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Title: Right Living as a Fine Art
       A Study of Channing's Symphony as an Outline of the Ideal
              Life and Character

Author: Newell Dwight Hillis

Release Date: July 10, 2011 [EBook #36695]

Language: English

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RIGHT LIVING AS
A FINE ART

A Study of Channing's Symphony
as an Outline of the
Ideal Life and Character

NEWELL DWIGHT HILLIS

Fleming H. Revell Company
New York    Chicago    Toronto
1903

COPYRIGHTED 1898-1899 BY
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY.

Contents

ONE

A Study of Channing's "Symphony" as an
Outline of the Ideal Life and Character

TWO

Channing's Vision of the Beautiful Life

THREE

The Largest Wealth

FOUR

The World a Whispering Gallery

FIVE

How Knowledge Becomes Wisdom

SIX

The Disguises of Inferiority

SEVEN

Strength Blossoming into Beauty

EIGHT

Life's Crowning Perfection

"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it."

Psalm xc: 17.


MY SYMPHONY.

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common—this is my symphony.

William Henry Channing.

[Pg 9]

A STUDY OF CHANNING'S "SYMPHONY" AS AN OUTLINE OF THE IDEAL LIFE AND CHARACTER.

T

To the revival of learning in the fourteenth century, to the revival of religion in the sixteenth, and the revival of liberty in the eighteenth century must now be added the revival of the beautiful in this new era for art. In former ages man was content if his house was dry, his coat was warm, his tool strong. But now has come an era when man's house must have beautiful walls, when woman's dress must have harmonious hues, when the speaker's truth must be clothed in words of beauty; [Pg 10] while in religion if the worshiper once was content with a harsh hymn, now man best loves the song that has a beautiful sentiment and a sweet tune. Always the useful had a cash value. Now beauty has become a commodity. To-day, to hold his place, the artisan must become an artist. The era of ugliness, with its clumsy tools and ungainly garments, has gone forever. No longer content with lending strength to coat or chair or car, manufacturers now vie with one another in a struggle to make the garment take on lines of grace, and colors soft and beautiful. Society seems to be standing upon the threshold of the greatest art movement in history. Best of all this, revival of the beautiful promises to be a permanent social possession.

Very brief and fitful that first art epoch when Phidias polished statues, the very [Pg 11] fragments of which are the despair of modern sculptors. All too short also that era when Raphael and Botticelli brought the canvas into what seemed the zenith of its perfection. It was as if the vestal virgin of beauty had drawn near to fan the flickering light into a fierce flame only to allow it quickly to die out again. But if other art epochs have been soon followed by eras of ugliness and tyranny, it was because formerly the patrician class alone was interested in the beautiful. In that far-off time, Pericles had his palace and Athens her temple, but the common people dwelt in mud huts, wore coats of sheepskin, and slept on beds of straw. The beauty that was manifest in pictures, marbles, rich textures, bronzes, belonged exclusively to the cathedral or the palace.

Now has come an era when art is diffused. Beauty is sprinkled all over the [Pg 12] instruments of dining-room, parlor and library. It is organized into textures of cotton, wool and silk. Even in the poor man's cottage blossoms break forth upon floor and walls, while vines festoon the humblest door. Once, at great expense, a baron in France or Germany would send an artist into Italy to copy some masterpiece of Titian or Tintoretto. Now modern photography makes it possible for the poorest laborer to look upon the semblance of great pictures, statues, cathedrals, landscapes—treasures these once beyond the wealth of princes. Having made tools, books, travel, home, religion to be life-teachers, God has now ordained the beautiful as an apostle of the higher Christian life.

