whirl of business, the rush of trade, the movement of society, the action of each man with his fellow.
To see that is to see the burning bush. The philosophy of it all is this all great and little transactions and contests have the same truth and the same right and the same principle involved. What are the basic forces of statesmanship? The forces which lie beneath the individual's simplest duty reach to God's throne. No man is likely to stand strongly for purity and truth in any public capacity who has not beheld them and listened to God's voice inside of them, in some burning bush near to his own personal pathway. And again, if his statesmanship reaches the lofty moral grandeur of that of Moses, it will do so only by bearing up through all the wider circles and realms of his career what he saw in the solitude and seriousness of his other days in some burning bush. God's training of the eye of Moses began where, by His grace, all training for great deeds must be begun. Give a boy the ability and desire to discover the presence of God as Ruler, as Judge, as Inspirer, in every truth, in every principle, wherever he finds it, let him learn to hear the Divine Voice speaking out of it in the least event of life wherein the right burns and is not consumed, and you have fitted his soul for the loftiest duties of earth. When he comes to Sinai's thunder and lightning he shall understand them. With intelligent courage he may die grandly this side of Canaan, and with an absolute faith in the omnipresence and omnipotence of truth and justice, because God flames in them, he will strike there, as a fortune, the forbidding rock of experience; out of it hidden streams shall rush, and he shall fall, like Moses, into "the Everlasting arms."
Poetry, and indeed all literature, reveal life so truly that the personal note which we hear in this story is there nearly omnipotent. Nothing can extract the personal element from life, when it is lived or interpreted at its highest. As we look back over the career of Moses, we find necessity for what I shall call the personalistic attitude toward life and its tasks. His business in the world was strenuous enough to bring out the integer of character. Almost from the first, Moses was not a man to get on without a consciousness of the Eternal Personality. We say that some men are more personal than others. Surely the note of personality was so intense and vibrant in Moses, that is, he was so much of a personality, that the universe would have been lonely and vacant to him, had he not dealt with the personality of God in all his work. This gives him what we find in Browning's poetry a personal attitude toward a personal God. We all agree that there is truth, but not the whole truth, in Matthew Arnold's words:
"'Yes, write it in the rock,' St. Bernard said,
"'For God of these his attributes is made.'
"God's wisdom and God's goodness! Ay, but fools
"Have yet so much as heard this simpler lore?
God is more than wisdom or goodness. He makes them what they are. God was not the bush to Moses. God was in the Voice in the bush, and God made the bush to burn, and not to consume away. But here is another utterance often quoted by those who dispense with the idea of personality. We have Tennyson singing:
"'God is law,' say the wise; O Soul, and let us rejoice,
"'Law is God,' say some; 'no God at all,' says the fool;
"And the ear of man cannot hear, the eye of man cannot see;
No; He is more than the vision. Moses would not confuse the vision with Him Who is behind the vision. He would rather say, in those other lines of Tennyson:
"Hallowed be Thy name Hallelujah I Infinite Ideality!
Moses' spirit and grasp, his mental attitude and discovery these are more nearly represented in the great words of Browning, who has been called "the poet of personality" :
"All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist;
Moses would have appeared very uninteresting and crude to Matthew Arnold with his pale impersonalism. Robert Louis Stevenson said that he pitied Arnold, on hearing of his death, because he thought Matthew Arnold would not like God. The personality of Moses clung to and was reinforced through personal relationships with God.
Moses would end his life in a song, like his farewell address, but not like that sobbing and scolding poem which is logical consequence of Tennyson's later pantheism as expressed in his "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After." What a reply that was from the Moses-like man Gladstone! He completely contrasted its dark account of things with the triumphs wrought in an era which had not lost a personal faith in a personal God. Gladstone had been working with Moses, in and through the tortuous and troublesome events of time. That was a mighty personal life which began at the burning bush, recognizing some-thing behind the bush, and speaking within the bush something which was not the bush itself, and yet gave significance to the bush, for God Himself makes right to be right, and principle to be principle, and truth to be truth, because He is essential Being, and the Soul of all. All powerful leadership depends upon recognizing the Life behind what else were dead enough, and coldly abstract principle, truth, and even goodness itself.
We all know that George Eliot had great quickening and molding power as a literary artist, but when she came to create or to reproduce the features of a great personality like Savonarola, she had to abandon the region of vague impersonality, however direct and strong might be the influences of abstract duty and truth and virtue upon her own mind. She had to get him up in some other atmosphere than that of her fancied "choir of the Invisible," as she under-stood that choir to be constituted. She reveals the striking personality of the Italian reformer only in the vivid and vivifying atmosphere of a personal God.
