Experimental Theology and Experimental Religion
Samuel R. Calthrop
Berry Street lecture, 1901
read before the Ministerial Conference
May 22, 1901
Experimental Theology and Experimental Religion, the vital relations between the two, this is our subject,friends and brothers. Our Biblical motto for the first is, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being”; for the second, "O taste and see how gracious the Lord is!” The thought of the first guides the experience of the second. In Bible days, theology was almost entirely instinctive, inspirational, poetic, impassioned, and above all experimental. In the very few instances where Bible writers attempted to go beyond this, they failed inevitably; for the needed knowledge was then wholly wanting. Each great prophet or singer of the blessed life starts with the postulate of God and the Soul, starts with his ideal of perfect Justice and Truth, and proceeds at once to apply this to the lives of the men and women around him. The greatest of them all adds to these the ideal of Perfect Love. Thus Jesus rounds out his glorious conception of Experimental Theology; from God he passes at once to man; insists that man can and must take fast hold of the Father-Love, and so be slowly transformed into the likeness of that love. Experimental Religion is the closest possible contact of each man's soul with that love,—the life-process whereby man can make the nature of God his own.
Jesus, then, has no use for any theology which is not experimental; which does not immediately suggest practice; which does not powerfully stimulate religion, and guide conduct. He sees the eternal Father-Love brooding over all creation, making the sun to shine, and the rain to fall, watching over birds and flowers, helping the grass to grow, the buds to burst, the fruits of the earth to mature, so that man, his child, may be glad. Seeing all this, rejoicing in all this, he bids the doubting heart take courage; for the Father cares. "Ask,” he says, "and instantly receive the sweet sense of that care; seek the Father-heart, and you shall find it; knock at His gracious door, and He himself will open it to you.”
Woe to the thinker of today who disregards these gracious hints toward the blessed life. If he has no use for them, the world has no use for him. Into his more elaborate theories these must be completely incorporated, or his theories will be fatally defective.
Nevertheless, since the world of thought, of science, of life has so greatly enlarged, it has become absolutely necessary that Experimental Theology should enlarge its borders to take all the new knowledge in. Any real knowledge, which is supposed to be wholly outside of the domain of Experimental Theology, is a standing menace both to theology and religion. The demand is now at last distinctly made, that Experimental Theology shall take in each new discovery of nature and life; shall steadily aim at a systematic and comprehensive view of the whole universe of things and lives from the standpoint of God. Sincetheology claims the whole of things for its eminent domain, it is bound, at the very least, to make a working hypothesis of the method whereby the Divine Nature grasps, interpenetrates, surrounds, and guides, not only the general whole, but each class of things; aye, each individual thing of each class.
Experimental Theology is theology in direct contact with the factsof nature and life; theology so completely united to science, that each new scientific discovery is felt as a direct gain to itself, a new hint toward its own completeness; theology so united to philosophy, that each great philosophic thought becomes a valued weapon in its own armory; theology so vitally connected with the life of all human society, that it throbs responsive to all human joys and sorrows, to all success and failure, to all attempts on every side to bring in the reign of justice and love, which is the kingdom of God.
Experimental Theology is theology intent on the study of things as they are; theology bent on joining science to religion, reason to conscience, faith to practice, aspiration to reality, here to everywhere, today to eternity; theology realizing that here is the place, and now is the time for coming into direct, fruitful, personal relations with the present God; theology seeing and studying the divine side of allhuman relations; theology bringing the Sermon on the Mount to bear upon all social questions; theology including every street and house, every workshop and every factory, every home and every assembly within the workings of the Love-Law, insisting that this is to be supreme everywhere: in other words, that God must be all in all!
Again, Experimental Theology alone can reveal the firm foundation on which Experimental Religion rests; can set in order the gains which Experimental Religion has accumulated; can systematize and unify the discoveries already made, and thus can point the way to further fruitful experiments upon the deep secrets of the universe which religion, as it grows in power, is bound to make. Only thus can theory and practice go hand in hand, theory directing practice, and practice endorsing theory; for any religious completeness is quite impossible, until thought and life, theology and religion, go hand in hand.
Experimental Theology being thus defined, let us now proceed to gather a few hints of its workings and its method in nature and in life.