Recognizing the hand of God in every upward movement of society, we explain this new enthusiasm for art upon the [Pg 13] principle that beauty is the outer sign of an inner perfection. Oft with lying skill men veneer the plaster pillar with slabs of marble, and hide soft wood with strips of mahogany. But beauty is no outer veneer. When ripeness enters the fruit within a soft bloom steals over the peach without. When every drop of blood in the veins is pure a beauteous flush overcasts the young girl's cheek. When summer hath lent ripeness to the harvests God casts a golden hue over the sheaf and lends a crimson flush to the autumn leaves. For beauty is ripeness, maturity and strength. Therefore when the seer says, "God maketh everything beautiful in its time," he indicates that God's handiwork is perfect work. When some Wordsworth or Emerson leaves behind men's clumsy creations and enters the fields where God's workmanship abounds, the poet finds the ground "spotted with [Pg 14] fire and gold in tints of flowers"; he finds the trees hung with festooned vines; finds the forests uniting their branches in cathedral arches; finds the winds making music down the long, leafy aisles; finds the birds pouring forth notes in choiring anthems, while the very clouds rise like golden incense toward an unseen throne. Though the traveler journey far, he shall find no bud, no bough, no landscape or mountain or ocean, that is not overcast with bloom and beauty.

We are not surprised therefore when we see that as man's arts and industries go toward perfection they go toward beauty. Carry the coarse flax up toward beauty and it becomes strong cloth. Carry the cocoon of a worm up to beauty and it becomes a soft silken robe. Carry rude Attic speech up to beauty and it becomes the language of Homer or Hesiod. [Pg 15] Carry the strange face or form tatooed upon the arm of the savage up to beauty and it becomes a Madonna or a Transfiguration. Carry a stone altar and a smoking sacrifice up to beauty and it becomes a Cologne cathedral or a Westminster Abbey. Indeed, historians might use the beautiful as the touchstone of human progress. The old milestones of growth were metals. First came the age when arrows were tipped with flint. Then came the iron age, when the spear had a metal point. The bronze age followed, lending flexibility to ore hitherto unyielding. Later came the steel age, when weapons that bruised gave place to the keen edge that cuts. Perhaps the divinity chat represents our era will stand forth plated with oxide of silver.

But his ideas of beauty would measure man's progress quite as accurately. In [Pg 16] that first rude age beauty was external. Man twisted gay feathers into his hair, painted his cheeks red or yellow, wore rings of bright shells about his neck. But our age is high because beauty has ceased to be mere personal adornment. Man now seeks to make his books beautiful for the intellect, his library and gallery beautiful for taste and imagination, his temple beautiful for worship, his home beautiful in the interest of the heart, his song and prayer not simply true, but beautiful with praise to the unseen God. If in rude ages beauty was associated with physical elements, the glory of our era is that beauty, unfolding from century to century, is now increasingly associated with those moral qualities that lend remembrance to mother and martyr, to hero and patriot and saint.

[Pg 17]

To-day, fortunately for society, this world-wide interest in art is becoming spiritualized. From beautiful objects men are passing to beautiful thoughts and deeds. We begin to hear much of the art of right living and the science of character building. Having lent charm and value to column and canvas, to marble and masterpiece, beauty now moves on to lend loveliness to mind and heart. For it seems an incongruous thing for man to adorn his cottage, lend charm to its walls and windows, make its ceilings to be like the floor of heaven for beauty, while within his heart he cherishes groveling littleness, slimy sin, light-winged evasions, brutal passions. He whose body rides in a palace car must not carry a soul that is like unto a savage. Having lingered long before the portrait of Antigone or Cordelia, the young girl finds herself pledged to turn that ideal into life and character. [Pg 18] The copy of the Sistine Madonna hanging upon the wall asks the woman who placed it there to realize in herself this glorious type of motherhood.

When the admirers of Shakespeare bought the house in which their hero was born, they planted in the garden the flowers which the poet loved. Passing through the little wicket gate the pilgrim finds himself moving along a perfumed path, while to his garments clings the odor of violets and roses, sweet peas and buttercups, the columbine and honeysuckle—flowers these, whose roots are in earth indeed, but whose beauty is borrowed from heaven. From these grounds men have expelled the poison ivy, the deadly nightshade, all burdocks and thistles. And the soul is a garden in which truth, purity, patience, love, long suffering are qualities whiter than [Pg 19] any lily and sweeter than any rose, whose perfume never passes, whose beauty does not fade. And having succeeded in transforming waste places into centers of radiant beauty, man encourages the hope that he can carry his own reason, judgment and ambition up to full symmetry and perfection.

