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the soul of Nature ; all that is particular, individual, selfish, vanishes, and the current of universal being sweeps through his soul ; he is conscious of the presence of a Purity, a beauty superior to his. The most fortunate of the English poets expresses the same sentiment in the following beautiful lines :
“How often we forget all time, when lone,
Admiring Nature's universal throne,
So long, therefore, as the Creator is so prodigal of decoration, let not the partisans of utility accuse us of folly for employing regalia, and other decorations, as instrumentalities of good! The world itself goes in regalia, and does not disdain a collar and apron ;-a collar of silver clouds, gemmed with stars and broidered with rainbows; an apron curiously wrought with symbolic devices in flowers and foliage !—and thus sets us an example worthy of imitation.
The Lesson of initiation.
It teaches the neophyte that he is to labor unceasingly to perfect his nature, and employing the faculties God has given him to accomplish well the mission he is sent into this world to achieve. As the human body is nourished by those physical elements which, by a law of nature, become a part of its own substance, so the soul is expanded, it is perfected and glorified by inspiring those divine influences which God—the source of all science, art, beauty, wisdom, goodness—is perpetually communicating to his intelligent creatures. At each step which man advances in knowledge and goodness, a new and higher revelation of truth and beauty is made to his soul. It is the capacity for improvement, the power to aspire to what is beyond and above him, that is to say, to the infinite, which give to man the exalted rank he holds in the universe. Hence the duty which is imposed upon him of approaching unceasingly nearer to the divine perfection, through the right exercise of all his faculties.
We cannot but perceive the wisdom of this arrangement, and its eminent adaptation to the nature of man, and to the conditions of his existence. He commences his career on earth feeble, helpless, and ignorant. Blind, in darkness and in chains, he wanders through many a gloomy way. He is bound to the world and to his fellow-men by a multitude of relations, all which require an enlightened judgment and a well-disciplined mind. He is born, too, to a heritage of sorrow and grief, liable to disappointments and misfortunes. Hence the necessity of seeking that wisdom, those comforts and supports, and of cultivating those affections which will raise him above the vicissitudes of time, enable him to master the storm and overcome the world, and bind him in strong and close alliance with the invisible and eternal.
Life's chief work or duty is to sacrifice the brief interests of time and self to immortality and God. And to disengage the soul from the trammels of sense, to exalt it, to perfect it by making it as one with God, is the end which religion proposes, and should be the object of all science, literature, and art. For these are but parts of one vast, universal religion, which speaks not to one of our sentiments only, but to the entire of our faculties; that is, to the Soul, which is the centre and source of all.
To labor to achieve one's destiny in the earth, is to labor for wisdom, goodness, truth. It is to culti
vate generous affections, holy and trustful thought, and heavenly aspirations. And you will observe that all this implies labor, struggle, combat. It is plain that a being who is created for a perpetual progress upward, inust be subject to the necessity of toil. Born weak and ignorant, but with the infinite heavens shining above him, he must advance, do battle with the foes which obstruct his way, and overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, which seek to oppose his heavenward march. Thought can fix no limits to the possible progress of the soul, nor calculate the measure of its perfection.
The first step to be taken in this great work is to overthrow all selfishness, and subjugate the passions and senses to the dominion of the soul. In their appropriate sphere, and under a wise direction, the passions give a charm to existence, and are the ministers of incalculable good. But they are prone to rebel, and often bind the soul with an iron chain. They are useful as domestics, but when they usurp the mastery, are the most pitiless of tyrants. In the one case they are like a gently-flowing river, which gives beauty to the landscape and fertility to the soil. In the other they are like the sweeping storm or the crushing avalanche, the ministers of desolation and woe. Overborne by their clamors, man is hurled to earth, and sees no more the sunny heavens which arch above him, and invite him to soar. Truth, wisdom, virtue, charm him not; he sacrifices ALL to the transient interests and empty vanities of time. He labors, but it is for the meat which perishes. He struggles for wealth and that fame with which the world rewards its slaves, and obtains them, but death and leanness are sent into his soul.
A glorious victory is that which man gains over the powers and elements of nature, and by which he compels the earth to provide for his wants and pleasures : it is glorious to subdue the invaders of one's home and rights; but more glorious, oh, incomparably more glorious, is it to gain the victory over one's self—to break the domains of the passions—to free the soul of selfishness and earthly affections ; to subdue the enemy within the heart.
In our labors for spiritual freedom ; in our struggles after wisdom, holiness, peace, we shall be aided by invoking the virtues and perfections of the wise and holy of the past time. Whatever victories have been won over the world and sin-over the selfishness and thrall of life ; whatever perfection and glory have been acquired by any saint, may again be achieved by him who, caring little for what earth can give, is ambitious of a heavenly crown. Whatever degree of excellence or wisdom, be it never so high, which the mind resolutely fixes upon, and earnestly strives for, it may reach.