Henry Wood.

Life more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application online

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are only incidents on the way. Faith is not inci-
dental, but the vital unifying force. Whatever is
interposed is not the goal, but only a resting-place
in that direction.

The Church of the Past, with all its complex
machinery, has been afraid of faith, and this fear
has not been limited to the Roman establishment.
When Luther proclaimed, "Salvation by faith,"
the whole fabric of ecclesiasticism was shaken.
He knew no indirection. The divine fire burned
within his soul. Sweeping aside intermediaries,
he triumphantly sung :


11 A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing ;
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing."

The religious systems, with rare exceptions,
have inculcated fear of God, and have assured men
that priests must intercede, and ordinances and
sacrifices be observed, indicating that salvation
must be at second hand. They have directed men
to linger in the outer courts of the temple, while
an official visit is made to the Holy of Holies.
Peradventure God may listen through such an
appeal. Jesus said : " Have faith in God." (Mark
xi, 22) Then follows a statement of its privileges
and possibilities.

Religious intolerance has always waxed bitter
toward those who cultivated the immediate pres-
ence of God. From the time of the martyr,
Stephen, who was so filled with the divine light
that his face shone, down through the ages the
direct communion of the soul with God has been
discouraged and opposed. That beautiful and re-
markable modern saint, Madam Guyon, was placed
in solitary confinement in the Bastille, because the
king and Church were afraid of faith. George
Fox and Swedenborg, and a host of others pre-


eminent for Godliness, have been accounted dan-
gerous persons because Church and State were
afraid of faith without restrictions. The Quietists
of all ages, filled with the inner light, and distin-
guished in outward life for unselfishness, love, and
virtue constitute a long object-lesson of the hostil-
ity of the ruling influences to the "divine ardor."
History has shown that the direct communion
of the human with the divine has had the effect to
render external observances somewhat superfluous.
The serene spirit, love, and beauty of character in
the Quietist was a strong, though silent rebuke to
the prevailing formalism of all ages. Simplicity
and the inner light seem like heresy to ceremoni-
alism. But there should be no indiscriminate
censure of ceremonies and sacraments. If one is
repelled from coming face to face with God, or is
not drawn to do so, it is better to let one's priest
go to the altar for him, than not to go at all. In
fact, it may be freely admitted that for many
grades of development, ritual and sacrament are
useful and necessary steps. It may be well to
find holiness, even in the fringe of a garment, for
wherever found it means to the soul, a "feeling
after God." Everything on the road upward may
be consecrated but should not be idolized.


There have been several distinct revivals of pure
faith during the modern period, beside the many
notable personal examples which have not been
identified with any general movement. Since the
great spiritual renaissance that was led by Luther,
which ere long lost its purity and became weighted
with dogma, faith at various times has reasserted
itself in liberal measure. The Friends, or Quakers,
as they are often called, headed by George Fox,
developed an extensive inspirational movement in
the latter part of the seventeenth century. Inner
spiritual illumination, with an indifference toward
outward ceremonial, and the exercise of direct com-
munion — the human with the divine — were the
prominent features of this devoted and non-re-
sistent people. Like all irregulars, or non-con-
formists of that period, they suffered persecution
which they bore with a beautiful and uncomplain-
ing spirit. Their history, from that time down to
the present furnishes a shining example of the
power of an inner faith, peace, and trust, and
a corresponding expression of good works was not

Another great outburst of faith, combined with
little formalism, was that of the Methodist move-
ment of the eighteenth century. In this revival,


there was more outward demonstration. The
leading spirits, the Wesley s and Whitefield were
inspired with the " divine ardor " and soon had
an extensive following in England and America.
Methodism became a great power and has been an
important element in shaping general religious
thought. But theological differences gradually de-
veloped, so that the original impulse lost its unity
and simplicity, and several divisions or different
kinds of Methodists were the result.

