Paths To Power - Enduring Power Through A Deeper Vision Of God
( Originally Published 1905 )
"He endured as seeing Him who is invisible." Hebrews xi. 27.
A NATION is said to be humanity on a large scale. Certain it is that you may profitably study the human soul in a more ample atmosphere, if you direct your attention to a whole people or the race. The lines come out more vividly. It is of the greatest advantage when you may study both its typical man and his nation together, especially when their features and energies and limitations are revealed as they confront a common problem, and when they thus move before you, each influencing the other toward a common destiny. When we thus study them, as we have been studying Moses and the Hebrew people, we soon perceive that what makes a great leader for a nation will make a great nation for him to lead. Another and more specific idea will stand out, both in nation-building and in the building of the personal character, faith in the worthiness of the Divine Character to dominate and guide life is the primary and the most important thing. The conviction that all-mightiness is all-goodness is the generating conviction that brings forth the essential and highest life of a people or of the separate soul.
It has the supreme educative function. It alone fathers and mothers that spiritual impulse and outlook which take the form of stable government. Tell me the character of what, or of Whom, you acknowledge as your governor, and I will find the portrait of it, or Him, in your character as one governed.
Now, some one may say, "Well, if you are going to try the character, even if you are to examine the worthiness of what you own as the Divine Force or Father in the universe, you are only making a mightier god of your own testing powers; you are taking the Eternal and Omnipotent from His throne, and you are, placing Him under an examination in which the examiner is more nearly supreme than the thing or being examined." There is no answer to this, except that which arises from the fact that God and man are at one in moral faculty. Because of this alone, is any understanding or communion possible as between them. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Power appeals to you and to me for a recognition of His moral supremacy. Everywhere God says, "Come, let us reason together." We will not forget that we are a long way anterior to the Christ's vision of Divine Fatherhood, when we think of Moses and his age and his problem as to duty and God. But, if we have grasped earlier truth, we will see all later truth come out of it. This man Moses, if he gets hold of truth, will inevitably prophesy Jesus Christ Who shall come with more truth about God; for it is not Moses' truth and Jesus' truth, but it is Truth all truths being one. God is not superior to His revelation of Himself in man as a being made in His image, even if we cannot step from Moses to Jesus and speak of man as God's son, realizing his life in the Fatherhood of God. His right to rule us abides on the ground of a common moral perception between us. Man is so made we may say he is so God-like he has such native elements of moral supremacy in himself that he will recognize and bow to infinite worth, even though he be finite. Worthiness will appeal to him not in vain; and he will discover a basis for estimating things and beings, not by quantity, but by quality, not because the universe and God are infinite as to space or time, but because they have about, or in them, what ought to be every-where and what ought to be always. Beneath it all is the confidence that, in the long run, what ought to be must be. Goodness only is might.
It was a great and simple word of Dorner, that the most important discovery of our time is the essential unity of man and God. We may call this rationalism, if we like, but so long as the Supreme Power of the universe appeals to man's supremest powers of apprehension for a larger understanding of Himself so long as the Highest appeals to the highest in man through the highest, whether that highest be an abstract idea of goodness or a concrete personal Christ, Incarnate Goodness so long, man's highest faculties will at least assume that he must trust more and more this authorization and his right of appreciating and pronouncing upon everything in accordance with worth and worths, all through the universe.
This view of your prerogative and mine, this confidence in the sincerity of the challenge which the Unseen Power of the universe offers to our faculties of appreciation, is in harmony with a vitalizing and conquering faith. It is a faith that works itself out in this way, sometimes; we first realize that what we respect and obey as power manifests itself in the universe as physical; that is, it is brawn and bone. A little later, perhaps a long time later, we begin to see that brawn and bone are under the dominion of brain. Real power, finer and higher power, comes of brain or through brain. Thinkings make and remake things. Latest of all, do we realize that the highest and most efficient power is neither physical nor mental, but moral. The issue lies not in what brawn may determine, neither does it lie in what brain decides, but it lies in what conscience says. "What ought to be?" is the all-inclusive question. As wisdom is a greater power than mere power, so righteousness is a greater wisdom than mere wisdom. As wisdom is the sanction and guide of power and enforces power, so righteousness is the guide and sanction of wisdom, and it alone makes wisdom perpetually wise. Anything or anybody who would be truly supreme in the soul must therefore make a moral alliance with the soul. Worthiness will triumph, and some time we shall hear the anthem "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain worthy to receive power." In this light, Lotze has said, "The world of worths is the key to the world of forms."
