Henry Wood.

Life more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application online

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skillful wielding we may carve the surface of out-
ward conditions into high or low relief.

The kingdom is within you, is the recognition
and affirmation of the Ideal, by the greatest of
idealists. The divine image is there enshrined,
but men have but a feeble consciousness of that



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 6$

supreme fact. It follows that the new education
needs to be that of the consciousness as well as
the intellect. The Prophet of Nazareth put aside
the prevailing forms of worldly wisdom and his
teaching was entirely that of inner ideals. His
method has puzzled the reformers of all ages.
He recognized the inherent power of subjective
creations and always began at the centre. He
realized the futility of superficial effort and always
dealt with the realm of causes, the noumenal
rather than the phenomenal.

When human thought and consciousness are
lifted higher, outward corresponding expression
follows. There are many ideals, but only one
Ideal. It is that toward which we are always ap-
proaching but never fully reach, the indefinable
Ultimate. It is as if everything in the whole cos-
mos — man included — were not fitted into its nor-
mal place, had not yet fulfilled its mission, but were
in earnest search for adjustment. The ideal is the
universal drawing power. Evolution with its pres-
sure and friction may push from behind, but it lacks
gentle persuasiveness.

Our yearnings, our visions, our unsatisfied at-
tempts to peer down the vista of the future all
come from our insatiable quest for the perfect.



66 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

We often speak of an ideal pbject, as a picture,
statue, or person, in the sense of defining superior
merit, but such idealism is only relative. Nothing
is ever fully realized. The final completeness re-
cedes and keeps in advance because its mission is
to draw and therefore its power is formative. He
who holds it is its subject and is being conformed
to its own image or likeness. This comes not from
any sudden influx but like the rings of growth in a
tree. Psychologically considered, the simple con-
templation of ideals is helpful.

The whole purpose and trend of the Bible is to
hold up the ideals of the spiritual life. It is not to ? t
draw attention to itself, but it comes to lift what is I
in us. It is a service book. It includes material ! \
of every kind, negative as well as positive. As the
sculptor strives to release the beautiful statue from
the block of crude marble within which it is im-
prisoned, and as the creator of fiction gradually
evolves the hero or heroine from unpromising
material, so the subjective artist essays to bring his
objective activity into more complete conformity to
the inner model. Every one has a potential angel y
within, the release and development of which is a
^ matter of interminable pains and perseverance. 1 1
T^he persistence of the divine life in man is accom-



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 67

panied by an unending series of lower deaths.
Former ideals are cast aside like broken pottery,
their life and utility being ended.

The divine in man is the same in essence as God,
but his consciousness of the fact is but infantile.
It is best so. Man is made for eternal growth.
If in due season one ideal were not replaced by a
larger one, it would mean stagnation, even for an
archangel. The poet often sings of eternal rest, but
passive idleness is not human. Absolute content-
ment is abnormal A certain " divine dissatisfac-
tion " insures perpetual growth. The light which has
been kindled in the soul is never to be extinguished.

The Ideal is that intangible truth and reality for
which man hungers and thirsts. He fails to in-
terpret his own restlessness. He is delving among
lower models while he encloses the higher. Dis-
appointment will continue until the loftier is sought o
out and awakened. Order is not found in things
but must be set up in one's own soul.

Human life on the present plane consciously be-
gins with simple physical sensation. The individual
is a bundle of unending possibilities, attainable only
by an ever-increasing proportion of the spiritual, as
compared with the sense consciousness. From the
early base of material sensation, the soul is ever



6$ LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

making experimental and educational excursions,
higher, and yet higher. But that is only the train-

^ ing of what has been implicit from the beginning.

■ \ To go upward is to go within. v The soul which is
bruised and depressed by rough contact with the
world may retire within itself to the divine centre
and commune with the indwelling God. There,
and there alone, it can sit face to face with the
Ideal and have a vision of perfect love and spiritual
freedom. " Men may rise upon the stepping-stones
of their dead selves to higher things." One finds
satisfaction only as by aspiration he surpasses him-
self.

