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but shall I not bask in what sunlight I
can get on a spring morning ? I cannot
breathe all the oxygen ; but shall I not
stand at the open window, and take great
draughts of oxygen, as much as my lungs
will hold? I cannot see all the floral



beauty of this beautiful world ; but shall
I not look at this bunch of lilies, and en-
joy them ? I cannot take in all of God ;
shall I not walk in such light as he gives,
breathe in such breath of life as he im-
parts, rejoice in such beauty of love as he
affords ?

Look at these etchings as they stand,
my reader, and ask yourself the question.
Is your portrait here ? Do you really
want God? or would you rather be glad
to know there is no will superior to your
own ? Do you want him above everything
else, so that no wealth, nor power, nor
fame counts in comparison with the desire
for God ? Do you want God, and not an
intellectual opinion about him, or a testi-
mony to him, or a church service of adora-
tion of him, or even a Book written con-
cerning him ? Do you want God for his
own sake, and not for the happiness you
think he will bring you either here or here-
after? Do you want him as your com-
forter in sorrow, your strength in tempta-
tion, your guide in perplexity, your life,
your all and in all ? If you do not, the

[ 23 ]


second part of this little book is not for
you. If you do, then will I try to tell
you, as well as a half-healed blind man
can tell other half-healed blind men, how
we can see something of God.


We can form the habit of looking for
God in nature.

It is only a very superficial acquaintance
with scientific thought which leads to the
idea that there is no God in nature. The
old argument from designs has given place
to the modern argument from design.
The evidence of personal skill in nature
is by no man more strikingly witnessed to
than by such representatives of modern
scientific exploration as Darwin, Tyndall,
and Huxley. Read in Darwin's Life and
Letters his recognition of infinite design
in the great fabric of creation ; or Hux-
ley's wonderfully graphic description in
his essay on " The Origin of the Species *' ^
of the development of some common

1 Lay Sermons f Addresses, and Re'vie^s, p. 260.


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

animal such as a salamander or a newt
from its egg, and his conclusion : " After
watching the process hour by hour, one is
almost involuntarily possessed by the no-
tion, that some more subtle aid to vision
than an achromatic would show the hidden
artist, with his plan before him, striving
with skilful manipulation to perfect his
work." Or read Professor TyndalFs ^ tes-
timony to his own experience : " I have
noticed during years of self-observation
that it is not in hours of clearness and
vigor that this doctrine [of material athe-
ism] commends itself to my mind; that
in the presence of stronger and healthier
thought it ever dissolves and disappears,
as offering no solution of the mystery in
which we dwell, and of which we form a
part/* He who does not care to find God
will not have God forced upon his atten-
tion by nature. But he who does, may
learn to discern the infinite wisdom mani-
festing itself in all natural phenomena.
" There are," says James Martineau,^

^ Fragments of Science y vol. ii. p. 204.
2 A Study of Religion y vol. i. p. 336.


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

" but three forms under which it is possi-
ble to think of the ultimate or immanent
principle of the universe, — Mind, Life,
Matter : given the first, it is intellectually
thought out : the second, it blindly grows :
the third, it mechanically shuffles into
equilibrium." Whatever intellectual, or
even moral, difficulties one may find in-
volved in a theistic conception of the
universe, however unsatisfactory the old
mechanical conception of creation, and the
old semi-idolatrous conception of God as
a gigantic man, fulfilling the part now of
mechanic and now of engineer, no thought-
ful student of nature can hesitate between
these alternatives : it is clear that nature
has been thought out. The object of
science is, or ought to be, not merely to
describe phenomena, and to label and as-
sort them, but to perceive their intellec-
tual relations ; and that is to perceive the
Infinite Intellect which has prearranged
them, and is revealed in and by them.
Science thinks the thoughts of God after
him. It is possible to form the habit of
looking for evidences of wisdom, skill,
[ 26 ]


aesthetic love of beauty, general benefi-
cence in the ordered phenomena of nature.
One will see what he looks for. In the
same field the farmer will see food for
cattle ; the artist flowers for his canvas ;
the scientist mechanical contrivances for his
analytical dissection ; the devout soul wit-
nesses of a life greater, wiser, better than
his own. He may cultivate the habit of the
Hebrew Psalmist. If he does, what he will
learn in time to see and hear in nature will
be what that Psalmist saw and heard : —