A Moses can never do the work of a Moses in the world, until he sees sanctions for the laws which proceed out of the plans and purposes of the Infinite —yes, such sanctions, as that, when they are spoken, they have their undoubted echo in his own character. A faith that has power in it for life's crises and its tasks is a faith which comes of character resting upon character. Nobody has lived far into the life which is possible to a man, without realizing this. I do not deny that this seems to put an awful, and almost perilous, jurisdiction in the hands of human reason; but if man is to live a reasonable life, he must believe that this is a reasonable universe; if he is to live a wise life, he must believe that it is a universe embodying wisdom; if he is to live a good life, he must believe that it is a good universe. If he is to believe any of these things, the Supreme and Infinite Mastery which gives laws to his life and appeals to his consciousness must at least seem to him to be the Reason, and Wisdom, and Goodness behind and in all things. This alone will be his God.
We must go even further than this. Our age has heard an eloquent but somewhat misinformed man appeal from certain irrational, unwise, and, as I believe, base views of the Eternal God. That appeal has carried the day at the centers of human self-respect, and men have thrown off many conceptions of the Ruler of the universe which do not accord with morality; wisdom, and reason. The question has been asked, "Is God a Christian?" with the same interest with which Moses asked of God, with less understanding of revelation: "What is Thy name?"
"An honest man is the noblest work of God," was the ancient saying recently turned into the glittering statement: "An honest God is the noblest work of man." Do not be disturbed at anybody who sees beneath apparent ribaldry a truth of value. It does take character to influence character and build it. As man grows stronger in intellectual activity, he realizes what a mighty proposition it is which asserts the being of God and that it is a thing to be mightily proved or attested. Modern thinking has shown this. We owe more than this to our modern thinking and experience. We see that the existence of God for us really depends on character. Our Moses has encountered difficulties in his duties and opportunities as a man which have driven him to seek not irreverently a vision of the ethical significance of the Being with Whom he has to do. Even the offensive dogmatism of infidelity has not failed to serve the true God. Hideous masks have been torn away. If it is atheistic philosophy which makes it impossible for our Moses to believe in God on what was formerly sufficient evidence, it is man's interest in and his serious and noble labor for grand ends which have made him reach down and up into the nature of God and accept Him only as man has grasped nothing less than the hands of Infinite Love. God's existence cannot fade before a laugh; God's character, upon which man relies, when he does anything manly or godlike, appears glorious in the furnace heat of man's great trial.
But the fact that sincere men have found their way through the sneers and coarse humor of a peripatetic joker and reached the point of asking the question "Who and what is my God that I should obey Him and be guided by Him?" is very significant. It is not such a frightening event as that men anywhere should remain careless as to their conceptions of God, or, the moral description of what men prefer to speak of as the Universal Energy behind and in all things. You will remember George McDonald's four lines:
"Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde;
Poor David could well have said of this epitaph, "I'm no sure a' ta gither aboot hoo yell tak' it, for it souns rather fearsome at first hearin' o't." There is a hopeful reverence in it. A true poet makes the tragedy of Saul's life appear only when Saul fears that "The Almighty greater is, than good." Man will say these things because self-respect has its root in a respectable deity. They have been repeated, not altogether faithlessly, but often with the deepest understanding of the perplexing interests of souls who would revere as well as adore the Infinite above them. There is a theology of civilization. The order of progress is first, "the new heavens," then "the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness." We cannot be unconcerned about the character of our God. Man is aware that if the A string in his nature is to respond as the sound-waves come upon it, it must respond because the A tone comes commandingly to it, upon or within those sound-waves.
The Moses of the twentieth century, whether he is to lead a mob of serfs from some Egypt of humiliation and darkness to some Canaan of civilization and life, or just to make a march for his own soul from the external splendor where he is dying to Mt. Nebo where he lives most when he dies this Moses cannot be indifferent to the moral authoritativeness of the Being above him. His laws he cannot obey at the springs of his character, unless he at least thinks he ought to obey them. If they are good for him to obey, it is his to frame them into codes for conduct. These laws must be the utterance of the very nature of the Power which ought to rule, and will rule, only because it is right and wise and efficient that He should rule. The real and true name of God, spoken to the soul, because it is spoken in the soul, will make it seem reasonable, wise, and good to enshrine these laws in all life and make life their new expression. What his God is to him not what his God may have been to others, not what his God may be even to him this and this alone will create and give color to his loyalty, or transform it into disloyalty; it will give clearness to his thinking, or it will muddle his brain to inefficiency; it will give steadiness and strength to his will, or it will soften his purpose into impotence.
