The Eye of the Spirit
Psalm 115:4-8
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.…

The rich and varied gifts, the pure exalted pleasures, which the eyes of the body are intended to minister to man, are marred by want of sympathetic observation even more than by want of knowledge. Two boys went out one summer's day, each alone, to spend a holiday in the fields. I have forgotten every detail of the story, but whatever the story was, it is easy to imagine what it might have been. The one boy came back in discontent. He had seen nothing, done nothing. He was tired; he had wasted the holiday. The other came back full of delight. He had watched the cattle and the fishes and the birds. He had noted the flowers and the hedgerows and the corn. They had spoken to him with voices which — though he knew it not — his spirit heard. They had told him — though he felt it only, understood it not — they had told him of the marvels of their nature, of their fitness for their appointed place, of the ever fresh beauties which man could see in them, if he would but enable the eyes of his body with the spirit of thankfulness and love. You have this contrast, thus drawn, set before you every day in many ways. I suppose that no one here would wish to live a merely material — animal — life, a life of the body only; to spend his time in securing the largest amount of pleasure — harmless pleasure if you will — for the delight or solace of his bodily senses; to feel more and more sad, as the years run on past middle life, that one sense and another is become less keen, is capable of less pleasure; to watch the sands of life running out apace, with no sense of compensation, no quiet conviction that as one transient pleasure after another becomes less bright or passes away, the place of each is taken — is taken and more than filled — by consolations of no transient kind, by blessings that make their abiding home with him. We must, if we would avoid a growing discontent, we must live the inner — the Spiritual — life too. The eye of the spirit must be an eye that sees. The life of the spirit must be a real life. Not a life apart from that of the body, but a life spiritualizing and etherealizing the bodily life. To teach the eye of the body to see in the higher sense, to observe, to interpret, to enjoy, to minister to the intellectual capacity of man, and be in turn quickened and brightened by man's intellect, we educate the man; working in faith and hope; not discouraged by the many discouragements; sure that it cannot but be right that man should learn to know. How shall we treat the eye of the spirit? how shall we help it to see? how give it insight? I speak not now of what our holy religion may do; for the moment I am not referring to the realms of grace. That which the spirit of man most needs, for its full play and development, is just that which in this hurrying age is ever more and more difficult to obtain, — rest and quiet, time and place for contemplation. This is no idea specially of the Christian revelation; it is common to all ages and all peoples; it is the natural demand of the spirit of man. We have all of us probably seen and noted the highest oriental ideal of spiritual isolation from things and thoughts of the world, — a seated figure with inscrutable face, the eyes for ever cast down, gazing endlessly into the palm of the hand. This was one of the ideas connected with the prophet of old times. He sat apart in rapt contemplation; the things of the world and of the flesh shut out from his sight; his eyes fixed steadily on some unmoving thing; the spiritual element ever growing in relative importance, and at last overpowering the material and dominating the whole man. And then there welled up within him, from some spiritual source, some inspiration, the thoughts and the words that were to frame and to form his prophetic utterance; and he poured forth dark sayings, or declared, as one inspired, the will of God. But need I really go further than the experience of each one of you, to find evidence of the power of contemplation on the spirit, the need of it, if we would have a spiritual sense, a spiritual insight? You know of what extreme importance it is, if you have any serious matter in hand, to put yourself in the right frame of mind to consider it duly and make a wise resolve. How often it happens that you cannot shut out the disturbing presence of other things. You know that for this special purpose you ought to isolate yourself, to be clear of confusing voices, confusing thoughts. And what you have to make your resolve about is coming on so rapidly; a resolve will be forced upon you so soon; there is such a sense of rush and hurry; you cannot properly decide the matter without previous quiet thought and communing, and quiet thought you cannot get. You feel this in matters of business; you feel it in difficult moral questions; you feel it in many a decision, which circumstances force upon you, in your relations with those who are of your bone and of your flesh. You feel it whenever you think of yourself in your higher relations, as a spiritual existence, as having duties beyond the realms of sense, as being under some conscious obligation to be guided in your walk through life by aims which shall of themselves ennoble your endeavours, by principles which are of eternal truth and justice.

(Bishop Browne.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.

WEB: Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.

Babylonian Idolatry
Top of Page
Top of Page