What a transformation man has wrought in matter! Nature says, here is a lump of mud; man answers, let it become a beautiful vase. Nature says, here is a sweet briar; man answers, let it become a rose double and of many hues. Nature says, here is a string and a block of wood; man answers, let them be a sweet-voiced harp. Nature says, here is a daisy; Burns answers, let it become a poem. Nature says, here is a piece of ochre and some iron rust; Millet answers, let the colors become an Angelus. Nature says, here is [Pg 20] reason rude and untaught; man must answer, let the mind become as full of thoughts as the sky of stars and more radiant. Nature says, here is a rude affection; man must answer, let the heart become as full of love and sympathy as the summer is full of ripeness and beauty. Nature says, here is a conscience, train it; man should answer, let the conscience be as true to Christ and God as a needle to the pole. Marvelous man's skill through the fine arts! Wondrous, too, his handicrafts! But no picture ever painted, no poem ever perfected, no temple ever builded is comparable for strength and beauty to a full-orbed soul, matured through a widely trained reason and a sober judgment—mellow in heart and conscience, pervaded throughout with the spirit of Jesus Christ, the soul's master and model.


[Pg 21]

CHANNING'S VISION OF THE BEAUTIFUL LIFE.

A

Among those gifted spirits who have toiled tirelessly to carry the individual life up to unity, symmetry and beauty, let us hasten to mention the name of Channing. The child of genius, he was gifted with a literary style that lent strange fascination to all his speech. But great as he was in intellect, his character shone with such splendor as to eclipse his genius. He was of goodness all compact.

Early the winds of adversity beat against his little bark. Invalidism and misfortune, too, threatened to destroy his career. But [Pg 22] bearing up amid all misfortune, he slowly wrought out his ideal of life as a fine art. Patiently he perfected his dreams. Daily he practiced frugality, honor, justice, faith, love and prayer. He met storm with calm; he met provocation with patience; he met organized iniquity with faith in God's eternal truth; he met ingratitude and enmity with forgiveness and love.

At last he completed his symphony of an ideal life, that he hoped would help the youth and maiden to make each day as inspiring as a song, each deed as holy as a prayer, each character as perfect as a picture. For he felt that the life of child and youth, of patriot and parent should have a loveliness beyond that of any flower or landscape, and a majesty not found in any cataract or mountain, being clothed also with a beauty that does not [Pg 23] inhere in Canova's marble and a permanency that is not possessed by Von Riles' cathedral, a structure builded of thoughts and hopes and aspirations, of tears and prayers, and purposes, whose foundation is eternal truth.

THE FOUNDATION OF HAPPINESS.

In founding his ideal life upon contentment with small means, Channing pleads for simplicity and the return to "plain living and high thinking." He would fain double the soul's leisure by halving its wants.

Looking out upon his age, he beheld young men crazed with a mania for money. He saw them refusing to cross the college threshold, closing the book, neglecting conversation, despising friendship, postponing marriage, that they might increase their goods. Yet he remembered [Pg 24] that earth's most gifted children have been content with small means, achieving their greatest triumphs midst comparative poverty.


[Pg 25]

THE LARGEST WEALTH.

T

The Divine Carpenter and His immortal band dwelt far from luxury. Poor indeed were Socrates, the reformer, and Epictetus, the slave, and Virgil, the poet. Burns, too, and Wordsworth and Coleridge, with Keats and Shelley—all these dwelt midway between poverty and riches. When that young English scholar learned that his relatives had willed him a fortune of 5,000 he wrote the dying man begging him to abandon his design, saying that he already had one servant, and that added care and responsibility meant the [Pg 26] cutting off of a few minutes for study in the morning and a few minutes for reflection at night.

A PLEA FOR SIMPLICITY.

