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Seeking after God

j2mo^ cloth. By maily $

Christ*s Secret of Happiness

jzmo^ limp leather. By maily $i.^8

The Personality of God
Salvation from Sin
The Soul's Quest after God
The Supernatural

Booklets, " What is Worth While " Series
i2mo, white leatherette. By mail, ^^c. each

New York




AxJTHOR OF ** Christ's Secret of Happiness**

* J > >

New York



Published September, 1910.

V <^^^-/-,


They seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after

him, and find him, though he be not far from

every one of us ; for in him we live,

and move, and have our being



IN an interesting essay on America re-
printed in " Litteirs Living Age " for
February 12, 19 10, G. Lowe Dickinson
thus characterizes the American spirit :

" In all this continent, I thought, in all
the western world, there is not a human
soul whose will seeks any peace at all, least
of all the peace of God. All move, but
about no centre ; they move on, to more
power, to more wealth, to more motion.
There is not one of them who conceives
that he has a place, if only he could find
it, a rank and order fitted to his nature,
higher than some, lower than others, but
right and the only right for him, his true
position in the cosmic scheme, his ulti-
mate relation to the Power whence it

There is truth in this description, but
the description is not the whole truth.
[ vii ]


There are a great many Americans whom
this paragraph aptly describes. They are
seeking satisfaction, not in finding their
right place, but in finding a higher or what
they think is a better place. But it is not
true that " there is not one of them who
conceives that he has a place fitted to his
nature, right and the only right for him.*'
If this were true there would be no re-
ligion in America ; for religion consists in
seeking to find our true relation to God
the centre of life, and so to our fellow-men.
The object of this book is to help those
who are, consciously or unconsciously,
seeking for this centre and for their
own true orbit and place, and so for
peace, — the peace of God that passeth
all understanding.

The chapters of this book were origi-
nally delivered as addresses at different
times and without any purposed relation
to each other. They are here brought
together because a common theme con-
nects them and a common spirit animates
them. Their independent origin accounts
for some repetitions, of thought if not of
[ viii ]


form, which, if they had been originally
written for publication in book form,
would probably have been avoided.

Lyman Abbott,

Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.
March, 1910.

[ « ]



I. THE soul's quest AFTER GOD ... I







THE experience of personal commun-
ion with God is as universal as the
human race. Appreciation of the divine
presence is more common than apprecia-
tion of art, music, or literature. Men
and women who do not respond to music,
see no beauty in pictures, never read, and
could not understand literature if it were
read to them, yet find comfort in sorrow,
strength in temptation, courage in danger,
and added joy in their enjoyments from
the sense of a Father's presence. In all
climates and countries, among all races
and in all epochs, under all creeds and
theologies, this experience of communion
with the Eternal is seen. He is addressed
by many names, many and inconsistent
conceptions of him are formed; the lan-

1 Copyright, 1897, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.



guage is sometimes that of dread, some-
times that of reverence, sometimes that of
hope and trust and love. But whatever
the language, whatever the phase of ex-
perience, faith in the reality of the fellow-
ship inspires the prayer. To believe that
there is no fellowship is to disbelieve in
the trustworthiness of a substantially uni-
versal though multiform human con-
sciousness. To deny the reality of such
fellowship is to deny the common witness
of mankind in all ages and of all types.

This little book assumes the trust-
worthiness of universal human experience.
It assumes that God is, and that some
men have communion with him. It is
addressed to those who believe, or wish
to believe, in God, who believe, or wish
to believe, that the soul of man can have
communion with him, but who either
have no such communion themselves, or
in whose experience it is so broken, inter-
rupted, and desultory as to leave them
a prey to doubts whether it is a reality
or a fantasy. This book is not written to
prove either that God is, or that the soul


can hold communion with him. It is
written to aid those who see, and desire to
see more clearly ; or who have seen, and
desire to renew their sight ; or who have
heard the testimony of those who see, and
wish to believe that testimony true, and
to enjoy a similar vision. It assumes in
the reader a desire to know God, or to
know him better; a desire like that of
Abraham when he followed a mystic voice
which called him out of the land of idolatry
to find God in a strange land he knew
nothing of; like that of Moses when in
the wilderness he cried out, " I beseech
thee, show me thy glory ; " like that of
Job when in his darkness, tortured by the
injustice of his friends, the unfaith of his
wife, and his own doubts, he cried out,
"Oh, that I knew where I might find
him, that I might come even to his seat ;"
like that of Elijah when in despair he
looked upon the fire, tempest, and earth-
quake at Mount Horeb, and so was pre-
pared to hear the still, small voice within -,
like that of Philip saying to the Master,
"Show us the Father, and it sufficeth


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

US ; " like that of the Athenians erecting
an altar to the unknown God, because all
idols, temples, and priests had failed to
satisfy their quest ; like that of Paul when
life and death, principalities and powers,
things present and things to come, had
vainly endeavored to turn him aside, and
who in his finding of God's love declared
himself victor over them all. For such,
by one who seeks to clarify and confirm
his own faith as well as that of others, this
book is written to point out, first, some of
the hindrances to be overcome ; second,
some of the aids which promote success
in the soul's quest after God.


If the consciousness of God is possible
to all healthful souls, why are so many
men and women without this conscious-
ness ? There are men and women, not
a few, who do not want God. They
would be very glad to have God if he
were always on their side ; glad to have
God if he would always do what they
want him to do. But a supreme will,

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

a masterful will, a will to which they must
conform, they do not want. They do
not like to retain God in their knowledge,
says Paul ; they put God far from them,
says the Psalmist. The same spirit of
anarchism which leads some men to de-
sire to be rid of human law leads other
men to desire to be rid of divine law.
Not long ago a body of anarchists in
Chicago passed a resolution saying in
effect, and very nearly in words, " We
have no use for God/' So Bakunin, the
Russian anarchist, says substantially, " We
want no laws, either human or divine."
The first question of the soul, then, must
be this. Do I really want God to rule
over me ? Do I want a supreme will in
the universe, to which my will must in
every respect be conformed ? Do I want
a will superior to my own, in the shop,
in the factory, in society, at the ballot-box,
in the home ?

There are many men, and a large
number, who, though they do not wish to
be rid of God, do not very much care to
have him. They are not opposed to


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

God ; but neither are they anxious about
knowing him. The Psalmist speaks of
these when he says, " God is not in all
their thoughts." There are thousands of
men and women of whom that is true.
They live their lives without thought of
God. Sometimes God is forced into their
thoughts by his providence ; sometimes
he is flashed before their thoughts by a
sermon or a book ; but, for the most
part, they are living with thoughts fixed
on other things. The kingdom they are
working for is not the kingdom of God ;
the name they are hallowing is not the
name of God ; the will they are trying to
do is not the will of God. They are
busy about other things. One man is
busy after his wealth — he is a honey-
gatherer; another after his pleasure; an-
other after his fame ; another about nothing
— and he is busiest of all. But neither is
taken up with God. They do not know
what is the meaning of the experience,
"As the hart panteth after the water
brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O
God." They are not eager to know God ;


they are not anxious to be friends with
him. They lie awake at night over busi-
ness anxieties, over earthly disappoint-
ments, over the sundering of human friend-
ships ; but they never lie awake at night
over the absence of God. That ploughs
no furrow on the brow, traces no line in
the cheek, brings no gray hair to the head.
On the whole, they are well satisfied with-
out God.

