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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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The Return of the Prophet and the Psalmist.

by The Hon. Lady Welby.
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 401-406


Psalms xxxvi., xl., xlii., xlii., xlix., lvi., lvii., lxxii., lxxvi., lxxxiv., lxxxv., xc., xcii., xcvii., cxix., cxxxix., cxlv., cxlvi.

In that heaven which is the knowledge of God, where That which is Perfect does not come or go, but ever IS and ACTS, a Prophet and a Psalmist were returning from an embassage of succour and of blessing to the Presence which was both their life and home.

And on their way they lingered. And the Psalmist said to the Prophet: "Behold, brother, we know that wheresoever we go all things are athirst for the living GOD, drawing in with eagerness each drop of blessing given. All worlds receiving light give back its rays and shine. What, then, must be the glory now in that world whence we came? For even in the old days when we lived on earth we could see far on, though blurred and dim the vision, what the very GOD of light would be, in times to come, for men. And now earth knows our meaningand more even than we could mean. For the Cross is come and gone, and yet is with them alway: the risen and ascended Life is there; men know, in each thought of right, with Whom is the fountain of life. And they know, in each thought of the Real, in whom are the springs of Truth: for in the light of the Light-Giver the world hath seen all light. We waited patiently for the Lord, and knew Him not in Man. But now the Son of Man saith: 'Lo, I come; I delight to do Thy will, O my GOD; yea, Thy law is within my heart.' How, then, must men be saying now: 'Lo, we will not refrain our lips, O lord, thou knowest!' Our hearts panted and our souls thirsted for that water of life which now is theirs so wholly. For GOD hath sent out His light and His truth, and by them men are guided to wondrous heights of knowledge; so that the Truth of all things is the exceeding joy of man. Yea, were Manbeing in such honouryet without understanding, eh would indeed be as the beasts that perish. But his soul is delivered from death, and his feet from falling, so that he walketh before GOD in the light of the living. For GOD is exalted in very deed above the heavens and His glory above all the earth. He blesseth man, and all the ends of the earth know Him; the whole earth is filled with His glory. The day is GOD'S, the night also is His; He hath prepared the light and the sun in Nature and in mind. And blessed is the race whose strength is on GOD: passing through the valley of weeping they make it a place of springs; they go from strength to strength, every one of them appeareth before Him. For GOD is a sun and a shield; He will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other: Truth springeth out of the very earth, and righteousness looketh down from heaven. Yea, the Lord giveth that which is good, and all things yield Him increase. Righteousness shall go before Him, and set all men in the way of His steps. For a thousand years in His sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. How glad must men be through GOD'S work in Nature; how must they triumph in the works of His hand, knowing the depth of Divine Thought, which only a brutish man would know not, or a fool fail to understand. In our day clouds and darkness were still round about Him; but a fire has gone before Him and burned all falseness and all lies, His enemies. And now the heavens declare His righteousness, and the people see His glory, since light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.

"The opening of Divine words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. For GOD understandeth the thoughts of men afar off; whither should they go from His spirit, or whither should they flee from His presence? If they ascend into heaven, He is there; if they make their bed in Sheol, He is there also. If one taketh the wings of the morning, and dwelleth in the uppermost parts of the sea, even there is the hand of GOD. if one say, 'Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, and the light about me shall be night,' even the darkness hideth not from One who IS light; but the light shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to GOD. For He insight unto all them that call upon Him in truth; and He keepeth truth for ever.

"All this and much more we saw and said, looking onwards and within, and behind the veil of sense. But now what songs must they on earth have power to make and sing! What glory now there must be in their wordsthey who have in ever fuller measure the Life of lives, the very Spirit of truth, and that real knowledge of suns and stars and worlds, of order and law in Nature and in life, which was not given to us. Let us, therefore, ask that we may once more go to earth; I, that I may once hear and read the Psalms of the living Church of Christ, in which all men are one; and thou, that thou mayest once hear and read the prophecies of the living Body of One whose mind speaks through her, and whose Thoughts embrace all truth: both of us, that we may know and speak with men whose lips are touched with an intenser, whiter flame of living light than any we were ready for on earth."

And the Prophet said: "Thou has well spoken. For the wilderness and the solitary place must indeed be glad for these things; all deserts must rejoice and blossom as the rose; the eyes of the blind must be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing, for in the wilderness have waters broken out, and streams in the desert; and the glowing sand hath become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.

"And a highway is there and a way, and it is called THE WAY OF HOLINESS. The redeemed are walking there; theirs is gladness and joy; sorrow and sighing must needs have fled away."

So they prayed that they might come to earth to see the  glory of Christ-Life. And their request was granted, and they came.

* * * * * *

And so they began to journey as wayfarers on earth; and they seemed as other men, and no man knew them. And as they went, in a certain place they found many hastening, with their faces set one way, along a road. Sot hey went with the multitude, and asked one whither they were going. "To Church, for we are Christian fold," they answered. So the Prophet and the Psalmist looked upon each other and were glad, for now they would have their wish. And they saw books in the hands of some. And the Prophet said to one: "I pray thee, tell me, are those the Christian prophecies? Art thou thyself a prophet too? Didst thou write these, or another whom thou knowest?"

