(Preached at Wellington College, All Saints' Day, 1866.)
PROVERBS ix. 1-5.
Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens; she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and to him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
This allegory has been a favourite one with many deep and lofty thinkers. They mixed it, now and then, with Greek fancies; and brought Phoebus, Apollo, and the Muses into the Temple of Wisdom. But whatever they added to the allegory, they always preserved the allegory itself. No words, they felt, could so well express what Wisdom was, and how it was to be obtained by man.
The stately Temple, built by mystic rules of art; the glorious Lady, at once its Architect, its Priestess, and its Queen; the feast spread within for all who felt in themselves divine aspirations after what is beautiful, and good, and true; the maidens fair and pure, sent forth throughout the city, among the millions intent only on selfish gain or selfish pleasure, to call in all who were not content to be only a more crafty kind of animal, that they might sit down at the feast among the noble company of guests,--those who have inclined their heart to wisdom, and sought for understanding as for hid treasures:- this is a picture which sages and poets felt was true; true for all men, and for all lands. And it will be, perhaps, looked on as true once more, as natural, all but literally exact, when we who are now men are in our graves, and you who are now boys will be grown men; in the days when the present soulless mechanical notion of the world and of men shall have died out, and philosophers shall see once more that Wisdom is no discovery of their own, but the inspiration of the Almighty; and that this world is no dead and dark machine, but alight with the Glory, and alive with the Spirit, of God.
But what has this allegory, however true, to do with All Saints' Day?
My dear boys, on all days Wisdom calls you to her feast, by many weighty arguments, by many loving allurements, by many awful threats. But on this day, of all the year, she calls you by the memory of the example of those who sit already and for ever at her feast. By the memory and example of the wise of every age and every land, she bids you enter in and feast with them, on the wealth which she, and they, her faithful servants, have prepared for you. They have laboured; and they call you, in their mistress's name, to enter into their labours. She taught them wisdom, and she calls on you to learn wisdom of them in turn.
Remember, I say, this day, with humility and thankfulness of heart, the wise who are gone home to their rest.
There are many kinds of noble personages amid the blessed company of All Saints, whom I might bid you to remember this day. Some of you are the sons of statesmen or lawyers. I might call on you to thank God for your fathers, and for every man who has helped to make or execute wise laws. Some of you are the sons of soldiers. I might call on you to thank God for your fathers, and for all who have fought for duty and for their country's right. Some of you are the sons of clergymen. I might call on you to thank God for your fathers, and for all who have preached the true God and Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son, whether at home or abroad. All of you have mothers, whether on earth or in heaven; I might call on you to thank God for them, and for every good and true woman who, since the making of the world, has raised the coarseness and tamed the fierceness of men into gentleness and reverence, purity, and chivalry. I might do this: but to-day I will ask you to remember specially--The Wise.
For you are here as scholars; you are here to learn wisdom; you are here in what should be, and I believe surely is, one of the fore- courts of that mystic Temple into which Wisdom calls us all. And therefore it is fit that you should this day remember the wise; for they have laboured, and you are entering into their labours. Every lesson which you learn in school, all knowledge which raises you above the savage or the profligate (who is but a savage dressed in civilized garments), has been made possible to you by the wise. Every doctrine of theology, every maxim of morals, every rule of grammar, every process of mathematics, every law of physical science, every fact of history or of geography, which you are taught here, is a voice from beyond the tomb. Either the knowledge itself, or other knowledge which led to it, is an heirloom to you from men whose bodies are now mouldering in the dust, but whose spirits live for ever before God, and whose works follow them, going on, generation after generation, upon the path which they trod while they were upon earth, the path of usefulness, as lights to the steps of youth and ignorance. They are the salt of the earth, which keeps the world of man from decaying back into barbarism. They are the children of light whom God has set for lights that cannot be hid. They are the aristocracy of God, into which not many noble, not many rich, not many mighty are called. Most of them were poor; many all but unknown in their own time; many died, and saw no fruit of their labours; some were persecuted, some were slain, even as Christ the Lord was slain, as heretics, innovators, and corruptors of youth. Of some, the very names are forgotten. But though their names be dead, their works live, and grow, and spread, over ever fresh generations of youth, showing them fresh steps toward that Temple of Wisdom, which is the knowledge of things as they are; the knowledge of those eternal laws by which God governs the heavens and the earth, things temporal and eternal, physical and spiritual, seen and unseen, from the rise and fall of mighty nations, to the growth and death of the moss on yonder moors.
