The True Light That Lighteth
AT the same table with me, in the dining saloon of a small coasting steamer, which was slowly making its way among the boats that swarmed in the harbor of Macao, sat a grizzled sea-captain with jaw set and face tense in the effort at self-control. At last the strain became too great and he spoke out his mind.
‘You must know of the strike which the Chinese have organized in Hongkong — the men who work at the wharves and who transport in lighters the cargoes from ocean ships to the shore. They have secured a sympathetic strike from every other worker. No one can ride in a sedan chair, no wheelbarrow can be hired for the carrying of loads, no coolies will clean our floors, no boys will wait on our tables, no amahs will tend our children, and no cooks will prepare our food. Even the Governor of the Colony must go to market and his wife must do the household work. The ships cannot unload, nor can they take on cargo. The Chinese have beaten us and in three or four days we shall have to accept their terms. All this is because you missionaries have brought them modern education. We never dreamed they had such a capacity for organization. When education reaches the entire race, they will wipe the white man off the face of the earth and we shall have you missionaries and the Christian religion to thank for the result.’
‘And how long have you lived as a sea-captain on the China coast?’ I asked. ‘For twenty-five years,’ he answered. Then I said: ‘It amazes me that a man of education should come to such illogical conclusions as those which you have just expressed.’ With well-controlled yet evident indignation he reiterated his former statements and said I should soon see the evidence in the harbor.
I too stood my ground. ‘I have been studying in the city of Hangchow the history of merchant guilds and labor unions. They have existed for centuries. The Chinese laborer knew and used the principles of collective bargaining, as well as the method of the strike, long before the Christian missionary arrived in China. As a captain, you must know that the cost of living for the Chinese laborer has doubled since the World War; that during the war shipping-prices on this coast doubled and even quadrupled. The Chinese workman knows of these larger profits which he has not shared. He now demands a forty-per-cent increase of wage, and you well know that when the shipping companies capitulate they should in justice give even more than is demanded.
‘You also know that this strike has been brought about by the impact of Western industrialism upon that of the East; that the strike has had nothing to do with missionary effort; and that, if anything aside from commercialism has come into the situation, it has come through strike-leaders who have learned the methods of labor unions in the West. If there had never been a single missionary in China this strike would have happened just the same.
‘This, then, is the question: Since the commercial impact of the West on the East will force the Chinese to reorganize their educational system and to send students abroad, shall this reorganization be antiforeign, selfish, intensely nationalistic, or shall it be tempered with the spirit of human brotherhood and international sympathy taught in the Christian faith?’
Then I told him how the Japanese Government, in selecting companions for the Crown Prince on his journey to Europe, decided that such men, in order best to assist the Prince, must have the international mind and international sympathy. Two of the foremost men chosen were Japanese Christians, chosen not because they were Christians but because they met the qualifications. Also, in a recent popular vote in China regarding the foremost statesmen, twelve of the forty-eight selected were from Christian schools and were regarded as Christians, men who, more than the rest, had a broad international vision.
The opinion of this sea-captain reflects the attitude of a considerable number of the intellectuals in our own country. Because of this confusion many keen thinkers and leaders of public opinion misconceive the purpose and also the result of Christian missions.
Quite recently a noted publicist and traveler, giving addresses before large audiences in this country, expressed sympathy with the cause of missions but emphasized its one vulnerable point: missionaries had ‘speeded-up the East.’ This he greatly deplored.
To one who lives in the East no conclusion could be more ludicrous. Steamers, telephones, telegraphs, railroads, modern factories with their long hours of labor—all these have come through the commercial impact of East and West. They have in some cases come more easily because of the pioneer work of missionaries, but they would have come, with all their results in ‘speeding-up the East,’ if no missionaries had ever lived.
The late Marquis Okuma, one of Japan’s greatest statesmen, after years of personal contact with missionaries, especially Verbeck, the missionary statesman, — gave testimony which is all the more deserving of careful thought since he was not himself a Christian. Speaking of his own country, he said: ‘Development has been intellectual, not moral. The efforts which Christians are making to supply to the country a high standard of conduct are welcomed by all right-thinking people. As you read the Bible, you may think it antiquated, out of date. The words it contains may so appear; but the noble life which it holds up for admiration is something that will never be out of date, however much the world may progress. Live and preach this life, and you will supply to the nation just what it needs at the present juncture.’