I. IN NATURE.
The special aim of Experimental Theology being to give first, guidance, and then satisfaction to Experimental Religion, it begins by insisting that since all truth is of God, intellectual truth is also of God, and is to be held in the deepest reverence by every pious soul. All genuine discoveries of the laws of nature are part of its Bible, part of the Word of God by which the heavens are forever being made. There can be no such thing as an infidel truth, or a faithful falsehood. All established facts and laws are at once carried into the domain of theology, forthwith to be incorporated into its general system. Science, philosophy, discovery gained them; theology holds them in trust for all mankind, and shows to all men the divine way of looking at them. If, for a moment, such facts and laws appear to contradict theology, this simply shows that the theology itself is, so far, false, and that a true theology must at once take its place.
"L' Hypothese de Dieu manque d' actuante,” said LaPlace, the greatest astronomer since Newton, in the closing years of the eighteenth century; and he therefore had to make his wonderful calculations, which proved the stability of the solar system, without the aid of that hypothesis. But this simply accused the theology of his time of miserable inadequacy and blindness. And indeed, when we remember what that theology was, the marvel is that any help whatever, in any direction whatever, could ever have been expected from it. The current theology, even through the first half of the nineteenth century, was not only unscientific, but blindly unscientific. It fought with desperation against any and every new truth of astronomy, geology, and physiology. Of course it was a losing battle. It was forced to abandon ignominiously each and every position it had stupidly taken up. Not till theology can declare that gravitation is an integral part of the force of the ever-present and ever-forceful God, can theology give the smallest assistance to astronomy, or even put itself in close touch with astronomy.
The English geologists of the first half of the nineteenth century were mostly pious orthodox people, who had not the smallest idea that their earnest and successful labors were helping to discover God. The thought would have simply frightened them. They happily found shelter under the convenient doctrine of "secondary causes.” On these, "of course,” any one was free to work. But "secondary causes” are now being relegated to the limbo of forgotten hypotheses, and the discovery of the method of the direct Divine action on the crust of the globe goes on apace.
The old theology looked askance on even the most modest laborers in the field of astronomy and geology. But when the physiologists at last dared to investigate the very sources of life, and declared that there was an unbroken series of birth-successions carrying back the origins of every plant, and every animal, including man, to the first tiny lives of presilurian ages; then the old theology gave a cry of affright, or rather a wail of despair, and declared that this was equivalent to annihilation of all belief in God. In one sense it was right: for its God was dead.
But all these discoveries were really of one piece; and all at last pointed to the sameconclusion. Astronomy, geology, physiology united in one declaration: that the forces now acting on the solar system, on the crust of the globe, on the vegetable and animal world, including man, are competent to produce all the changes which have taken place in the past in the solar system, in the crust of the globe, in the vegetable and animal world, including man, provided that time enough be given for those forces to act. This, to the old theology,was atheism, pure and mere. Not till theology could declare that all the forces now acting throughout the whole universe are part and parcel of the one divine, ever-present, ever-acting, ever-living Force, that acts forever in an eternal Now; not till then would theology cease to antagonize science in all directions.
But all this was fast coming, and received essential aid from a most unexpected quarter,—from experimental science itself. In 1849,Joule of Manchester perfected his calculation of the mechanical equivalent of heat, which is stated thus: "The heat required to raise one pound of water one degree from 60 to 61 Fahrenheit is able to raise 772 pounds one foot high.” Never, I suppose, was a theological proposition of such immense importance expressed in terms that appear so untheological, so purely mechanical as this. And yet this proposition is the very cornerstone of the great discovery of the conservation and correlation of forces, or briefly, of the conservation of energy. This stupendous generalization, which is the glory of the nineteenth century, declares that there is only one force, and that all so-called forces are so many forms of that one force; that force can neither be increased nor diminished, can neither be created nor destroyed. Heat disappears, but its exact equivalent instantly reappears as work; motion disappears, but its force reappears as heat. The applications of this mighty principle are as endless as the objects in nature. Every sun and star, every planet and meteor, every wave on the ocean, every stone on the beach, every plant, from the violet to the oak, every animal in every pulse of its veins, each of us in every life-act illustrate the law. It besets me behind and before; it lays its hand upon me. For it is the discovery of Omnipotence, and of the way Omnipotence works, "operates unspent,” everlastingly one and the same. It is the discovery of God, as far as the divine Power is concerned. But what a wonderful test of the whole Divine Nature this is! In every instance known to man, or conceivable by man, Omnipotence forever acts in strict and absolute accordance with perfect law. If an artist can detect a Raphael at sight, so saturated is he with the master's style, surely the grand style of the Great Master of life can be readily learned from a careful study of the mode of action of this one attribute of the Infinite God. This discovery of God, made in the laboratory and the workshop, gives a vast and sudden impulse to Experimental Theology, which instantly sets to work to reinforce and enlarge the faith of the simple pious soul. For God, as Power, is at every moment in immediate communication with us. Our force of body or of mind is a portion of the Divine Force committed to our charge, to use or abuse as we will. But it is always the force of the present God which we are using for every one of ourlife-purposes. Each breath we draw draws power from Him. Each beat of our hearts derives its pulse from Him. "O! that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness” is the grand refrain of the new Psalm of Thanksgiving.
