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By that division we sometimes seem to imply that those outside the Church are outside the reach of G.o.d's transforming grace and power. We are tempted to look for G.o.d's activity chiefly, if not altogether, inside the organization that avows him. But that cannot be true. He comes in like the sun through every c.h.i.n.k and crevice where he can find a way of entrance. He does not wait to be welcomed. He does not insist on being consciously recognized before he enters a man's life.
Rather, through any door or window left unwittingly ajar where he may steal in, even though un.o.bserved, to lift and liberate a life, there the G.o.d of the New Testament will come--"the light which lighteth every man coming into the world."
Consider, for ill.u.s.tration, the many people in this generation who have given up active relationship with the Church and a.s.sured faith in G.o.d.
They may even call themselves agnostics. Would it not be true to speak to them like this: You have not succeeded in getting rid of G.o.d. There is a flame in your heart that will not go out. You try to say there is no G.o.d and then you go out under the stars at night and you begin to wonder how such a vast, law-abiding universe could come by accident, as if a man were to throw a font of type on the floor and by chance it should arrange itself into a play of Shakespeare. Strange universe, without G.o.d! You try to say there is no G.o.d and you pick up a book: a life of Phillips Brooks or David Livingstone or Francis Xavier, and you begin to wonder that, amid these whirling stars and solar systems, a race of men should have emerged with spiritual life like that which we possess, with ideals that beckon us, conscience that warns us and remorse that punishes us! You cannot easily think that this long spiritual struggle and achievement of the race is an accident struck off unwittingly like sparks from falling stones in a material world without abiding meaning. Or you try to say there is no G.o.d, and then you are married and your first baby is born and there wells up in your heart that purest love that man can know, the feeling of a parent for a little child. And you cannot help wondering how a man can walk about the world with love like that in the center of his life, thinking that there is nothing to correspond with it in the reality from which his heart and his baby came. You try to say there is no G.o.d, and then you begin to grow old and the friends you love best on earth pa.s.s away, as Carlyle said his mother did, like "the last pale rim or sickle of the moon which had once been full, sinking in the dark seas." You cannot help wondering whether great souls can be so at the mercy of a few particles of matter that when these are disturbed the spirit is plunged into oblivion! You never really have gotten rid of G.o.d. There is a flame in the center of your heart which you cannot put out. If there were no G.o.d it would be easier to disbelieve in him than it is. You cannot get rid of him because the best in you is G.o.d in you. The flame is he and there in the center of your life, recognized or unrecognized, he is burning up as best he can.
This principle of G.o.d's unrecognized presence applies to a special group of people that has been growing rapidly in the last few years: the men and women who give themselves with high spirit to human service in science or philanthropy but who never think of attributing their service or love of truth to religious motives. To this group belong many of our scientists. They give themselves no rest, seeking for truth which will help human need. In obscure and forgotten laboratories to-day they search for remedies for ancient, lamentable ills. They make it a point of professional honour not to take profit for themselves when they have succeeded, but to give freely to the world the knowledge they have achieved. The pulpit has often quarreled with the scientists. Let the pulpit honour them for their amazing outpouring of service to the world. To this group also belong many of our philanthropists, to whom sacrifice for the common weal has become the moral equivalent of war. Yet often these men and women, useful public servants of the generation as they are, do not know G.o.d. They are great spirits. Let us not pretend that they are not. They are making a deep and beneficent impress upon their own times, and our sons and our sons' sons will rise up to call them blessed; yet they do not know G.o.d. What are we to say of such men and women? You know what some people do say about them. They use them as arguments against religion. They say, See these fine men living without G.o.d. That is an utter fallacy. They are not living without G.o.d. They only think they are. They are the supreme examples of the work of the unrecognized G.o.d. One wishes that those men and women would recognize G.o.d. G.o.d can do much more through responsive than through unresponsive lives. But we may not say that they are living without G.o.d. There, in the center of their life, in the ideals they work for, in the service they render, in the love they lavish, in the mission that has mastered them, there _is_ G.o.d.
