And He that sitteth upon the throne said. Behold ! I maketh all things new.
It is interesting to remind ourselves that in its origin the word Nature describes a process and not an object. It is more a verb than a noun. In its earliest form it signifies that which is “about to be born.” In philosophy it would be called “a becoming.”
This suggests that the remote word makers saw, beneath appearances, the enduring substance. They anticipated one of the discoveries of our modern science, namely, that force is the one enduring thing. Forever manifesting itself in various forms and under different appearances, it is the same energy. Our world presents a million changes, but that which produces them is itself changeless. It is the same yesterday, today and forever.
From the fossils of the geologic periods up to man there is no permanent type. Each species of plant and animal is a temporary resting place in the great journey of vital energy. It is a tent in which life reposed for a night. When the morning came the tent was taken down and the traveler was again on the road. Every natural fact is an emanation from some older fact; this from a still older; and so on forever, and. the first one has never been discovered. That which we see is effect, the cause of which is hidden from our sight. It is a Nile River constantly flowing past our doors bearing innumerable blessings in its current, but its source is hidden among far off inaccessible mountains. Some have thought it is self existent, others have thought mind is the original cause and constant upholder of the world, but no one has definite knowledge.
One man was bold enough to sa, that matter is the cause of life. If this were true the difficulty would not be removed. The inquiry then would be, whence came such wonderful matter? Not long since we came upon these printed words:
“Chemistry is the only and true God. It moves worlds, systems, oceans, roc’ s, trees, men, society, commerce, all. The world is eternal, self-acting, self-existent, and self-sufficient.”
This does not solve the mystery. The mind can-not avoid asking, whence came chemistry? It is as difficult to account for the atom as it is to account for the planet. The same mental limitations surround us all. The theist has no greater difficulties than the atheist. In trying to account for the universe nothing is gained by exchanging the word God for the word chemistry. All that scientist or saint can know is, the universe actually exists and that it must have a cause as great as itself. Ignorant of its origin and destiny, modesty is the only becoming attitude of all mortals.
There is enough in what is seen to keep the intellect full of thought and the heart full of wonder. Whatever may have been its origin, the world is wonderful. However old it may be, it is forever new. It has bathed in the fountain of perpetual youth. Here is the fact of the fabled Phoenix. Out of the funeral pyre of the old the new soars upward into life and beauty. Do we ask who created the earth? Let us ask rather who creates it. It is still being created. Hoary with age, wrinkled by the experience of countless ages, yet it is strong and bright and, bathed in the dew or sparkling in the sunbeams, it seems as if it had just come from the hands of its maker. Spending a few days among the Alps the traveler finds flowers growing at the edge of the snow-drift, so fast does the new spring follow the old winter. But more wonderful extremes can be found not so far away. Going into the woods yesterday in one place the ground was found literally covered with hepaticas for the first time opening their petals to the sunshine, while above them towered great oak trees which must have been standing there when the canoes of Cadillac and his companions first touched the forest lined banks of the Detroit River. In January was found the print of a fern in a lump of coal where it found its tomb long before the silence of earth was broken by the sound of a human voice. In Jane a real, live fern can be found that would fit the print in the coal. It is marvelous that the same forces which opened the rose for Anacreon and unrolled the richly colored carpet beneath the feet of Christ are opening the roses in all our summers and spreading the enchanted covering before our eyes. Life is very old; its forms are very new.
In the sentence read at the beginning of this sketch, the mystic saw a power sitting on a throne renewing all things. How these spring days illustrate and confirm what he saw! Every day we behold a monarch seated on a splendid throne who has power to make all things new. Before our eyes a new picture is being unrolled. What amazing forms and colors are appearing! What skillful artists are at work!
There is a grace, a tender beauty in a bright spring morning in the country that seems absolutely new and blots out all past experience. It suggests occult relations between the soul and the Cause of all things. One feels as if he were brought into immediate contact with the source of life. He feels as if he were a new being in a new world. He is an Adam suddenly awakened into existence and placed in a Paradise. The hope is awakened that he can live a pure and blameless existence. In spite of all his disappointments and discontents he will hence-forth be a hopeful and joyous mortal.
” ‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue;
‘Tis the natural way of living.”
Follow the spring and summer through and every day some change may be noted in the appearance of earth. The growing crops so alter the expression of the landscape that there is perpetual novelty. Passing through the same district after an interval of a week, the second journey is as interesting as the first. From the time when the first faint tinge of green appears on the sunny side of the woodland until the golden-rod is lining the country lanes, from the time in the late days of March when the first robin’s note is heard until in mid-June the thrush and the oriole make hedge and orchard as full of music as if every twig were a flute on which a hidden Pan is playing, there is something new to be seen and heard.
