Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 7),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 307-313


GRAFTON HALL ADDRESS

A YOUNG lad about fourteen is lying on his back on the floor, with a book in his hand. It is vacation time. He is reading Goldsmith's Citizen of the World. In one of his essays, Goldsmith starts the question, "In what does happiness consist?" The poet said, in a sort of Irish fashion, "It lay in two things, oblivion, respecting the past, and without a thought of the future." If the past was forgotten it couldn't worry you. If the trials of the future were removed from our vision, we should then be in a state of present happiness. I have forgotten just how he put the problem. It was a very fallacious argument. It puzzled, however, the young mind, and set him thinking. It began the first real independent thinking in the young boy's mind. The problem presented was, "In what does man's real happiness consist?" And now the old man like a knight with dinted shield and well-worn armor, comes back from many a hard-fought battlefield, comes to say, that the only true abiding happiness is to be found in religion and union with God.

Religion gives thus happiness, because it effectually unites us to the most blessed, most happy-making of all Beings. God is not only the most majestic, wonderful, glorious, joyous, and happy of all beings, but He is happiness itself. Now religion unites us to Him and fills us with His life. The torrent of pleasure which dwells in this blessed source flows like a river from Him into us. The glorious sunshine of His divine life gladdens and cheers and fructifies our little lives.

We become like golden specks floating and shining in the sunbeam of His love. We come increasingly to know Him, and rejoice in His fellowship and our dependence on it. God comes to be more and more in us, the life of our life, the soul of our soul. Our nature becomes established in an ordered rest and harmony with itself, and of conscious peace with God. God is realized as our personal friend, and affectionate Father, whose ear is ever open to our prayers, and hand extended to supply all our needs. Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can hinder His protecting care. The dear good angels that wait on Him, wait on us obediently to do His will. We come not only to believe in God, but to know Him. He dwells in us, and we in Him. The Christian walks through life in this divine companionship, and the heavenly light which streams through the open door of Heaven makes the shadow of life's struggles fall behind us. As we bear our Cross after the Master, we find that the Cross indeed bears us. All the many millions of the Redeemed who have gone before bear witness to this inward reign of peace, and the satisfying happiness surpassing all the World can give.

Religion also clothes us with all the privileges of an adopted Sonship. In Christ we are brought in a new relation with God. By nature we are His creatures. By grace we are Christ's children. We are made members of Christ, partakers of the divine nature, and an adopted son. Our heavenly Father gathers us, little and needy outcasts, into his own new family. By a divine illumination, and power of love, we become partakers of that divine nature, whose activities are seen in knowing and loving. Made children or members of Christ, we have all the privileges of our adopted state. We have a guaranteed entrance ever to the King, and can come, not like Esther, taking our life in our hand, but ever boldly and of right to the throne of Grace. We sit and eat at the King's table, and His banner over us is love. Moreover there is a difference between the adoption by an earthly Father, and that of our Heavenly one. An earthly Father may adopt a child not his own by birth, and educate him, and give him of his inheritance. But he cannot give him of his own natural life. The adopted relationship is only a moral and legal one. But the divine adoption makes the adopted partake of the divine nature by way of knowledge and love and gift. He is born anew, receives a new nature, a divine illumination, and made worthy to obtain a heavenly and eternal inheritance. An earthly monarch might adopt a subject and make him his heir, but it would be but a temporal honor and a passing glory. But the heavenly king makes us heirs in Christ, of a Kingdom that shall never pass away, and of a fadeless crown.