** The voice of the Lord is upon the waters :
The God of glory thundereth.
Even the Lord upon many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful ;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars ;
Yea, the Lord breaketh in pieces the cedars of

He maketh them also to skip like a calf;
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild-ox.
The voice of the Lord cleaveth the flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness ;
The Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve.
And strippeth the forests bare :
And in his temple everything saith. Glory."


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

We may form a similar habit of looking
for God in man. " He," says John,
"that loveth not his brother whom he
hath seen, how can he love God whom he
hath not seen ? " This would be a strange
non sequitury if God were not to be seen
in men. There is a divine in humanity,
obscured, alloyed, corrupted ; but still it
is there. For where love is, there God is ;
and in all the revelations of love there is
a revelation of God, who is himself the
fountain of love. To this. Browning has
given beautiful expression, though his
enigmatic verse will not yield its meaning
to the mere careless reader : —

" Round us the wild creatures, overhead the trees.
Underfoot the moss-tracks, — life^nd love with these!
I to wear a fawn-skin, thou to dress in flowers;
All the long lone summer day, that greenwood life of
ours !

" Rich-pavilioned, rather, — still the world without, —
Inside — gold- roofed silk- walled silence round about!
Queen it thou on purple, — I, at watch and ward
Couched beneath the columns, gaze, thy slave,
love's guard!

[ 28 ]


" So, for us no world ? Let throngs press thee to me!
Up and down amid men, heart by heart fare we!
Welcome squalid vesture, harsh voice, hateful face!
God is soul, souls I and thou: with souls should
souls have place.**

Optimism and piety walk the world to-
gether. This is but another way of saying
that hope and faith are kin. If to be
without God is to be without hope, it is
scarcely less true, to be without hope
is to be without God. He who looks
for the worst in men will not be without
belief in a personal devil ; he who looks
for the best in men will not be without
faith in a personal God. A wealthy lady,
who had a beautiful rural home in the
vicinity of one of our great cities, invited
to it one day the outcast of the neighbor-
ing city. They roamed her lawns, visited
her conservatory, swarmed through her
gardens. At parting, a rough, raw-boned
Irishwoman said to her, in a voice which
for depth, but not for smoothness, would

have done credit to a basso, " Mrs. ,

I guess the Lord Jesus put this into your

head, did n t he?" — "I think he did,"


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

was the reply. " I thought so," was the
unconsciously humorous response ; " I
knew you could n't have thought of it
yourself." But humorous though it was,
it expressed a profound truth. The higher
thoughts come to us and to our fellows.
He who .will look in life for its heroisms,
its self-denials, its unselfish services, will
find faith in a personal God stealing into
his heart, he scarce knows how. He will
find himself saying to himself, all un-
consciously, " God put this into your
heart ; you could n't have thought of it

In this quest after God, whether in the
world of nature or the world of men, most
of us need, as in other quests after knowl-
edge, a guide, a teacher. Few men know
how to see accurately material things, fewer
still how to perceive spiritual realities, until
they have been shown. There are men
who have developed with patient assiduity
the capacity to examine the outer world,
for whose guidance we should be pro-
foundly grateful, — Tyndall, Huxley, Dar-
win, Agassiz, and hosts of others. There

[ 30]


are other men who have developed the gift
of seeing the invisible world ; and when
we cannot see with our less-developed
vision, why should we not accept their
witness, and under their guidance learn
to see as they see ? The testimony of the
scientists to life is not to be discarded ;
but neither is the testimony of the poets.
Imagination is also a capacity to see ; and
the poet is also an explorer. Wordsworth
will tell us how to see God in nature ; and
Browning how to see God in men ; and
Whittier how to see God in our own souls.
There is in the autobiography of Charles
Darwin a pathetic passage in which, with
characteristic candor, he laments the
atrophy of his own imagination and his
spiritual nature, and accounts for it. He
says : ^ —

*' Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry
of many kinds, such as the works of Milton,
Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and
Shelley, gave me great pleasure; and even as a
schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare,

1 Life and Letters of Dariuin, vol. I. pp. 8 1 , 8 2.

[31 ]

THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

especially in the historical plays. I have also
said that formerly pictures gave me considerable,
and music very great, delight. But now for
many years I cannot endure to read a line of
poetry; I have tried lately to read Shakespeare,
and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated
me. I have also almost lost my taste for pic-
tures and music. . . . My mind seems to have
become a kind of machine for grinding general
laws out of large collections of facts ; but why
this should have caused the atrophy of that part
of the brain alone on which the higher tastes
depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a
mind more highly organized or better consti-
tuted than mine, would not, I suppose, have
thus suffered ; and if I had to live my life again,
I would have made a rule to read some poetry,
and listen to some music, at least once every
week ; for perhaps the parts of my brain now
atrophied would thus have been kept active
through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss
of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to
the intellect, and more probably to the moral
character, by enfeebling the emotional part of

He who would see God must use the
faculty with which God is seen ; and if he



would do this, he must let men who are
rich in the faculty which perceives the in-
visible, — which looks not at the things
which are seen and are temporal, but at
the things which are not seen and are eter-
nal, — guide, teach, inspire him. Paul has
given this counsel in four sentences, which
are not the disconnected aphorisms they
are sometimes taken to be : " Quench
not the spirit ; despise not prophesyings ;
prove all things ; hold fast that which is
good ! " Which may be liberally ren-
dered thus : Do not extinguish the spirit-
ual nature within you, by suffering that
part of your powers to be atrophied. De-
spise not the men who live in the invisible
world, and bear testimony out of their ex-
perience to the things which they have
seen and known. Yet take not all utter-
ances of all prophets as of equal authority ;
test them. And such as prove in the
trial beneficent, by animating human life,
and making it nobler and better, to those
hold fast ; that is the test, — by their fruits
ye shall know them.

In this quest after God in human life



we must, as I have said, seek for the divine
in the human; for the gold in the ore;
for the flowers among the weeds. But
there is one life in which that divine was
not corrupted by the human, though
dwelling in it. It would be foreign to
the purpose of this book to attempt to
aflTord a theological definition of Jesus
Christ. One may believe that he was
God and man dwelling together in a dual
personality ; or God in human flesh, the
divine spirit dwelling under the limitations
of bodily existence; or God-in-man, the
divine Spirit so animating the man Christ
Jesus as to make him a God-filled man ;
or one may decline to define his faith,
believing that Christ transcends all defini-
tion. But he can hardly read with un-
prejudiced mind the story of that wonderful
life, and not find in it a marvellous reve-
lation of the nature of God. He who
would find God will find him, as nowhere
else, in the earthly life of Jesus the Christ.
Let him for the purpose read and re-read
the story of that life, and think that the
Father is, in the infinite and eternal rela-


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

tions, what Jesus Christ was in the tempo-
rary and limited ones. Would he know
how God feels toward us in our sorrow,
let him read the story of Christ's visit to
the sisters of Lazarus ; toward the sceptic
in his unbelief, let him read the story of
Jesus and Thomas; toward the recreant
disciple who has been unfaithful, let him
read the interview between Christ and
Peter by the Galilean Sea; toward the
penitent sinner, outcast and despairing,
let him read the story of Christ's pardon
of the woman who was a sinner ; toward
the men who use religion as a cloak for
self-service, let him read Christ's denun-
ciation of the Pharisees who devoured
widows' houses, and for a pretence made
long prayers. And then before a God
thus interpreted, let him come in his sor-
row for comfort ; in his doubts for better,
clearer light ; in his penitence for pardon ;
in his despair for a new courage ; and in
his pride for condemnation. In doing
this we may take either one of the many
figures by which the New Testament writers
interpret Christ to us. We may think of



