FROM GLORY TO GLORY BY REV. W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A. LL.D.

IF wc were asked at the beginning of a 3'car to describe the course of life, we might be slow to give for answer our very inmost thought. And if we did, the response might run, " From weakness to weakness, from failure to failure, from humiliation to humiliation," or even it might be " From shame to shame." How wonderful appears the picture of St. Paul, who describes the believing life as a passage " from glory to glory" ! In the epistle where these words occur the Apostle shows himself acutely conscious of life's miseries, privations, and agonies. He was then suffering from troubles whose pressure had almost exhausted his strength. He describes himself as nameless, poor, sorrowful, and dying. He understood as well as any of us what it is to feel that the romance of life has faded, that the country of youth has been left behind, that there is nothing one can do but bewail the irrecoverable

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230 THE RETURN TO THE CROSS

sweetness of the past. Yet his spirit rises unsubdued from the griefs and wrecks of time, and he speaks as one of the great company who, ** beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." For let it be noted that he was not speaking of himself alone. Else we might have said, " This may be true for such an one as St. Paul, advancing through all those years without one backward look or one yielding thought. But how can it be true of us who are so weary of the incessant struggle, and whose hopes cannot rise from unlooked-for and merciless strokes ? " The answer is that to those who see truly the course of every redeemed life moves forward to its perfect consummation.

In the first place St. Paul affirms that life to the believer is a glory. The whole current of modern thought runs against this estimate. At
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most it may be admitted that life in certain conditions is a more or less happy delusion. Even so much as this will scarcely be granted in these years of the dying century, when pessimism is eating out the very heart of our literature and is gradually taking possession of the general

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mind. How far we have travelled in the days between Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy ! One may say without irreverence and with perfect truth that to Dickens the Blessed Trinity was practically identical with an omnipotent firm of Cheeryble Brothers. To him the administration of the universe was benevolent, benevolent in the sentimental fashion of "A Christmas Carol." Mr. Hardy's whole philosophy and religion arc summed up in the infinitely bitter words, " The President of the Immortals had finished his sport with Tess." Open as "Jude the Obscure" is to many criticisms, we cannot agree with those who
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take it simply as an attack on marriage. It is much rather an effort to show that the universe and mankind are deliberately organised for miser3\ Let human beings do what they will, let them marry or abstain from marriage, and they will still be wretched. The loftier the ideals that rise before them, the more ardently they endeavour to pursue them, the more absolute will their failure be and their consequent agony. We need not wonder at this. It is nothing but what must happen as the world breaks loose from God. Unless life is divine with the love of Christ, it must be sunless. St. Paul was profoundly

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sensible of the sin and the misery of mankind. After nearly two thousand years more of sorrowful human history, no fact or experience has come to light that would have taken the Apostle by surprise. But to him the vastness of sin, the vastness of pain, were not the first and over4

powering facts. He knew that which was greater than them all. He was lost in the immensities of the love of Christ, the love that signified its strength on Calvary, the love whose length and breadth and depth and height far transcended knowledge. Life to St. Paul was a glory because it had been redeemed by the precious blood, and was wrapt round by the divine charity. True, its inexorable facts remain. But they are wholly transfigured. For the veil has been undone for ever, and with open face we behold Christ. On our poor house the rains may descend and the winds blow, but it may be nevertheless the palace of the great King. Life may go out wretchedly and solitarily, in a garret, in a workhouse, and yet to the eye of faith the promise of Christ may be kept, *' I will come again and receive you unto myself."

More difficult even for Christians is the next thought, that life is a growing glory. After a

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FROM GLORY TO GLORY 233

certain period, we come to shrink from change, and yet, as has often been said, Christianity welcomes change. It takes " new " for one of its favourite words. It keeps speaking of a new covenant, new creatures, a new name, and new heavens. It encourages us to go forward, to grow tired of poor conditions, and to press against hmits. Instead of fearing a change in our circumstances, we should rather welcome it. But some — perhaps not many — of those who read these lines will keep thinking that a change has come over themselves, a change which they fear, and which they can hardly understand. It may be that this is the result — it is so most frequently — of some blow struck straight and deep at the roots of happiness.

We no longer hear much about the doctrine of transmigration, the doctrine which was Henry M ore's golden key to the mystery of the universe. Perhaps we can hardly follow the arguments by which it is supported. But when an appeal is
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made to the latent elements that underlie our present consciousness, and when it is maintained that there is a hidden world in which the subterranean river of personality flows, it is not diflicult after certain experiences to understand

234 THE RETURN TO THE CROSS

what is meant. For does it not seem sometimes as if a new spirit had taken possession of the existing body, when the true soul has departed ? Many people live until they die, but many people do not. In Mrs. Oliphant's powerful novel " Agnes," there is the most vivid expression ot this fact that we know of in literature. The vitality that survives so much is at last mastered and disappears. Illness does not come, death does not come, duties continue to present themselves and are laboriously discharged. But life, so far as it is a matter of personal desire, satisfaction, and actual being, has ceased and stopped short. The sufferers feel that they have
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had their day, and yet much may remain of the hard tale of years which God sometimes exacts to the last moment from those of His creatures to whom He has given strength to endure. The new spirit that inhabits the form may be angel or demon, or it may be a most human spirit, but it is a substitute even though no one may be aware of the substitution. The life it was pleasure to possess and happiness to continue has been broken short off and has come to an end. What are we to say in the face of facts like these ? How can it be that such transmutations

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ai-e a passage from glory to glory ? For answer we may reply that time must do its work. "How deep and awful," says one, "are the wounds that time and truth can heal ! " How often wild, dark sorrows show themselves at last the fair, enlightened work of God. The heart may be wondrously revived and quieted, and a
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new happiness may link itself with the old. But this cannot always be. St. Paul himself spoke not much of what lay before him in his earthly course. He earnestly desired to be clothed upon with his house from heaven. Then we must say that in God is the continuous thread of all our years. Then we must boldly rest in the faith that there is a life in God which furnishes its own health, its own wealth, its own good. The whole discipline of Providence is bent towards our securing and perfecting that secret immortal life. It may seem as if the heart were rifled and broken by the harshnesses and the amazements of its way. But if it clings to God, if it seeks to be wrapt round in the Eternal Love, the consciousness will come at last that the redeemed life is a unity, a glory, a growth, and that this is the will of God, even our sanctification.

And once more St. Paul teaches us that this

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growing glory of life will soon and for ever be perfected. No matter what ruins we have left behind us, the towers of the New Jerusalem flash up in the unsearchable light. The white radiance of eternity is before us, stained no more by time. In the epistle from which our motto is taken St. Paul describes suffering in every form. But suffering is after all for the moment, and love is everlasting. We may look at the past and the future, and the worst they hold, in peace. He will swallow up these deaths in victory, be sure. We shall stand at the wellhead of living waters and thirst no more. The bright thread of love holds together and illuminates all experience, and we rejoice in the unswerving hope of the glory of God.

And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given unto us.

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