1874: Truth and Love


Brethren Op The Graduating: Class :— This hour is one of the serious hours of life. To you, because it marks the completion of your preparatory work, and the opening of the great doors that hitherto have shut you out from the business of life. To me serious, because it marks the close of my first course of instruction, the end of the first imperfect round of theological investigation. Yon are my first children, and first children have a peculiar place in the parent's heart which none have after. I may be confidential with you now, and tell you how I prayed when I first half tremblingly undertook my work, that God would give me for my first pupils a considerate class — a class by whose side and upon whose level I could put myself, for honest and patient and earnest study of God's great system of truth. I wish to thank you publicly for the kindness and candor with which you have received my teaching. No captious or ungentle word has ever been spoken even in the greatest stress and fervor of our disputings together. And in all our personal relations there has been the warmth of a Christian affection, which to this hour I believe has not ceased or even diminished, but has steadily increased even to the end. It has been my joy and crown to see that converse with the truth was stiffening the fibre and widening the reach of your minds, and that with intellectual progress there was also religious growthBut we have come to the end at last. Such as it is, and whatever it is, my mark upon you has been made. You go out to be the first representatives of my training and influence. Do you wonder that I hesitate to say the word that parts us,— that I would fain hold yon still, to better my work,— that it is with great sadness, even with my great hopes for your future, that I hasten on to the blessing and the farewell?

This occasion will never come again, and none resembling it. There is more of personality in it, than ever can be again. And though this address is, in its original design, an expression of others' good wishes than my own, you will allow me to make it to-night the vehicle of my own thought with regard to you, and so a summing up of what I have desired the general influence of Seminary instruction to be. I can only indicate the two main features of it. First, to form the fixed habit of earnest pondering and independent judgment with regard to the truth, as to doctrine and duty. That implies a fundamental conviction that there is such a thing as truth in spiritual things, reality corresponding to normally conducted thinking. It implies a burning desire, an unalterable determination, to know the most of this truth that the strength and range of our understandings will admit. It implies the instinct of progress —. putting shame on any idolizing of past attainments, and making willingness to accept new light, from every quarter under heaven, the very watchword of all investigation. No contemptuous sneering at opponents, no dogmatizing as if wisdom would die with us, but fair-mindedness in recognizing objection and allowing it all proper weight, while at the same time we put it in its place of subordination, if that be its due. It implies holding to the truth, standing by the truth, living for the truth, and living out the truth when we have found it,—our progress ruled by the facts of revelation, marked not by disregard of them but by greater reverence for them,—no arbitrary and irrational progress, but a progress according to law — the double law of nature and of Scripture. I believe, my brethren, that we have together dug down to some great rocky facts of being, and have to some extent built alike upon these. But if you go out to complete your structure of Christian doctrine, brick for brick like that which you have seen us build, you are no true disciples of ours. Remember that we have taught you that the word of God is infinitely higher than all human teachers,— and that, if you are to be living men influencing your age for God, you must "prove all things — holding fast only that which is good."

Secondly, we have desired that the discipline of this Seminary should form in you the habit of seeking the truth, holding the truth, speaking the truth, living the truth, in love. Our theological institutions have often been charged with making men critical at the expense of the emotional life; intellectual at the expense of practical power; learned at the expense of piety. I trust you have proved the contrary in your own experience. I know that clearer views of truth have opened new fountains of emotion within you, given you new weapons for practical work, drawn you into closer sympathy and communion with Christ. Let me remind you that the aim of all our instruction has been to show that truth and love are not only consistent with each other, but that truth without love is not truth,— that only love can find the truth, or utter the truth, or hold the truth, or live the truth. I repeat to

you now, what I have said in a hundred forms before, that only as you are men given to Christ in a self-sacrificing love that reflects the love of Gethsemane and Calvary, can you ever know the inner secrets of God's word, or have power to win a single soul from darkness to light. Will you ever forget that no true preaching and no true living for God is possible without having Christ himself, the living love of God within ? — without knowing by personal and blessed experience that union with Christ which is the central fact of all theology and of all religion ? — without being possessed by a higher, larger, more enduring energy than that of a weak, unstable, human will — even the energy of Christ's loving, indwelling Spirit? Forget all else, my brethren, but forget not this. By it, your life and your ministry stand or fall. Yon can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, but without him you can do nothing.

I trust these two great principles of all noble living — truth-seeking and Christ-loving — have taken such possession of you here, that entrance upon more direct and active labors for men's salvation will be no shock to you, but only the joyful widening of your sphere. Our hearts go forward with you into the future before you. Your future is our future, your labors our labors, your trials our trials, your success our success. I cannot tell you of the eagerness with which we shall listen for tidings of you, nor of the joy with which we shall hear that you are growing in power to unfold God's truth, that you are learning new spiritual lessons of communion with Christ, that you are developing new tenderness and patience and self-sacrifice in your care for the flock of God, and in your toilful efforts to bring erring and perverted souls into the fold. Work and pray for Christ and his Church; take the place he puts you in; think not of reward; lose your lives for God's sake; and the reward will be sure enough, and great enough. Having been "faithful over a few things" on earth, Christ will make you "rulers over many things " when he comes in the Judgment. Go, then, and God be with you! Farewell.