Here are our own Hawthorne and Longfellow—"content with small means." Here is Emerson resigning his church in Boston and leaving fame behind him, that upon the little farm at Concord he might escape the thousand and one details that robbed his soul of its simplicity. Here is Thoreau building his log cabin by Walden pond, living on forty dollars a year because he saw that man was being "destroyed by his unwieldy and overgrown establishment, cluttered with much furniture and tripped with his own traps, ruined by luxury and heedless expense, whose only hope was in rigid economy and Spartan simplicity."

Ours is a world where Cervantes writes [Pg 27] Don Quixote living upon three bowls of porridge brought by the jailer of the prison. The German philosopher asked one cluster of grapes, one glass of milk and a slice of bread twice each day. Having completed his philosophy, the old scholar looked back upon forty happy years, saying that every fine dinner his friends had given him had blunted his brain for one day, while indigestion consumed an amount of vital energy that would have sufficed for one page of good writing.

A wise youth will think twice before embarking upon a career involving large wealth. Some there are possessed of vast property whose duty it is to carry bravely their heavy burden in the interest of society and the increase of life's comforts, conveniences and happiness. Yet wise Agur's prayer still holds: "Give me [Pg 28] neither poverty nor riches." Whittier, on his little farm, refusing a princely sum for a lecture, was content with small means. Wendell Phillips, preferring the slave and the contempt of Boston's merchants and her patrician society, chose to "be worthy, not respectable." Some Ruskin, distributing his bonds and stocks and lands to found workingmen's clubs, art schools and colleges, that he might have more leisure for enriching his imagination and heart, chose to "be wealthy, not rich." Needing many forms of wisdom, our age needs none more than the grace to "live content with small means, seeking elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion."


[Pg 29]

THE WORLD A WHISPERING GALLERY.

W

When the sage counsels us "to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages," he opens to us the secrets of the soul's increase in wisdom and happiness. All culture begins with listening. Growth is not through shrewd thinking or eloquent speaking, but through accurate seeing and hearing. Our world is one vast whispering gallery, yet only those who listen hear "the still, small voice" of truth. Putting his ear down to the rocks, the listening geologist hears the story of the rocks. Standing under the stars, the listening astronomer hears the music of [Pg 30] the spheres. Leaving behind the din and dirt of the city, Agassiz plunged into the forests of the Amazon, and listening to boughs and buds and birds he found out all their secrets.

One of our wisest teachers has said, "The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world, is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk, for one who can think. But thousands can think for one who can see; to see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion all in one. Therefore finding the world of literature more or less divided into thinkers and seers, I believe we shall find also, that the seers are wholly the greater race of the two." For greatness is vision. Opening his eyes, Newton sees the planets revolve and finds his fame. Opening his ears, Watt hears the movement of steam and finds his fortune. [Pg 31] Millet explained his fame by saying he copied the colors of the sunset at the moment when reapers bow the head in silent prayer. The great bard, too, tells us he went apart and listened to find "sermons in stones, and books in the running brooks."

THE SECRET OF CULTURE.

It is a proverb that pilgrims to foreign lands find only what they take with them. Riding over the New England hills near Boston, Lowell spake not to his companion, for now he was looking out upon the pageantry of a glorious October day, and now he remembered that this was the road forever associated with Paul Revere's ride. Reaching the outskirts of Cambridge, he roused from his reverie to discover that his silent companion had been brooding over bales and barrels, not knowing that this had been [Pg 32] one of those rare days when October holds an art exhibit, and also oblivious to the fact that he had been passing through scenes historic through the valor of the brave boy.