RELIGIOUS LIFE THE HAPPIEST

Religion also is the happiest of all lives. It does not secure us from trial or trouble, but it alone knows how to meet them, and the Christian has no fears of the future in this life. He knows he has God always on his side. He is therefore bright, hopeful, faithful in the midst of adversity. No sorrow or affliction can blot out the bright vision of future glory. No cross is so heavy, but the Burden Bearer will not help him bear it. On the other hand, the world is full of calamities and sorrow. Man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward. No wonder the natural man therefore is wont to be pessimistic. The buoyant, exulting spirit of the Greeks satisfied with the bright sunshine of earthly pleasure, gave way before great calamities. The optimism of Goethe, with his refined and cultivated selfishness, sunk before the accumulated misery of modern civilization. The English Byron, who said he had scarcely had a happy day in his life, exclaimed in his passionate depression:

"We are the fools of time and terror, days
Steal on us and steal from us! yet we live,
Loathing our life, and dreading still to die."

CHRIST CONDEMNS PESSIMISM

But Christ, the victor of death and hell, reverses all this. He condemns this pessimism. "Pessimism," says Liddon, "which is common sense in a heathen, is, in a Christian, disloyalty to Christ.

Optimism, which in a heathen is sheer folly, is in a Christian mere common sense. For the Christian believes in a divine providence: He knows there is a loving God who watches over every sparrow's fall, who hears the cry of every one of his children, and makes all things work together for their good."

Religion is moreover the basis of the beautiful, simple, strong, and useful life. It sees the beautiful everywhere. God is the beautiful one, and nature everywhere reflects his beauty. Nature is but a veil, beneath whose folds he discerns the movements of the beautiful one. Nature is to him a great Cathedral, where alone, in the woods, over the sea, while in the gladsome hum of insect life, or the multitudinous laughter of the waves, he may listen to beauty's song of life. The marvelous variety of floral development made Tennyson exclaim in astonishment, "How wonderful is the imagination of God." Your Easter lilies are perfumed trumpets of the Resurrection. Your roses symbols of the Rose of Sharon. And not alone is beauty found in form and color. There is a legend of our Lord, that as He was passing along a street in Jerusalem, a dead dog lay in the way, and the passers turned their heads from the sight. The divine Master said, "But see, he has beautiful white teeth!" Our sense of beauty becomes elevated when we discern in it moral forms of action. How great, noble, beautiful, are the deeds of self-sacrificing heroes and saints! A soul endowed, with good deeds is beautiful in the sight of angels!

Maybe again, that in a future state, we will have a beauty manifesting the beauty of the soul. Do we not sometimes see this developing in this life? Religion clothes us with strong and manly virtues. It is at once austere, strong, yet jealous and sensitive. It is austere, because it demands discipline; it is strong, because it must resist the enticements which surround it; it is jealous, because it guards God's honor. Its eye is like flame, and its hand a blazing torch. It is like the Cherubim which guards the gate of Paradise. It is sensitive as the dove which flies at the sound of a footstep. It is like a flower which is stirred by the faintest breeze, and which dies at the embrace of the deadly frost.

But above all, religion is the happiest of lives, for it lives not for itself alone. In this it becomes Godlike and divine. It rises above self in its growing unselfishness. It works for humanity, for neighbor, friend, kinsman, and fellow-churchman. Filled with this divine spirit, it finds in service its highest joy. No day without a loving duty, and no duty without its reward.

LIVE SO THE WORLD WILL BE BETTER

Such, indeed, are some of the truths, my daughters, you have learned from your Alma Mater. Go forth with her blessing, and in Christ's strength. May the multi anni bring with increasing experience higher and richer joys. May you so live that the world will be better, because you have lived in it. May the good angels watch over and guard you, and the great Master give you His final welcome!

"Come, children, on and forward!
With us the Father goes; He leads us and he guards us
Through thousands of our foes : The sweetness and the glory,
The sunlight of His eyes, Make all the desert places
To glow as Paradise.

Lo! through the pathless midnight

The fiery pillar leads, And onward goes the sheperd
Before the flock he feeds; Unquestioning, unfearing, the lambs may follow on,

In quietness and confidence, Their eyes on Him alone.

Far through the depths of Heaven
Our Jesus leads His own, The mightiest, the Fairest,
Christ ever, Christ alone. Led captive by His sweetness,
And dowered with His bliss, For ever He is ours,
For ever we are His."


Project Canterbury