They made their mistakes; they had their sins; for they were men of like passions with ourselves. But this they did--They cried after Wisdom, and lifted up their voice for understanding; they sought for her as silver, and searched for her as hid treasure: and not in vain.
For them, as to every earnest seeker after wisdom, that Heavenly Lady showed herself and her exceeding beauty; and gave gifts to each according to his earnestness, his purity and his power of sight.
To some she taught moral wisdom--righteousness, and justice, and equity, yea, every good path.
To others she showed that political science, which--as Solomon tells you--is but another side of her beauty, and cannot be parted, however men may try, from moral wisdom--that Wisdom in whose right hand is length of days, and in her left hand riches and honour; whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
To others again she showed that physical science which--so Solomon tells us again--cannot be parted safely from the two others. For by the same wisdom, he says, which gives alike righteousness and equity, riches and long life--by that same wisdom, and no other, did the Lord found the heavens and establish the earth; by that same knowledge of his are the depths broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
And to some she showed herself, as she did to good Boethius in his dungeon, in the deepest vale of misery, and the hour of death; when all seemed to have deserted them, save Wisdom, and the God from whom she comes; and bade them be of good cheer still, and keep innocency, and take heed to the thing that is right, for that shall bring a man peace at the last.
And they beheld her, and loved her, and obeyed her, each according to his powers: and now they have their reward.
And what is their reward?
How can I tell, dear boys? This, at least can I say, for Scripture has said it already. That God is merciful in this; that he rewardeth every man according to his work. This, at least, I can say, for God incarnate himself has said it already--that to the good and faithful servant he will say,--'Well done. Thou hast been faithful over a few things: I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'
'The joy of thy Lord.' Think of these words a while. Perhaps they may teach us something of the meaning of All Saints' Day.
For, if Jesus Christ be--as he is--the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, then his joy now must be the same as his joy was when he was here on earth,--to do good, and to behold the fruit of his own goodness; to see--as Isaiah prophesied of him--to see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.
And so it may be; so it surely is--with them; if blessed spirits (as I believe) have knowledge of what goes on on earth. They enter into the joy of their Lord. Therefore they enter into the joy of doing good. They see of the travail of their soul, and are satisfied that they have not lived in vain. They see that their work is going on still on earth; that they, being dead, yet speak, and call ever fresh generations into the Temple of Wisdom.
My dear boys, take this one thought away with you from this chapel to-day. Believe that the wise and good of every age and clime are looking down on you, to see what use you will make of the knowledge which they have won for you. Whether they laboured, like Kepler in his garret, or like Galileo in his dungeon, hid in God's tabernacle from the strife of tongues; or, like Socrates and Plato, in the whirl and noise--far more wearying and saddening than any loneliness--of the foolish crowd, they all have laboured for you. Let them rejoice, when they see you enter into their labours with heart and soul. Let them rejoice, when they see in each one of you one of the fairest sights on earth, before men and before God; a docile and innocent boy striving to become a wise and virtuous man.
And whenever you are tempted to idleness and frivolity; whenever you are tempted to profligacy and low-mindedness; whenever you are tempted--as you will be too often in these mean days--to join the scorners and the fools whom Solomon denounced; tempted to sneering unbelief in what is great and good, what is laborious and self- sacrificing, and to the fancy that you were sent into this world merely to get through it agreeably;--then fortify and ennoble your hearts by Solomon's vision. Remember who you are, and where you are- -that you stand before the Temple of Wisdom, of the science of things as God has made them; wherein alone is health and wealth for body and for soul; that from within the Heavenly Lady calls to you, sending forth her handmaidens in every art and science which has ever ministered to the good of man; and that within there await you all the wise and good who have ever taught on earth, that you may enter in and partake of the feast which their mistress taught them to prepare. Remember, I say, who you are--even the sons of God; and remember where you are--for ever upon sacred ground; and listen with joy and hope to the voice of the Heavenly Wisdom, as she calls-- 'Whoso is simple, let him come in hither; and him that wanteth understanding, let him come and eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled.'
Listen with joy and hope: and yet with fear and trembling, as of Moses when he hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. For the voice of Wisdom is none other than the voice of The Spirit of God, in whom you live, and move, and have your being.