him as the Christ of God, — that is, as the
One whom God has anointed and sent
into the world to reveal the unknown
and make Him known ; or as the Son of
God, — that is, as One who possesses the
Father's nature, and so discloses it to us
that we may become sons of God ; or as
the Image of God, — that is, a picture
of the Invisible and the Eternal cast upon
the sensitive-plate of a pure and holy life ;
or, laying aside all figures, we may simply
accept Christ's words, and build upon
them, " Believe that I am in the Father,
and the Father in me." The one thing
important for him who is seeking God is
to seek to find him in Jesus Christ, as he
has sought to find him in nature, in hu-
manity, and in the experience of the pro-
phetic and devout souls portrayed in
literature. He who thus seeks will find
him in Jesus Christ, with a clearness of
disclosure found nowhere else.

But we must look for God in Christ
not only by reading about Christ, but by
endeavoring to be like him. It is only
by participation in his life that we can


THE soul's quest AFTER GOD

come to an acquaintance with him. Not
so much by studying the life of Christ as
by endeavoring to live it, do we come into
fellowship with the Father, and with his
Son Jesus Christ. If it is true that we shall
be like him when we see him as he is, it is
also true that we can see him as he is, only
as we are like him. There is one utter-
ance of Paul in which the two different
translations, that of the Old Version and
that of the Revised Version, bring out this
distinction very clearly : —

Old Version, — We all, with open face
beholding as in a glass the glory of the
Lord, are changed into the same image
from glory to glory.

Revised Version, — We all, with unveiled
face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the
Lord, are transformed into the same image
from glory to glory.

It is not by beholding as in a glass,
it is by reflecting as from a mirror, that
the transformation comes ; and with the
transformation, acquaintance, friendship.






WE are to discriminate clearly be-
tween tbeology^aAdLi^el^ion, be-
tween life and the philosophy of life. My
object this morning is not to expound a
complete system of philosophy, but to
consider the effect of the change which is
taking place in philosophy upon the re-
ligious life.

The object of the minister is not to ex-
pound philosophy, but to promote life.
He is not a teacher of theology, but a
preacher of religion. He must be a theo-
logian ; he must have a philosophy of the
life which he is imparting ; nevertheless,
his object is not to impart the philosophy,
but to use the philosophy that he may
impart the life. " I have come that they
may have life, and that they may have it

* Copyright, 1899, by Lyman Abbott. Copyright,
1900, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.

[41 ]


more abundantly/' says Christ. And then
he breathes upon his disciples and says,
" Receive ye the Holy Spirit. As my
Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
We who are ministers of his grace are to
be administers of his life. We are to im-
part life. We are to do this through truth ;
nevertheless, for his ministers truth is not
an end, but a means to an end. Truth is

The teacher in the medical school
teaches physiology and anatomy and hy-
giene ; but when we get sick and send for
a doctor, we do not send in order that we
may receive a lecture on physiology or
anatomy or hygiene. We send for the
doctor that he may use his knowledge of
physiology or anatomy or hygiene to make
us well. You break a bone ; you do not
want the doctor to tell you about bones,
you want him to set the bone. So the
object of ministers is not to lecture us on
the philosophy of religion ; neither is it
to ignore the philosophy of religion ; it is
to use the philosophy of religion to help
men and women to live better, nobler,


diviner lives. " The truth," says Christ,
" shall make you free." " Sanctify them
through thy truth; thy word is truth."
Truth is, then, an instrument. The ob-
ject of truth is to set men free ; it is to
sanctify men, to make them holy.