Of the four artists copying the same landscape near Chamouni, all saw a different scene. To an idler a river means a fish pole, to a heated schoolboy a bath; to the man of affairs the stream suggests a turbine wheel; while the same stream leads the philosopher to reflect upon the influence of great rivers upon cities and civilizations. Coleridge thought the bank of his favorite stream was made to lie down upon, but Bunyan, beholding the stream through the iron bars of a prison cell, felt the breezes of the "Delectable Mountains" cool his fevered cheek, and stooping down he wet his parched lips with the river of the waters of life. Nature [Pg 33] has no message for heedless, inattentive hearers. It is possible for a youth to go through life deaf to the sweetest sounds that ever fell over Heaven's battlements, and blind to the beauty of landscape and mountain and sea and sky. There is no music in the autumn wind until the listener comes. There is no order and beauty in the rolling spheres until some Herschel stands beneath the stars. There is no fragrance in the violet until the lover of flowers bends down above the blossoms.

Listening to stars, Laplace heard the story how fire mists are changed to habitable earths, and so became wise toward iron and wood, steel and stone. Listening to birds, Cuvier heard the song within the shell and found out the life history of all things that creep or swim or fly. Listening to babes that have, as Froebel thought, been so recently playmates with [Pg 34] angels, the philosopher discovered in the teachableness, trust and purity of childhood, the secret of individual happiness and progress. Listening to sages, the youth of to-day garners into the storehouse of his mind all the intellectual treasures of the good and great of past ages. That youth may have culture without college who gives heed to Channing's injunction "to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages."


[Pg 35]

HOW KNOWLEDGE BECOMES WISDOM.

W

When all the caravans of knowledge have gone trooping through the eye-gate and the ear-gate into the soul city, Channing reminds us that these knowledges must be assorted and assimilated by "studying hard and thinking quietly."

If some rich men fill their shelves with books that are never read, some poor men fill their memory with facts upon which they never think. The mere accumulation of truths about earth and air, about plants and animals and men, does not mean culture. Education does not [Pg 36] mean stuffing the mind with Greek roots, as the husbandman stuffs his granary with vegetables. It is a proverb, that no fool is a perfect fool until he can talk Latin. Looking out upon land and sea and sky, the educated soul sees all, and appreciates all. Culture lends the note of distinction and acquaints the youth with all the best that has been said and done. Trying to steal the secret of the honey bee, a scientist extracted the sweets of half an acre of blossoms. Unfortunately, the vat of liquor proved to be only sweetened water. By its secret processes, the bee distills the same liquor into honey. It is possible for the youth to sweep into the memory a thousand great facts without having distilled one of these honeyed drops named wisdom and culture.

In studying the French Revolution Carlyle read five hundred volumes, including [Pg 37] reports of officers, generals, statesmen, spies, heroes, villains. Then, closing all the books, he journeyed into Scotland. In solitude he "thought quietly." Having brooded alone for weeks and months, one morning he rose to dip his pen in his heart's blood and write his French Revolution. In that hour the knowledge that had been in five hundred books became the culture distilled into one.

THE INFLUENCE OF THE REFLECTIVE MIND.

The youth who plans the life of affairs is in danger of despising the brooding that feeds the hidden life. We can never rightly estimate our indebtedness to those who have gone apart to "think quietly."

All law and jurisprudence go back to Moses for forty years brooding in an empty, voiceless desert upon the principles [Pg 38] of eternal justice. All astronomy goes back to Ptolemy, who looked out upon a weary waste of sand and turned his vision toward a highway paved with stars and suns. Our poetry and literature begins with Homer, blind indeed to earthly sights and sciences, but who traced with an inner eye, the strifes of gods and men, and gave his inner thoughts immortal form and beauty. All modern science begins with that scholar who for fifty years was unknown in the forum or market-place, for Charles Darwin was "studying hard and thinking quietly" in his little garden, where he watched his seeds, earthworms, his beetles and doves.

The air of London is so charged with deadly acids that the lime tree alone flourishes there, for the reason that it sheds its bark each year, thus casting off the defiled garment. But there is a mountain peak in the Himalayas so high that it [Pg 39] towers beyond the reach of snows and rains, and a scientist has said, an open page might there remain unsoiled by dust through passing centuries. And to those who "think quietly" it is given to rise into the upper air. Dwelling upon the heights, these may look down upon all heated centers with their soot and grime, their stacked houses, reeking gutters, the din and noise of wheels, the hoarse roar of the clashing streets, and in these hours of reverie, the soul marvels that it was ever tossed about upon these furious currents of ambition.