One great acquisition more, and Experimental Theology is in possession of the most wonderful secrets which experimental science has hitherto gathered. Possibly you may say: "When the method of the eternal working of Omnipotence is secured to mankind by solid, irrefragible proof, what can science give more?” But while the motions of the starry heavens and of all things that move on the earth display the mighty Force that impels them; while we know well that motion is not a thing, but always and everywhere a forceful state of a thing, weknow that Force itself is not a thing, but is always and everywhere a quality, an attribute of a thing. The explosive force of gunpowder is a quality of the gunpowder. You cannot possibly have the gunpowder-force without the gunpowder. You cannot, except in "Alice's Wonderland,” have the Cheshire cat's grin without the cat! So we must reverently, yet fearlessly, insist that Omnipotence itself is not a thing; it is a quality, an attribute of a thing. Now, since we find Omnipotence everywhere, the Thing itself, of which it is an attribute, must be Omnipresent.
Now Helmholtz and Thomson (whose names must ever be linked together in this greatdiscovery), proved mathematically that if all space is absolutely filled up with perfect fluid to the exclusion of everything else; and if innumerable vortices of perfect fluid exist everywhere in that fluid, those vortices will spin unchanged forever, since perfect fluid has no friction; and Thomson declared that the so-called atoms of matter are just those vortices. One fluid fills all space: matter is a special form of that one fluid, just as a piece of ice floating in the ocean is a part of the water of the ocean, only existing in a different form from the water which surrounds it.
Once more, this does not sound like a theological proposition at all. Helmholtz and Thomson are physicists, like Joule, and suggested and worked out their theory simply as physicists. It was not their business even to regard, much less map out, the vast consequences both to philosophy and theology, and through that to religion, which would follow if the theory was accepted. It is now practically accepted by all scientific men who hold any theory at all about the ultimate constitution of matter. It is, therefore, incumbent upon Experimental Theology to examine the great theory from its own stand-point. Now, if perfect fluid fills all space to the exclusion of everything else, then perfect fluid is omnipresent, and in perfect fluid omnipotence resides. But omnipresence and omnipotence are attributes of God alone. Perfect fluid is the scientific definition of physical perfection. Infinite Perfect Fluid is infinite physical perfection. The term "perfect fluid” then may be, and perhaps is, the best possible scientific description of the physical side of the Divine Nature; but here physical science halts and can go no further. Perfect fluid is no more a complete definition of the Infinite Perfection than an accurate and exhaustive account of all the elements of my body would be of myself; for my will, my thought, my desires, my aims, my sense of truth and right and love would all be left out. Theology must now come in, mustaccept joyfully the powerful aid of science to the very verge of the possibilities of science, but must crown the whole by a contribution peculiarly its own; and must complete the glorious definition by adding the adorable attributes of Wisdom and Righteousness and Love, which are co-extensive with that infinite space which is the fullness of God, and co-eternal with His infinite power. It sometimes seems to me incredible that this vast, this illimitable generalization should have first been seen by my own eyes, quickened as they were by the thought of these two great thinkers. My own eyes, at least, were suddenly blessed by the sight, (in the to me memorable January of 1880), that seemed to fall directly from heaven into my mind, which it seemed to lift with an immeasurable exaltation. It was then that I wrote with my own hands this great key-thought, "Matter is a mode of motion of Spirit,” and this, "All space is Spirit-space.” Idealists, indeed, had already said, "Matter is Spirit,” had even said perhaps, "Matter is a mode of Spirit.” But though this was poetic, was religious, it was not scientific; and did not touch in the least on the reality of matter, in which they did not believe. The idealists said, "Thereis nothing but God, and therefore there is no such thing as matter.” But this completer thought says, "There is nothing but God, and therefore matter is divine.” This thought unites earth and heaven, stars and space, man and God into one universe, and ends forever the controversy between materialist and idealist. The materialist said, "Matter is real,” and he was right; though how that reality is founded on God, the supreme Reality, he did not see. The idealist said, "Only God is real,” and he was right; though how divinely real matter is, that he could not see.