I urge you today to look your own task squarely in the face, refusing to underestimate what it teaches of the seriousness of life and its demands upon you.
But as you do this, stand sympathetically by this man Moses and see if your problem is not at root his problem. Where am I to get enduring power? What did his vision of God do for him and through him, toward the civilization of himself and the civilization of the people whom he influenced? This will be for us to ask searching questions of our ideas of God and their effect upon us.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that it was Moses' vision of the invisible which gave him power to endure. "He endured as seeing Him Who is invisible." This quality of endurance goes deep and has a comprehensive hold upon the entire character of a man. Endurance is not the effluence of some one beacon-like faculty. It is not the manifestation of what we call genius. It belongs oftener to the less brilliant of the children of men. Moses was no more a genius than was Washington or Alfred. No separate faculty, or federation of several faculties, stood out and reigned in that partial and weird splendor which amazes us in Napoleon or fascinates us in Alexander. Yet these other and plainer men are the men who endured through their life here, and the streams of their influence are more enduringly potent to-day than they ever were before. The truth is, that the most profound and inclusive question to be raised with reference to the greatest of the servants of mankind is this, how did he endure, And if you may obtain a sight of the hidden resource by which he was enabled just to last through it all, or stand it, as we say, till his work was done, you have the secret of the man revealed in the power that made him and the secret of the power that made the man disclosed in its product the man himself. Na ordinary, temporary, or partial influence or ability can make a man an enduring man. Men may be made so that they fight one good battle, and even furnish flashes of splendor from an interior flame in several contests, when they are fed interiorly and nurtured on something less than the highest truth and the eternal reason. They play an aspect of life's game well. But life is a many-sided and long game, and you get your enduring man, only when all the faculties of his mind and the affections of his heart and the purposes of his will are drawn in orderly obedience and eager loyalty around a common and supreme reality which suffuses them all with its glow and welds them all into the unity of character.
How shall human capacities and faculties be thus formed into a squadron of power? How shall all of a man be organized or reorganized? I do not doubt that this is the first personal problem which is en-countered by every such a man as Moses. We have seen his weakness in his apparently most brilliant moment, when impulse was not associated with idea, when passion was unrelated to principle, and he slew the Egyptian slave-master. He did not lack intense and vigorous abilities, but he lacked self-organization and self-sovereignty. No human soul ever obtained these self organization and self sovereignty without being organized by Something whose sovereignty was so unquestioned and commanding that every special power of mind and body hastened into orderly relationship with every other. Then the whole man found himself grandly obedient to the Power which made him powerful, to the Wisdom that made him wise, the Reason that made him reasonable shall I not say it? to the Goodness that made him good. The business immediately before Moses, as it lay in the plan of God and in the hope of man, offered him no holiday task. It required nothing short of the enduring power which must get on without salvos of welcome to hostile camps and gay banners fluttering hospitality in difficult territory. His work would require the confederation of all the faculties of his intellect, his emotions, and his will. He would have to bear, in order that he might do. He would experience strains upon himself, before he could relieve the strain upon others. In short, he would have to live such a life victory would be so hidden within defeat all the way through it that its fitting close would be his own death, the most sublime and pathetic in all history, on a lonely mountain and this side of the visible triumph of his heroic ideals.
I once read of an edifice in which the sun shone down through a mighty lens fixed at the summit and crowning the central point of an ample dome. The sun seemed to love to pour his very self through the transparent glass which shivered with radiance at the triumphal point where all the lines of that dome met, after mounting so nobly from the pillars below upon which the dome itself rested. As a consequence, the light fell into the building in such a way that every room opening from the center, where gleamed the glorious cross, was filled with radiance. Such was the nature of Moses under the revelation of God, and any true characterization of his power must always portray the centralness of the man. The greatest of all facts and factors God shone down into the soul of this man. The Highest poured His nature into Moses at the highest point in the nature of Moses. That is the point in every man's nature where man's character accepts the character of God as goodness. The realms of intellect and sensibilities and will are like deflecting rooms below. The lofty and revealing opening from man's finite nature into God's revelation of His infinite Self is the place of faith. There occur the mighty events of man's life in God and God's life in man. There, if at all, my friend, God has captured you, by the overwhelming presence of Himself in human nature, and then you said, "God is good." That is the most determinative sentence- a man may speak. Let us see what and how this enabled Moses to endure.
