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lihvavy of €he theological ^tmimty 


The Estate of the 
Rev. John B. Wiedinger 

BX 9843 .'h 5 4^362 1902 
Herford, Brooke, 1830-1903, 
The small end of great 





Sermons of Courage and Cheer 

Post 8vo 

The Story of Religion in England 
Post 8vo 












Copyright, 1902, by 

All rights reserved 















XI. THE world's* debt TO CHRIST I53 









NOT 263 


W^ORLD 275 



My thought is one for the simpHfying of the 
problems and perplexities of life. You know 
what these are : — problems of duty ; problems 
of religion; problems of Nature and of life — 
of what Life is, and what it is for, and of what 
is going to be the end of it; problems of man 
and of God — of time and of eternity. Grad- 
ually, this idea has shaped itself out to me — 
of how much the problems and perplexities of 
life would be simplified if people would only 
take hold of them at the small end. 

You see we stand at a sort of centre. Each 
life is central to the whole universe. From each 
little centre of your or my life, the Universe 
stretches away infinitely. Things seem pretty 
plain just where we are, but as they stretch away 
into the distance they lose themselves in an ho- 
rizon of mystery. And even that horizon is not 
the end, but suggests infinite distances beyond, 
entirely out of our ken. Our outlook is like the 
wedge-shaped track of light cast from a lantern 


into the darkness. It is small, but very bright 
close to, then as it widens out it becomes con- 
stantly dimmer, and at last it is wholly lost. 

It is perfectly true that the same laws hold 
good, the same truths are true from the centre 
to the circumference; but it is one thing to be 
sure that the same law and truth are there, away 
at the infinite end of things out of sight, and 
quite another to be able to see how the law and 
truth apply there. 

For instance — take gravitation. I can make 
out something of what gravitation means, close 
here, as it works in what we call " weight '* 
and in the forces which cause things to stand 
or fall. But when I follow it out and try to 
realise what gravitation means between stars 
millions of millions of miles apart, my mind gets 
dazed ; and when I follow it out further yet, into 
the abstract question of what gravitation is, and 
how it is related to the absolute cause and force 
of this vast universe, then my mind is simply 
lost, I cannot even form an idea about that. 
Well, my point is, that if you want to get any 
real practical hold of this idea of gravitation, 
you must study it first at the smaller end of it, 
close about us. 

You will see the value of keeping this clearly 
in view when you remember that strange as it 


may seem, this is not the natural way. The 
near and the simple are the last things that af- 
fect the mind. Man is constantly wanting to 
begin at the big end of things and of thoughts. 
In the beginning of knowledge, man's mind is 
confident and wants to spread itself. The child 
thinks it could manage the household very well. 
The raw recruit would willingly undertake to 
be General. If you have any literary gift, you 
are apt to feel as if you could write a book 
that should at once be a success. When I first 
started to preach, I had a profound conviction 
that if I could only get a fair hearing I could 
convert the human race. At twenty-one, one 
would undertake to run the Universe. We want 
to spread ourselves on the large circumference 
of things. So in Art. Simplicity is not the 
first grace of Art, but the last and finest per- 
fection of it. The savage pays small attention 
to the flower at his feet, but gazes with intens- 
ity of wonder on the lightning flash or the 
comet. And it is not only youth and savagism 
that think in this inverted order. Philosophy 
began at the large end of its problems — with 
large general speculations. Thales would have 
it that water was the fundamental essence of 
the universe; Anaximenes found it in air; 
Pythagoras sought it in the mystic relations 


of numbers. They began with such faraway 
generalizations, and only quite gradually 
worked down to the close facts of nature. Also 
with the old theologians. They were always 
constructing vast theories of abstract Divinity, 
but had little eye for what God is actually do- 
ing, here and now. 

So the true order of thinking and living needs 
continually emphasizing — from the small to 
the great, from the near to the far, from the 
known to the unknown, from fact to theory, 
from sight to faith : study and attempt the prob- 
lems of life from the small, near end of them. 

In some realms of inquiry, in some of the 
directions of man's restless thought, we have 
come to a pretty clear understanding of this 
principle. It is so in Science for instance. 
That is what makes the science of the present 
day such a noble and useful thing. The science 
of the ancients did not amount to much, not be- 
cause it had not got far enough — it had got 
further than many people are aware — but be- 
cause it began at the wrong end. It began 
with those ideas of some vague universal es- 
sence — air, water, numbers, — and worked 
down from those far off theories to the facts 
of nature close at hand; and of course it made 
a pretty poor mess of the facts. Now the 


science of the present day is so hopeful because 
it grapples with the mystery of Nature at its 
small, near end. It begins with the palpable 
facts close about us. Newton studies the falling 
apple and comes nearer the explanation of the 
solar system, than any one had ever done be- 
fore. Franklin draws down a little lightning 
to his own knuckles, and observes it there. 
When Darwin wants to find out how things 
have come to be, he sets to work to see how 
they are coming and becoming now. A thou- 
sand careful observers are watching the tiny 
facts of plant and insect, of rock and shell; the 
exact fall of rain, the precise direction and 
force of the wind currents. Nothing is too 
common or too small. The roadside pebble, 
the lump of coal, the seed-vessel of a dandelion, 
the chemistry of a rain drop — there is nothing 
more beautiful than the way in which modern 
science teaches men respect for, and interest in 
the tiny fact close at their feet. When Science 
has also learned that the thought and feeling 
in a man's heart is as much a fact, a reality, as 
the stone at his feet, then shall we be in about 
as fair a way as we can be — I do not say for 
actually solving the problem of Being, but for 
solving as much of it as is within man's scope 
at all. 


In morals too — questions of right and duty 
— the modern world is becoming familiar with 
this principle of taking hold of problems by 
their small near end. I think that this is largely 
due to Christianity. For, if you look into it^ 
you will see that this is the very spirit of Christ, 
both in regard to the simplest matters of doing 
right and the most complicated problems of 
Christian thought. Christ did not indeed speak 
of *' problems " or of taking hold of them at 
this nearer end. But he was always doing it, 
and teaching men to do it. The beginning of 
the Kingdom of God, he shews is as small as a 
mustard seed. The place to grapple with sin, 
is not at the circumference of action, but at 
the centre of thought. It had been said by them 
of old time '' Thou shalt not kill." Christ puts 
it — '' You must take hold of that matter at a 
smaller end than that — you must not even be 
angry." The angry feeling he puts as the 
smaller end of the murderous deed. So with 
all moral questions. Christ brought the right 
and wrong of things down from the clouds to 
the earth, from the traditions of the Rabbis to 
the common sense of the common people. They 
were working out their Sabbath law by ab- 
stract theorising from some supposed Divine 
Will in the beginning of Creation, — " The 


Sabbath was made for man/' said Jesus, and 
brought the question down to what is good for 
you and me to-day. So, that golden summing 
up of duty — " Whatsoever ye would that men 
should do to you, do ye even so to them " — that 
was not a maxim of mutual axe-grinding, but 
the bringing of the great problem of righteous- 
ness to its smallest end, just where it touches me 
and my neighbour. And so of deeper ques- 
tions. Some one asked him " Lord, are there 
few that be saved?" Why, that was just one 
of those problems which at the larger end cover 
the whole vista of Eternity. But Christ would 
not even touch it at that larger end. Simply — 
" Strive thou to enter in at the strait gate " — 
just the small personal end of that great prob- 
lem. And what a helpful saying that is for 
those who are perplexing themselves over large 
abstract religious questions — *' If a man will 
do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine." 
Do the best you can — just do that ; begin with 
the small near thing where you can see it, and 
the way will clear, the larger principle or doc- 
trine will open out to you. 

There is the marvellous thing in Christ — his 
mighty opening of man's thought to the Divine 
surroundings and infinities of life — while yet 
constantly bringing men down to the common 


things close about them as the way to that 
Divine. Often men would like to stay up in 
the cloudlands of Divine mystery — but Chris- 
tianity won't let them. It keeps bringing them 
back to the work and the neighbour and the 
little child. Christianity is doing this to-day. 
It is just this which is making society impatient 
of mere abstruse creeds, which is making the 
churches crave less of the Apocalypse and more 
of the Sermon on the Mount; and which so is 
making them less divided in their interpretations 
of the Heavenly Mysteries and more united in 
trying at this nearer end of things to make this 
common world a more wholesome, honest, and 
happier place. 

And yet, clear as this principle stands in Chris- 
tianity, there are plenty of moral questions in 
which men still confuse themselves, just for lack 
of it! Take for instance the small deceits and 
sharp practices of trade — I do not mean the 
great criminal dishonesties, but the small de- 
ceptions and over-reachings which no law can 
punish and yet which will not stand the light. 
How do good men persuade themselves into do- 
ing these questionable things? Not how do bad 
men do them, no difficulty about that, but how 
do good men do them? Well, you will find 
that it is very much by looking at the larger 


end of the problem. They take the large 
numerical aspect of it; they say to them- 
selves " everybody does these things — here is 
the universal custom — we did not make it, and 
we cannot alter it." You see, by looking at the 
little half-penny dishonesty at the big end, it 
comes to seem almost respectable, like a sort of 
unalterable law of nature! 

So it is with numbers of moral problems. 
Look at them at the large end, as vast abstract 
problems, and you will be very apt to get con- 
fused; but look at them at the small near end, 
as simple questions of truth and right between 
yourself and those you are concerned with — 
and — I do not say you will always find it easy 
to do the right thing, but at any rate you will 
not often be in much doubt as to what the right 
thing is. 

The same principle would often help us in 
solving the problems of the larger life, of peo- 
ples. How many of the high flying social 
theories by which enthusiasts would regenerate 
the world, collapse the moment you take hold 
of them and try them, at their smaller end. 
What a fine thing Communism appears, at the 
big end of it — all the good things of the world 
divided fairly among all — plenty, surely, for 
everybody. Do you wonder that men, sad at 


the want and woe of earth have dreamed of 
Communism as the remedy? But look at it at 
the smaller end — what it would really mean to 
the individual. I am afraid it would not be 
much more than it brought to that Communistic 
workman, who in a stage coach in Germany — 
having no idea who the passenger in the corner 
was — began to denounce Baron Rothschild, 
with his forty million thalers of property. 
"What right has he to all that" he said; ''it 
is robbery, it belongs to the people! " 

By and bye Rothschild looked up from his cor- 
ner and said : — " How many people are there 
in Germany? " 

Someone supplied the information that there 
were about forty millions. " Well, well," said 
the old Banker, " then that is just a thaler 
apiece. Here, my good friend," he continued, 
pulling out his purse : " I am Rothschild, and 
here is your thaler. Now you are settled with." 
Yes, a few thalers apiece and a great deal less 
of stimulus and scope for personal effort — I 
am afraid that would be all of it, at the smaller 

Or do you want to know how equality is 
suited to human beings? Study it in the nur- 
sery or the playground. Said Lycurgus to one 
who advised that a democracy should be set up 


in Sparta — '' My friend, try a democracy in 
your own house ! " 

In fact, is not the real solution of all the 
great problems of National life, just at this 
smaller end? The problem of good government 
has to be solved in the ward meeting. The man 
must be grappled with in the child. When the 
Duke of Wellington saw the Eton boys playing 
football, as if their lives depended on it, he said 
** That is where the battle of Waterloo was 
won ! " The witty Frenchman went further 
back still, and said " If you want to reform a 
man, you must begin with his Grandmother." 
But seriously, is it not the case that almost all 
the problems of national well-being have their 
solution in some smaller matter of personal 
faithfulness and right-doing? That is a good 
proverb the Chinese have, which somebody has 
rendered into the little rhyme: — 

" If every one would see, 

To his own reformation, 
How very easily, 

You might reform a nation ! " 

The same with Institutions. Do you want to 
start some movement that shall live and grow? 
Be content to begin small. For my part I am 
always distrustful of an institution that begins 


large with a fine building, a great staff of offi- 
cials and so forth. I have sometimes thought 
that the difference between the Priest and Levite 
— and — the Good Samaritan, may not have 
been that the Priest and Levite were so much 
more hard-hearted but only that they were the 
kind of people who do not care to grapple with 
the problem of doing good unless they can take 
hold of the large end of it and do a great lump 
of good all at once. I can imagine that that 
priest may have gone home and told his fam- 
ily what a sad sight he had seen — a poor man 
robbed and half murdered lying by the road- 
side — such a sad sight indeed, that he really 
could not trust himself to go any nearer . . . 
and that it had made him feel that there ought 
to be a society started to deal with such cases, 
which had been sadly too common on that 
Jericho road; and that he would speak to High- 
priest Caiaphas about it and get him to be presi- 
dent and some of the leading Scribes and Phari- 
sees to go on the Committee, and they would 
have a regular patrol staff with proper ambu- 

But meanwhile what of the poor wounded 
man? Fortunately for him, there came the 
Samaritan by that way — and he was one who 
believed in taking hold of the problem of human 


suffering by the small end — which meant help- 
ing that poor fellow lying there — giving him 
some of the oil and wine out of his own lunch- 
basket and setting him on his own beast even 
though he himself had to walk. That is the 
true principle in Philanthropy. We want more 
Individualism, less Institutionalism. The sins 
and troubles of the world are not going to be 
reached en masse. It has mostly to be one by 
one, heart and soul work. No stateliest asylum 
is so good, either for the orphans or even (they 
are finding out) for the blind or the deaf, as 
life even in the poorest homes. Be sure it is 
a needed thing you have in view and then never 
be afraid to begin small. It does not follow 
you are to stay small ! I believe in a large en- 
terprising spirit, but, take hold of these practical 
problems by the small end. 

I think that this principle has its most deeply 
helpful application to the great problems of 
thought, and it is for these that I am really 
speaking of it. These problems of God, and 
Man, and the Dim Future — why, the minds 
of men are aching to-day with their craving to 
get to some clear strong resting place, something 
that they can feel sure of. 

Sometimes in despair, they try to give up 
thinking and not trouble themselves. But they 


cannot. The old thoughts come back, the old 
questions, the old mysteries. It is one of the 
signs of man's higher nature — this inability to 
rest in the near and the actual and the outward. 
Only, let our thinking begin with these — that 
is my point — and then it will at least have a 
chance of coming to something. 

Why, take the greatest problem of all — that 
of the Being of God. I can only glance at it, 
for my object is not to work out full answers on 
these subjects, but to show which way some 
answer lies. And I take this as one of those 
deep solemn mysteries which in all ages have 
set man's brain throbbing and aching in the en- 
deavour to grasp it. What does it mean, to say 
'' God? " Think of all these infinite worlds, that 
Milky Way with its flush of light across the sky 

— just a sort of sand-dust of worlds, too far 
off for any figures to tell. Can you think of 
an Infinite Mind, present throughout those 
awful world spaces, and age upon age, through 
countless cycles of eternity — still, God — God 

— unchanged, the same? Why, when one tries 
even to look at that large far away end of the 
problem, one's mind only grows dizzy. Often, 
when I have tried to think it out, so, I have felt 
as if I could not believe anything. But, come 
to the nearer end. I go into the fields in the 


summer time. I take up a wild flower, or the 
folded leaf just bursting from its bud sheath — 
and somehow I cannot help feeling " That did 
not make itself; something meant that." I can- 
not resist that flower. It speaks to me, close to, 
of wisdom, purpose, beneficent will. I look 
thus at the smaller end of the great problem, 
and I cannot help believing. 

Or take the problem of Man. What is man? 
What can he do? Can man do anything? Has 
he really any will, or free choice of his own? 
Look at that question at its larger end as an 
abstract philosophical problem — and you get 
lost directly. Start from that far off abstrac- 
tion — in itself quite indisputable — that God 
must be omniscient, and it seems quite clear: 
therefore He must know all that man will do, 
and therefore man can only do that, cannot have 
any real choice or will. Or start with that large 
consideration of Law; Law everywhere, in 
everything — so that not a grain of sand can 
get out of its place in this vast universe, and 
try how that will fit with the idea of there being 
as many free wills as there are human beings — 
a thousand million wills, separate, distinct, each 
going its own way. It seems absurd. No! 
At that larger end of things, I cannot fit in 
human freedom, either with God's Omniscient 


Will or nature's all-embracing law. But bring 
your thought down to the smaller end, of your 
own personal surroundings and feelings, and you 
can — only — fit freedom in with these. 

Here is your breakfast, here is your work. 
Consider that not a single meal or a single day 
can be creditably got through without your as- 
suming that you have real power of choice, and 
recognise that this universe is not run on shams 
and make-believes — and, here, at the small near 
end of that free-will problem, it is plain enough. 
There is no real doubt. You are not a mere pair 
of scales, that have to go up or down just as the 
heaviest motives are put in here or there. You 
are a person, who holds the scales and weighs 
motives, and then decides. The world, on the 
larger view may look automatic, but at the small 
end of your own place and part in it, you know 
that you are not an automaton. 

And it is the same with the problem of all 
this struggling, sorrowing, tempted, sinning, 
multitudinous human life, away in the infinite 
beyond. Have you ever realised how that 
problem of human destiny has pressed on the 
thinkers of man-kind and what curious answers 
they have sometimes worked out to it? 

In the Harvard University Library and in the 
British Museum, there is a little treatise by 


Dr. Lewis Du Moulin, a learned Oxford Pro- 
fessor, some 200 years ago. This is the title of 
it: — 

" Moral Reflections upon the number of the 
'* elect — proving plainly from Scripture evi- 
" dence that not one in a hundred thousand, nay 
'' probably not one in a million, from Adam 
'' down to our times, shall be saved." Think of 
it — not one in a hundred thousand saved, that 
certainly, probably not one in a million. Now 
how did a good thoughtful man manage to rea- 
son himself into such a confusion, which makes 
us shudder to-day? By taking hold of the prob- 
lem at the large far-away end of it. He started 
with some vast far off idea of Divine decrees — 
and reasoning back, by the time he got down 
to man, he could hardly find any logically saved. 
Well — how are we to answer such arguments? 
Are we to go off with them into that vague, vast 
region of abstract thought and try to refute 
them there? No! Take hold of the problem 
here at the near, human end of it. All these 
men, women and children about us, take them 
as they are; none altogether good, none alto- 
gether bad; has the dear Lord who made them 
nothing in store for them but endless woe, for 
all but one in a hundred thousand? Somehow 
the moment we look at the problem at this nearer 


end, it begins to grow a little clearer, a little 
more hopeful. 

Indeed Christ's whole teaching of God as a 
heavenly father is a putting of the subject of 
God's purposes at its smaller end. By our own 
love for our children we can reach out towards 
the larger end of the great problem, and find — 
not indeed knowledge, but a happy trust as to 
what will somehow be done by that infinite life 
which " fathers and mothers " this great Uni- 
verse of Being. I do not think even John Cal- 
vin himself could have made out quite such a 
grim theology if he had studied those divine 
decrees from this end of them, with the name 
Heavenly Father in his mind and a little child 
nestling in his arms. 

The practical wisdom of all this is here: we 
are finite beings, surrounded by infinity and 
every line of action, observation, thought, along 
which we try to work or look, soon edges off to 
heights and depths which our working cannot 
attain, nor our thinking fathom. Yet close 
about us it is light. A little circle is within 
our reach. Here is this mighty earth, and for 
the life of us we cannot tell what it really is, or 
what a grain of it is, but we know how to use 
it. Here is our own life and we do not know 


what life is — but we know what Hving is, and 
how we may live just here to-day so as to find 
good and blessing. Here are all our fellow 
creatures, and they suggest a hundred problems 
of being and destiny in which any one may — in 
about ten minutes — lose himself in endless 
doubt ; — but — these fellow creatures are real 
enough — their powers, their characters, sor- 
rows, joys, and varied interests as they v^^eave in 
w^ith our living, there is no indistinctness about 
these. — Well, here is our dominion. Within 
this little circle close to us let us live the best 
and most we can — and from this centre feel out 
our way towards the larger relations and the 
infinite life. Begin at the small end — it is the 
true way both in practical things and in theo- 
retical. Even in all the solemn infinite mystery 
of life, do not turn away from it, do not try 
to ignore it as hopelessly out of reach. Only, in 
looking that way and thinking that way, keep 
a firm foot on the solid earth and a close grip 
of your brother's hand. Reverence the near 
close facts of things as they appear to your 
natural eye and your common sense. That is 
the way to the highest thought and truth. Those 
highest things — Being, God and Destiny — are 
not out of our ken if we will feel our way 
towards them with this clue of believing that 


the near and human things are parts of the 
Divine, and indications of the Divine. Then 
will our very recognition of all that is best in 
man oblige us to believe in God, and the present 
life will lead us by its deepest qualities and pos- 
sibilities to faith in a still greater future. So 
comes that living, confident faith which the 
world is longing for to-day — a faith not sus- 
pended as it were from some dim authority of 
ancient texts but a faith rooted in the common 
need and longing of mankind; a faith climbing 
upwards through plant and star, and through 
the little child and the grown man, and through 
the long growth of the Bible, and the perfect 
outcome of Christ — through all this, climbing 
upward to the Infinite Fatherhood and the eter- 
nal life of Heaven. So faith grows out of fact, 
and in the growing ever verifies itself, and 
throws back on the fact an ever nobler mean- 
ing; and thought widens and life grows larger, 
and the world of man moves onwards — not yet 
into any clear knowledge, indeed, — but surely 
towards it; towards it, enough to make us sure 
that our faith is not a baseless dream, but a 
true light that lightens towards the Infinite 
and the Divine. 



To SOME people this seems like reversing the 
true order of things. To look at things which 
cannot be seen, seems to them rather a waste of 
time. " Surely," they say, " we had better look 
at what can be seen ! " Then, to talk of those 
unseen things as the " eternal " things, the most 
absolutely and enduringly real — seems a 
dreamy assertion about something which no- 
body can really know. Yes, I know that is how 
it is apt to seem to those who want to keep to 
*' facts " and to *' things which can be proved." 
Yet it is not really so; and I want our thoughts 
to rise above this tyranny of the seen — this 
impression of there being something especially 
real in things that we can see and handle. 
Whereas, when we consider the matter at all 
deeply, it is really exactly the other way. In 
putting it thus, I am not referring just to the 
soul and God. Those later, if you will. But 
the helpful thing, in thinking towards those 
higher unseen things, is to look right down on 



the earth, among the common things that are 
palpable to everyone, and to find that it is in 
these first of all that the truth comes out — 
that it is not anything we see that is most real 
and lasting, but the unseen in them. Only, per- 
haps when we find this so, even among the earth's 
common visible things, it may help us to follow 
the same truth a little more confidently, in its 
higher relations to man and immortality and 

Well, look how it is among these common, 
visible substances of the world; earth, water, 
plant, animal, vegetable fibre, animal tissue — 
now, are these eternal? or, do not let us use the 
word '' eternal." That seems to be carrying 
the question too far. Let us use the word last- 
ing or permanent, which only carries the 
thought as far as we can track it. Put it, then 
— are these things, earth, water, plant, animal, 
and so forth — permanent ? Something in 
them is — but — precisely not that which you 
see. That which you see is constantly chang- 
ing. The face of the world, the world of things 
that you see, is never quite the same, even for 
two days. Every leaf is changing, and in a 
little while, as a leaf, as that which you see, it 
is gone. The solid lump of coal vanishes into 
flame and smoke, which you only see for a mo- 


merit, and into gas which you cannot see at 
all. The massive stone you build with, is eaten 
away by invisible chemicals in the air, and 
slowly decays. What do we mean by '' de- 
cays?" Every word we use of that kind is 
really an affirmation of this very thought of 
Paul's, of something unseen which is what 
really endures. You say: the coal, the solid 
building stone, are not destroyed, they still exist 
in other forms. True, but your saying so only 
helps my showing — and even leads it, at once, 
to its higher bearings — for what is it that fol- 
lows these curious processes, and tracks them 
out? What is it in you and me which traces 
the coal, on, into the gas, and the stone into in- 
visible chemical elements? Something in you 
and me, also, which is invisible — not this mere 
hand, or this mere eye — something invisible in 
us. Anyhow — the seen things, the visible 
substance, is but for a time. That which en- 
dures is, certain invisible elements in these seen 
things and, in my visible body, an invisible in- 
telligence that follows these invisible elements 
and feels that they are the lasting realities. 

And the further you pursue these investiga- 
tions of the visible things of the world, the 
more curiously true you find this. Why, in- 
stead of that which you see of anything, or in 


anything, being the great lasting reaHty, it is 
only a mere starting point. That which you see 
is only of any consequence, indeed as an indi- 
cation of things which you cannot see. What 
is science? '' Science" is the name we give to 
what we consider the most certain kind of 
knowledge. When a man says *' this or that is 
a fact of science " he means to emphasize its 
certainty — that it is not a mere supposition, 
but something there is no mistake or doubt 
about. And yet see — '' Science " hardly be- 
gins till you have got beyond what anyone can 
see : *' Science " properly so called, deals not 
nearly so much with the outward, visible sub- 
stances of things, as with their qualities and 
relations, and the forces at work in them. But 
what are qualities, relations, forces? All, un- 
seen things. You cannot see a quality; you 
cannot see a force ! You blow out a candle in a 
room, in a moment the smell of that — you 
know how it is in every corner of the room — 
yes, that is mere sensation — the element of 
science comes in, in your working your way 
from the bare fact of it to the reason of it — to 
the existence of some force of expansion in the 
gases thrown out by the smouldering wick, 
which at once disperses those particles of gas 
all through the surrounding space. But what 


is that force? What really is any force? No- 
body knows. The moment you begin to talk 
about forces you are among entirely invisible 
things and yet they are so real that not only is 
science sure of them, but the greater part of 
science is concerned with forces; and the great 
teachers of science have even worked it out that 
different forces can be changed into one another, 
so that light can be changed into heat and heat 
into gravitation and so forth — and the one 
thing they are most sure of is, that no tiniest 
quantity of force can be really lost. 

You see, you are not in religion here — you 
are right on the solid earth — among the most 
elementary facts of science, down in the realm of 
the commonest substances and products of the 
outward nature — and yet — already you can- 
not move a step without coming right upon 
this deep fact in things — that all that you can 
see is temporal, passing and changing all the 
time — that it is what is unseen in them and 
often what is unsee-able that is lasting, perma- 

Look a step higher, into this being and nature 
of man, and we are in the midst of the same 
truth, coming out in all sorts of ways. There is 
the same changing of everything visible in us 
— and yet in that is something invisible, which 


curiously remains. You know how the visible 
body is changing all the time. I meet a friend 
whom I have not seen for twenty years. We 
say — quite confidently — how glad we are to 
see each other again. But really, we do not see 
each other again. Of that which we see, there 
is no particle that we ever saw before ! And yet 
something has remained the same, all through 
those 20 years. What is it that has lasted — 
this '^ I, myself," this " you " who talk with me 
about the people and the places we used to be 
interested in in that former time? What is it 
that has lasted? Not the seen. Of that which 
we could see, or which anyone could see then, 
nothing remains — but something unseen has 
remained. Do some hesitate to call it soul? 
Call it mind, call it '' x " if you will, the Alge- 
braic sign for something unknown. A little 
girl, asked what her soul was, answered that it 
was " her think " — but whatever you call that 
which has remained in my friend and me, our 
" mind " our " soul " our '' think," it is some- 
thing invisible. Really, when you come to find 
how rapidly the changing of all the visible, 
material part of man is going on, the case is 
stronger. Why, one who knows about such 
things, told me the other day that instead of the 
human body changing once in seven years as 


we used to be taught at school, it is now known 
that it hardly lasts a year — much of it is 
changing, he said, every few weeks; flesh and 
muscle are dispersed and replaced every four 
months or so, and I remember being especially 
struck by his saying that as for the heart, so 
tremendous is the wear and tear of its constant 
action that probably every particle of its sub- 
stance is worn away and replaced in 60 days. 
But meanwhile there is something in this con- 
stantly changing body which does not change — 
something which moves along through the years, 
something which keeps the body united and ac- 
tive, gathering from the surrounding universe 
just the due particles and welding them in, 
something which is in these things, and yet is 
more than any or all of them, and keeps this 
curious personal identity of you and me while 
all that is visible of you and me is swiftly and 
constantly changing. The scientist does not 
know what this " something " is — he tells you 
frankly that he does not begin to know. It is 
something his microscope cannot see, his chemi- 
cal tests cannot find any trace of. They have 
ransacked the body through and through and 
they cannot discover it — and yet that invisible 
element in us is the lasting thing. 

You may follow out the same thought as it 


touches not the substance of us but our actions, 
and still it is always true that the seen things 
are passing, transient, the unseen things the 
most lasting and real. Can you remember that 
bad cut, or that wound you had when a youth? 
Terribly painful, was it not? yes, but it does not 
hurt you now. Perhaps there is a scar of it, but 
it is not painful. But see — was there some 
great sin that you committed when a youth? 
That made no mark — not as much visible mark 
as the cut of a finger, even ; — but was it, then, 
nothing? Why, you feel the pain, the pang of 
it to-day ! Years have passed — you have re- 
pented that sin — perhaps you have put it ut- 
terly away, and you feel that God has forgiven 
you — but still it haunts you at times with a 
haunting pain, which is entirely unseen, which 
has nothing visible about it — and yet, how it 
lasts! — Yes, it is the unseen things that are 
most permanent! 

And even in that larger human action which 
we call History, we may find illustrations of the 
same truth. It is not the great visible institu- 
tions of the world that are most permanent. 
Think of that great Roman Empire, in one 
obscure little corner of which Christianity was 
born ! A vast, orderly Empire — with its law 
courts and its wide, intricate commerce — its 


war office, its navy department, its ordered 
government reaching from Persia to Britain, 
from the forests of Germany to the deserts of 
Africa — such an intricate net-work of soHd, 
responsible rule, that not a village official in 
the furthest corner of the empire can scourge 
a Roman citizen, however poor, without trem- 
bling in his shoes for fear it should be re- 
ported! — And there, in one of those furthest 
corners, in obscure Nazareth, and Capernaum 
— there is a little religious movement among a 
few unknown men, a wandering preacher fol- 
lowed by little crowds of country people for a 
year or so, and then put to death; a company 
of earnest believers clinging to his memory — 
drawing together in his name and trying to per- 
suade other men to join them. The whole thing 
so invisible, on the visible scale of history, that 
the great world knew nothing of it for near a 
hundred years; hardly one word about it even 
then in the public history of the time. *' But the 
things which are seen are temporary; the things 
which are not seen are permanent." That 
mighty world-organism of the Roman Empire 
passed away — is now a mere curious study of 
the past. That silent invisible force which we 
call ''faith" and "love" and ''hope" which 
wrought there in Jesus and his handful of fol- 


lowers — that unseen thing lasted, lasts yet, is 
living still to-day — is working in a million 
hearts and lives. It is not working as one longs 
for it to do, and yet I think it is about the most 
potent force of good in human life ! It has kept 
pleading through the ages and is pleading still, 
for justice and mercy and all kind and loving 
charity; it has kept before men a higher ideal of 
all pure and upright life, given a new remorse 
for sin, a higher reverence for human life; and 
here to-day it is making you and me, and mil- 
lions more, a little more earnest in seeing the 
right and doing it, and sending thousands and 
tens of thousands out among the sinful and the 
suffering on errands of helping and healing and 
trying to make the world a little happier and 

And so, wherever we can follow the changes 
in matter or in man, from the elements which 
combine to make a leaf or the forces which 
vibrate through the vast of nature to the some- 
thing of a subtler personal life which lasts 
through the changing growth of man and even 
throbs through history — you have constant il- 
lustrations of this great saying of Paul's; that 
the things which are seen are temporary, but the 
things which are not seen are permanent. 

I do not mean, of course, that Paul worked 


all this out, and thought of it, just as his words 
have set me thinking of it. Paul came upon 
that thought right up in the highest reaches of 
it, at once, leaping as it were by one great bound 
of inspired insight, from the perishing man 
which was all that could be seen, to the latent 
invisible child of God, which he could not help 
believing was in everyone; and from the visible 
earthly state, to an infinite life '' which eye hath 
not seen nor ear heard." But do not let his 
high thought be depreciated because he came 
upon it so, in the heights ! That is how men al- 
ways come upon the highest thoughts, even in 
science and philosophy and morals and every- 
thing! To Copernicus, watching down among 
the visible movements of earth and stars, which 
a hundred eyes were following, suddenly there 
comes a new thought of them — a great unify- 
ing thought, which after long trying to make 
sure of, he tells to the wondering and at first 
incredulous world. Somewhat so, to Paul, 
plodding on in those old Roman streets, or sit- 
ting in the sailmaker's workshop, or the Philippi 
jail — and taking refuge from his weariness or 
the pain of his sore scourging in thoughts of 
Christ and the great blessed Heaven where he 
would like to be with him — suddenly there 
would come upon him the sense of how all this 


visible world was but a passing vision compared 
with the rich and grand realities of God — and 
in such an hour — and one fancies, out of many 
such hours — flashed up this thought and this 
great expression of it, that " we look not at the 
things which are seen, but at the things which 
are not seen: for the things which are seen are 
temporal; but the things which are not seen are 
eternal ! " 

Of course I am not giving what I have said as 
any proof ! Nature supplies no proof of that ab- 
solute categorical kind in anything of man's 
higher life. At the most, what Nature gives 
are suggestions, confirmations of any great 
thought such as this. Paul never proved it; 
but he believed it, was certain that it was so, 
lived by it, inspired others to live by it; and the 
fruit of it, in stronger, nobler, living in the 
ages since, has been so sound as to suggest that 
it must be really rooted in the realities of the 
great world-order. And now we try to look at 
its roots — and is it no help to us, is it no con- 
firmation of our thought, to find that even down 
among the basal facts of plant and animal and 
of man's mere earthly life the very same thing 
is constantly true, as far as we can trace? Al- 
ways something within the seen, deeper than the 
seen, something that we cannot see in itself — 


but yet we can see that that invisible something 
is what lasts and is most permanent! The very- 
elements that constitute a leaf; the gases into 
which a lump of coal may be dispersed ; — the 
something — mind, soul, life, or what you will, 
which lives on through a score of changes in 
everything that makes up the human body — 
No ! these do not prove that unseen something is 
to live on, even past the body's final collapse. 
No! But such things everywhere in Nature 
send me back to the teachings of Paul and of 
Paul's greater Lord, with a renewed confidence 
— confidence that their grand words of an un- 
dying life wxre not the inflated guesses of con- 
ceit but the inspired insight of the pure in heart. 
And there I rest — there where so many hearts 
have rested through the ages, I would have us 
all to rest. By all means let us investigate 
everything to the furthest that we can. Look 
into all this wonderful science which is the 
glory of our time; only take in as really part 
of it not just the heiroglyphics of stone and 
plant and star, but the far clearer writing in the 
conscious life of man. Yes, certainly God made 
the stone and plant and star, and what they tell 
me is surely His Word, but just as surely he 
made man, and his meeting is plainer in the 
great trend of human thought; and in God's 


holiest, the word comes out not in such broken 
syllables as I can spell from rock or plant but 
in great golden sentences of light that make a 
glory wherever they shine into man's heart and 
life. So let us have faith ; Life is not a delusion 
even at its lowest — let us not fear that it can 
play us false at its highest. As Emerson said — 

" All things excellent, 

As God lives, are permanent." 

The " life to come is just as real as this — yes, 
it is this — this — lasting not only beyond the 
body of to-day, or of next year, but beyond all 
visible things, among the unseen things which 
are eternal! 


In the old time, men asked for '' signs.'* In 
these days what they ask, is, proof. I do not 
think it is an '' evil generation," and its doubt, 
especially, is honest and earnest doubt. But 
certainly it is a generation that seeks, after its 
better fashion, for a '' sign." Men come to 
Christianity as once those Jews came to Christ. 
'' We want all this unmistakably proved," they 
say. '' These thoughts and feelings which 
claim such authority over life, — belief in God 
and immortality, even conscience and the moral 
law, — what are these things ? We want some 
sign, some proof of them which there can 
be no possible gainsaying." And when they 
find that no such proof can be given, many 
would put these things aside, as altogther 

So I take for my subject — '' Belief in things 
which cannot be proved." Perhaps at first sight 
the very statement of the subject seems to dis- 
credit it. The bare idea seems contrary to the 



scientific spirit of the age. Men have become so 
accustomed to the precise statements and verifi- 
cations of science ; to having everything set down 
in black and white, to the thousandth of an inch 
or a fourth decimal, that they cannot endure to 
have anything left vague or uncertain. And 
yet I am bold enough to say that all this idea 
of having everything '' proved," logical and 
plausible, as it may seem, is really curiously de- 
lusive ; that life does not go by " proofs '* ; that 
thought, judgment, feeling, action, are seldom 
based on " proofs." And so, though the high- 
est things in life may not prove themselves, 
cannot be proved, that is no reason for doubting 
their reality, yes and that they may be the very 
grandest realities. 

Let us begin at " the small end " of this sub- 
ject. It is curious to see, how this questioning 
age, which would insist so strongly on logical 
proof in the great things of the inner life, really 
answers itself in the small things of the outer 
life. Why, the world could not go on for a day 
if it would not believe anything, nor act on its 
belief, till it could be proved. The real conduct 
of life proceeds on impressions accepted directly 
from the senses, or on habits of thought re- 
ceived from the past, or on convictions gradually 
consolidated by experience. Hardly ever, is any 


single thing, if you bring it rigidly to book, 
capable of absolute proof. It is only an impres- 
sion that I exist — though a strong one. My 
impression that you exist, as thinking personal 
beings, is even less capable of proof ; it is a mere 
inference from certain sensations on my optic 
nerve. Yet I know that such sensations may be 
entirely delusive, for I felt them just as unmis- 
takably about the people I saw in my dreams 
last night. Does man wait to eat and drink till 
it shall be proved to him that food is necessary? 
By all means demonstrate to me the principles 
of digestion, — but I would like my breakfast 
first, the demonstration afterwards. Will you 
wait to go down to the city on business till you 
have faced and settled the question whether 
there is any real, external world, and logically 
proved that even the omnibus is anything but a 
subjective idea? To any philosophical idealist 
who wanted you to assure yourself on this mat- 
ter, you would say — " we had better get into 
this thing, which appears like a real omnibus, 
and we can argue whether there really is such a 
thing as we go along." I am not jesting. Every 
close thinker knows that, in reality, all the most 
fundamental elements of our living have to be 
taken for granted, are, really, only more or less 
vivid impressions, absolutely incapable of rigid 


demonstration. And so of all the realm of feel- 
ing and emotion: — 

" I do not love thee, Doctor Fell 
The reason, why, I cannot tell." 

