Rt. Rev. Henry C. Potter, Bishop of New York, preached a powerful sermon in Appleton Chapel last night from the text "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness." John i. 23.
John came from the common people; he could trace no distinguished pedigree and his power was not that of position. His word of prophecy was the important thing. When the crowds asked him who he was and where he came from, he made no answer; he had a great message to deliver and this was the only thing which interested him. He urged only God's claims, not his own, and this made him great.
The lesson of such a man is for all time. Had John sounded his own praises the effects of his work would have been infinitely inferior. Selfishness, then, is the great cause of the world's evil. Often we see some one standing out boldly for a principle and we admire him. Later we find that he wants praise for what he has done and our admiration ceases. We may find that the main object in the man's mind was praise. Such a man is conscious most of all of what he is.
Some one may urge here that consciousness is necessary. No man can use power unless he is conscious that he has it. This is true. Individuality and personality are necessary but they are very different from that self-consciousness which leads a man to think primarily of his own virtues. Peter. Paul and John may have been self-conscious before Christ came, but when He came His mightier personality transformed them. They did not lose their own personalities; they simply forgot everything except the message of this greater Power.
If any one desires influence he must first learn to forget his own strong points; if they are virtues they will speak for themselves. There can be no higher aim and no better way of becoming influential for the best than getting a message from God and letting it take absolute possession of us.
The words of the text seem for away; seem to be fiting for our time. Yet what is wilderness? Is it not a place where law does not govern? If impulse rules the hour. If conscience ceases to be the throne from which God rules the human race. then civilization itself becomes a wilderness. So it may be said that in our time there is a wilderness, for secret potting, sedition, crime hold away and the law of the strongest still rules. Though the need for voices in the wilderness is ever decreasing, though all observation shows that the world is getting better day by day, yet the need exists if to a less degree than it did when Rome was in her questionable prime.
We students must let Christ shape our lives as Michael Angelo shaped the figure of a famous fresco, leaving the local coloring for his pupil, the painter. If we receive our general direction from God the details of our lives will take care of themselves and we shall be truly voices in the wilderness.
The choir sang the anthems "The Wilderness" Goss; "In that day." Stainer. Mr. Merrill and Master Macdonald sang the duet, "Love Divine" from Stainer's Daughter of Jairus.