E-text prepared by Al Haines
LEVELS OF LIVING
Essays on Everyday Ideals
HENRY FREDERICK COPE
Author of "The Modern Sunday-School in Principle and Practice"
New York —— Chicago —— Toronto Fleming H. Revell Company London And Edinburgh Copyright, 1908, by Fleming H. Revell Company New York: 158 Fifth Avenue Chicago: 80 Wabash Avenue Toronto: 25 Richmond Street, W. London: 21 Paternoster Square Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street
To My Wife
Not in the sentiment of dedication alone, offering to you what I may have done, but in simple acknowledgment of obligation to you
best gift of God and inspiration of man
Under the title of "A Sermon For To-day" these short essays, on the art of every-day living in the light of eternal life, were published by The Chicago Sunday Tribune, through a series of years, and were regularly printed in the Sunday editions of a group of the great dailies. The short sentences were also published with the Sermons under the head of "Sentence Sermons." The courtesy of The Chicago Daily Tribune in permitting the publication of these "sermons," with such changes as have seemed best, is gratefully acknowledged.
I. THE HIGHER LEVELS The Real and the Ideal—The Bread of Life—Life's Unvarying Values.
II. INVISIBLE ALLIES More than a Fighting Chance—The Unseen Hand—The One in the Midst.
III. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF SERVICE Self and Service—My Soul or My Service?—The Satisfaction of Service.
IV. THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS The Power of Happiness—The Secret of Happiness—The Folly of Anxiety.
V. THE CURRICULUM OF CHARACTER The Great School—The Purpose of the Course—The Price of Perfection.
VI. THE AGE-LONG MIRACLE The Sufficient Sign—Behold the Man—The Life that Lifts.
VII. SEEING THE UNSEEN The Sense of the Unseen—The Brook in the Way—That Which Is High.
VIII. SOURCES OF STRENGTH AND INSPIRATION Strength for the Daily Task—The Sense of the Infinite—The Great Inspiration.
IX. FINDING FOUNDATIONS The Passing and Permanent—Facing the Facts—The Real Foundation.
X. THE PASSION FOR PERFECTION The Great Search—The Hunger of the Ages—The Sole Satisfaction.
XI. THE PRICE OF SUCCESS The Law of Selection—The Fallacy of Negation—The Secret of All.
XII. DIVINE SERVICE The Ideal Service—The Orthodox Service—The Heavenly Service.
XIII. OUR FATHER AND OUR FELLOWS The Primary Reconciliation—Faith in Our Fellows—The Law of Forgiveness.
XIV. MEN AND MAMMON Riches and Righteousness—Religion and Business—The Moral End of Money-Making.
XV. THE EVERY-DAY HEAVEN The Beauty of Holiness—The Gladness of Goodness—The True Paradise
XVI. TRUTH AND LIFE Religion of a Practical Mind—The Head and the Heart—New Truths for New Days.
XVII. THE FRUITS OF FAITH Root and Fruit—The Orthodox Accent—The Business of Religion.
XVIII. THE FORCE OF FAITH "The Victory that Overcometh"—Fear and Faith—Faith for the Future.
XIX. HINDRANCES AND HELPS FROM WITHIN Worry—A Cure for the Blues—The Gospel of Song.
XX. DOES HE CARE? The One at the Helm—The Shepherd and the Sheep—The Father's Care.
The Higher Levels
The Real and the Ideal The Bread of Life Life's Unvarying Values
The ideal is the mold in which the real is cast.
Half of success is in seeing the significance of little things.
He finds no weal who flees all woe.
You do not make life sacred by looking sad.
Sympathy is a key that fits the lock of any heart.
Soul health will not come by taking religion as a dose.
Many a cloud that we call sorrow is but the shadow of our own selfishness.
To live wholly for possessions is to paralyze the life to the possibility of permanently possessing anything.
It takes more than willingness to be nothing to make you amount to something.
This is never a wrong world to him who is right with its heart.
THE REAL AND THE IDEAL
It is probable that from the age of sixteen up to thirty Jesus of Nazareth spent His life in mechanical toil; He made wooden plows, ax handles, and yokes; He served as a carpenter. Then for three years He gave Himself to the ministry of ideal things, exclusively to the service of the spirit.
There is a wonderful satisfaction in making things, in looking over some concrete piece of work accomplished when the day ends. It is a satisfaction that belongs to the artisan. Is it not probable that many said that it was a great pity when Jesus gave up so useful a trade as His? To them He seemed to be but chasing the rainbow.
But to-day who possesses a single one of the things that young carpenter made? And did we possess them all what better off would the world be? Yet, on the other hand, how ill could this world afford to lose what He gave it by those three years of the service of the ideal.
In our age of things we so easily forget how large is the place of the ideal and the spiritual. Ever estimating our assets in the concrete, we fail to recognize that our real wealth lies in thoughts and things abstract. The permanent possessions of humanity are spiritual. Not acres nor armies, not banks nor business make a nation, but mighty, compelling ideals and traditions.
Jesus, Shakespeare, Browning, Lowell, Emerson left no goods and chattels, no bonds and mortgages; they left inspirations; they bequeathed ideals; living first for the soul, their souls survive and remain to us all. The truly great who still stand after the test of the years are those who have lived for the spirit.
This is as true of the worker and the warrior as of the philosopher and poet. All were inspired by glowing visions; they set their affections on things above the trifles for which we struggle and spend ourselves. They endured as seeing glories to us invisible; therefore their names endure.
The great undertakings of our own day are possible only under spiritual inspirations. No rewards of money only can induce a man to steadfastly conduct affairs of great moment and enterprise; he is buoyed up by a great hope; often the very greatness of the task and the sense of serving great ends carry him on; always he sees the worth in the ideal rather than the wage.
We must learn to measure life with the sense of the infinite. We must not think that a man has failed because he has not left burdened warehouses and bonds. We must cease to think that we can tell whether work be high or lowly by the size of the wage. We need eyes to see the glory of the least act in the light of the glowing motive.
A new estimate is placed on each act when it is measured not by bread alone but by the things of the soul. The mother's care of the children; the father's steady humble toil for them, the faithful watching over the sick, the ministry of the lowly, all have a new glory in the light of the love that leads the way and the spirit that guides those who do the least of these things.
We need to learn for ourselves what is the work that endures. It is a good thing to lay a course of bricks so that it shall be true, but of greater value to the world than the wall that stands firm is the spirit that forces the man to build aright. No man can do even this without an ideal set in his heart, and when the wall shall have fallen the world shall still be enriched by his ideal.
Too many of us are fretting because we are not getting on in the world. Seeing the apparent ease with which some acquire fortune, we become discontented with our small gains. We talk as though fortunes and follies, money and lands were the only things worth while. Yet we know better, for we all find our real joys in other things.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
There are lives that have bread in abundance and yet are starved; with barns and warehouses filled, with shelves and larders laden they are empty and hungry. No man need envy them; their feverish, restless whirl in the dust of publicity is but the search for a satisfaction never to be found in things. They are called rich in a world where no others are more truly, pitiably poor; having all, they are yet lacking in all because they have neglected the things within.
The abundance of bread is the cause of many a man's deeper hunger. Having known nothing of the discipline that develops life's hidden sources of satisfaction, nothing of the struggle in which deep calls unto deep and the true life finds itself, he spends his days seeking to satisfy his soul with furniture, with houses and lands, with yachts and merchandise, seeking to feed his heart on things, a process of less promise and reason than feeding a snapping turtle on thoughts.
It takes many of us altogether too long to learn that you cannot find satisfaction so long as you leave the soul out of your reckoning. If the heart be empty the life cannot be filled. The flow must cease at the faucet if the fountains go dry. The prime, the elemental necessities of our being are for the life rather than the body, its house. But, alas, how often out of the marble edifice issues the poor emaciated inmate, how out of the life having many things comes that which amounts to nothing.
The essential things are not often those which most readily strike our blunt senses. We see the shell first. To the undeveloped mind the material is all there is. But looking deeper into life there comes an awakening to the fact and the significance of the spiritual, the feeling that the reason, the emotions, the joys and pains that have nothing to do with things, the ties that knit one to the infinite, all constitute the permanent elements of life.
Because man is a spirit his life never can consist wholly in things; he must come into his heritage of the soul wealth of all the ages; he must reach out, though often as in the dark, until across the void there come voices, the sages and the seers, the prophets, and the poets speaking the language of the soul. In these he finds his food nor can his deeper hunger be assuaged until it thus is fed.
Because man is a spirit and gradually is coming into the dominant spirit life in which things shall count for less and thought and character for more, he seeks after his own kind. The deeps of life have their relationships. The spirit of man cries out after the father of spirits. By whatever name men have called the most high they ever have sought after Him, the eternal, who would be one with them in soul, in all that is essential and abiding in being.
Every religion, every philosophy, every endeavour after character and truth is but the cry of humanity for word with God. Hearing His word on any lip the heart of man answers with joy. The words of eternal truth have been the food of the great in all ages. Fainting in the fight the message from the unseen, the echo of everlasting verities, has revived their spirits; they have fought the fight that despises things and seeks truth.