The Unitarian movement, in its early history,
especially as represented by Dr. Channing, was
distinguished by a similar spirituality. It was a
protest against and reaction from an overwrought
and dogmatic theology. Doctrine had become
hard and complicated, but Channing held that every
man is a child of God and the subject of divine
love. Again, salvation by faith, and the innerone-
ness of the human and divine were the basis for a
fresh inspiration. This spiritual renewal of the
early part of the nineteenth century, not only at-
tracted many adherents, but its spirit also pene-
trated and permeated the existing systems of faith,
and this subtle transforming influence outside of
its own technical limits has continued down to the
present time. While as a religious denomination,


its numerical increase has been very moderate, its
liberal spirit has been largely radiated in all direc-
tions. As a coherent spiritual movement upon the
basis of the Fatherhood of God and the Brother-
hood of man, its diffusive tendency has been great.
Some of Channing's sublime utterances are winged
with rare inspirational truth. In speaking of the
freedom of mind which comes through faith in the
unseen, he says :

" I call that mind free, which masters the senses, which
protects itself against animal appetites, which contemns
pleasure and pain in comparison with its own energy,
which penetrates beneath the body and recognizes its
own reality and greatness, which passes life, not in ask-
ing what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering, thirst-
ing, and seeking after righteousness. .

"I call that mind free which escapes the bondage of
matter, which, instead of stopping at the material uni-
verse and making it a prison wall, passes beyond it to
its Author, and finds in the radiant signatures which it
everywhere bears of the Infinite Spirit helps to its own
spiritual enlargement.

" I call that mind free which does not content itself
with a passive or hereditary faith, which opens itself to
light whencesoever it may come, which receives new
truth as an angel from heaven, which, whilst consulting
others, inquires still more of the oracle within itself and
uses instructions from abroad not to supersede but to
quicken and exalt its own energies.


" I call that mind free which is not passively framed
by outward circumstances, which is not swept away
by the torrent of events, which is not the creature
of accidental impulse, but which bends events to its
own improvement, and acts from an inward spring,
from immutable principles which it has deliberately

In the more recent history of religious lib-
eralism, it does not seem quite certain that the
high keynote which was sounded by the great
Channing has been fully maintained. Good works
and altruism are worthy of all praise, and have a
most important place, but above them is needed a
distinctive faith and spiritual consciousness.

In any review of the successive high tides of a
pure and simple faith in supersensuous Reality,
there is one so unique that it deserves special at-
tention. The rise of that idealistic philosophy,
known as Transcendentalism, which came into wide
notice about the middle of the last century was
phenomenal. In the most profound sense it was
both a religious and spiritual awakening. But any
thorough appreciation of its true inwardness was
exceedingly rare during its inception, and even to-
day, its full recognition is very limited. Emerson
was its leading prophet, and his office was as
important and well fitted to his time and en-


vironment, as was that of the great Hebrew
seer, Isaiah. So completely was Transcendental-
ism popularly misunderstood that it was accounted
not only as irreligious but atheistic. To the reli-
gious consciousness of the time, faith had become
so wholly identified with dogma, ordinance, sacra-
ment, and ecclesiasticism, that when shorn of
these, and presented in its own simple garb, it was
not recognized as faith at all. The little band of
souls which formed the nucleus of the awakening
were not only insignificant in numbers but rated
as spiritual iconoclasts. The intuitions of Emer-
son relating to the cosmic economy have, many of
them, been confirmed by the researches of physical
science, and his marvelous insight into the higher
realm of mind and spirit, is also finding abundant
proof in the psychical and spiritual experiences of
highly developed souls. Transcendentalism laid the
foundation for a practical and wholesome idealism,
for a reconciliation between science and faith,
for a conscious realism of the unseen, for a true
synthesis — drawing together in fitting and har-
monious proportion that which men had torn apart
— for a beneficent, as well as a unified administra-
tion of the moral order and for a universal divine
revelation rather than one limited to book or