George Eliot has touched this strain of personality in her poem on the death of Moses. She looked like a Jewess, because her mind and heart were thus formed. She had the Hebraic conception of the "I am that I am," namely, the continuous soul of history binding the consequences of triumphs and experiences of one age to those of another and through one in-creasing purpose. She dropped into our literature the jewel-statement "Our finest hope is finest memory." So it was to Moses, as he led that procession onward, following the bones of Joseph. Moses' task had such roots in the past of Israel, and it had to bring forth such fruit in the future of Israel, that nothing but the vision of the Soul of all history, the Eternal One who unifies all eras in His own comprehensive life, could have intellectually equipped Moses for his privilege and duty in the world. This was the sap, making all alive from root to fruit. George Eliot herself forsakes the idea that impersonal law will hold human beings to their duty. Israel must have law incarnate. She confesses the worth of such a personality as Moses' in her concluding words, spoken, as she says, by "Invisible Will":
"He has no tomb;
Personality is the blossoming place of power at its highest.
Moses' personality was Israel's anchor. How much was that of God to him! Creative and regulative, stimulating and bracing, is the personality of God. Every Moses must hear the Everlasting One saying to his soul, with the intimacy which binds Moses to his God in a task which concerns them both: "I have surely visited you and seen that which is done to you in Egypt, and I will bring you up and they shall hearken to thy voice." I dread the weakening which must be the consequence of a lack of vivid faith in personality. Human power is the result of Divine power in a man. Moses' personality was strengthened by his vision of God's personality. The power with which Moses spoke to Egyptian tyranny is the consequence of the power with which God first spoke to Moses himself.
Are we not making too much of this event in the life of Moses and of its lesson? Ask the writer to the Hebrews, when, in his eloquence, he pauses at the name of Moses, as he mentions the imperial names of Jewish story, for the purpose of asserting the quality of true faith. He says: "Moses, when he came to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." That, then, was the secret power of his career his vision of the invisible. That was the turning point in his life, when he saw in the visible burning bush the Invisible God. Ever after that, in any problem, let this man get again the experience at that bush, and he is fearless and capable. Too much of this event? Ask Moses himself, when life's course is run and the hour of lonely death on Nebo has come to him. His note of praise, his song of triumph, and the seer-like farewell address of that ancient leader gain their most rapturous tone when he looks back through the long years, across the perplexing questions, and over the terrible struggles, and sees one chord of life quivering through all the past, and he prays for the "good will of Him Who dwelt in the bush." There the secret of power was found. Sinai was but the unfolding of what the bush suggested, and the glory of his old age was but the maturer splendor in sunset of this early illumination.
My brother, you and I will never have any more power, until we have more reverence like that of Moses. It is very characteristic of so rare a spirit as Moses, that he should say, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." "I will see why" curiosity and awe, how beautifully mingled! For when Moses first noticed it, it was simply "a great sight" a flame which did not consume. Every quality of mind which the study of his after-life may discover was enlisted here. Always the deeper the nature, the more genuine is its wonder, the more profound is its sense of mystery. There never was a seer without great strength of imagination. Any other great idealist must have stood, as did Moses, with the power of his soul made alert and startled into extraordinary activity by this unprecedented appearance. Just that impressive surprise and wonder will possess every other really sincere spirit who shall come up, in some hour of God's revealing providence, face to face with the fact that every truth and every divine sentiment or passion burns with the heat of its own God-given suggestiveness and force, yet never is destroyed. Moses is safe from profaning the spot. with his familiarities, only after he hears the Divine Voice saying: "Draw not nigh hither; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Just that questioning advance which Moses made toward that bush will be made by any true soul when first it sees, somewhere along life's pathway, any principle flashing with flame and blazing with heat in some contest of right with wrong, and yet yielding nothing to the combustion, losing nothing in the fiercest fire. He is a dull man who, unlike Moses, does not feel that it is thus far "the great sight" of his life.
It comes to the young student of history like a day of Divine revelation. He sees what his soul finds is the miracle of all goodness. He looks into his own time. Here is a truth, which away back there in the centuries gone, was apparently burning up. Men said the little bush would soon consume to ashes. Wiseacres declared, with patronizing smile, "O it will have its day, and then cease to trouble sensible people." Still it burned. Another century came, and its Moses saw it, and many a poor, lean soul said, "O you would better attend to your flock. Don't spend your life working in the air. These sheep demand your attention" all forgetful that principles, and not sheep, rule the world. Still the bush burned. Hampden's great age came, and some Washington saw it. Still it burned. Another era came, and Lincoln saw it still it burned, and it has never consumed away.
More often, as the student of history knows, does the true Moses see it in the complexity of some little personal problem of man's ordinary life. Then he says to himself, "Why, this is the principle for nations as well as for individuals." Then some Swiss Republic comes from that burning bush. Words-worth's words become true:
"A few strong instincts and a few plain rules
But the fact does not satisfy. Its mystery charms and excites the mind. Moses turned aside and said, "I will see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."
Many a Moses has stopped with ethical formulas and endeavors of subtle analysis for years to find out why the bush is not burnt. Why does right last and wrong reduce itself to ashes? Why does the enthusiasm for humanity seem to gain with every fresh sparkle of the flame, and why does the cruel carelessness of barbarism consume away? Why does truth live by expending itself and error die by its missionary efforts? No question can keep an earnest soul with so subtle a charm.