Who would not exchange a mess of pottage for the benediction from a father's lips? Who is so dead he no longer finds more satisfaction in truth and love and beauty than in food or furniture? And why are we so foolish as to seek to satisfy ourselves with things that perish, while down to the least blade of creation earth is laden with unfading riches and God is everywhere?
If we might but learn this lesson, we people of the laden hand and the empty heart, that since life is more than digestion and man more than beast or machine, since determining all is the spiritual world, they only are wise who set first things first, who use the garnered experience of the past and the opportunities of the present to the enriching of the soul, who listen among all the voices of time for the words that proceed from the lips of Him who inhabiteth eternity.
LIFE'S UNVARYING VALUES
Life is the business of learning to use things as tools, the real as the servant of the ideal, to make conditions even better that character may grow the more, to serve in the making of things and the enduring of things under the inspiration of the full and glorious purpose of life, the realizing of the best for ourselves, the rendering of our best to others.
Only an age that has lost both heart and intellect—the divinely given measuring rods of life—will think of estimating a life by the money measure. It is a shallow world that knows a man as soon as and only when it has scheduled his marketable assets; nor is it a happy augury for a nation when it acquires the habit of estimating its men by the length of the catalogues of their possessions.
A period of outer prosperity is always in danger of being one of inner paralysis. Luxury is a foe to life. Character does not develop freely, largely, beautifully in an atmosphere of commercialism. A moral decline that but presages enduring disaster is sure to succeed the supremacy of the market.
The great danger is that we shall set the tools of life before its work, that we shall make life serve our business or our ambitions instead of causing ambitions, activities, and opportunities all to contribute to the deepening, enriching, and strengthening of the life itself. In the details of making a living it is easy to lose sight of the prime thing, the life; it is easy to forget that the great question is not, what have you? but, what are you?
Life cannot consist in things any more than silk can consist of shuttles, or pictures of brushes and palettes. Life is both process and product; but things and fame and power are no more than the tools and machinery serving to perfect the product. Life must consist in thoughts, experiences, motives, ideals—in a word, in character. A man's life is what he is.
But what a man is will depend on what he does with the things he has or may have. Let him once set the possession of things as his loftiest ideal, let this avarice of things enter the heart and speedily the love of the good will leave. To that god all honour, all truth loving, all gentleness and humanity are sacrificed. When possession becomes life's ruling passion it doesn't take long for principle to be forgotten.
The danger to-day is not that our people will fail in the world's contests because they lack either money, mind, or muscle. We are in little danger from illiteracy or from business incompetency; but we are in danger from moral paralysis, due to undue pressure on the money nerve. We have talked before the youth in the home and amongst ourselves on the street as though the only thing worth living for was money, as though they alone were great who had it and they only to be despised who had it not.
The danger is neither in our market, our commerce, nor our laws; the danger is in our own hearts. No matter how world-potent our merchandise, how marvellous our mechanical and material powers, how brilliant our business strategy, all will not avail to silence the voice, "Thou fool, this night thy soul is required of thee." Then whose shall these things be?
We need, not fewer things, not the return to an age of poverty or dreary destitution; we need more power over things; to let the man, so long buried beneath the money and the lands and houses, come to the top; to set ourselves over our things; to make them serve us, minister to our lives and our purposes in living.
There must be an elevation of standards, the institution of new valuations, clearer, nobler conceptions of what living means. Boys and girls must be taught from the beginning that life is more than self-serving, more than fame or glory; it is the service of humanity. A passion for humanity will cure the passion for gold, will teach the true value of life as something that only the infinite can estimate and will give to the heart those true riches that do not tarnish and that cannot be stolen.
More Than a Fighting Chance The Unseen Hand The One in the Midst
Logic may illumine, but love leads.
The religion that produces no sunshine is all moonshine.
Imaginary evils have more than imaginary effects.
He who lays out each day with prayer leaves it with praise.
Light from above is for the path below.
Singing of heaven gives no certainty of singing in heaven.
It is better to have your bank in heaven than your heaven in a bank.
The burdens of earth demand that our hearts be nourished with the bread of heaven.
There are too many hungry for love for any ever to talk of suffering from loneliness.
The man who lives with God does not have to advertise the fact.
MOKE THAN A FIGHTING CHANCE
Who has not cried out, in haste but still in anguish: "Alas! All things are against me; foes are many and friends there are none!" The roads to pessimism are many; but surely this is the shortest one, to get to think that life is but a conflict waged single-handed against great odds, a long story of struggle, difficulties, pains, disappointments, temptations, failures, wounds, ending only in death.
Even though you escape that chronic jaundiced view of life there are seasons of depression when it seems easy to get out of bed on the wrong side and to plow all day into stumps instead of in the good, clear ground. Ever we need the vision that Elisha of old gave to his young man, to see the hills about us alive with our allies. Otherwise it is easy to conclude the fates fight against us.
How slight is the evidence on which men base their gloomy conclusions! The pessimist always argues from a single instance to a general law. If he strikes a poor peach on top he throws the whole basket away—or sells them as soon as he can. He insists on sitting square on the cactus bunch when there is only one on the whole bench-land. He then becomes an authority on cactus. If he can discover a few foes on the horizon he is blind to a regiment of friends close at hand.
But the seers, our poets and teachers, have a wider vision; they seek the glory rather than the gloom and they tell us that every man has more friends than foes. This is the song of those who told us long ago of Providence, the one who backs a man up and fights on his side and furnishes him in the hour of need. This is the song of Lowell, Tennyson, Whittier, and Browning. Life is not a lone-handed fight against unnumbered foes; it is not a losing fight to any who will fight it well.
Every force in this world works with the man who seeks the good. This is a right world and only he who fights the right faces the unconquerable. A man may meet rebuffs, battle's tides may sweep back and forth, but in the end, as it has ever been in all the long story of man's conflict with nature, so in the conflict with every other foe, he is bound to win. This is as true in the individual life of every fighter as nature and history show it to be in universal life.
On our side there is the great world of the unseen. Little do we know of it, but still that little gives us confidence to believe it is peopled with our allies. Our fairest hopes of good angels may be delusions as to details, but they are essentially true, being born of an eternal verity.
The gospel of good hope declares there is One over all, the friend of all; greater is He that is with you than any against you; greater is He than your temptations, your adversaries, your difficulties, and your sorrows. This was what the great Teacher came to tell men, that God was on their side, seeking to help them, loving, caring, cooeperating, leading them into the life of victory over every enemy.
Let a man face life in this confidence and he is invincible. He goes forth and an unseen army goes with him. He gains the seer's vision to see even the plotting of the enemy and the forces that fight against him all working for his good. From many combats he gains strength for the decisive struggle. All things work together for good. He serves the right, the truth, the things that are eternal; he fights for character, for manhood, and the good; and the eternal forces that rule the universe fight by his side. He beholds the hills full of the hosts of heaven; though he has no time to enjoy the vision he knows they are there, his allies, his assurance of ultimate victory.
THE UNSEEN HAND
The mightiest and the eternal forces fight ever on the side of the right. True, things do not always look that way. Sometimes Napoleon's sneer about God being on the side of the largest battalions seems to have truth in it. But ere long we see the large battalions swept away before the strange, unaccountable, and irresistible power of an insignificant body having truth and God on its side.
The man who takes up the struggle for truth, who puts his hand to the sword for the oppressed, for the right, finds himself holding a two-handled weapon, and if he grasps firmly the one hilt it is as though there were an omnipotent hand grasping the other. He who fights worthily, in fitting battle, never fights alone.
It is not that some omnipotent person steps down from a throne in the heavens and plunges into the battle; it is that every time a man steps out for right and truth he places himself in accord with eternal spiritual forces that give themselves to him and his work. It is not that God comes to fight for a man so much as that a man finds himself fighting beside God; entering this battle, he sees that where he thought none had been serving heaven had long been waging the contest.
It is so easy, like old Elijah, to think that you alone are left to witness for truth, to feel the loneliness of standing for things noble and worthy, to become oppressed with the hopelessness of the minority in which you find yourself. When real and concrete things press upon us and their uproar is in our ears we become deaf and blind to the greater forces that from the beginning of time have been working for the best.
Every great reform has looked like a losing movement; it has begun with most insignificant minorities; it has met with violent and well-organized opposition; its supporters have often been faint-hearted, and yet ultimately it has overcome always. As men have fought on they have found an unseen hand grasping the sword beside theirs.
We all need this sense of God with us, helping us in our lives. This gives courage and confidence. It does not mean weak reliance upon heaven to do things for us; it means entering on the things that look impossible because we know that, if they are right, every great force in the universe will cooeperate with us.
This is the fine sense in which the human enters into partnership with the heavenly. This determines whether we may call our work divine or not. It is to be judged, not by whether it is pleasant or looks respectable, but by whether it is the work in which we know the Lord of all can lay His hand to the tool or weapon alongside of our hands.
With a consciousness like this, one attempts anything. The practical question is not, "Can this be done?" but "Ought this to be done?" "Is it such a task as will enlist the cooeperation of the eternal spirit of truth and right?" With the cry of Gideon on their lips, men have fared forth facing fearful odds; their hands have fallen from their swords, but the unseen hand has carried them on until the cause has won.
The Almighty, who would have love and peace and righteousness to prevail, needs your hand for His sword; the sword of the Lord is vain without Gideon. Ideals and spiritual forces may exist, but men must be their realizations, their visible hands. God's work waits for you to put your hand to the sword; you will find His already there.
This helping hand is always unseen; spiritual things are often apparently unreal. God cannot be reduced to figures nor to material elements. This hand that works with ours may mean one thing to one and another to another. What we all need is to simply grasp the great fact of the spiritual forces that strengthen every good resolve, that give vigour in every good work, and give victory at last to the right.
THE ONE IN THE MIDST
There are always a thousand blind men to one who can see. All have eyes, but not all have vision. The things we most need and the things for which we most long are often nearest to us, while we, with eyes fast shut, grope our way to the place where we think they ought to be. The best things are the things we miss. The crowd by the fords of the Jordan was longing to see the Messiah; yet of them all there was only one, the son of the desert, who saw that He was actually with them already. John had eyes that pierced the husk of things. He looked on this son of the carpenter and a thousand years of prophecy sank into insignificance beside its fulfillment; the multitude became as nothing beside the all glorious Son of Man. He alone knew his Lord, because he alone looked with eyes of love.
John announced the sublime central truth that all the world's great seers have declared; God is in His world. Man is an animal who seeks God; he finds Him when his eyes are opened. Some are looking for Him in the records of His ways with men; many are hoping to see Him in some other world; a few see Him by their side.
Some, priding themselves on their spiritual vision, and boastingly describing God as He was or God as He will be, have eyes of stone when it comes to seeing God as He is. They do not stop to think that we want a God in the present tense—a God in our homes, on our streets, in our affairs. And others say, this thing is unthinkable, for, if you say that this is a spiritual presence, you at once remove the whole question from touch with real things.
They forget that the most real things lie beyond the senses. Who ever saw mother-love? Yet who will not believe in it? Ambition, affection, pity, memory, hope; these are the real things, the lasting things; these are the spiritual things. No one ever saw these things, and yet they can be seen everywhere; it only needs the vision; we all have seen them at times.
There are the selfish, gross, and sensual who tell us there is no love in the world; and there are those to whom every common bush is aflame with God. So hearts that have forsaken the good see nothing but a God-forsaken world; and, in this same world, hearts that are lifted up find Him everywhere, they see Him in the movements of history, in the forces of nature, they hear Him in the hum of commerce and in the silence of the fields, in every human voice they catch His tone. He is ever in the midst. He is more than a force, a dream, a thought. He is to men to-day what He was to men when He walked their streets and touched their sick; all that we think He would have been in that long ago He is to-day.
Personal? Yes, that He may reach persons, for we cannot know impersonal love or impersonal help. His personality turns the universe from an institution into an organism. Yet more than personal; this one in the midst is infinite; He is the whole where we are but fractions. But He does not hide Himself in His infinity; He is "among you," with men. Not by descent into the grave of the past, nor by ascent into heaven do we find Him; He is here, on every hand. This it is that transforms individual character, to know that He is by my side; this it is that solves our problems, to see Him linking my fellow to me; this it is that gives strength, to hear His voice; this it is that gives hope, to know He is working with us; this it is that makes burdens bearable, to know that He is sympathetic and strong. This one in the midst explains suffering, inspires heroism, is the promise and the potency of all the possibilities of the sons of men.
The Sovereignty of Service
Self and Service My Soul or My Service The Satisfaction of Service
The fruits of sacrifice become the roots of love.
A tin halo makes a fine trap for a man to tangle himself in.
It takes the base line of two worlds to get a correct elevation of any life.
Life is always a dull grind to the man who thinks only of the grist.
Knocking the saints will not open the doors of paradise.
Capacity for that heaven comes from creating this one.
Another man's burden is the Christian's best badge.
The only way to lift life is to lay life down.
It doesn't take long to choose between a sinner who swears once in a while and a saint who makes every one swear all the while.
You cannot lift folks while you are looking down on them.
SELF AND SERVICE
There is such a thing as supremely selfish self-denial. A man retires into the monk's pietic seclusion; he isolates himself from interest in the world battles; he shuts himself from sympathy with the struggles of business, civil, and even social life. To him these things are carnal. He is engrossed with the complication of interpretations of languages long dead, or with visions of an unknown heaven, and this, he thinks, is living the life of self-denial.
The denial of self is not the death of self; it is the leading of the best self into larger life. It is not the dwarfing of the life; it is its development into usefulness. It is not the emasculation of character; it is the submission and discipline of the life to new and nobler motives.
He best denies himself who best develops himself with the purpose of serving his fellows. What Jesus meant was that if any man would be one of His he must cease to make his own selfish pleasures, ambitions, and passions the end of his living; he must make the most of himself that he might have the more to give to the service of mankind; he must make the one motive and end of his life the benefit and help of every other man.
That kind of a life means a change of centre. Instead of regarding the universe as revolving about itself it sees that self as but part of the great machinery of life, planned and operating for the good of all. A man begins to deny himself as soon as he begins to love another. Even a yellow dog may act to deflect the heart from its old self-centre. The love of kin and family, of friends, and associates all serve to strengthen the habit of self-denial.
The fewer people a man takes into his plan of life the more likely is he to be selfish. But some lives are but the more selfish because they take in all mankind and look on them as designed to contribute to their single enriching. That kind of a life commits suicide; ever grasping and never giving it dies of plethora. It had never learned that strange secret of the best self-development, sacrificing service.
We need to guard ourselves against the delusion that the denial of oneself means the impoverishment of the life. There can be no true giving of the life in service unless there is a wise enriching of the self, a thorough fitting for that service. The more of a man you are, the brighter your intellect, the broader your sympathies, the better your service to the world may be. The sloth that sinks the soul in indifference to its own development is the most sinful of all forms of selfishness.
This way of denial is more, the Master tells His disciples, than an emptying of the life. If some of the cares of self are cast out the burdens of others more than take their place. It is a full life, overflowing with the interests, the fears, loves, hopes, and longings of other lives. It bears the cross, not of an ornamental, vanity-serving glory, but the cross of a world's sin and sorrow.
Each man must carry his cross not on his breast but on his heart and brain. It is what he can do, what he can plan, suggest, undertake towards saving this world. The cross of discipleship will be to some statesmanship, to others science, to others the daily service of a home or the work in the shop; it is the kindly word, the cheering look, the lift by the way; it is whatever is done in unselfish desire to make life better, to bring men nearer to one another and to the Father of all.
You have only to look at the great Teacher to know what self-denial and cross bearing really mean, and you have only to follow Him to fully carry out their principles. To Him they meant the life of doing good, of seeking the sorrowing, befriending the forsaken, helping the helpless. They who follow Him lead the world; they who seek to minister instead of being ministered to are the world's masters. The value of every life must be measured at last not by what it has gathered to itself but by what it has given for the enriching and help of the whole life of the world.
MY SOUL OR MY SERVICE
There is no more subtle temptation than that which sets the soul as a hindrance to the service we should render. A surprise awaits him who carefully will compare the emphasis laid upon the individual soul and its salvation by the modern church with the place given this in the teachings of the Bible. Perhaps he will find in modern preaching, with its insistent appeal to men to save their own souls, an explanation of prevalent selfishness. The moral effect of urging a man to save his soul is not much better than that which comes from advising him to save his skin at any cost.
The most serious objection ever made to religion is that it produces a narrow, self-centred type of mind. That type of religion cannot be right, regardless of its doctrinal orthodoxy, which produces a wrong type of men and women. But may not failure here be accounted for by the selfish basis on which men build the plea for what they call personal salvation?
What could be more selfish than this continual appeal to fear, this urging of men to escape from punishment, to make sure of a house in the heavenly city, this offering of crowns and perpetual rest, plenty and peace, this emphasis on the great object of saving your own soul? It is opposite directly to what the great Teacher told men. Did He not say that the man who would save his own life should lose it?
The concentration of mind on the self, whether in the name of religion or in any other name, is but moral suicide. People who have no other object in life than that of saving their own souls are but little better than those whose whole object is to fatten, protect, and keep safe their bodies.
But Christianity must be perverted greatly to make it teach men to set their own interests first. It is the religion of the other man. Its appeal is not to the love of self, but to the love of society. It offers a way of salvation, not as a thing desirable for your exclusive use, but as the pathway for all lives, for all the people. Its tree of life is not for a single pair, but for the healing of the nations.
True religion is not in self-centred culture, but in the culture of all through the service of the single ones and the culture of the one through his service for all. Only in the atmosphere of service does the soul grow, expand, and find itself. To live in a circle is to die; it is the centrifugal life that finds salvation. They court death who seek only their own lives; they find life who, disregarding death and loss, seek only to make others live.