Do our likes and dislikes go by proving? Nay, 
we not only constantly believe, and feel, and 
act, without proof, but one of the most common 
things in life is an actual distrust of the offer 
of proof. Those columns after columns in the 
papers, of '' proofs " of some infallible remedy, 
— well, those testimonials of cure seem over- 
whelming, but you are incredulous all the same. 
So, if some public official is always challenging 
investigation, you get an impression that in real- 
ity there is something not quite right. And I 
think we carry the same feeling into deeper 
things. I know that some very good people be- 
lieve in spiritualism, and of course it is simply 
a question of whether or not it is true. But I 
own I should be inclined to think more of the 
probabilty of its being true if it were not so 
very largely occupied in proving itself, always 
asking to be " tested," and obligingly ready to 
give any quantity of " signs." When something 
comes that claims to be a communication out 
of the Divine heights — let me simply hear the 
word — if it is from the Divine, it will surely bear 


some marks of it in itself. A great truth car- 
ries its own conviction with it. 

Now you see the significance of the Jews 
coming to Christ, and asking for a sign — not 
these Httle healing words for poor sick folk — 
there is an emphasis on that *' sign from 
Heaven " — something that there could be no 
doubt about — and you see, too, why Christ so 
utterly refused anything of the kind. Let it be 
an open question, what that strange power was 
that Christ had over the sick body or the dis- 
ordered mind; it was at any rate something 
that he shrank from making a show of, or using 
as a mere weapon against unbelief. *' He that 
hath ears to hear, let him hear ! " That was 
his appeal. He stood among his people — just 
one of themselves, not with any *' sign," not 
even in any prophet's garb, — the simple Man 
of Nazareth — but with a gospel which made 
its own way, and at length laid hold of the heart 
of the world, simply because it did come to men 
as a revealing of Divine things, and made Duty, 
and God, and Heaven, more real to the human 
soul than they had ever been before. But that 
gospel had to make its way, by this intense im- 
pression it made, not by its being proved. And 
it has always been so, and is so still. One is 
sometimes challenged to " prove " Christianity. 


They might as well challenge one to prove 
Shakespeare's plays or Mendelsohn's music. 
These things are not matters of proof. So with 
Christianity. Here is this " Gospel according 
to Luke " as it is named, with these parables 
of '' the good Samaritan " and '' the Prodigal 
Son." Can it be absolutely proved, that Luke 
wrote this gospel, and that Jesus actually spoke 
those parables just so? No! It cannot be 
categorically proved. I have little doubt that it 
was so. I think it is as fairly established that 
those are Christ's teaching, as any ancient 
authorship can be expected to be. But the real 
power of those parables does not rest on their 
being proved, but upon the impression they 
make. Light is light, and it helps you to see, 
even if you cannot quite make out where it 
comes from. And these great parables have 
somehow made our relation to man and to God 
a little clearer. And so with Christ's life and 
teachings as a whole. The great fact is, that 
these have stirred and helped the world as noth- 
ing else has ever done. Proofs of a kind, they 
have given in plenty : — the proofs of lives made 
better, of noble movements for human good, of 
human society helped, though slowly, to higher 
thoughts and ways. Real proofs these, in the 
deepest fact of things. The truth about num- 


bers, must be proved by figures. The truth 
about substances, must be proved by weight or 
measure or chemical test. The truth about Hfe 
is proved by Hving. But any exact, logical 
demonstration ? — No ! None such was forth- 
coming for Christ's own time, and none can be 
made out now. Yet he took hold upon the 
heart of the world, and he keeps it. There are 
more people in the world to-day, reverencing 
his name, studying his life, trying to be truer, 
kinder men and women for his sake, then ever 
before. As the corruptions of the dark ages are 
gradually clearing away, and the simple Gospel 
figure stands out in its original tenderness and 
power, Christ remains more manifestly than ever 
the grandest leader of our race, the divinest 
spiritual influence in history. 

Thinking of all this, seeing how it has been 
with Christ and his great words, I feel my trust 
strengthened, not in these alone, but in all the 
moral and religious side of life, not just in their 
Christian aspect, but as integral parts of the 
being and growth of man. 

Take the moral life. What is that voice of 
conscience? What is it — that which speaks in 
the heart of the grown man or the little child, 
of this being right, and that, wrong? Why 
should you attend to that restraining influence? 


You know, if you shall challenge that subtle 
feeling for a logical proof of itself, it can never 
give one. You may easily argue conscience 
down, not so as to silence it, indeed, but so as 
to persuade yourself that it is nothing but a 
fancy, that the distinction between right and 
wrong is a mere scruple of man's own invent- 
ing. And it does not strive nor cry. There is 
no compulsion to righteousness. Often, men 
wish there were. Perhaps this is one of the 
most touching forms of this craving for " signs " 
and certainty, — a man being drawn down by 
sin, and struggling against it — but feeling so 
pitifully weak. '' Oh, that God would rend the 
heavens and come down," and by some palpable 
manifestation overawe the tempted heart and 
make it impossible to sin. But no; no sign is 
given, and when the sin is sinned, still no sign. 
The sun shines on; birds sing; the flowers do 
not turn away their heads; men come and go; 
the world goes on unchanged. Yet is the dif- 
ference between right and wrong, therefore, 
nothing? Why, there is no distinction of form 
or colour, sweetness or sourness, or anything in 
the outward world, to compare with it for a 
moment. It is quite impalpable. It gives no 
outward sign. No closest test can analyse it. 
It cannot be proved to be anything, — and yet 


— the difference between right and wrong is 
the most awful and tremendous thing in all 
man's being, and in all the Universe. 

Or — take Religion. What are these shadowy 
impulses which through the ages point man's 
heart towards God, and towards the sense of 
some further life? '' Man," said Dr. Martineau, 
" does not believe in immortality because it has 
ever been proved; but he is for ever trying to 
prove it, because he cannot help believing it.'* 
So with belief in God. Oh, how mankind has 
longed for some unmistakable manifestation of 
Deity. It is no craving of our age alone. The 
old world idolatries came of it. It was so hard 
to realise the invisible. Men wanted some visible 
embodiment of this Divine presence which 
seemed to haunt them. Here and there some 
strong souled Moses might be able to do with- 
out anything visible, and might thunder against 
all graven images, but the common people still 
cried to the weaker Aaron, " make us Gods ! " 
To-day the craving takes a different form. It 
does not ask an outward presentation of God, 
so much as a logical proof of Him. It wants 
that mysterious Life demonstrating to science. 
It wants reason to prove the existence of God. 
Then, some say, — " it is by intuition that the 
soul discerns Him " ; — and how many strain 


that gaze of their souls, that intense scrutiny 
of the thoughts and impressions that come to 
them in the awe of Night or in the stillness of 
prayer — trying to make out something which 
they can distinctly recognise as God. And here, 
too, they get discouraged — often it seems as 
if the more eagerly they strain their mental 
gaze, the more they cannot see that Higher pres- 
ence. I believe that this is one of the commonest 
phases of that doubt which is so frequent to- 
day, and which is so anxious for some scientific 
proof. Some of you may remember how Pro- 
fessor Tyndall proposed to organise a prayer- 
test — two Hospitals to be set apart, and the 
patients treated with equal skill, only the one set 
to be prayed for, and the other not, and the re- 
sult to decide whether prayer amounts to any- 
thing. When that was proposed, religious men 
at once universally refused to submit Prayer to 
any such material test, — and I remember that 
their refusal was sneered at by some as showing 
that they had no real faith in God. But that 
laughter w^as shallow. These deep things of 
man's inner life, are, simply, not subjects for 
such outward tests, however much they may 
really affect the outward life. I believe for in- 
stance that righteousness affects the outward 
life ; that honesty is '* the best policy " even for 


mere wordly success. Yet suppose some one, 
who has set up the theory that there is no real 
difference between right and wrong, to chal- 
lenge me to stake my moral faith upon the com- 
parative fortunes of twenty honest men, and 
twenty clever rogues, — shall I agree to do so ? 
Not for a moment ! Not by such outward proofs 
and signs can these deep things of the conscience 
and the inner life be demonstrated. Take this 
very life itself in us, apart from this or that spe- 
cial quality or phase of it. As I look into your 
face, just with my ordinary eyesight as we stand 
talking together, I perceive in you a life, of 
thought, intelligence, feeling — answering to 
this life I am conscious of in myself. But sup- 
pose for some reason, I begin to distrust my 
eyesight. I say — " Let us look into this ap- 
pearance of life more closely; let us see exactly 
what it is." And I bring my microscope, and 
apply it to your face. Shall I see the life in you 
more clearly? The very opposite. The more 
powerful my microscope, the more it will mag- 
nify the mere fleshly tissue, but the more ab- 
solutely I shall lose the expression of personal 
life. So, in scores of ways, the very effort after 
exact proof, really makes the deepest things less 
evident, not more so, — even when they are un- 
mistakably real. Sometimes a larger, general 


view shows things of which the close scrutiny 
shows nothing. Can you see that the atmosphere 
has any colour as you look at the few yards of 
air before you? No! But look up through the 
fifty miles of air into the solemn depths of the 
sky, and you see that beautiful blue as plainly 
as if it was painted on the next wall. So as 
you look at the religious sense in your own in- 
dividual thought and feeling, all may seem un- 
substantial, nothing clear enough to take as any 
real discerning of God. But don't look at your 
own thought and feeling; look at the thought 
and feeling of humanity; look along the cen- 
turies; see how religion has come out in the 
larger life of mankind! See how, in such dif- 
ferent forms, it has yet in some form risen in 
every race, and intertwined itself (like the basal 
instincts of hunger, love, or gain) through all 
of human doings. See what a tremendous force 
it has been, even when wrested to the side of 
evil; but how much more it has inspired man's 
noblest works, lifted man to the loftiest heroism. 
Talk of giving it up because it cannot be logic- 
ally proved to us to-day? Why, nothing can be 
absolutely proved, — and yet things are ; and 
greatest of all the things that are are^ the in- 
visible things; and greatest of the invisible 
things are these of conscience and soul and God. 


They are only in the same category, really, with 
everything else. As the life of man rises in the 
scale, it rises more and more above the mere 
outward, into a higher range of thought, percep- 
tion, motive. This is so not in science only ; — 
art, music, the great thoughts of thinkers, the 
lofty ideals of goodness, the uplifting aspirations 
of worship — all of these are things which hide 
their secret from all outward sense, and yet they 
are life's noblest elements, life without them is 
a bare, poor, hopeless thing ! 

The practical help of all this, is here : — to 
teach us to look out a little more humbly and 
reverently in this wondrous universe and won- 
drous life in which we find ourselves. We want 
a little less of that common assumption of knowl- 
edge, or of expecting to know, and that we have 
only to concern ourselves with what we know; 
and at the same time, we do not want to fall 
into the other extreme of a hopeless agnosti- 
cism, but to keep on our way in confident and 
happy faith. What? Be discouraged because 
we cannot know or prove life's highest things? 
Why, what we know or even think we know, is 
only the very smallest, most superficial part of 
everything. Your most defined knowledge 
opens out, right upon an unsearchable infinity. 
You can measure a foot, a mile, — but what is 


this thing space? You can measure an hour, a 
year, — but what is time — still more, what is 
eternity? What then? Would you stop at the 
measurements or time-beats that you think you 
know, and lose the uplifting wonder of that 
larger infinity to which they directly lead? For 
so do all things lead us. The " flower in the 
crannied wall " leads you right to the whole 
mystery of the universe. A little child's face, 
the more you look into it, shadows forth pos- 
sibilities that reach to Heaven. A parent's love, 
as you ponder its deepest meaning, opens to you 
the sense of some source of love in this great 
universe, in which there is no stopping place 
short of faith in God. All things are hints to 
us, — not proofs, but hints, leadings, towards 
greater things of v/hich we catch glimpses, and 
which as the ages pass make themselves felt. 
And these greater things, like the great Christ, 
while giving no signs or proofs, invite our hearts 
to believe in them and follow them. Man's 
wisdom is, while holding fast the clue of what 
he sees and knows — hold that fast, there is 
the safeguard against folly and superstition — 
but, holding fast that clue of what he sees and 
knows let him go on with glad, upward-looking 
faith into the realm beyond. Let life lie open 
to the greater things, and be growing towards 


them; keep a welcoming eye for the world's 
tender, solemn beauty; obey the promptings of 
the best and kindest thoughts that lead you on 
to things you have not done, perhaps are afraid 
to do; keep touch with the great adoring habit 
of the world; dare to lift up your song and 
prayer with the earth's manifold worship, albeit 
when you try to make out some clear outline of 
that you worship, your thought falls back dazed 
and blinded. And then, although these greater 
realities may never prove themselves in figures 
or in syllogisms, they shall gradually prove 
themselves in life. Still to the end, we may not 
see, but we shall be more and more sure that we 
are in the way towards seeing, — tending not 
towards nothingness and darkness, but towards 
the absolute reality and towards the perfect light. 


Paul here touches one of the deep perplex- 
ities of life. I have called it the perplexity of 
mind. In the deepest aspect of it, I might as 
well couple the perplexity of matter with that 
of mind, for really matter, what matter is, is 
just as obscure, just as much a mystery as what 
mind is. But we do not feel it so. To the or- 
dinary apprehension, at least, there does not 
seem any particular perplexity about outward 
material things. A tree, a rock, a horse, no mis- 
take about these; no doubt as to their being 
facts and realities. But if I speak of mind, or 
of conscience or soul or any of what we com- 
monly call mental or spiritual realities, there 
are many who at once find doubts and question- 
ings suggested. How do we know that there is 
any such thing as soul or mind? If there is, 
why is it not just as palpable to us as the body 
is? That is the perplexity. Because, this subt- 
ler side of life and being haunts man. We can- 
not live together a day or an hour without talk- 
ing of mind or conscience or some other element 
of that invisible side of our nature. We talk of 



" making up our mind " or " changing our 
mind " or " obeying conscience " or " keeping a 
pure soul." And it seems as if, supposing these 
are reaHties, there ought to be no more doubt 
about them, we ought to be able to lay our hands 
upon them, and say, " See, here it is, just thus 
and so." But you know it is just the opposite. 
If it were not, I should not have to be working 
out an argument of this kind. I do not have 
to argue to help people to realise that trees and 
rocks and bodies are real. But we do constantly 
need to reassure ourselves that mind and soul 
and conscience are real, yes and indeed the most 
tremendous realities of all. 

Now let us look at the two sides of this per- 
plexity a little more fully. On the one hand is 
the material universe — a glorious thing to con- 
template, even to any one who merely looks at 
it from the outside as it were, with what Paul 
calls " the natural eye." To the trained eye 
and to the assisted eye, it grows more and more 
wonderful. Year by year the microscope in one 
direction and the telescope in the other are open- 
ing the Universe to our gaze in ever more won- 
derful gloriousness and extent. Chemistry 
seems the great science to-day, penetrating to 
the very innermost secrets of all this physical 
being. But the point is, the orderly observable- 


ness of it all. Not an object, not a force, not a 
fact, not the tiniest spot of space, but science 
claims it for its own, and never leaves it till it 
has reduced it to its own terms, in the catalogue 
of material things, and classed it upon the 
shelves of system and law. And even far beyond 
any direct observation, it makes the finer forces, 
it discovers work for it, and keeps tracking 
things out and making them visible to thought 
if not to sight. The photographic plate indicates 
stars that are far beyond the power of any teles- 
sope to shew us. The Rontgen rays, the finer 
workings of electricity, are quite invisible; but 
by curious cross-tracks of subtle analysis they 
are being brought within the range of knowl- 
edge. And as with the material universe so 
with these bodies of ours; the body has been 
looked through and through. Every atom takes 
its place in the material order. The brain has 
been weighed and analysed, and its various 
nervous tissues tracked to their local uses; and 
science has got behind the delicate mechanism 
of the eye; and watches the formation of the 
tiny cells by which new matter replaces life's 
decay and waste; and the very blood has been 
analysed and watched to find what its red or 
white corpuscles have to do in the harming or 
helping of life. 


There is the physical Universe, and man's 
body in its place in it. Yet, are these all? Not 
at all! Somehow, the very capacity of all this 
to be observed and every use noted; the very 
orderly completeness of this whole outward Uni- 
verse only brings out in stronger relief the fact 
of their being quite a whole range of being 
which at the same time is existing or going on: 
— the whole range of human living and think- 
ing — of what we call intellectual, moral and 
spiritual living and acting! Leave out the ques- 
tion of whether we may speak of mind and soul. 
But we cannot help speaking of thinking and 
feeling. And thought, say, lies just as utterly 
outside the scope of the material world as the 
'* mind " or " spirit " we are enquiring about. 
Just look for a moment at this intangible range 
of facts and see what an immense part it plays 
in life. Think of love and hatred, two of the 
most tremendous powers by which the human 
world is moved. Think of the sense of shame, 
the dreadful consciousness of guilt ; — and on 
the other hand the joy of being able to do a 
kind, helpful action. Think of that feeling of 
exerting one's will. And all these are only in- 
cidental developments of a still more wonderful 
consciousness — that of personal existence, that 
which is able to say "I — myself." Now here 


is the greater part of life! What of it? Are 
we to ignore it — nay, we cannot do that if we 
would — but are we to doubt about it and dis- 
credit it, because our science, which in the great 
outward Universe seems so minute and exhaust- 
ive, can simply tell us nothing about it? It is 
curious how absolutely it does lie outside the 
cognizance of our science. I cut or burn my 
finger — there is the physical fact plain on the 
surface of things; science can tell me all about 
it. Suppose I violate my conscience, do some- 
thing that I feel to be sinful — why, there is 
no physical change whatever, and yet some- 
where, somehow, we feel that the sense of 
wrong-doing is one of the most tremendous facts 
of our being, — one, in the presence of which 
mere cuts or burns sink into insignificance. I 
move my arm : — that too is a demonstrable 
fact, science can watch it, measure it, tell all 
about it. I make what I call a movement of 
thought — I calculate a sum, or I think out 
those words I am now saying to you. Does any 
one doubt that this last kind of movement is a 
far greater fact in my being than any mere mus- 
cular movement? Here, you see, is a whole side 
of our living — thought, anger, love, conscien- 
tiousness, will — just as much facts as seeing, 
hearing, digestion, or the circulation of the 


blood — and our science is simply helpless 
among them, cannot even discern or distinguish 
them, any more than the ear can distinguish 
colours; and are we then to treat this range of 
imperceptible feelings, including all that is com- 
monly classed under conscience and soul, as 
something vague and doubtful, or as lying so far 
in among the microscopic recesses of being, 
that the reliable nature of them has not yet been 
discovered. But they do not lie far in or deep 
down. If you see a man strike a little child, 
your moral sense of horror is just as quick, just 
as palpable as your sight of the mere muscular 
movement. Will you trust the eye, because it 
is an evident thing, and man has found out its 
nature and how it works; and then will you dis- 
trust the moral sense, because science cannot 
tell you what it is or anything about it? And 
even where the material sight gives you the 
strongest impression of this unknown element 
of mind and personal character being somehow 
closely connected with the body, it does not do 
so in a way which suggests some infinitesimally 
finer element in the recesses of our being, which 
scientific investigation has not yet got to — the 
impression lies on the very surface. I see the 
indication of it in a man's face. What is it? It 
is not colour, it is not form. Science can note 


these for me; but it cannot touch that matter of 
the expression which evidences the Hfe. And if 
it cannot touch it at the surface, it certainly can- 
not by going deeper in or making its examina- 
tion minuter. If the general perception of the 
eye is too vague for me to dare to infer mind 
from my friend's face, certainly it will not be- 
come more perceptible through a microscope! 
On the contrary, if you examine the face with 
a microscope to try to get closer into the indica- 
tion of the mind, the more powerful the lense, 
only the more utterly will it lose all trace of 
mind and come back to mere common matter, 
only magnified. What does all this lead to? 
That if only we keep on making our tests more 
minute we shall at last capture these curious ele- 
ments of thought and consciousness? No! I 
think science is rather coming to the conclusion 
that it is not getting nearer to the mystery of 
mind that way. It rather seems as if we have 
to frankly recognise that there is some other 
different element in the make up of a man — 
different from anything we know as bodily or 
material — something which, even if (as the 
Monist philosophy maintains) it is ultimately 
of the same nature as matter, is in so infinitely 
finer a form, that it cannot be judged by any 
limitations of what we know as matter. Even if 


we had to conclude that what we call the higher 
life in man, cannot be known at all, directly, 
still it is the higher life; and if we only know it 
by its results, still these are of a kind which lift 
it clear above that lower bodily life of which we 
seem to have some knowledge. So, no possible 
inference as to the source of things could make 
friendship a dream, or conscience a delusion, or 
lessen the force of that conviction which has 
grown up among these higher elements that 
somehow they live on even when the lower ele- 
ments dissolve. 

But I want to give you something better than 
my own thoughts. Years ago, when I was feel- 
ing this mystery of mind an actual perplexity, 
something that a little weakened my hold on 
moral and spiritual things, and when I was glad 
of any light, one of the things that really helped 
me was a little poem of Francis Turner Pal- 
grave's. I came upon it again quite lately, and 
read it again with some interest to see if it would 
seem still to have the same helpful force of 
thought in it. And it seemed still so strong that 
I thought I would like to quote some parts of 
it. It is called the " Reign of Law " and its 
key-note is whence and whither. And it is a 
plea, in the fuller light of Law itself, for faith 
in the soul and its immortality. The poem 


imagines some mourners by the dead Christ ; lov- 
ing watchers and mourners by that noblest of 
the dead, but possessed by that overwhelming 
sense of Law, and unable to believe in anything 
even in their Christ, except matter, perishing 
matter : 

" We ne'er have seen the law 

Reversed, 'neath which we lie; 
Exceptions none are found, 
And when we die, we die ! " 

— And I take up the poem just as it breaks 
in upon them with this apostrophe: 

" Then, wherefore are ye come ? 
Why watch a worn out corse? 
Why weep a ripple, past 

Down the long stream of force? 

The forces that were Christ, 

Have ta'en new forms, and fled 
The common sun goes up, 

The dead are with the dead. 

'Twas but a phantom life, 

That seemed to think and will 
Evolving Self and God 

By some suggestive skill 
That had its day of passage hither, 
But knew no whence, and knows no whither. 


If this be all in all, 

Life but one mode of force, 
Law but the plan which binds 

The sequences in course: 
All essence, all design, 

Shut out from mortal ken. 
We bow to Nature's fate. 

And drop the style of men; 
The summer dust the wind wafts hither 
Is not more dead to whence and whither. 

But if our life be life, 

And thought and will and love, 
Not vague unconscious airs 

That o'er wild harp strings move; 
If consciousness be aught 

Of all it seems to be 
And souls are something more 

Than lights that gleam and flee — 
Though dark the road that leads us hither. 
The heart must ask its whence and whither. 

To matter or to force, 

The all is not confined. 
Beside the law of things 

Is set the law of mind. 
One speaks in rock and star 

And one within the brain 
In unison at times. 

And then apart again. 

The sequences of Law, 

We learn through mind alone. 


'Tis only through the soul 

That aught we know, is known. 
With equal voice she tells 

Of what we touch and see 
Within these bounds of life, 

And of a life to be. 
Proclaiming One who brought us hither 
And holds the keys of whence and whither. 

And then he breaks into such an exultation in 
this sense of the reality of soul in man ! — 

" Oh, shrine of God, that now 

Must learn itself with awe ! 
O, heart and soul that move 

Beneath a living law ! 
That which seemed all the rule, 

Of Nature, is but part; 
A larger, deeper law. 

Claims also soul and heart. 

We may not hope to read 

Or understand the whole, 
Or of the law of things, 

Or of the law of soul. 
E'en in the eternal stars 

Dim perturbations rise, 
And all the searcher's search 

Does not exhaust the skies; 
He w^ho has framed and brought us hither 
Holds in his hands the whence and whither. 

He in his science plans. 

What no known laws foretell; 


The wandering fires and fixed, 

Alike are miracle ! 
The common death of all, 

The life renewed above, 
Are both within the scheme 

Of that all-circling love ! 
The seeming chance that cast us hither, 
Accomplishes His Whence and Whither ! 

Of course it may be said that this is still only 
affirmation, and that affirmation does not be- 
come proof merely by being clothed in poetry. 
No ! but then it is not a question of proof — for, 
as Tennyson says — 

" Nothing worthy proving can be proved, 
Nor yet disproven " 

All that higher side of life which we indicate — 
not define — by the words " mental " or 
** spiritual " depends really upon its own affirma- 
tion within us; and whatever brings out the 
sense of it more vividly helps us to feel a quiet 
certainty that though we cannot tell just what 
or how it is, it is the noblest and the most reliable 
element in us. 

And so from these perplexities about mind and 
soul, which the exactness and certainty of 
physical science has started up with new force 
in our day, we have simply to fall back upon 


our inner consciousness, backed as it is by the 
common consciousness of man, and the clear 
sense of the wisest and the hoHest. Occasionally 
this higher consciousness seems confused or ob- 
scured, as many subtle thinkers have found it 
in our time; but the quiet heart of man and the 
silent teaching of experience keeps leading back 
to the recognition of mind, conscience, soul, as, 
however mysterious, still the greatest realities of 

And when we come to this (to live in it and 
rest in it. Mind, Conscience, Soul, life's greatest 
realities) it leads us further still, still not in out- 
lined knowledge, but in very strong and happy 
faith — faith reaching outside our life, above, 
beyond — that this conscious life in us is not 
the only conscious life in a vast machinery of 
substances and forces! It is life in an answer- 
ing Universe of life. Soul in an answering uni- 
verse of Spirit, Conscience in an answering Uni- 
verse of Righteous Will ; and human friendliness 
and love in an answering Universe that has a 
kindred, mighty Loving-Kindness in its inmost 
and divinest heart and meaning. 


I HAVE been considering the mystery of mind. 
Why are not conscience and soul, and all that we 
are conscious of in that vague region which we 
call mind, why are not these as palpable as the 
body? And I urged strongly that even if all 
that, which we speak of as the " higher life " in 
man, cannot be known directly, still it evidently 
is the higher life, and we may trust it, backed, 
as it is by the common consciousness of man 
and the clear sense of the wisest and holiest. 

But I think that we may go a little further, 
and it is that further step that I would now trace. 

Even if we could be no surer of any of these 
invisible things — than simply to say, ' well, we 
feel so and so ' ; even if we were left to this gen- 
eral thought and feeling of them as things in 
our minds — even so we should not be badly off. 
Because, we feel them quite unmistakably, even 
though we cannot tell how. My feelings on 
hearing of a brutal murder are just as clear and 
unmistakable as my outward sensation of this 
desk, or of this light. But that mere feeling, 



Strong, intense as it is, is not all. When we 
look into it, we find that the intimations of our 
inner consciousness are just as capable of being 
verified as those of the outward senses. Nay, 
more, — the very methods of verification are 
curiously alike. 

Let us range clearly, side by side, these two 
distinct classes of impressions which make them- 
selves felt in our nature — on the one hand 
those coming from the outside, in such sensations 
as sight, touch, sound, reporting to us the na- 
ture and relations of material objects; on the 
other hand, the impressions rising up within us, 
as it were, and making us aware of invisible 
qualities and existences. As a fact men have 
taken both sets of impressions as trustworthy. 
Trusting the outward sensations, they have built 
up their science of the laws and relations of out- 
ward things. Taking the inner consciousness 
as trustworthy, they have built up its perceptions 
of mind, and soul, into mental science, Morals, 
Law, Religion. The question is, of course, how 
we can be sure that either set of impressions 
corresponds to anything that really is? Even 
the vividneess of the outward sensation as your 
eye sees a thing and your hand touches it, is no 
sure proof. We know that some such sensa- 
tions are delusions. When you are dreaming, 


you have for the time just as vivid an impression 
of the things and people in that dream-state, as, 
nov^ in your waking hours, you have of the per- 
son sitting next to you. Yet you know that 
those dream impressions have no reality. How? 
How do you verify that some are realities, while 
others are only dreams? 

Well, there are several well-understood quali- 
ties which we find in the impressions of our 
waking-hours, but not in our dreams, and which 
verify for us some permanent reality in those 
things of our waking-hours. And what I am 
struck with, is, that, really, there are the same 
verifications in mental and moral and spiritual 
things, to make us sure that these, too, are not 
mere fancies, but subtle realities, — parts, 
though all invisible of the ordered reality of 
things. One of these tests of the external real- 
ities, is, that they are seen and felt by others, 
very much as by ourselves. This at once cuts 
them off from mere dreams or fancies. You and 
I might be asleep and dreaming in the same 
room, but the things and people we should see 
in our dreams would be perfectly different. 
The moment we wake, we see the same things. 
Is there a book before us, it is a book to both. 
A lamp? Each sees it as a lamp. But now 
see! The reality of that invisible world of 


thought and mind, is confirmed in the same way. 
Men are just as universally conscious of the 
things of thought and mind, as they are of out- 
w^ard visible things, go w^here you will among 
men, you find the same feelings of love and 
hate, of right and wrong, of will, of personality; 
and of these things in each other as well as in 
oneself. As these things are perceived within, 
it may not be so easy to compare exact notes 
about them. You cannot place a thought or a 
feeling on the table before you like a botanical 
specimen. But we can compare notes quite suf- 
ficiently to be sure there is no mistake. The 
quality of deceitfulness is the same thing to one 
man's inner perception that it is to another's. 
If a dozen of us see a man striking a little child, 
we see the invisible quality of the act, just as 
clearly and as much alike, as we see the outward 
movement. And so even of religious realities. 
Just as, mankind through, you find this moral 
sense, of distinction between right and wrong, 
so you find a religious sense of some mighty life 
in or through nature, with which man's being is 
somehow connected ; and all this tells us that this 
common consciousness of inner invisible things, 
is just as trustworthy as the sensations of an 
outward visible world. 

I may carry the parallel to a second step, to 


a further method of verification. There is some- 
thing about these physical sensations which seem 
to tell us of an outward world, more striking 
than their being felt by all people alike, — and 
that is that they fit together, can be compared 
and made subjects of calculation and experiment. 
That is what makes science possible. You could 
not have a science of the objects which you see 
in your dream, however vivid and real they may 
seem at the moment. Edmund Halley, in 1682 
saw what, to him, w^as a new star — a comet. It 
did not seem more real at the time, than a star 
I saw in a dream some nights ago. But see : he 
watches his star's course, calculated that it ought 
to return in 76 years, that would be in 1758; 
and others, later, revising his calculations made 
out that it ought to return about April, 1759, — 
and lo: in March 1759 it reappeared, in March, 
within one month of the date ; and then they cal- 
culated more closely again, and in 1835 it 
rounded the sun within 3 days of the time they 
had figured. But nobody can do that with the 
dream-star ! 

Well, the same verification holds for all this 
realm of things we perceive by thought or mind. 
There is the significance of Paul's word about 
'' comparing spiritual things with spiritual." It 
is just as easy to compare the impressions which 


two characters, or two thoughts make upon the 
inner sense, as to compare the impressions which 
two bodies or substances make upon the eye. 
True, the inner impressions have no distinct out- 
Hne, but they are far more intense. My inner 
sense of the invisible difference between a good 
man, and a base scoundrel, is far intenser than 
any outward sense of the difference in their per- 
sons. And it is by trusting this inner sense, 
about qualities, and ideas, and motives and all 
sorts of invisible things that all human law has 
grown up, and all Philosophy and all Religion. 
What do all the world's vast institutions of Jus- 
tice rest upon? What is ''justice"? A purely 
invisible quality, and yet all the institutions built 
upon that invisible quality, are just as stable 
and certain as the systems of Science built on the 
visible properties of things. And so with Re- 
ligion, in the deepest ultimate fact of it. Re- 
ligion in the deepest fact of it, seems to be a sort 
of instinctive sense of life behind the veil of 
Nature; life, and meaning, in Nature's move- 
ments, something as man discerns life and mean- 
ing behind the veil of flesh in his fellow man. 
From comparison of their varying impressions 
of this life behind Nature men have risen from 
the first rude fetichism to the highest thoughts 
of Religion. Even where, in its higher ranges. 


the sense of Divine communication, has come in, 
it is still by comparison of impressions which 
are quite impalpable to any outward sense that 
the prophet has come to be sure that God is lead- 
ing him, and that Christ can say : " The words 
that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself." 
There, in the highest experience, that inner world 
of souls, and goodness, and God, becomes 
actually more real than all the outward world of 
trees and stones and the moving bodies of men. 
* There is yet one more verification by which 
men justify their belief in the reality of the ex- 
ternal world, and which is really just as strong 
for justifying our belief in the world of mind. 
I mean — the proof by action and life. We 
verify our sensations of outward things, not only 
by comparing what we think we see and feel, 
with what others see and feel; and, not only by 
finding that the knowledge so obtained by our- 
selves and others can be combined into system 
and science, — but, crowning test of all, we 
verify these sensations, and the science so 
elaborated from them by acting upon them. If 
a man should refuse to admit that his bodily sen- 
sations — sight, touch, hearing and so forth, are 
anything, any indications of corresponding 
realities — simply he would soon cease to live. 
If he should refuse to accept the science men 


have elaborated by comparison and calculations 
based on sight, touch and hearing, he might live 
indeed, but it would be simply the life of the sav- 
age. And the same reasoning will lead on to 
living with the same trust and sense of reality 
in all the higher range of the intellectual, moral 
and spiritual, — all the world of mind. This is 
an orderly, ordered world all through. Man 
rises from physical facts to physical laws. But 
in the very progress which leads him on to laws 
at all, he comes to qualities of character. 
" Character," '' qualities " — all invisible, but yet 
very real ! And the verification by action and 
life, if it applies in material things, is worth in- 
finitely more in moral and spiritual things. 
Talk of the mischief which would come of a 
man^s refusing to believe in his sensations of 
sight or touch, what is that compared with the 
mischief which would come of his refusing to 
believe in his inner consciousness of truth, right, 
goodness! Practically man cannot ignore that 
inner, moral and spiritual consciousness. He 
may refuse to attend to it; he may neglect to 
observe its finer teaching, but he cannot help 
feeling something of it. And even in his 
neglect, he will verify it! If you neglect and 
disregard moral and spiritual perceptions you 
bring as great a discord and confusion into life, 


as by any ignoring of physical facts or laws — 
nay, a greater, more terrible discord. It is even 
worse to run your head against a moral law, than 
to run it against a physical law. There may be 
no outward scar to shew for it; the slightest 
bodily bruise makes more visible mark that 
science can note, than the breaking of half the 
commandments does, but none the less life is 
injured in its very innermost and intensest be- 
ing. It is so, even at the very beginning of 
moral and spiritual life; but it is when you look 
at life in its higher and nobler developments that 
this verification of all the realm of mind is most 
striking. When you come face to face with any 
man who has really trusted this consciousness of 
mind and soul and conscience and affection, and 
lived in it, a word of his deep experience shews 
that it is realities he has found, and in which he 
has lived. And yet here, precisely, it is (in the 
case of those who have most believed in moral 
and spiritual things, and most acted on their be- 
lief) here it is that, if their course has been 
based on delusion, it would show most con- 
spicuously. If the astronomer has reckoned a 
casual gleam or some flaw in his lense, as one 
of the stars by which he is to measure the mighty 
distances of space, why, the more accurately he 
calculates and works from his false premises, and 


the further he works on his calculation, so much 
the larger and more palpable will be the error 
and confusion of the result. So if the moral law 
of conscience be a fancy of ours that we have im- 
ported and hypothecated into a Universe that 
has only material law in it; if soul be a mere 
conceit of our own self-consciousness, and if God 
be only a mirage on the horizon of things pro- 
duced by a want of clearness in our sight, it will 
be those who have most taken conscience and 
soul and God into their account, and lived by 
their belief, whose results in life should exhibit 
the most palpable blunder and the most chaotic 
confusion. But I look to those who have most 
treated soul and conscience and God as realities, 
and it is with them that confusion disappears. I 
look into their lives and by those lives I know 
that their faith is not, at least in its deep basis, 
a blunder. Of course they may differ, and make 
mistakes about these things. All attempts to 
define or describe these impalpable realities of 
mind, — must be more or less imperfect, but in 
the deep basis of their faith, it is justified and 
verified by life. 

And now, what does it all come to? This is 
not a matter of abstract theorizing, still less of 
intricate word-fencing. I have set all this before 
you because I believe that it touches the very 


heart of our daily practical living. The fact is 
that in the brilliant and wonderful advances of 
our time in the exploration of the outv^^ard Uni- 
verse and the Physical man, men are getting to 
feel as if these were all, at least all that is certain 
and reliable. And they are not all! They are 
not even half ! They are only the coarsest, poor- 
est, grossest part! Infinitely nobler, grander, 
more deeply and unchangeably real, is that 
strange element of life which stirs within us, we 
know not how, and seems almost like another 
subtler universe! Of the outward material Uni- 
verse, I suppose we know in our modern science, 
a hundred times as much as did the ancient 
world; and it is little wonder perhaps that we 
fall to thinking that there is nothing like it. Of 
that inner world of life and mind — we do not 
know much more than Plato knew when he tried 
to analyse Mind, or than Christ felt when he 
said " The life is more than meat." Now, as 
then, we touch it, here and there, in a few great 
words, Soul, Affection, Will, Conscience, and, 
over all, God — words which we still cannot de- 
fine but which faintly touch and signify for us 
life's greatest, infinitely greatest realities. We 
want to have more faith in this intangible and 
yet so real side of Being. We want to trust in 
it more, to live in it more, to give it a larger, 


fuller part in our thinking and working! For 
this is the eternal element in things! The earth 
changes; Man's noblest frame decays. All 
man's earthly treasure fades and dies; but Mind, 
Soul, Affection, Conscience and the Divine 
Oversoul, these are for ever and for ever ! 