system. From a vague, irreverent, and specula-
tive philosopher, which was the average opinion of
Emerson in his own time, and which perhaps is
yet held by the majority, the future will reverence
him as the great modern prophet of a natural and
rounded faith, and the human channel for a true
and progressive spiritual revelation. Original and
intuitive souls often come in advance of their fit-
ting evolutionary place. Only as subsequent gen-
erations are able to approximate toward their point
of view can they be interpreted. In its time
Transcendentalism gave little outward sign of that
inherent power which since has been unfolding.
In its full breadth the movement could not have
found an initiative earlier, for the world was inca-
pable of its reception. Previous awakenings fitted
to their own time, were able to strip off the ex-
ternal layers of spiritual fruitage and get a near
view of its richness, but this laid it bare to its
heart and marrow. Much time must yet pass be-
fore the Emersonian philosophy will receive due
credit for its potential content of faith and spiri-
tual progress. With all of its seeming mysticism
and profundity, it tended to make life simple and
childlike. It stimulated a natural and wholesome
optimism and taught that existence, in itself,


should be a joy and privilege. It showed that
ideal man is the true expression of God.

If faith be a perennial and not a capricious or
spasmodic force, its practical advantages should be
always available. If it be a law it is not subject
to suspension or withdrawal. If it were ever
potent in the assuagement of physical ills or men-
tal distresses, it is no less so to-day. The faith-
lessness and materialism of the modern world are
especially evident in the absence of any general
reliance upon its healing virtues. In this most
vital department of human welfare, we choose to
" walk by sight " almost exclusively. The striking
affirmations which Jesus delivered concerning faith
were mainly in reference to its application for hu-
man recovery from disease and inharmony. In
such beneficent work, he claimed no exclusive
power. It was the privilege and prerogative of all
"believers." "Greater works than I have done
ye shall do." During the days of the Primitive
Church, while a simple and strong faith prevailed
its exercise in healing demonstration was expected
and taken for granted. When that spiritual energy
was eclipsed by dogma, theological speculation, and
union with the State, it rapidly waned. Nothing
would so revive confidence in its vital power in the


eyes of the world, as a new demonstration of its
visible and legitimate results. Already there are
signs of a pentecostal outpouring, but unlike the
former time it doubtless will come into realization
gradually and without observation. This phase of
the more practical application of the inner power
will not be enlarged upon in this connection. It
has had special and liberal attention in previous
works issued by the author of this volume.

A living faith is the crying necessity of to-day.
Scholasticism and a highly wrought intellectual de-
velopment cannot fill its place. We need an
overwhelming consciousness of God, within and
without, a feeling that he is revealed in everything,
that he is the Force back of all other forces, and
the Life of all other lives. The kingdom of God
is within and to find it we must become like little
children. The great exponents of faith in all ages
have been those souls who lived in the universal
strength and made their lives channels for the di-
vine energy.


" I came that they may have life, and may have
it abundantly." (John x, 10) The intimate re-
lation of the divine to the human life is the most
fundamental truth that can occupy our attention.
How to secure a fuller measure of vitality has
been and ever will be the universal quest and
most absorbing problem. In dealing with the
present plane of human activity, the various de-
partments of physical science have their special
fields of inquiry and points of view. They are
related to life, but its primal source and constant
influx are not of them. It comes "through the
Son." But. human belief has mainly regarded
this higher life as an abstract proposition, and as
having application more directly to the future
state. But life, while mysterious, is the nearest
and most common of all things. In reality, there
is but One Life and its flowing is continuous.

Swedenborg affirms that man is so made that he

can apply to himself life from the Lord. In cer-



tain lofty conditions of spiritual consciousness, man
may become highly charged with a divine vigor
and he finds that it is possible to invite and culti-
vate such experiences. God is our highest ideal
of universal and all-abounding life, and through a
feeling of oneness we may experience an influx of
energy or divine incarnation. If, as Paul affirms,
"In him we live and move and have our being,"
he must be our inmost substance, and our outward
states should make a corresponding exhibit. It is
of the highest importance that we constantly hold
a living consciousness of this relationship.