Religion is not simply a cure for my ills. True, it does cure many of them, but only that I may be better able to do its work. It is a great cause, a mighty project, commanding the noblest enthusiasms and the highest efficiency of effort, the project of bringing this whole world to salvation. And that not the salvation of a mental condition but of the perfection of its whole being, the realization of its highest possibilities, the full noontide of the day of God.
Is not this enough to satisfy any man and to call forth the best in him, that he should in some way serve this glorious ideal? Is not this man's purpose in this world even as it was the purpose of the one who called Himself the Son of Man? What nobler summary could any life have than His, that He went about doing good? How quickly would that kingdom of heaven come if this were the program of every life!
Let but a man do his duty towards this shining ideal, let him but be lifted up, carried along in the mighty enthusiasm it ought to engender, and his own soul, his own development, his character perfection will take care of itself. No man ever did any great work without becoming greater himself, and greatness never was found in any other way. This is an unvarying law. Service is the secret of culture.
The pious hypochondriac is sure to be a sickly soul. The best thing you can do for your soul is to forget that you have one, just as the healthy man forgets he has a heart or liver. The self-forgetting service is the secret of happiness, of full finding of self. Freedom in self-giving brings fullness in living.
In the right life the hour of prayer, the quiet thought, the search for abstract truth, may all have their place; but it is only the place that the wise workman gives to his meals. He does not live for these things; they are but ministrants to his work. He uses everything that will make him a better workman; but not because he sees the workman as his end. He forgets himself in the perfection of that he seeks to make. The saving of the soul, the culture of the self, as an end is shame and suicide; as a means to service it is life and peace and perfection.
THE SATISFACTION OF SERVICE
A man always thinks more of his work than of his wages. He would never be content to toil day in and day out but for the thought that somehow to some one his work was worth while. Neither wages, nor salary, nor any other cash consideration would of itself be sufficient to satisfy him. The workman is proud of the product of his hands; his reward is in that he has made; the good shepherd thinks more of the flock than of their fleece or his pay.
Satisfaction in work can only come from service rendered. Whether a man be plowing or preaching, sweeping the streets or building empires, his work is only worthy if his motive be the good he is doing, the value of the work itself. We call the man who preaches a minister, a servant. There is no more honourable title, but it belongs to every one who seeks to do any worthy work in the world.
The purpose of living is service, therefore the business of religion must be the cultivation of proficiency in service. The work of Christianity is to teach men how to be most valuable and useful as children and parents, as neighbours and citizens, how to make the most of their lives and to do the most with them. It aims to bring the race to its highest efficiency.
Religion reveals to man the worth-while object of all his endeavours, to work as a servant for others. Never was Jesus more glorious than when He stooped to lift the palsied, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry. He found His right to rule men by His exercise of the privilege of serving them. The sheep belong to the good shepherd because he gives his life to them.
This marks the true follower of the great Teacher to-day; his business is to serve, he makes living an investment for humanity. He is commanded to lose his life, to be willing to give up, to sacrifice all in self-denial, to take his cross and suffer persecution and loss in this way of walking after his Master.
But he is not told to throw his life away as a worthless thing. He is to lose it as the seed is lost in the sowing, as the money in the investing; to sacrifice it as the tool is sacrificed to that which it is carving. He who would be of real service to the world must cultivate the best in himself. If living is seed sowing, then the seed must be good or the harvest will be thin.
True altruism finds right expression first in self-care. It is a man's business to be strong, healthy, sane, trained, developed; to be the best kind of a man, complete in all his faculties, that he may have the more to offer to the service of his fellows. There is no merit in offering the wrecked body and soured mind. If you are going to give your life to the world you must make it worth the giving.
Heaven's work demands the finest tools. Nothing is too good for the service of humanity. There is a good deal more religion in the honest attempt to make the most of yourself, to keep health, to secure education and culture, in order that you may have the larger, better, wealthier self to use in service than in unending ascetic exercises, prayers, devotions, meditations, mumbling, or visions of things spiritual.
The only way you can prove the genuineness of your religion is by your gifts to the children of God, your own brothers about you. There is no gift that begins to compare in value with a well-trained, well-equipped, strong and clean life. We cannot all give gold or lands, or even learning to men, but we can all give lives, and that which heaven and earth both have a right to expect is that we shall give the best lives we can.
The Right to Happiness
The Power of Happiness The Secret of Happiness The Folly of Anxiety
Happy is that happy makes.
Heaven leaves the heart when hatred enters.
The man who is so wise that he never laughs is the greatest of fools.
When your face spells failure it's no use talking of the glory of your faith.
To set a child towards gladness is to incline him towards God.
The graces do not grow in gloom.
There's no argument equal to a happy smile.
Stealing sorrow is as much a sin as acquiring stolen joys.
Life's music is never perfect without the chord of pain.
Happiness is never found by dodging my neighbour's sorrows.
THE POWER OF HAPPINESS
Instead of the strength of your faith being marked by the length of your sighs, the genuineness of your religion is to be known by its joyfulness. The same God who gives the sunlight and the smiling fields, who makes the brooks to laugh through the meadows and the stars to sing at night, would rather see smiles than frowns on the faces of His children. His glory is not in gloom but in gladness. He designed this world for happiness, and religion is but the pursuing of His plans for the good of His children.
That which is holy must be happy. Artificial sadness is always sinful. A church is not sacred because it looks like a sepulchre; music is not sacred because all the spring is taken out of it. You do not keep a day sacred to divine ends by making it dismal. It is a religious duty resting on all to cultivate happiness, to make this world less sad.
No matter how sincere a man may be, if his sanctity results only in sorrow to others its satisfaction to him must count for nothing. There is a great deal of piety that needs an operation to cut the bands that bind its heart and reduce the inflammation of its spleen. Happiness is the very health of religion. If religion does not give right relations to those things that determine the tone and colour of life it is a failure.
But true happiness can never be selfish. It grows only by giving. No one can eat a feast by himself. Happiness is not found on lonely mounts of vision. It is a fair, refreshing stream that flows through the dusty ways of daily life. Its waters are never so sweet and cool to you as when you seek them for others. None ever find it who go only with their own pitchers. The reason so many would-be saints are sad is because they will not be other than selfish.
It is not strange that men who love this heaven-born life of ours should turn away from the religion that represented every happy, joyous human thing as an enormous offense against its God. Once men gathered together every dark and depressing thought and thing and said these constitute the divine in this world; they looked out through the smoked glasses of sanctimony and declared that every glad, generous hearty impulse and action must be evil because such things gave happiness.
The old boundary line between the pain that was piety and the pleasure that spelt perdition has almost passed away. Men now know that there is pain and loss in the way of sin, that the way of the transgressor is hard; they learn by tasting that the fruits of righteousness are joy and peace. The age demands what the Lord of all has ever intended, that religion should send men on their way with the vigour of happier hearts, with the upwelling love for men that should drive the squalor, misery, despair, and heart-aches of sin before it.
Life has its work and it has its sorrows; but they ought both to be for its enriching. The business of religion is to teach us that understanding and adjustment of life which will make it a feast of fat things, to teach us that the God of all desires the good of all. The more true piety—the seeking for the loving will of the all wise and loving—there is in this world the more pleasure there will be in it.
This happiness is the cure for the madness that some call pleasure. Life is a mockery indeed to those whose only hope is for the hours of leisure in which to drink the deadening drafts of excitement, the lethal cup that only hides life's misery by paralyzing the faculties against the possibilities of real pleasure. If men might only hear again the call of Him who bade the weary and heavy laden to come; if they might but know that His way of life can give strength, rest, peace, joy, what an enriching life might have.
Make life happier and you will make it holier. Make it full of pleasure—not that of a fool's paradise—but that of peace with heaven's plans, with the joy of knowing that over all is infinite love, the strength that comes from knowing right is invincible, the tender and sweet joys that spring up at the touch of human love. Go your ways to make them paths of gladness, to show love shining through sorrow, to give love in the name of the Lord of love and yours shall be religious service indeed.
THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS
How did your Puritan forefathers dispose of the text which in their day read, "A merry heart is a continual feast." Did they explain it away by saying that the man was made anyway for fasting and not for feasting? Perhaps underneath their austere exterior they, after all, knew something of deep joys and unfailing sources of refreshing happiness.
In their teaching they made the mistake of insisting that it was necessary to seem sad in order to please the Most High. We make the mistake of being sad in order to please ourselves. Their misery at least had the grace of a high motive; ours is born of a short-sighted selfishness that grasps at the shadow of a fleeting satisfaction and loses the substance of lasting joy.
Happiness is the highest aim of life, higher than holiness or usefulness, because it must include both. To us it is so unfamiliar that we do not know it from frivolity; we seek the excitement of some pleasing sensation, and, rising to its stimulus, we fall afterwards into the reaction of misery. Happiness is the poise, calm, strength, and spring of the life fully in harmony with all things good and true.
Nothing praises God better than a happy disposition. Many have thought to give Him glory by learned treatises on His majesty and mystery. But a little child, so happy that he only can kick and crow, praises the Almighty more effectively and even devoutly than does the theologian who only can offer his bloodless speculations.