Hours there are when Fame whispers, "Joy is not in me." Ambition, worn with its fierce fever, whispers, "Joy is not in me." Success confesses, "Joy is not in me." In such hours happy the youth who has learned in solitude to go apart and find that happiness that "the world can neither give nor take away."


[Pg 40]

THE DISGUISES OF INFERIORITY.

A

And when the soul has gone toward full-orbed splendor and stands forth clothed with full manhood the sage condenses the wisdom of a thousand volumes into four maxims, "Act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never."

The principle of acting frankly demands truth in the hidden parts, rebukes him whose method is "the iron hand in a velvet glove," smites the Machiavelian policy of smiling gently while arranging instruments of death. In their ignorance shrewd men advise the youth to cloak his [Pg 41] keen desire beneath an outer indifference. But small men use lying artifices and disguises to protect themselves. Conscious of weakness, inferiority fears frankness. Great men are as open as glass bee-hives and as transparent as the sunbeams, for they are conscious of their enormous reserves. Nature permits no flower or fruit to conceal its real self. The violet frankly tells its story; the decaying fruit frankly reveals its nature. No flaming candle pretends to light while emitting rays of blackness. Victories won by concealment are lying victories. All these battles must be fought over again. The law of frankness is the law of truth, that is at once the foundation of character and crowns the structure with strength and beauty.

Vast issues also are involved in the injunction "to talk gently." Noise is weakness. [Pg 42] Bluster is inferiority rising into consciousness. The rattle of machinery means waste power somewhere. Rushing forward at the rate of thousands of miles an hour, the planets are noiseless as sunbeams, because they represent power that is harnessed and subdued. Silently the dewdrop falls upon some crimson-tipped flower. Yet the electric energy necessary to crystallize that drop would hurl a car from Cambridge to Boston. Those forces manifest in thunder are nature's weakest forces. Her monarch energies work silently in the roots and harvests, or lift, without rattle of engine or noise of wheel, countless millions of tons of water from ocean into the air. For gentleness is not weakness. Only giants can be gentle. Fronting an emergency weakness is agitated, but strength is calm and cool. Gentleness is controlled strength. The giant is gentle, because his vast [Pg 43] energies are restrained, subdued, and wisely used. The test of all great work is the ease with which it is done. Scott writes one of his priceless chapters before breakfast. Ruskin says Turner finished a whole drawing in a morning, before going out to shoot, without strain or struggle. The highest eloquence also is not a spasmodic effort, but the quiet manifestation of years of preparation. But this easy effort has infinite reserve lying back of it. There is a profound philosophy in this injunction, "Talk gently," and act quietly.

SUCCESS AND TIMELINESS.

But the strongest man needs to "await occasions." The essence of all good work is timeliness. For the right thing done at the wrong time is as bad as the wrong thing at any time. Preparing telescopes and instruments of photography, the astronomer [Pg 44] sails to Africa, and there waits weeks for the moment of full eclipse. At last the "occasion" comes. Nature will not be hurried. For her finest effects in fruits and flowers, she takes her own time. In February the husbandman finds the sun refusing warmth, the clouds refusing rain, the soil refusing seed. Therefore he awaits occasions. And lo! in May, the sunbeams wax warm, the soil wakens to full ardor, the clouds give forth their rain, and the husbandman enters into his opportunity.

In his reminiscences General Sherman explains his victorious march to the sea by saying that during his college days he spent a summer in Georgia. While his companions were occupied with playing cards and foolish talk he tramped over the hills, and made a careful map of the country. Years passed by. The war [Pg 45] came on. Ordered to march upon Atlanta his expert knowledge won his victory. Readiness for the occasion brought him to fame and honor. To-morrow some jurist, merchant, statesman will die. The youth who is ready for the place, will find the mantle falling upon his shoulders. Success is readiness for occasions.

