Monday, September 5, 2011

an illuminated universe...

I am currently re-reading the "Sermons" of Ephraim Peabody, often excerpted in these pages. The next few days will include bits from his sermon: STAND IN THY LOT.

DAYS.—Daniel xii. 13.

"In the text, the Prophet " should stand in his lot, and rest." The words may have a universal application. The infinite variety of human duties cannot all be discharged by the same person. For different duties there must be different men. Thus it is, in the order of Providence, that to different men different lots are assigned, not necessarily better or worse one than another, but different. And in his own lot, and not in another man's, must each one accomplish the true purposes of his existence. He must not dream of some impossible condition, but with a manly heart be content to labor in his appointed lot, — content to find in that, so long as it is his, his usefulness, his happiness, and his virtue. Do not crave what is another's and not yours, but stand in your own lot, be grateful for its privileges, and faithful to its obligations.
The lesson has not lost its significance for our restless, impatient, grasping age. It points to a view of life and duty which it greatly concerns us to consider. There are two principal things for which life is worth living, — personal growth in goodness, and social usefulness. For both these things there is a constant tendency to look beyond the means and opportunities furnished in our appointed walk in life. We rely for goodness and usefulness on opportunities which are rare and exceptional, but neglect as valueless those which come within our actual lot.
Thus in theology we hear of common grace and special grace, of ordinary and extraordinary means of grace ; and yet while it is on the ordinary means of grace that the moral life of man mainly depends, they are neglected and forgotten in the anxiety for those that are extraordinary. And certainly the tendency to overvalue what is unusual is quite natural. That which is extraordinary, though comparatively of inferior moment, strikes the imagination, and for the time makes a great place for itself in the mind. A miracle preserves the life of one man, and the world turns in wonder and reverence to view it, and acknowledges the hand of God ; and it is right and well. Yet at the same moment the ordinary providence of God, moving calmly as the stars, lights up the heavens, gives fertility to the earth, and spreads the table at which the human race sits down, and by which it lives ; and it is not well for us to forget that this ordinary providence of God is a more stupendous manifestation of his glory and goodness than any single miracle can possibly be. A whole country collects to see an illuminated city, and yet the glare of the torchlight which blinds us to the stars hides and makes us forget the more wondrous illumination of the heavens. The throng traverses with unsated gaze the illuminated street, because the spectacle is rare. As it withdraws into the open country, and morning breaks in splendor above the seas, its beams kindling from cloud to cloud till earth and sky are flooded with light, the weary multitude is scarcely conscious of standing under an illuminated universe. This spectacle for the angels is unheeded because it is common."

No comments: