William Rainey Harper.

Religion and the higher life; talks to students online

. (page 5 of 11)
Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperReligion and the higher life; talks to students → online text (page 5 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Association with those who are in distress ought not
to harden the heart, and does not harden the true
heart. Such familiarity tends, rather, to make all
the more tender the heart which has thus put itself
in the way of suffering. And besides, he alone knows
how to accept sympathy, and to get good from it,
who has learned to give it when and where it was
needed. If you would experience the blessing of
having sympathetic friends in days of trouble, be a
sympathetic friend before your trouble comes.

If you would anticipate the troubles of life, make
earnest and continuous effort to obtain a vision of
God. Too many of us rest satisfied because, having
heard of God, we think this sufficient. The heart
must see God, if the intellect would understand


him. How much greater is the world's suffering
because men have heard of God only by the hearing
of the ear, whereas, if the eye were to see him, there
would come a vision so immediate and so full that
darkness would not seem to be darkness but light,
and suffering would be accepted with joy.

And finally, if you would anticipate trouble and
would prepare yourself for suffering, hold relation-
ship with that unique character in the world's his-
tory who suffered as no man ever suffered before or
since alone in the agony of Gethsemane, upon the
cross, in the face of all the world ; whom men buffeted
and reproached and spat upon, and whose last words
were: "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken
me?" whose sympathy with a suffering humanity
was so great that only God himself could have ex-
perienced and expressed it; whose life and death, a
long series of indignities and sufferings, have brought
light and life to all who will accept them.

Hold relationship with this man, Jesus, for in so
doing you at once begin to suffer with him and with
the world for which he suffered; you are at once
coming into that attitude of sympathy with all about
you which will make it possible to give and to receive
blessing. He who is in sympathy with Jesus Christ
is in sympathy with suffering of every form, in every
clime. He who is not in such sympathy stands
alone, separated from the whole world of sympathy,
and from every other man who like himself lacks


such sympathy. He stands alone, unable to give,
and, when trouble overtakes him, unable to receive,
true sympathy.

But furthermore, we have seen that not the hear-
ing of God, but the seeing of him, is the solution
of life's difficulties. How easy it is for us, in these
days, to have this sight, this vision of God ! It was
for this purpose that Jesus came to men, from God
the Father, to represent him as only he could be
represented to humanity. This, above all things
else, was his mission, to make God known to man;
Jesus, the brother, through whom the Father might
be revealed to those who also were brothers. To
see Jesus is to have had a sight of God.

In fellowship, then, with Jesus the sufferer; in
companionship with Jesus the friend and brother;
and in obedience to Jesus the Lord, one is best pre-
pared for the battle of life.

If my theme this afternoon has seemed a gloomy
one, its purpose, I can assure you, has only been to
suggest how burden and suffering may be averted,
or at all events relieved, and the lives of those who
are now so soon to leave us thus made the brightest
possible. "Come unto me all ye that labor and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest."


THESE are days in which men's minds and hearts
are filled with the thought of loyalty loyalty to
country. The nation is being quickened in every
fiber of its life by the strange and striking events
of the passing hour, and the sons and daughters of
the nation, while they bemoan the seeming necessity
of war, while they may think that this, perhaps,
could have been avoided, at the same time rejoice
in the new and lofty sentiments aroused by the
stories of brave and courageous acts which men of
our own blood and our own generation have per-
formed. The names of Dewey and Hobson and the
story of their deeds rouse an intense spirit of loyalty
within us a spirit far different from that slow stir-
ring of the blood we get from the perusal of brave
actions of passed generations. And more than this,
devotion to country becomes a stronger passion as we
are awakened to an appreciation of the country's
strength and opportunities. We see today what a
score of years ago would have been thought impos-
sible men who once fought against each other now
standing side by side in a struggle with a common
foe and the nation thus united will do what could

6 9


not have been done until such union was a union in
fact as well as in name.

