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The Essential Life Reaches to all Existences.

The Essential Life, though limited in its sphere of action, is the same in man as it is in God. It may bear different names; it may be called Life, or Essential Life, or Eternal Life, or God’s Life, or the Life of God in the soul of man, or Love, or Pure Love, or Holy Love, or Perfect Love, or Holiness, or the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost, or the Christ Spirit, or the Inward Christ, or Christ in the Soul, whatever may be the designation it bears, it is always the same in the essentiality of its nature; the same in the beginning, the same now, and forever. It follows from this, that the soul, which is born into this true and essential life, a life which sees with the spirit, and which hears and understands with the heart, will tenderly recognize the presence and activity of this divinity of life, and will love it, in all things that exist. Hence it is, that Christ in the Soul, which is one of the beautiful names it bears, loves inanimate nature, loves trees and flowers. “Behold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Christ in the soul saw that glory. The outward eye, resting merely upon outward manifestations, saw only the outward forms; saw the color and the flowing outline; but Christ in the soul, which instinctively recognizes its own nature under all diversities, saw the Christ principle at work in the flower; the eternal goodness and wisdom shining in the interior of the flower; and its glory was greater than the glory of Solomon. God, who takes care of trees and flowers, takes care also and in a special sense of animals; and a recognition of the rights of the lower animals and a true sympathy and love for them, is a part of the inward experience of those who have God in the soul. If any are disposed to regard such experiences as of little value in themselves, or as unauthorized by the Scriptures, let them turn to the 104th Psalm, that grand outburst of God’s love for animals; and read there the feelings of the great throbbing Heart of the Universe, who planted the cedars of Lebanon for the nest of birds, the fir-tree for the house of the stork, and who spread the great ocean, not merely for navigators’ ships and the anchors and cables of commerce, but for the play-ground of the leviathan, and for creeping things innumerable both small and great. To the heart that inwardly understands and digests this wonderful poem, this great hymn of love, every sphere of life is, and must be sacred.

There was a remarkable man who lived in Italy in the twelfth century; a man so gifted in intellect and so devout in heart, and so abundant in labors, that he has left his impress on succeeding ages. It is related of this man, St. Francis of Assisi, that to him all nature was full of God; and that his religious consciousness, grounded in and quickened by the inward realizations of celestial love, was so expanded that it embraced every thing, animate and inanimate, men and animals. He believed, as all those who are in the same degree of celestial love are always likely to believe, that all the departments of nature were designed to be connected by a community of life; that the broken bonds which once united them are waiting for a restoration; that man, with faith enough and love enough, shall once more control the winds and waves; and that the lower animals, like the dove of Noah, and the ravens of Elijah, and the lions of the den of the Chaldean prophet, shall sympathize with his sorrows, and administer to his necessities. Our doctrine is supported abundantly by the Scriptures, as we believe, that there is something beyond the brotherhood of humanity, namely, the brotherhood of life; something beyond the love of humanity, the wider and deeper love
of everything that exists. And we appeal in support of it, to the personal history and the recorded convictions of many devout men in all ages. And we may go further and say, that the instincts of the human race, and the sympathies and aspirations of all great minds, especially those that kindle with the divine elements of poetic life, all point in the same direction. The poems of the early Greeks and Romans are full of this tendency. The poems of Cowper and Burns, of Wordsworth and Shakespeare, furnish us examples and proofs. The poem of Burns on the Wounded Hare was not a sentimental or hypocritical expression of grief; but had its birth in the heart, and was as deeply true to nature in one direction, as the sublime stanzas to Mary in Heaven are in another. Men and animals, sundered and rendered antagonistical, are nevertheless one family. And when the Life of God in the soul becomes on a wide scale, the inheritance of a regenerated humanity, then all the lower forms of created nature, recognizing at once the relation of superiority and inferiority, will take their position in subordination; and as there will be everywhere a correlation and reciprocity, not only of forces but of interests, the facts of subordination on the one hand and of supremacy on the other will constitute the elements of permanent and universal harmony. Then the lion and the lamb will lie down together; conflicts will cease, and the brotherhood of humanity will be supplemented and co-ordinated with the brotherhood of existence.