“Onward and nearer rides the sun in May;
And wide around the marriage of the plants
Is sweetly solemnized Then flows amain
The surge of summer’s beauty; dell and lake,
Hollow and crag, hillside and pine arcade
Are touched with genius. Yonder ragged cliff
Has thousand faces in a thousand hours,”
Sometimes, in the way of jest, my friend tells me that I more frequently speak of the sunset than of the sunrise, intending, thereby, to suggest that, be-cause of a certain native indolence of habit I am more familiar with the evening than the early morning phenomena of nature. The pleasantry passes well and has some truth in it. But sometimes, although it is beheld from an upper window and across some miles of house-tops, I still see the sunrise. In my childhood, over the mountains, and in youth, over the prairie, it was almost always seen; and even. if I never saw it now I would have had that former experience from which to draw for illustration. But it impresses me now as it impressed me then. Of course it is indescribable, as are also indescribable the emotions it awakens. So neither will be at-tempted; but to every one who looks and reflects, it is simply amazing when the east flings open her gorgeous gates and this god marches forth.
It is no wonder our Aryan ancestors, in their at ten pt to name the Supreme, called it Dyaus. It means the outspread Splendor. And that word Dyaus is at once the root of our word Deity and also the word Day. Surely the glorious morning going forth to conquer the darkness is a becoming symbol of the infinite Power that is creator and preserver and beautifier of all things. Neither is it strange that, as Max Miiller says, our Aryan forefathers seeking for the land whence they came once set out on a journey toward the Dawn. The word Orient simply means the place of rising. But more than sun and stars rise in the Orient. There man rose into history. There rose art, philosophy, religion. Thence, the legend says, the wise men came. Mysterious Dawn! No wonder the heart faces it with unbounded hope and gladness. Despite the Milfonic mythology, which, by many, is mistaken for theology, Lucifer is not a fallen angel.
In the free way of rhetoric, rather than as an exact scientific statement, evolution illustrates the making of old things new. The star-dust became nebulae; nebulae a ring; ring a globe. The globe became life; -life became man; man became mind. Mind built cities, governments, arts, temples. Through million formed nature; through lifeless strata; through water swarming with infusoria; through steaming marshes where uncouth saurians floundered; through forests where mastodons crashed their way; through meadows spangled with flowers; through savage races of men; through races of men so refined that they could write Bibles and build Parthenons; through all recorded and unrecorded ages may be traced the footsteps of a Power forever bringing the new out of the old.
What is history but a commingling of the remote and the recent? Events, the most ancient and the most modern, are all strung on the same string. Now we read of races just emerging from savagery; of dynasties that rose, ran their course, and perished so long ago that it is difficult to picture them as having lived on the same earth. Then we read of nations now living on the earth with their cities and armies and politics and virtues and vices. The new nations are made out of the fragments of the old nations. From Herodotus to the daily newspaper seems a long distance. But the reader sees that the new events are related to the old. The newness is in the form. The spirit in both is the same. The reader also sees that, as the older nations gave way to the newer, the present will fall and future nations will rise from their ruins.
Our personal experiences are a repetition of universal human experience. We touch hands with the men and women of all past times. Heroism is older than the pyramids; it is also as new as this moment. When the couriers brought news of Marathon to the people of Athens their hearts beat with the same emotions as did ours when the telegraph brought us tidings of Gettysburgh. Jealousy is the same, whether it is found in the tents of Arabia, in the far past, or in the homes of America in these modern days. Sarah, having Hagar banished to the wilderness, is a sister of those who live now. Othello is one of us.
Grief is as old as the race ; only the hearts now being rent by it are new. David, weeping for Absalom and wishing he could have died in his place, we all have seen. The voice in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, we have heard in our homes. When love comes bringing its delicious pain to the heart of maiden and youth and all existence seems to be emptied into a single moment, so strange, so marvelous is it that they think this must be its first appearance in the world ; but they are mistaken. They are only continuing an old human experience. They feel no whit different from Hero and Leander or Rebekah and Isaac in the far off vanished days of earth.
In our own lives we verify the prominent events of history. Emerson suggests that much of our de-light in a Gothic cathedral springs from the consciousness that in some sense it is our work. If it was not builded by us, it was builded by those like us. Men did it ; and we are men. We know its reason and origin. It grew up out of the soul. Thinking as they thought and feeling as they felt we would have built the Chinese Wall or York Minster.