We see the coming of an alliance * with the
greatest of the world-powers greatest not only in
naval equipment and in financial strength, but great-
est likewise as a power for good ; an alliance, indeed,
of all who speak the English tongue; and this event
will signify as no single event since the coming of
Christ has signified, "peace and good-will to men."

We see our nation just passing from its period of
adolescence, from a youth with his vigor only par-
tially developed, into a manhood conscious of newly
acquired powers; a nation able henceforth to stand
side by side with other nations, and as one of them
to determine, the method and kind of progress which
the world shall make.

We see our nation still sensitive to the cry of the
oppressed and downtrodden; and may the day be
far distant when that cry, wherever uttered, shall
not be heeded! May it never be that the heart of
America shall fail, as the hearts of European
nations have failed, to respond to the voice of the
lowly and the suffering, when that voice is raised
for help !

Events are taking place today which are fraught
with as heavy significance as any that have happened
within the century and a quarter of the nation's
history. And these events are creating a new spirit
within us a spirit of intense loyalty, a spirit pos-


sesscd of all the strength and freshness of a new
creation. There is no man, who can be called a
man, to whom, in such times, the word "loyalty"
does not take on new meaning.

But these are days, too, in which men's minds
and hearts are filled with another thought of loyalty
loyalty to God. The world knows God at this, the
close of the nineteenth century, as he has not been
known in all past ages. The sum of truth known
to men is larger; but, better than this, the sum of
truth put into application is greater. It is not what
one knows that counts, but the use made of what
one knows. God is coming into contact with life
with an ever-increasing degree of force. Life is
responding to the touch of God with an ever-increas-
ing degree of appreciation. It is truth that makes
men free. But what is truth ? Any act or thought
which is in harmony with the will of God and with
God's laws is truth. To act or think out of har-
mony with his nature is to act or think that which
is not true. To be free is to live and move in touch
with him; to love him, and to show that love by
devotion to him and his cause. To love him is to
be free and to make others free. This is loyalty to

The ignorant love of God, on the other hand, is
mere superstition. Real love, true loyalty, are pos-
sible only for those whose conception of him is an
intelligent conception. For God was known only


in part before the day when Science began to make
her contribution toward a better knowledge of the
laws through which he works. And in proportion
as this contribution in the future shall become more
definite, our knowledge of him will become more
clear. And so it follows that the man who ignores
the contribution of Science thus far made is guilty
of disloyalty.

The connection between this loyalty to country
and loyalty to God is clearly to be seen. Thus the
interest in human kind, so intense in modern times;
the love of man for his fellow-man, as shown in so
many ways; the pouring out of life and property for
the purpose of helping those who need help all
this, seen today as the past has not seen it, is God
working through the hearts of men in behalf of
other men; and every such manifestation is a mani-
festation of harmony with God's will, of loyalty to
God. "Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did
it unto one of these my brethren, even these least,
ye did it unto me." "Verily, I say unto you, inas-
much as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did
it not unto me."

We all realize that the world is growing better;
that its ideals of life are gradually rising high and
higher. And this is so because the life of the indi-
vidual is moving on a higher plane. Herein, per-
haps, lies the most conspicuous evidence of God's
presence, and at the same time the most marked


indication of loyalty to God. For when God finds
opportunity to enter a man's heart, when that heart
turns away from unrighteousness, then in all sure-
ness we see the working of the hand of God and the
sign of loyalty to his standards, and seeing this we
see God himself, just as in seeing Christ, the perfect
man, the world saw God.

With love of country thus incited by the things
we see and hear on every side, with love of God
quickened by what we see, that was not seen before,
in nature, in the lives of those about us, and perhaps
in our own individual life, we ask ourselves the ques-
tion: How may each life most thoroughly and most
perfectly possess itself of all these opportunities ? How
may one reach this high plane of true loyalty to
country and to God?