He endured himself; he endured other people; he endured facts. Yes; Moses' first and continuous problem was with himself. In one of the colleges at Oxford, every stone of which is eloquent with some echoed name of worth or fame, a window still bears an etching which tells the story of the most decisive epoch in the life of the most chivalric and beloved of England's kings. It says merely this, that there he mastered himself. There his sovereignty over men's hearts and hands was won. No kinglier man in faculty ever began to vindicate his right extraordinary to be a sovereign of men, than was this Moses, when he first found himself on his own hands a fact to be endured. The number and weight of his abilities confuse such a man. His very strength casts an awfully thick shadow, when the sun is behind him. Men of shallow conceit, who were never kingly in gift and to whom the finer sovereignties are forever denied, never have a moment of this man's shadowed experience. Dante, with his soul of wastes, craggy summits, tortuous defiles of darkness opening into abysses of gloom he knew the color and dripping midnight dews which Moses felt in his heart. Cromwell, with the awful grandeur of a national regeneration, at once a dream and a duty, disclosing itself to his faithful spirit, aware only of the infinite measurements of obligation which made every little pathway of time seek the roadway upon which God's axles blazed along he knew the humiliating consciousness of weakness before God. In both these men there was no lack of that uneasy and unpromising self-scrutiny which makes one weaker still. Moses will always stand forth as the example of those who easily become over-sensitive about the significance of them-selves, in the sincere effort to get rid of themselves. Introspection, begun in self-abasement, may grow egoism itself. You almost pity the man for large size never renders a man less worthy of our sympathy -when he wakes to the real problem of himself and finds what is the measure of his possible success or failure, as every man does, in the presence of what God and man are demanding at his hands. We commiserate still more the man who has never learned the meaning of his own life through looking into the life of others.
There is a nobility in Moses' first cry, as he surveys the Egypt which he sees from the back of the wilderness, and that Canaan which vaguely lifts itself as a yet unnamed goal before his imagination. "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" What honest nature worthy to do anything, in the way of emancipating men from their slaveries of sin and ignorance has not cried out, "Who am I?" He may appeal to his unique place and his training. But it is very easy, even when Moses is seeing justly his own unmatched position and the importance of himself very easy indeed to weigh himself so often with these, that either comes to weigh too much rather than too little. "Who am I?" How soon this humility, which goes so far in self-depreciation, comes to be a diseased consciousness of self which prates too much! Oh, this first personal pronoun "I." Behind it, how often the human imagination has tarried so long, that, in the decay of courage, a certain phosphorescent fascination has gone forth from it. I this is a more burdensome mystery, because we feel that we ought to know all about it. It is hard to tell when the soul of a noble but unorganized man passes from an underestimate of himself into an overestimate of his own importance as a problem. I I? The greatest blessing that can come to any Moses a blessing fundamental to all other blessings that may ever come to him it is this, that, now and here, God lifts him out of himself and dominates him, as a mighty tide lifts some iridescent wave whose emerald summit has just broken into snow and commands it, engulfing its own with oceanic influences while the tidal music comprehends all subordinate melodies. So Cromwell was lifted out of himself. He learned to endure himself; and he cried out in truth, "One never mounts so high as when one does not know whether one is mounting."
No fact can relieve a true man of the burden and embarrassment of his own personality, save one — the personality of God. An impersonal force will scarcely interest him. When Moses said, with sincere self-scrutiny, "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?" he weighed Pharaoh's personality in opposition to his own. Pharaoh and I one was in the scale against the other, and it seemed an unequal contest. God answered Moses. Another personal pronoun "I" fell upon the air. It was the I of Almighty God. God said: "Certainly I" I love that "Certainly" of God. "Certainly I will be with thee." The I of Moses was lifted and lost sight of, at least for one revealing moment, in the "I" of the God of Israel. How decidedly was Moses delivered from himself! Hear him now. A new question has come up in his mind; the old one about himself has gone. The emphasis of the enterprise is not now placed upon himself at all. His lesser "I" has vanished; the omniscient "I" alone is sovereign and important; and Moses says, "When I shall say: The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is His name? What shall I say unto them?" Then the Almighty answered in the gift of a name which was indeed a name, for it was a description of His own nature, "I AM THAT I AM." "JEHOVAH."
