Next, there is the dream of Allegiance. Some one has well said: “Wouldst thou live a great life? Ally thyself with a great cause.” Allegiance is devotion of the whole of ourselves to a leader, a cause. We can no more go through the world without allying ourselves to something than we can go through it and live nowhere. If the object of our allegiance be a high one, if the ideal be a grand one, our lives are in a constant process of development toward that height, that grandeur. Each act of faith becomes an impetus to progress. We are daily enriched by the experience of mere obedience. To obey and follow are acts in the universal process.
If, on the other hand, we ally ourselves to that which is lower than ourselves, by the very act we are dragged down. No one can remain upon even his own level, who is in obedience and devotion to that which is below him. Allegiance to a Higher is one of the trumpet-calls of the world. It has been the rally of all armies, of all legions, of all crusades. The great commander is, by his very position, a grouper of other men, the ruler of their thoughts, their deeds, their dreams. His power to call and to sway is beyond his own ideas of it. How otherwise could it be that out of one century one heart calls to another—out of one age, proceeds the answer to the cry of ages gone?
The lover of music to-day allies himself to Bach, to Haydn, to Mozart, to Wagner, by his appreciation, his sympathy, his understanding of what they have done. He acknowledges their control of his musical self by his efforts to interpret their work to others, and to create new works which shall be inspired by their ideals. Thus he acknowledges their control of his own powers. Such control over the spirit of man is that of the Church over the social body; it stirs the spiritual aspiration of man, it directs his ambition. It fixes upon a standard, the Cross; upon a Hero, the Christ, and reaches unto all the world its arm of power, drawing unto itself the loyalty, the faith, the affection, and the royal service of successive generations of mankind.
The dream of Redemption. It is not technical creeds for which the Church as a whole stands, but for certain vital principles which concern the life of the soul, and its relation to God and man. Virtue has always been a dream of the heart. But how inaccessible is virtue, with a past of unforgiven sin! The height of our ideal of redemption is conditioned upon the depth of our realization of sin. To the shallow, redemption is an easy-going process, a way of healing the scratches which the world makes. To the deep and serious-minded, redemption involves the regeneration of the race. Only the ransomed can truly work, love, or praise!
There is one sorrow which God never calls us to—the sorrow of a wasted life. By redemption, the Church reveals not only a saving from rebellion, unbelief, and crime, but redemption from sloth, from indifference, from lack of purpose, and from low aims. Redemption looms up as the great economic force of Time—that which inspires and preserves our powers, directs our energies, creates opportunity, brings to pass our most high and holy desires, and fills life with satisfying and abiding things.