Nor are these men all sensual self-
seekers. Some of them are what we call
good men, followers after truth, practiscrs
of righteousness. But the invisible and
the eternal world does not attract them ;
their thoughts do not run in that direc-
tion. The spiritual vision may be lost by
non-use, as any other faculty may be lost.
They who have not looked for anything
back of phenomena, who have only been
searching the phenomena, and ticketing and
classifying them, will find only what they
look for. Such men sometimes feel the
sadness and the loneliness of a Godless
life ; sometimes the question arises in
their hearts whether it is worth while to


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

know the stars, the flowers, the rocks, the
trees, the bones, the arteries, if there is no
Spirit behind them all, no God in them all,
no love using them all. Says one of these
men. Professor Clifford of England : —

" It cannot be doubted that theistic belief is a
comfort and a solace to those who hold it, and
that the loss of it is a very painful loss. It
cannot be doubted, at least, by many of us in
this generation, who either profess it now, or
received it in our childhood, and have parted
from it since with such searching trouble as only
cradle-faiths can cause. We have seen the
spring sun shine out of an empty heaven, to
light up a soulless earth ; we have felt with
utter loneliness that the Great Companion is
dead. Our children, it may be hoped, will
know that sorrow only by the reflex light of a
wondering compassion." ^

Heartrending is this testimony of a
truly noble, genuine, pure-minded man
to the loss of the capacity to perceive the
Infinite in the finite, the Divine behind the
human, the Invisible behind the visible.

* W. K. Clifford's Lectures and Essays, p. 389.

[ 10]


Sometimes this voluntary blindness, this
having eyes and seeing not, and having
ears and hearing not, is formulated into a
philosophy. The man who has lost the
power of vision declares that there is no
vision ; the man who has lost the power
of hearing declares that there is no hear-
ing ; the man whose heart does not throb
to the pulsation of music says that there
is no music ; the man whose eyes see no
beauty in a picture declares there is no
art ; the man who has lost, from non-use,
the capacity to perceive and 'recognize the
Divine and the Infinite declares that there
is not in man the capacity to perceive the
Divine and the Infinite. "Truly," says
Mr. Huxley, speaking of religious faith,
" on this topic silence is golden ; while
speech reaches not even the dignity of
sounding brass or tinkling cymbal, and is
but the weary clatter of an endless logom-
achy."^ That is the philosophy of non-
use of faculty coined into a system. The
adequate answer to it is furnished by
Victor Hugo: —

^ Essay on Hume, p. 183.

[ II ]


" There is, we are aware, a philosophy that
denies the infinite. There is also a philosophy,
classed pathologically, which denies the sun j
this philosophy is called blindness. To set up
a sense we lack as a source of truth, is a fine
piece of blind man's assurance. And the rarity
of it consists in the haughty air of superiority
and compassion which is assumed towards the
philosophy that sees God, by this philosophy
that has to grope its way. It makes one think
of a mole exclaiming: 'How they excite my
pity with their prate about a sun ! "M

This loss of vision from non-use, this
atrophy of the spiritual faculty, is a very
common hindrance to the perception of
God in our materialistic and scientific age.
For the man who does not want God of
course will not find him ; and the man
who is busy searching for something else
will not find God ; and certainly the man
who has coined the atrophy of faculty into
a philosophy that the Eternal and the In-

1 Les Miser ablesy "Cosette/" p. 133. — Victor Hugo.
Curiously, Mr. Huxley uses the same simile, though he
applies It only to men who do not see ethical laws, not to
men who do not see the Invisible spirit in nature or in man.
See his Humef pp. 239, 240.

[ 12]

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

visible cannot be seen or known, cannot
see or know.

Besides these, are many men who be-
lieve that there is a God, and yet live
without any companionship with God, be-
cause they have taken in place of God
what is divinely intended only to bring
them to him. We think that we have
gotten rid of idolatry because we no longer
worship painted or carved images, as
though these were the only idols. Men
at first use a symbol as a means of enabling
them to apprehend the reality, and then
stop with the symbol, and accept it in lieu
of the reality. The image is put up as a
means of interpreting God to men ; then
men content themselves with the image,
and leave God unknown. Is there noth-
ing analogous to that in Christian experi-
ence ? In the same way, one generation
has constructed a creed, and another gen-
eration has substituted belief in the creed
for a living faith in a living God. Belief
in the Apostle's Creed, in the Nicene
Creed, in the Westminster Confession of
Faith, in the Thirty-Nine Articles, has
[ 13]