Some time ago I wandered down Broadway, in the small hours of the morning, with one of the prominent citizens of the community. At the heart of his life is the pa.s.sion to be of use. Because his character is stalwart and his ability great, the scope of his service is far wider than the capacity of most of us. Amid the hurrying crowds and the flashing lights of Broadway we talked together hour after hour about G.o.d and immortality. He said that he could not believe in G.o.d.
He wistfully wished that he could. He was sure that it must add something beautiful to human life, but for himself he thought that there was no possibility except to live a high, clean, serviceable life until he should fall on sleep. All the way home that night I thought of other people whom I know. Here is a man who believes in G.o.d. He always has believed in G.o.d. He was brought up to believe in G.o.d and he has never felt with poignant sympathy enough the abysmal, immedicable woes of human-kind to have his faith disturbed. He never has had any doubts. The war pa.s.sed over him and left him as it found him. The fiercest storm that ever raged over mankind did not touch the surface of his pool of sheltered faith. How could one help comparing him with my friend who could not believe? For he, in high emotion, had spoken of the miseries of men, of mult.i.tudes starving, of the horrors of war, of the poor whose lives are a long animal struggle to keep the body alive, of the woes that fall with such terrific incidence upon the vast, obscure, forgotten ma.s.ses of our human-kind, and out of the very ardour of his sympathy had cried: "How can you believe that a good Father made a world like this?"
Now, I believe in G.o.d with all my heart. But the G.o.d whom I believe in likes that man. Jesus, were he here on earth as once he was, would love him. I think Jesus would love him more than the other man who never had faced human misery with sympathy enough to feel his faith disturbed. This does not mean that we ought contentedly to see men ministered to by a G.o.d whom they do not recognize. It is a pity to be served by the Eternal Spirit of all grace and yet not know him. In Jean Webster's "Daddy Long Legs," Jerusha Abbott in the orphanage is helped by an unknown friend. Year after year the favours flow in from this friend whom she does not know. She blossoms out into girlhood and young womanhood and still she does not know him. One day she sees him and she does not recognize him. She has always thought of him as looking other than he does, and so even when she sees him she does not know him. Suppose that the story stopped there! It would be intolerable to have a story end so. To be served all one's life by a friend and then not to know him when he seeks recognition is tragedy.
So it is tragedy when G.o.d is unrecognized, but behind that is a deeper tragedy still--people who believe in G.o.d but who have thoughts of him so narrowly ecclesiastical that they themselves do not perceive his presence, acknowledged or unacknowledged, in all the goodness and truth and beauty of the universe.
Such an enlargement of the idea of G.o.d to meet the needs of this new world is one of the innermost demands of religion to-day. When a man believes in the living G.o.d as the Creative Power in this universe, whose character was revealed in Christ and who, recognized or unrecognized, reveals himself in every form of goodness, truth and beauty which life anywhere contains, he has achieved a G.o.d adequate for life. To such a man the modern progressive outlook upon the world becomes exhilarating; all real advance is a revelation of the purpose of this living G.o.d; and, far from being hostile to religion, our modern categories furnish the n.o.blest mental formulae in which the religious spirit ever had opportunity to find expression. We who believe this have no business to be modest and apologetic about it, as though upon the defensive we shyly presented it to the suffrages of men. It is a gospel to proclaim. It does involve a new theology but, with mult.i.tudes of eager minds in our generation, the decision no longer lies between an old and a new theology, but between new theology and no theology. No longer can they phrase the deepest experiences of their souls with G.o.d in the outgrown categories of a static world. In all their other thinking they live in a world deeply permeated by ideas of progress, and to keep their religion in a separate compartment, uninfluenced by the best knowledge and hope of their day, is an enterprise which, whether it succeed or fail, means the death of vital faith. To take this modern, progressive world into one's mind and then to achieve an idea of G.o.d great enough to encompa.s.s it, until with the little G.o.ds gone and the great G.o.d come, life is full of the knowledge of him, as the waters cover the sea, that is alike the duty and the privilege of Christian leadership to-day.
In a world which out of lowly beginnings has climbed so far and seems intended to go on to heights unimagined, G.o.d is our hope and in his name we will set up our banners.
 Bertrand Russell: Philosophical Essays, II, The Free Man's Worship, pp. 60-61.
 Max Nordau: The Interpretation of History, p. 217.