A profound expression of the 'Mysterium Tremendum ' may he found iti the sermon of F. W. Robertson on ' Jacob's Wrestling'; (Ten Sermons), point 2, The revelation of mystery.
' It was revealed by aive. Very significantly are we told that the divine antagonist seemed, as it were, anxious to depart as the day was about to dawn; and that Jacob held Ilim more convulsively fast, as if aware that the daylight was likely to rob him of his anticipated blessing: in which there seems concealed a very deep truth. God is approached more nearly in that which is indefinite than in that which is definite and distinct. He is felt in wee and icondcr and worship rather than in clear conception. There is a sense in which darkness has more of God than light has. He dwells in the thick darkness. Moments of tender, vague mystery often bring distinctly the feeling of His presence. When day breaks and distinctness comes the Divine has evaporated from the soul like morning dew. In sorrow, haunted by uncertain presentiments, we feel the infinite around us. The gloom disperses, the world's joy comes again, and it seems as if God were gone—the Being who had touched us with a withering hand and wrestled with us, yet whose presence, even when most terrible, was more blessed than His absence. It is true, even literally, that the darkness reveals God: every morning God draws the curtain of the garish light across His eternity, and we lose the Infinite. We look down on earth instead of up to heaven, on a narrower and more contracted spectacle—that which is examined by the microscope when the telescope is laid aside— sinallness, instead of vastness. ''Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour till the evening " ; and in the dust and pettiness of life we seem to cease to behold Him: then at night He undraws the curtain again, and we see how much of God and Eternity the bright distinct day lias hidden from us. Yes, in solitary, silent, vague darkness, the Awful One is near--.
' Names have a power, a strange power of hiding God.
' Who does not know how we satisfy ourselves with the nam« of some strange bird or plant, or the name of some new law in nature ? It is a mystery perplexing us before. We get the name and fancy we understand something more than we did before ; but in truth we are more hopelessly ignorant : for before we felt there was a something we had not attained, and so we inquired and searched—now, we fancy we possess it, because we have got the name by which it is known : and the word covers over the abyss of our ignorance. If Jacob had got a word, that word might have satisfied him. . . . God's plan was not to give names and words, but truths of feeling. That night, in that strange scene, He impressed on Jacob's soul a religious awe, which Was hereafter to develop—not a set of formal expressions, which would have satisfied with husks the craving of the intellect and shut up the soul: Jacob felt the Infinite, who is more truly felt when least named.'
The following hymn of Watts expresses the ' numinous' feeling more adequately than many that are more familiar.
Eternal Power, whose high abode Becomes the grandeur of a God, Infinite length beyond the bounds Where stars revolve their little rounds : Thee while the first Archangel sings, He hides his face beneath his wings ; And ranks of shining ones around Fall worshipping and spread the ground. Lord, what shall earth and ashes do ? We would adore our Maker too : From Sin and dust to Thee wo cry, The (ireat, the Holy, and the High ! Earth from afar has heard tiiy fame And we have learned to lisp Thy name ; But oh the glories of Thy mind Leave all our soaring thoughts behind. God is in Heaven, and men below ; Be short our tunes, our words be few; A sacred reverence checks our songs, And praiso sits silent on our tongues.
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