Another point of view which I regard as pitiably untrue is often defended by the modern intellectual of America.
A recent experience of mine, also on shipboard, illustrates this point of view.
I had been chatting with a new friend about my studies and travels in various parts of China and in the Black Lama region of Tibet. In my study of Buddhism I have spent weeks in Buddhist monasteries, eating the vegetarian food of the priests, charting their temples, learning their folklore, studying their philosophy, and coming to a high regard for some of their nobler types in priesthood and laity. All this helps to make conversation on shipboard.
My new friend, after about three days of delightful conversation, suddenly found out that I was a missionary and was so shocked that he expressed himself in this wise: —
‘How can you bring a foreign religion to China? The Chinese have their own ancient faiths and their time-honored customs. Do they not resent the idea that you, a foreigner, should come to them, a much more ancient race, and try to destroy their ancient loyalties? Do they not also resent a sense of personal superiority on your part and a certain condescension which you must feel in trying to supplant what they believe with what you believe to be superior? Why should you try to convert the Chinese?’
‘And what are you doing?’ I asked.
‘Selling Standard oil and American kerosene lamps,’ he answered.
‘And why sell them Standard oil?’ I asked.
He was a bit indignant, and said: ‘Why not sell them Standard oil and good lamps? See what for centuries they have used for light — a small earthen bowl of bean-oil, in which is inserted a bit of pith wick, the projecting tip being lighted at night to give a weak and flickering flame, with the result that millions of eyes have been ruined or enfeebled while trying to study the ancient classics in the late night hours. Standard oil and modern lamps are much better. I do not see why you ask such a question.’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘so you are trying to convert the Chinese to the use of Standard oil and modern lamps. Do they not resent the idea that you, a mere modern, should come to them and change the habits of centuries? Do they not feel that on your part there must be a sense of personal superiority and an attitude of condescension?
There is but one advantage which I have over you; it is that the light which you bring is but a recent importation from the Occident, whereas the Light I bring shone first in the Orient long centuries ago. There need not be any sense of personal superiority on the part of one who is trying to convert others. But without the idea of conversion — government, science, art, commerce, would become either static or decadent, and society would relapse into a kind of blind ancestral worship.’
In this connection let. me relate an experience which I also shared with my friend. Though I was born in China over fifty years ago, and played with Chinese children in my boyhood, it was not till about fifteen years ago that I suddenly came to a conviction which subsequent years have fortified: that the capacity of the Chinese race for physical and moral courage, for intellectual culture, and for religious ideals, is equal to that of the American or any European race. As to extent of territory covered, armies led, and toll of life — conquerors like the Cwsars, Alexander, and Xapoleon cannot compare with men like Genghis and Kublai Khan. The World War took its toll of eighteen million lives, but in the Taiping Rebellion, which was fought in China about the time of our own Civil War, the toll of life is estimated at fifty-five millions — thrice as many as were slain of those from Europe, North Africa, and the United States.
The history of China is full of the records of great heroes. I have but to recall the recent experiences of Tan Ts-tung and Liang Chi-chao at the time of the Reform Movement in China. The Empress Dowager had set a price upon these two men. They fled to Tientsin, planning to escape on a Japanese boat to Japan. While waiting for the boat., Tan Ts-tung went to his friend with these memorable words: ‘Liang Chi-chao, you are the greatest literary genius of our country. It is your duty to flee to Japan and to write for the magazines of China, as well as to produce books, advocating the cause of Reform. As for me, since I lack all natural gifts, it is best for me to return to my Empress and submit myself to the deat h that awaits me, in order that the shedding of my blood may mingle with the literary use of your pen, so that together they may arouse our race to a sense of the need of reform. Alone, in spite of your marvelous gifts, you cannot accomplish the result; but if we are united, the result will be irresistible.’ Tan Ts-tung went back to his Empress and suffered the penalty — to be beaten to death slowly with bamboo rods, death not to ensue until after twenty-four hours of agony. But in the midst of physical torture his spirit was jubilant at the thought that his death would count for more than his life. His hopes were verified. The sacrifice of this ardent patriot, high in political life, sent a thrill of horror throughout China and prepared the country for the wonderful message of Liang Chi-chao.