I THINK it is a help, in the doubts and per- 
plexities of our own time, to see how in far older 
and different times, men have felt very much the 
same doubt or perplexity as we do. To read 
how the Arabian Poet who is supposed to have 
written the Book of Job, cries out '' Canst thou 
by searching find out God?" and how the 
greatest of the Hebrew prophets, longing for the 
Divine Vision, could only say '' Verily thou art 
a God that hidest thyself ! " while yet they never 
lost their faith — makes it is a little easier to us 
still to believe and love and pray, even though 
the longing search of the human mind is still, in 
the last resort, baffled, and even though some 
would counsel us to give up the whole subject as 
hopelessly belonging to '' the unknown." You 
often hear it said : " Religion is a subject of 
which no one can really know anything ! " and 
it is said so confidently, and as if it were a self- 
evident fact, that it is difficult to resist the im- 
pression of it. Now it seems to me that this 
reiteration of " the unknown " is being rather 



overdone. It is becoming a sort of bugbear, al- 
most scaring many people from earnest study of 
the subject as something useless. And — what 
is almost as mischievous is the way it also 
presses, even upon those who do hold to faith, 
who join in the old pieties of the world, and try 
to keep up some little praise and prayer of their 
own to the infinite goodness — but this thought, 
which is in the very air of our time, comes again 
and again, like a little chill of doubt. , 

I like to say my morning prayer looking out 
of the window. Thanksgiving, to every true 
heart, comes naturally anywhere — just as the 
mercies of the day come to us in the common 
happenings of life; but for prayer, I seem to 
want as Daniel did — the open window, some 
outlook on earth and sky, and all the wonderful 
world, even if it may be only the grass and 
flowers of some common garden, or even a tree 
or two above the city roofs, — but always some- 
thing of the sky and the wonderful light. I dare 
say many of you who read this feel the same — 
and if you do, you will have felt how, often, the 
very first thought as you look out is this wonder 
of the Infinite mystery. " Oh thou to whom I 
am praying, how I long to know Thee, to know 
what Thou art ! " Thoughts of the awful vast- 
ness of this Universe, of which what one sees 


is but the tiniest fragment, throng into the heart, 
sometimes almost dazing one. ''Oh! Thou In- 
finite mystery, what art Thou? Art Thou such 
a being that Thou knowest us poor human crea- 
tures; and that I, or what I am, or what I do or 
suffer, or anything I am thinking or saying in 
my Httle heart of worshipping, can be anything 
to Thee?" 

Yes, there is the unknowableness. But then 
comes, quickly following, almost as if it were 
part of the same thought — the sense that some- 
thing means it all. Something " means " it. 
That is the word which to me seems the master- 
key of the perplexity. I do not say: the key 
out of the mystery, but, the key into it — so that 
it seems to open the door into the mystery, that 
I may look into it, and enter into it, feeling that 
my thoughts are not simply wandering into noth- 
ingness, but into the innermost realities of the 
universe, and a presence of mysterious life. 

That is how the matter especially in these later 
years comes to me, but I am afraid that with 
many it is hardly so. I believe that to many in 
the present day that word " unknow^able " has 
become a sort of bugbear seeming to rebuke the 
very faith which they still want to feel, and to 
make all real religion groundless and ridiculous. 
How, it is asked, can any one believe in that 


which cannot be known? How can one even 
attach any idea to it, or have any feeling towards 
it, or for it? And all this sounds plausible; and 
thus it happens that many people feel as if there 
was nothing for it but agnosticism. They would 
be glad if there were — but the signs seem all 
the other way. Instead of advancing science 
bringing us nearer to some knowledge on the 
deep subjects of faith, it seems even to be push- 
ing them further and further away. Frederic 
Harrison says : '' The growing weakness of re- 
ligion has long been that it is being thrust inch 
by inch off the platform of knowledge." And, 
however people may regret this, they feel as if 
there were no resisting it, and that religion as 
any clear thought and strong helpful faith has 
to be practically left behind. 

Now it is this impression that I want to do 
my little part to dispel. Because it is to a large 
extent a mere impression, and an impression 
partly arising from an unconscious exaggeration 
of the term " unknown " when applied in this 
realm of religion. 

I think there is some help, even in the mere 
consideration of this difference between the part 
which the '* unknown " plays in common life, and 
the part which is assumed for it in philosophy 
and religion. The term ** unknown " is familiar 


enough in daily life. Heaps of things are un- 
known. Great numbers of them are likely al- 
ways to be so. Our knowledge even at its fur- 
thest and fullest, is only like a little patch of 
light, which soon shades off into a limitless un- 
known all around us. And even the things we 
talk of '' knowing " in that little patch of light, 
we only know partially. I know that my desk 
is wood ; this lamp, metal ; the wall, stone — and 
we can tell each other various things about each 
of these substances as we call them — and we call 
this knowledge. But it is only skin-deep even 
with regard to the most familiar things. Dif- 
ferent forms of matter we call them — but we 
do not know what matter is — or what anything 
is, in its absolute reality. Trees, flowers, or 
stones that you saw in your dreams last night, 
seemed just as real to you then, as these do now. 
But this '' unknown " is no note of hopelessness 
or intellectual despair. We do not spell it with 
a capital " U," or elevate the frank recognition 
of it into a special class or school of thought. 
We accept it as one of the conditions of our 
finite, limited being, and are only thankful that 
in the midst of so much that is, and is likely to 
be, unknown, we can make out so much — not 
perfectly, never to the ultimate fact a reality, but 
sufficiently to enable us to get along tolerably 


well, and to have a good practical use of the 
world and of our life. 

But now when we leave this common range 
of visible, familiar things, and enter into the 
region of Philosophy and Religion, at once the 
** Unknown " begins to be regarded in quite an- 
other light. It is put as a great thing of itself. 
It must be spelled with a capital to emphasize it^ 
importance. " The Unknown " is talked of, as 
if it were some far-away outer void, into which 
no investigation could penetrate, and in ap- 
proaching which, thought itself evaporates into 
vague, empty, useless speculation. The proper 
recognition of this " Unknown " is elevated into 
a special school of thought, and its professors 
take a special name, " Agnostics," which name 
has come practically to indicate those who do not 
merely accept the fact of so much being Un- 
known, but who regard this religious part of it 
as Unknowable. That is the simple fact in the 
field of human study to-day. It is not merely 
pointed out how much there is in the direction 
of Religion which is unknown — but it is main- 
tained that it is a direction in which knowledge 
is inherently impossible, about which thought is 
vain, and which ought now, among sensible peo- 
ple, to be put on the shelf of exploded and 
abandoned ideas, like Alchemy or Astrology. 


That is what I want to protest against. It is 
discouraging the noblest subject of human 
thought. Here in this realm of Religious Faith 
is the region in which the human heart has most 
longed for light, into which the human mind has 
most earnestly thought and studied — and be- 
cause in that direction the exact and wonderful 
science of our time frankly owns that it is able 
to tell us nothing, unable to find out anything, 
— therefore the cry is raised " Unknow^n ! " 
" Unknowable ! " and men are warned off from 
it as from a mere quest among follies and delu- 

I do not think that this attitude will turn out 
to be the real or final attitude of science. There 
are many men eminent in science who altogether 
repudiate any such attitude. I think it is widely 
felt among the multitudes who in the present 
day are eagerly studying science, and eagerly 
greeting each new discovery, that while none of 
the methods of science bring us into any contact 
with spiritual and religious things, or even are 
able to recognise such existences — yet that there 
is no reason whatever for giving up belief in 
them, or for ceasing to strive in other ways to 
come into some realising contact w^ith them. 
There may well be other ways of penetrating 
into the secrets of Universal Being than by the 


microscope, or the telescope, or the marvellous 
processes of chemistry! Christ's great word 
that " the Pure in heart shall see God," may yet 
come to be recognised — not as men generally 
take it now, as a sort of shadowy parable from 
real seeing, but as exact a law of spiritual per- 
ception, as Kepler's laws of Astronomical inves- 
tigation are. Love, and the moral sense, and a 
large part of man's best and most real life, are 
equally incapable of being examined, or even 
taken cognizance of, by these processes of Phys- 
ical Science. Paul would say they are '' spiritu- 
ally discerned " — but they are very real. 

I find another help in turning from the for- 
bidding vastness of that term " unknown " as 
it is used in religious philosophy, to its use in 
the common things of life. In that Religious 
Philosophy — the " Unknown " is usually treated 
as absolutely unknown — nothing at all known 
about it. But the moment we come back into 
common life, we find ourselves talking of things, 
as unknown — but hardly ever with any such 
absolute meaning. In fapt, when you come to 
look naturally into it, we find ourselves conscious 
of much knowledge about many things which 
yet are unknown. Life is full of illustrations 
of this. You find yourself in a strange room; 


perhaps the occupant or owner, is some one ab- 
solutely unknown to you. But you will not be 
in that room five minutes, with an open, thought- 
ful mind, without knowing something of that 
unknown person. The pictures on the walls, 
the books on the table, the kind of furniture, the 
very way it is disposed about the room, will tell 
you something. Or take an illustration that 
struck me years ago, in one of Dr. W. B. Car- 
penter's essays on this very matter. He sup- 
poses some one in a vast manufactory, full of all 
sorts of curious and intricate workings. This 
observer traces back the power from this and 
that machine, along straps, and pulleys, and 
shafts — from room to room — until at last he 
comes to a great blank wall, in which the shaft 
disappears. Even if you could not follow it any 
further, he says, you would not conclude that 
behind that wall is nothing! 

Or, take a human being, — any one of the 
multitudes about you. Enough of " unknown *' 
and '* mysterious " there, surely ! Granted it is 
somebody you ** know " — how much do you 
know? Who knows what man, is? Why, this 
being, which we call man, is almost as much be- 
yond our real ken, as God is. The Microcosm is 
as unknown as the Macrocosm ! Yet in all sorts 
of ways, we find ourselves getting to know about 


people, and the deep life in them, at every turn, 
till we perhaps say we know them, and certainly 
can love them. And yet the wonderful human 
being remains unknown; *' unknowable " if you 
will, but it is an unknowableness which does not 
prevent all sorts of feelings of love, or hate, or 
fear, and all sorts of relations of service or help- 

We used to think we knew who was the author 
of the 103rd Psalm — that wonderful song of 
thankfulness and trust : " Bless the Lord, O my 
soul, and all that is within me bless his holy 
name ! " Now, we do not know, and we know 
that we do not. It is unknown, unknowable. 
Yet does that Psalm the less awaken reverence, 
thankfulness, trust, and lead us to the innermost 
secret of human feeling? 

Is it really very different from this, with re- 
gard to that infinite, " unknown " author of this 
vast Universe, to whom men have all through the 
ages of the world lifted up their hearts in some 
kind of worship and called by some greatest name 
of ''God"? God in His essence? — No, we 
cannot know that, but God in his manifestations, 
— is not that enough to do away with all feel- 
ings of His being some mere vast unknown ab- 
straction? Translate it into abstract terms if 
you will. Herbert Spencer will allow us noth- 


ing more definite tlian this : " An Infinite and 
Eternal energy, from which all things proceed." 
This he speaks of as '' the One absolute cer- 
tainty." Well — that is his formula for the 
" unknown," but it is only half of it unknown, 
anyhow ! " Infinite and eternal energy," yes 
that is unknown — but the moment you pass on 
to " from which all things proceed " you are in 
the region, not of the unknown, but of the 
known. I have come at last indeed to that 
" Blank Wall " Dr. Carpenter figured, through 
which I can trace no further the wonderful 
energy which is working through these great 
driving shafts which fill the world with wonder- 
ful powers and workings, evolving all things 
through the slowly passing cycles and periods. 
No, I cannot trace that Energy backwards, but 
I can trace it forwards, ever evolving things to 
something higher and nobler; from chaos to 
order, from the cooling star-globe to the rich 
earth that is about us to-day; from the rude be- 
ginnings of unconscious life to conscious man; 
from man only just emerging from the brute, 
to man with the hint of the angel in him, and 
the upward-reaching sense of God ! " Energy," 
is it that only, that I may feel certain of, as 
Science leads me along the paths, growing every 
year more intricate, by which we trace the won- 


derful workings in earth, air, sea, light, growth 
and hfe? As it shows me these, and bids me 
simply bow down to the '' Unknowable," I can- 
not help replying that the energy from which 
these things proceed and from which still more 
proceeds the mind that studies them — and from 
which proceeds also man's moral sense — and 
man's strange power of love, I cannot call that 
energy entirely unknown! It must be some- 
thing that not only causes these things to be but 
means them ; and the more I ponder the meaning 
which comes out all through the world, and 
through the mind and life of man, and through 
the larger life of history, and all the world's 
long struggle for truth and justice and right, 
I still may not know the absolute name, but 
it must be some name greater, diviner than 
force or energy, some name that shall express 
not how much there is that is still unknown, but 
how much there is that we do know, and for 
which our hearts cannot help crying out in some 
glory of thanksgiving. I do not mean, that 
even looked at this way, everything is clear. 
There are still mysteries of pain and suffering 
among God's works, which taken apart, do not 
seem to carry any meaning of goodness in them. 
The awful horrors of massacre and torture in 
the East, how can God suffer such things to be. 


some cry — but the nearer mystery to me, is ; 
how can men suffer such things to be? The 
great meanings that have been coming out 
through all the slow progress of history, do come 

— some of them at least, visibly as the ages pass. 
Things grow here and there a little clearer, and 
I think there is a growing confidence that that 
vast power that is at the heart of the Universe 

— though still unknown — is not only a power 
of order, but of more than order — goodness. 

So, I for one am not going to let that bugbear 
of the '* unknown " oppress me, or drive me from 
the old faith which all through the best ages of 
man's growth has looked up with trust and 
adoration as to God, albeit unable to find Him 
out in any distinctness or perfection. As I walk 
through the House Beautiful of the world, I will 
rejoice in the sunshine, feel the awe of the storm, 
and bow before the wonders which make the 
whole more wonderful from year to year, and 
though I may not see the Lord of the House 
Beautiful, face to face, I will not call Him '' un- 
known.'' I cannot but join hands with those — 
all the nameless multitude of souls, who through 
the long procession of the generations, have 
never seen His face yet never felt Him a mere 
vast unknown, but the dear presence of Infinite 
love and goodness. And where our vision, at 


times, seems very dim, there are purer and holier 
ones, who have seen with purer hearts, and with 
the faith which is more than outward sight. Let 
us walk with them — and most of all with the 
great leader of the pure in heart — let us walk 
with Him in his ways of prayer, trust and help- 
ful love, and I think it will still be with us, as it 
has been with so many, that he will show us the 
Father, make very close and seal the Infinite 
Fatherhood, anl help us to walk and live if not 
yet in the light yet always towards it ! 


In considering the great " thought-problems " 
— especially of Religion, a feeling besets me 
that our modern world — I mean the part that 
really thinks — is putting a little too much upon 
mere processes of reasoning, and especially upon 
what the individual can make out by such mere 
reasoning. So I want to put in a plea for those 
old-fashioned things — Revelation and Author- 
ity. Of course we have to lift those great 
words out of some of the old low and wrong 
uses of them — but still, my point is that at the 
heart of the idea of Revelation and also of Au- 
thority, there are great everlasting realities, 
which have been too much left out of late. 

Thus with Revelation. Revelation has been 
regarded as the whole of the Bible — a certain 
set of Divine communications to man, dictated 
by the Spirit of God; and then Authority has 
simply meant that men are to bow down to these 
communications and just accept them and be- 
lieve them. Now we cannot regard the Bible 



in any such way. To us, it is not, just as it is, 
a Revelation — and yet wq freely speak of it 
as containing the records of many Revelations. 
And what we mean is this : the very highest and 
clearest discernings of religious truth in the 
world, have not come by the slow climbing 
steps of reasoning, nor as conclusions patiently 
built up by stage upon stage of argument. No. 
The very clearest and intensest discernings of 
Religious Truth have come in the souls of the 
holiest and purest not as things proved to them 
but rather as something shown to them, revealed 
in them. They have always felt that this clear 
light and vision was not something of their own 
working out, but something wrought in them or 
showed to them by the Spirit of God. Then, as 
they have told these great things to their fellow- 
men, men have owned them as their masters, as 
their teachers. And my point is, that in the 
working out of our religious faith, we have to 
allow a very large place, not an absolute au- 
thority but a very real one, to these revelations 
in the holiest of our race. 

And let me clearly say at once that I claim a 
place for Revelation and Authority in Religion 
because I find that they have place in every other 
branch of human thought. My thought starts 
with this; we must not rest too much upon the 


individual. I admit the capacity and the sacred- 
ness of the individual faculties, but that does not 
involve that all individuals have equal faculties 
nor that any could work out a complete religious 
thought for themselves. No! such individual- 
ism in religion would be such a burden as man 
has not to bear, does not bear, in any direction 
of his thinking or investigating. There may be 
no branch of study in which each man might not 
possibly investigate everything and find out 
everything for himself. There may be no abso- 
lute impossibility to hinder you and me from 
becoming as good astronomers as those who can 
predict an eclipse within 4 seconds; as good 
scientists in any branch as those who are work- 
ing out the wonders of biology or electricity. 
But it is not likely we shall be, and certainly the 
abstract possibility does not lessen the value of 
their work. We listen to them as authorities. 
You see we constantly use the very word in 
Science, that men so kick against in Religion. 
We believe, indeed, that we might verify for our- 
selves all they tell us. But we do not do it. We 
do not think of doing it. We feel that, some- 
how, their faculties, though not different from 
ours, have become educated to that point that 
they can see things which you and I cannot see, 
and we sit at their feet, are their willing and 


grateful disciples. It is not an absolute au- 
thority we give them, but it is a very real au- 
thority. That is hov^ the world makes progress. 
What would man's astronomy amount to if each 
man who was anxious about the stars had to 
work out the whole subject for himself de novo? 
What would any science amount to, if each gen- 
eration started with a clean sheet? But it is 
not so. *' This generation seemeth a giant," 
says Lord Bacon, *' because it standeth upon the 
shoulders of the past." The race is bound up 
together. As the ages pass, some things are 
settled not to be perpetually re-opened. A few 
great minds carry forward wiiole generations, 
and teach in a year what ordinary minds could 
not have made out for themselves in a century. 

Now it is just the same in religion, as in 
everything else. In religion, too, there is the 
same help, the same rest, in the teachings of the 
loftiest souls and the great accumulated convic- 
tions of mankind. 

But it may be said that in all science we are 
dealing not with anything akin to revelation, 
truth directly perceived in the mind, but with 
carefully worked out knowledge, and that we 
take it because we know it has been so worked 
out, and may be proved. Let us then look into 
other branches of human attainment, in which 


there seems a sort of direct faculty, an inner 
sight or sense, which cannot be proved — but 
which we accept because it appeals to something- 
kindred in ourselves. And still the same prin- 
ciple holds. What is God's way of providing 
man with Art, Poetry, Music? Is it by each one 
being his own Artist, Poet, Musician ? It would 
be pretty poor poetry and rather unsettled ideas 
of art and music we should have in that case. 
But no! The great Providence developes these 
subtle elements in man's higher nature by rais- 
ing up a few who become teachers, masters, to 
the rest. " Masters " — no one feels any hes- 
itation in speaking of " The Great Masters " of 
Art, Poetry, Music; why should we not recog- 
nise the same mastership in the Religious Life? 
Perhaps someone will say *' Oh, but we use the 
word '' Master " in a different way in speaking 
of some Musician who has given the world a new 
thought of Music, and in speaking for instance 
— of Christ. But surely it is only a difference 
of degree. It indicates, in each case a sort of 
unapproachable and inexplicable greatness which 
makes them our Teachers, great lights to us each 
in his own special realm. And there is another 
point of similarity in the rarity of these few 
greatest leaders. A friend said to me one day; 
" I cannot take in that idea of Christ being so 


unique and above all others." My answer was 
" How many Shakespeares have there been ? " 
And it is a fair answer. Do you see? As you 
reach up among the higher faculties of Man, the 
great masters become fewer. And also note that 
their peculiar excellence is more entirely beyond 
the attainment of ordinary nature — a gift we 
call it. The great Musician's gift or the great 
Poet's — it is not something they slowly work 
out — it is a real revelation in them and they in 
turn become revealers to others. They do not 
so much touch men as reveal to them whole 
heights and depths of beauty, harmony, quite be- 
yond ordinary natures. There is a perfect 
parallel in all these realms of study and when you 
look at them so, you see that it is just as natural 
for there to be a few mighty leaders, revealers, 
authorities in religion as in music or in poetry. 

And mark again how exactly parallel is the 
relation of their higher faculties to our average 
faculties in both these realms. The faculties are 
the same in small and great, in the masters and 
revealers and in the multitude. There is no ab- 
solute difference between the subtle sense which 
makes your little child pleased with a street organ 
and the genius which endows a Mendelssohn or 
a Wagner. No absolute line divides your poetic 
sense which is touched by a few sweet verses. 


from the poetic genius which made Shakespeare. 
Nay — it is just because it is so, because all have 
something of these faculties, that those who have 
them in highest degree are recognised by the 
rest and take their thrones. Beethoven would 
be no king of Harmony to a race that could not 
even distinguish one musical tone from another. 
The great musicians are great, because the com- 
mon race have at least music enough in them to 
appreciate the great ones, though not enough to 
be the great ones. A little poetic feeling that 
would not be enough to enable a man to write a 
line of poetry, is quite enough to feel the spell 
of poetry and own the great Poet, and rest in his 
great thoughts as a real and beautiful revelation 
to our hearts. 

Now all this appears to be very much the same 
in regard to Religion. Of all the varied range 
of the elements and surroundings of man's be- 
ing. Religion is the highest, and touches a higher 
influence than anything else. Its things, its re- 
lations, are all invisible; but so are the relations, 
harmonies, which constitute Poetry, Art, Music. 
Is it not reasonable, then, in man's Religious 
life, to expect that while the race in general shall 
have some feeling in the direction of religion, 
it shall be only a few loftiest souls here and there 
who are the great teachers, revealers — Masters 


— to the rest? There, then, in the place and 
power of Revelation, in religion, as in all the 
higher elements of life — to lift up the dim com- 
mon feeling of men into a clearer brighter light, 
a higher assurance, than the average humanity 
could ever attain for itself, and so from time to 
time in human history, to put in permanent au- 
thoritative shape, the great foundation truths 
on which man's soul may rest. 

But then, some one may ask — how do we 
know which are the great Revealers and Authori- 
ties in the religious life? How do we know, for 
instance, that those old Bible leaders, and Christ 
at the head of them, have any such real revela- 
tion for us, in which we may feel that divine 
things have been made clearer for us, and to 
which we may look as to some reliable master- 
ship? Our parallel still holds. You do not go 
casting about for proof as to who are the great 
masters in science, poetry, music! There is no 
proof. It is not even by any vote that Mendels- 
sohn stands as a great musician, and Shakespeare 
as a great poet. Simply the feeling and experi- 
ence of generations sifts them out, lets the small 
side-names and influences go, crowns the few 
mightiest with wreaths of light which glitter 
more than gold or diamonds ! And so the great- 
est names in the religious life of mankind, stand 


perfectly plain. There is no mistaking them. 
And I do not speak of Christ alone. We are 
growing out of that poor conceit that the light 
of God never shone anywhere but in Palestine. 
Let us be thankful for all the great lights of the 
ancient world. The Vedic teachers of the ori- 
ginal, pure Brahamism; Zoroaster; Confucius; 
all made Divine things clearer and more real to 
countless millions — real revealers in their time 
— and still I think it stands out more clearly to- 
day than ever, that there has been no religious 
light in the world so strong and pure as that 
which shines along the great Bible lines and cul- 
minates in Christ. It is not one revelation, it is 
a line of revelations — Law-giver and Prophet 
and Psalmist; not pure and absolute revelations, 
but very real ones, real revealings to men of 
brighter nobler truth from age to age, and at the 
head of all, the holiest, divinest life of earth — 
a life which though it also became overlaid with 
corruptions, false glorifications and all manner of 
superstitions, has still lived quietly on in its old 
simplicity in these gospels and has kept shining 
forth again and shines to-day, clearer, I think, 
than ever, still revealing the highest realities of 
Being, with the old and solemn certainty of a 
heart that dwelt in God and knew him at first 
hand, spirit with spirit. 


I have shown then, as I think, that there is 
such a thing as revelation — a sort of direct per- 
ception of spiritual truth, not worked out by 
steps of careful reasoning, but coming like a 
light of God within ; — and that it has been those 
who have had this supreme inner light who, as 
a fact, have been the religious leaders and 
teachers of mankind. 

And now I want to put one or two matters 
touching the relation of all this to our own 
powers and faculties, and what should be our 
attitude towards it. 

The special point that I want to bring out is 
this; that this distinct recognition of Revelation 
and this feeling of its authority, are not for a 
moment to be regarded as something that is to 
take the place of our own thinking and to which 
we are to give a blind and absolute submission. 
This is where I find people hesitating and per- 
plexed. They do not seem to understand how 
one can speak of authority in religion, unless 
there is something to point to as a pure, un- 
mixed, infallible Revelation which may be a final, 
absolute, authority. But that is not so. You 
see at once that it is not so in these other 
branches of human study. The great Masters 
are authorities — we never hesitate to speak of 
them as such — but their authority is not abso- 


lute. We revise our judgment of this great poet; 
our estimate of this musician. What we need 
to recognise is, that there are no final, absolute 
authorities in this world, on any subject. In all, 
we have to use the best light that comes to us 
from the great acknowledged teachers, and also 
the best light in the world's growing thoughts 
and faculties. And sometimes those great lights 
are not clear; and sometimes our own thoughts 
are not clear — but between them, we have to do 
the best we can. There is no final absolute au- 
thority on any subject — not even on Religion. 
The light of the world's purest religious revela- 
tions comes down to us in a Bible in which have 
gathered many things out of that old Hebrew 
life besides its Revelations. So the words and 
life of Christ come down to us, with some things 
mixed in here and there which Christ possibly 
never said or did! But what of that? The 
Bible won its place and holds its place, because, 
amidst whatever of earthly errors and mistakes 
it has, the light of God, illumining and inspiring 
a succession of Holy Souls and above all the soul 
of Christ, shines out so clear, so bright, so strong, 
that there is no other book like it in the world. 
But it is by using the light in ourselves that we 
find the light in the Bible. Christ's appeal was 
always — '' He that hath ears to hear, let him 


hear." It was the reHgious nature already in 
them which enabled them to feel that higher re- 
ligious nature in him, and to feel the power of 
his teaching, as he spoke to them with authority. 
So they heard him gladly when he gave forth the 
Sermon on the Mount, because they felt its truth. 
But they could not have composed the Sermon 
on the Mount. It was a real revelation to them, 
making the whole life of God and man clearer 
to them than ever before. And so it has been 
to men ever since, precisely because, though only 
a Christ could have originated it, all have power 
to appreciate it. 

There is the power of Revelation. That 
which mere reasoning could not have done, that 
which reasoning can even find many a little fault 
in (sceptics pick many a hole in the great " Ser- 
mon ") has come as light to the world. Prac- 
tically, the Sermon on the Mount stands at the 
head of the moral and religious utterances of 
the world. And this not for its mere details of 
duty, but for its great spirit of life! Life in 
the Will of God — God, prayer, love, eternity, 
— all are in it — not as the thesis of an argu- 
ment, but as the light of a Revelation. And so 
with all the great teachings of the Bible. Do 
not for a moment leave even the ignorant and 
unlearned with the old idea that they have got 


to take everything in it as Divine. Teach them 
to read it all intelligently — but my point is that 
the more they do read it intelligently, the more 
they will feel the solemn authoritative v^eight 
with which its great testimonies of God and Duty 
come down through all the ages that have tried 
them and found them true. 

And do not suppose that I would speak of 
those great Revelations of the past as merely a 
refuge for the ignorant and unlearned! Look 
to the quite higher range of minds, the leaders 
of religious movements, those who have most 
experienced the reality and power of religion for 
themselves, — George Fox, Wesley, Channing, 
— those who have come nearest to the Spirit of 
God at first hand, and so might seem to be most 
above any need of the help of those few greatest 
ones whom men have hailed as Revealers. It 
might seem that these would care least for any 
help of the Bible, and would be most impatient 
of any idea of sitting at the feet of Christ. But 
has it been so? The very opposite! Why, 
these have been the very ones who have prized 
the Bible most, most loved to study it, most 
laboured to elucidate it, most delighted to live 
their religious life in the light of its grand 
Psalms and Prophecies and especially in that 
clearest light of Christ. 


Or look to the mass of average people v^ho can 
think for themselves, v^ho are thinking, and are 
going to think more and more: It is just this 
average life which is to-day most touched with 
the spirit of scepticism — which is largely giving 
up Bible reading, which is saying — " Why 
should we pay any special attention to what 
Christ said — " and which is falling back upon 
the individualism which says — as one said to 
me the other day — that in these religious things, 
" One man knows just as much or as little as an- 
other; and every one must just make out what he 
can for himself." 

Well — how does this mere individualism 
work? It does not work at all. It lands men 
in mere confusion and uncertainty. Watch the 
common state of mind of those who thus put 
away all idea of any Revelation in the past. It 
is not that they become simply unbelievers. 
Nothing of the kind! Nothing so clear and 
definite! Simply they are all at sea. They do 
not know whether anything can be believed. 
To-day, some strong word of faith takes hold of 
them and they feel there must be something in 
it. To-morrow, they chance upon some keen 
argument of scepticism and they are all adrift 
again. Now, this curious uncertainty which is 
the special characteristic of to-day — what does 


it mean ? It is the natural result of a generation 
which cannot indeed get quite away from its 
own deep down religious nature, but which is 
trying to grope its own way, has dropped the 
guiding and assuring hand of the past and cut 
loose from the great teachers whose clear strong 
sense of Divine things has for ages led the ever- 
growing life of mankind. 

That is why I bring this subject before you. 
I believe that the one greatest practical need of 
all this restless thinking of the present day is, to 
be put once more in connection with its roots 
in the past; to cherish a more habitual sense of 
the significance of those long lines of gradually 
brightening faith which came to their brightest 
in Christ, to rest with quieter trust in the great 
religious truths to which those lines have led, 
and which they practically settled. 

This is the help which I have found myself, 
and I want to help others to feel it. There have 
been times in my life — I dare say every one of 
you has experienced the same — when I needed 
no help, when I felt no doubt ; when God and Im- 
mortality were just as plainly real to me as the 
sun in Heaven. Ah, if one could be always at 
that height ! If one could fix the soul in one of 
those hours of clearest faith, then we might not 
need any help of the past, nor any more authori- 


tative conviction than our own. But then, who 
can do this? With most, those hours of dear 
personal vision are only few and far between. 
There come other times when the soul strains its 
gaze into the surrounding mystery and can see 
nothing clearly, and feels as if all were doubtful. 
Yet, is all doubtful? Surely not! Is this great 
world of outward forms and substances less real 
because some are altogether blind, and many 
colour-blind, and the eyes of all, at times so 
dimmed by pain or tears, that they know not 
what is real ? And so that great spiritual world, 
of Soul, and God, and Prayer, and Life beyond, 
is not really doubtful because the mists of doubt 
or sin so often cloud the inner sight or because 
our thoughts are sometimes dazed by the very 
intensity of thinking. Ah, it is then I feel the 
help of those old Bible pages in which the 
Psalmists and Prophets of the past bear witness 
to the ever brightening truth of God. It is there 
that comes in the help of him whose faith was 
never wavering, whose sight was never dim, and 
out of whose constant communion with God, 
came such clear, inspired certainty. Yes! In 
him I feel the larger life which arches over these 
shifting moods of Man. In him I know that it 
is not my times of doubt, but my times of faith 
that correspond to the eternal realities of things 


— and resting so, sitting at the Master's feet, by 
and bye the times of faith come back with their 
new strength for life. 

Mark you, it is not some minute system of doc- 
trine, such as Theologians have worked up into 
their creeds that thus comes to me. I think the 
more I study Christ's life and word, and feel a 
light and power of revelation in it, the less in- 
clined I am to try to settle all the details of be- 
lief, which yet are interesting enough in a way. 
But what comes to me, is, a great certainty at the 
foundation of things, a conviction deeper than 
any argument, that all that side of life is real — 
God, worship, duty, immortality — and that is 
what we all most need. 

This word I am trying to say is one which 
seems to me to grow more and more important. 
Just because education is spreading, just because 
all subjects are canvassed and discussed as never 
before, perhaps since the great intellectual out- 
break of the Renaissance and the great outbreak 
of religious thought at the Reformation — just 
because there is a tendency to ask for everything 
to be proved, is it important to remind men that 
in all the higher department of human nature, 
the best things are not susceptible of proof, do 
not come by argument, but rise up in the holiest 
souls in that " inner sight " " which is the bliss 


of solitude " and so become simply " revela- 
tions " to the common world. It has kept com- 
ing to me more and more, from my observa- 
tion of the w^orld and from my ov^n con- 
sciousness — this sense of hov^ v^e need some- 
thing to rest in, something to preach from, more 
strong and sure and unchanging than individual 
thought — and v^ith this the sense that v^e have it 
— here in this Spirit and Word of Jesus Christ. 
I believe that this is what the world needs to- 
day. There is a deep craving abroad for some 
certainty in Religion — to know — not all the 
details of Divine Realities, I think there never 
was more impatience of all pretence to map out 
these — but to be sure of the foundation, that 
the Divine is real and man's life folded in by 
Divine meaning, and moving on within the care 
of infinite Love. And this is here for us, in that 
" mind of the Master " which even in our own 
day has been brought out with a new clearness 
and is at once the highest thought of man and 
the revelation of the heart of God. I want us 
to put our hands in his and walk with him in 
the ways of the spirit. Praising God, and pray- 
ing, with Him, doing all kind and helping things 
we can to those about our way, with Him, and 
thinking towards all further truths, to the fur- 
thest limit of our own mind and vision, and when 


we fail, cleaving to him still in what discipleship 
we may; knowing that with that spirit, that up- 
ward look and trust, that life — with man, in 
God — is the secret of all ultimate truth, and the 
way of final light. 


I TAKE this word, of the human heart of God 
as an expression for a divine love, compassion- 
ateness, companionship, more close and tender 
than any Theology has ever dared to formulate, 
or than any Theological term can express. I 
think that it was this which Christ was con- 
stantly trying to teach men. He felt how far 
away men were from any happy realising sense 
of a real fatherly companionship in their actual 
life. They believed in God. They believed that 
this great world was his creation. They believed 
that in the far-off past. He had come very close 
to Abraham and Isaac and the great patriarchs, 
and that Moses in the awful solitudes of Mount 
Sinai had heard his very words and written them 
down for men, for ever; and in their great 
Psalmists and Prophets his spirit and teaching 
had come into their souls with a Divine, uplift- 
ing and illuminating power. But they had no 
sense of anything of this kind now. The near- 
est they could come to it was to go to the syna- 
gogue and read how the saints of old had felt 



about God, or sometimes when they were able 
to visit the Temple itself to feel how in the Holy 
of Holies there, God's presence was so perfect 
that even the High Priest dare only enter it once 
a year. But as for Peter, when he was sitting 
mending his nets and getting ready for a night's 
fishing, having any feelings of God being with 
him, or that it would be a pleasant sense of com- 
panionship to think of Him so — or as for 
Peter's wife, in the midst of her house-work or 
when the bed-ridden mother who lived with them 
was cross or impatient, just resting her heart in 
the thought of the Heavenly Father being there 
with her and sympathising with her — why, they 
did not feel like that, or think of it as the thing 
to feel. And that was what Jesus did feel, and 
wanted all men to feel, and what he preached in 
his gospel, or '* good news," and tried to draw 
men to him to shew them, and to make them see 
it and feel it, as he did. For he could not help 
feeling that if he only could get men close to 
him, and believing in him so that he could open 
his heart to them, they also would see God and 
feel this Fatherhood in everything, and in their 
own hearts, even as he did. That is how that 
word comes in so closely to his thought, " If ye 
had known me ye should have known my Father 
also ! " It was a word to his disciples, who had 


come to him, and been with him, and thought 
they knew him, but yet had been half bhnded to 
all his deeper meaning by their thought — which 
they still kept clinging to — of his going to be 
their King. 

The Human Heart of God: As one tries to 
realise this, as what Christ wanted to teach 
others, because he so felt it himself, the thought 
arises — How came he to feel it so ? Why, that 
saying — '' If ye had known me, ye should have 
known my father also," seems so high, so above 
what any human being could say, that some doubt 
whether he ever did say it, whether it was not 
some mere gloss or addition of the writer of this 
gospel; or, if Jesus did say it, whether it would 
not tend to prove that he felt himself God, as 
after ages made him out to be. But in reality 
there is not a shadow of such a meaning in it! 
All through, he is trying to direct men's thoughts 
to the One Infinite God whom his people had 
always believed in, but whom they had put so 
far away; he is trying to bring their thought of 
that Infinite God from the far-off inaccessibility 
in which they had been thinking of Him. *' It 
is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth and 
the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers ! " 
That was the kind of saying that the Hebrew 
mind dwelt upon. It was along that line that 


the Rabbinical Schools felt their way towards 
the Divine. But it was not in the Rabbinical 
schools that Jesus found Him. He made out the 
heart of God from his own heart. It was 
knowledge of God at first hand. One cannot 
help thinking that it came first of Mary's 
mother-teaching, that this first opened the child 
heart to the great, almost forgotten reality of 
God's close presence, and that so came that 
watching and waiting of the pure, open soul, to 
which gradually were borne in impressions, dis- 
cernments, impulses, which revealed themselves 
to him as the working of the Divine in him. 
Does any one ask how much was of himself and 
how much of the spirit of God? Who can ever 
say, in any of the great revelations of high truth 
and holy presence, that have lighted up the path 
of man's uplooking through the ages with a light 
above man's own. But here and there in his ut- 
terances of this reciprocal consciousness, you 
catch some glimpse of how he felt it. '' Believe 
me that I am in the Father and the Father in 
me ! " " The words that I speak unto you, I 
speak not of myself," and, highest of all : '' I 
and my father are one ! " In all his best life he 
felt that Divine companionship, that it was not 
just he himself thinking and feeling, but he and 
God, thinking, feeling, together — and especially 


tne very highest thought, the very tenderest feel- 
ing, that in which he most seemed Hfted out of 
self and above self — that, God's. Certainly it 
was a very exalted feeling — and it is not strange 
that those who had not come anywhere near this 
feeling misunderstood him. I do not wonder 
that the sharp rabbinical critics of Jerusalem — 
steeped to the eyes in technicalities and formal- 
ism — when they heard him talk that way, cried 
out that he was *' blaspheming " and " making 
himself out to be God ! " I do not wonder that 
the most even of his disciples retained very little 
of that side of his teaching (of his close life with 
God) in their remembrance; and that even John, 
who had the tenderest sympathy with that deep- 
est side of Christ, and remembered most of it, 
did not always remember it quite clearly, and 
still further failed to transmit it clearly to his 
followers; so that in these gathered recollections 
of his teachings which give us John's teaching 
of the Gospel, there are dark and perplexing 
sayings, as well as these exceedingly bright ones. 
And so again, I do not wonder that at a still 
later time when Christian faith had cooled down, 
quite away from any living realisation of 
Christ's feeling, men said straight out that he 
must have been God to have spoken so. And 
still, as I read and read, I know that all that 


Deification is a mistake, and a mistake that has 
taken men away from Christ's real thought and 
feehng, and from the very thing he was trying 
to do. For that thing he was always trying to 
do, was to lift all men with him, into the same 
sense of the Father's nearness — " He is in you 
also," he said. " He will be with you." And as 
clear as his word of his being one with this in- 
dwelling spirit of God, is his great prayer that 
his disciples also might be One, in that same 
oneness! And though he never used the ex- 
pression of " The Human Heart of God," yet 
the phrases that he did use have been so much 
formalised and spoiled that this comes to me as 
about the freshest and most living phrase for 
that sense of close, divine companionship and 
sympathy which Christ so felt and wanted all to 

The Human Heart of God. Now, from try- 
ing to make out that highest way in which Christ 
felt this, let us come down to our own poorer 
and duller life and see what help it has for us. 
Why, to begin with, it starts us in our seeking 
for God at a nearer, more hopeful, point. " Feel- 
ing after God, if haply we may find him — " I 
suppose that is one of the old Bible words which 
most come home to our common experience. 