The great Father gives His children a world brimming over with joy, with laughing meadows, with smiling morns, with rippling bird song, and to man He gives faculties of immeasurable happiness. Life is learning the law of happiness and practicing its use and service.
But what is the secret of happiness? How can we learn to be happy when life has so much to make us sad? The praise of happiness does not take away the fact of sorrow or solve its dark problem. There remain the million aching hearts and all the griefs of a world. True. God forbid that we should lose our sorrows; that were to make this a sad world indeed. Our cares are but part of joy's curriculum. Learning their lesson, bearing their load is essential to deep, lasting happiness.
It is not the life of the butterfly experience that is firm, calm, serene in times of storm and stress. It is the life that by loads of care has been forced to strike its roots down to the rocks. There are some lives that seem to run over with a happiness that is full of refreshing to all who know them, and these have come out of great tribulation.
At first the multiplication table is a burden; later, when mastered, it becomes a wonderful bearer of burdens. To wear a careworn, fretful look, to go through life shedding misery, is to confess that we have not learned our lesson, that we are dunces in life's school.
The secret of happiness is in grasping the significance of living, to learn that we live for things other and higher than those mad follies and fading prizes for which men sell their bodies and souls and fret out their nerves and hearts. No man can be happy whose heart is set on the changing fashion of things or who looks for satisfaction in things.
The lover is happy because he has discovered his prize and is enthralled by a pursuit that makes all other things seem mean and paltry. Men are happy in proportion as they yield themselves to the best, as they tune their hearts to strike the highest key of their lives. Paul is happier in the dungeon, where he can be true to his ideal, than Nero on the throne without one.
There is feast in days of famine for those who have the inner eyes for the riches of life. You always can find in this world what your heart is looking for. But you cannot satisfy your heart on everything you may chance to find, and until the heart is satisfied and the deeper needs of the life are met there is no happiness.
The search for happiness is not altogether selfish. Few things can we do that will help others more than the cultivation of serene strength and cheer in ourselves. Not the soulless, set smile, but the strength and sympathy that flow from a life fixed in confidence in eternal right and good and unfailing love.
THE FOLLY OF ANXIETY
The great Teacher does not say that we are not to be thoughtful, or provident; but He insists that no event can be provided for by anxiety, by fretting over it before it comes. Half the people on our streets look as though life was a sorry business. It is hard to find a happy looking man or woman. Worry is the cause of their woebegone appearance. Worry makes the wrinkles; worry cuts the deep, down-glancing lines on the face; worry is the worst disease of our modern times.
Care is contagious; it is hard work being cheerful at a funeral, and it is a good deal harder to keep the frown from your face when you are in the throng of the worry worn ones. Yet, we have no right to be dispensers of gloom; no matter how heavy our loads may seem to be we have no right to throw their burden on others nor even to cast the shadow of them on other hearts.
Anxiety is instability. Fret steals away force. He who dreads to-morrow trembles to-day. Worry is weakness. The successful men may be always wide-awake, but they never worry. Fret and fear are like fine sand, thrown into life's delicate mechanism; they cause more than half the friction; they steal half the power.
Cheer is strength. Nothing is so well done as that which is done heartily, and nothing is so heartily done as that which is done happily. Be happy, is an injunction not impossible of fulfillment. Pleasure may be an accident; but happiness comes in definite ways. It is the casting out of our foolish fears that we may have room for a few of our common joys. It is the telling our worries to wait until we get through appreciating our blessings. Take a deep breath, raise your chest, lift your eyes from the ground, look up and think how many things you have for which to be grateful, and you will find a smile growing where one may long have been unknown.
Take the right kind of thought—for to take no thought would be sin—but take the calm, unanxious thought of your business, your duties, your difficulties, your disappointments and all the things that once have caused you fear, and you will find yourself laughing at most of them. In some you will see but friends in disguise, and in others puny foes decked out as giants. But begin to dread them, brood over them, look at them with eyes prejudiced with fear, and the least difficulties rise like mountains. In winter some people worry themselves into malaria over the mosquitoes they may meet next summer.
Mistaken ideas of religion are responsible for a great many of the unnecessary wrinkles on the human face. Too many have thought it would be impossible to be happy in two worlds, and so, having elected happiness in the one which they thought would last longest, they have no choice but to be unhappy in this one. In fact, some seem to suppose that the greater their misery here the more intense will their bliss be there. If heaven is to be bought that way certainly many are paying full price for it.
Burdens we all must bear; but they need not break us. Sorrows we all must share; but they need not unmake us. They will not if we have learned the Teacher's secret of living; He, the man of sorrows, was the man who could bequeath to His friends His joy. To Him life lost its anxiety, because the chief things of life were not food or raiment, or even social standing, but manhood and unselfishness to men, and the possibilities of these were as easily realized in need and adversity as in riches and prosperity.
The Curriculum of Character
The Great School The Purpose of the Course The Price of Perfection
A good many resolutions die of heart failure.
No man possesses more religion than he practices.
When men say "our faults" they usually mean yours.
There are no delights in the worship that dodges duty.
When fear gets into the pulpit faith goes out of the pews.
It's not the man with a putty backbone who is most truly resigned to the will of God.
When a man buys a horse on its specifications he is likely to call his folly faith and its consequences the dispensation of Providence.
It is folly to hope to have a clean heart when you pay no attention to what enters its doorways.
Some folks think they have the house of character because they possess the plans of virtue.
It is folly to talk of being guided by the light of your conscience when you take pains to keep it in the dark.
THE GREAT SCHOOL
With all our learning the greatest lesson before us is this one of living right, of finding our full heritage and filling our places as men and women in this world. If our systems of education fail to teach us how to live they fail altogether.
The great need of our day is that we shall train the conscience to right moral judgment, that we shall educate all for the business of living, and that we shall so educate all that we shall not only have a generation of bright, smart, money-making or fame-making machines, but that we may have clean, upright, truth-loving, self-reverencing, God-fearing men and women.
There is little likelihood that America will fail for lack of business ability. The danger is that we shall fail at the point of character; that we shall fail where failure is fatal to every other kind of success. This is the crucial point.
We do well to perfect the plans by which we teach men the encyclopedia of their bodies, their country, the world and its history. But we cannot forget, and recent events have reminded us with a terrible note of warning, that no amount of knowledge constitutes any sort, even the feeblest kind, of guarantee as to rectitude of life.
If you neglect the heart, the will, and conscience, if you neglect the knowledge of and training in right relations with men, reverence and right relations to the most high, your culture of the intellect is worse than waste; it is the perfecting of the poison of our social life; it is the whetting of the edge of a man's villainy and grossness.
Above all other things, the most desirable is that men shall love truth and hate a lie; that they shall love honour and truth so much more than fame, power, or possessions that never for an instant will these weigh in the scale against the former. But for long it has been thought that this choice flower of nobility grew by chance; the culture of the soul was so mysterious as never to be brought under scientific law.
If a man grew up to be good it was due either to accident or to miracle. The realm of character has been the last to come under the reign of law. Now we recognize that we must learn to live as truly as we must learn to read, and that the culture of the soul must profit by the wondrous strides that all educational science has made; that all our efforts to produce character must be so wisely directed that we shall secure the best and most enduring results.
One message comes from the lips of every seer, from every page of history. It is that the man or the nation alone is wise, alone finds enduring life, who sets before commercial supremacy or political power or fame in learning the glory of righteousness, the beauty of practical holiness. Their wealth lies beyond corruption and their days know no end who are wise and rich in the things within.
The greatest service we can render our day is by giving it the riches of worthy living, by setting before ourselves the production of high character through all life's processes of learning, and by bringing in every way we may to an age engrossed in selfishness and commercialism the significance of the call of character.
No wonder it sometimes seems to us that we have forgotten to smile; that our faces are so drawn with the tense struggle of life that we have lost sight of the meaning of happiness. How can we be happy unless we shall set our whole lives in harmony with the things that are fundamental and eternal?
We must learn to order our lives, not as machines to be driven at the top of their efficiency in the money mill, but as part of the great life of the spiritual world, as inheritors of things divine, sublime, and glorious, as possessors of the joy that made the morning stars sing together and the beauty that paints the evening red.
THE PURPOSE OF THE COURSE
The early question of the old creeds, "What is the chief end of man?" was conceived in a spirit more practical than academic. It was the voice of the constant inquiry as to the purpose of living. But the answer given by the creed lacks the assurance of a moral conviction; it fails to find any response in us. "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" may be the portion of angels, but honest men have to confess that they have no great desire to be angels, yet.
The emphasis of the creed with that as its basis practically was on dying rather than on living; it owed whatever grip it had on men to the promise it held, to those who were in the midst of the sordid round of tasks or the dull, heavy grind of poverty, of a felicitude that knew neither hunger, fear, nor pain; it offered a heaven forever to those who could endure a hell for a short time.
