American Professor and Presbyterian Pastor in Chicago
David Swing, aka Professor Swing
American Professor and Presbyterian Pastor in Chicago
Divine Spirit never creates a perfect man, but sets him going
with the permission to become perfect. The plan of God is
that of perpetual assistance. He fills the earth with ores, with
coals, with the power to produce harvests of grass, fruits and
grains, and then endows man with an expansive faculty, such
that he can develop the world and himself. The world, as God
gave it to His children, is one of opportunities and outfits, and
not of completed things.
Inspiration would therefore assume the form of a help rather
than of a full occupation of the human intellect and feelings,
and would no more be a perfect unfolding of God's whole
character than the wild Indian is an expression of God's perfect
ideal of the creature man.
Yesterday contains all the battlefields in which freedom was
gradually wrought out from many threads all dipped in blood.
Yesterday contains the experiment and the failure of all despotisms. Yesterday con tains the onset and defeat of every form
of sin and vice. Yesterday holds the ashes of all beauty, and
of all life except that of the soul with God. Yesterday is full of
past usefulness and of its ways and means, full of tears and
their causes and cures. In that shadowy domain there stands
the cross, and there is the Saviour dying for the vast myriads
of a race. God has not without reason thrown such an immense history behind His children of to-day. It must be that
out of the world that has been there is always flowing down
to those who are living a stream of wisdom and character that
bears onward to a sacred destiny.
There is no vanity away from man. The sea gives us her
music without egotism. The rainbow spreads out her gorgeous
lines without boasting. The nightingale sings her notes her
self unseen among the wild thorn, in the silent night. The
floral world in June fills the air with perfume, and the sight
with her indescribable tints, but without any ostentation. Man
alone has vanity ; not because man alone has soul for this would
be to degrade soul below the standard of dumb life , but be
cause man alone has wandered from the divine path. This wan
dering has been aided and abetted by his blindness to yester
day, and by living only in the proud thrones and crowns and.
glories of to-morrow. Vanity draws its chief nutriment from
the future. This is, perhaps, the reason why nearly all of us
pass through a vain period in early years. Fortunate is the
heart that did not, in early life, pass through a score of years
of personal greatness.
Spirituality is one of the highest stages of civilization, and
therefore comes latest in the course of human development.
Material associations are the first, hence man first makes up
his language and his pantheon of gods out of the solid sub
stances that surround him. The first man was of the earth,
earthy; the second man was the Lord from heaven. That is
first which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual.
And as man has borne the image of the earthy, so shall he
bear the image of the heavenly. The first Adam was made a
living soul ; the second Adam a quickening spirit.
In this great transition from the material to the spiritual,
years are consumed in the life of the most earnest individual,
and in the advance of society in this path a thousand years
count only a little. The most sincere heart escapes from ma
terialism so slowly, and so slowly resolves itself and its God
into a quickening spirit, that an infinitely long existence would
seem to be foreshadowed in this leisurely evolution. To that
which grows slowly we attribute long time. The glacier and
the accumulating shore of the sea, and the vast oaks of the
Pacific slope ask us to allow them long periods in which to
have developed their peculiar plan. So the slowness of human
unfolding asks us to grant to the individual and to society a
vast field called immortality. Instead of drawing only sadness
from this tedious march we also find in it an assurance that
there are many years beyond.
The world will, sooner or later, be compelled to go to the
Divine presence not to human presence for its new heart.
Mankind has not holiness enough to entice any heart from its
sins has not love enough to persuade, nor power enough to
alarm. It is the conception of an ever-present God ; it is the
sublime divinity of Jesus ; it is communion with these charac
ters ; it is a belief in the infinite love, and power, and justice,
and in the all-pervading presence of Deity, that can give to
this world noble, converted hearts, and can bear earth along
toward the new birth the new genius of human life.