We long to know God more closely. For we 
know God is — must be, and if he were not any- 
thing to which we feel able to give such a per- 
sonal name, still there must be some Divine 
equivalent, even if it is only what Herbert 
Spencer calls the " Infinite energy that sustains 
all things." But whatever it is, or He is, how 
we do feel after it for some clear touch or 
thought or apprehension of that highest mystery. 
But we are always beginning at the wrong end! 
We begin with the abstract, with vast, far-away 
thoughts of Infinitude, or something as near 
Infinitude as we can think. We think of the 
vast spaces of the Infinite Heaven of worlds; 
and consider if we can fill them up with some 
conception of Being that could have any thought 
or care for us little insects of a day on this small- 
est of the sky's hinted worlds. And we cannot 
make much of it that way — nay, when we think 
out into those vast infinitudes, instead of finding 
much help to faith in God there, we have to take 
a pretty strong clear faith with us there, or we 
shall find nothing. Or again, we work along 
the thought of the moral — which is so much 
grander than the material — but still we are apt 
to start from the abstract. We begin by try- 
ing to imagine the Divine Perfection. That is 
where all the great theologies into which men 


have tried to systematize Christianity, have be- 
gun. They have begun with that far-off, ab- 
stract perfectness. God is there; that is God; 
and Man ought to be there, and if man is pal- 
pably not there, that is man's own fault and sin, 
explained this way or that. That abstract 
Divine perfectness is the sort of fixed point, by 
which, from which, all things are measured, and 
man put, (in his own thinking) almost hope- 
lessly away from God. 

It is true that these same Theologies, having 
thus started their systems with Man infinitely 
far away from God, have then proceeded to 
elaborate certain complicated systems for bring- 
ing him near again; and in all those systems 
Christ is brought in, as somehow bringing these 
two infinitely separated things (God and Man) 
together, on certain conditions, always, — of 
faith, or works, or by a certain sacramental pro- 
cess duly gone through. But all these things 
seem to me to miss the great essential thought of 
the heart of Christ. That thought is, through- 
out, of God's present love — God near to all — 
loving all — not just going to love them when 
they have been converted or changed and 
brought, somehow, near to Him, but loving them 
now, the sinner, the outcast, man even in the 
most elementary stage, even in his lowest sav- 


agism even in his furthest lapses into sin. Yes 
— God not loving sin — but understanding sin, 
not averted by it, pitying it, patient with it. The 
human heart of God. Yes — anything is better 
than that abstract thought of the Divine Heart 
(of the theologian) in its passionless perfection, 
turned all away from the common world's poor 
worldly living, and only in any close communion 
with pure souls in their most elevated moods. 
Nay, I would sooner follow the common human 
heart in all the familiar working of its interests, 
admirations and affections. They may seem 
small enough as they come out in any single life 
with its poor little limitations, and yet they may 
touch us with glimpses of a sort of divine meaning 
and suggestions of infinite possibilities. Here is 
a poor woman, " fussing among her plants " as 
her neighbours and children say — loving them, 
loving them like little children, putting this one 
in more sunshine, that into the shade, washing 
off the blight and scale, watching each new bud — 
such hope and such sorrow w^hen the bud does 
not come to a good flower but seems somehow to 
dry up and wither. That woman, with her lov- 
ing care for this infinitesimal fraction of the 
mighty world, is but a very small item in the 
forces which are the outcome of the infinite sus- 
taining energy that we call " God." Yet, as I 


follow this thought of the Human Heart of God, 
I seem to get a new glimpse of what all the 
mighty evolution of things means. Mr. R. A. 
Armstrong, in his book '' God and the Soul " (to 
my mind one of the best and most helpful books 
of the day) gives us as a phrase for the omni- 
present life of God in the world, this : " Atten- 
tion concentrated everywhere." Only let us add 
to this ^' Love." '' Loving attention." You know, 
so long as you have to conceive of one '^ infinite 
sustaining energy " in and through all things, it 
is no harder really to conceive of that " Infinite 
energy," that cosmic force, as love, also; it is 
only beginning at the human end of the vast 
force and having the courage of the thought. Be- 
gin, as I have said — not with the gravitation (of 
which we really know nothing) with which the 
Infinite Energy works among, the vasts of space, 
but with the loving care of a woman among her 
flowers. She and her flowers of which we know 
a good deal, are just as much outcomes of that 
Infinite Divine energy, as gravitation is — of 
which we know nothing. But begin here and 
even that little sense of human care and love en- 
larges into a sweet companion thought of Divine 
love and care, the shadow of a sweet presence. 
And when with that sweet companion thought 
and presence, you go among all the variety of 


human doings, I do not say it makes all plain, but 
here and there it touches things with little lights 
of interpretation which seem to come out of the 
meaning of the whole, which shew me the trend 
of the whole, and which help me to trust even 
where I cannot see. I see a true teacher among 
his boys, true parents among their children, try- 
ing harder than ever that woman works among 
her plants to train them up into good, happy, 
wholesome childhood, and so still on into good, 
wholesome, manhood and womanhood. Of 
course it is not a perfect trying anywhere and the 
results are just as imperfect, often dreadfully dis- 
appointing. The children don't grow straight, 
the men and women come up into poor stunted 
half lives — but all the process and all our disap- 
pointment at the poor result points to something 
higher ; and all our sense of impotence and failure 
does not excuse itself but finds a certain rest in 
the thought of the human heart of God ! 

And so it may be, too, when it is we ourselves 
who are the failures. I think the most pathetic 
thing in all this complicated Universe is its moral 
struggle. We conceive such high ideals and we 
fall in actual living so pitifully below them. Here 
is a man with, as Burns wrote of himself ''pas- 
sions wild and strong." Perhaps he has many 
noble thoughts of life, but he yields to the tempta- 


tions; then he is ashamed and despondent. In 
that shame he feels as if God could have no joy 
in him, no love for him, could only regard him as 
a hypocrite and resent any thanksgiving and 
prayers from him as lies and insults. It may not 
be so bad with you, but we all know something of 
what it is. For an outburst of angry temper or 
one mean piece of selfishness, may sweep av/ay 
all our piety and make us ashamed of the good we 
have thought of but have let go. We feel afraid 
to look into the face of God — what is that perfect 
holiness to us ? We are afraid to worship, afraid 
to think of him as near us. But when this 
thought comes to me of the Human Heart of 
God, I do not feel that it makes any wrong do- 
ing less, but it does help me still to cling to God, 
and not utterly to despair. One hesitates perhaps 
to think much about it for oneself, for fear of 
seeming to excuse oneself, but for all the poor 
weak sinning of the world it comes as such a 
light and help. Why are we to be impatient or 
despairing because people are only at the poor 
beginnings of that ideal goodness towards which 
God is leading on His world ? The world is only 
at the beginning of it! Even the best, most ad- 
vanced part of the world, is only at the beginning 
of the real highest life, as we see it shadowed 
forth to us in the noblest. And down among the 


least advanced, the lowest races of the world, we 
can but grope about with our thoughts of evolu- 
tion and a dim sense of the measureless ages 
through which we have been brought even to 
where we are. But surely it has been a power 
v/orking towards good, and meaning the good, 
that has been leading all on, and is leading all 
on still to heights far above our noblest actual, in 
which Christ lives, in the very heart of the Eter- 
nal ; interpreting that heart of God to the heart of 
man, in Love. That is why Christianity lays such 
supreme stress on love. True, it puts righteous- 
ness in all sorts of flashing lights of meaning 
and attractiveness, and sometimes of awe and fear 
lest we should lose it — but over all love, for love 
is the power that really lifts man up, making some 
finer greatness than he has, beautiful and ad- 
mirable to him, so that he longs for it and is 
stirred by it to loyalty, imitation, self surrender. 
And so, through the human heart of man, climb- 
ing a little toward higher things through the long 
dim past, and through that highest human heart 
which Christ has shewn us in himself and in our 
best self, through all this we get some sense of 
the Human Heart of God. And when once we 
have got this thought and clasped it to us, — I 
do not say it makes all things plain, but it does 
touch with some new lights of meaning and trust, 


alike the long, dim past, and the confused and 
tangled present — and the vast, vague eternity 
beyond. And here, in this little fragment of the 
whole, where we are struggling on, to-day, it 
helps us to rest in God a little more confidently, 
and even through all shame of weakness and fail- 
ure and sin, to know that we are still in His heart 
of meaning, and that nothing can separate us 
from the Love of God. 


There is a truth in these words which is too 
much left out in our modern religious thinking, 
and to which I want to draw your attention. 
'' Foreknowledge/' " Foreordination," '' Predes- 
tination," — they all refer essentially to the same 
thought, and it is a thought which the Liberalism 
of to-day rather shrinks from. This is the day of 
self-reliance. Man's nature and power are mag- 
nified more than ever before. And yet, when 
this exuberant feeling of freedom has done its 
most and its best, man finds himself constantly 
confronted, stopped by facts, tendencies, forces 
against which he is powerless, and which if this 
universe is a universe of orderly meaning, mean 
another larger will than ours. In man's religious 
thinking he has called this " the foreordination of 
God " — I like that word for it best. It is a deep 
subject, touching on one side the highest ques- 
tions of metaphysics and philosophy ; and as such 
it might seem beyond the scope of our considera- 
tion here. But then, it is a subject which on the 
hither-side touches every alternative of our daily 



living, our thoughts of duty, our struggles after 
righteousness, everything on which moral life de- 
pends, and so we have to have some thought about 
it ; and it may be helpful to see some of the great 
thoughts of men about it, and especially to see 
what were the real thoughts of the Gospel men 
and times. 

Perhaps in the forefront of the world's 
thought on the subject of God's foreordination 
stands Calvinism. Calvinism was based entirely 
on God's foreordination, and carried out the 
thought with a rigid and remorseless literalism, 
as if foreordination, was the whole truth, and the 
one absolute equation of man's life and destiny. 
It did not do so at the beginning. It is often for- 
gotten what a noble rebound of real faith Cal- 
vinism was in its beginning. You see, in the mid- 
dle ages. Religion had more and more come to be 
summed up in Purgatory. The popular religion 
of the middle ages concentrated its real force and 
interest on Heaven, and Hell, and especially on 
Purgatory. You see the intensity of its interest, 
in Art, Literature ; the pictures of Judgment, the 
Epics of Dante, Purgatory occupied the whole 
horizon of thought. The Reformation tore all 
that away; all that higgling of Priests about in- 
dulgences, all that apparatus of masses and 
prayers for the dead. The Reformation tore all 


that away, and threw men back on — what? On 
the foreordination of God! God has settled all 
that beforehand — in the mighty sweep of his 
world-plan. He hasn't left it to be bargained over 
by the priest's masses or Tetzel's indulgences. It 
is all settled — if for Heaven, then " Glory be to 
God " ; if for Hell, still not ours to dispute it, 
" Glory be to God." 

Leave all that eternal future in God's settlement 
of it, and, now, go to work, here in this present 
world, where God is calling us to do His present 
will, and to set up His present kingdom! That 
was the spirit of the first Calvinism ; and what a 
deliverance it was to feel that all that eternal 
future was out of their hand or care, history 
shows. Probably nothing could have done away 
with all that peddling and fussing about the fu- 
ture, except that strong, simple truth, even so im- 
perfectly conceived as it was, of the Foreordina- 
tion of God. And if men had left it there, simply 
as a great rock of trust in the background of 
their thought, it would have been well. But they 
could not leave it there. By and bye theorizing 
began, and the wire-drawing of logic. All souls 
foreordained to Heaven or Hell before they were 
born? The moment men began to look closely 
into that, all sorts of difficulties arose. What of 
infants, dying before they were old enough to 


have done either right, or wrong, it seemed as 
if foreordination must involve Infants being in 
Hell ! Then, in another direction ; if all that eter- 
nal future is settled by Divine decree irrespective 
of life or character, what can it matter whether 
one's life be good or bad, and foreordination, car- 
ried to that extreme, landed men in the moral 
chaos of Antinomianism. 

Well, Calvinism had its day, a strong day, dur- 
ing the fighting and struggling time of the Refor- 
mation ; for it was a grim time, and it needed an 
iron creed to carry men through; but when it 
came to a religion simply for common living, it 
would not do. It had been clamped and bolted to- 
gether, well, with numberless texts, but the nat- 
ural heart and conscience were too strong for it. 
Men could not believe in a God — sending 

" Ane to Heaven and ten to Hell 

"A' for thy glory, 
" And nae for ony guid or ill 

" They've done afore ye." 

All sorts of schemes, of semi-Calvinism and so 
forth were attempted, but finally it has practically 
disappeared; only the trouble is that it has left 
behind it a prejudice against the whole thought 
of foreordination, whereas, as I have said, that is 
a truth based in the very reality of things and not 


to be let go without loss and harm to all true relig- 
ious life. 

The trouble with Calvinism's setting forth of 
foreordination was that it took it as if it were 
the whole of truth, and worked from it with the 
rigid literalism which has exaggerated and de- 
faced so many of the Bible words. 

In reality one great thought runs through the 
Bible, through the w^hole of the old Hebrew his- 
tory — not equally felt at all times or by all, but 
aways coming up again — and illuminating their 
whole history. That thought was, of a great 
purpose of God, to be worked out in men, and 
to be worked out by them. Yes, " by " them — 
always the thought of their part went along with 
the greater dominating thought of God's pur- 
pose. Their part might fail. " Who hath be- 
lieved our report?" cried the greatest of their 
prophets. They might be unfaithful to God's 
trust, then would it be given to others to fulfil; 
but fulfilled it would surely be ! This was '' Fore- 
ordination " as it grew up in the mind of Israel, 
nothing to do with man's eternal personal des- 
tiny, to which Calvinism especially applied it, 
but the thought of a great Divine plan and pur- 
pose running through the ages. And when you 
come to the development of it, in the thought of 
Christ and Paul and the early Christians, you see 


at once what a tremendous strength it gave them. 
Their whole work was done in the great sense, 
that they were not the mere opportunists of a new 
religious movement, but the agents of God's 
providence, carrying on a work which had been 
in the eternal mind from the beginning of the 
world ! 

You see this in Christ himself. We are not 
to think of him as of some casual reformer, who 
saw formalism and ceremonialism lording it over 
the people and who rose up to denounce them. 
The thought of the great work his people might 
be doing for the truth of God possessed his soul. 
"Ye are the light of the world," he said! In- 
stead, they were hiding it under a bushel; it 
was upon his soul to lift it up, to inspire his 
people with the ancient thought of the glory of it, 
and to lead them into a new life of showing it 
to the world! The Jews upbraided him as an 
upstart, an ignorant, unauthorised Galilean set- 
ting his word against all their ancient law and 
way. '' The word that I speak unto you, I speak 
not of myself ! " was his reply. They quoted 
Abraham. " Abraham saw my day and was 
glad" — the ''teaching of Abraham carried in 
its heart this Gospel I am giving you." They 
mocked. '' Thou art not yet fifty years old, 
and hast thou seen Abraham?" But he was 


speaking not of personal things but of that great 
movement of pure religion of which he saw the 
beginning in Abraham, and felt the later inspira- 
tion in himself — and all, Abraham, and He, 
alike the agents of that great foreordination. 
'' Before Abraham was, I am " was his great 
word. People have taken that — the Jews 
took it — as an assertion of personal pre- 
existence, but that was only a clumsy low- 
ering of his thought. He was plainly speak- 
ing of this great claim of the divine ed- 
ucation of the world, and asserting his own 
place as a link in it, and all in the mind of 
God from the beginning. That is the thought 
he loved to fall back upon — that was what he 
meant by his '' Messiahship," that he was fulfill- 
ing a great purpose of God which was from the 
foundation of the world. That was his strength 
and glory. That is what he prayed might more 
and more appear. " Now, O Father, glorify me 
with that glory which was before the worlds ! " 
It was no cheap, personal ambition, but his con- 
fident prayer for the outshining of that divine 
light and truth which at the moment seemed 
to be rejected and despised. 

That this was the meaning in the Master's 
heart we are confirmed in feeling, by seeing 
how the Apostles took it in, and dwelt on it, as 


one of the most uplifting thoughts of their own 
ministry. For the same obloquy which assailed 
their master assailed them still more. Who were 
they, ignorant upstarts contradicting the ancient 
things, and preaching a Christ whose claim had 
been manifestly disallowed by God, disproved 
by the shameful ending of the cross? Realise 
that, and then you will understand the strength 
they found in falling back upon the foreordina- 
tion of God, and how this grew into one of the 
great stock thoughts of their preaching. They 
were nothing in themselves, but in Christ they 
were part of God's meaning and purpose from 
the foundation of the world. They were not dis- 
couraged by the crucifixion. If the Jews " by 
wicked hands " had crucified him, it was " by 
the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of 
God " that he had been '' delivered up." He 
was '' the lamb that was slain from the founda- 
tion of the world " ; that saying alone should be 
enough to take away any idea of personal pre- 
existence from these allusions, the whole thought 
was, of all as in the mind of God, from the 

This great thought lifted them above all fail- 
ure. And so they used it to overcome the dis- 
trust, the fears, the weakness of their followers. 
" God hath chosen us in him, before the founda- 


tion of the world, having predestined us by the 
adoption of children." 

Hence the tone of glad assurance and encour- 
agement that rings through those early Chris- 
tian writings. " Ye are the elect of God ! " " God 
hath called you " ; " he hath predestined you,'* 
to this new life in Christ! Think with what 
force and help such words would come to those 
poor labourers in Rome or Corinth — water- 
carriers and quarry-men, and humblest folk, who 
before had lived on from day to day with no 
thought that any God in Heaven or Earth cared 
for them, or wanted them. " God wants you ! " 
He wants even you to help Him in this mighty 
world-plan for the salvation of mankind — and 
not them alone, so God wanted all men, called 
all men! Grand words of assurance and en- 
couragement, and always leaving place for per- 
sonal effort, but personal effort based upon the 
sense of a great divine impulse and leading, which 
foreordains the good, and asks for our help, but 
w^ill surely fulfill, even if we fail or turn aside. 

There is the great difference between Fore- 
ordination as a doctrine in Calvinism, and fore- 
ordination as a great assurance of Faith, in the 
New Testament. Calvinism took these great 
assurances of Faith and treated them as so many 
exact propositions of theological science, and then 


with the rigid literalism which has spoiled so 
many of the grand old Bible sayings, it worked 
them up into a categorical system of everything 
being exactly and unchangingly foreseen for all 
eternity. No room for possibility of change, no 
room for man's free action. But in reahty, the 
old Bible words which thus were treated as ex- 
act theological propositions, were nothing of the 
kind! Paul was not writing theology, or shap- 
ing out systems. He was writing strengthening 
letters to weak men and women, just assuring 
them that God had need of them, wanted even 
their help and witness in His mighty plan; and 
really in his strongest utterances of Divine plan 
and will, appealing for man's help to be given 

It is that old truth of Foreordination, not as 
Calvinism disfigured and narrowed it, but as it 
lay as a great faith in the heart of Christ and 
Paul and that earliest Christian time; it is that 
old truth of a Divine purpose and power in the 
world leading things on, that we want to bring 
back a little more into our religious faith. We 
are still too apt to feel as if we, and all the works 
and institutions of the world, were mere casual 
incidents in a vast order of things — sometimes 
it almost looks to us like a vast disorder — in 
which we have to do the best we can, now for 


each other, or for some seeming good of the 
whole. Yet our very science, our study of out- 
ward nature, might teach us better. No lack 
of a long, slowly working order there ! I think it 
was Huxley who used to say " there is a great 
deal of Calvinism in nature." Through what 
seems, looked at in detail, infinite variety, con- 
fusion sometimes almost to caprice, we get con- 
tinual glimpses of a vast world-order, slowly, 
remorselessly working itself out. Nay, not 
** working itself " out. If it were simply one 
continually repeated grind, the same order over 
and over again, then it might conceivably be that 

— but a vast world-order that has constant prog- 
ress in it, from fire mist to circling spheres, from 
circling spheres to worlds — one of them at least, 
grassing over, developing life — life still in or- 
derly, upward progress, from monad up to man 

— from man in the mere bones and muscle and 
passion of the savage, to man in the brain and 
conscience and heart of the sage or Saint? Is 
there no foreordination there? Is all this won- 
derful creation something that has taken this 
form, or that, haphazard, and at last stumbled 
into man ? And then, onward still, stumbled into 
human progress, and into the great personalities 
of history? Did not the Almighty mind mean 
" man " from the beginning ? Is it not Fore- 


ordination all along the line of evolution ? Is not 
evolution indeed, merely the scientific name for 
that great Foreordination ? ''Thou lovedst me 
from the foundation of the world," said Christ 
in his prayer, and it has seemed to men an aw- 
ful word to have said, but is it not really true 
of every son of man? In that great plan for the 
leading on of man towards truth, towards good- 
ness, towards all nobler life, does not God love 
his Christ's only? Is not every soul that shares 
their service, called to it, and dear to the Infinite 
heart? And what a strength is in that thought 
for all who dare to share, however humbly, in 
doing any little work that may make the world 
a better, happier place! Look at it how you 
will, the thought is an uplifting one. The poet's 
dream of '' One far off divine event, to which 
the whole creation moves " — nay, it is not a 
mere dream, say rather a vision of the uplifted 
soul ! 

Of course one cannot outline it all exactly and 
say, in all the busy turmoil of our doings, how 
much is the foreordination of God, and how much 
the contribution of man's free will, or how (if 
God has foreordained anything) man can really 
have any free part. And man can go on puzzling, 
indeed men have done ever since they began to 
think of such things at all, puzzling themselves 


to reconcile the two — God's foreknowledge, and 
man's freedom. Perhaps man's logic never will 
reconcile the two, but man's life has to reconcile 
them every day; and all good, earnest life, living 
to any large thought of duty, and trying to be 
on the side of the world's forces of good, loses all 
difficulty — works not as one bound or fettered, 
but with a gladder and more eager freedom be- 
cause feeling that the world's forces of good, 
are foreordained of God, and foreordained to 
conquer in the end. I remember James Freeman 
Clarke speaking of how this came to those who 
like himself had struggled (through the great 
Civil War in America) to lift that war above 
mere politics and keep it true to its greater issues 
of freedom. He said that for long, they seemed 
to be struggling alone, all in confusion, but as 
the end drew on, the greater meanings seemed 
to clear themselves — and when the great events 
came, one by one, the abolition of slavery, the 
Fall of Richmond, the close of the war — he said 
— they felt as if these were not their doing, but 
" came like things foreordained from the founda- 
tion of the world." 

No! Once more, it is not a doctrine I am 
arguing to prove; but, that we take in, a little 
more, into our hearts and lives the thought of 
the Divine meanings, working themselves out 


in human history, and the divine meanings that 
are always in the world, mutely appealing to us 
all to take hold and keep them on! Not ours 
perhaps to see exactly what the end shall be — 
not ours at all to see the final victory — but ours 
to press on in the direction of the light, doing 
all helpfulness and kindness as we march along, 
and feeling that the ways of God though slow 
are sure, sure from the foundation of the world, 
sure into the far recesses of eternity. 


The healing forces in Nature, and especially 
the quiet way in which they seem to work ; — 
that is the thought suggested to me by the old 
gospel story — of the poor infirm man healed 
at the Pool of Bethesda and not knowing who 
had healed him. Destruction is often sudden 
enough both in nature and in human history, 
but healing and restoration so often work quietly 
and silently. I do not give it as any new idea, 
but it is one of those old thoughts which is well 
worth following out a little, not only as a curious 
matter of observation — but as a thought with 
help and truth in it, a thought to bring us nearer 
to the Infinite Life that works in this beautiful 
silent way, — and also to help us to do our part, 
and to be content to do it, more in the same 
quiet way. 

Look at the healing work in Nature. The lower 
down you begin, the more visibly striking it 
is. In the very lowest forms of life you often see 
them seemingly destroyed in some essential, but 
nature grows on a new part, and quietly makes 



them right again. Here and there you pick up 
a star-fish on the sand, that has thus had one of 
its tentacles broken off and grown again. Watch 
the boat-man going his round among his lobster- 
pots and here and there it is a lobster or a crab 
that has thus lost a claw, and had it restored — 
a little smaller than the original one, but still 
a serviceable limb. You break a twig, or even 
a bough, off a tree ; and something begins silently 
to heal the scar, and in doing so to make up 
for the loss by some new growth all about. You 
cannot actually see those quiet restorative pro- 
cesses by which Nature thus begins to make all 
right again. You may watch, but it is like a 
child watching the hour-hand of the clock, or 
the shadow of the sun — it gets from point to 
point, but you cannot see the movement. You can 
see the lightning-flash — but you can not see 
the electricity accumulating. So on a larger scale. 
You wound the green surface of the earth with 
spade or plough; you pile the fiery slag-heaps 
from the furnace upon the fields, or disfigure 
the valley side with the great bare cutting or 
embankment of your railroad. Quietly, silently, 
the healing forces of God go to work to make 
all right again. The winds are His messengers. 
The birds carry seeds for Him. The very earth 
worms do their humble service. In a little while. 


the raw furrows show a sheen of vegetation; 
the scarpment of the railroad is grassing over; 
the very slag-heaps shew here and there a weed, 
and by and by whole patches of greenery. It 
makes one feel as if the whole atmosphere must 
be full of spores and seeds, waiting for any place 
where they may find the chance to grow. You 
call them weeds perhaps, though, bear in mind, 
the more you know of them, the less inclined 
you will be to call them so ; and the real botanist 
prizes every little meanest one of them, and gives 
it a respectful Latin name, and stores it among 
his treasures. And the Lord cares for them all, 
for these also are a part of His ways, and thus 
*' He reneweth the face of the earth." 

Or, come up higher. Look at all this in these 
bodies of ours. You cut your finger: you can 
see and feel that. But who can see the actual 
working of the process, by which it heals again. 
You talk of granulation and the formation of 
tiny cells one from another, and so forth. True, 
but that is only the merest outside of the mat- 
ter, and there your knowledge stops. Often you 
cannot tell even so much. Here is a poor woman 
lying sick and ill in a room that since she lay 
there has grown littered and dirty, with foul bad 
air, and children messing about; and the doctor 
comes, and reads the story at a glance, — hard 


work, poor food ; — for what medicine can do, 
gives such remedy as he can, at least to help 
things, and as he will say to you, to give nature 
a chance — but '' he will ask the district nurse 
to call." Ah, there is some help ! — a kind 
woman's face; a deft womanly hand, making 
some kind of a pillow, straightening things out 
a little, encouraging the eldest child to do what 
she can; opening the window, sponging the hot 
face and grimy hands; and shewing the neigh- 
bor-body loitering helplessly about, half a dozen 
little things that any one can do, once shewn how ; 
why when the nurse goes away to some other poor 
sufferer, even before the little morsel of nicely 
cooked food that she will perhaps send, is come, 
the poor woman feels the room a sweeter place, 
and can be more patient with the children, and 
feels in herself, a new hope of getting well again, 
— and a cheery thought, perhaps, of how that 
little room might be a brighter place than for a 
long time past she has had spirit to make it. 

Or, you take an ailing, drooping child out of 
the close, bad air of some poor court, away to the 
seaside or the open hills; and gradually the thin 
little limbs fill out, and the pale face shews a new 
colour, and the listless, feeble voice is shout- 
ing with the children at play. What is it ? Who 
has done it? Somebody will tell you perhaps 


that it is the " ozone " in the air. But how 
far in, does that go to any real explanation? 
It may be true as far as it does go — but how 
far in is that? The Psalmist did not know 
much about ozone — but his thought about 
such things, was — " Bless the Lord, O my 
soul, and forget not all his benefits! who 
healeth all thy diseases, who redeemeth thy 
life from destruction; who crowneth thee 
with loving-kindness and tender mercy ! " I 
do not see why the two thoughts should not 
go together. For they belong together. That 
is why I have put as my subject the healing 
forces of God. Of Nature, if you will, cer- 
tainly — or rather in Nature — ; but that only 
sends us to outward phenomena, and trains of 
carefully observed cause and effect, and we are 
soon at the end of all we know, or are likely 
to know. Do not let even that little that we 
observe in the outward order be despised. The 
true thought reaches all the way from the vast 
invisible life that we call God, to the visible 
life and form of outward Nature. As Tenny- 
son says — 

" If He thunder by Law, the thunder is yet 
His voice " and if we find out the law of the thun- 
der, still God is there; and so if we find out the 
law of our healing, still God is there. The true 


thought will keep the two things together, all 
the outward fact and law that we can observe, 
and all the Divine meaning and Will, to which, 
(with however long a gap in our tracing), our 
observation leads us back. So we have to in- 
clude in grateful reverence not only all our faith 
in the soul and God, but the outward body and 
the natural world, and all the science and all 
the law that are stored in the chemist's shelves, 
or in the Physician's brain. There is the es- 
sential shallowness of this latest fad which calls 
itself *' Christian science," but which is really 
as far from Christianity as from science. It en- 
tirely dissociates the outward fact and law, from 
the inward spiritual and divine. It treats the 
outward order, with its disorders which are only 
another side of the order, as nothing — mere 
evil illusion, the belief that they are anything 
being in fact the only real disease! We are to 
think ourselves part of God. The one formula 
for all outward ailment — or what we think out- 
ward ailment, is, to become absolutely possessed 
with the omnipresence and love of God ! 

The extravagance is all the sadder because it 
borders upon the deepest truth, but taking in 
that alone, and out of all proportion, not only 
makes itself ridiculous, and tends to set people 
against it. For God is in all things; and in 


the make-up of our complex human being Mind 
is King. Among the " heaHng forces of God/' 
are faith, and happy trust, and man's own will 
— these are part — but to treat any of them 
as all, is just '' the falsehood of extremes." 
After all, the body, also, is the Lord's, and fear- 
fully and wonderfully made; and its laws also 
are " parts of His ways." So let man study rev- 
erently the Physical laws, the laws of bodily 
health among them — and follow them out and 
make the best of them. Only, let these thoughts 
of law and knowledge lie in man's mind, folded 
in the vaster thought which we call God. 

I said that all this is a thought of Trust. And 
I think it is. Knowledge is something — yes, 
is much — and yet when we have followed it 
the best and closest that we can, it goes such 
a little way, after all, back into the real nature 
of things; but as it shades away out of our 
sight, it shades off, not into nothingness or a 
mere confusion of half-seen facts and fancies, 
but into a mystery of dimly discerned life and 
will, and of vast, hinted meanings. 

Among those hinted meanings is this which 
all that I have said leads up to: A sort of heal- 
ing impulse seems to be part of the Animating 
force of Nature. It is not a little detail of 
Zoology or Botany. It seems part of the prin- 


ciple of things — a silent tendency towards order, 
beauty, life. The original force of evolution, 
in spite of some reversions here and there is 
quietly onward. You may not see it to-day; 
but look at the universe of the primal fire-mists 
and compare it with the universe into which 
it has grown, to-day, and the onward tendency 
is unmistakable — and the more you allow for 
the occasional cataclysms which mark off the 
cosmic periods, and have seemed so destructive, 
the more you are impressed with the silent re- 
storative and healing forces which have kept re- 
newing the face of the world. We have to 
take in that, as the background of all our studies 
of the ways of things in Nature, and of all our 
endeavours to do any healing we can, ourselves. 
And it is a great thought of trust. Man, in his 
attempts at healing, however poor they may be, 
is helping the great meanings of God. And 
he will do his healing part the better, more con- 
fident when on the right track, and less dis- 
mayed by sometimes failures, — if he remem- 
bers this great truth and thinks of it — " God's 
Healing forces." 

I think it is here that the story of Christ 
always has a meaning in the world's life, beyond 
that of any private individual of this or that time, 
however wise and good. It seems as if that 


overmastering sense of sonship and of working 
with the indwelHng spirit of God — something 
which all God's children might have and which 
he longed for all to have — but oh how few had it, 
or even dream of what it might be — was to him, 
life's great reality. And it seems as if that lifted 
him into a real leadership and Lordship over 
the thought and life of man. And in nothing 
was this more striking, than in his ministry 
and proclamation of new life to men. Life, hope, 
blessing and all healing, in the new life of men, 
in the love of God and of one another — that 
was the essence of his gospel. The world seemed 
a crushed, crippled world to him. Among his 
own people their very religion, seemed rather 
to be crushing men, than uplifting them. In 
that old light of the Law, all life lay burdened 
by judgment. All disease, especially, was judg- 
ment for some sin, even if men did not know 
what. That thought crushed the fresh energy 
which might have striven for health. Such ef- 
fort would seem mere useless writhing against 
the decrees. It was not the mere sickness, it 
was this crushed, hopeless condition that called 
Jesus forth. With his heart full of the sense of 
the life-giving presence and love of God, it 
seemed as if the very message of that would 
be blessing and healing to the world. How much 


the Spring and power of that message had to do 
with all that healing that we read of, and with 
all the impression of healing power in him which 
irradiates the Gospel story, who shall say? Sim- 
ply it seems as if, wherever he came, something 
of a new life, and with it a new gladness of 
health, pulsed through the multitudes who gath- 
ered around him. And some explain it one way, 
some another ; '^ faith," " power of mind over 
matter " ; — and some — among whom I claim a 
place — do not explain it, simple accepting 
Christ's feeling about it which found God's power 
in the forefront of it, himself only the humble 

But it is with regard to the higher moral and 
spiritual healings, that the thought of the man 
not knowing who had healed him, comes with 
deepest suggestiveness. Christ's miracles of 
healing are always going on — though now peo- 
ple say : " it is only the healing of the soul." 
Only? as if there was any healing in the world 
to compare with that of turning a man from 
evil to good, and helping him to keep on trying 
and trying again, until he is a changed man. 
That was the greatest wonder in the old time. 
So quietly he came, unnoticed in the crowding 
of history : — a Syrian peasant, — which was 
all men saw of him, a Syrian peasant — musing 


on the Salvation of the world. And for a year 
or two he preached the new life among the peo- 
ple, and then he passed away out of sight, as he 
did that day from the pool of Bethesda. But 
when he left the world, he left it different from 
what he found it ; — new seeds were growing 
in it, new forces; the blind soul saw, the par- 
alysed will rose up and w^alked, the crippled life 
of man stood upright on its feet. And yet so 
quietly did the blessing come, so little with any 
" observation," that it was as the old word says : 
" He that was healed wist not who it was." 
They thought — that was the form their wonder 
grew into — that it must have been God himself 
who had come down and wrought such blessing. 
They did not know the imperishable power there 
is in simple human goodness working in love of 
God and man ; in a simple human soul raised to its 
highest power by the felt indwelling of the spirit. 
But then, since Christ shewed men how, the heal- 
ing work of his life and spirit has been repeated 
all along the ages — and always in the same 
quiet way. Mostly men have not recognised it. 
They have set up their great hierarchies, shak- 
ing the earth with the tread of their power, and 
asserting themselves to be the only channels of 
healing mercy to mankind, the representatives of 
Christ on earth. And the healing work has gone 


on, yet not much through them. But always, 
up and down the world, there have been quiet 
faithful hearts which have caught the master's 
spirit and have touched with that spirit the works 
and cares, the sorrows and the sicknesses of 
men. The world is touched to-day with a hu- 
maner spirit than, I think, ever before. Often 
it hardly knows from whom the healing comes. 
It is some one close about, a long way nearer 
than that Jesus of eighteen hundred years ago, 
who gets a hold on his fellow-clerk or work- 
mate, and sets him feeling that life might be a 
better thing; wins him into this class or meet- 
ing, or that little work of help. Yet, is it his own 
power by which he helps and heals him? Ask 
him and he will tell you, no; it is but the carry- 
ing on of a power which took hold of him; 
and if you trace back all this sense of help, in 
man, you simply come through the long ages 
back to Paul's *' I can do all things through 
Christ who strengtheneth me ! " 

So come the healing forces of God, pulsing 
along the ages, through the world, — working in 
the powders of Nature and the best thoughts and 
lives of men; not passing by even a poor crus- 
tacean that has lost its claw, or a tree that has 
been battered by the storm; but lavishing their 
subtlest care on the bruised bodies, and weak 


and ailing lives of men; and coming, in divinest 
ways of mercy and help, to sin-sick souls, and all 
the o'erwearied and unblessed, who lie about the 
byways of the world. 

So has God led on the onward movement of 
His world, and leads it still. And we are to be 
His Helpers! 


What does the world really owe to Christ? 
In past time the answer was comparatively easy. 
Because, for one thing, Christ stood to men as 
God appearing in human form — something vis- 
ible and tangible to look to and to pray to : and, 
for something almost more momentous, it was 
held that he had paid the penalty of the world's 
sin by a substituted sacrifice which was to be 
for ever the only escape of Man from Hell. 