Our woes and disorders come from the feeling
of separateness which we carelessly or uncon-
sciously allow to prevail. While the soul is dis-
tinct in its individuality and never loses its identity,
it should cultivate a real sense of the divine
presence and immanence. We are greatly in-
clined to think of theology as religion, but they
are far from being the same. Religion is a bind-
ing to God, while theology is an opinion about
him. Health is a symptom of full and exuberant
life and its relation to religion is most intimate.
There may be a certain animal vigor, but whole-
ness, in its complete sense, involves a distinct
spiritual element. While all living creatures derive


their life from God, the human recognition of its
incoming rounds out and increases the healthful-
ness which is available to man. The Psalmist
speaks of God, " Who is the health of my counte-
nance. "

The reaching out of the soul toward God is true
prayer. In the general sense prayer needs to be
redefined. It is commonly regarded as petition,
or asking for something which has been withheld
and is at present lacking. But in its depth it is
rather a recognition of what already is. St. Paul
reminds us that " All things are yours." The
divine exuberance is never suspended but our souls
are unresponsive and not open to receive. Can
one hunger when in the midst of nourishing and
delicious viands ? It is quite possible if he does
not make himself aware of their presence. With
closed eyes he might starve. It is the fault of the
condition within rather than that without. The
opening of the soul upward and the exercise of
faith are necessary to the appropriation of the
good which is in readiness.

Says James in his general epistle, " The prayer
of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord
shall raise him up." The work comes not merely
through prayer but through "the prayer of faith,"


Faith in anything involves conscious dependence
upon it. Faith is not real faith until it is suffi-
ciently living and tangible in the soul to be the
main reliance. Material forces, as temporary and
auxiliary may have their place, but faith will not
yield its energy if made secondary. It belongs at
the head. " Thou shalt have no other gods before
me." This does not especially refer to graven
images, but to a divided and doubtful allegiance.
To make God secondary as a healing agency is an
inversion of the divine order. In modern life,
even among those who call themselves Christians,
material science has largely usurped the first place.
The living faith, as a restorative, which was nor-
mal and practical in the days of the primitive
church has been crowded out by lower agencies.
By a long and almost unconscious process these
have become "other gods."

« He that hath the Son hath the life." \ist John
v, 12) It seems plain that this means Sonship, a
spiritual relation which is open to all, here and now.
It is not limited to some future or distant realm of
being. The incarnation of the spiritual Christ is
the coming of the Son, and it brings life, or rather
is life. The "coming" is the awakening from lat-
ency of that which is already within. It is the


uncovering of the divine image in which man was
created, the quickening of his essential nature and
potentiality. The biblical teaching of these vital
principles is very emphatic and constantly repeated.

It is admittedly unconventional to place the
" prayer of faith " among the health-giving forces
of the present time, but if the light of the Bible be
shed upon the philosophy of life, there can be no
uncertainty in the conclusion. In the event of
some extraordinary public emergency, the prayer
of petition is resorted to, but little is said of an
abounding faith. If the restorative prayer of faith
be divinely instituted, why should it not be regularly
employed without reserving it for special occasions ?
Physical functions derive their energy from the
primal spiritual functions which correspond to and
are back of them, and it is the power of faith which
calls forth their activity.

