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Chapter Ten - The Quickening Word
"IT is the spirit that quickeneth;
. . . the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." --John
What marvellous words are
these that fall from the Master's lips after he has assured his hearers
that he is "the bread of life," "the living bread"
from heaven, bringing life from the Father and giving life to those who
are responsive. Even the words he utters are spirit and life. Hence Jesus
says to the disciples on another occasion, after conversing with them at
length, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto
you" (John xv, 3). The word of the Lord then is purifying as well
as life-giving. This is the word which "shall not pass away,"
the word of eternal life, the truth which sets men free. It is the word
which unites, which is from the Father to the Son, and thence to the disciples.
"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love
him, and we will make our abode with him . . . and the word which ye hear
is not mine. but the Father's which sent me" (John xiv, 23-24)
"For I have given unto
them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have
known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou
didst send me" (John xvii, 8).
Is it possible for us to
read these same words so that they shall become to us words of spirit and
of life? Surely, if we give thought to the inward man as renewed and quickened
by the Divine Presence through the creative word.
The Apostle Paul speaks of
having "the mind of Christ," which renews. Writing to the Corinthians
he says, "But though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is
renewed day by day" (II Cor. iv, 16). He also bids the Ephesians seek
the inward source of the life that renews. "And be renewed in the
spirit of your mind" (Eph. iv, 23). One's prayer would naturally be
that of the psalmist, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew
a right spirit within me" (Ps. Li, 10). This quest for the renewing
word reminds us of the inspiriting statement in Isaiah, "But they
that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall
walk and not faint" (Isaiah xl, 31).
Surely, these are wonderful
words of promise. God is the true source of strength, of quickening power.
Our part is to seek the sanctuary of the Spirit,
that we may truly "wait on the Lord," may hear the quickening
word which especially meets our need. Every true prayer should bring this
quickening. Whenever we read the Master's words as words of life we ought to be renewed. This renewal ought not only to give us a new impetus
to do our work in the world but a sense of power in carrying out that impetus,
in His name.
Why is it that we do not
more frequently feel this renewing sense of Life? Is it because we read
with doctrinal interests and forget to realize that there is quickening
value in the very words themselves, in addition to the truth which appeals
to our understanding? Is it because we have heard and read these words
so many times that now they are as familiar as the beauties of spring or
the glories of sunset? Do we read them as historical statements simply,
and fail to make them vivid and real in the concrete imagery of our own
thought? Or is our failure due to the fact that we have never thought of
these words of power as applying to the whole of life, as bringing strength
and overcoming weariness through the spirit they bring?
Whatever the reason for failing
to make the spiritual word a vitalizing power, it is well to consider the
matter in some detail, that we may make headway at last in passing beyond
the mere letter.
How can it be true that the
inward man is renewed day by day? Through the continuous, the constant
presence of the Divine life within us as an influx or incoming into "the
secret place" of the heart. While we are not conscious of this incoming
Life in the moment of its imbuing touch with our spirit, we may complete
in thought what is lacking in actual experience, thinking of it as more
immediately present to our spirits at certain times than at others. We
may remind ourselves, for example, that during sleep we may be more receptive
than in our waking hours, when mental life surges forward so actively.
If tonight I take my problems and trials to bed with anxious and fear-breeding
thoughts, I shall thereby put a barrier around the inward man. But if I
begin half an hour before the time for sleep approaches to make my spirit
ready for sleep, I may be able to drop all cares with a free-mindedness
which will make of my night's rest a divine communion. My part is to cut
connection with external matters, to drop all difficulties and uncertainties,
and give myself to gentle sleep, "Nature's sweet restorer," as
I would offer my spirit in the truest prayer.
I do not assume to know my
chiefest needs in so doing. I do not necessarily ask for help. My hope
is that I shall give myself to renewing slumbers in whatever way I need
most to be receptive. I return to the sources. I am a child again. If I
knew precisely by what word to utter or express this responsiveness at
its best, I would let this be my last active thought before giving myself
to sleep. I can but say, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation
of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer."
"The words of my mouth" here represent the external life, while
the meditation of the heart stands for the inner self. May these be in
unison. May I so give myself in spirit to my Father who knows all my needs
that on awakening there will come a new impetus for the dawning day.
