Dreams and Visions

Joel 2:28.---'Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.'

Youth is the period of visions. In the clear light of life's early days we see with piercing distinctness, because the faculty of the vision is fresh in us. What gives youth its power is that there is a noble inconsiderateness in its temper, which brings vision and action into closer relation than usually happens in later life. For youth, to see is to act, to believe it is to affirm, to know is to do. The one key to a noble life is to see clearly, and then to act in absolute obedience to the highest vision. The visions of youth then become the dreams of age.

The measure of a man is the measure of his vision. Man is preeminently the creature who sees. Other creatures can look in stolid silence on the stars, but no other can watch them with intelligent curiosity and read their secret. What are the chief visions by which men live? They are four---the vision of the Mind, which is the vision of Progress; of the Moral Nature, which is the vision of Duty; of the Heart, which is the vision of Love; of the Soul, which is the vision of Faith. It is by these visions that men live. To keep these visions through youth and manhood is to live nobly, and for such as do this by visions of youth become the dreams of age, and life rounds itself off into a noble music and Divine completion.

The Vision of the Mind, which is the vision of Progress. It is plain that Joel, in writing these words, felt himself at the end of an era. He sums up the evils of his time; he discounts its glory; he foresees is retributions; and he says there is nigh at hand 'a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the dawn spread upon the mountains.' We are familiar with this prophecy. The merest glance at history convinces us that time moves in cycles. There is a period of growth, followed by a time of splendor, and then by a rapid decline.

Have we come today to such a period of decline? We have had our dreams and our visions, and now the visions are clouded, the dreams are bitter. Age and youth alike are disillusioned and cynical. In many instances the great experiments from which so much was hoped have seemed to fail. We still have poverty and drunkenness and social misery. Over all our minds there is the paralysis of hesitation and fear.

How are we to be redeemed from it? By the one supreme thought that the spirit of God still moves among the nations. 'I will pour out my spirit on all flesh' is a promise not for one age alone, but for every age till the Divine Will is perfectly wrought in the making of man. Things happen from time to time that seem a retardation of progress; humanity, afraid of itself and its destinies, retreats when every lofty voice calls it to advance; civilization itself seems often to move in a circle, repeating an old follies in new forms; but nevertheless the Eternal Spirit of Life and Progress works tireless through all.

The Vision of Duty. Is there one of us who has not felt promptings which we know are noble, and which lead to nobility of conduct? And the highest wisdom of life is to live by those visions. A life spent in the pursuit not of pleasures but of duties is evermore its own exceeding great reward. And not least among its rewards is this; that it leads to tranquil and satisfied old age. Men have regretted many things when they have come to the end of life; but no man ever yet regretted a duty bravely done.

It is in the days of youth that the vision of Duty is most clearly seen. It is then that the verdict of the moral nature is felt to be most authoritative. And is it not true also that youth is fruitful with moral dilemmas which can be solved only by strict obedience to the moral vision? Follow the vision of Duty, for be assured it is the Divine.

Take, again, the Vision of the Heart, the dream of the reality of pure and noble love in the world. Cherish the dream, for there is none that fades so easily. It is one of the commonest temptations of youth to discount this vision with a cheap and shallow cynicism. But there are old men who have gone to the grave dreaming of this love. It has kept its radiance to last, and its fine gold has not become dim, nor is freshness faded. But these men were the men who in youth saw the vision, and followed it; and that was why in age they dreamed dreams still, and saw a Paradise.

Highest of all is the fourth vision, the Vision of the Soul, which is the vision of Faith. Faith in what? Faith in God, in Christ, in the spiritual world which lies around this little life. In the early dawn of life, when the vision of the soul is fresh, we see these invisible refuges of the soul as great realities. To the keen and unsophisticated sense of the child, God, and Christ, and the spiritual world are real and near. We hear, as Wordsworth heard, the murmur of the sea that brought us hither; we cry as Browning cried to that "Pale Form," so dimly seen, deep-eyed, the Christ, who moves our souls and calls for obedient love. And there are many moments of acute vision, which by God's great mercy happen to us, when we gain heart-moving glimpses of Christ, when He steps out of some often-read verse before us in the Divine charm of His love; when some hymn interprets and reveals Him for an instant, and our souls go out to Him. And there are hours in life, too, when the reality of a spiritual world is made almost visible to us; when at the grave we have exchanged beauty for ashes, when in prayer we have seemed to find an answering voice, when in silence we have felt the mystery of unseen presences, and our hearts have leapt up in the passion of conscious immortality. Oh, cherish these visions, follow those inherent intuitions of the soul. Faint as they are, they are true; and they will grow stronger as we follow them, and in the struggle of life they will be the master-light of all our seeing, and in the eventide of life will shine like a benignant sunset on the path that slopes to rest.

If ever man was true to his spiritual visions it was Blake. Through a life of poverty and much contempt those visions were his joy, and again we see the visions of youth making the dreams of age, for as he died he said, "He was going to that country he had all his life wished to see, and expressed himself happy, hoping for salvation through Jesus Christ." Just before he died his countenance became fair, his eyes brightened, and he burst out singing of the things he saw in heaven.

In Christ, timothy. MARANATHA

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