Not long ago, while working in the Congressional Library in Washington, I learned through one of the librarians that within the next few years approximately five hundred works of Chinese philosophy would be translated into the English language. This did not surprise me much, for in my own somewhat limited reading I had come to the conclusion that almost every important school of philosophy in Europe, from the time of Socrates and Plato to the present day, had had its duplicate in similar schools in China. I am also convinced that China has furnished thinkers of the highest order in the realm of pure metaphysics.
When one realizes that at the time Buddhism came to its flowering period in China there were tens of thousands of men and women who left home, commercial and political careers, and all that life held most dear, to retire to caves, hermitages, and monasteries, in order to cultivate higher spiritual values, one can easily see the capacity of the race to sacrifice itself for what it conceives to be higher values.
I know that my own experience is the experience of many other missionaries in other lands. Our affection for the race to which we go, our respect for those who, we know, equal in capacity the so-called advanced races of to-day, is one of the deepest experiences of our lives. We carry this conviction back to the nations of the West. Those Western nations often think themselves superior to the East because in their present achievements in communication, industrialism, armaments, and modern inventions, they are more advanced than is the East. But if Christian principles go not hand in hand with modern progress, then in the future Armageddon of competition, when the East is finally awakened, I see but little chance for the West.
Another misconception of Christian missions was recently revealed in the conversation of a friend who expressed his respect for many of the ancient traditions and customs of the Orient, and his fear that so revolutionary a thing as Christianity would overturn the social fabric of the East; that the entrance of Christianity might tear down as much as it built up.
It must be confessed that there have been grounds for this fear. In earlier days missionaries too often judged a race by the lower strata of humanity with which they came almost exclusively in contact. To-day we know that many of the more superstitious practices of the masses are not believed in by the more intelligent strata, and there is a genuine effort on our part to appreciate those customs of the past which command our respect and esteem, to maintain them as far as possible, but in accord with more enlightened opinion. For example, in parts of China, at the time of the Ch’ing-ming Festival, corresponding to our Easter season, when the Chinese are accustomed to worship at the graves of their ancestors, we now encourage them to go out to their ancestral graves, to repair them, perhaps to have a family feast; and then, in connection with a very simple service, to read from the family documents the history of those who have gone before and whose example we should recall and emulate. On the birthday of Confucius it is the custom, in a number of our Christian colleges, to have a special celebration, to invite men outside the Church, who are prominent in Government and in official life, to address the students, and to have Christian leaders honor Confucius as one of the world’s great sages. It is our expectation that, as time goes on, our services and forms will more and more correspond to a Chinese conception of things rather than to a Western conception. The fact that in some of our National Church Councils the missionaries must be in the minority is evidence of our respect for the splendid and able leadership in the Orient. The fact that in many of our local organizations and ecclesiastical bodies the control of funds from America and England is taken out of the hands of the missionary, and put under the supervision of committees where the majority are almost always natives, shows the desire of the man from the West not to use money as a basis of authority. I have known of many cases where missionaries were outvoted — and took pride in the fact — in local matters. To-day in many places throughout the world, if a missionary has little influence through his tact and appreciation, he can no longer have recourse to authority. He may as well retire. This is as it should be.
And now let me speak of that which is yet more fundamental to missionary experience. I almost hesitate to do this lest I be misunderstood. But I believe the time has come to bring this truth out into the open. Throughout the mission fields there is growing, consciously and unconsciously, a new attitude toward the religious faiths of those peoples to whom the missionary is sent.
The Light that comes to humanity is from One Source, but is modified by the media through which it comes, and hence we have the various colors of the rainbow. Dark purple and radiant gold may seem far apart, and so they are in the spectrum; but their Source is One. They may stay apart, or they may unite into a brighter, purer synthesis. It is as Saint John said: ‘That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that comcth into the world.’