In this declaration, how comparatively unimportant seems the question of Moses, "Who am I?" My brother, it is never a fundamental question. God does not answer it to any hesitant soul, except in the revelation of Himself. The resources and inspirations of every great task are not in Moses, but in the power which he calls supreme. No man sees him-self, or knows himself, except as he knows the life that is his life, the spirit that inspirits him. And to understand or to hold this revelation of God, one must use it. God's command to Moses is, "Tell Israel: 'I AM hath sent me unto you.' " How swiftly the tyrannical figure of Pharaoh which had lorded it in the thought of Moses, vanishes from his mind, when he braces himself with this new name, so fully descriptive of the character of God. Pharaoh was honest when he said: "Who is 'I am that I am'? I know not your 'I am that I am.' "
To name the power of powers "I am that I am" is to declare that the Soul of all history and all hope everlastingly is. All true philosophy of history begins in that moment of which we have the account in the words: "And God spake unto Moses and said, I am Jehovah; and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El-Shaddai (The Omnipotent), but by the name Jehovah, 'I am that I am,' I did not make myself known unto them." We cannot overestimate the new inflow of power which comes when one realizes that the Almighty One is the "I am that I am" the living Soul of all public progress and of all personal history.
Every soul passes through these experiences with God, if that soul is on the way to power. God is not only All Power, but All Power with an eternal program. In his exile in Midian, Moses had found, still more grand and awe-inspiring than ever before, God as the Omnipotent One. There was enough in that name by which his fathers had worshiped God, and enough in their deeper experiences in obeying and serving Him as He was thus apprehended, to suggest, even at the time mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the name Jehovah. The latter was involved, but not yet evolved. But, at this hour, its meaning was truly revealed, as past ran through present into future events. Moses had to have an outlook. God uttered to the growing life of Israel the helpful truth. Here was a prophetic idea of God. Henceforth the people Moses was to lead, including himself, were "the people, " not only of the Almighty, certainly not of Baal or Moloch; they were "the people of Jehovah." The Eternal now binds past, present, and future. A long step had been taken toward that far-off hour when the greater Jew, whose life was indeed a burning bush, would teach his followers to say, "Our Father who art in heaven." Here was the covenanting God the supreme God of promises. Ask your self, "Has my Sovereign made me any promises? Is there anything promising in His character? Is there a future which makes the past sacred, God being in both?" If not, you have not taken the step toward spiritual power which I am trying to persuade you to take.
O my friend, tossed about with the superficialities of time, which are so easily stirred up because time is shallow as eternity is deep, I would that I could get you to experience something of the mental poise and comfort which come to one who has arduous toils and who must endure to the end, when the Supreme Power of this universe in which he works whispers it into his unquiet soul: "I am that I am bath sent you." The past, present, future, alive with God! Ah! here is a fountain of power.
Moses is spoken of as the meek man. It is a word whose closer meaning here is "tamed." No tamed man was ever born so; and no man or set of men, even no woman or set of women, no force or series of forces of earth, ever tamed a man. Moses' mother, his sister Miriam, and even his wife did not tame this strong and passionate creature. They exercised their affections, admirations, and irritations upon him for many years in one or the other manner, but he could not be tamed by them. We are told by the apostle that "the tongue no man can tame"; and Moses had a tongue. Sometimes the tongue had Moses. He himself said he spoke unadvisedly with his lips. He was in another difficulty as to enduring himself, on account of this matter of speech, for he even complained that he was not eloquent. Cromwell had a "sharp and untunable voice." Moses apparently so far misconceived the urgent necessity and the endowment for sober and constructive statesman-ship, that he was willing to meet them with the limitations of the orator. Such men know not that even a Gladstone may talk too interestingly and long, and a Gordon die during the "cackle of debate." In other respects a great untamed man he was, and he had to "move upward, working out the beast." In his company, walk men like Jacob, Peter, Luther, and William the Silent and they were all tamed men. No! it is true, "the tongue no man can tame," and least of all can any man tame a whole man. But God Himself can tame a man; and He tamed Moses into one of the greatest and best of His servants. Were we talking about Moses' endurance, and did we say that "he endured as seeing Him who is invisible"? Yes; he endured training in the invisible, by the Invisible One, as, for example, in the little burning bush. But you cannot fancy that intellect, heart, and will being trained by One less supreme over him than the "I AM THAT I AM." Intellectually, this gripped him. The Almighty One Supreme Power would never have won his supreme powers. The power that moves in the history of man toward grand ends caught the imagination and confidence of Moses. He would see more later. All greatness reveals goodness.