Sometimes the day begins
to dawn on our consciousness before we open our eyes to behold the beautiful
morning light. We may awaken at an earlier hour than usual, to find the
mind partially illumined by thoughts which come spontaneously; not by self-conscious
exertion, inference or reasoning, but through the divine light. Difficulties
are sometimes cleared away in a flash during such an experience. We may
see precisely where we have lost the spirit and become immersed in forms,
things and processes. We may have a new vision of the self or of someone
whom it is our privilege to help.
No rule for putting the mind
into this illumined state at its best can be given. One can only say, Cherish
it when it comes, observing the conditions which
invite its coming that you may encourage their recurrence. By such an experience
one learns in part what it means to "think with the spirit" rather
than with the external mind. Thus one has a clearer idea what the spirit
But one can give a rule for
mental states in which the will plays a part. When you are nonplused, absorbed
in conditions, involved in routine and weary, seek some form of recreation
or change which will fill your mind for the time, so that you will drop
your cares and problems. Then in the midst of it all you may gain the needed
contrast, side lights may fall upon your daily life, your work, your relation
to your associates. Again, read a favorite author or the Bible until a
thought appeals to you with clarifying power and gives you a clue. The
Apostle Paul says, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of
God" (Rom. xii, 2).
It is well to bear in mind,
also, that there is with us a "spirit of truth" which will lead
us into all truth if we faithfully follow. Oftentimes we are unable to
find a clarifying or uplifting thought
until we first think matters over, looking back over the past to see what
influences have brought us where we are today, what lessons are to be learned,
what change we need to make in our
attitude. There is great value in facing life as it actually exists in
the living present which is for our development, noting motives, desires,
the kind of love which is prevalent. For when we trace our activities to
their sources, seeing clearly, realizing where we weakened, when we became
unduly absorbed in externals--then we realize that there is a great freeing
power in spiritual truth. Sometimes a thought suffices to turn the prevailing
attitude from negative to positive. Sometimes, too, we are prompted to
utter the word of power which as quickly sets another free.
It is interesting and helpful
to put ourselves back in imagination into the time of the Gospel works
of healing and realize what faith was sometimes felt in the Master"s
presence. One woman of strong faith simply begged leave to touch the hem
of Jesus' garment, that she might be made whole. Another person said confidently,
"Speak the word, only, and my servant shall be healed." Many
of the hearers of the parables and the Sermon on the Mount must have realized
most vividly that they were hearing words which were spirit and life. Undoubtedly
these hearers felt marked spiritual benefit from these power-carrying words.
Why is it that the followers
of Christ in the churches have lost the ability to put the soul in touch
with spirit and life as the glad messages once
brought power to men? Why was it necessary for a new movement to spring
up outside of the churches to re-emphasize the therapeutic value of the
Gospel? Apparently because so much stress has been placed upon the intellectual
value in contrast with the life-giving power. It has seemed to believers
in doctrines that they have done their part when they have come forth into
public acceptance of the denominational faith. But thus to believe, with
qualification after qualification, lest one fail to state this faith in
precisely the right way, has been to lose the force of the original truth.
That truth was spread abroad in its universality. It was for every emergency
and every hour of need. It was to be made concrete, carried out into the
flesh, the external life. When we qualify, when we try to manage or regulate,
we check the incoming life, losing impetus and becoming absorbed in our
own states and thoughts. But this life comes to us that we may not only
receive in fulness but give in abundance.
"Give, and it shall be
given unto you." The power of love is increased within us by giving.
Conjunction with God is increased through such responsiveness and expression.
This reciprocal action is the real test of belief. Man is so constituted
as to receive the divine life in ever- increasing fulness and perfection,
if he gives in equal abundance.
"Every faculty can enlarge with capacity for the receptivity of love
and wisdom, peace and joy, which will increase with every influx of life
from the Lord." Man appropriates life and power from this influx by
living in large-minded responsiveness in accordance with it. The influx
vivifies in accordance with reception. Inasmuch as no two individuals are
precisely alike, each one needs to learn from experience how to adapt life
in its fulness to receptivity and giving. The individual who has proved
the power of the quickening word by admitting it into his whole being,
is able to speak and to give persuasively to others.
The denominational Christian
is apt to become crystallized in attitude through constant emphasis on
his particular creed. Hence it remains for the outsider to practice the
Gospel with respect to its larger application. But the large-minded follower
of Christ never allows his thought to become crystallized at all. There
ought to be new evidences, fresh reasons, immediate contacts with life,
to keep the spirit alive. This would be our constant effort, if instead
of believing for our own salvation or worshipping to increase personal
piety, and the mere giving of intellectual assent to what we already believe,
we should seek the words of life and of the spirit, and forthwith carry
them to someone in need.
