« IndietroContinua »
the Jews might have rotted in Egyptian bondage. Enlargement and deliverance would have arisen to the Jews from some other place; but we and our father's house would have been destroyed. By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the children of God, etc. And certainly he did suffer for it.
They embraced the promises with their whole hearts. They were stoned and sawn asunder rather than give them up. And what was the effect on their characters? Having counted the cost, and being perfectly willing to accept any loss or pain for the sake of these promises, and hence inspired by them, they became sublime heroes. Through faith they "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. And others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they wandered about in sheepskins and in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Of whom the world was not worthy." That is a faith worth having, and it is as sound philosophy as it is scripture.
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises." Did they receive nothing? Moses and Elijah, Gideon and Barak gained power and heroism greater than we can conceive of. Surely that was enough. But they did not get the whole of the promise, or even the best of it. And the simple reason was that God cannot make a promise small enough to be completely fulfilled to a man in his earthly life.
He gets enough to make him a king, but this does not begin to exhaust the promise. It is inexhaustible. This is the experience of anyone who will faithfully try it. And this experience is the grandest argument for immortality.
Therefore, "giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue (aperǹ, strength), and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance (éуxpaтeía, self-control), and to temperance patience (vπoμevn, endurance), and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity" (love).
And what of prayer? How can it be answered in a universe of law? We certainly could have no confidence that our prayers could or would be answered if ours were not a universe of law. God's laws are, as we have seen, his modes of working out his great plan. And the last and highest unfolding of God's plan is the development of man. And man is to become conformed to his environment, and conformity of man's highest powers to his environment is likeness to God.
The laws of nature, then, are in ultimate analysis and highest aim the different steps in God's plan of man's salvation from the disease of sin, not merely or mainly from its consequences, and his attainment of holiness. For this is the only true and sound manhood. Salvation is spiritual health, resulting also in health of body and of mind. If God's laws are his modes of carrying out his plan for godlikeness in man, then they are so thought out as to be the means of helping me to every real good.
The Bible declares explicitly that the aim of prayer is not to inform God of our needs. For he knows them already. It is not to change God's purpose,
for he is unchangeable, and we should rejoice in this. We are to pray for our daily bread; we are to pray for the sick; and, if best for them and consistent with God's plan, they shall recover. Elijah prayed for drought and prayed for rain, and was answered. And Abraham's prayer would have saved Sodom, had there been ten righteous men in the city. "Men ought alway to pray and not to faint."
"More things are wrought by prayer
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."
But could not all these things be brought about without a single prayer? Not according to the plan of man's education which God has adopted. Whether he could well have made a plan by which material blessings could have been bestowed upon men who do not ask for them, I do not know. The ravens and all animals are fed without a single prayer, for they are not fitted or intended to hold communion with God. But a prayerless race of men has never been fed long; it has soon ceased to exist. God's plan of salvation and ordering of the universe involves prayer as a means of blessing and good things as an answer to prayer. God says, I make you a co-worker with me. I will help you in everything; but you must call on me for help, or you will forget that I am the source of your help and strength, and thus having lost your
communion with me will die. “When Jeshurun waxed fat he kicked." This is the oft-repeated story of the Old Testament and of all history. And thus, while material blessings are given in answer to prayer, these are not the chief end for which prayer is to be offered.
Prayer is a means of conformity to environment, of godlikeness. How do you become like a friend? Of course by associating and talking with him. And why does it help you to associate with a hero? Simply because you cannot be with him without being inspired with his heroism. And so while I may pray for bread and clothes and opportunities, and God will give me these or something better; I will, if wise, pray for purity, courage, moral power, heroism, and holiness. And I know that these will stream from his soul into mine like a great river. And so I may pray for bread and be denied; for hunger, with some higher good, may be far better for me than a full stomach. But if I pray for any spiritual gift, which will make me godlike, and on which as an heir of God I have a rightful claim, every law and force in God's universe is a means to answer that prayer. And best of all, if I pray for the gift of God's Spirit, that is the prayer which the whole world of environment has been framed to answer.
But this I can never have unless I hunger for it. I can never have it to use as a means of gaining some lower good which I worship more than God. God will not and cannot lend himself to any such idolatry. I must be willing to give up anything and everything else for its attainment. Otherwise the answer to the
prayer would ruin me.
I cannot grasp the higher while using both hands to grasp the lower.
Thus religion is the interpenetration and permeation of my personality by that of God. And prayer is the communion by which this permeation becomes possible. And faith is the vision of these possibilities, the being persuaded by them, and the resolute purpose to attain them. And faith in Christ is confiding communion with him and obedience to his commands that his divine life may flow over into me and dominate mine. And common-sense, and the more refined commonsense which we call science, can show me no other means to the attainment of that godlikeness which is the only true conformity to environment.
And, holding such a belief and faith, we must be hopeful. And only next in importance to faith and love stands hope. The hero must be hopeful. And when times look dark about you, and they sometimes will, you must still hope.
"O it is hard to work for God,
And not sometimes lose heart!
"O there is less to try our faith
"Ill masters good; good seems to change
And, worst of all, the good with good
Is at cross purposes.