The great pursuit of the wisest, and best men that have ever
lived has been to help onward, and upwards the morals of the
people. By common consent the names of Socrates, Seneca,
Marcus Aurelius, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Penn, George Fox,
are the grandest of names.
As the depth of mystery is only felt by the most civilized
and advanced soul, and is a cloud of which a savage knows
nothing, it may be inferred, that it comes not as a penalty of
culture, but as a delicate hand to lead it to a still better being.
The solemn question of Hamlet, " To be, or not to be," surpasses the books of the school-house in shaping the spirit of
man. The willow and cypress, that mourn over the tombs of
our dead, impress our hearts the more deeply, because the wind
that sighs through them, and the somber shades they cast, help
us to pass over into the unknown world. Thus, by fact, and
by the wandering shadow of fact, the soul of man is perpetual
ly fed. They are the only manna that falls for it, in this wilderness march.
The human soul is such a world. The truths of to-day, of
yesterday, of the whole past are settling down upon it a golden
rain from the hand of God, making the glorious wrappings of
time and of the great futurity. Thus the dark facts of earth,
its slavery, its suffering, its sickness, its calamities, its burned
up cities, its solemn cemeteries of the dead, all may be trans
formed into human spirit and make the soul come to heaven at
last rich in its tenderness and love. The earthly knowledge
is made into never dying power. Bulwer says, " Oh how
much greater is the soul of one man than the vicissitudes of
the whole globe !" And elsewhere he says, " Not in the
knowledge of tnings without, but in the perfection of the soul
within, lies the true empire of man."
Truth in itself is cold, but in the design of the Creator its
white treasures falling as softly as snow, and falling through
many centuries, daily dissolve and transform the spirit beneath
into a never-fading paradise.
The decoration and enlargement of the heart are the direct
end of truth, and, without this result, knowledge is not power,
but is treasure buried and forgotten like the fabled gold of
Capt. Kidd by some unknown sea.
Knowledge is said to be power. It is indeed power, for the
soul converts it into all manner of action joy, charity, worship,
love, eloquence. As the rich earth drinks in simply watev and
light and heat, and then sends forth all manner of fruit and
blossoms, so the soul receives the facts of the intellect, and
makes them the basis of a vast creation, varied as that which
came from the Almighty.
Beyond the grand divisions, mind and soul, it is difficult to
pass. And these two continents are not marked out by definite
coast lines and separated by great neutral oceans, but rather lie
contiguous, like the two tints of a flower, with a beautiful mid
dle ground, where the spectator loses power to announce which
color is more vivid.
But for our purpose we do not need a definite mapping out
of mind and soul, intellect and spirit, knowledge and charac
ter ; we need only the general truth, that man possesses a cer
tain soul-life, that can grow and can rise and fall like the waves
of the deep.
The words soul and spirit are sprinkled over the pages of the
Bible as thickly as leaves upon the ground in autumn. There is
no evident difference in the signification of the two words.
This perpetual industry amid external pursuits, also diverts
the mind from the study of mysteries, to the acceptance and en
joyment of facts, and hence the public mind turns away from
predestination and reprobation and absolutism, not simply be
cause it has developed a consciousness of freedom, but also
because in the long association with facts, it has lost love for the
study of the incomprehensible, in both religion and philosophy.
In this casting off of old garments, it no more cheerfully
throws away the inconceivable of Christianity, than tne incon
ceivable of Kant and Spinoza. In thisabandonment,there is no
charge of falsehood cast upon the old mysteries ; they may or
may not be true ; there is only a passing them by as not being
in the line of the current wish or taste, raiment for a past age,
perhaps for a future, but not acceptable in the present.
Ethics is the science of human duty. Arithmetic tells man how to count his money; ethics how he should acquire it, whether by honesty or fraud. Geography is a map of the world; ethics is a beautiful map of duty. This ethics is not Christianity, it is not even religion; but it is the sister of religion, because the path of duty is in full harmony, as to quality and direction, with the path of God.