Is the teaching of Christ a final synthesis? Is it hostile to the fundamental ideas of other religious faiths? Can Christianity, if it be a final religion, be better understood and appreciated by studying those component truths which are stressed and expanded in the teaching and experience of founders of other faiths?
As a Christian missionary, there have been times when my earlier attitudes were most seriously challenged — yes, and some of them have been overturned. I well recall, in my travels among the. Buddhist monasteries in China, meeting a priest of simple dignified mien, who was dressed in rags. He stopped in front of me, looked me over from head to foot, realized that I was much better dressed than was he. He then said to me: ‘I am dressed in rags, and you are well clothed. I wear the garb of a Chinese priest, and you wear the garb of a man from the West. There could hardly be a greater difference in our outer appearance. And yet I feel, in spite of all that my eyes behold, that there is an essential unity between us. There is the Buddha or divine nature in you, and that same nature is in me.’
I have often wondered whether, in my earlier years, I as a Christian missionary could have felt that remarkable sense of sympathy, based upon a feeling of essential unity, with some Chinese stranger. It was a lesson I shall never forget.
Another experience is a recent one. I was conversing with one of the foremost Japanese leaders in the Christian Church, a man especially prominent in educational circles, who has addressed large crowds in India. He said to me: ‘In my childhood and youngmanhood I was a Confucianist. The ethical teachings of Confucius, his social and political philosophy, and his conception of a Moral Power back of all things, held me as a loyal follower. When I came to learn of the Christ it seemed as if all that I had formerly known was to flower out into a fullness of truth and experience that would have been impossible otherwise. Almost nothing did I reject of my former beliefs. It was rather like an entrance into a yet larger stream of light. As to the Jews Christ came to fulfill rather than to destroy, so to me He came rather to fulfill than to destroy.’
These two experiences may help to dramatize to my readers an attitude toward non-Christian faiths which I wish to develop.
Animism, perhaps one of the earliest concepts of the human race, insists that back of all material phenomena is a presiding spirit, or energy; that the ultimate interpretation of life is not mere matter and form. Surely this central idea, however ludicrous and crude some of its manifestations and by-products may be, is nearer to the truth than our modern materialism. It is interesting to note that Professor Haldane has told us that before long we shall look hack upon this century of scientific thought as the century of scientific superstition when many believed in inert matter as the basis of existence and even of life itself. We no longer believe that so-called matter is inert, nor do we believe in matter itself as it was formerly conceived. Professor Haldane goes on to affirm that he believes we shall more and more realize that the ultimate explanation of the universe is intellectual and spiritual and not based upon contingency. What is this but a reassertion of the underlying idea in primitive animism, except that it greatly expands this original idea? Nay, I would assert that even the materialistic development of science was necessary to the higher development of religious faith.
Hinduism is an expansion of animism. It affirms a basic unity, back of all the outer phenomena of life. It is a unified, reorganized form of animism. It is pantheism. It has given to the Hindu race its subjective powers, its gift of metaphysics. But it has been too subjective, too metaphysical, too independent of the observed and more material facts of existence with which theory must be in accord. As pantheism it has even given religious sanctity to ideas and experiences which are gross. As pantheism it has fixed the various social strata of India, has given India her castes, and has removed hope, as far as this life is concerned, from millions of souls. But in pantheism there is a reach upward, in the more giant spirits of an early age, toward a sense of unity, of universality, necessary to the future unity of humanity.
Buddhism was a revolt against the by-products and degradations oi Hinduism. As modern materialism was a necessary revolt against a religion in danger of becoming static and constricted, so Buddhism was a revolt against caste and the polytheism of Hinduism. Original Buddhism, known as ‘Lower Buddhism,’was also atheistic, though at the opposite pole from materialism. In order to spread into Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan, it took to itself more pantheistic and theistxc ideas, but these were absolutely divorced from any expression of immorality. Thus it was that it became what is known as ‘Higher Buddhism,’a Philosophy of the Achievement of Divinity. Outside of the Christian religion there is hardly to be found a more wonderful emphasis upon Love as the Supreme Virtue, taking up all other virtues into itself and surpassing them all. But Buddhism is pessimistic as regards this earthly existence. Human desires, activities, and occupations are to be shunned, if one is to attain to spiritual enlightenment. Buddhism’s highest exercise is to be found in its ‘Hall of Contemplation.’ I should reject the word ‘Contemplation’ and call it ‘the Process of coming to a sense of Spiritual Reality.’ In such a hall the priest will remain for hours in a sitting posture, with eyes closed, removing himself from all sense of outer environment, that his spirit may attune itself to the All Soul of the Universe.