Matter is a supreme manifestation of the Divine Love and Self-surrender. In matter, God surrenders a vast area of his own infinite freedom, subjecting all in that area to fate, in order that we may be free; that we ourselves may have a kingdom to direct, may be free to govern and subdue it according to the fixed and fated laws of its action.
The scheme of the Universe which this all-inclusive thought presents is in outline as follows: since one substance, and one only, absolutely fills the universe, all differences in that universe are differences of forceful motion. All things, atoms, worlds, stars, all thoughts, feelings, beings, are so many varying modes of forceful motion of the One Universal Spirit-substance. The atom is the unit in the universe of matter. Each atom is a tiny vortex of spirit-substance spinning eternally in the infinite ocean of spirit-substance: differenced only from the rest of the universe by its interior and indestructible vortical motion. Eternally it keeps on giving, receiving, transmitting, or parting with vibrations of incredible power and speed to and from the surrounding universe; but its interior spin never varies to all eternity. Thatis its own, its identity, its guarantee of continued existence. Free finite spirit is the unit in the universe of mind. Each free finite spirit is a monad of spirit moving freely in the infinite ocean of sprit-substance, differenced from the rest of the spirit-universe by its interior and indestructible, non-vortical, free motion. It is differenced from matter by its capacity to direct its motion from within; whereas all motions of translation in matter are directed from without only. It keeps on giving, receiving, transmitting, or parting with vibrations from both the world of matter and the world of spirit; but its inner self-directed motion is its own, its identity, its guarantee of continued existence.
Thus, and thus only, I believe, can we build up in thought a consistent plan of the whole universe of matter and mind. All is of God. The eternal and infinite Divine Substance is the foundation on which all things rest. In God, from God, and to God all things move and have their being.
If this mighty thought is mine, in the sense that my eyes saw it first, I commend it to my brother-thinkers of the twentieth century, to keep, to expand, to extend without limit. If some other eye saw it first, I rejoice with him in his discovery of a New World of Thought, Hope, and Faith, and Love, boundless as God, and rich with the promise of a future that shall never end!
At last, then, Experimental Theology is armed with all the weapons, is equipped with the vast sum of knowledge which science has put into her hands. She must at once proceed to use them, and with them come to the help of Experimental Religion; that is, must teach allmen their true attitude toward nature and life.
She teaches each private soul to have infinite reverence for the laws of nature, which are without variableness, or shadow of turning;” for they are the laws by which the unchanging God forever acts.
Here Experimental Theology has a thousand loving cautions to give to Experimental Religion, which will teach it never to spend its strength in vain, will teach it to cease altogether, as from unconscious impiety, from futile attempts to change the laws of the world. Godless science in these things holds up the prayerful soul to scorn, showing itself in this unscientific as well as unbrotherly. True science never scorns a great force. True science hates to see such a force wasted, spilled upon the ground. Experimental Theology, which is scientific to the core, deals with the aberrations of the earnest, but uninstructed soul with infinite tenderness, and ever seeks to guide its wonderful powers into their true channels. While, for instance, it steadily insists that prayer for rain, or for fine weather must not only be wiped out from public prayer-books, but must be carefully shunned by the private soul, as a survival from the days of ignorance of the ways of God; it seeks to guide true piety toward a joyful recognition of the wonderful laws of the atmosphere, which the pious soul is bound to rejoice in, with thanksgiving, day by day, as part of that divine bounty in the midst of which we live, and move, and have our being.
