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140

WHITTIER'S VIEW OF CHRIST

The dreadful burden of our sins we feel,

The pain of wounds which Thou alone canst heal,
To whom our weakness is our strong appeal.

From the black depths, the ashes, and the dross
Of our waste lives, we reach out to Thy cross,
And by its fullness measure all our loss!

That holy sign reveals Thee: throned above
No Moloch sits, no false, vindictive Jove-
Thou art our Father, and Thy name is Love!

Whittier declares that he has become convinced of the Divinity of Christ, but he adds: “I cannot look on him as other than a man like ourselves, through whom the Divine was made miraculously manifest. Jesus of Nazareth was a man, the Christ was a Goda new revelation of the Eternal in time." But he also speaks of Christ as "Immanuel, God with us. God is one," he said; "Christ is the same Eternal One, manifested in our humanity, and in time; the Holy Spirit is the same Christ manifested within us." No reasonable Trinitarian can object to this latter statement, and by it we must interpret the statement that goes before. In the earlier declaration he is only solicitous to guard our Lord's perfect humanity; in the latter he asserts that this humanity is divine; in other words, that Jesus is the Christ. Though his declaration does not define the relations of the Three, nor even call them persons, it is not a Unitarian statement. It may be Sabellian, but it recognizes at least the Deity of Christ, and gives him supreme place in affection and service.

Only once does our poet struggle with the mystery of the Trinity, and the solution which he gives is not a speculative, but a practical one:

A PRACTICAL VIEW OF THE TRINITY

141

At morn I prayed, "I fain would see
How Three are One, and One is Three;
Read the dark riddle unto me."

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In vain I turned, in weary quest,

Old pages, where (God give them rest!)
The poor creed-mongers dreamed and guessed.

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Then something whispered, Dost thou pray
For what thou hast? This very day
The Holy Three have crossed thy way.

Did not the gifts of sun and air

To good and ill alike declare

The all-compassionate Father's care?

"In the white soul that stooped to raise

The lost one from her evil ways,

Thou saw'st the Christ, whom angels praise!

A bodiless Divinity,

The still small Voice that spake to thee

Was the Holy Spirit's mystery!

"The equal Father in rain and sun,

His Christ in the good to evil done,

His Voice in thy soul;-and the Three are One!"

And my heart answered, "Lord, I see
How Three are One, and One is Three;
Thy riddle hath been read to me!"

It may be doubted whether this solution fully answers the demands of Scripture. We have there a recognition of personal relations of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Spirit, which go beyond the terms of Whittier's statement. But all that is

142

ACCEPTANCE OF CHRIST'S SACRIFICE

positive in his utterance we may accept with gladness, only adding that there is a yet larger truth which he had not perceived. Enough for our present purpose that he depended on Christ alone for salvation, in this world and in the world to come. “I am no Calvinist," he says,

But I feel in looking over my life-double-motived and full of failures-that I cannot rely upon word or work of mine to offset sins and shortcomings, but upon Love alone. . . Alas, if I have been a servant at all, I have been an unprofitable one; and yet I have loved goodness, and have longed to bring my imaginative poetic temperament into true subjection. I stand ashamed and almost despairing before holy and pure ideals. As I read the New Testament I feel how weak, irresolute, and frail I am, and how little I can rely on anything save our God's mercy and infinite compassion, which I reverently and thankfully own have followed me through life, and the assurance of which is my sole ground of hope for myself, and for those I love and pray for.

He repudiated every moral and religious scheme. which makes man sufficient to himself. Neither Stoicism nor Epicureanism could satisfy his needs. "I am more and more astonished," he writes,

That such a man as Confucius could have made his appearance amidst the dull and dreary commonplaces of his people. No wiser soul ever spoke of right and duty, but his maxims have no divine sanction, and his pictures of a perfect society have no perspectives opening to eternity. Our Doctor Franklin was quite of the Confucius order-though a very much smaller man. . . I cannot help believing in prayer for spiritual things. Being fully possessed of Christ, then it is he that prays.

And his poem "The Crucifixion" shows his acceptance of the outward sacrifice offered in his behalf, as

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well as of the inward renewal and help of Christ's

Spirit:

That Sacrifice!-the death of Him,

The Christ of God, the Holy One!
Well may the conscious Heaven grow dim,
And blacken the beholding Sun!

Well may the temple-shrine grow dim,

And shadows veil the Cherubim,
When He, the chosen one of Heaven,
A sacrifice for guilt is given!

And shall the sinful heart, alone,

Behold unmoved the fearful hour,
When Nature trembled on her throne,
And Death resigned his iron power?
Oh, shall the heart-whose sinfulness
Gave keenness to His sore distress,
And added to His tears of blood-
Refuse its trembling gratitude?

There was a time when Orthodox Quakers were shy of publicly joining with abolitionists. This threw Whittier in with the Hicksites, though he belonged to the Orthodox. He felt that a sound belief required sound practice, and in remonstrating with his brethren, he took occasion to draw from that belief an argument for duty. "What will it avail us," he writes,

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If, while boasting of our soundness and of our enmity to the delusion of Hicksism, we neglect to make a practical application of our belief to ourselves? if we neglect to seek for ourselves that precious atonement which we ready to argue in favor of? I do not undervalue a sound belief, but at the same time I believe it may be “held” in unrighteousness. I do not dare to claim to be any the better for my orthodox principles. The mercy of God is my only

hope.

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His poem

"The Over-Heart" seems like a reply

to Emerson's too intellectual doctrines of the OverSoul, and to his overstatement of man's independence:

The world sits at the feet of Christ,
Unknowing, blind, and unconsoled;
It yet shall touch His garment's fold,
And feel the heavenly Alchemist
Transform its very dust to gold.

To a young physician, with Doré's picture of Christ healing the sick, he sent his poem, "The Healer":

So stood of old the holy Christ

Amidst the suffering throng;

With whom His lightest touch sufficed

To make the weakest strong.

That healing gift He lends to them

Who use it in His name;

The power that filled His garment's hem
Is evermore the same.

That Good Physician liveth yet

Thy friend and guide to be;

The Healer by Gennesaret

Shall walk the rounds with thee.

"Our Master " is a confession of faith in Christ which has passed into the hymnology of all the churches:

Immortal Love, forever full,
Forever flowing free,

Forever shared, forever whole,

A never-ebbing sea!

Our outward lips confess the name

All other names above;

Love only knoweth whence it came

And comprehendeth love.

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