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The Religion Of It

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: The Freedom Of Life

THE religion of it is the whole of it. "All religion has relation to

life and the life of religion is to do good." If religion does not

teach us to do good in the very best way, in the way that is most

truly useful to ourselves and to other people, religion is

absolutely useless and had better be ignored altogether. We must

beware, however, of identifying the idea of religion with the men

and the women who pervert it.
f an electrician came to us to light

our house, and the lights would not burn, we would not immediately

condemn all electric lighting as bosh and nonsense, or as

sentimental theory; we should know, of course, that this especial

electrician did not understand his business, and would at once look

about to find a man who did, and get him to put our lights in order.

If no electrician really seemed to know his business, and we wanted

our lights very much, the next thing to do would be to look into

the, laws of electricity ourselves, and find out exactly where the

trouble was, and so keep at work until we had made our own lights

burn, and always felt able, if at any time they failed to burn, to

discover and remedy the difficulty ourselves. There is not a man or

woman who does not feel, at some time, the need of an inner light to

make the path clear in the circumstances of life, and especially in

dealing with others. Many men and women feel that need all the time,

and happy are those who are not satisfied until the need is supplied

and they are working steadily in daily practical life, guided by a

light that they know is higher than theory. When the light is once

found, and we know the direction in which we wish to travel, the

path is not by any means always clear and smooth, it is often, full

of hard, rough Places, and there are sometimes miles to go over

where our light seems dim; but if we have proved our direction to be

right, and keep steadily and strongly moving forward, we are always

sure to come into open resting places where we can be quiet, gather

strength, and see the light more clearly for the next stage of the


"It is wonderful," some one remarked, "how this theory of

non-resistance has helped me; life is quite another thing since I

have practised it steadily." The reply was "it is not wonderful when

we realize that the Lord meant what He said when He told us not to

resist evil." At this suggestion the speaker looked up with surprise

and said: "Why, is that in the New Testament? Where, in what part of

it?" She never had thought of the sermon on the Mount as a working

plan, or, indeed, of the New Testament as a handbook of

life,--practical and powerful in every detail. If we once begin to

use it daily and hourly as a working plan of life, it is marvellous

how the power and the efficiency of it will grow on us, and we shall

no more be able to get along without it than an electrician can get

along without a knowledge of the laws of electricity.

Some people have taken the New Testament so literally that they have

befogged themselves entirely with regard to its real meaning, and

have put it aside as impracticable; others have surrounded it with

an emotional idea, as something to theorize and rhapsodize about,

and have befogged themselves in that way with regard to its. real

power. Most people are not clear about it because of the tradition

that has come to us through generations who have read it and heard

it read in church, and never have thought of living it outside. We

can have a great deal of church without any religion, but we cannot

have religion without true worship, whether the worship is only in

our individual souls, or whether it is also the function of a church

to which we belong, with a building dedicated to the worship of the

Lord to which we go for prayer and for instruction. If we could

clear ourselves from the deadening effects of tradition, from

sentimentality, from nice theory, and from every touch of emotional

and spurious peace, and take up the New Testament as if we were

reading it for the first time, and then if we could use it

faithfully as a working plan for a time, simply as an

experiment,--it would soon cease to be an experiment, and we should

not need to be told by any one that it is a divine revelation; we

would be confident of that in our own souls. Indeed that is the only

way any one can ever be sure of revelation; it must come to each of

us alone, as if it had never come to any one before; and yet the

beauty and power of it is such that it has come to myriads before us

and will come to myriads after us in just the same way.

But there is no real revelation for any one _until he has lived what

he sees to be true._ I may talk like an angel and assert with a

shining face my confident faith in God and in all His laws, but my

words will mean nothing whatever, unless I have so lived my faith

that it has been absorbed, into my character and so that the truths

of my working plan have become my second nature.