But whether waiting or working, man must "hurry never." It is fear that makes haste. Confidence is composed. Greatness is tranquillity. Dead objects, like bullets, can be hurled swiftly. Living seeds cannot be forced. Slowly the acorn goes toward the oak. Slowly the babe journeys toward the sage. Slowly and with infinite delays Haydn and Handel moved toward their perfect music. Filling barrels with manuscripts and refusing to publish, Robert Louis Stevenson attained his exquisite style. Millet described [Pg 46] his career as ten years of daubing, ten years of drudgery, ten years of despair and ten years of liberty and success. Man begins at nothing. Life is a school. Duties are drill-masters. Man's faculties are complex. Slowly the soul moves toward harmony, symmetry and beauty. He who "hurries never" has found the secret of growth, serenity and repose.


[Pg 47]

STRENGTH BLOSSOMING INTO BEAUTY.

I

If the greatest scientist is he who discerns some law of gravity that explains the forward movement of all stars and planets, if the great historian is he who unfolds one social principle that governs all nations, so he is the greatest moral teacher who discovers some unit idea that sweeps all details into one glorious unity, as did Channing when he said, "Let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common." All undefined and indefinable the spiritual glow and beauty that lie upon the soul, like the [Pg 48] soft bloom upon a ripe peach. What song is to the birds, what culture is to the intellect, and eloquence is to the orator, that the spiritual is to character. It is the soul made ample in faculty, fertile in resource, struck through and through with ripeness, and inflected toward Christ's own sympathy, self-sacrifice and love.

The spiritual element also explains the note of distinction in the highest life and art. Many of our modern painters have failed, because they have been fleshly. Mud shows in the bottom of their eyes. Their pictures are indeed so shallow that "a fly could wade through them without wetting its feet." Fra Angelico, preparing to paint, entered his closet, expelled every evil thought, subdued every unholy ambition, flung away anger and jealousy as one would fling away a club or dagger. Then, [Pg 49] with face that shone with the divine light, upon his knees he painted his angels and seraphs, and the spiritual breaking through the common lent a radiant glow and an immortal beauty to his priceless pictures.

Certain pictures of Rubens are of "the earth, earthy." In painting them, the artist seems to have had no thought save of the flesh tints. The mood and soul of Rubens' Venus was nothing—her body everything. Here, beauty is only color deep. Paint is everything—spirit nothing. But with the great artists in their greatest moods, paint is at best only an incident, and for the soul aspirations and ideals as seen in vision hours are everything. Hope, faith, love, joy, peace, sympathy, self-sacrifice, humility—spiritual qualities these, that shine through the face, and transform the life.


[Pg 50]

LIFE'S CROWNING PERFECTION.

C

Culture can do much, but art, music, books, and travel have their limitations. When that brave boy returned from battling with the Black Prince, the tenants gathered before his father's castle and presented him tokens of love and honor. The farmer brought a golden sheaf, the husbandman brought a ripe cluster and a bough of fruit, the goldsmith offered a ring, the printer gave a rare book, while children strewed flowers in the way. But last of all his father gave the youth the [Pg 51] title deeds of his inheritance and lent him name and power. Not otherwise the soul enters the scene like a conqueror to whom gifts are offered. The library offers a book. The lecture hall offers learning. The gallery offers a picture. Travel offers experience. But the fine arts, wisdom and culture cannot do everything. Culture can beautify the life, lend refinement to reason, lend wings to imagination. But God, the soul's father, alone can crown life with richness and influence. The secret of strength and beauty is hidden with Jesus Christ. What the great thinkers and seers can do for the intellect, what the poets can do for imagination, what the heroes can do for aspiration and purpose, that and a thousand fold more the Christ can do for the soul's life. He alone has mastered the science of right living. He only can teach the art of character building. He can lend reason true [Pg 52] wisdom. He can lend taste true refinement. He can make conscience clear, and will invincible. Freeing the soul from sin, He can crown it with supreme beauty. He can make life a song, and the soul career a symphony.


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