The theology of the air has still to be written. As yet, we can barely name the headings of a few of its chapters. But it is something to know that each of us breathes in the force of the present God fifteen times a minute, that it enters our bodies to strengthen and to bless, to become an integral part of our very selves, God thus entering into man, God becoming man, God sharing his life with man.
Again. The air presses upon my body with a weight of many tons—say 20 tons, 40,000 pounds. How can my body endure a pressure so vast? Simply because there is air inside as well as outside. Thus I bear the weight with happy ease. As in every wave the sun is mirrored; so in every part of the Divine Providence the whole nature of God can be seen. The riddle of special and universal Providence can partly be solved by the theology of the air. Let the whole atmosphere 24,000 miles around and 100 miles thick represent graphically the general providence of God, part of which it is. In this all creatures on the earth find breathenough and to spare. The special providence is the air that gets into my lungs, and actually becomes a part of myself; part of blood, and flesh, and nerve, and bone. The special providence is the air-pressure inside me, that balances the air-pressure outside, and hints at the only possible way in which I can continue to live in the midst of the infinite pressure of God: namely, that my substance is one with his.
The theology of light is somewhat more advanced. "Who coverest thyself with light, as with a garment” is the grand song of the Hebrew bard. Said Milton 250 years ago:
Hail, holy Light offspring of Heaven first-born,
Or of the Eternal, Co-eternal beam
May I express thee unblamed? for God is Light.
The science of today can but endorse this high poetic utterance.
I am beginning to consult my almanac as a religious act. My year always commences December 21st. On that day the sun, whose light and heat are part of the visible presence of God with the earth he loves, begins steadily to climb upward toward the northern heavens. Without one single moment of delay, day and night he climbs up and on; for the faithfulness and truth of God are in him, and in the earth he shines upon, whose steadfast turning towards him is part of the mystery of his coming. Spring he brings with him, and the laughing hours, for whose approach all hearts are inly yearning. Slowly the earth awakes at his touch. Every clod is warmed to life. The sap mounts up in every tree, and God says, "Let there be summer.”
Experimental Theology, armed with all the great discoveries of science, sees in Evolution the eternal process whereby God builds his worlds, gives birth to his children, educates them, draws out the life that is in them, gives them ever-increasing mastery over things, and over their own God-given powers, thus causing them to "grow forever and forever.” It, therefore, teaches the pious soul to reverence infinitely all life, and all the processes of life. Since the forces now acting on human life have lifted humanity up from the beast to man, their present action still tends to uplift and ennoble man. These forces are, indeed, divine, are part of the presence of God with man and in man. But, as we are able, by conscious and wisely directed effort and choice of conditions, to cause a plant to vary in the direction we desire, more in a single decade than unaided nature could accomplish in a thousand years; so man's conscious and willing co-operation with these divine forces can quicken the uplifting process a hundredfold.
Experimental Theology, therefore, faces each and every one of life's experiences, claims them all for God, teaches the pious soul how wisely to meet them all, and meet God in them all. And since birth-succession is the channel through which life-progress has flowed from generation to generation, it teaches the pious soul to look upon birth and all its attendant phenomena as peculiarly the hiding-place of the Divine Power. No experience can possibly be too secret, too sacred to need its guidance or its warnings. To each wedded pair it unfolds the sacred mysteries of marriage, teaches them both to reverence infinitely the nuptial chamber. The presence of God, the guidance of God, the loving inspiration of God, the tender restraining hand of God are needed there, as nowhere else in all the world. This is the Holy of Holies, the temple within the temple, the innermost shrine wherein the Creative Force, the Creative Love and Wisdom long to dwell.
A true marriage is that Eden, that garden of God, which He bath planted, and given to true lovers to dress and keep, and in the midst of which He himself loves to walk. The demons of lust keep ever wandering over the hot and barren deserts in which they doom themselves to dwell, in a vain search for that enchanted garden. Again and again they think they catch sight of its waving trees, and mossy banks, and flowers of every hue. They rush madly to possess it, but again and again the mirage vanishes into air, and only hot, biting, choking sand fills mouth and ears and lungs. The garden is guarded by the spell. Only those who know and can utter the great name of God, which is Truth, Tenderness, Constancy, Forbearance, Forgiveness, Righteousness, Love, can ever see it from afar. Only such can tread its dewy lawns, can hear the mystic song which its fragrant breezes are forever singing; for no man can learn that song, save he who is redeemed from lust, and redeemed to love. Brothers! the hope of the world lies here; for here the love-law is beheld as Omnipotent and Omnipresent. Godhas Power. God is Love.