The answer to this question is my message to the
members of the University, on whom the University
will soon bestow its highest, and indeed its only,
honors. Briefly, the answer is this: In order to
be loyal to country and to God, first of all be loyal
to yourself.

For this loyalty to self, if cultivated and acquired,
will lead you to avoid those things which, left to exert
themselves upon you, must demoralize and ultimately
break you down. Such influences are many and
strong and all about you. They form an integral
part of the plan of life. Without them life would
be an insipid thing. Strength in life is, for the most


part, secured by resisting them. Death comes by
yielding to them. Do many die thus? Yes; that
the few who live may live stronger lives. This is
the law of life. If, now, you would be loyal to
country and to God, if you would place yourself in
a position to give evidence of such loyalty, you must
first be sure of your strength to resist everything
that may weaken you, whether in body, in mind,
or in soul. The country has no use for a weakling.
The instruments of God must be the best and strong-
est. One cannot be true to God and country and
at the same time false to self.

"The first great task (a task performed by few)
Is that yourself may to yourself be true."

"To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

It is easy enough to deceive ourselves in this mat-
ter. And though we sometimes endeavor to conceal
this fatal weakness, the effort always fails. A man
who has no self-respect is dead to every true feeling
of patriotism or piety.

Furthermore, this loyalty to self, to the extent in
which it is acquired, will enable you to overcome the
difficulties and disappointments of life. These, like
the temptations to which I have just referred, are
inevitable. No man ever achieved greatness who
was lacking in strength to overcome great obstacles.
The greatest men in history have been those whose


greatness came because a kind Providence gave
them obstacles to overcome.

"Noble souls through dust and heat
Rise from disaster and defeat
The stronger."

Do not, then, misunderstand the meaning of
those difficulties with which life is so entangled.
One cannot gain strength without them. For they con-
stitute a preparation, each in itself for something more
difficult, and all together a preparation for the giving
up of life itself a renunciation which but for such
preparation would be the most difficult thing in life.
Thus loyalty to self means strengthening of self for
the battles of life, whether fought in the army of
the nation or for the kingdom of God. Whom can
you expect to believe in you, if you do not believe
in yourself? More men commit the sin of undue
self -depreciation than that of undue self-confidence.

Loyalty to self means also making the most of
self. Nature has so endowed each one of us that
life has something, at all events, for us to do. In
the case of many it is a particular thing clearly de-
termined by the character of the endowment given.
Loyalty to self's best interests demands that one's
effort be put forth to discover this particular thing,
and, when it is discovered, to undertake it, and not
something else for which an endowment was not
given. Thus the failures in life are of two kinds:
those in which the individual has not been able to


discover what it was intended he should do. Oh,
what is so sad in life not sickness, nor insanity,
nor even death as an aimless life! The other
kind of failure is seen in the case of those who, at
heart knowing the nature of the life-work which
should be undertaken, are unwilling to undertake
it, and turn instead to something else because,
perhaps, this something else is thought to be easier,
or more dignified or lucrative. It is no sin to be
ambitious. To be ambitious in the true sense is
only to seek to bring one's self into harmony with
the will of God; to endeavor to fulfil the promises
which God has made in his constitution of one's
being; and not to be ambitious is to array one's
self against his Creator.

Loyalty to self means, I say, the making the most
of self; this, however, will not be a making the most of
self at the expense of others, but for others' welfare.
It is in this way that ambition becomes a virtue rather
than a vice; a command from heaven rather than a
word from hell. To make the most of self at the
expense of others is the greatest sin which man may
commit ; to make the most of self in order that others
may be benefited is the highest duty which man may
practice. The line of distinction is sharp, and ap-
plies alike to nations and to men. From an ambition
to secure self-aggrandizement may God deliver our
country! But may He also implant deep in our
hearts an ambition to develop our strength that we