Every man who does great things labors in the eternal Now. "I am that I am hath sent me." O, what illuminating and steadying power comes out of such a reflection! Of this power I have already spoken a little. I cannot speak too much. But this power is most clearly seen as it unfolds itself through the evolving life of Moses and that of every man. We must go with him through another crisis to realize that what is involved in this shall be evolved.
We behold Moses as a man with a job on his hands which requires jurisprudence. He is coming down from mountain - heights of vision with the revealed law which will, as he has right to think, establish and develop government and progress among his people. If they are ever to work with God, they must do it through obeying the law. Let us remember that God's own being which was described in this new name, "I am that I am," was to Moses the source and reason of the law. We know full well from our own family life, that, if declared law has any sanction within it, making it something that others feel deserves obedience upon their part, if it commends itself to us until it takes hold of our natures, it must be an expression of the very life behind the law. This gives one at least a personal interest in obeying. One does not otherwise have the conviction that obedience has a moral value. Here we are with the matter of personality again. It is the personal soul having some interest, through law and experience, with the personal ruler, that develops moral power. When the ten commandments were carried by Moses down the mountain-path and into the neighborhood of the Hebrew camp, Moses was bearing to them the expressed will of God. He himself had risen to the lofty experience of communion with God, so far as God had revealed Himself as the "I am that I am." God was no longer a name of Almighty Power, but a power for righteousness in man's life. Law for con-duct had come. Jehovah was henceforth the living foe of iniquity, the reason of universal order, the pledge of ultimate, and therefore just, civilization. His people's business in the world, ever after that moment, as they moved against the dark background of contemporary religiosity and pompous superstition, was to "make for righteousness." Standing for this, Israel was to be the sublimest spectacle and the most efficient force in all the world. The nation possessed ideals for both the church and the state. These inhered in the law which was first God's intention written out, and, when accepted by them, it was the "Sovereign law, the state's collected will." But see what occurred.
In his ascent to Sinai's crest, Moses had not taken the people along with him, mentally and spiritually. He had been gone for a whole month. Such was the mental and moral altitude of Sinai that the idealist Moses was singularly remote from the Hebrewdom below the mountain summit. Isolation of greatness does not always produce power, even in a Moses. How far and how long he had been absent from them was made clear to him when, on returning, he heard music and dancing, and he saw them repeating the disgustful memories of Egypt, debasing themselves and outraging his fidelity to God. They were actually worshiping the golden calf in an effort to hold to some kind of divinity. Was the "I am that I am" too metaphysical, too much a challenge to the intellect, too little an appeal to the heart? Certainly here was a moment when Moses needed to endure himself and others for whom he had pledged his life and his all; yes, he must endure himself while beholding a demonstration seemingly incontestable as proof that he must fail with his own people, for whom, under God, he had assumed leadership and labor. This was too much. Moses could not endure it. Down upon the common rocks and earth he threw the precious tables of stone, and they lay broken in the shadow of the mountain of God. So evident and painful was his people's moral disaster to the mind of the great commander that his sorrow knew no bounds. But what about his own moral disaster, when he failed to endure? Nothing is more pathetic than his grief when he realizes what has been lost, not only by their return to the foul god Apis of Egypt, but by his own failure to hold them and to hold himself in the critical hour of their national infancy. The wooden framework of the golden calf might be consumed in fire; its golden covering might be ground up and the powder strewn upon the brook which flowed from Mount Sinai. Guilty men might have to drink of it forever, as we always have to drink up our past. Three thousand men might be slain, and yet and yet, none of this changed a single reality. Here still was the law. Had it not been broken? No, only the tables on which it was written were broken. Here was Moses himself, and here was lawless humanity! Even yet civilization could not be achieved without laws which must be obeyed. The validity and sanction of every law, and even the law itself, were still real things in the nature and, therefore, in the plan of God. They were real in the necessary development, and, therefore, in the program of humanity. As long as God is Ultimate Being, and man is made in His image, whatever has occurred to make Moses lose hold of himself makes it only more evident that God and man must get together in the enterprise of government. No government can exist permanently without law which is the will of the governor and is to become the will of the governed. Moses will have to go back to the heights of Sinai. It is his greatest duty and his noblest privilege.
