Hearken unto me ye that follow after righteousness.
6. The Bible reveals these ethical ideals as no mere alluring visions, but as the substantial realities of being.
Men say to those who speak of these high conceptions—“They are the dreams of sentimentalists, the will-’o-the-wisp lights that beguile men away from the terra firma; to be trusted and followed by no practical man.” “Idealist” is a term of reproach. And justly, from any other point of view than that which the Bible, true to the most penetrating discernment of humanity, opens to us. These ideal forms are not the empty conceits of man’s brain, bred from the fumes of his boundless egotism. They are not the clouds that gather and form and break into airy unreality in the atmosphere of earth. They are the shadows falling upon the soul of man from the unseen Realities, which alone have substantial and abiding being. The laws of nature are surely not the baseless fabric of a dream. These ideals are simply those laws, transfigured into their spiritual substances. Whatever in our blindness we may persuade ourselves elsewhere, over the Bible we recognize the true character of the visions which so strangely stir us. This is the power of the Bible. Christian seemed to Mr. Worldly Wiseman a fool. But he saw the heavenly city, and trudged along, sure that time would prove him in the right. Christian carried in his hand this Book. With this Book in our hands, we, too, are sure that the visions of Purity and Justice, which we dimly see afar, are substantial and real, and that man will win at the last to the land where they are the light thereof.
Whereupon I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
7. The Bible thus inspires a buoyancy and exhilaration which feed the fresh forces of all noble life.
Virtue kindles at the touch of joy.
We know it in our own experience. We notice it in every great revival of religion. We trace it through the history of Christianity. The story of the early days of Jesus is, as Renan called it, “a delightful pastoral.” In the person of humanity’s greatest idealist, the highest joy of the soul was set in the framing of one of nature’s brightest scenes. Even from the shadows of the garden of Gethsemane, He bequeaths to his little flock the legacy of his free spirit: My joy I leave with you. The Christian Society entered into that bequest, and in its first exhilaration overflowed the hard coast lines of property, and realized a happy brotherhood.
And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men as any man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home did take their food with gladness.
The prophets were filled with a buoyancy of spirit