It is true that the masses in Buddhist lands know almost nothing about the philosophy of Higher Buddhism, that very many of their practices in the temples are exceedingly crude and some of them are objectionable; but, as far as I know, none of these practices in themselves have any tinge of immorality. As far as I can see, the fundamental teachings of Buddhism mark a great advance in the spiritual illumination of the race.
Original Taoism is also a great advance in religious thinking. To-day, in China, its observance among the masses has degenerated, more than any other faith in China, into superstitious practices, many of which Lao-tse would wonder at as much as we do. It has its underlying unity in the ‘Tao’ of the universe.
This Tao corresponds very closely in its basic idea with the Logos of Saint John. Change, complexity, modern civilization, inventions, all are the mechanism of things. They may be very wonderful. But. they are like the many facets to the diamond, worthless unless there first be the diamond. Life’s purpose is rather to free the diamond of its rough exterior, so that it may come forth in purity and in beauty and thus grow into divinity. The world is one through its union with the Tao. The thoughts of Lao-tse were far beyond the thoughts of the men of his day and most of his followers have prostituted them to selfish ends.
As the colors of the spectrum develop from primitive dimness to a larger light, the change is fascinating. Just as when the sun, rising at earliest dawn, begins to illumine the far horizon, and the outline of things begins to appear, until at last all becomes more clear and the whole earth is radiant with light, unimpeded, glorious. Yet even then there may be clouds that pass in the sky, or our sight may be dim.
I have spoken of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. All these have carried us higher and higher into a metaphysical comprehension of things. But they are in danger of going too far.
Midway in our spectrum is the philosophy of the Golden Mean, the commonsense philosophy of Confucianism, needed by the race when Confucius came and needed by humanity for all time. In the ‘Great Learning’ of Confucius there is a marvelous mystic sense of a Supreme Power back of all things, of which or of whom can be predicated practically all of the attributes of the Shorter Catechism in its definition of God. But Confucius is rather concerned with life itself, not only in its individual existence, but in its social and political relationships. There is as it were a Stream of Life into which we are born, universal and sacred. The justification of our existence is in proportion to the manner in which we fit into and subserve the Stream.
This conception is in striking contrast to the extreme individualism of our American life, an exaggerated individualism which for the time being is necessary to us, but which in its extreme manifestations is impermanent. In Confucianism the ‘Princely Man’ begins with personal cultivation which is to end in the capacity to bring social harmony to mankind. His goal is the ‘Ta-tung,’ the Great Unity, the Great Harmony for all under Heaven, which is his vision of Internationalism, an Internationalism which has a comprehensive and also a spiritual basis. The solidarity of life, the sacredness of the family as furnishing the initial experience in social solidarity — these are mighty concepts which have held that mighty race together throughout the centuries and which will tend to swing the more volatile and crazier elements of humanity into line. Confucianism has had its wrong emphases, its evil byproducts, but basically it is sound, and when its unnecessary and extreme outposts have been worn away its core will remain as a permanent contribution to the religious experience of mankind.
Into these various and distinctly colored rays of the religious spectrum of humanity, Mohammedanism seems to come with a virility suited to its mission. While certain races have progressed, there are yet others which are still in a condition of primitive dimness. Mohammedanism picks up the backwash of humanity and puts it on a higher plane; it is no longer to serve images of clay and other human fetishes, but the Will of Allah. The exotic, exuberant, and often lawless habits of primitive tribes are awed and forced into subjection before this supreme conception. Under the tutelage of this faith certain races were harnessed and directed, and have made considerable achievements in education and in the arts — as witness the Moors.