The logical consequence was to make dying the chief end of living. Who cannot remember being told to despise the present, to consider how brief it is, like a cloud before the dawn of the endless day? It was compared to the short waiting outside some door beyond which was warmth, cheer, and unending bliss. So that the pious soul thought of life only in terms of waiting, watching, enduring. Piety became positive only in prospect, negative in the present.
To say to a man, be patient with wrong and oppression to-day and you will be prospered tomorrow, is to teach him to compound a felony, to wink at the despoiling of the earth by the iniquitous for the consideration of a title to the riches of heaven. It is to lose sight of the fact that unless the life finds itself now it never will find itself, that to dwarf a soul to-day is to dwarf it forever.
"Then," says the practical man, "this means that we can ignore the future; we must make the most of the present; get all you can; keep all you get; the whole purpose of life is to make a good living, to enjoy yourself." This is only the swing of the pendulum away from the old thought. The ideal of the present day is material advantage. The chief end of man is to make money. If once he was the slave of an unjust order, he now is the slave of an unworthy appetite.
Living only for wealth or for wages is not living at all. Who knows less of life than the slave of modern commercialism, the man who lifts his eyes no higher than the pay roll, or the ticker tape? It is better to be the victim of a delusion that gives some happiness, that gives some fortitude, and to live the simple life of the poor than to be the slave bound to the wheel of modern social greed and money madness.
Life itself is the object of living; the chief end of man is to become glorious as his ideal of God is glorious, to realize the highest that comes to him in the song of poet, the vision of seer, the hope of his own heart. The money, the acres, the resources are the tools for the development of life. This world is a workshop; it has failed utterly if it produces nothing but an array of machines and a heap of shavings; it must turn out the finished product of men.
Are you living thus for life, or are you living to do no more than make a living? We need to educate our children to set honour, truth, justice, a high life, before all things, to prize noble attainments so that they shall not be content with the lesser prizes of prosperity in things, so that whether we win or lose in the markets of the world we shall stand rich and glorious in manhood, finding the ends of life in the achievement of high character and finding in commerce but the servant of character.
THE PRICE OF PERFECTION
Gold may depreciate, stocks rise or fall, and business values change so as to leave the market in panic, but every man on the street or in the store knows that one value forever remains permanent, unvarying, and that is character. Every other asset may be swept away and success still achieved if this remain; every other aid may be at its best and failure only await him who lacks the wealth of character.
Character is that of which reputation is but the echo, often mistaken and misleading. Character is the last, the ultimate, value of life. It is the trend of the whole being towards the best. It is the passion and power that holds one true despite all persuasion.
It is the one thing worth having, because upon it all other values depend. The wealth of the whole world still leaves poor him from whom the soul, the power to appreciate, the purity of heart which sees God and the good, the peace and quietness of a good conscience, have fled. When we turn away from our fighting for fame and our grinding for gold long enough to think, then we know that the things within determine wholly the value and reality of all things without.
The wise ever have set this treasure above all others. Happy the people that love righteousness more than revenue, the way of virtue, the clear eye, the upward look, and the approval of a good conscience above all other prosperity or advantage. The days of national greatness ever have been those when the things that make manhood bulked far above all other considerations. Alike to people and individuals, the imperishable value ever has been that of character.
This asset comes not to a man by accident. He who is rich in character, whose success in many ways is built upon his resources in this way, does not just simply happen to be good, true, and square. There is a price to character; it costs more than any other thing, for it is worth more than all other things. Essentially it never is inherited, but always acquired by processes often slow and toilsome and at great price.
If you would be perfect you must pay the price of perfection. Unless the passion of life is this perfection it never will be your possession. Dreams of ideal goodness only waste the hours in which it might have been achieved. No man ever finds character in his sleep. The education of the heart is a thing even more definite than the education of the head. The school of character has an infinite variety of courses and an unending curriculum.
Folks who are sighing for goodness usually go away sorrowful when they learn what it costs. But life ever is putting to us just such tests as the wise teacher put to the rich young man. You say you desire character, the perfection of manhood or womanhood above all other things; do you desire this enough to pay for it your ease, your coveted fame, your cherished gold, perhaps your present good name and peace of mind? Is the search for character a passion or only a pastime?
This does not mean that this prize of eternity falls only to those who devote themselves wholly to self-culture, to the salvation of their own souls. The best lives have thought little of themselves, but they have lived for the ends of the soul, to help men to better living, to save them from the things that blight and damn the soul. Like the Leader of men they have found the life unending by laying down their lives, paying the full price, selling all in order that right and truth and honour and purity, love and kindness and justice might remain to man.
The world's wealth depends not on what we have in our hands, nor even on what we can carry in our heads. It depends on the things that we have and the beings we are in our hearts. Fools we are who live only to make a living, houses, shelter, food, rags, and toys, who might live to make a life, and to mold lives, to earn the riches and honour enduring; who have not learned the gain of all loss that leads the heart to look up, the joy of all sorrow that sweetens the soul, and the profit from every sacrifice that is a paying of the price of perfection.
The Age-Long Miracle
The Sufficient Sign Behold the Man The Life that Lifts
Silent goodness speaks loudest.
Our loads lift us up to strength.
Life grows as love is given.
From the grind of drudgery comes at last the glorious divine spark.
The spirit of the father never works separation in the family.
That day best fulfills its purpose which is a preparation for the next.
The proof of a faith is not in its prestige, but in its present power.
Things divine are not defended by dodging.
It is the heart that gives ease to any work.
The door of truth never opens to the key of prejudice.
Love never knows how much it gives nor what it costs.
THE SUFFICIENT SIGN
The scribe and the Pharisee are still with us. "Establish the credibility of the miracles of Jesus, or, better still, let Him work a miracle to-day, and we will believe," they say. This age is credulous; it hungers to believe the extraordinary. Yet, while it is running after folly, it is blind to the most extraordinary fact, the most stupendous miracle that ever took place, although it goes on right before its eyes and is open to every kind of proof. It cannot see the miracle of Jesus in the world to-day, the miracle beside which all the works He did in His lifetime sink into insignificance.
Here is the sign to-day offered to the skeptic: Once, nearly twenty centuries ago, a young preacher travelled and taught through the villages and by the wayside in an obscure oriental country. He addressed a subject race, insular in their prejudices, lacking in political genius and in artistic culture. He lived in days calculated to chill the most fervid religious enthusiasm. He was at first ignored and then hated by His own people; the religious leaders became His implacable foes. His work ended in apparent failure, in a death of shame.
But that was not the end. It is strange that the world remembers anything about that young preacher; but stranger still is the fact that to-day He influences more than half the population of the globe, surpassing all other teachers, more people are under His sway now than the whole world held when He lived. These millions make Him the object of their worship and devotion; in His name they gather regularly all over the world, without regard to language or race.
More than this, this one whom the wise men of His day ignored has been the inspiration of the works of genius and art, of the deeds of heroism, of the lofty endeavours of the world since He died. He has changed the mind. He has changed the appearance of the world; by Him nations have fallen and risen. The humble, the despised, the rejected has become the world's hero, the mightiest of all the sons of men, the saviour of His race.
Once He touched a few who were blind and lame and they were healed; to-day in His name, in every city, a thousand suffering ones are made whole. Science does the work; but the opportunity for its development and the inspiration for its application came from Him.
Nor is this all. He made the world to see; He touched the blind eyes of the people, as they groped in superstition, and has given them sight; He has made the ages, once limping and halting, to arise and march forward with magnificent tread; He found the world a babel of jarring voices and fretting purposes, and His touch gave peace and singleness of purpose until men could discern that "through the ages one unceasing purpose runs." He did for man and mind what was first done for matter, brought the cosmos out of chaos. This is the miracle indeed.
It goes right on before our eyes. They take His name to a dead people, and soon there is life there. Light, and love, and larger life spring up everywhere in His name. From this modern miracle of the power, the growing authority, the kingship of the once despised Jesus we cannot escape; we are perforce participants in its benefits; it conditions all our lives.
If all the gospel stories could be proved myths and the miracles but inventions, there would still remain the greater, the insuperable miracle of the world's picture of the perfect and all glorious personality of Jesus and the fact of His preeminent power in the world to-day. This is the sign He gives this age, and to this the open mind answers: "Thou art the Christ, the saviour of the world."
BEHOLD THE MAN
The two words, "Ecce homo," contemptuously spoken by the cynical Roman governor contained the highest tribute that had been given to Jesus. How empty appear all the high sounding titles, such as king and emperor, beside this significant one of Man. How sad and self-damning the bitter railing of His enemies in the light of that serene dignity. How puerile the bickering over words and ways of worship, and all the wrangling that blinded them to the heavenly radiance of that all glorious manhood. The wonder of Jesus is not in the deeds He did, but in the being He was. And the wonder of His being is not in that it offers elements for arguments as to a divine personality, but it is that of a simple, clear, sublimely perfect manhood. It is upon this perfection of personal character that His abiding claim to divinity must rest; it depends not on His birth but on His being.