Two wedded lovers, whom God has made wise unto salvation, day and night keep watch and ward over every thought, feeling, word, act, — aye, over every tone or gesture, which may in the smallest degree injure their perfect accord, which is their joy, their bliss, their light of life. What makes the bliss? The keeping of the love-law. What mars the bliss? The breaking of the love-law. Where does the love-law act upon them? Inside of their constitutions. Their constitutions are built upon the plan of the love-law, and they cannot violate that plan without suffering and loss. But what made their constitutions? The Creative Force which gives life to the universe,which has originated all earth-life, which has been acting for uncounted ages on living beings, impressing its own love-law more and more completely on living beings, and which has finally succeeded in producing living beings more or less conscious of the law in which, by which, through which they have their being; and who can, therefore, begin to direct their conscious attention upon the methods of the working of the law, and upon the wisdom of understanding and keeping it. Creative Force is still acting upon them, still increasing their capacity to understand the love-law and to keep it. This is the never-ending genesis of love on earth. The love-ideal has already got into the minds of men and women, and will continue its blessed work there, until love shall be supreme, and God be all in all; until all relations of life, the home, the school, the church, the street, the workshop acknowledge and obey the one law.
But is there no word for the average man and woman? Yes! but it is a deep one.
Within thy poor imperfect wife, O man!
Woman divine is hidden, and within
That poor imperfect man of thine, O wife!
Lies hid a Man divine. Discover this,
Which all the veils of Time, fold within fold,
Strive to conceal, and rob you of yourselves—
Then the Sphinx-riddle of the days is read,
And heaven's own paradise shall yet be yours.
From the creative force of wedded love springs the mystery of birth. Suffer me to hint in verse:
THE EXPECTANT MOTHER'S PRAYER.
Father! I pray to Thee!
My time is on me, a weak woman I.
A mother's love give me,
Strength for my day, and in Thine arms to lie.
Me Thou dost deign to use
To bring new life to this fair world of Thine,
O! may I ne'er refuse,
And miss the blessedness that else were mine !
Strange life is in my breast.
More than myself is here that needs
Thy care. O! may I stand the test
And guard for Thee the precious load I bear !
This, then, my prayer to Thee,
From all wild fancies, and from fears as wild,
May I be wholly free,
And help Thee to create Thy coming child?
My soul, my body waits
For Thee thy wondrous working to begin.
May both throw wide their gates;
That Thou, the King of Glory, may'st come in!
This must bring me, most unwillingly, to our last topic: Prayer. I must deal with this at some length, as the new thought helps here so greatly.
One of the most pressing duties of Experimental Theology is to stop the suspense of prayer, which is benumbing to so many true hearts today. While a man is in a constant state of perplexity about prayer and its true function, he cannot possibly make very successful experiments upon prayer. Some ask despairingly "How can prayer possibly affect the immutable divine will? Is it not perfectly useless even to try?” All this is abstract metaphysics, and very poor stuff of the kind at that. Rather ask the truly experimental question, in which alone there is guidance for action; "How does opening the eyelids alter the relation between my eyes and the light?” Why! the glorious revealing light comes in, a thing it cannot do to shut eyes. "How does breathing in alter the relation of my lungs to the air?” Why! it brings the air that was before outside of me inside of me, just where I absolutely need it for very life, that is all! The open soul takes God in. The shut soul keeps God out, that is all! The immutable, eternal laws of light and air are not changed, they are illustrated thereby. The immutable love-will of God is not changed, its glorious working is illustrated, when the believing soul opens its gates and lets the King of Glory in!
Another says pitifully, "My mother used to pray every day for me, and believed fully that her prayers for me were heard and answered. The pouring forth of her prayer doubtless did her tender, loving heart good. But how could it possibly do me any good?”
