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What a vision! She did not speak, and her face was calın as a lake, until the bearers had left the room. Then she turned her eyes on me, – those same deep, impene
- her face became every moment more animated, until her whole countenance wore a smile, and she said: “ We are old friends; I think we have not changed for each other, — I cannot say Sie, — and if I may not say Du, we must talk in English. Do you understand me?"
I was not prepared for this reception, yet I saw there was here no masked ball; here was a soul seeking for a soul; here was a greeting, as when two friends, in spite of their disguise, in spite of their black masks, recognize each other by the mere glance of the eye, — I seized her hand which she held out to me, and said, “When one speaks to an angel, he cannot say Sie."
And yet how peculiar is the force of the forms and cus. toms of life, how difficult is it, even with souls the most closely allied, to speak the language of nature! The intercourse was constrained, and we both felt the embarrassment of the moment. I broke the silence by saying just what came into my head: “Men are accustomed from their infancy to live in a cage, and even when they are in free air they do not venture to move their wings, and are afraid every moment of striking against something should they attempt to fly.”
“ Yes,” said she, "and that is all just right, and cannot be otherwise. We often wish, to be sure, that we could live like the birds, who fly about in the woods, and meet each other on the boughs, and sing together without waiting to be introduced. But, my friend, there are among birds owls and sparrows, and it is well that we may go by these in life as if we did not know them. Yes, it is
, perhaps in life as in poetry; and as the true poet knows how to say the truest and most beautiful things in a prescribed form, so should men also know how to preserve the freedom of thought and feeling, in spite of the fetters of society.”
I could not help reminding her of Plato's lines:
“ For what, where'er we find it,
Shows an eternal life,
With boundless thought is rife.” “ Yes,” said she, with a friendly and almost a roguish smile ;, “but I have a privilege from my sufferings and my isolation; and I often pity the young girls and the young men, that they cannot have any confidence and any familiarity with each other, without either themselves, or their friends for them, being forced to think of love, or of what is called love. By this means they lose a great deal. The girl does not know what slumbers in her soul, and what might be awakened there by the earnest words of a noble friend, and the young man would regain so many knightly virtues, if women ventured to be the distant spectators of the inward struggles of their spirits. But this does not answer, for love must always come into the game, or what is called love, — that quick beating of the heart, that stormy movement of hope, the pleasure in a pretty face, the sweet emotion, perhaps even the pru. dential calculation, - in short, just everything which disturbs that ocean calmness, which is, after all, the true image of pure human love."
With this she stopped suddenly, and an expression of pain passed over her face. “I must not talk any more to-day,” said she; “my physician would not allow it. I should like to hear a song of Mendelssohn, — the duet, my young friend used to play that years ago. Did he not?”
I could not answer, for just as she left off speaking, and folded her hands as before, I saw on her hand a ring, she wore it on her little finger; — it was the ring which
she had given me, and which I had given back to her. The thoughts were too many to be clothed in words, and I placed myself at the harpsichord and played.
When I had done, I turned round, looked at her, and said, “ If one could only speak so in tones without words!”
“And that may be,” said she. “I understand all. But
. to-day I cannot speak any more, for I grow weaker every day. But we must get used to one another, and a poor, sick solitaire may count upon indulgence. We will meet to-morrow evening at the same hour. Shall we not?” I took her hand, I would have kissed it. But she held
, my hand firmly, pressing it, and saying, “ That is best. Good by!”
THE IMMEDIATE VISION OF GOD.
A SERMON PREACHED IN THE WEST CHURCH, BY C. A. BARTOL.
Rev. 4, 2: _“And immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was set in
heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
You will bear me witness, that I seldom preach what is called a doctrinal sermon. If I do it to-day, it is because I think it seasonable and useful in the aspects of the times. “I was in the Spirit immediately," says the writer of this book. Whoever he was, he certainly was an inspired man, if anybody ever was inspired, or if a divinely exalted heart and sanctified imagination be essentially what by inspiration we mean. — “ Immediately I was in the Spirit.”
But this statement does not fall in with most of the thinking and the popular theology of our day. If we were asked what substantive word of general meaning recurs most frequently in the human speech of this age, we should answer, It is the word, of precisely contrary signification, Medium. This is a material word in Natural Philosophy. Through what medium, light or air, solid or fluid, electric or magnetic, was an observation made, a result reached, a discovery confirmed ? It is a sentimental word in society. Through what medium did the acquaintance, introduction, message, or letter come? It is a word, sometimes very spir. itual and sometimes very gross, in religion. By what mediation, personal, ecclesiastical, or dogmatic shall the soul of man behold, arrive at, and know God?
This last is the most important question that can be asked. Let me, in answer to it, maintain, by the warrant of reason and all Scripture, as well as of our text, the possibility and reality of an interior and immediate acquaintance with God. That the soul has momentous mediate or indi. rect relations to its Author, through nature and history, through Christ and the Church and all living humanity, I do not deny, but gladly and gratefully own. But that in nature and the Church, in the flood of events and the host of persons, the soul of every one has or may have an immediate relation also to the Most High, I both affirm in the light of truth, and I might cite the loftiest experience, the most ecstatic piety, blessed living and triumphant dying, in proof. Of all the literature, however, in which such things have been recorded, excepting only the Gospels, and perhaps some of the Psalms, the Book of Revelation stands at the head. The author of the Revelation asserts his direct heavenly vision. In this immediate opening on his intuitive mind, what did he see? Here certainly is the decisive point, conclusive of all controversy about the Godhead. When all was clear in a blaze of light, through all height and breadth of perception and prospect, what did he see? A throne, and One sitting on it. There was no Trinity, then, when the sky was uncapped, and the doors flung wide from the mansions of glory, and the very constitution of the heavenly hierarchy unveiled.
The Greek pronoun used allows nothing but unity. There was no third or second person visible in the supreme seat disclosed to the prophet's eye.
It was not because he did not see what there was to be seen. Certainly no believer in the Book and its infallibility can take that ground. It was not because the supposed second person in the Godhead was absent at the time, on earth and in the flesh. Long before, the Saviour of the world had risen and ascended ; and, as we learn elsewhere in this very book, he was actually in heaven receiving homage as the Lamb and Son of God, but not as the absolute, all-perfect, and eternal One. As to the third person in the Trinitarian Godhead, not only did none such occupy the throne of the universe, thus made apparent to the great seer who is supposed to have had his earthly observatory of heavenly things in the isle called Patmos; but none such, as a third person, was visible, or anywhere extant, in the scene of supernal splendor described. The Spirit, to this sublime scribe of the Apocalypse, came not as a person at all. It was a presence, that encompassed him. It was an air he breathed. It was a power he was in. It was an effluence of God himself, who sat on the throne, the object of his sight, yet moreover passing to and beyond with measureless and infinite reach, to fold him as the subject of eternal and incomprehensible love.
Nor was this any peculiarity of John. Whenever there is the same immediate vision, the same thing will of course inevitably be seen, namely, the unity of God. sition, however, may by some be called in question. Trinitarians, formalists, theologians, and ecclesiastics in general may deny it. They may say, John, with his inspired imagination, could have this glimpse of the essential oneness of Deity. Paul and Peter in their apostleship could have it. David, celestially smitten to sing and sweep his harp-strings, could have it. Isaiah and Jeremiah, with their burdens of predictions and lamentations specially laid upon them, could have it. Moses, raised up among the Hebrews for a leader of the people, and a herald and ante-type of the Messiah to come, could have it. That Messiah, when he carne, could have it in immeasurable view. But common and uninspired mortals can have it no more. The human soul — that, on earth, depraved and degraded thing cannot have it. Im.
Such a po