Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Earthen Vessel

The Earthen Vessel

The Master stood in His garden
Among the lilies fair,
Which His own right hand had planted
And trained with tenderest care.

He looked at their snowy blossoms.
And marked with observant eye
That His flowers were sadly drooping.
For their leaves were parched and dry.

"My lilies need to be watered,"
The heavenly Master said.
"Wherein shall I draw it for them.
And raise each drooping head?"

Close to His feet on the pathway.
Empty and frail and small.
An earthen vessel was lying.
Which seemed of no use at all.

But the Master saw and raised it
From the dust in which it lay,
And smiled as He gently whispered,
"This shall do my work to-day.

"It is but an earthen vessel.
But it lay so close to Me.
It is small, but it is empty.
Which is all it needs to be."

So to the fountain He took it.
And filled it to the brim.
How glad was the earthen vessel
To be of some use to Him!"

He poured forth the living water
Over the lilies fair,
Until the vessel was empty.
And again He filled it there.

He watered the drooping lilies
Until they revived again.
And the Master saw with pleasure
That His labor had not been vain.

His own hand had drawn the water
That refreshed the thirsty flowers,
But He used the earthen vessel
To carry the living showers.

And to itself it whispered
As He laid it aside once more,
"Still will I lie in His pathway
Just where I did before.

"Close would I keep to the Master,
Empty would I remain,
And perhaps some day He may use me
To water His flowers again."

Earth Cry

      M. Guyau, in his "Sketch of Morality," relates a dream that he had. He felt himself soaring in heaven, far above the earth, and heard a weary sound ascending as of torrents amid mountain silence and solitude. He could distinguish human voices - sobs mingled with thanksgiving, and groans interrupted by benedictions; all melting into one heartrending symphony. The sky seemed darkened. To one with him he asked, "Do you hear that?" The angel answered, "These are the prayers of men,  ascending from the earth to God." Beginning to cry like a child, the dreamer exclaimed, "What tears I should shed were I that God!" Guyau adds: "I loosened the hand of the angel, and let myself fall down again to the earth, thinking there remained in me too much humanity to make it possible for me to live in heaven." 

It is that earth-cry that brings God down to help the needy.

Growth In Darkness

      There is a darkness which helps and sweetens. Disappointments, difficulties, discouragements, and all things dark, come to us apparently to depress us, but these are part of the experience which helps us. Black charcoal will keep water sweet. Bulbs must be buried in the darkness if they are to grow. In the winter a florist endeavored with success to grow some bulbs without placing them in the ground. He gathered some small stones and put them into basins, placing the bulbs on the top of the stones. Then he poured in sufficient water to touch the bulbs, and to conserve the sweetness of the water he introduced little pieces of charcoal among the stones. He then placed the basin in a dark cupboard and kept them there for ten weeks, and when he took them out the green leaves of the bulbs were showing. (Text.)

Thursday, April 26, 2018


What unto me is Nature after all?
I pass her by and softly go my way.
She is the remnant of my little day
Upon this beautiful revolving ball.

I am the real being. At my beck.
The seeming actual pays its vassalage;
I am the reader and the world the page;
I fling a halter round old matter's neck.

Glad to be taught of things outside, yet I
Find me indifferent to their transient
A life's to-day is an eternity
Seems not to please my spirit overmuch. 

I may not fathom now the end or what
The sweat and blood and tragedy may
But I can fight the fight and falter not.
Above the clouds the hilltops are serene.

So if I stay here years or slip away
While yet the early dawn is dim and dark,
It matters not. I am that living spark
That ever glows 'tho planets have their day