The soul has true creative power. It is always
making itself over, and virtually makes its own
objective world. The same material environment,
to different observers, may be bright or dark, in
fact, living or paralyzed. The difference is due to
varying inner reflection or re-formation. Aspira-^
tion may become a cultivated habit. In the corri-
dors of the soul the ego can set up statues or hang
pictures of its own designing. There they seem to
breathe and live. The potential artistic power has
no limit. The technique of the professional (de-
signer may wane, but the skill of the unseen genius
increases.



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 69

The Bible, under a spiritual interpretation, points
toward the Ideal. Scholastic dogmatism renders
the book dry and unattractive. The realism of the
letter hides its inner light. In order that the fine
gold of its ideals may be assimilated and trans-
muted into living spiritual manifestation, they are
presented in a great variety of combinations and
conditions, shown at all angles and in different
lights, and tested in their adaptation to unlike ages,
races, nations, and forms of government. Through
them the divine principle flows into the lives of
rich and poor, learned and ignorant, high and low,
and its quality is exhibited in all stages of progress,
from the tender shoot to full maturity. Its mold-
ing power touches life on every side. Emerson
wisely says that, " A man is a bundle of relations,
a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the
world."

Who can fully define the Ideal ? Shall its absolute
and relative elements be love, goodness, truth, and
beauty ? All. The divine perfection is wholly
inclusive, a rounded sphere. While the Ideal
abstractly is perfection, the human aspect must
ever remain relative. Though the Abstract is un-
knowable and unattainable, its influence upon life
is all important. The dominant element in the



JO LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

ultimate Pattern is love — love universal. But this
encloses a noble group of subordinates. Love in- ji
eludes and energizes beauty, truth, and goodness. \\
Beauty is more than shapely form and symmetrical
proportion. It is the spirit of harmony in expres-
sion. It grasps inharmony, recreates and idealizes
it, possesses it with order and fills it with soul.
Again we are brought back to the subjective.
Beauty is a reflection of what is in the beholder,
hence it is primarily a soul quality. Even art
cannot be objective for all outward beauty is
only a work of art. Different observers may
clothe the same graceful statue with purity or
voluptuousness.

Truth is the ideal of conformity to law, the nor-
mal type. When the soul has realized the truth of
nature and art, it is their conqueror. The love of
right, justice or sincerity is both instinctive and
an inspiration. " Man was made to look upward,"
says that delightful modern mystic, Maeterlinck :

" We all live in the sublime. Where else can we
live ? That is the only place of life. And if aught
be lacking, it is not the chance of living in heaven,
rather is it watchfulness and meditation ; also, perhaps,
a little ecstasy of the soul. Though you have but a
little room, do you fancy that God is not there too, and
that it is impossible to live there, in a life that shall be



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 71

somewhat lofty ? If you complain of being alone, of
the absence of events, of loving no one and being un-
loved, do you think that the words are true ? . . .
All that happens to us is divinely great, and we are al-
ways in the center of a great world."

The Ideal which dwells in the soul is the thought
of oneness with divinity, a native attraction of a
man towards his Source, a coherent aspiration
Godward. The ultimate and highest Good is an
eternal magnet — that totality of all moral and
spiritual completeness which defines the Eternal
Spirit.

The ideal of the divine in human form we call
the Incarnation. It is the conjunction of the two
which become one, made materially manifest. The
one supreme fact thus named gains its significance
because it testifies of a universal law. It is not
abnormal or super-normal, but a natural develop-
ment. The ideal of the rose is to blossom, and in-
carnation is the fulfillment of destiny. Every law,
by correspondence, has application up and down,
as well as upon its own plane. There is a spiritual,
as well as material gravitation, and the tides of
high life are as well defined as those of the great
deep. The life of nature as well as inspiration in
man, moves towards an ideal.



72 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

a In buds upon some Aaron's rod
The childlike ancient saw his God ;
Less credulous, more believing, we
Read in the grass — Divinity.