The man who does not recognize the handiwork of God in the lower animals, and does not sympathize with God in his regard for them, does not bear in his bosom the highest elements of thought, of inspiration, and character. Strike from the human mind this noble tendency, and how many poems, and paintings, and sculptures are lost. Take from the beautifully sympathetic heart of Rosa Bonheur her love of animals, and her immortal pencil falls to the ground. We cannot spare the birds, nor the dogs, nor the horses, nor the fishes that swim in the sea. Why is it that the stranger, ascending the summit of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, and beholding the wonderful equestrian statue which ancient art has erected there, finds his eye and his admiring thought directed as much to the majestic and inspiring attitude of the horse, as to that of the imperial Caesar who bestrides him? I saw the dust of Wellington carried to its tomb, and in the long procession composed of the eminent men of England, a place was reverently left for the horse of the conqueror; and as he walked alone, amid the sound of melancholy trumpets, he divided the sympathy of the multitude with their sorrows for his fallen master. The horse of Alexander, the Macedonian conqueror, has his place in history; and the historic record, recognizing the ties of higher and lower forms of existence, has narrated in more than one instance, the affection and devotedness of the faithful dog; and statuary has erected monuments to his memory.

Allow me to close with an incident, which made a strong impression upon me. A few years ago I read in the newspapers that a little girl in the town of Hingham, in Massachusetts, had tamed the fishes in a small lake near her father’s residence. I came to the little girl’s home, which was near the small lake or pond. Knocking at the door, and making such apology as I was able for a visit so early, I remarked to the mother, that I had come for the purpose of seeing the fishes, over which her little daughter was said to have obtained a remarkable control. Readily accepting my explanations, she pointed to a place on the brink of the water, and said that her daughter would soon come down there. I had not stood there long before a little girl, apparently anxious not to detain me, came running down. Seating herself on a rock near the shore, she called aloud to the fishes; calling them sometimes by the names of their tribes, and sometimes by particular names which she had given them. There was one, a large one in which she was particularly interested, which she called Cato. But Cato either did not hear her, or was not in a hurry to come. She made an apology for the fishes, saying that it was earlier than she had been in the habit of calling them, and that they had not yet left their places of slumber. But repeating still more loudly the invitation of her sweet voice, they soon began to make their appearance. The smaller ones came first, and then the larger ones of many varieties; and at last Cato, who was a sort of king and counsellor in this finny congregation, came among them. Delighted with this renewed visit of their virgin queen, although they seemed to be conscious it was rather early in the morning, they thrust their heads above the water; and she fed them from her hand. And I fed them also.

Observing something peculiar at a little distance in the water, I was surprised to see two turtles making their way towards her. Her voice of affection had penetrated beneath their dark hard shells. And I noticed that they came with great effort and zeal; as if afraid of being too late at this festival of love. One of them, as soon as they reached the shore, scrambled out of the water, and climbed upon the rock beside her, and she fed them both. I shall not easily forget this interesting scene; this little episode of millenial humanity.


Oh maiden of the woods and wave,
With footsteps in the morning dew!
From oozy bed and watery cave,
The tenants of the lake who drew,
Thy voice of love the mystery knew,
Which makes old bards and prophets true.

They tell us of that better day,
When love shall rule the world again;
When crime and fraud shall pass away,
And beast and bird shall dwell with men,
When seas shall marry with the land,
And fishes kiss a maiden’s hand.

The iron age has done its best
With trump and sword and warriors slain;
But could not tame the eagle’s nest,
Nor lead the lion by the mane;
With all its strength and all its woe,
There was an art it did not know.

‘Twas fitting, that a maid like thee,
In childhood’s bright and happy hour,
Should teach the world the mystery,
That white-rob’d innocence has power;
That love the victory can gain,
Which is not won by millions slain.