Sunday, August 22, 2010

a living omnipotence...

In his sermon, "Life a Voyage" George Putnam describes why the sea has been such a "fertile analogy" of this life...

"Behold also the ships."  James 3:4

"Our text suggests one of these analogies, — and one of the most impressive and fertile of them. " Behold also the ships." Life is a voyage. The sea and men's dealings with it have always supplied many symbols to body forth men's earnest thoughts on the career, the fortunes, the experiences, the dangers, and the hopes of the human being, as he passes over the narrow straits of time into the ocean of eternity. To one familiar with the aspects of the sea, and yet not so familiar with them as to make them commonplace, and limited to the mere associations of business, — to such an one the sea is perhaps the most impressive part of the creation, and is fraught with moral suggestions of the most striking and elevated character. There is nothing in nature, except perhaps the evening sky, —which is almost too familiar a spectacle to preserve its lessons fresh, — there is nothing else that gives such an impression of infinity as the ocean. To the eye, and almost to the imagination, it is boundless. To the plummet, it is unfathomable. Its depths are secret and mysterious. Abroad on its open expanse no objects intervene to help us to compass its vastness, or to weaken our sense of its grandeur. And the power which the sea exhibits deepens this feeling of infinity. The sea, ever moving, never resting, heaving every moment from its foundations, and sending its huge tidal waves as by one act, and in one unbroken series, around the globe, — one hour so tranquil and beneficent, and the next a devouring monster, — to-day bearing the navies of the earth gently upon its friendly bosom, and to-morrow, it may be, ready to wrench them to pieces by its violence, and to engulf them in its opening depths, — it is as it were a living omnipotence — omnipotence in action,—the visible type of Almighty power, put forth in sensible reality. In other departments of nature the omnipotence of God is rather an inference of the understanding, — something that was displayed at some remote and uncertain period of creation. The sea is a present image and expression of it. And then the sea is so unchanging. The land is always varying its aspect. The seasons diversify it constantly. The face of it is altered by the works of man, from generation to generation, and from year to year. The very heavens are changed, as to the place and arrangement of the stars, every night and every hour. But the sea changes not. The first families of men saw it as we see it. Age after age, men have looked forth and ventured upon it, and through all time it has been to them what it is to us, — presenting to the eye and to the ear and to the feeling the same boundless expanse, the same mounting and breaking of its waves, the same solemn moan and roar, the same unwearied flowing and ebbing of its tides. When we look upon Niagara, who is not constrained, among the multitude of thoughts which crowd upon one in that stupendous scene, to ask himself: Is it possible that it has been rolling over thus; flowing on and sounding on, so vast and so majestic, through the long ages ? And when we have come home, does not the question arise: Can it be that it still keeps on, just the same, day and night, summer and winter, and is to keep on so forever ? The same questionings are natural to one who muses by the sea-shore. There it is, the mighty deep, rolling on the same forever. The waves advancing, breaking, and retreating to-day, just as they did unknown ages ago, and will keep on doing without rest or interruption, for unknown ages to come. I do not know anything in the other aspects of nature, — certainly not in any numerical calculations, — or any efforts of abstract thought, that give so vivid and solemn an impression of the vast stretch of time, of the unbounded continuity of existence, so near an approximation to a sense and an appreciation of eternity."

(photo: daughter Anna at our local beach by Mike Sanborn)

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