" From Horeb's bush the Presence spoke
To earlier faiths and simpler folk ;
But now each bush that sweeps our fence
Flames with the Awful Immanence 1 "

What a costly mistake has been the substantial
isolation of Jesus ! Such was not his purpose.
The Christ consciousness has often been intro-
duced as a formal stranger. Man has been authori-
tatively proclaimed as incapable and depraved.
Thus the mirror-like normal Model which he has
held before himself, has been marred.

Truth, in fact, is inoperative until it is vivified
into an ideal. Then it lives. It matters little, as
a fact, or event, whether or not William Tell ever
existed. But the heroic virtue and patriotism en-
closed in the story has ever been a molding force
in Swiss character and in a general love of liberty.
The ideal outweighs a thousand events. History
is meaningless unless it lives. " Let the dead
bury their dead." There is much evidence that
the thought of a Western Continent loomed
strongly in the European consciousness before



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 73

Columbus actualized the fact. The ideal preceded
and projected the event. Do not hide the ideal
behind dry and superficial happenings but burnish
it and bear it aloft. Let every one mark deeply
his specification, and conformity to the drawing
will increase. A corresponding law lives and
moves upon the physical plane of expression.

The relative value between circumstance and law
is especially marked in the biblical literature. A
bare historic episode may be one of many expres-
sions of truth, but, of itself, it is too narrow to
sustain the full superstructure. A vital principle
must also root in the living present. The spiritual
marrow of the Bible is mostly contained in poetic
and idealistic form rather than in letter and history.
It may be that "facts are stubborn things," but
often they are dead and dry barriers — precedents
in the path of progress. How the flowing imagery
of many of the psalms uplifts and inspires !
Modern indifference to the Bible is largely the
result of an undue emphasis which has been placed
upon occurrences whether true or uncertain. In-
spired truth inspires. There is a strange inclina-
tion to burrow near the surface rather than delve
for ultimates. The unsatisfactory nature of con-
ventions and ready-made ruts is evident, for spiri-



74 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

tual verity is original and spontaneous in the soul.
"The truth shall make you free."

Ideals project themselves across the vista of the
future. The soul must look forward. While the
lessons of the past may be profitable for reproof
and educational discipline, they are but auxiliary.
History is full of tethering-posts to which truth
has been tied and obstructed. The low-vaulted
past is not inspirational, though it furnishes the
kindling which, when ignited, lights up the forward
highway. What we have suffered and survived is
consumed in the furnace of life in order that its
energy may be transmuted into spiritual newness
and vigor. Let us smile upon the coming time
and it will respond with a greeting to us. If the
body gives signs of infirmity let us not forget that
we are not bodies, but unfolding souls. The youth-
ful and optimistic temper will not permit mental
rigidity, spiritual lethargy, or a religion of exclusion.

Never before in the world's history was there so
clear an understanding of human inspiration.
With research penetrating unwonted fields, with
knowledge marvelously expansive, with philan-
throphy more scientific and practical, and with
hopefulness systematically culivated, we hail the
new time with joyful anticipation. We may pitch



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 75

a tent for a night in the field of retrospection but
do not let us make it a residence. Learning as we
do through contrast, the very mistakes of former
years should lend a new impetus to our advance.
The man of to-day is great in proportion to the
obstacles which he has overcome. Jacob, with a
strained thigh, wrestled all night with the adver-
sary and became a new man and was given a new
name. He who has little faith in himself is likely f
to have but a feeble faith in God. The divine in-
dwelling is the supreme and only remedy for the •
ills of life. Paul was a true idealist : " Rejoice
alway. ... In everything give thanks." Such
a spirit transforms tribulation, sweeps away pessi-
mism and makes the world over. The " new
heaven and new earth" are ideals capable of reali-
zation. As " Alps on Alps arise," so summit after
summit of spiritual attainment lifts its head before
us, and each furnishes a vantage ground for a
victory over the next.

To be, forms the basis of to do. While the
seer, to our minds, is mainly associated with the
ancient time, he is more than ever needed to-day.
Said Archimedes of ancient Syracuse : " Give me
a fulcrum on which to rest and I will move the
earth." But Emerson ? the modern icjeajist, found



J6 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

a fulcrum to move a greater world than that of
matter.

