IT is a tendency of human nature to put faith in visible signs and symbols. The presence of the sign is taken as evidence of the presence of the thing symbolized. This is conspicuously true in religion, where superstition so often plays a prominent part, and where in real spiritual understanding so many have not grown beyond the stature of babes. A name, a picture, a statue, a cross, or other religious symbol, is made the evidence of the reality of that for which it stands in the spiritual realm. By a mere profession of Christianity, or by the practice of outward ceremonies and forms, men are easily deluded into the belief that they possess genuine piety. It is this sort of “faith” precisely that leads some men in our country to-day to view the National Constitution as a godless document, because it does not contain the name of God or make a formal recognition of his authority.
The great trouble with men in this world is their failure to recognize God in the multitude of places and events where his presence and power are manifested. God is invisible; and being not seen, his presence and working must be recognized by faith; for “faith”—not some external sign or token—is “the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1. It is God’s right to be recognized by his creatures everywhere and in all things, and it is the work of Christianity to point men to him as the Creator and Upholder of all things, and to his goodness and mercy and love in all the circumstances that surround them. “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,” said Christ. They were evil and adulterous because they had not faith, and they sought after a sign for the same reason.
God is in nature: in its bright hues, and graceful forms, which delight the eye, or its stupendous and stern aspects, which fill the heart with awe and a sense of human littleness. God is in the hearts of men, even though they may not recognize his presence or acknowledge nay of his claims. If they have a love of justice, if they pity the unfortunate, if they have a desire to do good to their fellow-beings, if they have any love of humanity around them, they manifest that God is in them; for “God is love,” and there is no source of love and of good but him. God is in every deed that is done for the uplifting of humanity; he is in every word that breathes justice and mercy and liberty to the afflicted and the oppressed. He is in all that recognizes men as possessing equal rights and entitled naturally to the uninterrupted enjoyment of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and he is therefore already in the Constitution of the United States.
Would it not be better to teach men that God is everywhere in all his works, and that we are to recognize him in every privilege and blessing that we enjoy, beholding him by faith, than to lead men to put confidence in mere names, and signs and outward professions, by which true faith is virtually denied, and by which numberless souls have been deluded to their ruin?