may be of service to the world! There was never
a time when temptation to do the thing which would
hurt was stronger or more insidious. There was
never a time when the problems of life were more
numerous or more difficult to contend with. There
was never a time when the world could furnish to
those taking up its duties greater promise of oppor-
tunity for success. To resist these temptations, to
battle with these obstacles, to achieve this success
in other words, to be loyal to self should be, and
indeed must be, the highest aim of every man who
would be true to the country of his adoption or his
birth; true to the God of his fathers or to the God
of his own experience. May the heart beat quicker
as we learn more clearly our country's mission among
the nations of the earth ! May it beat more lovingly
as we more clearly learn the method and the work
and the character of the world's Creator and Ruler !
May it, to this end, beat more truly and sincerely
as we grapple with the powers of evil, as we rise
above trouble and despair, as we set ourselves to
undertake the work divinely appointed us to do!


IN these days we find it necessary to lay stress
upon what is called independence independence
in spirit and independence in action. The neces-
sity arises because, as it would seem, this quality, if
I may call it such, is not even yet sufficiently culti-
vated. The desirability of acquiring it or of pos-
sessing it is never questioned. Upon those who
possess it we are accustomed to look with admira-
tion. The man who thinks for himself is the ideal
man. The imitator, on the other hand, who shows
at every step his entire dependence upon those
about him; who never thinks for himself, never acts
for himself; whose opinion is that of the man with
whom he last held conversation; who does, for the
most part, just what the world tells him to do this
man his fellows esteem lightly.

The real purpose of the intellectual work carried
on in all our schools and institutions of learning,
from the lowest to the highest, is to make those who
receive the discipline of the school capable of think-
ing, acting, and, in short, of living independently.
In so far as this end is attained, our institutions
succeed; and in so far as they fall short of attaining
it, they fail. This is the purpose is it not? of



our reading, of every kind of intellectual activity.
The things about us, here in America, are intended
to cultivate this characteristic. Our history, as we
read it, stimulates us in this direction. The study
of our civil institutions, whatever defects such study
may bring to light, encourages us to breathe more
freely, and to make every effort to throw aside the
fetters of tradition, many of which we still wear as
an inheritance from our fathers. In religious and
theological thought the tendency is the same. Who
does not see that men may speak and think more
freely, that men do speak and think more freely?
It is to this liberty of thought and action, this pos-
sibility of exercising independence, that we are
indebted for the rapid and forward movement
which within a century has taken place in every
line of human action, whether material or intellec-

What we need to inquire, first of all, in connec-
tion with this tendency is: Are there any indica-
tions that the liberty which we so prize will be
restricted? Will the movement forward become a
movement backward ? Will this independence,
which, after all, is but another name for individual-
ity, gradually, or perhaps suddenly, become a thing
of the past ?

The answer, if indications may be trusted, is that
the very reverse will be true. Individualism is the
doctrine of the future in religion, in business, and


in letters. It may be urged that combination is the
order of the day. But these combinations, when
examined closely, exhibit an individuality of the
most marked character. Indeed, it was not until
the days of specialists that combinations arose; the
underlying principle of all of them is that of special-
ism, or individualism.

There is no probability indeed, there is hardly
a chance that, in the future, we are to expect any-
thing even apparently reactionary. It is probable,
on the other hand, that the spirit of independence,
of individualism, will grow stronger and more intense.
Indeed, there is a danger that this spirit may grow
too strong and do great harm. There is danger
that men will forget the difference between being
independent and feeling independent. The man
who is independent is rarely conscious of the fact.
The man who feels independent, and takes occasion
to exhibit the feeling, generally lacks the thing which
he imagines himself to feel. The line between
spurious and real independence is sharply drawn.
The spurious and it is this which we all too fre-
quently meet soon develops into arrogance and
conceit ; for these are but the outer shell of an
inner emptiness.

There is also a danger in the genuine independ-
ence ; and this danger is twofold : it takes the forms
of narrowness and of self-dependence.

