(1824 – 1905)
What, I ask, is the truth of water? Is it that it is formed of hydrogen and oxygen…? Is it for the sake of the fact that hydrogen and oxygen combined form water that the precious thing exists? Is oxygen-and-hydrogen the divine idea of water…? The water itself, that dances, and sings and slakes the wonderful thirst – symbol and picture of that draught for which the woman of Samaria made her prayer to Jesus – this lovely thing itself, whose very wetness is a delight to every inch of the human body in its embrace – this water is its own self its own truth, and is therein a truth of God. Let him who would know the love of the maker become sorely athirst and drink of the brook by the way – then lift up his heart – not at that movement to the maker of oxygen and hydrogen, but to the inventor and mediator of thirst and water, that man might foresee a little of what his soul may find in God…. As well may a man think to describe the joy of drinking by giving thirst and waster for its analysis, as imagine he has revealed anything about waster by resolving it into its scientific elements. Let a man go to the hillside and let the brook sing to him till he loves it, and he will find himself far nearer the fountain of Truth than the triumphal car of the chemist will ever lead the shouting crew of his half-comprehending followers. He will draw from the brook the water of joyous tears, ‘and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’
The truth of a thing, then, is the blossom of it, the things it is made for, the topmost stone set on with rejoicing; truth in a man’s imagination is the power to recognise this truth of a thing; and wherever, in anything that God has made, in the glory of it, be it sky or flower or human face, we see the glory of God, there a true imagination is beholding a truth of God.