Many people have discovered that the Lord meant what He said when He

said: "Resist not evil," and have proved how truly practical is the

command, in their efforts to be willing to be ill, to be willing

that circumstances should seem to go against them, to be willing

that other people should be unjust, angry, or disagreeable. They

have seen that in yielding to circumstances or people

entirely,--that is, in dropping their own resistances,--they have

gained clear, quiet minds, which enables them to see, to understand,

and to practise a higher common sense in the affairs of their lives,

which leads to their ultimate happiness and freedom. It is now clear

to many people that much of the nervous illness of to-day is caused

by a prolonged state of resistance to circumstances or to people

which has kept the brain in a strained and irritated state so that

it can no longer do its work; and that the patient has to lay by for

a longer or a shorter period, according to his ability to drop the

resistances, and so allay the irritation and let his brain and

nervous system rest and heal.

Then with regard to dealing with others, some of us have found out

the practical common sense of taking even injustice quietly and

without resistance, of looking to our own faults first, and getting

quite free from all resentment and resistance to the behavior of

others, before we can expect to understand their point of view, or

to help them to more reasonable, kindly action if they are in error.

Very few of us have recognized and acknowledged that that was what

the Lord meant when He said: "Judge not that ye be not judged. For

with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what

measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why

beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but

considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou

say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and,

behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out

the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to

cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

It comes with a flash of recognition that is refreshingly helpful

when we think we have discovered a practical truth that works, and

then see that it is only another way of putting what has been taught

for the last two thousand years.

Many of us understand and appreciate the truth that a man's true

character depends upon his real, interior motives. He is only what

his motives are, and not, necessarily, what his motives appear to

be. We know that, if a man only controls the appearance of anger and

hatred, he has no real self-control whatever. He must get free from

the anger itself to be free in reality, and to be his own master. We

must stop and think, however, to understand that this is just what

the Lord meant when He told us to clean the inside of the cup and

the platter, and we need to think more to realize the strength of

the warning, that we should not be "whitened sepulchres."

We know that we are really related to those who can and do help us

to be more useful men and women, and to those whom we can serve in

the most genuine way; we know that we are wholesomely dependent upon

all from whom we can learn, and we should be glad to have those

freely dependent upon us whom we can truly serve. It is most

strengthening when we realize that this is the true meaning of the

Lord's saying, "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is

my brother, and my sister, and mother." That the Lord Himself, with

all His strength, was willing to be dependent, is shown by the fact

that, from the cross, He said to those who had crucified Him, "I

thirst." They had condemned Him, and crucified Him, and yet He was

willing to ask them for drink, to show His willingness to be served

by them, even though He knew they would respond only with a sponge

filled with vinegar.

We know that when we are in a hard place, if we do the duty that is

before us, and keep steadily at work as well as we can, that the

hard problem will get worked through in some way. We know that this

is true, for we have proved it over and over; but how many people

realize that it is because the Lord meant what He said when He told

us: to "take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take

thought for the things of itself."

I am reasoning from the proof of the law to the law itself.

There is no end to the illustrations that we might find proving the

spiritual common sense of the New Testament and, if by working first

in that way, we can get through this fog of tradition, of

sentimentality, and of religious emotion, and find the living power

of the book itself, then we can get a more and more clear

comprehension of the laws it teaches, and will, every day, be

proving their practical power in all our dealings with life and with

people. Whether we are wrestling with nature in scientific work,

whether we are working in the fine arts, in the commercial world, in

the professional world, or are dealing with nations, it is always

the same,--we find our freedom to work fully realized only when we

are obedient to law, and it is a wonderful day for any human being

when he intelligently recognizes and finds himself getting into the

current of the law of the New Testament. The action of that law he

sees is real, and everything outside he recognizes as unreal. In the

light of the new truth, we see that many things which we have

hitherto regarded as essential, are of minor importance in their

relation to life itself.

The old lady who said to her friend, "My dear, it is impossible to

exaggerate the unimportance of things," had learned what it meant to

drop everything that interferes, and must have been truly on her way

to the concentration which should be the very central power of all

life,--obedience to the two great commandments.

Concentration does not mean straining every nerve and muscle toward

obedience, it means _dropping every thing that interferes._ If we

drop everything that interferes with our obedience to the two great

commandments, and the other laws which are given us all through the

New Testament to help us obey, we are steadily dropping all selfish

resistance, and all tendency to selfish responsibility; and in that

steady effort, we are on the only path which can by any possibility

lead us directly to freedom.