About the time that a certain measure of light came to the race through Gotama, Lao-tse, and Confucius, there also came to the Jewish race, through its great prophets, a rich floweringout of inherent monotheistic ideas. Before this time the ideas of the Jew’s were racial and limited, but now they began to take on concepts of universality with a moral grandeur and ultimate vision of things that shall ever be a precious heritage to the race. It is true that in the Christian Era these larger concepts seemed again to be lost, and Jewish Nationalism, with its hatred of Rome, expected an earthly Jewish Kingdom which was to dominate the whole earth by a sword, not so different from the sword of Mahomet, but vastly different from the spiritual sword of the great prophets of the chosen race. But for several centuries before Christ there was already a grander, more radiant light in the imagination, passion, and vision of the Jewish race. The final gleams of that light, so different from the divided colors of their former spectrum, were so surpassingly unique and brilliant that it dazzled them; they closed their eyes in agony.
I mean to say this, that in the teaching of Christ we have a White Light. If Christ were to meet Gotama, Confucius, and Lao-tse, He would love them and they would love Him. He would not consign them, as some of us have done, to regions of torture and of eternal suffering. It is because we have put a smoked glass between Him and humanity that His Light is not ready to illumine the earth.
Humanity cannot even know its ultimate redemption until it lives and functions by a light that is white, hence ultimate. Even in that light it will go on growing, but it will never be content to live again in the less radiant shades of existence.
Christianity is at war with the things that are bastard in other faiths. It is also at war with the things that are bastard in its own organized life. But it realizes that there are many basic and imperishable things in other faiths with which it is in sympathy. Let me say this: my realization of the religious impulse in humanity as coming from an Energy that is universal to all life has given me a greater and a more reverent conception of the Christian faith. Compared with what I once saw, I see a transfigured Christ, who came not only to fulfill the Law and the Prophets of Hebrew life, but to fulfill the law and the prophetic experience of universal life in all nations.
What is that conception which Christ emphasized and exemplified? It is His belief that back of all the ebb and flow of life, back of its seeming tragedy and chaos, is an Energy at work which has a Father nature. This concept transcends the present achievements of science and the ordinary experiences of humanity. It is a concept so high, so all-comprehensive, that it has been abused and misunderstood by many followers of Christ. It is so staggering that He who saw it saw it as the result of a unique spiritual insight and of an intellect that was unique. By ‘unique’ I mean an intellect that could see the terrible, seemingly hopeless facts of experience in others and in Himself, and yet harmonize them with that concept of Fatherhood when the heavens were black, men were malignant, and His own heart was broken.
Let me relate briefly three experiences in my life which have challenged this concept and this faith.
Once I was in a junk, in a typhoon, in the China Inland Sea. An anchor was lost, the windlass was torn away. Before we could drop a reserve anchor I was carried out on a fishing dike and beaten against it time and again. I felt sure the junk would capsize, and I held to a plank, that in last resort I might plunge into the sea. Yet I was a mile from shore, and in that fearful surf should have been churned to pieces long before reaching land. After twenty-four hours of such experience the junk was finally driven over green fields, and we had to get twenty men to dig a canal to get us back to sea. But during that awful storm, on a craft that was quivering and creaking from stem to stern, with the boatmen on the rear deck bumping their heads in an agony of terror before a little clay image of the Goddess of Mercy, with death before me and my loved ones not far away, the question came to me, as I looked above, about, and beneath me: ‘Is it possible to believe that back of all this demonstration of chaotic fury there is a Power such as Christ conceived Him to be?’
I know not how it was, but I said: ‘I can,’ and then peace came to me in that fearful demonstration of wrath and I was ready to go or to stay.
Another experience was in the Province of Shantung, when I went on a tour of a large famine-district in behalf of the International Famine Relief Committee. For about two weeks I tramped, or rode in a Peking cart pulled by a mule that was a famished skeleton. I went through an ocean of misery. I saw villagers climbing up bare trees in t he dead of winter, gathering the few remaining dead leaves from the branches for food. I saw groups of people digging up the ground to discover roots of trees that had disappeared for a decade. One day I heard a foreigner scoff at the idea of the Chinese being in the midst of a really severe famine, because, said be, ‘the dogs are well fed; the people cannot be lacking food.’ Then I saw and photographed what he had not seen — dead bodies thrown over a city wall to the valley of death below; fat, well-fed dogs, feeding on the carcasses of human beings. I saw an aged, white-bearded grandfather leaning over the bones of a baby that still could wail for food, striving by the heat of his body and with the few remaining fragments of dirty cotton wadding to keep warmth and life in that helpless little thing. I asked myself again and again the question: ‘Is it possible to believe that back of all of this human tragedy there is a Power such as Christ conceived Him to be?’