But this answer does not meet the real ques- 
tion as it is coming up at the present day. Even 
those who most cling to the divineness of Jesus, 
are growing less sure of his having been God in 
that visible, objective sense. And the atonement 
instead of being the old substituted sacrifice, is 
now put as the method of God's love for draw- 
ing His children towards Him. In fact Christ's 
work in the world is, more and more, coming 
to be regarded not as an isolated divine expe- 
dient to rescue mankind from a breakdown, but 
as a part of the divine education and development 
of the race. 


154 THE world's debt to CHRIST 

Well, but what, then, has been Christ's part 
in this? Man, by God's mercy, has had many 
helpers. Why, then, from all the teachers and 
leaders who have passed across the page of his- 
tory, single out Jesus for such peculiar and per- 
manent reverence? That is the question for us. 
I put aside, indeed, all idea of his having been 
different from the rest of humanity by any su- 
perhuman birth. One of the most precious things 
in his wonderful life, is, its closeness to our 
own, not an instance of the Godhead coming 
down, but of humanity lifted up and evermore 
lifting us up. And so, indeed, I think the whole 
matter may be summed up in this : that the world 
owes to Jesus Christ the noblest, furthest reach- 
ing influence towards truth and goodness, — an 
influence which, first taking hold of his imme- 
diate followers and making them new men, went 
forth through them in ever widening circles to 
mankind, and still operates unspent to-day. That 
was what those first followers meant, in speaking 
of " the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ " — sim- 
ply that nameless influence which they felt work- 
ing in themselves and saw working in others. 
Very curious is the way in which that influence, 
took bold, and has kept hold ever since. My 
old tutor, John James Taylor — one of the most 
fair-minded students of history — used to say 

THE world's debt TO CHRIST 1 55 

that even if all personal mention of Jesus had 
been lost, the changing aspect of history about 
his time, and the development of new feelings 
and thoughts in the world, would force us to 
conclude that some extraordinary influence must 
have been at work to produce it. 

That influence can be traced working along 
two lines : in new convictions of Human Duty, 
and in a clearer and brighter sense of Divine 
Relations and Realities. 

I. We owt to Christ, a new thought of Man 
— man's life, man's duties, man's relation to 
his fellow man. Man, as such, was cheap in the 
ancient world. There was a strange careless- 
ness of human life. Suicide was no sin; hardly 
was infanticide. The sports of the great cities 
were murderous combats in which the lives of 
men were of no more account than the lives of 
beasts. Wherever Christianity came, life ac- 
quired a new sacredness; Suicide became a 
dreadful sin; Infanticide, as an institution, dis- 
appeared. Christianity had made the nobler 
heathens ashamed of their ferocious, sports be- 
fore it had itself gained the power to suppress 
them. But, most of all, did this same reverence 
for man, as man, shew itself in the treatment of 
the poor, the weak, and especially of the sinful. 
Every form of Heathenism deified Strength, and 

156 THE world's debt TO CHRIST 

regarded the weak and incapable with contempt. 
I do not mean that there was not any kindness 
towards these in the old world, but that there 
was hardly any sense of duty to them, — and 
of a divine meaning in the very fact of the strong 
and the weak existing side by side. But wherever 
Christianity came, it set men caring for the sick, 
the crippled, the dying, and the degraded, — as 
an essential part of Christianity, and raised' up 
institutions of such care, I do not say absolutely 
new, but to an extent before utterly undreamed 

It was this new Christian sense of the sacred- 
ness of man as man which led to the gradual 
abolition of slavery. I am not aware in all an- 
cient history of a single sign of the feeling of 
slavery being wrong, or of any effort to do 
away with it. We have seen slavery defended 
in our own day, though only by the mischievous 
theory of the Old Testament being as divine and 
authoritative as the new. But, till Christ had 
come and gone, men were not even conscious 
of there being anything in slavery to defend. 
Certainly Paul advised Onesimus to go back to 
his former master; but he wrote with him to 
Philemon : *' Receive him, not now as a slave, 
but as a brother beloved." Paul might not dis- 
tinctly see it; but the religion which began by 


claiming for the slaves among its members the 
place of " brothers beloved " really sealed the 
fate of slavery. 

The letter and the form, Churches and Priest- 
hoods, have, indeed, often enough been instru- 
ments of oppression; but the weak and the op- 
pressed have always felt, that the spirit of Christ 
was on their side. The strongest appeal of the 
mediaeval satirists who lashed the worldliness and 
corruption of Christ's churches, was always to 
the simple loving life of Christ himself. And so, 
charity, at least, never failed, — and though that, 
too, often did harm — and sometimes does it still 
— yet it keeps rising to better and more thought- 
ful ways of helping. And there is one form of 
Christian charity, that, I think is almost abso- 
lutely new in Christianity, I mean the love and 
pity for the sinful and degraded, the longing 
to win them out of their lost state, the thousand- 
fold unceasing effort to save men and women 
back to goodness — I think that this is the crown- 
ing outcome of that sense of human worth and 
human brotherhood which Christ brought home 
to mankind, as a living and imperishable motive. 

Again, the world owes to Christ the highest 
teachings and the strongest assurance of spirit- 
ual things. It is noticeable how these two have 
gone together in his work. He made religious 

158 THE world's debt TO CHRIST 

things the most spiritual that they have ever 
been, the most entirely of the inward life, invis- 
ible, intangible; and yet none has ever made 
men feel them so intensely real. And I am upon 
very broad ground now — for even those who 
in the present day most protest against keeping 
the thought of Christ himself so prominent in 
this spiritual religion, constantly refer to the high 
pure Theism which they say Christ taught, only, 
they think he meant us to hold that faith of his, 
not to associate his name, and the memory of 
him, with it. I think that is a question of which 
way we can best realize that faith and keep hold 
of it. But anyhow, whether we are to perma- 
nently associate our faith with him or not, it 
is impossible to help feeling what a debt we owe 
to him for it. Why, the whole field of religious 
faith has been a new thing to men, since Christ 
came. The thought of God has been a new thing. 
Of course there have been many of the older 
thoughts which have still lingered on, and often 
alloyed and coarsened his pure Theistic teaching. 
But at the heart of Christianity, the thought of 
God has been a new thing, a holier, tenderer, 
more loving presence, — differing from anything 
that either Greeks or Jews had any real idea of 
before. So also has Prayer. The thought of 
Prayer, the feeling about prayer, which Christ 


left among his disciples, and which, ever since, 
has given the key note to the piety of Christen- 
dom, was a new thing in the world. Prayer 
was much more of a formality before, a matter 
for priests to do, or a petition for certain definite 
gifts or help, — the lowly homage of subjects pros- 
trate before a great King. You find hardly a trace 
before, — except here and there in the ver^r lofti- 
est of the Psalms — of that pouring out of the 
heart to God as to a friend, and of that joy 
in such personal communion, which sprang up at 
once in the early church, and which all through 
the Christian ages has given the peculiar char- 
acter — so homelike and loving — to the piety 
of those who have really caught the spirit of 

And, also. Immortality has been a new thing 
to men, since Christ's time. Of course I do not 
for a moment mean to claim Immortality as 
something of which mankind had no knowledge 
until Christ revealed it. The fact seems rather 
to be that as man's life, and consciousness of 
life, developes, at a certain stage belief in life to 
come is a part of man's development. So that, 
even if it be true that, in the very lowest grades 
or Savagism, tribes are found with no thought 
of a hereafter (though this is by no means cer- 
tain) some thought of it is Universal wherever 

l60 THE world's debt TO CHRIST 

life has reached to the clear, full, human stage. 
And sometimes — as among the ancient Egyp- 
tians, this belief has become tremendously real- 
istic — and so again among the Persians, from 
whom the Jews seem to have imbibed the 
thought, as a part of Religion, during the Cap- 
tivity. But take the world as it was when Chris- 
tianity came, and the belief in Immortality was a 
dim, distant shadowy thing, a joyless spectral 
state, only a degree better than annihilation. It 
seemed to have little moral relation to the pres- 
ent. It did not make the sinner more afraid 
of sin, nor the good man more strong in his 
righteousness. Especially in the Greek and 
Roman religions, it was like a faint shadow of 
the present, — as it has well been called, ** an 
aftershine of the sun that had set, not a new 
day." Indeed it always seems to me one of the 
strongest tokens of how belief in life to come, 
is a very part of man and so must be true, that 
even so faint and joyless as it was, with noth- 
ing to lead man to love it, still the belief in it, in 
the people at large, never shewed any sign of 
dying out. But Christ made the hereafter a new 
thing to men — a real glorious world, a con- 
tinuation of this present life, — this present life, 
not weakened and its vitality faded out, but 
strengthened and ennobled. Even the very ex- 

THE world's debt TO CHRIST l6l 

aggeratlons of his teachings, the extravagant re- 
ahsm of thrones, and crowns and harps, the 
strained literahzing of his parables of judgment 
into material hells and torments — even these 
arose from the new reality with which he in- 
vested the future life in man's thoughts. So it 
has been a new thing to men, ever since, more 
real, more living, more happy, something to re- 
joice in, and to think of with a tender, home- 
like trust, — such a feeling as Whittier expresses 
— that 

*' Death is but a covered way. 
To lead us into life." 

Of course, all this strong assurance of spirit- 
ual things which I thus trace to Jesus Christ, 
has weakened and deteriorated from what he 
left it. The Institutions, to which his influence 
gave rise have never been at all equal to the 
spirit and impulse which started them. But that 
is only human. The noblest movements, all along 
history, have always been belittled by those who 
have taken them up, and have been utilized and 
exploited for all manner of poor and selfish ends. 
But in watching the development of all the in- 
stitutional life which grew out of Christ's influ- 
ence, the striking thing is, really, not that the 
institution has been poorer than the originating 

l62 THE world's DEBT TO CHRIST 

influence, but that the influence has still lived be- 
yond the institution. Christ's influence, has, in- 
deed, often seemed smothered and lost — but it 
has risen up again; it has had not one resur- 
rection but many resurrections. It has broken 
out of its corruptions in uprisings of Reforma- 
tion and the starting of new religious move- 
ments; and always the motive power of these 
has been the spirit of the original Christ, as some 
Huss or Luther, some Waldensian or Puritan, 
a Fox or Wesley, a Channing or a Parker, has 
caught the beauty and the power of it anew. 
And this thing remains. It is not a mere his- 
torical memory, but a spirit that in strange and 
subtle ways still takes hold of men and women 
and '^ makes all things new." You can trace it 
still to-day, in the common feeling of men quite 
apart from ecclesiastical channels. You can 
trace it in the very word '' Christian." Just think 
how that word is — not as defined by the 
churches, but as felt — say by *' the man in the 
street " who very likely could not define it, and 
has little faith in the way the churches would 
define it ! When common people see a good lov- 
ing action, or a sweet self-sacrificing life — they 
say, *' Ah that's real Christianity ! " So, even 
those who openly denounce Christianity, as hav- 
ing a mischievous influence in the world, — if 

THE world's debt TO CHRIST 163 

they see a professing Christ doing some bad 
mean thing, are just as ready as any to attack his 
inconsistency and to cry " Where is your Chris- 
tianity?" Thus, they unconsciously testify that 
in their deepest thought '' Christianity " is a 
noble, beautiful thing, if you can only have it 
in its reality. And whence have they got that 
thought? from the traditional usage of the 
churches ? No ! The churches have, mostly, — 
all the ages through — protested against that use 
of the word '' Christian," as designating the no- 
blest, kindest goodness, — and have tried to limit 
it to some mere ecclesiastical meaning. But it 
has been too strong for them! Outside the 
churches, in man's common thought, and in the 
simple Gospels which constantly renew man's 
common thought, has come steadily down this 
large, kind, beautiful thought of duty and life 
which Christ taught — and lived — and it holds 
its place for ever. And that very thought, and the 
word which stands for it so vividly and pointedly, 
are part of the world's debt to him. 

I know that it is often objected to all this 
that what I attribute to the influence of Christ 
is really partly due to the teachings and influence 
of other great lives before him, and partly to the 
general movement of civilization. 

Well, by all means let us take all possible ac- 

164 THE world's debt TO CHRIST 

count of these causes, but I do not think they 
very much affect the value of what Christ has 
done for us. I rejoice in every great and wise 
word that in these days is being dug out from the 
sacred books of other rehgions. They find me 
a noble hymn from the Vedas; I delight in it; 
a fine saying of Confucius : thank God for that 
also ; great sentences from Egyptian tombs ; lofty 
sentiments from Greek Tragedians and philo- 
sophic Romans, parables and precepts from Hil- 
lel that are curiously like passages in the sermon 
on the mount. Good! But how do these things 
affect our debt to Christ? Archaeologists find 
here and there some very good wheat in the 
mummy wTappings of Ancient Egypt. But it is 
not that on which we live. Those noble sayings 
of the ancient world have not much more to do 
with the real mental or moral condition of man- 
kind, to-day, than that mummy wheat has to do 
with our bodily nourishment. They were great 
seed-thoughts, but for the most part they lay 
folded round with esoteric seclusion, or smoth- 
ered in the embalm-ments of the dead past. As 
a matter of simple literary fact, it is Christianity 
itself, that has dug them out, or at any rate has 
brought them into the light of all this new ap- 
preciation of them ! Why, it has been the Chris- 
tian Missions in India which put Hindu Pundits 

THE world's debt TO CHRIST 165 

on the track of the pure original Theism which 
really lay back of Brahminism ; and it was even 
European Sanskirt scholarship which shewed to 
India that the text from the Vedas which was 
always quoted as the authority for Suttee — the 
burning of widows — had really no place in the 
original Sanskrit. — No. What all this bring- 
ing out of the nobler religious thinking of the 
ancient world has really done, is, to place the 
whole subject of religion on a stronger founda- 
tion, — by shewing how all the best human 
thought has always been tending in the same 
direction; and so it has helped not to lessen but 
to increase our debt to him, who carried it to 
the highest point, and projected it with purer 
and stronger power than ever before among the 
enduring thoughts of the world. What those 
thoughts could do, had been done. The ancient 
world, was, in its higher culture, their work. 
But it was not out of that culture that Christ 
came. The ancient civilization was the very 
thing that did not produce either Christ or Chris- 
tianity, the very thing that most rejected and 
opposed them. It is when I most realize the 
grandeur of that ancient world, in its civilization, 
its commerce, its literature, its art; it is when 
I think of the magnificence of Rome and the 
culture of Athens, and the Libraries and Col- 

l66 THE world's debt to CHRIST 

leges of Egypt — and, if you will, the learned 
Jewish schools of Jerusalem and Babylon, — it 
is then that I realize how feeble and fading was 
the best that they could do. And then I most 
feel what an immense debt we owe to that simple 
but majestic life which, growing up apart from 
all of these, gave men that living Word which 
was to survive through their decay, and to bring 
out what has well been called '* A new Edition 
of human nature." Only one further question 
remains. Granting that Christ did all this in that 
far past when he lived and in the generations 
to which his personality was still comparatively 
near, is there anything to keep special hold of in 
the present? 

I think there is. 

I think the life-image which we have of Christ 
in the Gospels, is still the source of the very 
purest influence among men. I think the word 
and spirit of that life, are still a perpetually fresh 
revelation to the heart of moral and spiritual real- 
ities. Look where you will among all the strug- 
gle and service of mankind, from the slums of 
our great cities, to the villages of Pacific Islands, 
or the motley civilization of the East, — and — 
yes, there is plenty of that struggle and service, 
passing under the Christian name, which is as 
poor and clumsy as you will, — and, still, it is 

THE world's debt TO CHRIST 1 6/ 

true that the very most earnest, and searching, 
and self-sacrificing working that is going on 
among men finds its best inspiration in the Hfe 
and word of Jesus Christ. 

And so I put it as the last element in this 
great debt of the world to Christ, that in him 
we have the noblest leadership of life. Life must 
have personal leadership or it will be apt to be 
all scattering, — scattering in its thought, scat- 
tering in its effort. I believe there is a pro- 
found truth in that parable of the vine and its 
branches. It is not more isolated living that 
we want, but growing, and acting, together, in 
loving brotherhood with the best life around us, 
and in loving communion of thought and follow- 
ing with all the best past life that has made us 
what we are; and all this long solidarity is clos- 
ened to its strongest in earnest discipleship to the 
great Master of us all. It need not be any blind, 
unreasoning following — Christ, of all teachers, 
certainly never asked for that. With him, as al- 
ways where the spirit of the Lord is, " there is 
Liberty " — but liberty is perfected not in self- 
conscious individualism, but in the loyalty of 

So, as I face the problems of this marvelous 
age; as I watch the workings of doubt; as I fol- 
low the revelations of science which only lead 

l68 THE world's debt to CHRIST 

US to a mystery they cannot penetrate; and as I 
note all the restless striving of the world for 
better life, — I am thankful for every light, and 
for all great teachers ; — but, from them all, my 
heart turns back to Christ with something like 
that old cry of Peter's — " Lord to whom shall 
we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life I " 


It is a question often asked in these investigat- 
ing days. '' How much in Christianity is new ? " 
We all feel that it is — take it all in all — a 
mighty inspiration and uplifting of human life 
that has come to the world through Christ, but 
— how much was actually new? Not so much 
as used to be thought. It used to be thought that 
the whole of Christianity was a brand-new rev- 
elation, all before darkness and error. But as 
modern Scholarship has spelled its way into the 
ancient books of other religions, it has found 
there many a noble precept and truth once 
thought peculiar to the Bible; and, again, the 
study of evolution has shown that the religion 
of to-day has some of its roots away back of all 
history. And still, in that great onward move- 
ment of human religion which began in Christ, 
there was surely something new, and it is inter- 
esting to consider what it was. 

Let us first give a thought to how much was 
not new. Why, almost the whole outward ap- 
paratus and usages of Christianity were merely 



adaptations — and developments. The Church 
building itself was only a combination of the 
Jewish Synagogue and the Roman Basilica. The 
" Pontiff " was simply the " Pontifex," an old 
Roman title for the Pagan priest. The white 
surplice came from Egypt. The veneration for 
the Madonna was just the natural clinging to the 
Mother principle in Deity coming up in Chris- 
tianity; and the very statues of the Virgin and 
child, were, to begin with, the old images of Isis 
with her infant Horus under a new name — as 
Pagan busts of Jupiter were sometimes made 
to do duty for St. Peter, and representations of 
Orpheus playing on his Lyre to the beasts, were 
adopted as types of Christ and his preaching. 
The Months of our year, and the days of our 
week bear traces of more than one old world 
Paganism, our Wednesdays and Thursdays, the 
days of Woden and Thor; January and March, 
the months of Janus and of Mars. " Easter " 
is simply the festival of the old Saxon Spring 
Goddess, " Eostre " changed to Christian uses. 
The fires of All hallows Eve are the old '' Bel- 
tein," or Baal fires which probably came from 
Phoenicia and were lighted long before the time 
of Christ; and even Christmas itself, which we 
think our most peculiarly Christian festival, was 
not fixed upon from any real belief that Christ 


was actually borfi then, but grew out of the al- 
most world-wide festivals for the brightening 
light and lengthening days after the winter 
solstice, which seemed peculiarly appropriate 
to associate with the coming of the great 
light of Christ; and as for our Christmas cus- 
toms, we get our mistletoe from the Druids, and 
the Yule log from the Teutons, and our present- 
giving from the Saturnalia of Ancient Rome. 
Nay, to go into deeper things, even in what passes 
for Christian doctrine, some has come from 
quite other sources, and often it would have been 
a great deal better if it had not ! All that imag- 
ery of Hell. e. g. was not any special teaching 
of Christ's. It was just the popular imagery 
which has been in use for centuries. What Christ 
made new about it was this: That while his 
people said, '' Those Hells are for the Gentiles " 
— He said, '' No ! they are for the evil, the self- 
ish, the impure — Jews, just as much as Gen- 
tiles." Nay — the very doctrine of The Trin- 
ity, w^as not some new revelation of his about 
God. It was only brought into Christianity long 
afterwards, a mere distortion of the pure mono- 
theism of Christ, derived directly from Neo- 
platonism and back of that, from the old Poly- 
theisms and triads of Greece and Egypt. 

Even in the moral and spiritual realm, indeed, 


something of the same kind is true. It is difficult 
anywhere to draw any absolute line between what 
Christ introduced and what men had thought 
and felt before. One of the early English Free- 
thinkers — Matthew Tindal — entitled his chief 
work " Christianity as old as Creation " — and 
the thought was a true one. The divine relations 
and the human duties which the Gospel impresses 
and lights up, were as old as creation. God 
was as truly the Heavenly Father, men were 
brothers, right was right, in the flint age, as to- 
day. Yes, and not only these things were so, 
but some men had glimpses of them. Long be- 
fore Christ, great souls were groping their way 
towards them. Here and there, in ancient re- 
ligions, you come upon sayings and precepts 
which are curiously like teachings of the Gos- 
pel. But what then? What is there, that is 
wholly new? America had been discovered be- 
fore Columbus, and steam before Watt. But that 
does not lessen our debt to those who made 
America an actual living place for men, and 
steam an effective force. And so with what 
Christianity has done for mankind. Even if 
every one of its great moral and religious ideas 
were in the world before — not the less is there a 
wonderful newness in the place into which Christ 
lifted them, and the power which he gave to them. 


There is a passage in Dr. Martineau's " Ethics 
of Christendom " which brings out the broad 
outHnes of this, so forcibly, that though it must 
be already familiar to many, I must venture to 
quote it : — 

" Everyone is sensible of a change in the whole 
climate of thought and feeling, the moment he 
crosses any part of the boundary which divides 
Christian civilization from Heathendom. That 
(new) type is so strikingly original, its features 
so conspicuously express an order of passions 
and ideas strange alike to the Greek and Italian 
races, as to betray the creative action of some 
vast moral power, unborrowed from the estab- 
lished civilization." And he continues — " It 
seems an idle question for sceptical criticism to 
raise, whether the religion of Christ comprised 
in its teachings any element absolutely new. If 
genius had conceived it all before, life had not 
produced it until now; and the more you affirm 
the Philosophers' competency to think it, the 
more do you convict them of inability to realise 

There is the general change which Christian- 
ity produced. But let us analyse it more closely. 
I think it is possible to distinguish some of the 
particular elements, both of Religion and of 
morals, which if not new, came out in a new char- 


acter through Christ's influence and teaching. 
Take for instance, the thoughts of God, and of 
Prayer, and of ImmortaHty. I know these were 
not new with Christianity, but certainly in Chris- 
tianity they take on quite a new tenderness and 

That teaching of God as the Heavenly Father ; 
— Certainly God had been called '* Father " be- 
fore Christ's time. It is beautiful to find that the 
very first word for God among our old Aryan 
forefathers in Central Asia, as we spell out their 
thought in the old Vedic hymns, was '' Dyaus- 
Pithar " — Heaven-Father, and this reappears in 
the '' Zeus-Pater " of the Greeks, and the ** Ju- 
piter " of the Romans. And this stood, undoubt- 
edly, for a thought of mighty beneficent sover- 
eignty over the world — but it did not stand for 
that close, tender, personal relation in which, 
through the Christian centuries, people have 
loved that word of Christ *' Father in Heaven." 
It might be the germ of that, but it was not 
that. ** Heavenly Father " as Christ said it, and 
as every little child may learn to say it, and feel 
it, now, is something new, something different 
from anything that men felt before. 

So again of communion between God and man. 
I do not claim that the term '* Holy Spirit '' 
stands for something absolutely new. Men had 


prayed before, and every religion had believed 
in some form of divine inspiration. But they 
had believed in such divine guidance and help for 
a few exceptional souls, specially favoured ones. 
Nowhere comes out as in Christianity the faith 
in the Spirit of God as an influence open to all. 
And Christianity teaches it as so tender an in- 
fluence! Perhaps the nearest to what Paul felt 
as being " led by the spirit " and *' constrained 
by the spirit '' to say this, or to do that, is what 
Socrates felt — that inner light which he speaks 
of as his " Daemon " — or " Guardian Spirit " ; 
but the " Daemon " of Socrates was a purely intel- 
lectual guidance, while the Holy Spirit is the 
helper to moral strength, and especially " The 
comforter." I hardly think that in the whole 
range of religion, outside Christianity, you could 
find such an expression as that " Grieve not the 
Holy Spirit of God." And so in the humbler 
ranges of Communion with God. Prayer has 
been a new thing to the human heart since Christ 
came; something nearer and tenderer; less of 
the humble petition to an almighty king, more 
of the happy confidence of the little child talking 
to a Father or Mother. 

So, of Immortality ; of course it was not a new 
belief, and yet it certainly began at once to take, 
among the early Christians, a very different 


place from what it ever seems to have done be- 
fore. Before, it had practically been an excep- 
tional glorification for sages or heroes; for all 
else, a far off, faint, shadowy, washed out life, 
nothing like as real and substantial as the life of 
earth. But, at once in Christianity, you see an 
entirely new feeling about it. It is a happy 
home-like world, close upon this present; a life 
— not faded or shadowy, but like the present life 
only glorified, and more intensely real. And, 
from that time, to all the best Christian life, 
the thought of the Heavenly world has been that 
of something very close and dear and beautiful. 

Turn now to the Moral side of Christianity, 
and you find the same thing. Of course its car- 
dinal moral ideas were none of them absolutely 
new. Three hundred years before Christ, Aris- 
totle had written : — ''In all times men have 
praised honesty, moral purity and beneficence. 
In all times they have protested against mur- 
der, adultery, perjury, and all kinds of vice." 
And yet there was something new. The moral 
life which was developed in the early Chris- 
tion communities, the moral life which you 
find struggling upwards through the Chris- 
tian ages, is something different from what was 
in the world before. It is at once intenser, and 
more inspiring — and I think, more brotherly 


and loving. Take the sense of sin for example. 
You find before Christianity, in the Greek Trage- 
dies, e.g., terrible remorse for great crimes, — 
but that sorrowful sense of sinfulness in the 
presence of the pure holiness of God — that 
which has been intensely characteristic of the 
more earnest side of Christian life — that is a 
new thing! And that sense of Duty as an in- 
finite self-consecration, that longing and striving 
for perfectness ; — the best life of the Christian 
ages, has, as Martineau puts it, been " one long 
sigh after an unattained perfection " — I do not 
say that amounts to a great element, but it is 
certainly a new element in the religion of man- 

Similarly it is, with brotherhood and mutual 
kindness and helpfulness, in Christianity. There 
was something of brotherhood before, but it has 
been wider and tenderer, since. '' Philanthropy '' 
is not an original Christian word, but in its 
larger sense, it is an original Christian thing. 
In the old world, it merely meant personal, pri- 
vate kindness or courtesy — and of that there 
was plenty in the world before Christ, but " Phil- 
anthropy " as a large clear duty of man to 
care for his brother man — " Philanthropy " as 
one of the wide spread efforts of organised so- 
ciety, that is a new thing. Of course, Christian- 


ity has not changed the world to its higher, wider 
thought of brotherhness. There has continued 
to be plenty of pride, plenty of caste-feeling, 
plenty of oppression, and a great deal even of 
actual slavery. That is only the common ground 
of human history. The new thing, is, that ever 
since Christ came, the thought and spirit with 
which he somehow touched men, has protested 
against all this, has kept striving to modify it, 
has kept up a standing effort, never entirely 
given up, even in the darkest ages always break- 
ing out again — a standing effort after the truer, 
kindlier relation of human beings, which Chris- 
tianity had taught. 

And finally there is one direction which this 
higher human brotherhness has taken, which I 
think is entirely new with Christ and Christian- 
ity. I mean the special anxiety for the sinful; 
and the loving, patient endeavour to save them 
from the sad, lost state of sin. The old Greek 
poet got so far as to say — " No man is a stranger 
to me provided he is a good man." Christ first 
taught men to feel that the bad man also is a 
brother, the lost w^oman a sister, to be sought, 
and loved, and helped back. Many of the great 
ancients got so far as to say that a magnani- 
mous soul should forgive one who injures him; 
Christ teaches that we should try to do him good ! 


Possibly you may find a thought Hke this here 
and there in the older world, but Christ has made 
this a large, effective part of the organised life 
of Christendom. Of course in this too, our ac- 
tual lags far away behind the ideal. We can- 
not look on the state of thousands in our great 
cities, without feeling sad, it is so little that we 
seem to do, to rescue them and make them bet- 
ter. True! But it is something that Christian- 
ity makes us sad for this; that it makes us feel 
that it is our concern; that it so makes men feel 
this, as to shape the doings of society, to make 
new issues of helpfulness in legislation, and to 
introduce new reformative elements into the ad- 
ministration of justice; and that thus, age after 
age, it keeps the most earnest life of Christen- 
dom to this distinctly new effort to save the 
world, and to save the lowliest soul in it, from 

There, then, is what Christianity has contrib- 
uted of new to the higher life of mankind. You 
see, I have not made any extravagant claim — 
and yet, when you consider it, what a gain it is. 
For it is — a clear advance along the whole line 
both of divine relations and human relations. On 
the old fundamental religious thoughts — of God, 
and Prayer, and Immortality, a new light of 
close tender, happy, homelike feeling; along the 


line of human Duty and Morality, a new as- 
piration and restless striving after goodness; a 
wider, more inclusive brotherhood; and this one 
entirely new element, of anxiety to draw the 
lost and sinful back into the happy family of 

I know that I have been speaking all through 
more of what Christ has put into man's thought, 
than of anything that has yet got built up into 
Man's organic, social living. So be it. But it 
is thought which in the end rules the world. 
Christianity is still, much of it, only a prophecy, 
— but it is a prophecy which ever holds to its 
aims the best minds and hearts; and instead of 
feeling, as some do, that we have about come 
to the end of it, I feel more and more that we 
are still only at the beginning of its onward way, 
and only at the beginning also, of its marvellous 
influences that help mankind along that onward 
way. Perhaps it seems pretty far along in his- 
tory to talk of Christianity as only at its begin- 
ning. And yet what else is it with all the devel- 
opment of man? Only along the thousands of 
years do we see any sign of steady gain. It is 
everything to find some living spirit and influ- 
ence for onward higher life. And that we have, 
in Christ : and so the true thing is, to hold to that 
living influence and to all that keeps it most liv- 


ing in our hearts and among men — and even 
though it seems as yet to have brought us no fur- 
ther than what, in the Hght of the highest, are 
still but beginning; still, we must hold to it, and 
keep the closest to it that we can, and trust that, 
somehow, God is leading on the world, to His 
own perfect end. 


The spirit of Christianity is that of a dim, 
but confident onlook to great possibilities for 
this poor human nature of ours. " Beloved, now 
are we the sons of God. And it doth not yet 
appear what we shall be." In a w^ord, we are 
merely at the beginnings, yet even so are the 
objects of a divine love and care, children of 
God, inheritors of the promises, with vague glory- 
flashes of Prophecy always lighting up the fu- 

It is that subject, — Beginnings — that I want 
to dwell upon. The more I think of it, the more 
it seems to open out to larger and larger mean- 
ings, touching not man alone, but all the mighty 
world, until its has come to seem one of the great 
explanatory words which unlock the meaning of 
the world and life, that, after all, we are only 
at the beginning of things. And it is a thought 
which has seemed to whisper patience and cour- 
age in the midst of the perplexity and confu- 
sion of the world. For, look at things for what 



they now are and there is plenty of discord, some- 
times things which might almost drive us to 
despair — things that shock and horrify us, and 
set one asking *' can God be good and such things 
be?" And I do not say it makes all clear to 
say — '* Beginnings, things are only in their be- 
ginnings," but it makes it a little easier to be- 
lieve that things may be working right, after 
all, and so, easier to watch and wait, and still to 
cleave to faith, amid whatever darkness there may 

And I think two things help us to this thought 
of all things being only beginnings: one, from 
science, the observation of outward nature; the 
other from religion, taking that as summing up 
the suggestions and intuitions which come to 
us from our inward nature. Outward Nature 
shews us a vast past — ever vaster — of Evolu- 
tion, slow developments, from beginnings which 
look chaotic, to gradually higher forms first of 
organism, then of life. Then as soon as we have 
come to man, a new process begins, and his in- 
stincts or intuitions, what you will, take up 
man's thinking, his dim feeling of something be- 
yond, towards a limitless future. And the great 
progressive meaning of the first process, seems 
to give us the master thought of the whole. Be- 
cause, the world is not an incoherent world, all 


in confusion. From the first grouping of its 
atoms, order is everywhere. And with such per- 
fect order at the basis of things, can we think 
of less order in their outcome. So we are brought 
to man, and what his Hfe and being are coming 
to. It seems to have been the crown of all that 
long unfolding, when man's rude consciousness 
of Being, leaped up into the further consciousness 
of more life to come. At first it might be only 
of some future of retribution, and that, widening 
out into the idea of the better life going on to 
perfection; but as you take in the significance 
indeed of life to come, there is no stopping in it, 
anywhere ; and so it has led men on — not all 
men perhaps, but the highest thinkers — on and 
on — gradually brushing aside all halting theo- 
ries of finalities, last days, grand windings up 
of providence and judgment, — until we are 
brought to such sense as I am trying to shape 
out, of how we are still only as it were at the 
beginning of things — and all things, begin- 

Let me just remind you, in passing, that this 
thought of vast futures and possibilities of Prog- 
ress does not in any way weaken the moral force 
of the other thought of retribution. That idea 
of the moral sequences of life, is true — one of 
the deep fundamental laws of being, — 


" Our past still travels with us from afar 

" And what we have been, makes us what we are." 

Yes, that is part of God's great truth, and part 
which does not wait for the great " judgment " 

— or, truer, as Paul calls it '' Revelation of Judg- 
ment," in going on into the life beyond. Each 
day, here, is partly a judgment on yesterday; 
this year or last year. Manhood is partly a judg- 
ment on youth; old age, is partly a judgment 
on full life. And so the future life is a judgment 
on this. But still — surely it is not judgment 
only. In all these successions of life, the 
future brings not only something of judgment 
on the past, but also something of new im- 
pulse, and new opportunity. There comes in 
one of the openings of further truth that Christ 
did not enter upon, hardly more than hinted at 

— the ultimate possibilities of poor, sinful, un- 
developed life, in the Infinite future — But he 
left it lying not in darkness, but in the great 
enfolding light of a Father's love, and it is in 
the light of that love that it is so helpful to look 
on, remembering that all things are beginnings. 

But while this thought does not really les- 
sen that great truth of moral retribution on which 
Christianity laid such stress, what a new light of 
hope and emphasis it throws on so much of the 


onward looking of human Philosophy and Re- 
ligion. *' The world is a becoming " said Her- 
aclitus. It is often hard to believe — the move- 
ment seems, in many parts of the world, so slow ! 
Yet in the larger stir and movement of man- 
kind the trend is unmistakeable. The good, the 
wise are not mere incidents but prophecies. The 
Bible pages glow with words of splendid faith 
in some greater destiny for man. All higher 
approach to God, seemed promises of what all 
might become. " Would that all the Lord's peo- 
ple were prophets ! " cried Moses — and Joel said 
that in the last days, they should be. The very 
note of all Christ's gospel was that all were chil- 
dren of the Infinite Father ! And the VIII. chap- 
ter of Romans, — the greatest chapter of Paul's 
greatest epistle — is all alive and glowing with 
the thought of a Creation struggling upwards, 
all the world's groaning and seemingly chaotic 
evil, simply the travailing of Nature for the new 
birth of a redeemed humanity. And so comes 
in that key-word of John's, '' Now are we the 
children of God," he says, now, even now, in 
this poor, weak, sinful, stage of us — " and it 
doth not yet appear what we shall be," only in 
that greater life in which Christ was and the 
saints, we, too, " should be like him," the per- 
fectest thing that they could think of. It is 


these great thoughts, which have gradually 
worked upon the hearts of Christian thinkers, 
quenched all narrow dogmas of election, made 
the idea of any being finally " lost," more and 
more impossible in the universe of a God of love, 
and set the key-note of the gospel of Universal 
hope: and it is this thought which, the more 
we follow it out, means, that all this life now 
and here, is mere beginning. 

" All things beginnings." I think it throws a 
larger light on Nature, and larger still upon 
human nature, on all the great human world. 
Why, even in the very knowledge of our 
time — this wonderful science, — it is constantly 
forced upon us that with all the progress 
men have made, we are still only at the begin- 
ning. We are just getting glimpses even in this 
very time, of facts and forces, and a whole realm 
of wonder, utterly undreamed of as late as when 
we elders were children. We have passed behind 
the visible and the tangible, into a world within 
the world. We are hardly more than peeping 
into it here and there, at a few points, — in these 
** X " Rays ; and this electricity that passes si- 
lently through earth or stone as readily as along 
our wires — and all the mysteries of Biology — 
but what a wonder realm it all is, and even these 
things are but ** beginnings," and I think the 


whole touches our hearts with a new awe, as 
well as wonder. But it is not in the qualities and 
possibilities of the material universe that this 
thought seems to come most strikingly, but in 
thinking of the qualities of the life in man. I 
think of it in regard to friendship and love. 
*' The most wonderful thing in the world " Henry 
Drummond called love. And here and there men 
always have had glimpses of what it might be. 
Even in what we call friendship how it enriches 
life. You love your friend so that you would 
gladly tread the paths of life very near to one 
another — fight its battle as comrades, take clos- 
est counsel of its great thoughts, work out its 
problems together — and lo ! the friction of for- 
tune and the compulsion of imperious necessi- 
ties drift you apart; and one of you may have 
to toil along in a London counting house, and the 
other brings up in some lonely up-country sta- 
tion in India — and all the years apart you never 
meet another friend you care for as much; and 
you exchange letters now and then — but what 
is that as any fulfilment of " Friendship " ? And 
once in many years perhaps, you meet, and you 
talk of the old times, and it seems so good to 
be together — but then again the strokes of life 
beat out the hour of parting — and the express 
moves out, or the ship sails away Is that the 


world's final thing in friendship? Rather, a 
wonderful glimpse of what might be one of the 
most blessed things in life : — but we only just 
touch the beginnings of it ! 

Or take that closer, intenser friendship we 
specially call love — so constantly ''beginning," 
hardly a life without some beginning some time 
of it — but so often coming to nothing, and so 
often draggling down into mere, commonplace 
living together, or degraded by the sway of poor, 
base passions; or getting into inextricable tangle 
with the very institutions which itself has caused; 
and even when it does seem as if it came to its 
purest and its best — something that should last 
for ever — then, by and by — the inevitable part- 
ing ! — and, what beyond ? Ah ! who shall solve 
the meaning of all this ? I know not ; — but it 
comforts me to hear this thought whispering it- 
self to me — " We are but at the beginnings of 
things ! " I know not how it may all be — but a 
thought comes, in such a word as Emerson's : — ■ 

" What is excellent, 

" As God lives is permanent." 