The goal of the higher development is the open-
ing of the spiritual consciousness. This is the
divine and true point of view rather than that of
materiality. We need to be made free from the
old limitations of sense and slavery to the flesh.
The Apostolic gifts of the Spirit are offered with-
out money and without price. As soft iron which
in its natural state is inert and passive, may, through


the influence of magnetic contact, be filled with a
powerful quality which gives polarity to every
molecule and makes the whole mass a positive
force, so the physical organism may receive a *
* spiritual potency and physical energy. Spirit is
the primal substance because it is the foundation
of the material organism and all outward expression.
Briefly classified, we have three kinds of substance
not separate but each within the other. The ma-
terial body is interpenetrated by the psychic and
both of these by the spiritual, which is primal and
absolute. These are not apart by spatial condi-
tions but by discrete degrees of refinement and
subtle inner relation. Nothing is displaced, but
each being more refined in vibration, dwells within
the other. The realm of primal causation, being
that which is most interior, should, as a duty and
privilege, be consciously identified with the ego.
" The kingdom of God is within you." To have
an abiding-place within that realm puts us in direct •
contact with the Divine Mind. This is "the secret •
place of the Most High," and lies above the zone
of change and uncertainty. This hidden place of
rest and recuperation is no poetic extravagance, but
a veritable reality, but it must be earnestly sought
by those who would have it at command. Gross


and solid physical forms cannot permeate each
other, but these properties are no obstacle to the
occupation of spiritual substance. In the Gospel
of John, we are told that after the resurrection
Jesus was able to pass through closed doors and
to manifest himself in bodily form and appearance.

The Christian Church, by a continued non-recog-
nition of the life-giving power and psychic and
spiritual potency of the gospel, in dealing with
human disorders, has made an omission which has
shorn it of its normal power and adaptability. The
promised " signs " which were to follow those who
believe have been wanting, and thus the conscious-
ness of the multitude who live upon the lower plane
— being unable to comprehend abstraction — behold
no works which can appeal to them. The power of
the gospel must reach men where they are and
demonstration should meet them upon their own
level. The mission of Jesus was to hand his con-
vincing proof down to dull souls and to talk to them
in a language which they could understand.

The unusual works accomplished by the Master,
which are called miracles, have been looked upon
as special and not in accord with the inherent
nature of things. Having been accounted as vio-
lations or suspensions of the established order, their


practice and perpetuation have not been expected.
In spiritual attainment men do not find what they
have, in advance, decided to be impossible. Hu-
manity has been reckoned as fallen and unspiritual
and therefore has not claimed spiritual Sonship
which Jesus not only demonstrated but declared
belonged to all. The truth has seemed too good
to be worthy of belief, and this has put a living
faith out of the question. In effect men have
regarded the world as governed by caprice instead
of beneficent law.

The " wonderful works " recorded in the gospel
narratives are variously interpreted. The sceptic
and materialist express absolute unbelief in their
historical accuracy. Others who claim to believe,
accept them as facts, but think them exceptional
and beyond the pale of orderly procedure and
given only as special " signs " to prove the deity of
Jesus. This position ignores the fact that they
were common in the primitive church and not con- •
fined to the personality, or even the time of the
Master. The third and true exposition of the
works is, that while exceptional in degree, they
form a vital part of the divine human plan, are *
normal, and under like favoring conditions and de-
velopment should be duplicated in every age. In


other words, they form a Christian ideal and are
neither disorderly nor strange. Can any deep
thinker, having in view the history of mankind,
reasonably affirm that they are abnormal ? How
can the scientist be dogmatically opposed to the
spiritual philosophy of the source and influx of
life when with his own chosen means of investiga-
tion it wholly eludes him ?

The logic of all philosophy and analogy shows
that life and mind build up the physical organism •
and are not the property or result of it. These
invisible and primal forces lay hold of suitable,
elemental material, and erect it into corresponding *
visible articulation. Not technical chemistry, but
the chemistry of life, with wonderful skill selects ■
and transmutes the proper materials for its own
expressive uses. It unifies and organizes them,
and thereby makes outwardly manifest its own ■
plane and nature.

It is a universal law that life of every grade
seeks embodiment. It is the executive of its
material constituents, and should reign over them.
But from the lack of spiritual assertiveness, and a

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Online LibraryHenry WoodLife more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application → online text (page 14 of 16)