"For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
—Acts iv. 20.
For two reasons I profess to be afraid of religious speech.
In the first place, I am disposed to assert that it becomes readily a thing of course and custom, a glib utterance of the tongue, shallow, insincere, mechanical, almost if not quite empty of vital significance. No doubt, there is a sad possibility of my learning to traffic in the false commerce of a truth unfelt. I may be professional and perfunctory, when there ought to be behind my words an emotion which pulses and palpitates and will not be held in check. I may even deceive myself into the belief that I am in living union with Christ Jesus, although I have never touched the hem of His garment, simply because I have such proficiency in saying Lord! Lord! But it cannot be right to discontinue and prohibit what is good, merely because it may be abused. What a world of desirable and noble things I must forego, if I make this my consistent and universal rule!
But then again, I contend that there must be reserves in true religion, secret and hidden places, experiences that cannot be repeated, joys unspeakable and full of glory, shrines which are to be trodden by no human foot. I am right. For every genuinely Christian heart God has His own whisper, which it is unlawful to publish from the housetops. Let me thank Him if I am conversant in any measure with these unrecitable communions and sanctities, and if He bids me come apart into His Paradise and tarry alone with Himself there. But there are other ingredients than these in the faith and life of His children—things commoner, and more elementary, and capable of explanation to many. And I must never make the intimacies of the Holy of holies a plea for declining to tell men about the Beautiful Gate. If the top of the mountain is veiled in the Shekinah-cloud, its base is near their homes and accessible to their feet, and I must bid them climb till they too know the ecstasies of the summit.
If I have had such experience of Christ's grace as the apostles had, I shall not be able to maintain silence. Suppose that the Good Shepherd's voice, " sword-like sweet," has sung to me,—
It told of rude disgrace;
And of an anguished face
It told, methought; and of a wounded Friend;
Of pain it told, and shame;
Of love that overcame
Through simple skill of loving to the end:
shall I not forsake my own strains and stories for this " story sad and plain"? And, having mastered the Shepherd's one and only song, must I not echo and proclaim its music wherever I go?