And so it is again, — constantly the same kind 
of perplexity, but ever the same refuge, in all 
the moral tangle and incompleteness of the world. 
Even in the very elements of moral life at all, the 


perplexity haunts us. Why, what is " sin " ? We 
seem, at times, to have some clear knowledge of 
it. We repeat the commandments, noting how 
in the main essentials, they are so alike among 
all peoples; and yet what is it makes the wrong 
thing wrong, and makes it wrong to do it how- 
ever much it gives us some great pleasure, or 
seems to offer relief from some great palpable 
trouble? We cannot tell, or at least it is very 
easy to confuse ourselves even when the telling 
has seemed clearest! and so the world is full of 
palpable vices, and overwhelming wrongs, and 
horrors that seem rather reversions to the Ape 
and Tiger, than to come in any line of progress 
we can trace. And even where we seem to trace 
a little progress, what does it amount to? Here 
in this civilized England what is it we have really 
attained? Mere hints of better things to come 
— always with an underside of seething want 
and misery and passionate revolt against the pres- 
ent order of things, which touch one v/ith the 
sense of how poor and unsatisfying it all is. Yes, 
and yet all through, and in and out among these 
confused and fragmentary rights and wrongs, 
that curious sense of right, that longing for a 
better nobler world, that irrepressible striving 
for it, that reverence for those who in spite 
of temptation keep the line of Duty. 


As I walk amidst it all, it still keeps coming 
to me, — '' Beginnings ! we are only at the be- 
ginnings," we are only at the beginning of this 
nature of ours, only at the beginning of this 
human society, for which our very Nature com- 
pels us to strive, but from which the best that we 
can compass seems so far! Only at the begin- 
ning of ourselves! God help us if it were not 
so, if the better thoughts which in bright mo- 
ments, lift us up to such high " mounts of vision " 
such consciousness of what Life might be — God 
help us indeed if the significance of such bet- 
ter times is measured by our weakness and self- 
ishness, and depths of conscious evil into which 
we sink at times. But then, too, comes this 
thought — We are only at the beginning ! 

What is the upshot of it all? Any clear doc- 
trine taught, any exact truth that science or 
Theology can catalogue among its facts or 
truths? No; nothing so certain and defined as 
that. But it does seem to me a thought which 
widens out our Theologies and all the thoughts 
which men have shaped into their doctrines of 
last things, into larger meanings of Divine Love 
and endless possibilities of hope. It helps me to 
look upon the world, and on every poorest life in 
it, with a little less heart-sinking as for hope- 
less failure. I see an idiot child; I hear the 


cursing of some foul-mouthed human brute; I 
see the poor, bent old woman whose very looks 
tells of a stunted life of coarse and sordid toil; 
I read the sad statistics of pauperism and crime 
— and all the degradation that haunts the night- 
side of our cities — I read the story, day by day, 
of all the warring, suffering, sinning world — 
and I do not think it makes one feel the sad- 
ness of it less, or makes one less anxious to do 
anything to help it wherever one can reach with 
any touch of healing, but ever the thought comes 
in : — " Beginnings ; — only beginnings " and I 
feel a little less dismay — a little more trustful 
and hopeful of some ultimate good. I feel more 
sure that silently, through what at times seems 
such confusion, — an order is working, and a 
Providence of goodness, and a supreme and in- 
finite Wisdom. 


Paul's famous saying '' Now we see thro' a 
glass darkly but then, face to face; now I know 
in part, but then shall I know even as also I 
am known " is commonly quoted as a saying 
about religious things, — of how we see such 
great realities as God and eternity only as 
through a glass darkly. And it is deeply true 
that way, but that was not what Paul was speak- 
ing of. He was speaking of Man and how Man 
is only darkly seen — and of the hidden good 
in man. The whole chapter is about " charity." 
" Love " the revised version renders it; and love 
is the commonest translation of Paul's word, 
and yet I like '' charity " better here for it is 
that large impersonal kind of love, which Paul 
is speaking of — and '^ charity " seems to express 
that better — that which '' hopeth all things " and 
'' believeth all things " — not just of those we 
love. And this is his closing thought about such 
" charity " — that if we will have faith for it 
here, if we will keep on loving our fellow-crea- 



tures even when we cannot see much in them 
worth loving — our faith shall there be justi- 
fied; for here we only see each other through 
a glass darkly, but there face to face — and there 
— looking '' face to face," " knowing even as 
we are known " we shall find not less good than 
we thought, but more good than earthly charity 
ever hoped. 

What a searching thought of the Hereafter — ■ 
that seeing '' face to face " — and yet he seems 
to have felt it a large hopeful thought too. And 
Paul was no easy-going optimist. He saw with 
terrible clearness the sinful side of human na- 
ture; it lay right about him in those old Heathen 
cities with a frightful plainness; and yet even 
Paul with his clear sight of it, is not dismayed. 
Over it all, he sees the Love of God, and through 
it all he sees something better in man, and so he 
puts it that there, where all is known, there where 
we shall judge not with these poor childlike judg- 
ments of earth — there will be more to love than 
to hate. 

But the larger, general thought comes first — 
the thought of what a veiled hidden life this is 
altogether in man — only half seen ; — it may 
be a thought of charity and hope — in the end of 
all it is ; but it is a thought with a great deal more 
in it than that — a great deal of searching, and 


awfulness, and even dread, before we get to the 
hope and the charity. 

We know how it is, when we think about it. 
Here in this Hfe we do see each other only '' as 
through a glass darkly." The word was even 
more forcible in Paul's day, for they had only 
poor, clouded glass, or talc to see through — 
which, like our frosted glass, only showed the 
vaguest image of the person behind it. And 
is not that about how we see people? The flesh 
acts as a veil to the spirit. Pass along the street. 
Look in the faces of those whom you meet. How 
many of them can you read at all? There you 
see one whose face repels you — telling some 
unmistakable story of self-indulgence, avarice or 
cruelty, and yet perhaps only half telling it! 
There, again, is one whom at a glance we feel 
we should like to know — a face with the lines 
of high-thought on it, or the look of goodness, 
or an earnest capable manhood born of struggle 
and endeavour. Yet even with these you only get 
the faintest outline of the life within, and with 
the vast majority of faces you do not get even 
that. And yet every one of the thousands whom 
you meet has an inner life — an inner life like 
no one else's — an inner life story, stranger than 
any fiction if it should be truly told. 

Nay, it is so even with those whom you think 


you know. Do you know them? There are 
some perhaps with whom the ordinary disguises 
of the world are laid aside. You know them, 
and they you — thoroughly! And yet is it so? 
You go a good way in, in that intimacy, but not 
to the innermost. You talk of very deep ex- 
periences — but even those dressed up a little — 
and not of the very deepest. You confess your 
weaknesses — do you ever tell all ? Hardly ! There 
is an innermost self knowledge into which no 
other may come. Does a man ever tell how near 
he has sometimes come to black ugly sins that 
no one dreams of suspecting — or perhaps how 
he has passed the line — done something that can 
never be undone through all eternity ? From this 
side of our now seeing and being seen only ^' as 
through a glass darkly " pass on to that " face 
to face." It is not Paul's thought alone! It 
is part of the very instinct which sets man look- 
ing on to further life, that there we shall all be 
seen as we are! All the great interpreters of 
that silent word of God which shapes itself 
through man's holiest thoughts — all teach this, 
that all this mask and disguise is only of the pres- 
ent and the outward and the earth. There we 
pass out of the twilight into the open day. There 
every soul must appear not as it wishes to be, 
not as on earth it has tried to appear, and per- 


haps succeeded in appearing, but as it is! Well 
might Christ say — " Many that are first shall 
be last!" 

This is a thought of awe — this of our lives 
lying open to the gaze of others. But I do not 
know if it is not almost more awful still to think 
how we shall see ourselves, there, with perfect 
truth. Perhaps the most terrible power of de- 
ception we possess, is that of deluding our- 
selves. Carlyle says that the worst kind of 
cant is that of people who have talked cant 
till they have come to believe in it and to 
feel a sort of sincerity in it. So people 
sometimes talk about religion and busy them- 
selves over its forms and observances and the 
externalities of Religion, till they come to fancy 
themselves really religious ! So a man may give, 
right and left, and feed upon the cheap praise of 
his generosity until he verily believes himself a 
really benevolent character. Yet shall we throw 
stones at these? Don't we all delude ourselves 
to some extent in the same fashion? Don't we 
salve over the ugly spots, and magnify the little 
good things we have to show? Yes! We do 
it now — but it will be impossible, then! I 
think that is one of the most awful thoughts 
of the life to come, more awful — when you 
really face it — than any images of outward fire 


or pain? Do you remember how the thought 
is worked out in that Httle poem of one sitting 
** alone with conscience " ? 

I sat alone with my conscience 
In a place where time had ceased, 
And we talked of my former living 
In the land where the years increased. 
And I felt I should have to answer 
The question it put to me, — 
And to face the answer, and question, — 
Through all eternity. 

The ghosts of forgotten actions 

Came floating before my sight, 

And things that I thought were dead things 

Were alive with a terrible might; 

And the vision of all my past life 

Was an awful thing to face — 

Alone with my conscience sitting 

In that solemnly silent place. 

:(( 3|c 9|e 9|e 3)c 

And I thought of my former thinking 
Of the judgment day to be; 
But sitting alone with my conscience 
Seemed judgment enough for me ! 

And I felt that the future was present. 
And the present would never go by, 
For it was but the thought of my past life 
Grown into eternity. 


Then I woke from my timely dreaming 

And the vision passed away; 

And I knew that the far-away warning 

Was a warning for to-day. 


And so I sit, now, with my conscience 

In the place where the years increase, 

And I try to remember the future 

And I know — of the future judgment — 

How dreadful so e'er it be, 

That to sit alone with my conscience. 

Will be judgment enough for me ! 

Ah! And yet, by God's mercy, not that for 
ever! One can hardly think that an eternity of 
remorseful looking back is the best thing that 
God has in store, even for his sinfullest children. 
Still — that is in it, — whatever ultimate hope 
opens out beyond it, and if it is an awful thought, 
it is also a wholesome one. If there is anything 
in you that you would dread to have known, and 
dread to face, even by yourself — clear it away, 
now. Yes, even though it be like cutting off a 
hand or plucking out an eye. Yes, even though 
clearing it away mean some open change, and 
confession and shame, — that was a deep word 
of Mohammed's — '' Better to blush in this world 
than in the world to come " ! 

It was not, however, for these thoughts of 
warning that Paul spoke of the inner life being 


seen " face to face " in the life to come and no 
longer " through a glass darkly." He spoke of 
it, especially, for its meaning of love and hope. 
If there is worse in men than those about them 
know — perhaps than they even know themselves 
— what is specially in his mind is that there 
is better, too. It is a word of the Infinite, pa- 
tient, divine Love, and of how our love should 
be as like it as we can — and of how, in the end 
of all, that love, whether divine or human, that 
has clung to the good in men, shall be justified. 
Sometimes we hardly feel as if it could be so. 
We see people who appear to us so mean, so bad, 
so lost to every nobler feeling — that it seems 
impossible to think of love for them. And when 
we scorn ourselves, as all honest souls have to do 
at times — for some hidden baseness — we feel 
as if — should that be unveiled — all would 
scorn. And yet, even in that very self-scorn, if 
we have learned at all Christ's thought of the 
Heavenly Father, we know God does not scorn 
us. I do not mean that we learn any thought of 
His being merely what some one has called " a 
good natured God." It is rather the sense of 
an Infinite divine Patience — a love which never 
seems to change or tire — which even in its 
sharpest discipline is trying to do us good, and 
which will have us saved — will never leave us to 


have peace in any wrong or sin. I think that 
is the love which Christ touches in his own 
love for the poor, weak lives about him. Even 
when his words seem to us most scathing, it does 
not follow that they sounded so as he spoke them. 
Some one objected once in talking to Dr. Chan- 
ning, to Christ's denunciations of Woe to the 
Pharisees ; they were so harsh and fierce he said. 
Dr. Channing took up the Testament and read 
them — that terrible rebuke with its ever-recurring 
refrain — *' Woe unto you Pharisees ! " — and 
he read them, in the light of his own feeling of 
the dignity of Man and of the infinite sorrow 
that it is when man sinks all away from it. 
" Ah," said the objector " if Christ spoke like 
that, of course I could not say anything." But 
was not that just how he did speak ! And so in 
that deep word of St. John's — "Even if our 
heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart 
and knoweth all things " ! And as with God 
so with those who see with the cleared sight 
of His heavenly world. — As Tennyson says — 

" Ye watch, like God, the rolling hours 
With larger, other eyes than ours, 
To make allowance for us all." 

And Father Faber's beautiful word comes in — 


*' There is no place where earth's sorrows 
Are so felt as up in Heaven: 
There is no place where earth's failings 
Have such kindly judgment given." 

Why, our own poor lives in their best hours 
might teach us something of this. We feel what 
it is, at times, to have the thought of God's will 
and to long with unutterable longing for higher 
and better things ; — and yet, we have to live 
out our lot in the throng of the world's tempta- 
tions and to fight down our passions, and to 
bear up against the wear and tear and burden of 
life ! What a struggle ! Why, I fancy that even 
the strongest seldom feels that he comes to any 
victory. And what must it be then to the weak, to 
those who come into the world with taint of temp- 
tation in their very blood — or with some great 
overmastering passion in them — as so many 
do. Or, what must the struggle be to those who 
have that curious lack you often see of any force- 
ful will, or to those who from childhood are 
trained in mean and frivolous and selfish ways. 
God be patient with us all, and help us to be 
patient with each other! We want more toler- 
ance. It is not an easy world, this, even for the 
strong — but what is it for the weak? This 
is no world for the weak, at least not if there 
is no mercy or help but man's. For the world 


is hard on the weak, soon tires of helping them, 
soon gives them up. Is it not because we see 
" only through a glass darkly " ? 

" What's done we partly may compute 
But know not what's resisted." 

— If we knew all, many a harsh word would 
be checked. And so that saying of how here 
we see each other only through a glass darkly 
is a word not only of hope for the life beyond, 
but of more patient tolerance and helpfulness 
and kindness here in this life. We are only at 
the beginning of things here. That is the key 
to all the moral tangle of the world. Only at the 
beginning of things, — not only in the poor sav- 
age life that seems in some aspects of it, to have 
developed here not very much above the brutes 

— but also in the criminal life that seems some- 
times in its awful depths of vice and animalism 
to mock at our theories of human progress. The 
hidden good seems so far down, so hard to come 
at — that, in our short time view, we fall to 
wondering if it is there at all, if there is anything 
really human to lay hold of, and to afford the 
moral leverage towards any nobler being. Talk 
as if all was settled here — just one brief pro- 
bation of this 60 or 70 years — and then all 
saved, or, all lost. As well might the angels 


have looked down on the age of the great Sau- 
rians and watched 

" The monsters of the prime 
That tare each other in their sHme." 

— and thought that was the end, and wondered 
what it meant. Still — in this higher range of 
man's being, we are only at the beginnings; 
though, thank God, even in the beginnings we see 
such flashings up of a nobler humanity, and 
even where all seems worst and most hopeless, 
such unexpected traits of some thing good as 
prophecy to us what may be in the illimitable 
future. It is a veiled, half crippled, half devel- 
oped life we achieve at the best, a life with a 
strange mystery both about its evil and its good 

— " all, but half seen and darkly " — but yet a 
life haunted with the sense of better things than 
ever we attain. It is only " through a glass 
darkly " that we see any of it — only dimly dis- 
cerning our real selves, only partially knowing 
others, only getting fleeting glimpses of the 
things which yet at times, we know are the 
everlasting realities of Being. And so, again I 
thank God for these great words, which, here and 
there, in the inspired hours of loftiest souls, rise 
above these poor beginnings, see visions of an 
Infinite wisdom and goodness working slowly 


towards diviner things and tell us that in the 
end the darkness shall be changed to light and 
love and hope be justified. All the struggle of 
heart, and conscience by which in our short 
earthly span we ourselves seem to make so little 
way; all the patient love for weak and way- 
ward ones about us, which here seems so often 
vain; all the long toil and battle for making the 
world a better, cleaner world, which here seems 
to bring so little victory — there, in the light, 
these shall be made plain. There we shall under- 
stand better the fulness of that Divine Love, 
which here we fall to questioning because our 
own love seems to fall so short of any effect. 
And so the Faith, the hope, the trust in some 
wiser power than ours, to which we cling as 
we grope our way through the moral mystery of 
the world, shall there abide, prove to be the real 
everlasting reality. That is Paul's meaning. It 
is the word of an absolute confidence in love and 
hope for man, which shall be justified hereafter, 
however little they seem to come to here! Here 
we see only *' through a glass darkly " ; and yet 
even here, we catch glimpses of the truth in 
Nature, an outward trend of beneficial mean- 
ing, in the changes of the earth, and the per- 
ishing and developing types of star and plant and 
beast. Is it less sure in Man, a hidden good 


which is God's very meaning in His creatures, 
and which in all struggling, sinning, repenting, 
praying lives of Men, is groaning and travailing 
for something greater than we can see? And 
so abideth " Faith " in this hidden good in man 
— and " hope " for it to conquer in the end — 
but greatest of all is " love " that still, through 
all, keeps loving, and pitying, and striving and 
praying for the good, and never faileth — and 
knows that somehow God shall justify it at 


The greatest mystery of the Universe is the 
mystery of Goodness. 

Not the mystery of Evil or Sin. It is in regard 
to these that the world has put the stress of its 
wonder, in the modern questioning of the prob- 
lem of Being. God has been taken for granted; 
but how in the world did sin and evil come? 
So the true order has been reversed through- 
out. We hear of " the mystery of pain," but 
we seldom hear such a phrase as '* the mystery of 
happiness." So the world of thinkers has been oc- 
cupied w^ith grave discussions about the origin 
of evil, and the mystery of sin. But hardly 
ever is such a subject mooted as, '^ the mystery 
of Goodness." 

And yet it was directly suggested in the old 
Scriptures. " Great is the mystery of godliness," 
wrote Paul and it was only the perversity of 
theological textualism which switched off the 
attention of Christendom from the magnificent 
thought of the grandest quality in Creation man- 
ifested to us in Christ to a doctrinal dispute as 



to whether the exact method of that highest 
manifestation involved an assertion that Christ 
v^as God. 

To that grandest quality we go back, as the 
deepest mystery in the economy of the Universe. 
Godliness is a great word in the New Testament 
and always in the same meaning of the higher 
kind of human goodness, — goodness not of any 
mere conventional legal morality kind, but good- 
ness rooted in God, and looking up to God. 

And now does any one ask, Where is the 
special helpfulness of emphasizing that the great 
mystery of Being is in this Godliness, this higher 
kind of goodness ? Perhaps I can indicate it best 
by telling how the help of it actually came to me. 
It was in talking with a friend who had come to 
me sorely oppressed and troubled with the sense of 
all the wickedness which there is, the dreadful 
crimes that darken the story of the world from 
day to day, the deep viciousness which we con- 
stantly see, and which sometimes seems almost 
irredeemable, — yes, and the sense of how there 
is so much of it in ourselves, so that often those 
who perhaps seem outwardly good feel in their 
own souls dreadful possibilities of sin which at 
times crush them almost into despair. " Oh ! " 
my friend said, and he spoke wth an agony of 
spirit that I can never forget : '' How does it 


come? What does it all mean? Why is it that 
there is all this sin in the world and in our- 
selves? Why is it that we do such mean, bad 
things ? Why is it that, even after we have been 
praying, and feeling as if we could never do 
wrong any more, we so often go and forget the 
good, and do the very opposite?" "Till," he 
said, " sometimes it sets me wondering whether 
it is any use, — and this praying and trying and 
struggling, — whether one might not as well 
let all go.'' 

And then it was that there flashed into my 
mind this thought I am putting to you here ; and 
I said : " O, my friend, I feel all this just as 
you do; and I do not know that I can help you 
much. Only, are not wx looking at it all, for one 
thing, in the wrong way, from the wrong end, 
as it were? We are talking as if all this evil 
in us and in the world were wonderful, such a 
mystery! Is it not really the good that is the 
mystery? This haunting good, that rebukes the 
bad in us, how-ever natural and tempting the bad 
may seem, — how does this come ? — this good 
that will not let us rest in sin, however much 
we want to do; that makes us ashamed of it, 
and long to be free from it, and that no sin or 
evil seems utterly to crush out of us, or out of the 
world, and that age after age has kept lifting 


mankind a little higher, and that still keeps up the 
struggle, though it often does seem to accomplish 
so little? 

The more I have thought of all this since, the 
more I have felt that this is the true way of 
looking at the matter, and that it makes it, at any 
rate, not quite so dark and hopeless. Of course, 
I do not mean to say that this is the whole ac- 
count of the mystery of our moral being, that it 
is all solved by putting the stress of our won- 
der, not upon how evil came to be, but upon how 
good comes and goodness and all the sense 
of goodness and the striving for it. Of course, 
it is just as great a mystery, if we talk of begin- 
nings, how came anything to be ? How came mat- 
ter? Still more, how came life? But human 
knowledge has pretty well accepted the fact that 
these are not to be known, simply to be accepted. 
Science begins with what is, — a world, and life 
in it, and, evidently, as far back as we can trace, 
the struggle for existence, everything striving to 
be and to continue to be, a teeming, seething 
world of life, with everything writhing and 
scratching and clawing in the struggle for its 
place and its food, and for the continuance of 
its being. And all this ha^ come to seem, in 
a fashion, natural. Granted a world of life and 
living things, and selfishness and struggle for 


self seem as if they might originate themselves. 
The tiniest animalcule can be conceived of, and 
can hardly be conceived of as other than climb- 
ing upward, over everything in its way, and 
struggling, with a dumb, unconscious force, to 
make good its own footing in the world in which 
it finds itself. And, out of such struggling, war- 
ring life, one can also understand, in a fashion, 
the stronger surviving, and such stronger life 
adapting itself to the world's conditions by slow, 
wonderful changes, and the struggle growing 
continually more complicated and far-reaching. 
Granted all that, and there is no particular mys- 
tery in all that we call evil. Indifference to 
others, greed, lust, — they would not be evil in 
such a beginning of the world, but just its nat- 
ural forms and forces working themselves out. 
And, if you can imagine such clash of forces 
killing out all but the strongest or cunningest, 
and gradually working up through brute-life to 
man, — still, what savagism, to begin with ! 
And, if the whole thing be only what man (be- 
ginning in that savagism, or beginning further 
back still among the brutes) has made of him- 
self, nothing specially wonderful or mysterious 
in much of that savagism lingering on, or in 
constant reversions to it! As you see what that 
original struggle for self is still in its lower ani- 


mal forms, I do not think we need much ex- 
plaining how all that we call '' evil " comes still 
to be, — all forms of lust and cruelty and self- 
indulgence, even such blood-thirst as gloated over 
the horrors of Dahomey, or has made possible 
such butcheries as we have read of in Armenia; 
ay, and so we know whence come the possibil- 
ities of vice and wickedness in ourselves. 

Only, why does it seem '' evil " ? Why do we 
shudder at it, and shrink from it, and feel like 
loathing ourselves even for thinking of such 
things ? Why do not we just live on, in whatever 
life seems natural to us? Whence comes this 
sense of good, this admiration for the good, 
which shames the evil in us, even while it still 
is in us ? What is it makes us long for something 
better, and keep on hoping that some day we may 
attain the better? And, when we look out from 
ourselves, to what Goodness is to the heart of 
mankind, — all the way from the first dim sense 
of law and right to the very highest moral hero- 
ism and devoted self-sacrifice, — whence comes 
all that? 

Yes ! That is the mystery, the everlasting mys- 
tery of the world : how comes Goodness ? 

There are some thinkers who fancy that, in 
some way, it could be and must have been de- 
veloped out of the struggle for self. I do not 


think we are ever really going to trace it that 
way. We might get a certain prudential, mutual 
care that way, but not unselfish love. I do not 
think any philosophizing is ever going to get 
real love for others out of any combination or 
manipulation of love for self. A truer thought 
seems that idea held by some, and notably 
worked out in Prof. Henry Drummond's " As- 
cent of Man,'' that, even from the very begin- 
nings of life, we find not only the unmistake- 
able struggle for self, but also germs of altru- 
ism, care for other life, and that out of these 
have grown the various developments of good- 
ness. That looks more likely. But that does 
not explain the mystery, only puts it back a little 
further. Whence come these germs of care for 
other life, with such potentialities of all unself- 
ish virtue, up to the loftiest goodness ? Ah ! here 
is where the mystery tends to higher things, and 
points man upward to meanings, and a Power 
at work which means them, which, however it 
may seem lost in almost endless trains of causa- 
tion, leads us, at last, not to mere lifeless " en- 
ergy," but to some beneficent Power v/hich has 
caused things to be thus, and is ever silently lead- 
ing them on. 

I think there are few things more interesting 
in the world than to watch the dawning of this 


mysterious goodness here and there, and to trace 
its growth to higher and nobler developments. 
It may be far short of man in its beginnings. 
How one would like, for instance, in this mat- 
ter of the law of kindness, to trace the beginning 
of all kindness and care for the weak and ailing 
and poor. All through the animal world the 
social instinct seems to be to destroy the weak 
or maimed of the herd or the flock, that is the 
instinct of such social organisation as they have. 
Yet even then, as an individual feeling, we find 
the dawnings of sympathy and help; and stories 
of animals helping each other in some injury 
or need are among the noblest pages in natural 
history. I shall never forget what an old friend 
once told me of how he used to watch two toads 
in his greenhouse. One of them had had its foot 
injured, and could barely crawl about; and he 
said it was such a touching thing to see the other 
waiting upon it, and helping it so tenderly over 
the rough rockery, just as a man might help 
his lame comrade up some mountain path. Now, 
how did that individual helpfulness for a poor, 
maimed creature take the further step of using 
the social organism to keep such weakness alive 
instead of destroying it ? Ah ! who can tell ? 
That is part of the mystery of goodness. Prob- 
ably, by the time that further stage was reached. 


Man was well on the way. And every step of 
man, each moral advance, first in individual feel- 
ing, then in idea and law, and gradually grow- 
ing into something of accordant action, is touched 
with the same element of mystery and wonder. 
Trace up the gradual law of mutual right and 
justice, from the wild, measureless instinct of 
revenge, first, to the restraint of equal vengeance, 
" an eye for an eye," '' for a tooth " only '' a 
tooth," then on to compensation for the injury 
instead of mere retaliating injury, and onward 
still to the far higher thought of generosity 
to an enemy. We cannot trace it. Only, here 
and there, along the line of growth, we see the 
new thought manifested in some action which 
at the moment, perhaps, seemed mere folly to 
those about, but which has lived in human mem- 
ory ever since. So, for instance, when David had 
the sleeping King Saul in his power, that half- 
mad foe, who was hunting him for his life, and 
his companion, Abishai, would have pinned the 
king to the ground with one spear-stroke, " Let 
me smite him," he said, '' and I will not need 
to smite him a second time ! " Ah ! in that re- 
fusal to harm him there is the flashing out of a 
new standard of kindness, even to enemies ! 

" So, age by age, since time began, 
We see the steady gain of man." 


And each gain, when it first struck upon the 
heart of those used to lower ways, must have 
been a mystery, and the whole onward growth 
a larger, further-reaching mystery, until it came 
to its crowning height in that strong Son of 
Man who seemed to his followers so good, so 
** godly " in a fashion passing the sons of men, 
that Paul, in his letter, called him the very " mys- 
tery of godliness," that had been manifested not 
in word or law, but in the very flesh of one made 
like to his brethren, and yet so far above them. 

All this comes to us in that deep word, of 
Paul's awe at what seemed to him Christ's per- 
fect and mysterious goodness. And it seems 
to me to put the mystery there forever, not in 
the evil in man and in the world, but in good- 
ness, from its lowest manifestation up to its very 

But now, finally, what does all this amount 
to ? Does it make goodness easier, thus to recog- 
nise it as the deep, divine mystery of the world? 

I do not know that it does, in any single act 
of life. But I think it does help the good in 
our nature and the good in the world. It helps 
us not to be quite so despairing when the evil 
seems as if it was pervading all and carrying 
all before it. It helps us to be patient even with 
evil, to understand that goodness grows slowly in 


the divine evolution of the world, but that it does 
grow, always has been growing, and is not going 
to cease and come to a stand still now. 

No : it may not make any visible change when 
some dire temptation comes upon the heart, or 
some wild passion rises like a whirlwind within 
us. It is not any moralising or philosophising 
that helps us then, but just whatever near mo- 
tive of love or honor there may be to cling to. 
But life is not all crises of hot temptation; and 
meanwhile, in quieter and evener times, it is a 
help to life's better growth to recognise this deep, 
mysterious force of good which holds us and will 
not let us utterly go, and which, the more we 
think of it, the more we know that it will never 
let us have peace in any wTong. Yes: the sense 
of this, the thought of this, is something to help 
the good in us, to help us in the daily living 
for life's nobler things; and it is something to 
help us, even in all our conscious weakness, never 
to give up the strife or to despair of trying again ; 
to make us sure that God has not forsaken us 
or given us up, so that we may not give our- 
selves up. Yes; and, apart from our own per- 
sonal struggle, it should help us to keep up the 
struggle in the world for justice and right among 
nations, and for the uplifting of the fallen and 
despairing, and for all social well-being. And 


SO the nobler life is kept still strengthening among 
men, and kindness grows from a personal to a 
social ideal; and the world keeps moving round 
a little out of the ancient darkness. It is not yet 
into any perfect light it comes; but, at least, it 
comes where we can see dawning the lights of 
God's higher meanings for man, and so we can 
keep on watching and waiting and striving and 
praying, and know that his world is moving and 
that the Day will come. 


If God is good and if he is all powerful, why- 
is it that the world has these dire shapes of pain 
and sorrow and death among its constant pres- 
ences? If the Infinite is Love, why is it that 
no moment of no hour, the centuries through, 
but bears out into the Infinite some groan or 
shriek or curse of life writhing in the grasp of 
some overmastering calamity? Even in the 
animal world it seems bad enough, and students 
of nature like Huxley and John Fiske have de- 
clared Nature to be full of cruelty and a scene 
of incessant and universal strife. In human life 
the agony seems even more acute. Of all the 
multitudes of the living, not one but has some 
pang to bear. Some hearts are worn almost to 
despair by all life's burden and pain. To all, 
in a few brief years, the sun will darken and the 
light of life go out, with pangs the sum of which, 
as one thinks of the myriads of earth's people, 
is awful to compute. Why is it? If God is 
good and is all power, why is all this? This 
is " the mystery of pain." 



Do you suppose that I think I can explain it 
all ? No, but I do think that there are some lights 
upon it here and there which show it as not 
quite such a hopeless mystery as is often alleged 
— lights which point towards predominant benef- 
icence as to a mystery not to blind, lifeless forces, 
but of a slowly working goodness, a mystery 
not disintegrating things into chaos, but round- 
ing them toward ever higher order ; — a mystery 
therefore, not of atheism and despair, but of 
faith and hope and quiet immovable trust. 

The first light which strikes me on this sub- 
ject of pain is as to the real proportions of the 
mystery. We are apt to exaggerate it. We ex- 
aggerate it by the very fact of massing it together 
in our thought, in order to get a completer view 
of it. But it is not a completer view. That 
is not how Nature distributes pain. It is really 
mixed up with a great deal of happiness. Take, 
for instance, this thought of evolution. I am 
told of a thousand or a million perishing for 
one " fittest " to survive. But then, that does 
not take place all at once, as one dire tragedy 
of slaughtered. That struggle for existence is 
simply the name we give to the whole life of 
animated nature, viewed in the light of its large 
result of gradual change and progress. Every 
element of it is going on all the time — in the 


trees above your head, where the birds seem hav- 
ing a pretty good time upon the whole, and in the 
grass where the insects Uve their httle life, and 
in the waters in which the tiny fish are play- 
ing in their shoals. Some are dying all the time, 
and the types are changing as the centuries roll. 
And yet it does not strike us as such a dreadful 
spectacle. Have you ever thought how seldom 
in your country walks, for instance, you see 
a dead animal, — so seldom that you always stop 
to look at it. For all those birds of which you 
see a thousand busy and happy in every mile or 
two, how often is it that you find one lying dead? 
The preying of animals — preying on one an- 
other — sounds very cruel ; but it is very doubt- 
ful how much pain there is about it. My friend 
Crowther Hirst has for some years been making 
inquiries as to the actual pain felt, even by the 
most sensitive of animals, man, when he is preyed 
upon by the greater wild beasts; and the result 
is a curious consensus of testimony that the shock 
of a lion's or tiger's onslaught seems to numb 
the system, almost taking away all pain, even 
when leaving consciousness. Of course I do not 
mean that there is no pain in the natural world, 
but that many things point to its being so spaced 
out in general happy life as not to be any un- 
bearable mystery. And is it not really a good 


deal so with the pain of mankind when you look 
at it in its real perspective in the whole of life? 
It, too, is mixed up with a good deal of hap- 
piness. On the whole, man would rather live 
than not. 

Indeed, pain is so mixed up with enjoyment 
in its actual happening, that, as a fact, the world 
at large has never been either crushed or hope- 
lessly perplexed by it. Because, we must re- 
member, it is not we who have first experienced 
this mystery of pain. From the beginning the 
very same facts w^hich perplex us have pressed 
upon the life of man ; and yet on the whole man- 
kind have felt that it is not a bad world to live 
in. Individuals may have been pessimists, but 
not the human race in its average feeling. In- 
dividuals may have welcomed suicide as an es- 
cape from so bad a world, but never races. And 
yet in older times all the elements of pain were 
larger, stronger, in more awful masses, than they 
are to-day. We are horrified to hear of some 
dreadful famine. Why, in the older world there 
were a dozen famines for every one to-day, and 
far more terrible. We are shocked by the decima- 
tions of some pestilence, against which all pre- 
cautions or remedies seem powerless. The pesti- 
lences of the ancient world were infinitely worse. 
In the Black Death of the fourteenth century 


a quarter of the whole population of Europe and 
Asia died. In England and Italy, half the people 
perished. There were towns and villages in 
which hardly a soul survived. In those old cen- 
turies the plague came almost every generation. 
And yet, even with such things to average in, 
mankind in the mass has never doubted either 
that life is worth living or that God is good. 
Take the great world-religions. Even those 
which have felt the power of evil so immense as 
to regard it as a rival god have believed in the 
good God, as the strongest. Zoroastrianism — 
Parseeism now — is the world's most perfect 
dualism, with Ormuzd, the good Deity, and 
Ahriman, the power of evil. But in the lapse 
of countless eaons it was Ormuzd, the power 
of light and right, who was to triumph. The 
mystery of pain was in blacker masses and men 
could not see even as far into it as we can. And 
yet what they saw was enough to keep alive 
an indomitable feeling that the balance of result 
is to the good. 

The second light upon the mystery — not ex- 
planation of it (that, as I have said, we must 
not expect) but a sort of light which shows it 
not quite so dark — is this ; that it is not those 
who are most in the shadow of pain who most 
feel it a mystery. You see, when I point to that 


great fact which I have been dweHing on, that 
the mass of mankind do not feel the world so 
hopelessly evil, I am apt to be told, No, perhaps 
not, because the pain does not fall upon the 
whole of mankind at once, and it is easy for 
people to be philosophical about the pain of 
others. But do you note that that really is an 
admission that, leaving aside the sufferings of 
others, the generality of lives have not more 
suffering of their own than they can face without 
dismay ? And there is something still more strik- 
ing about this, namely that it is not even those 
who have most to bear who most feel pain such 
an oppressive mystery. This is not a matter of 
large general averages, for which statistics can 
be referred to; but I think, if you go over in 
your mind those who have had the heaviest bur- 
dens to bear, the most pain, those upon whom the 
mystery of pain has most seemed, to others, to 
rest — they have not really been the most op- 
pressed by it, their faith in God's goodness most 
shaken. As far as my experience goes, it has 
been the very opposite. Those difficulties of 
faith, arising from there being so much pain in 
the world, are almost all difficulties of those who 
look at it in theory, not of those who practically 
have to bear it. In the course of a pretty long 
ministry I have seen many, very many, suffer- 


ing ones, but for the most part it has been those 
suffering ones who have had the happiest faith. It 
has been those who have known most of pain 
who have least felt it any oppressive mystery. 
Why, how often do you see in some crippled 
or sorely tried life, almost a special compensa- 
tion in the beautiful sweetness of character and 
soul ! Their friends may feel such pain a '* mys- 
tery," hardly ever they themselves. Col. Inger- 
soll said once that the fact of one martyr was 
enough to discredit the idea of a good God. 
But, if there were any real force in that dif- 
ficulty, how curious that the martyrs themselves 
have never felt it, for assuredly they have not. 
There have been no grander testimonies of tri- 
umphant faith in God's goodness than have con- 
tinually risen from those on whom that mystery 
of pain has come in the shape of fierce agonies 
of rack or fire. So that practically, this mystery 
of pain does not seem to be so hopeless and op-^ 
pressive as theoretically, one is apt to think it 
should be. 