Sometimes, in endeavoring
to be helpful to one in need, we find it necessary to utter keen truths
that arouse dissent, stir the mind into self-defense, or even evoke vigorous
emotions in protest. For there must first be vital response of some sort.
Thus a physician may find it necessary to arouse a bedridden invalid out
of easy-going habits of months or years of self-absorption and the nourishing
of luxurious aches and pains. Thus the whole world had to be aroused from
its complacent, luxurious and pleasure-loving slumbers by the great war.
And the war itself was hardly enough. It had to be followed by other deep
stirrings over social issues, strikes and revolutionary programs. "Where
there is life there is hope." There must often be ploughing and harrowing.
Then we may sow the good seed. All these processes are mentioned in the
Gospels, that we may understand the rightful place of the quickening word.
Of what avail after all is belief
in spiritual things unless we realize that the spiritual element in us
is the life-element, that to be spiritual is to be unselfish? If the divine
life which comes to us comes as power to do, as energy wherewith
to achieve, then the first question is, What is there within our being,
our thought, our affections and conduct, which interferes with this life,
and how can it be removed?
When such searching questions
are put to us we are apt to rise up in self-defense at first. Some of us
chanced to have a weak physical inheritance, with tendencies to disease,
and so we seem to be exempt. Others are handicapped through early training
at home, by educational deficiencies, and by our contact with the world.
The story of our handicaps seems indeed endless, as one after another we
come forward to tell why we are wearied, burdened, ill and suffering. We
seem to be involved in one another's burdens to the limit. Our good resolutions
and efforts should have been made by our great-grandparents on both sides
of the house. There seems to be no real relation or correspondence between
what we inwardly will to be and the conditions which our outward life attracts.
Yet what shall we do? Shall
we simply excuse ourselves and our immediate ancestors, making no effort
to live by the quickening word? Of what meaning is this great truth that
the divine love and wisdom are present with us according to our need?
What if we think as little
as possible of heredity and external environment, of any and all handicaps,
and begin where we are today to give the inner life more and more fully
to the divine presence? However old we may be according to the calendar,
whatever the hindrances before us, we
are all in the same process at one point or another, and we may all begin
to emphasize the divine efficiency instead of dwelling on the human process.
Sincerely to believe in the
divine influx as a present reality, is to open our spirits in readiness
to receive guidance, the word of life and power which is our greatest need
today. We should not try to bring the whole of life into line at once.
It is well to concentrate upon an immediate opportunity, lifting our spirit
into spiritual light that we may be guided. Then our responsiveness will
grow from more to more, and we may find ourselves doing what seemed impossible
while we dwelt upon our limitations and handicaps.
Something we have gained if
we are willing to entertain even the idea that the divine influx is to
be regarded as vitally true now, that the living Lord is here with words
which are spirit and are life. For theoretical objections will then fall
away and we will begin to see that it is a question of
On the inward side of our nature
at least the correspondence between attitude and what it invites is perfect.
There is all the power and life, all the wisdom and love me need. There
is spiritual health and freedom. There is power to live the good life.
Everything depends on the human side on recognition of and co-operation
with the one Efficiency.
We can hardly expect what we have not invited. We are not likely to seek
to be "every whit whole" even in spirit, until we gain the idea
that the living Christ comes to minister to the whole individual.
So, too, when we read the Gospels,
much depends on what we look for. If we, when we read, when we worship,
merely anticipate a Sabbath rest from our week day problems, this pleasant
contrast is what we are likely to find. If we search the Bible in quest
of passages to confirm a favorite doctrine, we may find what we seek. But
to find the hidden truth in the letter of the Word, we must make the effort
which leads to it. And so to hear the word which is spirit and is life
we need especially to start with the thought of God as the living, present
Lord, the light of Christ in the soul of man today. We need the idea of
the divine influx and with this the thought that there is wisdom, life,
power according to our need. The word is a symbol or sign of this power.
The idea is a clue or incentive to start our spirit into activity in the
direction in which we need light. And so we endeavor to penetrate behind
the intellectual form in an attitude of openness of spirit. It was in this
penetrating, vivifying spirit that Jesus spoke to the disciples and then
said to them in confirmation, "Now ye are clean through the word which
I have spoken unto you."
And it is in further confirmation and quickening power that he also says,
"And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent
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