taken the place of faith in God and in his
Son Jesus Christ. Other men have gone
behind the creed, and said, " We believe
in the church which made the creed ; " or
behind the church to the Bible, and said,
" We are not sure whether we believe in
the creed, we are not quite sure whether
we believe in the church ; but one thing
we do know, we believe in " — what ?
God ? No — " we believe in the Bible ; "
and they stop there. Some men are con-
tent with the creed ; other men are content
with the church ; other men are content
with the Book. But in either case they
stop at the eidolon, — the image, the sym-
bol. So long as the creed is a window,
and we see God through it, it is good ; so
long as the church is a voice, and we hear
it saying, " Come to God,'* it is good ; so
long as the Bible is a collection of voices,
every one saying, " God tabernacles among
men," and we look in our own heart and
find God there, it is good. But when men
are content simply to believe in the creed,
or in the church, or in the Bible, they are
worshipping idols. It is not the Bible, it
[ H]


IS not the church, it is not the creed ; it is
God — the living God, who spake in the
hearts of men of olden time. Why ? In
order that we might hear the same voice
speaking in our hearts to-day. But when
men stop with the eidolon, God slips out
of their thought. Gideon destroys the
idol that has been erected to the worship
of Baal, and puts up an altar without any
idol, that he may worship the spirit of Je-
hovah. The people think him irreligious,
and would at first kill him. It has always
been so. This process of idol destruction
has gone on in all ages of the world, and
will go on until God has taught us that
only God can satisfy, — not a testimony
about God, not a report of God, not wit-
nesses to God, not a belief concerning
God, but only God himself, can satisfy.
The creed has been allowed to take the
place of the living God; then prophets
have arisen to attack the creed; and or-
thodoxy has thought faith was being de-
stroyed, and has come to its rescue. But,
in reality, a mere symbol of faith was being
destroyed, that faith might be born again.


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

Then the church has been allowed to take
the place of the living God ; and again
prophets have arisen to attack the church ;
and again orthodoxy has thought faith was
being destroyed, and has come to its res-
cue. But, in fact, only the idol was being
destroyed, that faith, a living faith in a
living God, might rise again from the tomb
in which it was buried. Then gradually
an infallible Book has been substituted for
an infallible church ; and belief in an in-
fallible Book has been made to take the
place of faith in a living God. And again
prophets have arisen with their message
that belief in the Book is no substitute
for a living faith in a living God ; that the
Book is but the testimony of fallible men
to the living God. And again we en-
counter the fear that faith is being de-
stroyed. It is the substitution of a Book
for the living God which is being destroyed.
We are learning that we must look, not to
the creed, but through the creed ; not to
the church, but through the church ; and
not even to the Bible, but through the Bible,
to the living God, or we cannot see God.
[ i6]

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

Men fail to find God because they cu-
riously reverse the position — the natural,
legitimate, rightful position — between the
soul and God. There is a word common
in theology, though not very familiar in
ordinary intercourse, — theodicy, which
means justifying the ways of God to man.
When a man begins to justify the ways of
God to man, he has entered on a very
dangerous process. For example, it is
said, " If there is a God, he must be om-
nipotent and omniscient ; and an omnip-
otent and omniscient God could and would
make a world without sin and without
suffering; but the world is not without
sin nor without suffering, therefore there
is no God." Such a man frames in his
own mind his notion of what a God must
be, and then brings God himself to that
standard, and measures him by it. The-
odicy ! Justifying the ways of God to
man! Sit, my soul, on the judgment
throne, and summon God to stand before
thee. " Now, Almighty One, I will see
whether thou art righteous. Why didst
thou allow famine in India ? What right
[ 17]


hast thou to allow a deluge in Japan?
What right hast thou to allow man to go
to war with his fellow-man in Europe?
Justify thyself; explain thyself; answer
for thyself." No man will ever find his
way to the heart of God in that spirit.