There is something strange about the perversity with which the church has emphasized the least attractive aspects of its master's person. The preachers have scolded men for not coming to church, and when they did come they offered them pictures of an emaciated, effeminate being for their adoration. With them the painters have conspired to set on canvas and in church window representations from the reality of which we would turn with repulsion or on which we would look with pity.
If Jesus is to be the leader of men He must go before them. He must stand in the front, not set there by artificial arguments as to His right to rule over men, but there because He belongs there, first because He is first in all that makes manhood; He is king because He can, and because He has overcome in life's great conflict.
If He is to show us the way we should go He must walk in that way; He must be flesh of our flesh, true man, knowing the full fellowship of our lives. If He was born with a halo; if He lived on angel's fare; if somehow He belongs to another world and His perfections are not those of our nature, then, almighty as He may be as a leader for beings of another world, He has no value to us.
But men have ever set aside the weavings of minds so absorbed in the wonder of their speculations that they could not see the truth. They have seen through the dreamings of poets, painters, and preachers, who pictured only their sickly ideals. And, instead of their caricatures, men have held in their hearts a man, one of their own. And this true fellow, brother and friend, has spurred them to noble deeds and lofty living.
Perfection is seen in strength, not in weakness, in virility and not in tears, in majesty, the majesty truly of meekness, but not of a maudlin, mooning etherealism. The revelation of the perfect man cannot come in a form that a child will pity; it will be admirable from all points of view. It is the heroic rather than the esthetic we must admire.
The men who followed that one long ago did so not because they had heard arguments as to His divine claims, but because they were drawn by the heavenly power of His manhood. This it is that wins men ever, the magnetism of manhood. The force of a great life is mightier than any of the things it does. There is about this leader, Jesus, that which compels us to greatness, spurs us to strife for our better selves, strengthens to sacrifice and to service for our fellows.
It matters little whence a life like this has come; the greater question is where does it lead us. Childish minds spend time on the genealogical trees of the giants; the wise men follow them. The value of the life of the great Teacher does not depend on our ability to comprehend it biologically or arrange it chronologically, but on our vision of its moral and manly perfections and on the power these attributes have over our lives.
This world will be little helped by the most irrefutable syllogism concerning the peculiar nature and separate exclusive divinity of its great religious Teacher. But lives will be lifted everywhere in the measure that they see the man in Him who taught us of God. For men need not so much a God who has come down as a man who has attained to God, not a descent, but an ascent, one who is the life and the truth because He is the way which they may tread up to the glory that is their heritage and the God who is their own.
THE LIFE THAT LIFTS
To any save the few in the group of His friends that statement of Jesus that being lifted up He would draw all men to Him must have sounded like the ravings of one deluded. It has taken the centuries to show that He was right. He was right in His estimation of His life's end; it was a lifting up. His enemies thought it a casting down, a defeat; He knew it to be a triumph. Sorrow, injustice, oppression, hatred, the things that seem to crush are the things that elevate. Only by opposition has any life discovered power. The fiercer blow these winds the firmer grows the tree. Out of the petty persecutions, the countless meannesses, the littleness of those who oppose him the great soul builds its greatness. It is, and ever has been by a cross that men are lifted up. History abounds with prisons, gibbets, and crosses which have become thrones of eternal glory.
Whether we shall be cast down or lifted up depends upon ourselves; neither enemies nor adverse circumstances have the power to do this. The soul that seeks the stars builds its staircase out of the stones flung by the persecutor, out of the rocks of difficulties. If your heart is great, my brother, nothing can keep you from greatness; if it is mean, no amount of o'ervaulting ambition can make you other than a little, obscure man, as truly lost on the peak as you would be at the base.
Jesus died a failure; His friends were few, and the best of them thought His life a mistake. It takes more than the span of our lives to measure their size. It is better that a great soul should be called a failure than that it should die a shrivelled success. Earth measures by what the hands hold; heaven by the heart. The hands at last lose their grasp, but the heart wealth goes on from more to more. This it is that is worth while.
Jesus was right when He said that He would draw all men to Him. Then it sounded like folly; to-day it demonstrates His divine insight. Lifted up in shame the riches of His life were revealed. After all, the best in us answers to the best; it is love that leads. In the end, goodness, truth, gentleness, sincerity have the greatest attraction for men. Jesus is known and loved by millions who never heard of Nero or of Augustus. Their glory was that of circumstance; His that of character. His life lifts.
This it is that most helps the world; not learning, but a life; not power or position, but simple passion for men; not riches, but wealth of the inner life. You may not found a university or build libraries or hospitals, or even write books or preach sermons. But every one may do the principal thing that Jesus did. That was to live a life amongst men of love for them, of simple kindnesses, of God-seeking aspiration, of white sincerity. The race needs not so much men who will shake it with their power or dazzle it with their learning as it needs men and women who will lift it with the quiet earnestness and sincerity of their lives. Herein is lasting greatness and true power, to live as He lived, to love as He loved, true to God, to yourself, and to your fellows, seeking the best and giving of your best.
Service and sacrifice are the things that lift to the supreme places; the lower you stoop in helpfulness the higher you are lifted in lasting glory. And they are lifted to heaven, they achieve immortality, they can never die who were willing to die if death lay in the path of duty, to be sacrificed if sacrifice was part of their service.
Seeing the Unseen
The Sense of the Unseen The Brook in the Way That Which is High
The song of sympathy never comes until the singer has been to the school of sorrow.
True spirituality can see the altar in the cookstove and the washtub.
People who are always off the key are never content out of the choir.
The only version of the Bible authorized by heaven is that on two feet.
Every life must have days in the desert but it does not need to build its house there.
Many a man thinks he is patient with pain when he is only perverse in eating pickles.
No man knows how much religion he has until he goes of fishing alone where mosquitoes are many.
There are too many people to whom God has given wings who are complaining of corns.
It is some consolation to know that when you aim at nothing you are sure to hit it.
If you have large reserves of religion you will not be without the small change of kindness.
THE SENSE OF THE UNSEEN
When the practically-minded man Paul writes of looking at the things which are not seen his words sound like either fantasy or folly. Yet it is plain fact, practical, and certainly essential to any success. He is blind who can see only with his eyes, and he only is sensible who knows there are many things beyond his senses. Practical men consider all the factors to every problem, and things are not less real to them because they may chance to be intangible.
The unseen things are imminent to us always. There are many things not yet pigeonholed by our science nor catalogued by our philosophies. You can dissect a daisy and enumerate its parts; but you never know a daisy until you have seen the unseen things thereof, until you have felt the subtle appeal of its beauty. Bobbie Burns saw more of the daisy than the greatest botanist without his spiritual eyes.
The danger is that in our hard workaday we shall forget the reality of the unseen, we shall get to think that gold and steel and land are the only real things, and we shall shape ourselves by the blind and base creed of gold, and steel, and land. How easy it is to measure every man by his possessions in tangible things. How easy to make these our chief end in life, to slight the real prizes, the unseen wealth that lies so close at hand or already possessed, while we rush and strive for the rainbow of riches.
Deep within us we know that he is rich, and he alone, who has wisdom, love, patience, who possesses friends, who creates kindly thoughts, whose life with simple joy abounds. Once again and often do we need to see Bunyan's picture of the man bending over his refuse, gathered with the muck rake, and heedless of the angel holding the crown that only waits his taking.
A man is wealthy according to what is within him. His greatness is of the things that are unseen. There are limits to the possession and the use of the things that are seen; but who shall set a limit to a man's possible wealth in love and honour, in wisdom and integrity, in all the things that make up the soul of man? Few are the things that a man may hold for his own all the days of his life, and fewer still are those he may grasp with pleasure when the hands are falling helpless by his side. But many are the riches he may have to hold forever in the things of the unseen. Many a man walks through the fields penniless and yet richer far than their owner; to him the birds sing, for him the flowers bloom, to his eyes there are beauties in the blue beyond all words, and all the loveliness of the fair land lifts his heart within him. The other man who holds the title deeds sees nothing beside them. Possession is wholly a matter of appreciation. The earth is the Lord's and He gives it to those who have eyes to see.
It is the eye to see the unseen that gives wealth to the seen. Values depend on vision. Appreciation does not prevent possession; it makes the possession actual. And the vision of the realities behind things keeps a man from the sense of destitution when all things are taken from him. He cannot be destitute. He may lose all his fellows, but he cannot be friendless; the Father of Spirits cannot lose him, nor can he be cut off from fellowship with those who die no more.
The seeing eye is the stimulus to the worth while endeavour. The inventors who have enriched the world endured derision seeing the things invisible to others. The truth is that it is the unspiritual world that makes the least progress in things material. The men of faith and vision are back of all advance. They have endurance, patience, and strength. The sense of another world where motives are rightly measured, the sense of a great cloud of worthy witnesses to other eyes invisible, the sense of reward in the very service itself, rewards intangible yet most real, the joy of sacrifice and service; these all enable one to push on, to toil, to endure. Then, long afterwards, the dull, weary world sees and understands.