All of this story is the biography of your soul and mine, my dear friend. Read it again in your experience, if you will willingly again take the next step, which you need to take to obtain enduring power. It is no more evident, now and here, that Moses must have a deeper, richer, and a more commanding vision of God, than any which has been vouchsafed to him, in order that he may endure, than it is evident that you must have the same, and for the same reason. Moses' failure has been your failure; and it reveals the same incapacity for leadership. Shall I relate your experience? Long ago, the loftier element in your nature led you out of a certain slavery which your soul hated and feared. Like a gang of slaves, the sightless lower elements of your nature followed along. The higher elements of your nature appeared at times to comprehend and catch the breath of far off daytime the worth of liberty. The lower self complained of the cost. On, over weary days and nights, your soul traveled, as did that Israelitish host, the lower elements of your nature often a little home-sick for Egypt and muttering discontent. But the aspiring quality of your nature still kept control. At length, there came an experience with conscience. You always believed there was The Almighty One to deal with. Then you rose to the vision of the "I am that I am" God in the history of the past and that of the future. The privilege of working with the Eternal Now was seen. God appeared interested in con-duct. A more ethical power moved you toward Himself. Then you were led to Sinai. Sinai was wrapped in thunder-cloud and lit up with flame, as Conscience always is. O, it is a great hour when the highest faculty of one's soul gets the moral law, God's legislation, which is the utterance of God's plan, revealing God's nature! It is a sublime, if not the sublimest hour that any man knows when all the qualities of one's nature accept this revelation from conscience and a man binds himself up with the ideas and purposes which God has for him. But, my dear friend, this did not occur. What did happen? Moses came down out of the mountain and his miserable crowd of stupid Hebrews were in a licentious orgy. We see the frightful distance between the best of one's self and his worst. Is there anything as discouraging as this for the Moses-part of a man? He has failed; they have failed; and the confusion of soul makes us think that even the law has failed, though it has not been tried as yet. We forgot that here is where law and government are to succeed if they are worthy of our trust. The tables of stone are smashed to pieces; the best in us has "waxed hot"; we have lost control of ourselves, and it is all over with morals and the enterprise of being good. Now what is to be done? Prayer and sorrow and pleading all over, Moses must go back to the heights of Siani; the soul must still have law, in order to have government, and the only law that will command a man's soul must be the revealed will of Him who made man in His own image, so that man may enter into His plan.
Do not fail to see that this is the crisis in the life of Moses. It means a good deal more now that he should again get right with God, than that the foolish people should get right with Moses. If he can get the right idea of God, and some deeper and more commanding view of the character of the Eternal Who is behind and within this law, he probably will be able to hold himself next time in such a crisis, and accomplish good with those who are depending upon him for order. O, perhaps, he will trust the law to meet disorder and its God to vanquish rebellions! He must first order himself; and that he may order himself, he must be ordered of the Being Who made him. Efficient as was the influence of the name "I am that I am," which newly and more profoundly described God to His servant Moses, it was not sufficient. Moses must now have a more interior and inspiring vision of God. It must grip him at his innermost centers in his heart and will. The sanction of the law had not hitherto been enough to enable Moses to endure such a shameful festivity as he saw there at the foot of Sinai; and so he simply got mad and let go the law in his wrath. Government had apparently perished; the necessity for government never was so stern and plain. Killing the guilty did not restore government; it never seemed so fruitless a way of dealing with men. Even the mind of Moses was not comprehensive enough only the mind of Jehovah, as revealed in Christ, has proved to be comprehensive enough to hold in one faith and hope both the law and the lawless. But something must be done in that direction. God must be revealed as having a heart toward blundering and sinning humanity. For Moses, without a divine outlook upon mankind, that orgy marked an hour for righteous indignation. He lost heart as well as head, just as you and I have done. God says to him, as He does to us, "Ascend Sinai again. Come alone for you have been dizzied and confounded by a loud majority. You must realize the power of a minority of one with Me behind it; Come up early in the morning." O, blessed moment, when we hear God saying to us, after we have lost the moral law because our lower self has overwhelmed our higher self with shamefulness, "Come up in the morning!" Up that involves, the greatest supposition of ethics. "Up" or "down" morally means right or wrong, and that man is an ethical being. Moses went up obediently. O, the rich experience in going up, in reaching the crevices of the mountain of God! Have you never had it, my brother the regiving of the law of God to the same poor hands which threw it down because your heart had never felt God's heart behind it and in it all the goodness of God? Nothing can describe it. You remember that when Moses went up the first time he saw thunders and lightnings only about God's presence. Now, "they saw the God of Israel; and there was under his feet, as it were, a paved work of sapphire stone, and, as it were, the very heaven for clearness." Such is the experience of a soul which has failed and gone obediently back for a new copy of the old law which it has transgressed, and which it cannot do without.