The Bible, as a great living unity in variety,
seeks to enthrone the Ideal in man. In one of
our former books * a brief enumeration of some of
the idealistic elements of the sacred Scriptures was
made for which liberty is taken in their quotation.

" The Inspired Book touches every life in its full
breadth and at every point. That supreme spiritual
aspiration and God-consciousness that illumined men
of old will inspire men of to-day. Those great divine
sources and springs have not lost their power to kindle
new life. The history of the Jewish nation is a grand
drama, the ever-shifting scenes of which portray vice
and virtue worked out in character and life, each to its
legitimate result. With natural, free interpretation of
the Book, its light will grow clearer and broader, and
it will be an ever-unfolding source of inspiration to
human life."

The Bible is instinct with the idealism of the
ancient time. Each successive generation catches
its living glow anew. Its truth is old, yet ever new.
Its inner significance expands under new condi-
tions and combinations. Changing applications and
adjustments take place, but its beams of light will
continue to shine on generations yet unborn.



1 " God's Image in Man," Lee and Shepard, Boston.



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 77

Those things which have served their purpose |j
make the soil for new planting. As the mists of
early morn dissolve and disappear when the sun
arises, so the modern atmosphere wipes out dog-
matism and scholastic self-sufficiency. There is a
subtle integration and disintegration active at the
same time. The traditionalist feels that the very
foundation stones are crumbling, while those which
are to replace them are not yet evident to him.
But be courageous, for while the old is slipping
away, there is growing in human consciousness
a greater faith, a grander religion, and a mystic •
revelation of the Ideal. He who has been con-
tent with the theory of an occasional interposition
of the infinite hand of a far-away Deity, may
awaken and find himself in a beautiful and orderly
universe, with the sense of the Immanent One '.
within himself. Reverently speaking, God is||
brought home. What a discovery and inspiration
in such a transition ! As Mont Blanc towers up
above the horizon to the approaching traveler
grand and indescribable, so the Ideal lifts its sym-
metrical and awe-inspiring proportions to thrill his
being. It is not isolated, but all-inclusive. The
explorer finds himself in a social universe where
everybody and everything is his relative. Instead



78 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

of separation there comes a new sense of unity
and universal friendliness. He finds even that
every throb of pain, every heavy cross, every
frown of fate, and every pathetic event, has some
educational and beneficent fruit. It fits into a
larger and even a universal plan. Even so-called
death is but a new birth into higher life and larger
opportunity. Out of the cruder expression grows
one more sublimated, refined, and glorious. But
the Ideal makes its presence felt only to him who
opens his eyes.

Idealism is scientific in a true sense. Truth is
an all-inclusive unit, and science, or exact truth,
cannot be fenced off and limited to the material
realm. There can be no higher proof of any prin-
ciple than that it fits the constitution of man. He
is the universal unit of measure. If a proposition
is adjusted to the soul and satisfies every craving,
it cannot be false. Even the nature of divinity is
to be gauged by humanity. There is a rapid trend
in science from materialism toward spiritual refine-
ment. As accurate research digs deeper, evi-
dences of design and unity are multiplied. The
analytical by-paths in all directions finally converge
toward a grand synthesis. Every discovery and
development lends additional proof to the proposi-



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 79

tion that what should be, is. By such an assump-
tion, Laplace worked out the elimination of what
had been regarded as the uncertainties and irregu-
larities of the solar system. The hypothesis of
what is ideal prepares and points out the way to
the scientific actual. Science may be defined as
demonstration. It is the ideal coming into appear-
ance. In the mind it is the instinctive recognition
of truth. Not merely one Word, but every word
is made flesh. Real construction is from mind
stuff rather than material protoplasm. The truth
we have with us, but the greater truth is always
a little in advance. If the shepherds of Chaldea
saw a near-by star which told a story, how much
greater the wonder which confronts the modern
astronomer in the nightly starry host his camera
registers and which he catalogues.

