The Thirst for God
George H. Morrison
The Psalmist, when he wrote this, was a fugitive. He was in hiding somewhere across Jordan. He had been driven out by rebellion from Jerusalem, which is the city of the living God. To you and me, rich in the truth of Christ, that would not make God seem far away. And doubtless the Psalmist also had been taught that the Lord was the God of the whole earth. Yet with an intensity of feeling which we of the New Covenant are strangers to, he associated the Lord with locality. Like Goldsmith's traveler when he went abroad, he "dragged at each remove a lengthening chain."1 He felt that to be distant from his home was somehow to be distant from his Deity. And so, in a great sense of loneliness, out of a thirsty land wherein no waters were, he cried, "My soul thirsteth for the living God."
But when a poet speaks out of a burning heart, he always speaks more wisely than he knows. When the soul is true to its own prompting, it is true to generations yet unborn. In the exact sciences you say a thing, and it keeps forever the measure of its origin. But when an inspired poet says a thing, it endlessly transcends its origin. For science utters only what it knows, but poetry utters what it feels, and in the genuine utterance of feeling there is always the element of immortality. No one worries about the atoms of Lucretius,2 but the music of Lucretius is not dead. No one feeds upon the Schoolmen3 now, but thousands are feeding upon Dante.4 And the psalmist may have been utterly astray in his measurements of sun and stars, but, taught of God, he never was astray in the more wonderful universe of soul. That is why we can take his local words and strip them of all reference to locality. True to the deepest in himself, he was true to the deepest in us all. For there is not one of us, whatever be his circumstances, who is not an exile beyond Jordan and thirsting for the living God.
Now it seems to me that this spiritual thirst ...
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