Mystery No Bar To Belief

      Toads are said to have been found in rocks. Such cases are rare, but it would be as unreasonable to doubt them as to believe in some of the miraculous explanations that have been made of the matter. The phenomenon is marvelous, it is true, but it is supported by evidence that we are not able to contest; and skepticism, which is incompatible with science, will have to disappear if rigorous observation shall confirm it. The toad was observed, in one case, in the stone itself, and before recovering from its long lethargy, it had not made any motion. One of these toads was presented to an academy, with the stone which had served it as a coffin or habitation, and it was ascertained that the cavity seemed to correspond exactly with the dimensions and form of the animal. It is remarkable that these toad-stones are very hard and not at all porous, and show no signs of fissure. The mind, completely baffled in the presence of the fact, is equally embarrassed to explain how the toad could live in its singular prison, and how it be- came shut up there. M. Charles Richet had occasion to study this question some months ago, and came to the conclusion that the fact was real, observing that even if, in the actual condition of science, certain phenomena were still inexplicable, we were not warranted in denying their existence, for new discoveries might at any time furnish an explanation of them.  Popular Science Monthly

Truth, sometimes, is stranger than fiction.

Negative and Positive Culture

The lesson of the following poem, by T. Berry Smith, is that if we cultivate the good diligently the evil will thereby be weeded out:

Negative and Positive Culture
Two fields lay side by side. Only a hedge
Which ran athwart the plain dissevered them.
In one my title lay, and he who owned
The other was my brother. Each alike
Had generous part of one ancestral lot.
And each alike due diligence displayed
On that he called his own. At early spring
Each with a shining share upturned the soil
And gave it to the sun, the wind, the shower.
Thenceforth we rested not. Busily we
And wiped our briny brows 'neath burning
Biding the time of one far-off event.

At summer's end we each one came at last
To find our recompense. Each had his own,
The end for which he'd toiled. Through all
those days
My only thought had been no weeds should
But he had plowed 'mid rows of waving corn
And in so doing killed the cumbering weeds
That grew between. And now at summer's
Behold ! my field was verdureless and bare.
While his was clad in vestiture of gold.
How vain my toil ! His recompense how
Who reaped so much, yet plowed no more
than I!

Nutriment Of The Soul

       Last summer I went to an agricultural college. I had been under the delusion that black clods turned to strawberries, and that red clay ripened apples and wheat shocks. One day the professor handed me a large microscope to study two blades of corn, growing in a little pot of earth. Now there  was something lacking in the soil. The little stock was yellow, sickly, and come to the moment of death. It throbbed a little, but the pulse beat low. What was the matter? All it needed was nitrogen. Nitrogen? Why there were billions of tons of nitrogen in the air, forty miles thick. When a man has  pneumonia he dies, not because there are not billions of tons of oxygen above him, but because he can not absorb the oxygen. The soil could not help the dying corn plant. The rain could not help it - poor little plant that pants and pants, because it can not get that invisible nourishment in nitrogen. So we took a little liquor that held a few nodules from a nitrogenous alfalfa root, and poured it about the dying blade of corn. In a single hour the pulse began to beat true and firm; another morning came and the sickly yellow had changed to green. In a week the corn was growing like a weed. Out in the field were two acres of corn, sown broadcast. One acre was in the starved soil and yielded nine hundred pounds of fodder; the other acre yielded over ten thousand pounds, through that rich invisible food.  Not otherwise is it with the soul. N. D. Hillis.

Obedience And Greatness

       The moon calls to the Atlantic and the mighty seas lift themselves in great tidal waves as they follow their mistress round the globe. It calls with equal insistence to the wayside pool and this passing reminder of yesterday's shower yields not an inch. The dust speck dances in the sunlight impudently or ignorantly defiant of the law which holds the earth with a grip of steel as it goes bounding along through a wilderness of stars held steady by the same hand. Be it big enough and noble enough, it knows how to obey.  John H. Willey

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


       "You do not preach to the acorn that it is its duty to become a large tree; you do not preach to the art-pupil that it is his duty to become a Holbein. You plant your acorn in favorable soil, where it can have light and air, and be sheltered from the wind, you remove the superfluous branches, you train the
strength into the leading shoots. The acorn will then become as fine a tree as it has vital force to become. The difference between men and other things is only in the largeness and variety of man's capacities." - James Anthony Froude.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Immortal Light

Richard Watson Gilder, who died in 1909, and whose dream is now reality, wrote this beautiful prayer:

O Thou the Lord and Maker of life and
Full heavy are the burdens that do weigh
Our spirits earthward, as through twilight
We journey to the end and rest of night;
Tho well we know to the deep inward sight,
Darkness is but Thy shadow, and the day
Where Thou art never dies, but sends its
Through the wide universe with restless

O Lord of Light, steep Thou our souls in
That when the daylight trembles into shade, 
And falls the silence of mortality,
And all is done, we shall not be afraid,
But pass from light to light; from earth's
dull gleam
Into the very heart and heaven of our dream.