But this principle may be universally applied. We know the secret of the Crusades, of Puritanism, of the Mayflower emigration, of Quakerism, of French Revolution, and the Gold excitement in California. Each person has a little of every other person in him. Who speaks out of his own heart speaks out of a multitude of hearts. Often the preacher is told : “I needed your words to-day. They just fit my case.” The probabilities are when he wrote the words he was thinking of that which he himself needed. The words were intended to fit his case. He has sinned and suffered, been sad and discouraged, indolent and undutiful cowardly and time serving, repentant and resolute. Thus as each drop of water contains all the elements of a whole river of water, each human being possesses all the elements of a whole world of humanity. So when we read history or biography we find ourselves revealed. We know how Caesar felt at the Rubicon and Brutus felt in the Forum ; what moved Washington at Valley Forge and Arnold at West Point. Like Cato and Hamlet we have weighed the arguments for and against immortality. There is something in us which would march up the slope of Calvary carrying our own cross without a murmur. There is, alas ! also something in us that would mix with the mob crying: “Crucify him, crucify him.” Human nature is old; human beings are new. That poem in the minor chord which so impressed Lincoln expresses this in the well known stanzas :
For we are the same our fathers have been ;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen
We drink the same stream and view the same sun,
And run the same race our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think ;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling ;
But it speeds for us all like a bird on the wing.”
But this side of the case must not be overstated. History never repeats itself in every detail. The great song of life has the same theme, but its variations are many. The same earth and sunshine grow many kinds of flowers. Thus each era is not a perfect duplicate of a previous age. Everything comes with some modifications. The savage man resembles the form of life next below him, but he is not entirely like that form. Civilized man at times resembles the savage, but there is a difference between them.
The course of things is too powerful to be successfully opposed. In spite of all resistance the laws of the universe will at last have their way. Those churches and parties which boast that they are unchangeable are mistaken. They are deceiving them-selves. The divine order treats all things alike. The spring does not order the peach trees to bloom and permit the apple trees to remain bare of beauty. It is so with all institutions and all hearts. Catholic and Protestant, radical and conservative must all move when they are commanded. That church which boasts that it is immovably fixed upon a rock will find that it also is in the current of things. The rock itself is moving. In one of the Arctic expeditions, after traveling for days northward the brave company discovered that they were farther south than when they left their last resting place. The immense ice-field over which they were journeying was itself drifting rapidly southward. So, often when an institution intends to travel toward the past the current is too strong for it and carries it toward the future. Some of our political leaders think the battle of the coming summer and autumn will be fought over the same questions that divided the par-ties four years ago. That can hardly be possible. Our country is in presence of new conditions. “New occasions teach new duties.” A new age creates new politics. A party should rise out of the present condition that would be able to confront the great problems and find a solution for them that shall be worthy of our country.
When the French explorers passed from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi they had to make their way through tangled forests and over trackless prairies spreading every way like a sea. It was a difficult task. Now it is very easy to make the journey. But other difficulties have taken the place of those that have been overcome. As one rapidly travels on an elegant train of cars through farms and villages lying between the cities which have sprung up on the shore of river and lake since the early adventurers and missionaries first toilfully passed over the way, he rejoices over the changes that have been made. But the scene does not bring perfect peace to his heart. The great questions that have risen in the unfolding of civilization come to disturb his serenity. There is wealth, but how shall it become a greater blessing to mankind ? How can our cities become more honestly conducted ? How can politics become more patriotic? How can taxes be justly collected and honestly expended ? How can education be-come more and more a power to transform society ? How can religion become more and more a life motive for individuals? How shall our nation free itself from all dishonor and abuse of its power ? Thus the traveler finds himself perplexed in the midst of a mental and moral wilderness almost as dense and beset with perils as the physical one that has disappeared. Our era needs those who will bravely go through this new forest blazing the way and leaving a trail that may afterward become a national high-way, as La Salle and Marquette did for the forest of oak and beech and hemlock.
New duties are as many as new hours. No one need become despondent nor bemoan that life is not worth living because the noble tasks are all in the past. The lament should rather be that the tasks are so many and so great and the power and time of each mortal are so small. We may feel that we must re-main young, even in old age, because new duties only multiply with the years and we must be equal to them. Being born into a new world, it is still new when we are called to leave it.
Marvelous is the way of Nature ! Chaos became order. The monster gave place to man. Savagery disappeared before civilization. Still the process is repeated. Old speech becomes new poetry. Old sound becomes new music. Old marble becomes new statues and temples. Out of old human experience emerge new expectations. From the ashes of memory white winged hope flies upward. Divinely fashioned world ! All thy winters change to springs;