See a moment how far beyond an attitude like this physical science has already traveled. Physical science believes that its perfect fluid,which is omnipresent and omnipotent, is infinitely sensitive to any and every vibration made inside it; that it carries the countless vibrations of every star in the heavens through immeasurable space without interference or loss, star answering to star across the vast profound. Moreover, my own belief is, that gravitation, which acts throughout space instantaneously without any time-interval whatever, is caused by the slight modification of the infinite pressure of perfect fluid, made by the partial shielding of star by star from the full amount of that pressure.
O doubting heart! you yourself are living and loving in the very midst of an infinitely sensitive Love-Spirit; a Spirit that not only responds instantly to your own loving emotions; but also conveys those emotions far and wide through space without any loss. Thus they swiftly reach those you love, however far away they may be.
But again some one may say, "But in the midst of such countless vibrations from so manysources how could my small emotion produce any effect, much less be recognized?” Once again, see how far physical science has alreadytraveled. The light-vibrations of Arcturus pass through those of Sirius, of a hundred million stars without interference and without loss, and come straight to my rejoicing eye. But further yet. Physical science can already telegraph through space without wires, still using its omnipresent and omnipotent perfect fluid, and canreach to a certainty those for whom the message was intended, and those alone. How is this done? Bring together a hundred tuning-forks. Mount each on a vibrating stand. Now sound another fork. Instantly the one fork, out of the hundred, pitched at exactly the same note will respond, while the ninety-and-nine are silent. Exactly thus, electric waves of a given pitch are received upon an apparatus sensitive to waves of that exact pitch, and to those only. Your prayer for your friend, when thus it reaches him, may cause only a single loving vibration to be felt in his soul. But that is often sufficient to let God in. Your prayer gives the sacred hint. The Presence of God does the rest.
Suffer me, finally, brothers, to speak of prayer-experiences and methods in the first person, asking each of you to transfer what is said to your own first person, as thus we can all gain a more vivid impression of what is meant.
When first I lie upon my bed at night, I at once endeavor to put myself into right and natural relations with the surrounding Goodness. On that Goodness I am dependent forall that I am, and all I hope to be. I will then feel my dependence, take pleasure in that dependence, feel that loyal gratitude which is part of my natural attitude toward the One from whom my help comes. There is enough of God inside my room alone to supply all possible needs of mine. I have a right, a son's right, to call upon that portion of the Divine Nature which is in immediate contact with me, and which therefore ismine as exclusively as the air I breathe.
I am lying down on my bed. I am not so stupidly blind to the mystery which is hidden in familiar experiences, as to take this as a matter of course; as if the gravitation-force, which makes it so easy for me to lie there, were adull, blind, dead force existing outside of God, the One Omnipotent, instead of being one of the deepest possible proofs of His omnipotence, His omnipresence, of His presence here where I lie. The air in my room enters my body breath by breath, mingles with its flesh and blood, and through that sends waves of power and life into every limb andartery and vein. I bless the presence of God in the air. But the air does not fill a thousandth part of the space in my room. I see the wood fire that sparkles in my grate, and see the presence and blessing of God in the wood, the flame, the iron. But I see by means of the divine ether which fills my room. That ether doubtless contains, besides the oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the air, innumerable atom vortices which are too fine to enter into combination with any element that forms the earth's crust. In those atoms is also the presence of God. But the Ether as a whole is but another name for that Eternal Presence whose fullness filleth all things. Through that ether my eye sees light, my body feels heat, and receives innumerable electric and magnetic waves from every quarter: waves which pass through the walls of my house, aye! through the solid crust of the earth itself!
But now I remember that all mankind are immersed in this great ether-ocean, and by means of this communicate with each other in a thousand hidden and unsuspected ways. It is not enough that I lie, filled with filial trust in the very presence of God, feeling His blessing taking away fatigue, renewing my life, and preparing me for the events of another day. He who seeks his own delight, his own blessedness, even his own forgiveness and renewal alone in his communion with God, is not only ignorant of innumerable phases of the Divine Life, but is in imminent danger of losing what he already has. The desire to be so absorbed in God that the soul forgets all else, is about the last thing that the Eternal Presence would desire to generate in the breasts of any of his children. It may breed the most ugly selfishness and forgetfulness of others. Sister Dora, in bed after a long day's work in her hospital for waifs and strays, for poor souls utterly beaten down and crushed in the battle of life, with her bell above her head to be sounded in spite of all her weariness, whenever any poor sufferer calls for her, with this inscription written on it, "The Master has come, and calleth for thee!” is miles and miles nearer to the Father in Heaven than the most rapt Brahmin of them all so absorbed in God that he forgets all things in heaven and earth. "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these, ye did it unto me!” saith the Lord.