The minister who simply expounds the
truth does not understand his mission.
His mission is so to use truth that men
shall be made free; that men shall be
made holy. His ministry is, therefore, to
be determined by fruits in the life. That
is the best sermon, not which is a great
pulpit effort, but which is helpful. If,
young men, you have preached a sermon
and some one comes up to you and says
that was a great pulpit effort, hide your
head in shame and go home and never
write another like it. But if some one
comes to you, with a little quaver in the
voice and a little moisture in the eye, and
says, " Thank you ; you have helped me
this morning," thank God and go home
and try to write another like it. That is
the end of preaching — to use theology to
help life. The test of the sermon is its



fruitful ness in life ; and that is the test of

We are not, however, to judge of a
truth beforehand by the fruit which we
think it will produce. It is the truth
which makes free, not any kind of error.
It is the truth which sanctifies men, not
any kind of falsehood. All truth is safe.
All error is dangerous. It is only the
truth that the minister is to use. He is
never to say, " This is the philosophy
that my people are used to and this is
the philosophy that I think will do better
service, and so, though I do not believe
it, I will preach it.*' Never ! It is only
the truth he is to use, but he is always
to use the truth. Truth is always an

He is to distinguish, too, between the
things he knows and the things he thinks,
between certainties and hypotheses. He
must have both, both certainties and hy-
potheses, but he must distinguish in his
own mind between the two. It is abso-
lutely certain that there is sunlight, and it
is absolutely certain that that sunlight pro-


duces certain vital effects on humanity
and vegetation ; and it is now the univer-
sally accepted hypothesis that the whole
universe is filled with an invisible, impal-
pable ether, and that sunlight is produced
by undulations of that ether. The ether
is a hypothesis. The sunlight is a cer-
tainty. In science we all recognize this
distinction between the hypotheses and
the certainties. Unfortunately, we have
not yet learned in theology to distinguish
between the hypotheses and the certainties.
We generally quarrel about the hypotheses.
It is, for instance, a certainty, I hope
in the experience of all of us, — certainly
it must be a certainty in the experience
of every minister, or he has no right in
the pulpit, — that God is. God is not a
hypothesis which the minister has invented
to account for the phenomena of creation.
He knows that there is a " power not
ourselves that makes for righteousness,"
because when he has been weak that power
has strengthened him, when he has been
a coward that power has made him strong,
when he has been in sorrow that power



has comforted him, when he has been in
perplexity that power has counselled him,
and he has walked a different path, and
lived a different life, and been a different
man, because there is that power, — im-
palpable, invisible, unknown, and yet best
and most truly known. But when he
comes to ask himself for a definition of
this power, for an account of its attributes,
and its relation to the phenomena about
him, he enters at once into the realm of
hypothesis. We know God in his per-
sonal relation to ourselves. What he is
in himself and what he is in his relations
to the great universal phenomena, that is
matter of hypothesis.

It is about the effect of a new hypoth-
esis on our religious life that I am going
to talk to you this morning. I am not
going to consider which of two hypotheses
is true ; I am going to try to describe two
hypotheses, and consider their respective
effects on the religious life. I will de-
scribe them as matters of personal experi-
ence ; because I find that when I attempt
to describe the old theology, some of my


friends, who still hold to it, think I am
describing it unjustly and unfairly ; I do
not wish to describe another man's opin-
ion, because I find it so difficult for other
men to describe mine.

As I look back, I can remember some-
thing of the view which it seems to me I
held when I was entering into the min-
istry. It was something like this : There
is a great and good God. He is some-
where in the centre of the universe —
whether in the body or out of the body
I knew not, and yet in my conception I
embodied him. He is the creator and
the ruler of the world. He had made the
world. I conceived of him as making the
world as an architect makes a building.
I rather think somewhere, in some of my
earlier sermons, that figure would be found
worked out — he had turned it in a lathe ;
he had erected the pillars ; he had woven
the carpet of grass ; he had ornamented
it with the flowers. You have heard that
from other ministers, and no doubt you
would have heard it from me when I was
a young man. And as I conceived of



God creating the world as an engineer
creates an engine, so also I conceived of
him regulating this world as an engineer
regulates the engine. When men said to
me, " Do you believe in miracles ? Do
you believe that God has set aside natu-
ral law ? " I said, " Oh, no, but he uses
natural law. As an engineer uses the
steam and the fire, or as an electric engi-
neer uses the electricity, so God uses the
forces of nature. He is in his engine,
with his hand on the lever ; he can add to
its speed or he can diminish its speed, or

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