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THE CITY OF GOD.
City of God, how broad and far
One holy church, one army strong,
One working band, one harvest song,
Who is a poet? The author who wrote the stanzas printed above was one; his hymns are sung in our churches. But some are poets who do not write in rhymes. Our Passage is a poem, and a beautiful one. It is in prose, yet the thoughts are poetical. Poetry is sometimes more real than facts. Are you surprised? I am telling you the truth. What occurs every day, and is forgotten, seems very real; but something else is more enduring. What can it be? The hope you have for to-morrow, that is greater and grander. The world lives by hope and expectation. Poetry has painted lovely pictures of things to
The Golden City.
In every Christian land people believe in a "good time coming." Some locate it in this world; others think of it as beyond this world, in some glorious country eye has never seen. The religious poet, with his eye of faith, tells us of the wonders to come. Long ago the words were written that we have to-day for our lesson. What did the writer mean, and what are we to understand by this marvellous city of God? Where can it be found? Did the poet mean literally what he describes ? These are questions we all ask.
Many replies have been given. We do not need to hear them all. Some have wondered if John, the favored disciple,
wrote these glowing words, an exile on an island. Others believe they came from a writer who thought the world was to come to an end soon; and he saw in vision the glory of Jesus, the Lamb, in all victorious splendor.
Preachers have quoted from this Passage often; and a portion of it is read at funerals, the end, for comfort to mourners. No one, at least not many, believe that the description applies to an actual city, with walls and streets, located in this world or the next. No! the Passage is read and admired because it is a wonderful word-painting. It inspires and lifts our minds to the final beautiful and good, triumphantly emerging out of human woe and struggle.
What It Says.
You go to an art gallery, and you stand before a famous picture. What does it say to you? Let us ask the same question now of this Passage.
It prophesies the victory of God's purpose. A new heaven and a new earth, a new Jerusalem,- these are the words used. Old things will be left behind, all will recognize God's laws, and the nations are to obey Him.
The picture further says to us: Have faith, therefore, and do not lose heart. God reigns, though clouds obscure His presence. Somewhere, somehow, right will prevail, and love ascend. God is in His world, in us: let every one look forward, and not backward.
It teaches a lesson of progress. History is a record of improvement. We are moving toward a glorious destiny. Be not misled by those who have no eyes to see through appearances.
We learn the glory of God and the glory of man, and how they are joined. This is my meaning: whoever wrote this poem wanted us to understand that God would finally show the glory of His own plan, by making us glorious. Kings, peoples, mourners, all, were to walk in the light of the of God, with songs, freedom, and worship. In this way, through humanity, the goodness and greatness of the Creator were to be set forth. No Temple.
The Jews had always worshipped chiefly at one great temple. In the new Jerusalem there would be liberty to worship anywhere. This is the poetic form of the words of Jesus at the well of Samaria. (Ask your teacher to turn and read the Passage.) Neither were there to be shut gates to the new city.
The writer was thinking of the old habits of shutting and locking city gates at night, for security. The new city is to be made ever radiant with God's presence, so that no night should fall on it.
Comfort and Safety.
Do you not see the real help in the poem? It is not by giving us any information. You cannot start out and find this city of God. No one has seen it. Yet, as we read the words of this Passage, how they help us to believe that God is good, that He is ever near, that we are guided and helped by Him, and that heaven is sure.
If you try to explain just how this picture says so much, you will fail. Your teacher cannot do it. No one can tell you by tearing a beautiful flower to pieces why you admire it so much, or long to carry it to some sick friend.
Here is the secret. We are made to respond to the beautiful and to love it; to great sentiments, and to reach out for them. This description of the city of God stirs our hearts, we know not just why; and we love to read it over and over.
HINTS FOR TEACHERS.
1. Explain that the Psalms are poetry. Exalt the place and power of the true poet. Show how poems often contain more truth than any other form of printed thought.
2. If you have time, refer to the dreams and visions of a golden city or blessed kingdom, entertained by thinkers and poets.
3. Enforce the truth that man is religious. We respond to noble sentiments. We do not wait to have everything proved.
QUESTIONS FOR PUPILS.
Can you repeat the two stanzas at beginning of lesson? What is a poet? Do poets always write in rhyme? Is the Great Passage a poem ? Are poems true? Where is the city of God? Has any one ever seen it? And what by temple "? no gates"? Passage is read at funerals?
What is meant by "no
What part of the
INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
THANK God, whom I serve from forefathers in a pure conscience, how unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications; having been reminded of the unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also. For the which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir into flame the gift of God which is in thee. For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and sobriety. Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Abide in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
II. TIMOTHY, chapters one and three.
INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
At the End.
Quite a time we have spent together, young friends, since we started at Genesis. I hope you have found the way somewhat interesting. I doubt not certain lessons were more taking than others; possibly the subjects were more attractive. But I am willing to be told that in treating some lessons I did not always make them interesting. Quite likely. Not a few were difficult to put into language and form easily understood.
Teachers, subjects, and yourselves must share the responsibility with me. But, in any case, we are at the end of our walk and talk together. Genesis Revelation.
Our glimpses of great peaks in Bible Land have been taken in the Old and New Testaments. If you remember even a part of them, you will be able to think clearer about the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we have gone, omitting no portion to any great extent except the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Though, as was stated in the preface, we planned to pass by those subject which had been treated in other books prepared in previous courses.
Now we turn back from the Book of Revelation, quoted in our preceding lesson, to take our final subject from a part of the New Testament called the Second Epistle to Timothy. This we do because it gives us advice as to reading and studying the Bible, and seems to answer the question: Why is it profitable? Why are we benefited by studying the Bible?
In this Passage the answer is found. It is that we may be made complete,- furnished completely unto every good work.
So that raises the question, Can you be a complete man or woman and not study the Bible? The answer is "No!" and the reasons can easily be given. Perhaps you will think of
A leading one given to Timothy (a young man) is that Scripture study is instruction in righteousness. That is a part