The cultivation of independence, as has been


said, is the development of the individual. The
individual, however, whatever may be the degree
of his development, never ceases to be part of a
whole composed of many individuals. The ques-
tion is: Shall the part, though to some extent sepa-
rate, and perhaps elevated, continue to be a part,
and as such to exert a strong and helpful influence
upon the other parts? Or shall it, though only a
part, exert a repellant influence on them, endeavor
to drive off the other parts, and then to usurp the
functions of the whole ? This is what happens
when one of our number, strong in the particular
thing which he professes, forgets the many things
which should occupy a position side by side with
that in which he has interest, and gradually comes
to believe that his, and his only, is of value, or worthy
of thought. In other words, while the proper culti-
vation of the spirit of independence will produce
breadth, the result, if it is wrongly cultivated, will
be narrowness; and, among all sins, narrowness
is near to the worst.

The other phase of the danger involved is that,
instead of independence, we acquire self-dependence.
This does not mean mere self-conceit, although it
would not be surprising to find the latter as an
accompaniment. It means dependence on self
carried too far so far, indeed, as to make self the
god at whose shrine all worship is conducted. The
sin of Babylon of old was this:


"Yea, he scoffeth at kings,
And princes are a derision unto him:

"He derideth every stronghold;
For he heapeth up dust and taketh it.

"Then shall the wind sweep by and he shall pass away,
For he is guilty, even he whose might is his God."

Nor was Babylon the ancient nation alone guilty
of this sin. Many individuals nowadays commit
the sin of self-worship.

Before continuing our direct study of this subject,
we must look at the obverse of it; we must consider
the relation of independence to dependence. For
my own part, I desire to see dependence encouraged.
Do you ask why? For three reasons: First, that
the independence of which we boast may be a real
independence. This is not a contradiction of terms.
True independence is based upon the right concep-
tion of the relations of things. This right concep-
tion will never be ours unless we recognize our own
insufficiency and weakness. To be able to do, one
must know what he is unable to do. I desire, there-
fore, to see dependence encouraged.

And, second, in order that humanity may secure
the good results which accrue when one depends
upon another. Benevolence, the greatest virtue
of God or man, is only exercised when there is on
the part of someone an act of dependence. It is
more blessed to give than to receive; but there can-
not be giving without receiving.


I desire to see dependence encouraged, finally,
in order that individualism may be kept within
bounds. There is no virtue that may not become
a vice. Individualism may be pressed too far.

The dependence which I have in mind, is how-
ever, of three kinds. The first I have already
spoken of to condemn it self-dependence. I speak
of it now to commend it, and at the same time to
utter a word of caution. It is one's duty, a sacred
duty, to ask for nothing which he can of himself
secure. It is wrong to ask from God, or to expect
of him, that which we ourselves can obtain. To
be sure, all things come from him, and yet he sees
to it that nothing comes but that for which we work.
To do for one's self is to do for others. For no
action is restricted in its influence to the doer of it.
Dependence on self carries with it, for all who make
up self's circle, blessings seen or unseen. But care
must be taken lest, as has been suggested, self-
dependence become self-worship. We may be
confident, but we must not be overconfident. Dis-
trust of self generally leads to ruin. Here, then,
is a vice which at times may be a virtue. Let us,
at least on rare occasions, distrust ourselves. For
it may be that such distrust will prevent our falling
into a pit-hole.

The second kind of dependence I shall call
inter-dependence. Our situation in this world is
a close relationship with each other and with


nature. Whether we will or not, we are dependent.
Nature makes us dependent. Civilization has
increased the debt, if debt it is, that we owe our
contemporaries. We must use, but not abuse,
the privileges granted us. Let us lean upon each
other; for surely the brother upon whom we lean
increases his own strength in the effort to sustain
us. Life would be only half life if it included
giving without receiving, or yielding without securing.

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperReligion and the higher life; talks to students → online text (page 5 of 11)