       Lord Bacon says that "natural abilities are like natural plants that need pruning by study." Conversely untrained talents are like wild plants that degenerate when left to themselves.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5

The Early Eden Picture

       But one will never get to understand this Jesus until he gets a good look at man as he was once, and as he is now. The key to understanding Jesus is man, even as Jesus is the key to God. One must use both keys to get into the inner heart of God. To get hold of that first key one must go back to the start of things. The old Book of God opens with a picture that is fascinating in its simplicity and strength. There is an unfallen man. He is fresh from the hand of God, free of scar and stain and shrivelling influence. He is in a garden. He is walking hand in hand with God, and working side by side with God: friendship and partnership. Friends in spirit: partners in service.
       The distinctive thing about the man is that he is like God. He and God are alike. In this he differs from all creation. He is God's link between Himself and His Creation. Particular pains is taken by repetition and change of phrase to make clear and emphatic that it was in the very image of God that man was made. Just what does it mean that we men were made in God's likeness? Well, the thing has been discussed back and forth a good bit. Probably we will not know fully till we know as we are known. In the morning when we see Him we shall be like Him fully again. Then we'll know. That morning's sun will clear up a lot of fog. But a few things can be said about it now with a positiveness that may clear the air a bit, and help us recognize the dignity of our being, and behave accordingly.
       Man came into being by the breath of God. God breathed Himself into man. The breath that God breathed out came into man as life. The very life of man is a bit of God. Man is of the essence of God. Every man is the presence-chamber of God. 
       God is a Spirit. Man is a Spirit. He lives in a body. He thinks through a mind. He is a spirit, using the body as a dwelling-place, and the mind as his keenest instrument. All the immeasurable possibilities and capacities of spirit being are in man.
      God is an infinite spirit. That is, we cannot understand Him fully. He is very close to us. The relationship is most intimate, and tender, yet His fullness is ever beyond our grasp and our ken, Man is infinite in that he knows that God is infinite. Only like can appreciate like. He can appreciate that he cannot appreciate God, except in part. He understands that he does not understand God save in smaller part. He knows enough to love passionately. And through loving as well as through knowing he knows that there is infinitely more that he does not know. Only man of all earth's creation knows this. In this he is like God. The difference between God and man here is in the degree of infinity. That degree of difference is an infinite degree. Yet this is the truth. But more yet: man has this same quality wayward. He is infinite in that he cannot be fully understood in his mental processes and motives. He is beyond grasp fully by his fellow. Even one's most intimate friend who knows most and best must leave unknown more than is known. 
       God is an eternal spirit. He has always lived. He will live always. He knows no end, at either end. All time before there was time, and after the time-book is shut, is to Him a passing present. Man is an eternal spirit, because of God. He will know no end. He will live always because the breath of God is his very being.
       God is love. He yearns for love. He loves. And more, He is love. Man is like God in his yearning for love, in his capacity for love, and in his lovableness. Man must love. He lives only as he loves. True love, and only that, is the real life. He will give up everything for love. He is satisfied only as he loves and finds love. To love is greater than to be loved. One cannot always have both. God does not. But every one may love. Every one does love. And only as there is love, pure and true — however overlaid with what is not so — only so is there life.
       God is holy. That word seems to include purity and righteousness. There is utter absence of all that should not be. There is in Him all that should be, and that in fullness beyond our thinking. Man was made holy. There is in the Genesis picture of Eden a touch that for simplicity and yet for revealing the whole swing of moral action is most vivid. In the presence of conditions where man commonly, universally, the world around, and time through, has been and is most sensitive to suggestion of evil there is with this first man the utter absence of any thought of evil. In the light of after history there could be no subtler, stronger statement than this of his holiness, his purity, at this stage.
       And in his capacity for holiness, in that intensest longing for purity, and loathing of all else, that

"Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." Genesis 2: 25. (NIV)

comes as the Spirit of God is allowed sway, is revealed again the capacity for God-likeness. It is the prophetic dawn within of that coming Eden when again we shall see His face, and have the original likeness fully restored.
       God is wise, all-wise. Among the finest passages of the Christian's classic are those that represent God as personified wisdom. And here wisdom includes all knowledge and justice. That the Spirit of God breathed into man His own mental life is stated most keenly by the man who proverbially embodied in himself this quality of wisdom. "The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord searching out the innermost parts." The allusion is clearly to intellectual powers. There is in man the same quality of mental keenness that searches into things as is in God. It is often dulled, gripped by a sort of stupor, so overlaid you would hardly guess it was there. But, too, as we all know, it often shines out with a startling brilliance. It is less in degree than with God, but it is the same thing, a bit of God in man. This explains man's marvelous achievements in literature, in invention, in science, and in organization.
       Two light master-strokes of the etching point in the Eden picture reveal the whole mental equipment of the man. The only sayings of Adam's preserved for us are when God brought to him the woman. She is the occasion for sayings that reveal the mental powers of this first man. Fittingly it is so. Woman, when true to herself,  has ever been the occasion for bringing out the best in man. "And the man said, this time it is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; this shall be called woman, because out of man was this one taken. Therefore doth a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife, and they become one flesh." . . . "And the man called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living." Here is revealed at a glance the keen mental powers at work. Here is the simplicity of statement that marks the speech of strong men. The whole forest is in a single acorn. The whole of a human life is in the primal cell. The chemist knows the whole body by looking into one drop of blood. Here is revealed in one glance the whole man. Mark the keen sense of fitness in the naming of woman — the last and highest creation. Adam was a philologist. His mind was analytical. Inferentially the same keen sense of fitness guided in all the names he had chosen. Here is recognition of the plan for the whole race, a simple unlabored foresight into its growth. A man's relation to his wife, his God-chosen friend, as being the closest of life, and above all others is recognized, together with the consequent obligation upon him. She comes first of all. She becomes the first of all his relationships. The man and the woman — one man and one woman — united, make the true unit of society. Any disturbance of that strikes at the very vitals of society.
       And God is a Sovereign — the sovereign of the vast swing of worlds. Man likewise is a sovereign in the realm of nature, and over all the lower creation. He was given dominion, kingship, over all the earth-creation. Man is a king. He is of the blood royal. He was made to command, to administrate, to reign. He is the judge of last appeals on the bench of earth.
       But there is more here. The chief characteristic of an absolute sovereign is the imperial power to choose, to decide. Man was made an absolute sovereign in his own will. God is the absolute sovereign. He has made man an absolute sovereign in one realm, that of his will, his power of choice. There is one place where man reigns alone, an absolute autocrat, where not even God can come save as the autocrat desires it, that is in his will. And if that "can" bother you, remember that it was God's sovereign act that made it so. So that God remains sovereign in making man a sovereign in the realm of his will. There every man sits in imperial solitude.
       Here then is the picture of man fresh from the hand of God. A spirit, in a body, with an unending life, partly infinite, like God in his capacity for love, for holiness, and wisdom, with the gift of sovereignty over the lower creation, and in his own will. Like Him too in his capacity for fellowship with God. For only like can have fellowship with like. It is only in that in which we are alike that we can have fellowship. These two, God and man, walking side by side, working together, friendship in spirit; partnership in service.
       This man is in a garden of trees and bushes, with fruit and flowers and singing birds, roses with no pricking thorns, soft green with no weeds, and no poison ivy, for there is no hate. And he is walking with God, talking familiarly as chosen friend with choicest friend. Together they work in the completion of creation. God brings His created beings one by one to man to be catalogued and named, and accepts his decisions. What a winsome picture. These two, God and a man in His likeness, walking and working side by side; likeness in being; friendship, fellowship in spirit; partnership, comradeship in service. And this is God's thought for man! Gordon.