But Moses cannot receive the law again intellectually and spiritually without a larger power to take it that is the power of faith. Faith is the character's confidence in a character. Moses must be more strongly apprehended of God, gripped by His character, that he may apprehend, grasp, and hold on. He will endure. He will endure, and why? You say your view of God makes little difference with your conduct ? It alone makes an infinite difference. Moses will still be Moses; but he will never fail again where the sanction of the law is involved.
Hear him pray: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." The divine answer came: "I will make all my goodness pass before thee ; and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before thee." God did not decline to open His very heart to His servant, and Moses saw goodness reigning there. Intellect may be satisfied with Absolute Being; "I am that I am." Will may worship the Almighty One. The heart of man will cleave to the Good God. Hidden in the cleft of the rock, we are told that Moses saw the "back" not the face of Him. O what beautiful child-talk this is to the soul! Always the goodness that comes to us is testimony that God is and is gone, to leave His effluence goodness elsewhere. But what a moral motive and sustaining power had come to hearten Moses! God's glory is His goodness —not His power, not His continuity, not His wisdom, not even His justice, not even His truth, related as these are in character; but His goodness is the deepest, truest reflection of Jehovah. The "I am that I am" is Being Absolute, Eternal, because He is the All-Good. Moses was leading to Christ, in whom we see that "God is love." His heart was touched.
It marks a stage in the race's theology, and in the moral capital of any man. The test of a theology which is man's view of the power that is supreme in the universe, the power with which, or with whom, he has to reckon here and forever the test of it all is found in the morality, the conduct, which that view inspires and establishes. O joy, that my God is good! God is God because He is essentially good. I must be good to be God-like. I fear we are often laboring and failing for lack of the power which this vision furnishes. Up to this later hour, the morality of Israel could not be satisfactory, even in such an essential point as worship. Neither is yours or mine. It has broken down amidst a glorious, though a trying, series of events. No heavenly informer had yet answered to Israel's own heart the question, "O Jehovah, what is thy real glory?" Has the heart-throb of the Eternal touched us? Other nations before had made the power, or the wisdom, or the justice, or the truth of the Supreme One, to be its, or His, glory. They had found their life and institutions determined by this ideal. So we have built our lives, even at their best, with no direct and loved connection with the Highest. No Sinai code could enforce itself in human nature, trained toward some better idea of their own life, as Israel had been, if Moses and the people had felt nothing better behind their law as its authority nothing better than power, or wisdom, or justice, or truth. Goodness alone is ultimate. Your soul and mine must be glad to say "O God, how I love thy law, for I love Thee," before government is possible in our deepest selves. God must get the consent of the governed in man's heart. The law alone was impotent, for there was, as yet, not evidence enough of the Christly element goodness shining through it, to command and win loyalty.
"All law," says Burke, "is benevolence acting by rule." We accept the rule, because of the benevolence which, we are persuaded, is behind it. That is to say, as history proves, Sinai's utterances are successful in producing morality only by sympathetically attaching the governed to the energy behind the law by which government goes on. Thus this whole event is a Christian triumph, before Christianity was born. Moses was the prophet of Jesus Christ. The law here, in its failure, is a tutor leading to Christ goodness embodied Jehovah incarnate. At last we must come to Him. Christ indeed must write God's laws in our hearts. We must have Christ that we may see God's complete revelation of Himself. Every obedience of higher truth has led to the Incarnate God. Israel saw that God's goodness is His real glory. The nation was assured. They all took heart. "They drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ." Will you take heart? Then you must trust in the good God.