Men who do want God, who are really
in earnest to find God, who do not live in
the outward world altogether, but have
some vision of the inner, who do not stop
at the creed or the church or the Book,
who do not call God to an account for the
way in which he conducts himself, still fail
to find God because they want God only
for what God will bring to them. This is
the most common cause of failing to find
God in the spiritual experience of men and
women. They do not want God for him-
self. They want him for something he is
going to bring them. " I want peace,"
one cries, "and so I want God." "I
want prosperity," another cries, " and so
I want God." " I want joy," cries another,
" and therefore I want God." What man
can find his way to the heart of a woman
if he wants her for the fortune she will
[ i8 ]

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

bring? Whether it be fortune of houses
and lots, or fortune of pleasures and joys,
if all his love for her is only the reflex of
love for himself, he will never find her.
She may marry him ; he may have her for
a wife ; but he will never know her. So
God will be loved for his own sake. The
fortune-hunter never finds him. We think
we want God. Do we ? If God brings
tears, humiliation, poverty, do we want
him ? Or do we want peace and joy and
prosperity ? Our question must be, not.
Can I have God's help in my business,
but. Can God have my help in his busi-
ness ? Not whether we can get God on
our side, but whether we are willing to be
on God's side. Do we want God for his
own sake ? It is true that wisdom has
wealth in the one hand and pleasure in the
other, that her ways are ways of pleasant-
ness, her paths are paths of peace ; but she
will never come to one who follows her
for the sake of the wealth in the one hand
or the pleasure in the other. No man
will find God unless he seeks after God
for God's own sake, loves him for him-
[ '9]


self, and not for the gifts which he may

Devout seekers after God are not infre-
quently separated from him by sorrow.
It is said that sorrow brings one to God.
So it sometimes does. But it sometimes
estranges from God. Great sorrow often
makes it seem for the time as though life
were unjust, andT there were no God ruling
in the universe. This is a very common
experience. It was the experience of Job
in his distress, of the Psalmist in his exile,
of Paul in his struggle with life and death,
and principalities and powers, and things
present and things to come. It was in
the experience of the Master himself when
he cried, " My God, my God, why hast
thou forsaken me ? " If when we look
out upon life and see its travail of pain,
or when the anguish of life enters our own
soul and embitters it, the sun sometimes
seems blotted out of the heavens, and God
seems gone, we are not to chide ourselves ;
we are to remember that our experience of
temporary oblivion of the Almighty is
an experience which the devout in all


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

ages have known. Wait thou his time.
Blessed is he who in such an hour of sor-
row, when it seems as though God were
departing, still holds to him, and cries,
" My God ! my God ! "

Finally, God is infinite and we are finite ;
and, at the best, wc can only know him
a very little. Many young people make
a mistake in this respect. They read
the story of devout souls in the Psalms,
or in biographies in the Bible or in
other literature, and say, " I have no
such experience as that; I cannot be a
Christian." It takes time to grow, and
the power of seeing God is a power that
must grow like any other power. We
cannot expect at fifteen all that we may
have at fifty ; nor at fifty all that we may
have in the glory of the future. One of
the best educated, one of the most spirit-
ually developed, one of the richest natures
that God has ever given to the world, said
of himself, " We see in part, and we
prophesy in part," and "we see in a glass
darkly." If you do not care for God, if
you think you can get along without him,

[21 ]

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

if you are satisfied to live as you are, then
you may very well question whether you
are living at all. If you think you have
all of God you need, if you are satisfied
with your vision of God, if you have all
the experience that your heart craves, then
you may doubt whether you are really
living. But if you know what it is to cry,
" As the hart panteth after the water
brooks, so my soul panteth after thee, O
God ! " if you know what it is to cry, " Oh,
that I knew where I might find him ! " if
every glimpse of God makes you long for
a better vision, and every imperfect and
tardy acquiescence in God's will makes you
long for the time when you will do his will
on earth as the angels do it in heaven,
— " Blessed are they that hunger and
thirst after righteousness, for they shall be
filled." I cannot take all the sunlight;

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