God deals with the human soul after the same principle of Divine leadership, in every age. Never can the profoundest speculation on the subject make the mystery less interesting. Moses met another method of God, the moment he advanced toward the bush. God said to him what, at some time in the study of such mysteries, He says to every thoughtful soul, "Moses, Moses." He touched for the first time the personal self of the Hebrew leader with His own Personal Self. "Here am I," said Moses. In his discovery of God, Moses had found himself, as every soul must. Then comes into action the old method of God with the soul, when He says to it: "This mystery is the mystery which inheres in Me and My presence in the true, the good, and the beautiful. It is not yours to understand, but to use. You are standing on holy ground now. 'Draw not hither. Put off thy shoes from off thy feet.' "
This is a great step in the progress of any soul toward the practical, useful understanding of God. Then it obeys this voice out from the heat of the flame. Many a soul stands by that bush and loses all the benefit of God's revelation of himself in the true, the good, the beautiful, blazing yet unconsumed, because it will not recognize that the mystery of it is to be used as a mystery, not to be analyzed into the category of life's comprehended facts. God says to our speculation and rationalism: "Draw not hither. Take off thy shoes from off thy feet. The place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Heaven pity the soul which has no holy ground! After all, it is the reserve of life. Everything else may grow arid and meaningless, but if there lies somewhere in the soul a mystery which, like this, may be given to every spirit, a mystery which charms and soothes, which also excites and controls, a mystery with a voice in it proclaiming its right to be and remain a mystery, there it has a sacred spot, its holy ground, to which it may ever return and find all the old power. Men are great by the length and breadth of "holy ground" in their lives.
Only by this vision of the missionary, and yet eternal, qualities of the true and the beautiful and the good, does the soul ever find the continuity of human history. And that is what every Moses must get into his mind, heart, and will. God is behind in ages gone; God is here as He was there. All history is sacred. It is all a revelation of God ''I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob." The divine continuity gets into a sublime minute. One fact connects and relates the ages. A man can never deal grandly with life's problems in other than the spacious eternity of God. A powerful stroke means room behind retrospective; and room in front perspective. Jesus had a true consciousness of God when He said, "Before Abraham was I am." Power in idea and execution belongs to the man who is sure that the sovereign energy of the universe is not merely the "I am," still less the "I was, " or "I shall be, " but the "I am that I am." How personal it all comes to be! God is in right and He makes it flame with meaning. He is the fire in principle, the blaze in love, the burning power in truth. They are the beacon-fires of the race's pilgrimage. Alone they last while the generations pass away. Man is never out of sight of their ardent glow. His children come to hear the same voice from the center of the flame the voice which has scarcely died away on the ears of their father. Human life is thus, under God, one and indivisible.
Bring these truths into your life, my dear friends. Stand by your enthusiasm of love; it is your most significant hour. Fear not that any good or truth can consume away, though it seems to be burning up. Love the mystery of the burning bush so much as to trust your life to it. Do not try to understand it, but use it, and you will find it out. Be reverent. Keep your "holy ground," and when death comes it will be enough to have "the good-will of Him that dwelt in the bush."
Principle, unnoticed and trampled upon by the wayside, yet all on fire with God; Right, so cold and thorny without it, ablaze with a personal presence; Truth, unheeded and commonplace, yet aflame with a divine significance these, there and then, were vouchsafed to Moses. He was a "prophet" because he saw these. No man can do the prophet's business without at least this experience as part of his equipment. More will come and must come, before we may have complete power. The greater Prophet, which these visions enabled his eye to foresee afar down the ages, has come. The song of Moses has its own fit and loftier strains in the Song of the Lamb. They who sing find them one anthem in heaven. No more does man depend upon some rare insight, some finer sense of the seer, some vision of the coming truth which is not consumed. Jesus has been in the world, is in the world today, and says, "I am the truth." Truth was aflame yet unconsumed to Moses' eyes; truth is incarnate and burns without loss of splendor or of heat in the soul of the Christ. Moses knew not, until his eye of prophetic vision rested upon Christ, what the burning bush had of profound meaning. Never, until we gaze in adoring love upon Jesus our Lord, buffeted, tried, scorned, hated, persecuted, led upon Calvary, crucified on the spot wherefrom the ages have lit their torches by His burning yet inconsumable life never until the Incarnate Truth at the moment of its hottest flame proves itself most indestructible, does God, in the burning bush of Moses, become the prophet of God in the illuminating, yet inconsumable, person of Christ. The lesson of the Old and New Testaments is the same. God has no revelation which does not lead to and teach this and every other spiritual fact in the Incarnation. Once Moses was to find the secret of his life in God's revealing of Himself in the light of the blazing bush. To-day every soul is to find the secret of its life in that complete revealing which God makes of Himself in One who says, "I I am the light of the world." That light kindles by every pathway, yet it does not fail. Jesus lives in every great and little movement of our life, and when the blaze of His glory seems to consume to ashes some truth, some principle, we discover that He is its very life; and that it is never so safe as when it is flaming with His quenchless love for man. May we today draw reverently near this burning yet unconsumed life, and be saved.