But now let us look at it theoretically. Look 
at this element of pain as it appears in the whole 
make-up of the world. Take Nature for a mo- 
ment (apart from the idea of God.) Regard 
Nature as a mere congeries of forces, or if you 
think that science tends toward the idea that all 


forces are but variations of the same force, then 
regard Nature as the varied manifestation of 
one mighty and mysterious energy. We will not 
say God, at present, but '' energy " ; and all that 
is, and all the gradual changing and becoming 
of things, the outcome of that energy. Well, is 
the outcome good? not, is it perceptibly good 
in each separate part, — that it is hardly to 
be expected we should be able to see — but, 
is the general outcome of all these forces 
or of this energy good? Is the changing 
and becoming of things good? Is the final re- 
sultant of all the various intricate working good? 
Does the sweep of the whole trend toward good? 
Why, who can doubt it? What has the long 
past been doing? Think how this globe, to read 
its history by the later light of science, has 
evolved from the primeval fire-mists into this 
wondrous earth, with all the wonder and beauty 
of its myriad-fold life! Think of that marvel- 
lous ' development ' and all that has come of it, 
— for it is all the work of this mighty net- 
work of co-operating forces, all, up to man, look- 
ing at it, admiring it, investigating it — yes, up 
to man, with his sense of goodness and right. 
Do not leave out any of the destruction and 
death and conflict that there has been. Recog- 
nise all the pain that has been involved in this 


slow process, which through milHons of years 
has been bringing all this to pass. But has not 
the sweep of the whole been trending unmis- 
takeably to good? Is it not a grand order, that 
which through whatever clash and conflict there 
may have been, has kept all working together in 
the subtle endless chain of cause and effect, with 
such result as we see in the heavens and the earth 
and in the life of man? And then remember 
that the pain is simply a part of that order, and 
we have got to accept it as it is, this mighty 
order with its earthquakes and volcanoes as well 
as its roses and its butterflies, with its death ever 
changing into life and life ever changing into 
death. Shall we say that one part is bad and the 
other good ? All belong together in the grand or- 
der. Shall we complain because the order is often 
hard on man? Yet we can see how it is this 
very order and the absolute certainty of it, which 
has enabled man to take a gradually wiser, 
stronger, safer part in the midst of the great 
complicated whole. Man might have been a mere 
atom in the whole, fitting in like a star or a tree ; 
but he has a nobler part — a part of growth and 
a part of thought — and has had to feel his 
way step by step into his part in this intricate 
network of substances and forces. And the very 
things which have seemed hard upon him have 


helped him. Suffering has been his greatest 
teacher. Pain is simply the educating touch of 
those great forces around him, when he has 
taken hold of them wrongly, been ignorant of 
them, or tried to disregard them. Science has 
been his settled knowledge of them; and science 
has only been possible because they are so settled. 
Once a force known, a law known, known for 
ever! And the more man keeps it, the more he 
finds it beneficent. 

Well now change the terms. Instead of saying 
Nature or energy, let us say God. This mys- 
terious something that causes all things to be — 
from the primeval fire-mist all the way up to 
man — and all to be bound, and to work, so 
wondrously together — instead of calling this 
"Order" or "Tendency" or " Hfeless Force" 
let us think of it as mind and will, working in 
and through all things. But is anything altered ? 
Is anything w^orsened ? Is the great order which 
we call " Nature " and which we see to be bene- 
ficent if man uses it rightly, — is it less bene- 
ficent if we regard it as the product of an intel- 
ligence which meant it? Surely we shall not 
regard that as evil in God which we have just 
been admiring as good in Nature ! And yet that 
is just what people often do! It is only a little 
while ago that I was reading one of these modern 


diatribes against religion, founded upon this fact 
of the mystery of pain. The writer spoke of 
all the pain and misery of the world as so dread- 
ful that, if there were a God who permitted it, 
he must be a sort of fiend ; and then with a final 
burst of indignation he said, *' From such relig- 
ion I turn away ; I turn to Nature and Science " 
— in the very next paragraph he began extoll- 
ing the calm, unchangeable order of Nature. But 
surely there is no real sense in that! It is play- 
ing fast and loose with the meaning of facts 
to denounce them as the will of God and then 
to praise them as the outcom.e of Nature. No! 
This is one of the great gains which have come 
of Science: it has taught us to feel that man's 
real hope is in the mighty unchangeable order of 
the laws that cause the whole, not in some im- 
possible suspension or relaxation of those laws. 
So all this pain of the world is man's teacher 
to a better future ; and, while thus teaching man, 
it has not, as I showed at first, ever been prac- 
tically enough really to discourage or dismay 

You notice that I do not put this use, as 
man's teacher, as the explanation of the mystery 
of pain ; but I think it is a light upon it, making 
it look not so dark. But there is a greater light 
still, I think, in seeing how this liability to 


danger and pain provides the world with its in- 
tensest moral impulses. It is out of dangers and 
calamities that the noblest heroism of the world 
is born. Accidents, perils, destructions, which at 
first almost strike you dumb by the awfulness 
of the pain they involve, are constantly found to 
arouse a courage, a heroism, which lift them clear 
out of the rank of mere physical events and 
give them a value to the world's higher life, ut- 
terly outweighing all mere bodily suffering. You 
know how there is never a railroad accident, a 
ship-wreck, a great fire, never any one of those 
dire catastrophes in which the mystery of pain 
seems to come to its very climax, but out of the 
dark mystery gleams some light of beautiful he- 
roic unselfishness. Take an illustration. I recall 
the most awful colliery explosion that ever took 
place in England, that at the '* Oaks " Colliery 
in 1866, in which above three hundred men and 
boys perished. But that was not all. While it 
was still doubtful if some might not be saved, 
there was a call for volunteers to go down; and 
without a moment's hesitation thirty-three men in 
all went down, and at their head the gallant 
young engineer. Parkin Jeffcock. And then a 
little while of waiting, and suddenly another ex- 
plosion, the very gearing of the pit blown into 
shapeless ruins; and not only was all hope for 


the main body of miners at an end, but every one 
of those explorers had perished too. 

I knew that part of the country in those days, 
and I remember as if it were but yesterday how 
the horror of all that thrilled through the coun- 
try; and one of the very thoughts it set many 
thinking was just this; How could such a thing 
happen, if there be a good God? And yet, how 
not ? That first calamity was simply the penalty 
of some careless handling of the mighty forces 
concerned. I believe it came out afterwards that 
the men had made one long blast to serve in- 
stead of two shorter ones, and that, in a coal- 
seam in which a liberal keeping of nature's re- 
quirement would have excluded all blasting. I 
see no " mystery " there, simply the lesson on 
a terribly large scale to keep more loyally the 
law of those things which are so freely given 
to man to use. But the loss of those brave ex- 
plorers? And yet, in reality, is not that the 
noblest element in the whole story? Yes, that 
they should offer themselves, that they should 
face the risk for their fellows. But then, would 
not a good God have taken care of them and 
kept them harmless? Where would be the hero- 
ism if some divine protection were in the habit 
of holding such " forlorn hopes " unscathed ? 

Let us have more trust — the very kind of 


trust these men had. For what was their trust? 
That the fire and poisonous gas and caving rock 
could not hurt them or kill them when on such 
an errand? No; but that, if they were on such 
an errand, death itself was not a thing to fear 
or shun or trouble about. And so it is. I can 
feel pity for those three hundred men blown to 
death while at their ordinary work, because it 
seems such a needless, pitiful waste of life that 
had no business ever to have happened. But, 
for those thirty-three who were there upon that 
noble, unselfish errand, I feel pity to be utterly 
out of place. No, for this is not a play world 
in which the sternest dangers are make-believes, 
and a good natured God waits round to keep his 
best children, at least, from getting hurt or killed. 
It is a world of hard realities, and awful, un- 
swerving forces ; and the goodness of that mighty 
Life that works through it is seen, not in some 
occasional kind checking of those forces, but in 
this — that, awful and unswerving as they are, 
they work for good, in nature toward beauty and 
use, in man toward fuller knowledge and wiser 
working ; and even at the awfullest, to the loftiest 
intensity of human character. 

And yet one thing more, to end with. If you 
wish for the very happiest and clearest light 
upon that mystery of pain you will find 


it, not even by any way of bearing it or 
looking at it, but by going right into it and 
trying to make it a little less. The problem that 
seems to defy your logic becomes, I do not say 
transparent, but at least full of light to loving 
helpfulness. I hardly know how it should be so; 
but, certainly I have never known anyone who 
has taken firm hold of this problem of pain and 
who is spending any part of his or her days in 
really grappling with it and trying here and 
there to lessen it and heal it — I have never 
known such an one to feel any oppressive dif- 
ficulty about it. It is those who look on it 
from the outside, it is those who muse over it 
in their studies, to whom pain seems to lie upon 
the world like a black impenetrable cloud. Go 
into that cloud and you find that in and out of it 
come a thousand glints of light and use and 
beautiful, hopeful meaning. There, not in the 
totality of pain as you observe it, but in its in- 
dividuality as you try to help or heal it, you 
begin to understand its wise beneficent part in 
the slow, onward development of man. There, 
trying to help or heal, it comes to you how your 
loving desire is but a tiny impulse of the great 
meaning of the whole — that whole which works 
not only through dead forces, but through living 
hearts, and means not the forces only, which 


often we cannot understand, but the hearts and 
the hearts' love which we can understand. And 
so, as you go patiently on, doing your little part 
in the helping and the healing, there comes a 
sense of how the threads, both of our working 
and our thinking, lose themselves in the vast 
weavings of eternal things. And here we are 
only among beginnings, but beginnings that keep 
moving on; and so the mysteries and fears and 
tremblings of earth and man lose themselves, not 
in chaos and darkness, but in that infinite mean- 
ing and infinite beneficence which our hearts 
adore as *' God." 


It is one of the great laws of the material 
world that all movement must take place along 
the line of least resistance. Some of the thinkers 
of our day maintain that this is equally true of 
our human living, and that it is right for it 
to be so. It does not seem exactly the Master's 
Counsel, indeed ; " Go in at the narrow gate," 
he puts it, " not at the wide one ; " that is — 
" Take the hard way, not the easy one." 

Which is right? It is worth a little looking 
into. You know in the present time there is a 
great liking for large generalizations, which may 
include nature and man in one category and one 
law. This is just one of those generalizations 
— and it is worth looking into to see whether 
it is true — or whether there is some higher ele- 
ment in man that will not arrange itself with 
these material forces, but requires some higher 
explanation and seems to depend on some higher 

First of all let us get a clear idea of what 



this law is, of all movement having to be on the 
line of least resistance. Watch it in its very sim- 
plest illustrations. Pour a little water on the 
ground and notice what becomes of it. Its little 
streams move slowly in this or that direction as 
if feeling about. What are they feeling for? 
Simply for the lines of least resistance — the 
direction in which there is least to obstruct its 
flow. But it is not only in such a slow move- 
ment as that of water that we can trace this law. 
When a gun is fired, the force of the explosion 
is really equal all round, but it is obliged to find 
its outlet by the barrel because that is the line 
along which there is least resistance. So when 
a steam boiler bursts, the direction of the ex- 
plosion is settled by the same law. It seems a 
simple matter these little trickles of water feel- 
ing for a slight descent, or this expansive force 
breaking out at the weakest point. But as you 
watch these things you see in operation, one of 
the mighty laws which have helped to mould and 
to develop the universe. These planets find 
their circling orbit through the vast world-spaces, 
not in a perfect circle, but just where the balanc- 
ing and counteracting attractions of sun and 
stars leave the least resistance to that unknown 
force which impels them on. The great air-cur- 
rents by which the signal service watchers fore- 


cast a storm or the rise or fall of temperature, il- 
lustrate the same law. Nor is this only the 
principle of movement for dead matter. Ex- 
amine the winding twisting fibres at the root of 
a tree. Those tiny cells that keep being added 
at the extremity insinuate themselves through 
the interstices of the soil, or the crannies of the 
rock in search of moisture just where at each 
point there is the least resistance. In reality, it 
is probable that this principle is operating in 
every movement of animated nature, from the 
swerving aside of a runaway horse if you try to 
stop it, to the slow, gradual changes of place, 
food and habit, which, through the long cycles 
of human time, have regulated the course of de- 
velopment and the survival of the fittest. Her- 
bert Spencer, from whom some of these illus- 
trations are borrowed, traces this principle right 
onward into human action, too, and believes that 
it both explains man's past and conditions his 
future. There, however, the questioning comes 

Let it be frankly admitted that the law of 
" Life on the line of least resistance " does in- 
terpret a good deal of human action — It is very 
interesting to trace it. It interprets all that part 
of life in which man is still simply one of the 
animals. The struggle to supply the animal 


wants, the first groupings of society, the large, 
hardly conscious movements of peoples — all fol- 
low this law. Man stands in the midst of the 
vast nature, needing to live and having to put 
forth his powers in order to obtain food, cloth- 
ing, warmth, safety. Nature more or less resists 
his efforts. A sort of antagonistic pressure sur- 
rounds him. Man's life tends to those ways, to 
those places, where this pressure is least. Thus 
the sheltered valleys are peopled before the bleak 
hills or plains. Thus population spreads along 
sea shore, where there is always food for the 
catching. Thus migration takes place from 
countries where life is difficult to those where it 
is easy. Human industry flows to those occu- 
pations in which, as we say there is most room 
and in which, consequently, life's wants are sup- 
plied with least difficulty. So with the lines of 
human communication. The primitive roads 
over moor and fell and the carefully planned rail- 
road across a country, are alike directed by the 
line of least resistance. 

So far then we trace the law, through inani- 
mate matter and through animated Nature up 
to man; and even in man's doings where those 
doings are impersonal, in large sweepings of ten- 
dency or movement which are independent of in- 
dividual will; in fact we trace this law till we 


come to doings which depend on individual will 
and personal character. But there we have to 
pause. When we come to man's free, individual 
life, the law no longer holds, at least not in the 
same way. It no longer holds as a self-acting, 
automatic law, dominating man without any 
consciousness on his part. The fact that man's 
life is conscious introduces quite a new factor. 
The question arises: is this law of motion along 
the line of least resistance a law which man ought 
to set before himself? and I cannot look out on 
man's common life without feeling that it is not. 
It may seem curious that as soon as man comes 
to his own voluntary life, he should have to break 
away from the law which has brought him so 
far, but so it is. From the moment man be- 
comes a self-conscious being, thinking of his own 
actions and of the right and wrong of them — 
from that moment, no more life merely on the 
line of least resistance. From that moment all 
the further progress of life and all the dignity 
and moral worth of life may be said to depend 
on his living, not on the line of least resistance 
but almost the contrary. Of course it is not so 
absolutely. The moral value of an action can 
be no more decided absolutely by its being hard 
than by its being easy; but certainly the idea of 
the true thing being to look out for the easy way 


is scattered to the winds. And mark, this is not 
because the terms no longer apply. The terms 
do apply, they fit with a curious aptitude. That 
idea of acting on the line of least resistance is 
very easy to translate into life, but it gives the 
wrong sort of life. You can see plenty of ap- 
plications of it, parallels for almost every illus- 
tration I have given from Nature. Take that 
of water on the ground, feeling about for its 
line of least resistance. Have you never seen 
that in life? People whose whole course is just 
that limp feeling about for the easiest way; who 
are always trying to get along with the minimum 
of effort and trouble, who endeavour to dodge 
round every difficulty and obstacle? There is 
your " life on the line of least resistance," only 
it is the wrong kind of life. When a man gets 
into a passion and instead of venting it on some 
equal, who would talk back, vents it on his er- 
rand-boy or his dog — that is passion on the line 
of least resistance — but it certainly does not 
make the passion better. Yes, it is very easy to 
understand, and dreadfully easy to carry out, this 
physical law, but it is pretty poor to set up as 
a law of life, for it gives the wrong kind of life 
every time. No lack of opportunity for seeing 
how it works, for a great deal of the life of the 
world is lived exactly on this principle. Every 


man who puts off till to-morrow what he ought 
to do to-day; every man who sits at home with 
his slippers on when he ought to go to a commit- 
tee or a meeting; every business man who shirks 
balancing his books because of what he is afraid 
to find confronting him there; every politician 
who trims his principles to stave off awkward 
opposition — all these are exact illustrations of 
acting on the line of least resistance. And this 
is not the poorest kind of the life it leads to. 
The confirmed idler who does not do what he 
ought either to-day or to-morrow; the tramp 
who slips into mendicancy because begging is 
easier than working; the criminal who slips into 
thieving because thieving is easier than either 
working or begging — all these are fair actual 
illustrations, of trying to continue into the free 
life of man, the principle of movement on the 
line of least resistance. 

On the other hand, all that is great, all that 
is noble, all that is progressive in man's life, has 
been attained not along that line, but quite in- 
dependent of it; often along the exactly opposite 
line. The story of all great achievements, of all 
lives steadfastly pursuing noble ends, of all re- 
forms wrought through tribulation and disap- 
pointment to final victory, has ever been the 
story of men choosing not the easier way, but 


the harder, and finding it, mostly, even harder 
than they dreamed, and still holding right on. 
When Hu^s and Wycliffe began the movements 
v^hich, a century or more later, were to becomxC 
the Reformation — well. Reformation, even in 
Luther's time, with all the increased prepared- 
ness of the world was hardly a movement on the 
line of least resistance — (it would have been 
easier to have let it alone, even then) but what 
was it in its beginnings, when the resistance was 
so fierce that it brought Huss to the stake and 
scattered Wycliffe's desecrated ashes to the 
winds? And you see the same thing when you 
look at life now, in any of its stronger, nobler, 
aspects. It is not along the line of least re- 
sistance that poor lads have forced their way to 
fortune, and dwellers in humble garrets strug- 
gled into fame; or that the patient workers of 
Science have groped and dug their way into the 
deep and secret lore of Nature. No ! Even the 
busy mother, who is beset by a hundred cares to 
keep the home things sweet and comely, and 
sometimes feels as if it would be such a relief to 
give it all up and let everything go, but never 
does, — that is not life along the line of least 

And see! All this is not affected by the fact 
that there are other resistances besides those 


which people see at the moment, and which often 
make what seems to begin with, the easiest way, 
eventually the hardest. I know it. " The way 
of transgressors is hard " — at least, it is going 
to be. And the way of the righteous is going 
to be easier by and bye, though it would be dif- 
ficult to make out that it is, ever, the easiest. But 
this does not touch the question. If you want 
to know whether this natural law in the lower 
level of things is also to be the law man should 
hold up before himself, watch the law as it is. 
These further resistances and readjustments are 
precisely what the natural law takes no account 
of. Does the water, when it comes to the edge 
of a slight depression, abstain from going down 
because a little way on the ground rises again 
so that there is no real outlet that way? No. 
And so your easy going procrastinator who 
shirks his work to-day, even though he knows 
perfectly well it will be harder to-morrow, is a 
true parallel, not a sham one. Only, that which 
is right and good for the water is wrong and 
bad for the man. Even in those human en- 
terprises in which the line of least resistance is 
the actual desideratum, man's agency at once 
introduces a new and higher element. The en- 
gineers, cutting a line of railway have to seek 
the line of least resistance ; but they have to do so 


on the survey of the whole country and often 
must choose the more difficult way to begin 
with, in order to avoid some worse obstacle 
further on. The fact is, the moment you touch 
man's life, a whole set of higher principles comes 
in; and what we need to do is to keep those 
higher principles foremost in our thought ; and to 
try to explain them in the terms of something 
quite lower is not to help us but to confuse us. 
Not what is the line of least resistance, but what 
is the line of right, is the thought really to guide 
us. Even if it could be shown that in some final 
working out of things, the line of right will 
turn out also to be that of least resistance, that 
does not help, because that line will still only 
be found by looking out for the right. But it 
cannot be shewn; and every thought of it only 
distracts and weakens our hold upon the simple 
consideration of right. There is a poor fellow, 
for instance, in some sore temptation. He is 
hesitating on the threshold of some sin, and the 
way is dreadfully open, and every fibre of his 
senses is enticing him in. Yet he is trying to 
rally his soul to the right. Go to him and tell 
him that the law of the Universe is, to choose 
the line of least resistance. Can you undo the 
demoralising effect of such a word by any ar- 
gument to shew that what you mean is, that the 


path of eventually least resistance is away from 
that temptation? Or go to some struggling re- 
former, whose life year after year has been one 
long battling against the stream — and try your 
philosophy on him. " My friend, the real law 
of life is to choose the line of least resistance." 
Why, if he believes you, he will be halfway down 
stream, drifting with the current and finding it 
so easy — before you can reach him with even 
the first word of your explanation that he should 
still go struggling on, up-stream, because there 
he would eventually find that *' least resistance." 
Do you not see? You fancy you have got a 
great beautiful generalisation which proclaims 
itself a sort of universal law, and lo! the mo- 
ment you try to apply it practically, it leads you 
to weakness and confusion, and so far as you 
think of it at all, it is a principle rather to avoid 
than to follow. 

It all comes simply to this : that all these at- 
tempts to make the higher life of man clearer 
by referring back to mere material things, as if 
they were a little more reliable, are vain ; and so 
we are thrown back upon the higher life itself, 
and its own consciousness, and the great expres- 
sions of it in these grand old-world teachings 
of simple right; and all these come back with a 
new emphasis and power. This moral conscious- 


ness of mankind, which has kept growing with 
man's growth, developing as part of his develop- 
ment, is just as certain as his physical science. 
The higher things may not be as exactly defin- 
able, as the lower; but they are quite as real and 
in the main lines of them just as clear. 

Every now and then along the ages there 
comes a sort of chill over the ancient trust and 
faith of man, in all that higher life. It has been 
so to some extent, in this past generation. The 
sharp clear light of science has flamed up, and the 
old moral and religious lights of the world have 
seemed a little dim and uncertain in the new elec- 
tric glare. Science has become so wonderful 
and withal has revealed its truths in such sharp 
clear outline, and such hard palpable reality, that 
it has seemed sometimes as if its truths and laws 
must be about to take the place of those vague 
old-fashioned laws of the moral life and of the 
vague undefined sentiments of religion. 

But no. The further we go on, the further 
science itself goes on, the more we find that 
there is something in the life of man different 
from anything and everything else. Try how 
you will to generalise man's life into line with 
mere material nature, you cannot do it. You 
can generalise a part of man on the material 
line, and that so thoroughly that you are tempted 


to think the whole of him might be treated so 
— but simply, when you have done all you can, 
whole realms of man's being remain out of line. 
Before the struggle with temptation, before the 
grief of Penitence, before the self-sacrifice of 
Love, the laws of matter which we try to fit to 
everything, fall, helpless and meaningless. 

And so in these greater things of life, we have 
to go back to the old light and the old helpers. 
Here, in the old v/ays and the old words, in 
which our fathers and long centuries of strug- 
gling men strengthened their hearts to bear their 
burdens and to do their duty — here is the light 
to guide us still, and most of all it is in Him, 
above all others, who has been the very Light of 
the World. From all that thought which would 
try to find some all embracing law of life in 
the physical law of movement on the line of 
least resistance, I turn back again to the old 
counsel of the Master to seek rather the harder 
way and to distrust that line of least resistance, 
the " broad and pleasant way," as a way that 
*' leadeth to destruction." 

Yes ; " enter ye in at the strait gate," the 
*' hard and narrow way," It is not the line of 
" least resistance," and no logic of generalisation 
can make it that for any practical guidance; but 
it is the line of right; it is the line of real on- 


ward life; it is the line of a peaceful conscience 
and a quiet heart; and as you go on in it, its 
hardness shall grow less, its grade less steep, and 
if you will go on in it, and keep on patiently, 
you shall find the truth of that other grand word, 
that " the pathway of the just is as the shin- 
ing light, that shineth more and more unto the 
perfect day." 


What about that terrible famine in India, 
what about the Java eruption? How do these 
great calamities which come simply from the 
operation of the mighty laws and forces of Na- 
ture, mostly apart from any responsibilty of man 
— how do these fit in with the idea of the eternal 
goodness ? Most of what men call accidents — 
fires, shipwrecks, and so forth — we can in a 
sense understand. They are mostly the penalty of 
broken law, of some carelessness in the handling 
of those mighty edge-tools, the forces of Nature. 
They are educators, stern but beneficent, — benef- 
icent by their very inexorableness. If we are 
to use steam or electricity, it is best that the 
power of them should be absolute — so we know 
what we are doing. But the great natural catas- 
trophes and destructions are different. When 
some twenty years ago that awful tide- wave 
swept the coast of India for hundreds of miles, 
destroying some quarter of a million lives — 



no human foresight could have done much to 
lessen the horror. And now in this terrible fam- 
ine — over extents of country about equal to the 
whole of France — Why, foresight might per- 
haps have made more provision of water or 
food than it has done — though I believe the ir- 
rigation of India is better on the whole than ever 
before, but still in the large sweep of it, it was 
quite beyond human forecast or prevention. And 
what is the meaning of it all ? How it all comes 
right in face of our worship of an Infinite good- 
ness; our words about God's faithful providence, 
all the old words, that men have been saying 
or singing since the Psalmist's time, of trust in 
God's tender care! It forces back upon us the 
question whether we use words that have no real 
meaning? Is that old thought of a gracious 
providence, all a mistake? Is this world really 
in the hold of some blind force or forces, to 
which our safety and happiness, our cries and 
tears, are all alike indifferent? No! I do not 
think we feel so. " Though he slay me, yet will 
I trust in Him." Our faith in God is not of 
yesterday. Our sense of the general beneficence 
of things, of the trend of good in the vast order 
which has evolved and is always evolving the 
world, is too strongly based to be really or per- 
manently endangered by any bewilderment at 


parts of the great process which we cannot under- 
stand. But even though people may reassure 
their souls, that it must surely be right and good 
on the whole, they still cannot help feeling the 
bewilderment. They crave for some light, some 
meaning in such a calamity. 

If it does not mean passionless indifference, 
what does it mean? 

I am no prophet, to interpret to you such 
things as this, and to say why the Almighty 
power and wisdom suffers such irregularities to 
come even in the working out of his most trusted 
seasons. I cannot stand here and say: This 
or this is the meaning of the Infinite Life, in such 
things. No. And yet as I think it all over, and 
over again — there is one little side-light of mean- 
ing which does seem to appear — not any ex- 
planation of such calamities, not why they are; 
no, — but one meaning which they seem to flash 
out upon us as they go along. 

I can put the whole thing in a single sentence. 
I said just now, that such a shock of widespread 
failure or destruction makes us ask — does it 
mean that the Great Father-life of the universe 
does not care for us ? No, it does not mean that 
— but it does seem to mean that He does not care 
much for our bodies ! It does seem to mean that 
in is great world-plan the body — that, remem- 


ber, which man is always concerning himself most 
about, is in God's sight comparatively nothing, 
hardly worth taking into account, not worth step- 
ping aside for. It is the higher life in it, what we 
call the soul, God seems to care for. The body 
has just to take its chance (so to speak) among 
the other things of earth. 

Now, this is something worth looking into. 
Take, first, man's thought, the relative value 
man is apt to set on his body and on his soul, 
and then we begin to see the significance of the 
very different proportion in which the divine 
world-plan seems to hold them. 

One cannot look out into the world, without 
seeing that what man feels most of in himself, 
believes in most, cares infinitely the most for, 
is — the body. Men generally, believe that they 
have souls, but the body is what they really 
seem to live for. I am not speaking of bad 
men; but of how average human life lives this 
way. The whole arrangements of ordinary life 
are those of beings who feel that the real sub- 
stantial thing, is, to enjoy this present life, to 
get together all that is possible of its good each 
year. It is by success or failure in this that 
men take their rank in earthly society. Indeed, 
by '^ success " or ''failure " men almost always 
mean success or failure in bodily earthly things. 


*' What is a man worth " ? Means — how much 
material treasure? Even the very charities 
and kindnesses of the world, evince the same 
thing. They look to the bodily life more than 
to anything else. Men do not like to see their 
fellows suffering cold or hunger, living amid 
unwholesomeness and dirt, or in sickness or dis- 
ease. Those are the " problems " which weigh 
upon '' society." Yet all the time, there are 
infinitely sadder things — and that, among peo- 
ple who are neither starving, nor ragged, nor 
dirty — who in every bodily respect are as well 
off as need be — but whose real being, in the 
innermost fact of it, is starved, and ragged, and 
steeped in uncleanness worse than any outward 
dirt. And as you see this in men's ways of us- 
ing life, so you see it in their way of looking 
at sickness and death. To most people, sick- 
ness seems so much taken off from their avail- 
able life, — and when death, as we call it, comes, 
that seems like the end of anything worth really 
reckoning as life. People may talk about the 
joys of immortality, but what the most really 
want, is, to keep hold, to the uttermost moment 
possible, of the body's life, here among the 
things of earth. Anything, even for a few days 
more of it, — or even a few hours. That is 
why men feel these catastrophes and destructions 


of the bodily life so great a trial to their trust 
in God. Men do not distrust God because they 
see men sinning. A whole city full of souls, 
may be, as to many of them, in a state sadder 
than death, and the religious life goes on with 
its prayer and uplook as usual. But let a hun- 
dred or two bodies be suddenly maimed or de- 
stroyed, and straightway there is a widespread 
shuddering at the horror of it, and men begin 
crying out — how can a good God let such 
things be? Yes; there it is; it is life in its bod- 
ily, earthly frame and use, that people think 
of first and last. It is this they see, and care 
for in themselves, this to which they most min- 
ister in others; it is for getting more out of 
this they spend their strength; it is for the gen- 
eral happiness of this that they extol God's good- 
ness; it is the calamities of this which most 
trouble their faith, it is for the sparing of this a 
little longer that they lift up the most agonized 

There it is that there comes in this lesson 
which — I do not say is what God means to 
teach, but which certainly does appear out of 
these great calamities. It seems as if they put 
it to us, sometimes with startling, and almost 
cruel plainness, that our estimate of the body 
and the bodily life, is all wrong, at any rate that 


it is not the estimate that Nature, and the Lord 
of Nature, put upon it. Why, we might learn 
this, from the very place our bodies hold in the 
universe. They just have to stand or fall, with 
the common run of earthly things. They are 
of the earth, earthy. Nay, if they were man's 
all, the case is even worse. Man has hardships 
and difficulties of which the brutes know 
nothing. All things point to bodily happi- 
ness as what the brutes are created for, but 
they do not point so in man's case. They 
have their wants supplied with less labour, 
more as a part of the natural working of things, 
than man has. What a different spectacle — the 
birds going forth in the morning to get their 
daily bread, and men and women going forth to 
get theirs. What do birds know of the strain 
of care? The ordering of nature in the matter 
of wholeness and health tells the same story, 
— seems to show that with other creatures, the 
body is the dominant consideration; that, with 
man, it is a secondary consideration, subordinate 
to, leading up to something else. And this is 
what has to be constantly kept in mind. For 
the lesson that we learn as catastrophes pass by, 
of the comparative unimportance of the body, of 
how comparatively little God cares for it, does 
not stand alone as a mere negative lesson — No, 


it keeps carrying with it the positive lesson, — 
of the worth and glory of the higher element 
in man. For see; that providence which seems 
so curiously indifferent to our bodies, lavishes 
its finest and most wondrous influences upon the 
soul. All the divinest power of His Working 
seems to concentrate itself upon the soul. So, 
things that with the beasts have only a material, 
bodily significance, with man have a moral and 
spiritual use. Labour, and the strain of care 
— all that side of life which goes to supplying the 
means of living — are with man (quite above 
what they are to the beasts) the means of 
strengthening and developing that higher element 
of mind, and soul-life. Pain and sickness are al- 
most unknown among animals. If they are 
crippled or diseased, and when their powers are 
failing — Nature makes an end of them. But 
sickness, pain, and the weakening powers of old 
age are a part of the essential lot of man. God 
causes human beings to be kept living on for years, 
in bodily life so weak or painful that animals 
would not be kept in it for as many days. Why ? 
Because what God is caring for and working 
for is, the soul. Man's body is his for the sake 
of the soul ; and long after it has become a poor, 
pleasureless thing considered as a body, it still 
may do for the soul to live and grow in, and in- 


deed its very pain and helpfulness may be help- 
ful discipline for the soul. So nature — through 
human instinct and feeling, if you will — lets 
man live on, even provides for his being helped 
to live on, long after the animal would have been 
mercifully put out of its misery. 

It is simply the same fact — a sort of divine 
indifference to the body part of man, which 
comes out in these destructions. Here are we — 
thinking so much of our bodies, toiling for them, 
studying how to pamper them, guarding them 
so carefully from every wound or pain, — and 
meanwhile God's working in the earth sweeps on, 
and takes no more notice of our bodies than 
of so many flies. Sometimes it is one that per- 
ishes in some sweep of force, sometimes a dozen 
at once — now and then hundreds ; — once in 
years comes some giant catastrophe that destroys 
half a people and sends a shudder through the 
whole race. ''Can God be good?" men cry 
— but all goes impassively on. His mighty 
forces turn neither to the right hand nor the 
left. Again, it is not that He does not care 
for us, no, but apparently that He does not 
care much for our bodies. But here is the unit- 
ing truth : it seems as if He does not count these 
bodies to be us: only the temporary clothing of 


Long ago when I was living among the great 
cotton factories there was a great sensation 
among the workpeople, for an accident that had 
happened. A man had been cleaning some ma- 
chinery while it was going, and the great re- 
volving strap had caught his shirt sleeve, and — 
no! it had not drawn him in; his clothing was 
old and worn, and simply it had dragged it in, 
and stripped every rag of it off him, and left 
him standing there as naked as he was born ! 

Was he sorry that his clothes were poor and 
worn? Nay, rather thankful, that it was they 
that went and not he. And so it may be that 
God does not count these bodies to be us; it is 
not these bodies that He is Father to, and loves, 
and cares for. Even the body, indeed, is a won- 
derful thing; and yet what a mere rough affair 
it is, compared to that wonderful life that dwells 
in it, and uses it, and is its motive power. And 
as he has made this soul-life the most wonder- 
ful, so He deals the most wonderfully with it. 
All that tenderness of individual care which we 
are often disappointed that He does not have 
for our bodies. He does have for our souls. 
There, He meets with us spirit to spirit. There 
it is that we come into our true relation to Him, 
are conscious of Kinship to Him. And here it 
is that we find the most subtle, wonderful work- 


ing of His creating and evolving power. What 
is the evolution of man's outward body, com- 
pared with the evolution of that inward being, 
of intellect, conscience, affection ? These are the 
greatest things. These are the things that dom- 
inate the world. They make up the sphere in 
which the Infinite spirit touches our souls, re- 
sponsive to our seeking, with guidance, comfort, 
strength. The Development is ever upward, and 
in that development catastrophes are part of the 
teaching power. When man has yet hardly risen 
above the beasts, famine is already one of his 
great teachers, sending him to the river borders, 
teaching him prudence, foresight, lifting him 
from the wild comrade-ship of the desert, to the 
ordered civilisation of the Nile. As he grows 
still upwards, and learns to ward off much of 
the original calamity and destruction, what yet 
remains of it, forms the occasion and the in- 
centive to the very noblest developments of char- 

This, then, I might almost put as one of the 
higher meanings of great catastrophes, — not 
merely the negative meaning of how the great 
Power that causes us to be does not seem to 
care much for our bodies — yet far more is the 
lesson of the exceeding preciousness of the higher 
life, our life as souls, and the way these things 


draw life into closer brotherhood and lift it to 
its intensest power and grandest height, and help 
to nurture the finest nobleness of the world. 


Always as I read how as Jesus was in the way 
" there came one running, and kneeled to him 
and asked him — * Good Master, what shall I do 
that I may inherit eternal life.' " It is not so 
much the question, as the wish which evidently 
prompted the question, that strikes me. This 
man evidently wished for eternal life, or he would 
not have asked Christ so eagerly how to attain 
it. He " came running " and Kneeled down " 
to him — those staid, solemn Jews did not run 
unless they were in dead earnest! So that it is 
a good illustration of the wish for immortality. 
And I want to consider how far that wish is 
general, and of how far it has to do with man's 
belief that immortality is to be. The subject 
came to me the other day, as I read in a pop- 
ular periodical this statement that " men have 
ceased to wish for immortality." This was put 
broadly and confidently, as if there could not be 
any doubt about it. ** Men have ceased to wish 



for immortality " — and it was put so, evidently 
with the idea that that practically settled the 
matter; that, if men are really ceasing even to 
wish for it, there is really no ground for believ- 
ing it. 

Now I have thought over this a good deal, 
and the more I have thought the more I have been 
impressed with these two things. 

1st, that it is a mistake to think that people 
do not wish to live again — I believe that there 
is just about as much wish that way, as ever there 
was ; — but that, 2nd, man's wishing or not wish- 
ing, has nothing to do with the matter — that 
immortality is one of those great solemn facts 
of being which has to be faced, which is going 
to be, whether we wish for it or not. Let us 
look, for a moment at these two points. — ist 
as to how it really is about men wishing to live 
again, or, rather, for that is the deeper truth, 
to go on living. I imagine that in this matter, 
mankind are about where they always have been ; 
that the wish never was at all universal, but cer- 
tainly is not really growing less. Yet I can 
understand how some people should think it is 
lessening. Because there is a marked change 
in the way the whole subject is spoken of. I 
should be inclined to put it this way; that those 
who do not wish for immortality are a great 


deal more free in saying so than they used to be 
and that those who still do wish for it, are not 
anxious about it, do not profess to be so sure, 
are more content to leave the whole subject to 
the quiet unfolding of whatever God's will for 
us may be. This latter change of feeling is very 
marked in our time. Men are less inclined to 
dogmatize about what is to be. Formerly, you 
know, all was laid down very certainly; to ad- 
mit a doubt about immortality was shocking; 
I can remember the time when a man who should 
say — he hoped for immortality but could not 
feel sure of it, would have been regarded as al- 
most an infidel. Well, it is not so now. People 
have come to see that there can be no absolute, 
black and white proof, of any of these deep 
spiritual realities — and they are more content 
to leave it so. Thus you find many, even deeply 
religious people, saying frankly that they are con- 
tent without proof, content to leave it with God 
— simply sure that it will be all right. Often 
such people speak of immortality as a hope, 
rather than as an accepted, or settled belief. 
Well, that is a reverent spirit — and hope is 
certainly a wish, even if it is not so eager in its 
wishing, as the older way of speaking seemed 
to be. 

And then while those who do hope for im- 


mortality are thus a little less confident in 
affirming it, those who do not hope or wish for 
it are much more open and confident in their 
scepticism than they used to be. All doubt and 
disbelief express themselves to-day with a free- 
dom which is a comparatively new thing. There 
is more talking, and writing and printing, alto- 
gether than there used to be, and specially all 
this is increased at the smaller end. The great 
thinkers do not talk or write more than they 
did 500 years ago, but the small thinkers talk 
and write a vast deal more. And so all the 
scepticism of our time, all the doubt, all the 
flippant indifference comes right out. I am not 
saying it should not do. Perhaps it is better out 
than in — but it does come out ; and so the casual 
observer is apt to feel, as if that side of thought 
had immensely increased; and people like the 
writer I quoted at first, say confidently, that 
" Men are ceasing to wish for immortality," when 
really it is simply that those who do not wish 
for it are more open and confident in saying so. 
The larger point is, however, that too much 
has always been made of this supposed general 
wish. It has been constantly treated in argu- 
ments on the subject, as if of course every one 
longs to live again. Now I do not think that this 
has ever been true. There have always been peo- 


pie to whom it would have been a relief not to 
have to live again. I believe this about others 
because I have often felt it so myself. I think 
there come times in every one's experience — 
times of depression, times of perplexity, times 
when life has got into some great moral tangle 
when it would seem the happiest thing, simply 
to lie down and have done with it all. 

