1 Cor. 13:9.---' We know in part.'

It has ever been a mark of Christianity that it kept men alive to the mysteries around them. The souls that have drunk most deeply of the Christian doctrine are souls that have most felt the mystery of life. We may gather up the Christian teaching in confessions, and it is vitally necessary that that should be done. But when everything is tabulated and reduced to systems, we are still haunted by a sense of the inexplicable---more is meant than meets the ear. No doubt a chemist could explain the causes of all the colors in a sunset. And yet in the blending glories of a sunset there is something that no man shall ever analyze.

Balzac tells us the story of a chemist whose absorption in his scientific work led him to neglect his wife. One day as he is describing his latest experiments he suddenly notices that she is in tears. "Tears!" he cries. "I have analyzed tears. Tears contain a little phosphate of lime, chloride of sodium, mucous, and water."

Perhaps there never was a time in which the sense of mystery was less present than today. How far that dying out of the mysterious may be traced to the decline of living faith is a question that might admit of much discussion. But there are other causes which we may indicate.

One is the tyranny of facts under which we live. There is no man more apt to be blind to the great mysteries than the specialist, and this is pre-eminently the age of specialism. Tennyson is most wonderfully accurate in every reference he makes to Nature, and in this, as in so many other points, he interprets the spirit of the age he lived in. Now no one will question the value of that spirit, or the immense gains which it has won for us. At the same time, an age with that dominant note is not likely to be haunted by the mystery of things.

And then this is an age of machinery, and there is little mystery in a machine. We are likely to grow dull to many wonders when we take to calculating by horse-power. "So many hundred hands in this mill," says Charles Dickens in that powerful little story of his, Hard Times, "so many hundred horse steam power. It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will do. . . . There is no mystery in it." And he means that when an age puts the emphasis not on man but on machinery, we are not likely to be troubled greatly by the strange sense of the inexplicable.

And then again this is an age of travel. This world is explored into its darkest corners. We do not expect now, as men expected once, to hear of marvelous things from Africa or India. One had only to cross the sea with Sir John Mandeville to be in the midst of astounding mysteries at once. But the world is very different today. Its most distant countries have been mapped and photographed. Knowledge has come, and perhaps a little wisdom with it; but the older sense of the world's mystery is gone.

"Ah me!" says the Scottish poet Alexander Smith, "what a world this was to live in two or three centuries ago, when it was getting itself discovered. . . . Then were the Arabian Nights commonplace, enchantments a matter of course, and romance the most ordinary thing in the world. Then man was courting Nature, now he has married her. Every mystery is dissipated.

In these times, then, it is supremely important that we should endeavor to keep alive the sense of mystery. And we may be sure that the Lord Jesus Christ always meant it to have large room in His disciple's hearts.

Think, for example, of what our Lord meant by unbelief. 'Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?' That was the one rebuke which He used to launch at His disciples, for there was nothing that grieved Christ more than lack of faith. It was not lack of faith in any particular doctrine---it was not that which called out the rebuke of Christ. It was rather such a view of God's great universe as left no room for any mystery in it. Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Is there nothing else abroad but storm and cloud-banks? Had they only felt the mystery of the Divine, touching and girding even the angry waters, they had been less disquieted out at sea. That was what Jesus meant by unbelief: not a mind that denies, but a spirit that disowns; a heart that will not recognize, amid things seen, the power, the love, the mystery of God. We see, then, that the disciple of Christ must have a spirit that is alive to mystery.

Or take that other declaration: 'Except ye become as little children.' We cannot even see the Kingdom of God, unless within us is the heart of childhood; and all things are mysterious to the child. The children's world is full of spiritual presences; they never think of God as far away. Flowers speak to them in voices we have lost, the night winds cry to them, the clouds are still peopled countries. The fear of childhood is not the fear of cowardice; the fear of childhood is the fear of imagination. We should all fear the darkness as the child does, if we believed it was full of eyes and living things. Now Jesus wants no disciple to be childish: when we become men we put away childish things. But the childlike spirit that believes in possibilities, that hungers for a world behind the world, that cannot touch a flower or hear an echo but there comes some suggestion of things mystical, that spirit is the spirit of the Christian.

It is notable, too, that Jesus deepened the mystery of everything He touched. Things never become less mysterious, always more, when they have passed through the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. We think of Jesus as the great explainer, and we thank God for the rough places Christ has made plain. He has given an answer to a thousand problems. But Jesus never explained anything by lessening the mystery that clung to it. He is a sorry teacher who shows the merely obvious. Jesus enlarged the mystery of things, intensified it, deepened it. When He wished to make men understand a matter, He showed that there was more to be understood than they had dreamed.

Take one of His leading words like life, for instance. We say, and say rightly, that Christ explains life to us. We understand it better, and we can live it better, in the light that Jesus has cast upon its meaning. But when we think of what life meant in the old pagan world, how shallow it was, how sensuous and short, and when we compare that with the life that is in Christ, with its depth, its joy, its fullness, its infinite issues, we feel at once how the mystery of life is deepened in passing through the hands of Jesus Christ.

Or take the thought of death. Christ has illumined death; but has He banished its mystery? He has taken away its sting, but deepened its mystery. There are glorious hopes in it, as we see when we compare the pagan attitude with the Christian.

Compare the agony and defiance of Pagan epitaphs, like that of Procope, "I, Procope, lift up my hands against the gods who took me from here undeserving," with the glad certainty of the Christian over his dead wife, "Terentiana lives"; or, "Agape, you shall live for ever." Compare the hopelessness of the bereaved Pagan father, "Our hope was in our boy, now all is ashes and lamentation," or on the tomb of a child of five, "To the unrighteous gods who robbed me of life," with the cheerful resignation of the Christian father, "Marcus, innocent boy, you are now among the innocent." In the Catacombs will not be found one note of scorn or defiance such as we find in the heathen epitaphs.

There are moral bearings in the thought of death; it is the wages of sin. There are dim suggestions of eternal separations from love and joy and God. And all this mystery of light, and mystery of darkness, has been poured into the cup of death by Jesus Christ. Death has strange meanings for the humblest now that it had not for the wisest before Jesus came. Christ has intensified its mystery a thousandfold.

Or take the thought of God. We know God through the Lord Jesus Christ. All that we know of God from outward nature, and all that we gather from the world's long history, is but the out work and flanking of that revelation which is ours through the life and death of Jesus. But is God less mysterious to us in the light of that revelation of Christ Jesus? 'God without mystery were not good news.' God was a Sovereign once, now He is Father, and there are more mysteries in Fatherhood than in Kingship. God was a God of power once; He is a God of love now; and all the power of all the thunderbolts of Jove are not so mysterious as the slightest spark of love. And God was alone once, or there were many Gods. Now, baffling comprehension, yet most real, we have a vision of Three in One and One in Three. Christ has intensified the mystery of God.

The Christian view is always the deepest view. The Lord who inspired it saw kingdoms in mustard-seeds. They tell us that to see the unusual we ought to travel. But perhaps a better way to see it is to be Christ's. For it is then that life, and death, and human hearts, and all things break into glories of meaning unsuspected. It is then, too, that a man becomes humble. Touched by a sense of mystery, he must be reverent. And it is then that he begins again to wonder. Expect surprises. Believe that there are more things in heaven and earth than have ever been dreamed of in your philosophies. And then, when common actions are irradiated, and common lives flash into moral glories, when the mysteries of life, and love, and death, and God, so baffle us that we can only say with Paul 'we know in part'---we shall be nearer the spirit of Jesus than we ever dreamed.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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