On another journey in the heart of China, under more peaceful conditions, while traveling in a houseboat in comparative comfort, evening after evening I went to the top of a high hill, each time under new conditions. I could count about fifty villages on the plain. The twilight deepened, and on the stillness of the mountain air came the sounds of the life below. I pondered the nature of that life — one generation the same as the generation before, and all without any apparent intelligibility or spiritual motive. And again I asked myself the question: ‘Is it possible to believe that back of this unceasing tide, with an ebb like unto its flow, there is a Power such as Christ conceived Him to be?’
There was no answer in the storm, or on those famine oceans of misery, or in the still plain below. Put One who experienced the seeming hopelessness of life more than ever we have could sing a hymn and then go to Olivet. And that hymn was one of the ancient Psalms, a hymn of praise to God for His goodness and for His mercy to the children of men. Was it not a colossal assumption without any apparent evidence? Was it not a colossal presumption?
Put I believe that Jesus saw to the heart of the universe and to the heart of man, as no one else has ever seen. His last words began with the word ‘Father,’ and He saw that humanity would some day attain to a new social creation, a new brotherhood, a divine kingdom, in harmony with the spiritual meaning of the universe; and that the only Power that could accomplish the ultimate and tremendous result was a Power for whom the truest definition was the word ‘Father.’
That which is most spiritual cannot force itself. It must come by growth, by experience, and by illumination. So our Father in Heaven, not by any process of contingency, but by a spiritual process of necessity and of inevitableness, is bringing humanity more and more into harmony with the realm of the spirit.
‘That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ That Light, the Logos or intelligence, the highest expression of which is Love, has ever been at the core of the universe and has expressed itself as a continuous impulse or Energy in all humanity ever since humanity began to be. It has shone in the dimness of primitive savagery, it has ascended in ever-brightening rays through media more and more fit for its transmission. It has found its ultimate synthesis and brilliance of illumining power in the experience and consciousness of Christ.
It has its work to do and will not cease till the last shadows of existence are dissipated. On the Island of Puto, one of the famous Buddhist resorts of China, I have seen this well-known inscription carved on a great rock: ‘All Life within the Great Universe shall become Divine.’ The prophet Isaiah said: ‘For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth.’ Of Christ it was said: ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.'
To complete that unity, that fulfillment of humanity, it is necessary that there be a religious basis. Otherwise a mechanistic growth will bring our destruction. There must be worldsympathy, world-cooperation, and mutual sacrifice. It must be in harmony with the moral order and, what is infinitely more significant, with the Moral Energy of the universe, who is God. It must be Christian. But when I use this word I refuse to identify it too closely with the concepts of organized Christianity. Organized Christianity has even in our day far too much of the letter; it is impossible for the religious life of the future to be as narrow as the organized Christianity of to-day. As long as we are compartmental in our thinking in our various denominations, exclusive in many respects toward each other, and thanking God that we are not as other men are, we shall never be able to present Christianity as a universal faith. As long as Christianity is compartmental in its attitude toward those other beams of light which have come from one and the same Source, it cannot present itself to humanity as a universal faith. It is only when Christ is regarded as One who came, not only to fulfill the Law and the Prophets of Hebrew life, but to fulfill the law and the prophetic experience of universal life in all nations, that His is followers, in love and in sympathy toward all mankind, can make Him the Light of a Universal Faith.
And what is the object of that universal faith, mediated to us in Christ? It is the revelation and fulfillment of an Energy of the Spirit, a Father Power in the universe that will never cease its work until it harmonizes all existence, and brings to birth a New Earth, a Divine Kingdom, all comprehensive, in unity with itself and with the Universal Heart and Mind.