No ; I am inclined to believe that in the matter 
of wishing for immortality, mankind are about 
where they have always been; and that any ap- 
parent lessening or weakening of that wish arises 
partly from men having learned more trust, 
frankly leaving the whole matter to develope 
itself as God may will; and, partly, from any 
doubt or wish not to live again, uttering itself 
much more freely and openly than of old. 

But what comes upon me with most force is, 
that man's belief in immortality did not spring 
from any wish for it, has never depended upon 
men's wishing for it, does not depend upon it 
now. I do not suppose we can really trace the 
beginning of this belief among mankind. But 
when our scientific investigators search back as 
far as they can, it is not to a wish for another 
life but rather to a dread of it, that they seem 
to come. Herbert Spencer thinks that the idea 


of immortality originated among prehistoric 
men in the fear that great savage chiefs might 
not be finally dead after all — might still come 
back to punish their enemies and to plague the 
living. They did not want them to live again 

— they tried to keep them dead and still — but 
they were afraid they could not. No wish for 
it — but a feeling — first about their chiefs, and 
finally spreading to common men — that it had to 
be ! And so, again, there have been times — 
yes, many times — in the history of religions, 
when the belief in immortality has been so twisted 
and distorted, as to become not a joy, but a ter- 
ror — times when it has hung over men like a 
cloud — times when they not only did not wish 
for it but would have been thankful to believe 
it was all a dream — but, in reality the wishing 
or not wishing had nothing to do with it — they 
had to believe it, could not get away from it! 
Look at India. In that hot, oppressive climate 

— life is about as much as men can bear — 
the ideal of happy life is, to sit simply doing 
nothing. And there, in India, had grown up 
through measureless ages the belief in the trans- 
migration of souls — that the soul would keep 
on passing endlessly from one form of being 
to another — no stopping — new life, new work, 
new weariness for ever. Talk of that having 


grown out of man's zvish — why it was the very 
opposite of man's wish, it was a horror ! And so 
when at last a great prophet rose up among 
them — Buddha — the essence of his wisdom 
was that he beheved he had found out the way 
of escape from this endless chain of being! The 
way of escape from Life — that was the Gospel 
of Buddha! And men eagerly embraced it. 
Whole nations embraced it. That was their wish 
— not being, but absence of being. Nobody is 
quite sure what " Nirvana " exactly means, but 
if it does not mean actual nothingness, it means 
something as near to it as possible. But here 
is the striking thing: men could not get away 
from their belief in immortality — not even 
through Buddha! It seemed as if they had es- 
caped from it, but they had not, gradually the 
belief returned in all its force, and if you look 
into the Buddhist scriptures and pictures, along 
the subsequent centuries — they are full of 
representations of life to come — pictures of 
Heavens and Hells just as graphic and lurid 
as anything that you can find in Catholicism. 
No! they did not wish for Immortality, they 
wanted to get away from it, but they could not. 
And it has been a good deal the same in some 
forms of Christianity. Christianity, when it has 
got perverted, has sometimes made the thought 


of Immortality not a joy, but a terror; not some- 
thing to be wished for, but something to be 
dreaded. Why, only think what Calvinism be- 
came ! — Remember how the old Calvinist di- 
vines — two hundred and fifty years ago — 
used to reason it out that not one soul in five 
hundred thousand could be saved — the rest, all 
damned — and they believed it, too. Why, it 
would have been a mercy to regard the whole 
thing as ended at death. But no! There must 
have been very little wishing for it, then 

— but they felt it was to be, whether they wished 
for it or not. 

And that is the great lesson for ever. 
Whether we think, or whether we live, so as to 
make the thought of living on in another world 
a joy, or something to dread and shrink from, 
there it is — just as certain as to-morrow. There 
it is, I say. Apart from all questions as to how 
it came to be, or whether men desire it or not 

— here is this sense in man, always growing up 
in his very nature, and when temporarily swept 
away, still growing up again — one of those 
great facts of man's being which are their own 
sufficient evidence. One or another may not 
feel it ; one or another may doubt it or disbelieve 
it. You may not be able to establish the sense 
of it in the individual, but in the large view 


— of the race — it is unmistakable. That is 
where the real argument from the general thought 
and feeling of man comes in. Not from some 
general wish for it, but from the practically 
universal sense of it. That is really what es- 
tablishes all the great thoughts and convictions 
of the world ! Take that great sense of the dif- 
ference between right and wrong. That does 
not rest upon your sense or mine. You or I 
may sometimes w^ish that wrong was not wrong; 
we would like to be free to do it — but that 
great sense of right and wrong grows up in the 
very life of the race, and the individual is car- 
ried on, in the race. Where the value of the 
individual thought comes in, is, in this : that, 
in the individual life which is wholesome, and 
doing its part well, the great thought comes 
out clearly ; the more a man obeys conscience, the 
more he finds the sacredness and imperativeness 
of conscience. — And so it is with regard to im- 
mortality. Grant that many do not wish for it, 
and do not mind saying so. Grant that many 
more, are less anxious about it, feel difficulties 
and doubts about it, and are willing to leave it to 
whatever may prove to be the divine will — all 
this does not touch the great fact, that as the 
world's life keeps growing up, it still grows 
up into this faith; and that as life grows nobler 


and higher and fuller, it feels, not less but more, 
that it is only at the beginning of things, and only 
at the beginning of itself. Said Whittier to a 
friend : "I cannot feel that there is any end 
to me." That is the natural feeling in all life 
that has grown and lived sweetly and naturally 
on, and come to the world's best. No! it is the 
poor unearnest, selfish life that does not care 
whether it lives again; it is the vapid, frivolous 
life that hardly cares whether it lives, and asks 
** whether life is worth living." Live the nobler 
life, live for others, live for truth, live for good, 
and you will never have any doubt that this 
life is worth living and not much doubt about liv- 
ing on. In a word, live the immortal life, live 
now as an immortal being, and you will know 
the truth of immortality. No! It is only the 
poorer kind of life that has no wish or care to live 
again. It grows tired even of this life. Of 
that kind of life it may seem true that it is ceas- 
ing to wish for it, only it never did wish for it. 
But the deeper and better life of the world 
moves steadily on, as ever, towards more and 
fuller being, towards further-reaching ends, and 
principles that want much more than this life 
to come to anything; and as this sense of more 
and fuller being grows, it widens out into powers 
and possibilities quite beyond the limits of the 


earthly life. Yes, apart from any question of 
wishing, man feels it must be so; 

" Thou wilt not leave us in the dust : 
Thou madest man, — he knows not why, 
He thinks he was not made to die 
And thou hast made him : Thou art just." 

— Ah yes. Lord, thou art just! Thou wilt 
not mock this reaching on towards ever higher 
things, which Thou hast planted in the very 
nature of thy children! 

That is the element of truth in that old idea 
of some universal wish for immortality. There 
never was any such universal wish; the wish for 
life to he, depends partly on what life is, or at 
least is striving to be and often a mean poor life 
finds even this earthly span too long, and would 
be glad to be sure there is no more to come. 
But use the present life for the best that is 
in it ; yes, let there be any element even of striving 
for the best notwithstanding its failures and its 
poor low living, and even that very element of 
wishing for something better will develope that 
deep underlying sense of this life being a mere 
beginning, a fragment with something more to 
come ! Yes, even the merest fragmentary striv- 
ing for the best, does so much ; but let that striv- 
ing be the steady purpose of the life, and at 


once its aim, its strife — yes its wish — do at- 
tain proportions entirely beyond the scale of earth. 
But such aims, such strife for fuller complete- 
ness — though indeed we wish for them — are 
not mere wishes. They are part of the greater 
order of the world, which guarantees itself 
through the measureless past that felt no meaning 
in it, and surely is not now to stop just as we 
begin to see and share its meaning. 

As Tennyson has said — who is the very poet 
of the larger hope : — 

'" Death's true name — 
" Is onward ; no discordance in the roll 
" And march of that eternal harmony 
" Whereto the worlds beat time." 

We know not how it is to be, or where. But 
somehow, somewhere, whether we wish for it or 
not, we know, by the dumb craving of the or- 
dered world, as well as by the uttered hope of 
holiest souls that God will yet fulfill us into 
something better than the fragments that we are. 
And so we wait, and work and watch and do the 
best we may, or bow our heads in sorrow that 
our doing is so much below our best — and 
as His laws ordain we let life go, or fall asleep, 
but always for some further greater life beyond 
the shadows and the sleeping. 


The " Heavenly World." We want to have 
a happier and more realistic thought about it. 
Why is it, that while the belief in living again 
is so universal and deep-rooted that it seems 
impossible for our race ever to get away from 
it, yet the actual thought of that life to come, 
is, to most people utterly vague, shadowy and 
unsubstantial? I do not think that Life to 
come is what it might be to us. Yet, in the 
present day, especially, when all the difficulties 
about Immortality have been faced and investi- 
gated as never before, and found to have noth- 
ing really in them, it seems such a pity for us 
not to have all the help, and inspiration, and 
rest which this great thought, legitimately viewed, 
has in it. 

I speak of this great thought " legitimately 
viewed." For when I come to consider why it 
is, that with such general belief that it must 
be, there is so little happy, realizing faith in it, 
I am convinced that it very largely arises from 



not viewing it legitimately, from thinking about 
it on a wrong line, from trying to form our 
conceptions of it in precisely the wrong way. 

See; the trouble is, in this idea that possesses 
the common mind that the Heavenly World is 
something much less real and actual than this 
world. But how comes this idea? Chiefly, I 
believe, from this wrong way of thinking : — 
from trying to attain a conception of the higher 
spiritual life and spiritual world by contrast with 
this, and negation of this. People draw a broad 
contrast between body and soul, between material 
and spiritual. They strip away from their 
thought everything associated with bodily ex- 
istence, and take it for granted that the remainder 
will be the spiritual. Everything material is 
exhausted out of their conceptions, or only used 
to indicate what the spiritual is not. Well, what 
comes of that? simply a list of negations. 
Spiritual things and the spiritual world are not 
this, and that and the other. They are not solid, 
they are not liquid, they are not even seriform; 
they have not shape, or color, or weight, or any- 
thing else that material substances have, and so 
the whole idea of the spiritual world is grad- 
ually reduced to something shadowy and spec- 
tral, something as near nothingness as possible. 
Is it surprising that with such an idea — or rather 


such a lack of any idea — people find it rather a 
dismal prospect ? Is it surprising that they really 
feel — though they may be afraid to say so, 
lest it should sound irreligious — that they very 
much prefer the present? I do not wonder at 
it. For with all its drawbacks the present is a 
glorious world! There is a genial warmth in 
its sunshine, a wholesome bracing in its very cold. 
Its fields shine with a pleasant green; its good 
things are most unmistakable realities, and the 
grasp of a friend's hand is a substantial joy, com- 
pared to which there is something very vague and 
unsatisfying in a life in which people are almost 
afraid to count upon even knowing each other. 
But now, I ask w^hy should this idea of the 
shadowy, spectral unreality of the Heavenly 
World exist? The whole process by which men 
come to it is a wrong one. This plan, of ex- 
hausting out all that seems most real from our 
present existence, in order to conceive the spir- 
itual, is a mere throwing away of the very helps 
to thought which Nature gives. The truth is, 
and all science and all philosophy are now tend- 
ing to this, that we ought just to reverse this 
course. Whatever that may really be which we 
call the spiritual, the way to some living ap- 
prehension of it, is, by looking at material 
things not as its opposites and contrasts, but as 


its likenesses and types, and perhaps even its 
beginnings only in a lower realm. From height 
to height climb the realities in this vast universe 
of being; and from those we see, to those we 
cannot see, must be still the same orderly path. 
And even science is helping us in this. For it 
is not only shewing us this steady upward trend 
and drift of things; but it is shewing us how, 
even in the mere material universe, the most 
tremendous factors are not the visible sub- 
stances, but elements and forces only perceptible 
at all by their effects, and as impalpable to any 
outward sense as Soul and God. So Science, 
and the Philosophy which grows out of it, are 
really helping us to the conclusion that what- 
ever matter and spirit really are, it is spirit and 
the spiritual element in Being which are the 
most real, and the most enduring realities of all. 
So the legitimate way of thinking about the 
spiritual world, is not by stripping away from 
our thought of that world the elements which 
give the impression of reality, but by using 
them — as hints and suggestions — and think- 
ing along the line of them, only beyond them 
to something more intensely real and glorious. 

I am confirmed in this way of thinking 
towards Heavenly things, by finding that this 
is just the way in which those have thought. 


and shaped out their thoughts who have most 
lived in the Spiritual life, and whose thinking 
and seeing have reached furthest into those 
higher realms of being. I do not take these 
words of Christ and Paul as cut and dry reve- 
lations. They are not substitutes for our think- 
ing, but helps to it, helps to show us the direction 
in which to think, and to make us sure that, in 
that direction, lie the great realities of God and 
Heaven. And see — every one of these great 
Words of theirs is alive w^ith these two thoughts 
for which I am pleading — of the nearness 
and reality of the Heavenly World, with 
earthly things used as helps towards apprehend- 
ing it! 

Look first at that idea of nearness. Almost 
every allusion to Immortal life in the New Tes- 
tament shows how near they felt it a Heavenly 
World only separated from this by what Sears 
calls " a thin partition of unconsciousness." In 
that clear thought of Christ, the immortal life 
is already begun. " This is life-eternal " he 
says — speaking of the higher life of men now; 
— and, " not dead but sleeping " is the con- 
tinual word in which he utterly refused to treat 
what men call dying as such an utter, hopeless 
end of earthly love. All this was more striking 
then, than it seems now, because the Jews 


thought only of some infinitely distant resur- 
rection day, and that, until then, the dead re- 
mained unconscious or mere ghosts in the dim, 
gloomy underworld. How different Christ's 
feeling about the Heavenly World! You see in 
his whole life and spirit the tokens of a sense 
of that Heavenly World as close about him ; now 
and again its presence is felt so vividly that it is 
as if its very glory shone out into the lower 
visible Vv^orld, — as at his Baptism and in the 
Transfiguration. So, in his language when he 
is about to leave them. It is the language of 
one going away but not far — *' to prepare a 
place for you " he says — where they would soon 
be with him again. I can think of no better 
word to express it, than that I have already 
quoted — of a world separated from this not by 
some great interval of time or space, but by '' a 
thin partition of unconsciousness." Uncon- 
sciousness on this side only ; " A little while and 
ye shall not see me " ; but, he says, " I am with 
you even to the end of the world " ; and again 
" There is joy in the presence of the angels of 
God over one sinner that repenteth." This was 
Christ's habitual thought, and this was the 
thought of the Heavenly life which the Apostles 
learned of him. They believed that this was 
specially brought home to them by his Reap- 


pearances, — that in some strange way, when 
they, after the thought of their time, supposed 
him dead until some far off resurrection-day, he 
appeared to them, shewed them that he was al- 
ready risen, and made that Heavenly World in 
which he was, a different thing to them from 
what they had ever dreamed of before ! Before, 
they had believed in a dim far-off Future state 

— now they felt it as a glorious Heavenly World, 
where Christ w^as and the saints. This is the 
meaning of that glad watchword of the early 
church — '' Christ is Risen," it was not the re- 
iteration of his having reappeared to them, it 
was the ever renewed affirmation of that present 
Heaven which his reappearing from it had made 
so intensely near to them. There he was alive 
for ever more, still their master, loving, patient, 

— watching them in their service, making inter- 
cession for them in their weakness, waiting to 
welcome them to his own place. Stephen dying, 
sees Heaven opened, as earth's light grows dim, 
and cries *' Lord Jesus, receive my soul ! " The 
living and the departed are, in their thought, 
only '' one family in earth and Heaven." And 
so, all through, you feel how present and close 
at hand they felt the Heavenly World to be, — 
scarcely divided from this world, and lying 
close beyond the shadowy gates of death, through 


which its dawning splendours often broke upon 
the just departing soul. 

And, again, — they thought of the Heavenly 
world not only as close at hand, but, as intensely 
real. I spoke just now, of how, in trying to 
come at some idea of man's immortal state, we 
are apt to begin by stripping away from our 
thought of it, everything visible and tangible — 
everything that specially impresses the feeling of 
reality, in the present existence. Now it is 
noticeable that they took exactly the opposite 
way. I do not mean that they carefully reasoned 
it out just so ; — simply, that in their endeavour 
to shadow forth those spiritual realities which 
had become so much to them, they gladly used 
the realities of the present. That is the mean- 
ing of Paul's reiteration, in many forms, of the 
idea of a ^' bodily resurrection." He does not 
mean that these earthly bodies were to be raised 
up again — that is the clumsy misunderstand- 
ing of his words in later and grosser times. He 
himself distinctly repudiates the idea of any such 
revivifying of these bodies. " Flesh and blood " 
he says *' cannot inherit the Kingdom of 
Heaven." '' Corruption does not inherit incor- 
ruption " ; — mere physical substance has no 
place in that realm of spiritual existence to which 
soul belongs. Yet, " It is sown a natural body. 


it is raised a spiritual body." What that 
*' spiritual body " is to be, and what the nature 
of that glorified world in which it is to be, he 
says nothing; there was nothing to say — ''it 
hath not entered into the heart of man to con- 
ceive the things which God hath prepared for 
them that love him." Only — it is all real, 
he says — not merely spectral, as people thought 
before, and many fancy now, — not shadowy 
phantoms in a phantom state. He is laboring, 
all the time, to bring out the thought of how that 
is the real world, and its things the absolute 
realities, while this, though real, too, after a 
poorer, temporary fashion, is, by comparison at 
least, changeable, fleeting and evanescent! 

It is this thought, the sense of how this v/as 
the way in which they used the sense of earthly 
reality to help the perception of the reality in 
Heavenly things, — which gives us some open- 
ing into the real meaning of that curious book 
of the Revelation. You have, in that book, the 
visions of one of the devoutest minds of that 
first age — caught up in his communion with the 
Divine spirit into the intenser sense of Heavenly 
realities, seeing, as in mighty sweeps of light and 
glory, the collapse of the giant powers and 
wrongs of earth, and the triumph of God's Will, 
and the rejoicings of the Saints, and the final 


merging of all poor earthly things into the 
glories of the new Heavens and earth! Some 
people are repelled by its strong material 
imagery; they smile at those quaint reiterations 
of gold and gems and precious stones, — em- 
eralds and pearls and sapphires ; — but as I 
read them, the impression they produce is this: 
of a mind filled with great thoughts and glori- 
ous images, groping round and round among 
the brightest and most glittering earthly 
splendours, in the effort to find any words and 
images by which he might convey to others some 
imagining of the unspeakable things of God. 
Will you "pooh, pooh," it all, as exaggeration? 
It is just the other way! short of the truth, not 
beyond it, — poor, imperfect, like the tawdry 
pictures of some grand scripture-story that one 
used to see upon cottage-walls, — yes, and yet, 
like such rude pictures, giving to our poor 
earthly minds craving for something real, some 
dim yet glittering image of the glorious world 
to come. 

You see I have not attempted to claim for 
scripture any formal authority, nor to use it in 
any close literalism, as giving any exact descrip- 
tions of heavenly things. But I do feel it a 
mighty help in making us sure that the unseen 
things are real, and in encouraging us to think 


towards them with more reaUstic thought. Even 
Nature, at its lowest makes it impossible to be- 
lieve that death ends all, but that is about as far 
as Nature goes. It does not give any glad happy 
sense of real life to come. For that we have 
to go to these great Masters of the spiritual life 
— they may be only a part of Nature, still, but 
Nature, then, at its highest. And as we go to 
them — to this great Christ, and those who 
came nearest to his thought, and put our hands 
in theirs to walk with them, they at least make 
us feel that the Heavenly things are real, not 
phantoms, or shadows. They do not give us 
finished pictures of the Heavenly world. That 
is what we are not to have here. But what we 
want to have, and what we may have, is, a glad 
assurance that — though we cannot think it all 
out, it is not less real than we can think, but 

And therefore, too, I love the Easter-time, 
which brings to us again its great words and 
tones of realizing faith, born of that older time. 
It is good for us to sing those old songs — of 
the Heavenly World, and of Christ being risen 
there, and of the Angel-hallelujahs, and the light 
that has no fading! I know that these are, all, 
above the sober levels of experience. But that 
is the very reason we want them — to remind 


US that these sober facts of earth are not all, are 
only the least of all that is; to help us to feel 
that the Heavenly w^orld is near and real; and 
that the world we see, real as it is in its own 
lower order of existence, is but like a shadow 
or a dream compared to the infinitely brighter 
and more glorious reality of the world we can- 
not see. 

Do you ask — how may all this be ? How can 
there be another world, more real than this, close 
to us, round about us ever, and we unconscious 
of it? Thinking how this might be, and how I 
might make it plain, an illustration recurs to me, 
used by one of those writers I have referred to 
— an illustration which somic of you may have 
met before, but which will well bear repeating. 

Suppose a little child fallen asleep amid sum- 
mer scenery. In that sleep, the child is shut 
into a dream-world of his own. In that dream- 
world he sees pleasant and beautiful things; he 
plays with his dream companions, gathers the 
flowers, plashes in the stream — and so happy 
is he that his cheeks are aglow, and a smile plays 
upon his lips. It is all real to him, — and for 
the time he knows of no other existence. Yet 
all the while he is in a world still more bright, 
infinitely more real, and he has not the faintest 
consciousness of it! The fragrance of actual 


flowers is wafted over him, and he does not per- 
ceive it; the actual music of the birds sounds 
sweetly, but he does not hear it. Now, mark; 
the child is in two worlds at once — consciously 
in the one, unconsciously in the other. How 
will you transfer his conscious living from the 
first, to the last ? How will you bring him from 
the dream-land into the real world? Not by 
taking him a journey through space, but simply 
by waking him up. What a change is there 
then ! For a moment a confused, half-painful 
sense of the things amid which he has been so 
happy fading from him, but then in a moment 
more the joyful perception of the real world 
into which he has so strangely passed. 

So, do I sometimes think it may be, in the 
passing from our present earthly existence into 
that greater life in which this present shall by 
and by be swallowed up. I know that no earthly 
similitudes can adequately figure forth these 
deep and wonderful things — but if they can 
even help us to some stronger clearer thought, 
let us not despise them! And after all, com- 
pared to that greater life, this little span of 
earthly years is only like a dream! Compared 
to its imperishable realities, these objects of 
earth that are silently changing every moment, 
are but as the shadows which fill our dreams. 


Like the little dreaming-child we think there can 
be nothing so real; but the watching angels 
must smile to see the eager expressions of pas- 
sion, hope, and fear, which pass over our faces. 
And in a little while the Father-presence bend- 
ing over us will touch us with that kind hand 
which in our blindness we call the hand of 
death — and even while the visions of this 
earthly life fade from us like our dreams, the 
glorious realities of the Heavenly world will 
open to our changed and wondering sight! 


I WANT my closing word in this volume to be 
on the confirmation and even inspiration which 
Science in its later stages is giving to all the 
upward reaching thought of man, and especially 
to his religious faith and feeling. When I was 
beginning my ministry, the talk was all about 
the difficulties and perplexities of Science. And 
indeed they were very real. The material world 
was being explored in every branch of it with 
such brilliant realism that the spiritual world 
seemed vague and doubtful in comparison. The 
difficulties touched the whole circle of faith — 
the thought of God — of any soul in man — of 
immortality ; even of any divine authoritativeness 
in morals — so that many people lost much con- 
fidence in that side of life, in all the study and 
exercise of religion. It seemed to lack reality 
compared with the exact investigations of out- 
ward and tangible nature. I have felt all that 
myself. One does not need to be a scientist to 
follow with intense appreciation what the 



scientists are doing and thinking. Why, there 
were years in my earlier work when hardly a 
three months passed without bringing some new 
step of discovery, or some new forecast of 
theory by those who seemed to see and think the 
furthest, which made one feel anew as if the 
whole underpinning of religion and worship 
was being knocked away. And there could be 
no evading it — at least for churches that had 
fairly planted themselves on freedom and 
thought. I once heard Oliver Wendell Holmes 
say that " alone among Christian Churches, 
Unitarians had faced the modern discoveries of 
science with perfectly open eyes." And of 
course that meant perplexity and doubt for a 

But now we are going to have our reward! 
For if one does not need to be a scientist to feel 
the difficulties science presents, certainly one 
does not need to be a scientist to appreciate its 
affirmations and even its inspirations. And it 
has come to me of late that really taken alto- 
gether, its great new discoveries not only do not 
touch the ancient reverence of mankind, but in 
their larger, broader sweep of meaning set it 
upon a firmer base, and with an infinitely higher 
reach of meaning. 

The first of these inspirations of science that 


I will Speak of is the reassurance of the Eternal 
Goodness which has come in the fuller unfolding 
of Evolution. At first you know, Evolution 
seemed to bring insurmountable difficulty to re- 
ligious faith. As men traced it working here 
and there, they seemed to find everything 
silently doing itself by impassive law; no place 
for God and certainly no place for divine good- 
ness. The law seemed not only impassive but 
merciless : that '' struggle for existence " with 
the weaker always going to the wall, filling the 
world with strife and cruelty: a thousand things 
in nature and in history which no ingenuity of 
reasoning could show in any light of goodness. 
No! but gradually as the whole scope and im- 
mensity of the great thought of Evolution has 
appeared, — as daring, sure-footed thinkers have 
traced it, back and back through the vast periods 
that geology proves, and that astronomy has to 
infer, there has risen up the sense of an ordered 
meaning, present through the whole, which awes 
the mind. Even in the passing detail — as of 
some gracious beauty in a flower or the curious 
wonder of an insect spinning a cocoon, one is 
constantly touched by an irresistible impression 
that something means this; but when you glance 
along the whole vast cosmic process this sense 
of a mighty meaning becomes almost over- 


whelming. When the astronomer takes me 
back to the primal fire-mists for the remotest 
beginnings of worlds, and shows me those fire- 
mists circling into spheres and systems, and 
some cooling into globes; and at last a strange 
new element of life appearing, covering the 
globe with verdure, coming at length to animal 
life, at first in lowest forms, but through the 
measureless periods developing into higher forms 
of infinite variety — from monad into mammal, 
and up to man; and all things coming at last to 
the infinitely varied wonder and beauty of the 
world as we see it about us to-day — why ; sim- 
ply I may shut my eyes, just dazed, and refuse 
to think about it at all ; but if I do think about 
it, I cannot help recognizing in it all, thought, 
meaning — orderly meaning, and progressive 

This is something of an inspiration, this re- 
assurance of an eternal meaning, that we at 
least are not chance atoms, drifting like floating 
specks of foam upon a tideless ocean dense with 
mist — but parts of a vast, traceable, onward 
movement — a movement that has already come 
to wonderful things, and touches us with an ir- 
resistible sense of further meaning still. 

And not meaning only. I think it comes to 
us, in this longer look which Evolution gives, 


that it is a good meaning, that the power which 
dominates the whole must surely be good. We 
may not see it in the passing event. You watch 
things as they are working out to-day, and there 
is much to cause doubt as to whether the power 
which causes, or even permits it, can be good. 
Books have been written on the cruelty of 
Nature. '' Red in tooth and claw " as Tenny- 
son writes, a '' scene of incessant strife " as Hux- 
ley called it. That " struggle for existence " — 
all things preying on one another, has an aw- 
fully merciless look, as if some vast machine 
were just tearing things to pieces — living 
things to pieces — all the time. And when you 
look into the human world, it does not need Da- 
homey and its horrors; life on the underside of 
civilization; East-end life in hard times; plague 
or famine among the close-packed millions of 
India — how our hearts shudder for such things 
and long for some tiny scrap of omnipotence, 
to make them less. And sometimes things cul- 
minate in such crises of agony — such agony as 
Alva's soldiers wrought in Holland three hun- 
dred years ago; such agony as Armenia has suf- 
fered in our very sight ; such sharp points of un- 
utterable horror as that crowding, trampling 
multitude at the Moscow Coronation or that 
fiery furnace at the Paris Charity Fair — that 


one feels like shrieking out against any idea of 
goodness in God, if God there be. 

I know! I have felt all that! But still, what 
is it makes us horror-struck at such things? 
What is this pity that we feel? Whence comes 
it? This also is part of this long process of 
Evolution. It seems a curious thing, does it 
not, that this slow, silent, working of things 
together which has brought the world on even 
by all this struggle for existence has, as its fin- 
est result, evolved a Being capable of looking 
into the struggling process and criticising it, and 
being saddened by it, and trying to mitigate it? 
At the first flash of it, it seems as if there might 
be two processes of Evolution, one evolving 
nature higher and higher, but with these forces 
of struggle and merciless outcome of suffering; 
and the other evolving man, up to mercy and 
pity and help. But no! The whole is one vast 
complex process, and surely then, it is in this 
highest, latest product — man — that we have 
the real interpretation of the whole, that " to 
which the whole creation moves." Yes; there 
is plenty still that we do not understand; but 
such a steady unfolding, through such incon- 
ceivably vast time, of ordered meanings leading 
finally to man — man conscious of what good- 
ness is, and loving it and feeling it the very 


greatest thing of all — that the whole grows 
upon me more and more, in spite of much I can- 
not understand, as a very inspiration of Faith in 
the Eternal Goodness — goodness the final 
meaning of the whole. 

There is one of the inspirations of the great 
scientific truth of Evolution. Another is, the 
trust it gives us in the higher indications of our 
own nature. Here is this moral life in man, this 
which comes out in principles of righteousness, 
which makes laws and sets up the world's insti- 
tutions of justice and struggles for the good. 
Here is man's religious life " feeling after God, 
if haply it may find Him " seeking for some 
life above man's self to worship and to lean upon 
in prayer and trust; and not only feeling after 
God but seeking after some further life to come. 
What is all this? And can man trust these 
things, as anything real, or are they mere rest- 
less and morbid fictions of man's conceit, tak- 
ing the echoes of his own thought for intimations 
from a higher realm? 

As this questioning age has tried to apply its 
science to these vague, immaterial things, they 
have seemed so vague, so intangible, so impos- 
sible of verification by any scientific process, 
that there has grown up a wide-spread scepticism 
about them, and all sorts of theories have been 


shaped out as to how they came — not only to 
be — but to prevail so widely among mankind. 
The thought of God has by some been traced 
back to the savage's ignorant dread of the powers 
of nature. The thought of further life to come 
had its beginning, we are told, in dreams. The 
sense of right and duty may have grown up out 
of the accumulated motives of self interest. And 
so all round the circle of man's out-reaching life 
towards the Infinite and the Divine, he has been 
beaten back, as it were, upon himself, and even 
Evolution itself has been pressed into the ser- 
vice to explain how such blundering aspirations 
may have arisen, and to marshall his retreat from 
the supposed cloud-land of superstitious fancy 
to the solid ground of facts. 

Well, all that explaining away has been pro- 
foundly unsatisfactory. Multitudes have felt 
their lives poorer for it, even while they have sor- 
rowfully allowed that they could see no other 
way. Men and women have longed to pray, 
and felt the old songs of worship tremble on 
their lips, but have choked them down because 
they fancied science had shown only empty vast- 
nesses of space, where once, they thought, was a 
listening, loving presence. It is all a blunder! 
Science has done nothing of the kind, and Evo- 
lution, when you take in the full vast meaning 


of it, does the very opposite ! For Evolution has 
not only evolved plants and beasts, it has 
evolved man — and man not only in the physi- 
cal frame in which you can still trace the con- 
tinuous plan, but in higher faculties and powers 
and feelings which seem above all connection 
with that lower life of his evolved beginnings. 
As I try to contemplate what the evolution of 
Man means, my mind is filled with awe. Why, 
even the slow processes which have evolved the 
beauty of a flower or the prehensile power of 
the elephant's trunk — how wonderful it is to 
think of them. But think of the evolution of 
a man : the development of mind : the growth of 
the first rude tribal sense of right into the " cate- 
gorical imperative " of a conscience ; the evolu- 
tion of animal lust into pure human love; all the 
higher range of human qualities which are the 
most tremendous forces in history — the passion 
for righteousness, the ** enthusiasm of human- 
ity," the up-look to some higher life than man's, 
the on-look to some further existence than the 
present. Even as mere phenomena of the present 
these things are too great, too uniform, too 
widespread, to be dismissed as mere curious 
variations of morbid growth. But when we 
take them in their place in this vast orderly evo- 
lution of human nature, why, their place is the 


topmost and the surest place. " Evolution " 
not only permits us so to view them, but com- 
pels us to do so, unless our v^hole process of 
thinking is to be put to confusion. Evolution 
surely, guarantees its own best and permanent 
results. Man is the meaning of the whole. The 
Mind is the meaning of man; and among the 
qualities of mind, surely those are the highest 
in which he rises to the sense of duty and dares 
to think of faith in God and in a further life to 

Consider this last thought for a moment, for 
it is on this that thinking people have become 
most confused and discouraged to-day, the ques- 
tion of life to come; and it is on this that any 
large thought of Evolution seems to me to have 
an absolute inspiration. Look at it as a mere 
academic question of to-day, and there is a good 
deal to be said on both sides. Certainly, the 
further life has never been proved. No certain 
voice comes to us across the void. The prompt- 
ings of nature, as you and I may feel them to- 
day, are vague and ill-defined. No one has 
ever traced the vital spark beyond the body's 
life, or even found it as anything distinct at all. 
No! but just here, where all our observations of 
to-day seem somehow to fail us, comes in the 
significance of Evolution. Look at the thought 


of further life in the long development of man. 
It is no tardy conclusion from fragmentary ar- 
guments, but part of the mighty chain of ten- 
dency. You trace something of it as long as 
you can trace man at all. Goldwin Smith has 
lately written one of the most trenchant criti- 
cisms of all the common arguments for life to 
come; but at the end he admits that " there does 
seem to be a voice in every man which, if he will 
listen to it, tells him that his account is not 
closed at death." He seems to regard this as 
only a slight concession, indeed; but really, in 
the light of this vast orderly Evolution, it carries 
the whole thing. What is it that puts in man 
those faint dim tendencies which keep pushing 
him on a little and a little more along those lines 
of character which lead on through incalculable 
ages from the savage to the sage and saint ? It is 
not mere desire. Why, oftentimes this sense of 
further life has taken forms which have been a 
dread and made man long not to be. To use 
again that saying of Dr. Martineau's '' Man 
does not believe in immortality because he has 
ever proved it ; but he is for ever trying to prove 
it because he cannot help believing it." It is 
part of his evolution. And this great Nature, 
which does not evolve an instinct in the meanest 
insect without something to correspond to it, 


may we not trust it in the greatest thought 
which it has evolved in the heart of man? 

And just here comes in one more of these In- 
spirations of Science. For see ; all through man's 
thinking of what he has called " soul," of 
whether there is such a thing and of whether it 
is to live again, he has kept groping about among 
the resources and possibilities of the material 
body and the material world. Especially he has 
been hampered by the difficulty of conceiving of 
life not resident in and continued in some body. 
How shall this life of mine continue to be in this 
personal consciousness which alone would be 
any real immortality, if this material body 
through which it acts and feels, is simply dis- 
solved and ended? I do not know; and once, 
that " I do not know " seemed a grave argu- 
ment against any such continuity. But how is 
it to-day? Why, science itself has simply risen 
above all that apparatus of investigation and rea- 
soning which used to feel limited by the re- 
sources of matter. Science itself has passed be- 
yond materialism. In its finer researches to- 
day it is moving freely and confidently among 
elements which are just as indiscoverable by any 
direct perception as life or soul in man, or as 
God in nature. Its most fixed terms are turn- 
ing out to be mere algebraic symbols. We do 


not even know what matter is, or whether it is 
any real thing, or merely a succession of ideas 
or impressions such as we have in dreams, which 
yet seem so real. This electricity, what is it — 
of which no one can say whether it is a substance 
or a force? This ether, which no eye has ever 
seen, nor finest instruments detected its pres- 
ence, and yet which scientists are agreed must 
exist, pervading even the mass of steel or stone, 
among the particles like air among the separate 
lumps in a coal heap, and equally filling the vast 
interstellar spaces? Or these ''X Rays" own- 
ing in their very name how utterly beyond all 
previous conception they are? Life? What 
difficulty can there be about life or life's con- 
tinuance when all thought of the mere body and 
of matter and substance together, is widened out 
by facts like these? Once be sure that life is, 
at all — that you and I are points of conscious 
life — and that " conscious life " is the most 
wonderful and most tremendous thing in the 
Universe, and there is no difficulty about its 
continuance, if its own mysterious nature and 
tendency seem to point that way. 

Ah, no! The real, greatest wonder is not 
how personal life should continue, but how it 
ever came to be. But having come to be, and 
having evolved into this consciousness of self 


and ability to look into the universe and into it- 
self; and all the way impelled towards goodness 
and towards the worship of some higher power, 
let us tread confidently on, sure that this Uni- 
verse is verily the expression of that higher 
power and is not going to land us in chaos or 
intellectual confusion. 

Even Paul, in that old time when men had 
spelled their way into so little of the universe, 
thought that enough was seen for men to glorify 
the invisible power and Divinity : " The invisible 
things of Him from the creation of the world 
are clearly seen, being understood by the things 
which are made." How much more so now! 
This is the inspiration with all this wonderful 
science of our time enriches and clears my mind. 
It lifts me clear out of the half-meaning and con- 
fusion of the moment to a great height, from 
which I see the whole creation ever moving on, 
in orderly growth, even the mere earth coming 
ever to a nobler type; and the creatures that 
somehow grew up in it developing through awful 
silences of time from beast to man; and man 
growing from man the savage into man the 
thinker, and growing still in conscience, affec- 
tion, worship, faith ; and ever, part of that faith, 
the looking on to greater life still beyond. And 
then just when such soaring thought seemed 


blocked and contradicted by the poor limitations 
of the body and the earth, science rends the veil, 
shows us the dull, hard, matter that seemed to 
hold us prisoners, as a mere ethereal texture, free 
to all the purposes of God and for whatever may 
be his uses and destinies for man. 

Yes, these are inspirations, inspirations to man 
to lift himself up from the ground; to trust his 
higher nature, and, even in the commonest lot 
in which he has to live, to walk with a great faith 
in God, and a great up-reaching heart of won- 
dering adoration. 

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