There are ideals for the race, nation, and world,
as well as for the individual. They have trans-
forming and molding power. Note one or two
specimens of the many in the Bible. " They shall
beat their swords into ploughshares, and their
spears into pruning hooks ; nation shall not lift up
sword against nation, neither shall they learn war
any more." (Micah iv, 3) "And the wolf
shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie



80 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

down with the kid; and the calf and the young
lion and the fatling together; and a little child
shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall
feed ; their young ones shall lie down together :
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the
sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and
the weaned child shall put his hand on the basi-
lisk's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all
my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of
the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover
the sea." (Isaiah xi, 6-9) "Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things
are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatso-
ever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report ; if there be
any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on
these things." (Philippians iv, 8) Such ideals
cannot be too often repeated. Psychologically,
they are kept bright and prominent by reitera-
tion. The Pattern, when steadily held aloft, glows
before the mind like a beacon light. If one fully
occupy himself with the good, evil at length be-
comes a negation. As positive reality lights up
the soul, the negative shadows dissolve to their
native nothingness.

The goal for the individual soul is the higher



THE BIBLE AND IDEALISM 8 1

or spiritual consciousness. The term "cosmic
consciousness" is one which some have recently
employed to represent the supreme Ideal, and it is
very suggestive. It signifies the recognition not
merely of a material order but of a spiritual
totality. The fragmentary things of life and of
the universe are rejoined and repaired, the fogs
and shadows dissolve, and the rough places are
made smooth. It is an intelligently cultivated
feeling — nay, vision — not merely of nature and
mass, but of a cosmos of Mind, Spirit, and Love.
It involves soul responsiveness to the largest
and highest environment. Divinity is our own.
Through oneness and receptivity, we let it print
itself upon us.



BIBLICAL POETRY AND FICTION

Any revelation, to be a real revelation, must be
adapted to the inner conditions of the recipient.
Blot out what is poetic and imaginative from living
literature, and the more inspirational and soul-
moving part would be gone. These forms of
writing have a warmth and depth of appeal un-
equaled by what is prosaic, and must be regarded
as effective vehicles for religious truth. It is in-
herently impossible for a mind of plain severity to
assimilate the divine exaggerations of the poet, or
to enter his rich creative realm. Some careful
observers think it a matter of doubt whether it is
possible for the Occidental mind ever to fully
comprehend the Oriental, and we should remember
that the Bible is wholly a Book of the East.

Not merely great learning, but nothing less
than the cultivated imagination is well equipped
to sift the divine precious metal from the
human dross which ages of ignorance and cre-
dulity have fastened upon the Scriptures. The

82



BIBLICAL POETRY AND FICTION 83

destructive literalism, which the stern but con-
scientious orthodox believer reads into the Word,
is found quite as often and as strong among his
prosaic destructive critics. Though radically in
opposition, at this point they agree. Scepticism
and even atheism is largely caused by the posi-
tive lack of the poetic imagination which is so
exuberant in Holy Writ.

If there be some reluctance to the admission of
the value of poetic form as a channel for Scrip-
tural truth, what shall be expected of the fictional,
which, in reality, is one of the most effective means
it is possible to employ ? It is not its mission to
mystify or exaggerate, but to awaken and interest.
If it does not light up the plain substance of what
is real, it does not serve its purpose. The most
fertile domain of the soul is that of the emotional
nature.

Our Western temperament of sharp outline
cannot well appreciate the necessity of the more
fanciful or figurative method of teaching, and
that imaginary stories, or fables, often bring home
the most weighty principles. The parable, which
was one of the most telling of the methods em-
ployed by Jesus, under literary classification
belongs in the department of fiction. The instru-



84 LIFE MORE ABUNDANT

ments to reach the heart of man need to be fitted
to his most favoring approaches.

The poetry of the Western World has two
leading forms of expression which are known as
rhyme and metre. Without at least one of these
we do not distinguish it as poetry. But Hebrew
scholars assure us that the range of the poetry of
that language is vastly wider. It possesses a
subtle and graceful rhythm, but neither rhyme
nor metre is essential. Syllabic correspondence
and measurement for distinctive poetry were not
essential to the Hebrew ear. In the deeper sense
that which is truly poetic depends not upon verbal


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Online LibraryHenry WoodLife more abundant; Scriptural truth in modern application → online text (page 4 of 16)