No! No!! My soul must go forth to bless others. I pray for a blessing upon my own family. I desire for each one of them that the unspeakable joy of the Divine Presence may be felt by each one of them: that the large and noble ends of life may be dearer and dearer to them. I pray also for the dear ones joined to me in a common faith and hope, those who love the cause I love in the way I love it. I pray that they may be part of its triumph, that their eyes may see the coming of the Lord into the life and business and events of today, that their hands and hearts may be ready to answer the call of need, that they may grow in grace, that is, in sweetness, in strength, in insight, in every thing that makes for noble manhood and womanhood: that they may see the vision of God's mighty world and all the wonder that shall be.
I pray also for all spokesmen of the Truth, that they may speak nothing for strife or vainglory, but all for God and Truth, and men and brotherly help, that they may preach the word boldly, broadly and lovingly, and that a harvest of loving souls may be gathered in by them.
I pray also for all teachers of the young. May they know whose they are and whom they serve. May they understand the mystery of the divine approach through them to the dear little ones whom He has entrusted to their care. May they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, when God himself bath passed throughtheir consciousness, through tender eye and voice and hand, and thus hath reached young and tender hearts.
I pray also for all faithful workers for God and man, for all true physicians, whose God-sent mission it is to heal the sick ; for all faithful statesmen, whose task it is to make God's thought of nationality a thing; for all students of nature, that in nature they may see God, may see that His infinite power is the servant of His infinite love; for all true artists, whose task it is to reveal the Divine Beauty to the ravished eyes of men, beauty in heaven and earth, in star and tree, in air and water, and above all in the human form divine; for all true poets, that they may sing the everlasting song of the triumph of Truth and Right and Love in strains so glorious that they shall woo all hearts to worship and service; for all workers in the great world of business, that they may learn and teach that they are the stewards of the divine bounty, that the grand power of directing the world's labor is their high duty and privilege; for all learned in the law, that they maythrough that learning make right prevail against wrong; for fathers and mothers, that the wonder of the divine love that builds all loving homes may rejoice their hearts; for all dear children, that they may give the blossom of their days to God and help and duty, and goodness.
Lastly I pray for all doubting hearts, for all the sick and sorrowful and forlorn; for the dying that their eyes' last glance may see the gate of heaven; for all those sick of sin and selfishness, that they may have strength given them to quit the husks that the swine eat, and to return to their Father's house and be forgiven; for all the vicious, the criminals, the hardhearted, the hinderers of every good work; for all those who add to the dreadful weight of wrong that bears so heavily on the earth, who fight against the good ways of God, and delay His coming to dwell with men. May the everlasting gospel reach the hardest heart, and wash away the deepest stains of guilt.
And now, my prayer is over. But what of those who pray without ceasing for me? those my assessors in the world who stand by me and have stood by me year in and year out, in spite of a thousand shortcomings they must have seen; who believe in the word which God strives to speak through me, often and often though I have, through thoughtlessness or indolence, quenched His Spirit; what of the true and tender souls in earth and heaven, to whom my welfare is infinitely dear? whose prayers have helped me, when I was prayerless myself? Such thoughts were in me when I wrote this little poem which I call
Beneath the shelter which your prayers have reared,
Quiet and blest,
The storm which struck me down no longer feared,
Secure I rest.
How strange a shelter like a tent of glass
Around my bed.
Through it, I see the broken storm-clouds pass
Above my head.
Strong-roofed it is, and yet the starlight fair
Loses no ray,
Storm-proof it is, and yet the gentlest air
Through it can stray.
Curious, I rise to touch it with my hands,
But they pass through.
No finest, airiest film between me stands
And God's own blue.
Whom shall I bless? I bless the Lord of all,
Whose all things are.
His Robe it is, whose folds around me fall
All ill to bar.
Yet must I bless, in Him, each faithful friend
Whose fingers wove
Out of that Robe, this tent no storms can rend,
So strong their love!