But the man turned round with looks of terror, shrinking away, for he thought this was a madman. Yet as the stranger's face had no signs of madness in it, he answered: "These are the only prophecies we have; and this one is appointed for our reading this day in Church as our first lesson." And he turned the page; and behold there was the prophet's own writing. So the prophet was amazed and answered nothing; and he thought that perhaps the living words of God were spoken and not written, and even might be known by other names. And seeing his wonder, the man turned the page again, and showed the Gospel and Epistle, the Record and the Letter; for he thought, "Perhaps these are what he seeks." But now the Psalmist spake, and he said: "It is well that these words of old should be remembered and repeated, for they were given through living hearts and minds. But at least, if ye are going to pray and praise, ye must have the Christian Psalms."

So the man wondered, but he opened the book at the Psalms for the day. But the Psalmist was struck dumb, for he saw. . . . his own psalm, and beyond it another, with words of cursing and of hatred, words which even without the Gospel some had known in his own days as false at root. Yet after a moment he roused himself and said, "It is well indeed that the words which came in darker days should still be kept and cherished as helping you to know what your light is. Now, show me Psalms of Christ." And at this the face of the other brightened somewhat, and he showed the stranger the "Benedictus," the "Magnificat," and the "Nunc Dimittis." But the Psalmist said, "I perceive that these were written before the coming of the Holy Spirit, and like ours and like all words spoken before these latter days (when secrets of Nature are revealed which then were hidden from all eyes), they are but an earnest of the words which now are needed and can be given, and uttered, and understood, and acted forth in life." But here another man answered, "How is it that thou art so ignorant or so presumptuous? In this book there are inspired now. But doubtless we have mistaken thy desire: these must be what thou art asking for." And he put a Hymn-book into the stranger's hand.

But as the Psalmist turned over the pages, indignant pity deepened in his heart. For he saw that all was borrowed, or copied more or less, unreal or stilted, puerile, unworthy. The ancient strains, full of life and meaning, true to all that men could so far know or be, giving the common life as in a mirror, but drawing up all baseness and all foolishness into such worthy thought of GOD as then could be received, were lowered into what was sometimes even almost parody: at best below what poets could achieve: deserving the name men gave them: uninspired. So he cried, "You call these your Psalms! you discern not their unworthiness, their poverty and lack of living force?" "But we can do no better," said the man, "we are not like the Psalmists and the Prophets, and do not presume to look for any man as apostle in these days: none ever gives us prophecy or psalm, or even inspired letter."

Then indeed were the Prophet and the Psalmist sad at heart. The light of the world had filled the earth, the true GOD-gift revealing: man's nature had been taken into GOD. . . .And after all these ages of the Living Presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit's workthey had found only barrenness: no hearing and no vision as of old: no fresh springs in present power and truth: the world athirst. . . . and noble souls estranged! And as they returned, wondering how this could be, one met them, and asked them what ailed them, that they looked perplexed and downcast? And as they told him, he too grew grave and troubled, and he said, "Indeed, what you have heard is sadly true. Each one of us who would be faithful to the right in any form is looking earnestly for a dawn that shall mean sunshine, not moonlight only, still less mere earth-lit lamp-light.

Every one of us who would be and act as true man, the Thinker, the Speaker, the Doer of all right, is hungry and athirst for wholesome food. But when we go to those who claim to lead us up to GOD by life in Christ, with them we find no power to interpret, no present psalm or prophecy as living word and witness: no man translates the 'science' picture-writing of the world, no man can give us now the 'whys' of life. . . .What in the ancient days drew on a lifted up the purest minds now seems to call men back to something past. Dead metaphor and image, depending on ideas long since disproved, still meet us in what claims to be divine. And so I and mine are driven from 'belief.' If we could be see the shining of pure light, and the real Amen and Key to human nature now among us, we should indeed all hasten to such light, and eagerly drink in such 'living water.' If Christ led all through Truth to Life indeed, and set before us all we see and are in the light of ever-fresh knowledge of the 'natural' (as in the days of old the prophets did, though then men not ready for true 'science'), then we should know that in serving truth we had been serving Christ, and that thus serving Man we had been serving GOD". . . .

So, as they returned, the heavenly pilgrims mourned. It seemed almost beyond belief or bearing that even now men should not know THE MAN: that those who claimed the faith of seer and saint, and owned as Lord one who was Truth itself, should drive away the upright, true, devoted, should fail to make all severed minds at one, should not see Christ as the whole world's Way of Holiness, and in every thought of good or truth on earth, in every ray of light which lightens men!

But as they went and pondered on these things, they met a Shining One. And he saidand, saying, smiled"Be of good cheer. Your questions have sunk in and will bear fruit. Some see the need of Life, and know it quickening: the time of fresh life-springings is at hand: from the east even unto the west of all thought--darkness shall flash the light which answers all life-questions, and great will be the glory of that Sun-birth."

"He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death."Job xii. 22.