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made, while those things which can not be shaken remain.
All confess this to be true, each in his own words. They talk of this age as one of change; of rapid progress, for good or evil; of unexpected discoveries; of revolutions, intellectual, moral, social, as well as political. Our notions of the physical universe are rapidly altering, with the new discoveries of science; and our notions of ethics and theology are altering as rapidly. The era assumes a different aspect to different minds, just as it did the first century after Christ, according as men look forward to the future with hope, or back to the past with regret. Some glory in the nineteenth century as one of rapid progress for good; as the commencement of a new era for humanity; as the inauguration of a Reformation as grand as that of the sixteenth century. Others bewail it as an age of rapid decay; in which the old landmarks are being removed, the old paths lost; in which we are rushing headlong into skepticism and atheism; in which the world and the Church are both in danger, and the last day is at hand.
Both parties may be right; and yet both may be wrong. Men have always talked thus, at great crises in the world's life. They talked thus in the first century; and in the fifth, and in the eleventh; and again in the sixteenth; and then both parties were partially right and partially wrong; and so they may
be now. What they meant to say, what they wanted to say, what we mean and want to say, has been said already for us in far deeper, wider, and more accurate words, by him who wrote this wonderful Epistle to the Hebrews, when he told the Jews of his time that the Lord was shaking the heavens and the earth, that those things which were shaken might be removed, as things that are made-cosmogonies, systems, theories, prejudices, fashions, of man's invention: while those things which could not be shaken might remain, because they were according to the mind and will of God, eternal as that source from whence they came forth, even the bosom of God the Father.
“Yet once more I shake, not the earth only, but also heaven.”
How has the earth been shaken in our days; and the heaven likewise. How rapidly have our conceptions of both altered. How easy, simple, certain, it all looked to our forefathers in the middle age. How difficult, complex, uncertain, it all looks to us. With increased knowledge has come not increased doubt: that I deny utterly. I deny, once and for all, that this age is an irreverent age. I say that an irreverent age is one like the age of the Schoolmen; when men defined and explained all heaven and earth by à priori theories, and cosmogonies invented in the cloister; and dared, poor, simple, ignorant mortals, to fancy that they could comprehend and gauge the ways of Him whom the heaven and the heaven of heavens could not contain. This, this is irreverence: but it is neither irreverence nor want of faith, if a man, awed by the mystery which encompasses him from the cradle to the grave, shall lay his hand upon his mouth, with Job, and obey the Voice which cries to him from earth and heaven-“Be still, and know that as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than thy ways, and my thoughts higher than
But it was all easy, and simple, and certain enough to our forefathers. The earth, according to the popular notion, was plane; or, if it were, as the wiser held, a sphere, yet antipodes were an unscriptural heresy. Above it were the heavens, in which the stars were fixed, or wandered; and above them heaven after heaven, each tenanted by its own orders of beings, up to that heaven of heavens in which Deity-and by Him, be it always remembered, the mother of Deitywas enthroned.
And if above the earth was the kingdom of light, and purity, and holiness, what could be more plain, than that below it was the kingdom of darkness, and impurity, and sin? That was no theory to our forefathers: it was a physical fact. Had not even the heathens believed as much, and said so, by the mouth of the poet Virgil? He had declared that the mouth of Tartarus lay in Italy, hard by the volcanic lake Avernus; and after the unexpected eruption of Vesuvius in the first century, nothing seemed more clear than that Virgil was right; and that men were justified in talking of Tartarus, Styx, and Phlegethon as indisputable Christian entities. Etna, Stromboli, Hecla, were (according to this cosmogony) likewise mouths of hell; and there were not wanting holy hermits, who had heard from within those craters, shrieks, and clanking chains, and the howls of demons tormenting the souls of the endlessly lost.
Our forefathers were not aware that, centuries before the incarnation of our Lord, the Buddhist priests had held exactly the same theory of moral retribution; and that painted on the walls of Buddhist temples might be seen horrors identical with those which adorned the walls of many a Christian church, in the days when men believed in this Tartarology as firmly as they now believe in the results of chemistry or of astronomy.
And now-How is the earth shaken, and the heavens likewise, in that very sense in which the expression is used by him who wrote to the Hebrews ? Our conceptions of them are shaken. How much of that medieval cosmogony do educated men believe, in the sense in which they believe that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or that if they steal their neighbor's goods they commit a sin?
The earth has been shaken for us, more and more violently, as the years have rolled on. It was shaken when astronomy told us that the earth was not the center of the universe, but a tiny planet revolving round a sun in a remote region thereof.
It was shaken, when geology told us that the earth had endured for countless ages, during which continents had become oceans, and oceans continents, again and again. And even now, it is being shaken by researches into the antiquity of man, into the origin and permanence of species, which, let the result be what it will, must in the meanwhile shake for us theories and dogmas which have been undisputed for 1500 years.
And with the rest of our cosmogony, that conception of a physical Tartarus below the earth has been shaken likewise, till good men have been fain to find a fresh place for it in the sun, or in a comet; or to patronize the probable, but as yet unproved theory of a central fire within the earth; not on any scientific grounds, but simply if by any means they can assign a region in space, wherein material torment can be inflicted on the spirits of the lost.
And meanwhile the heavens, the spiritual world, is being shaken no less. More and