THE BROOK IN THE WAY
Alongside every highway runs the brook whereof a man may drink often if he will and drinking lift up his head. Its little song we scarce hear in the rush of our businesses; its refreshing we forget even though our throats be parched with the dust of our petty affairs. Yet it is ever there, cool, refreshing, this world of spirits and ideals.
Nature has a prodigal way of scattering rivulets down the hillside and along the pathways, little heeding whether men walk there or not. The practical eye sees waste; these streams might have been made to turn wheels; the needs of the traveller, weary with the way, might be met by faucets at regular intervals.
It is well for us all that the power of the practical man finds its limitations, else all poetry would have gone from the world, and great and glorious as might have been our physical perfections our bodies would be but the empty habitations whence souls had long since fled. The utilitarian would have stolen from us the bliss of the deep draft from the pebbly brook.
The man who is proud of being practical tells us we are wasting time and nervous energy in stopping to think of ideal things; we must take the world as we find it, he says, forgetting how fair and poetic we once found it and how bleak and ugly we are likely to leave it. But to him trees are always lumber, grass and flowers but hay, bird songs spell poultry, wind and waters energy. Many are too busy making things ever to enjoy anything that is made.
In this steel age it may seem folly and waste to stop and think of sacrifice and courage and love, to admire and answer to the thrill of human passions; but alas for him who never sees the light of heaven in another's tear, nor hears the brush of angels' wings when men and women fly to their fellow's aid.
If you haven't time in your busy life to turn aside to drink of the brook of human affection, to look deep into the eyes of friendship, to sympathize, to comfort, to taste this strange sweet and bitter cup of our common fellowship, then is your heart going dry and thirsty and life becoming a whitened road that knows no wells or springs.
But something there is in man that calls for drafts at yet deeper streams than these. Foolish and unlearned he may be, ignorant of the wise conclusions of philosophers who have looked into these things with their lanterns, but through the ages he has been drinking eagerly at the waters of eternity. In every man there is a thirst after the deep, immeasurable things divine; the deeper the nature of the man the greater his necessity for drinking often here.
The consciousness of the great life that embraces all life, the sense of its nearness to us all, has been a perennial refreshing to all great hearts. In some way to bring the life into touch with the infinite is to take down its limitations, break its barriers, and give it a sense of infinitude, to lift up the head in vision of the divinity of our lives and of every life. We who walk in the dust often need to be filled with the divine lest we become ourselves but dust.
This world of things is hungry for the life that is more than things, the life of the spirit; that is why so many love to sing of heaven and dream of a fair world peopled by strange and glorious celestial ones. Heaven is nearer than we think; like the brook by the way, the life of the spirit flows beside this life; happy they who drink of its waters, who already enter into eternity, who find strength for this life's way and work by the contact with the life that is life indeed.
Is it any wonder that life is a wearisome thing, a dead drag, when you are starving its very sources? You neglect the soul at the peril of all. So anxious are you to run this race that you have no time to allow him who rides in the chariot to drink of the water of life. This is not utilitarianism; this is suicide from the centre out.
The most practical common sense demands that you feed the inner places of your life, the heart that has gone so long thirsty and longing for love, for things too deep for words, for things that cannot be used and cannot be quoted in dollars. Give your inner life its deep drafts of the infinite life and your outer life shall take its place and do its work in the world.
THAT WHICH IS HIGH
There are two ways of viewing the oncoming years, as burdens or as opportunities, with fear or with expectation. The days of the new year may loom up as a series of unwelcome tasks to be unwillingly done or as so many invitations to attempt and achieve great things. The difference between these two points of view marks the difference between enduring life and finding the life that endures.
The wise preacher of long ago caught sight of one of these distinctions that cut clear through to the roots of things. He says that the sign of old age is that a man is "afraid of that which is high." When courage and ambition have gone old age and decrepitude have entered in, no matter whether a man be eighteen or eighty.
He alone has youth, he alone has life before him, who can still catch the vision of the ideal, of that which is high, who can lift up his eyes beyond the horizon of practicabilities and precedents and see the things not yet realized. There is a time when men must dream dreams and see visions, when they must feast on noble purposes or die so far as the inner spirit and all that makes real living is concerned.
If you find the will becoming dull and listless, with no quickening of the pulses, but only apathy or a sneer for the high purpose or the great promise, it is but a sign of the approach of senility, of the failure of the powers. When the ambition can be satisfied with the less while the greater is before it, when things low and base are preferred to things high, afar off, and difficult to attain, the heart is dying already.
Cherish as the spark of life the aspiration to have and do and be the best. Yet who is there does not know the paralyzing chill that the sneer of the philistine or even the memory of our own many failures can give when great possibilities offer themselves to us? How easily enter in the cold considerations that deaden our aspirations; how subtle the temptation to be content with the condition that involves neither toil nor pain. How hard to realize that this is an invitation to death.
To all men comes the thrill of the passion to do some great thing, to give to our world some worthy service. To yield to this is to keep the heart young, is to defy time, to conquer the years. Whether the coming days shall bend the back with their burdens or shall nerve and strengthen the life does not depend on whether they have cares or joys in them, but on whether they find us responsive to the call of noble things.
No man can afford to let a pure and lofty impulse die, nor, for fear of failure or of ridicule, to become afraid or ashamed of his ideals. Living is more than a dull feeding at tables or troughs, more than shelter and sleep; it is growing, climbing, becoming, finding higher levels and seeing yet higher before.
Nor is this all; the spirit of greatness finds ample play in daily duties. The success of the year does not depend on whether you can do things that shall amaze men to-day or make your name known forever, but upon whether into all the things you do, lowly, humdrum, commonplace as they may seem to be, the daily duties of home or shop or store, the care of the baby, or the running of a typewriter, there shall enter the great and high motive.
This is what we all need, the high vision of the lowly things, the sight of the fact that the least piece of work is an essential part of the service of the whole universe, that a man serves the Divine not by wearing a black coat but by doing, as in God's name, with high motives the least duties that may be his. It is not place nor authority nor wage that makes the work high or low; it is the spirit of the service and the part it plays in the world's great business of perfecting humanity.
Would you ward off old age, cherish vitality and give value to your days, seek the things that are above, the life that serves some worthy end. One is young as long as his heart leaps responsive to a noble call. But he who lives to pleasure, to the satisfaction of self, who has shut his eyes to the high things that call for self-denial, for toil and loss, is dead already.
Sources of Strength and Inspiration
Strength for the Daily Task The Sense of the Infinite The Great Inspiration
Living heartily is one secret of living happily.
Life is early blighted if it knows no clouds.
You can tell the character of any age by the place it gives to character.
There is little danger in the discontent with conditions that is equalled by discontent with character.
Heart health never comes so long as the hand is kept on the pulse.
Feed on garbage and you soon lose faith in good things.
The fruitful life seeks showers as well as sunshine.
It's hard for a man who has ground of his nose on the money mill to smell a taint on anything.
Many a man goes back by trying to put up a good front and nothing more.
Every life is worth the love it gives.
STRENGTH FOR THE DAILY TASK
It is the dull grind and monotony of life that makes it so hard to bear for the ninety-nine per cent. of us. Sometimes it seems as though we spend all our days toiling, wearing strength, and hope, and heart away for no other end than to gain just bread and shelter so as to keep the machine in condition for further toil.
How hopeless is the outlook of many a life! The mother with the weary round of home duties day after day, the father who goes to the same task year after year, seeing the same people, doing the same things, and coming home at the day's end with the same weariness, only augmented as age makes itself felt—all who toil feel at times these depressing limitations.
Little wonder that lives snatch at every fleeting, alluring promise of relief, through amusement, through anything that offers change and excitement. Little wonder that, robbed of opportunity for vision, they foment blind discontent, so that we all feel there is a mighty substratum of wretchedness and of menace lying under our social order.
Yet there are few lives, perhaps no worthy ones, without tasks that often seem monotonous and become matters of dull grinding that bring weariness and longing for relief. All worth while work involves much tediousness, painstaking exertion. All great things stand for so much life poured out, and life is never poured out without pain and loss.
The stern Puritan was doubtless wrong when he saw nothing in life but repression and stern duty, but he was nearer right than he who looks only for frivolity and amusement. Life is too large a business to be always light and trivial. Yet we must not allow its high purposes to be thwarted by robbing ourselves and our fellows of all joy and brightness and converting life into dull, mechanical servitude.
How may we find that proportion of toil and relief, that happy mixture of duty and delight that shall make life not only endurable but also useful, fruitful, and enjoyable? For it is man's duty to be happy; otherwise he can never be useful in any high or valuable sense.
It would be easy to try to give comfort by the philosophy which sees the fine fruitage that is coming from to-day's stern discipline. That fair fruitage is coming, but the trouble is it is too far off to give us much comfort now; we want something nearer and more easily apprehended. Then, too, the truth is no high fruitage will ever issue from a life crushed by slavish subjection.
After all, what life is to every one of us depends not on the demands of outer circumstances, but on the development of the life within. The heart determines the worth and beauty of life. It makes all the difference whether the physical determines its circumference or whether you have an intellect that is reaching out to the things unmeasurable and a soul that grows into glory indescribable.