On God Revealed As Love
( Originally Published 1907 )
WE have now traced in outline the revelation which God makes of himself to men along two separate lines. From the necessity under which we find ourselves to think of every happening or phenomenon as having a cause, together with the fact that what we mean by ` cause ' is some-thing akin to that living power in ourselves which we call our will, we arrived at the revelation of God as the Living Cause behind all the phenomena of the outward universe from the very beginning of evolution. And along this line of thought we come to conceive of God as the Living Energy by which alone the worlds and all that in them is are sustained in their perpetual thrill and ever-lasting tremor of motion. If we try to realize what that energy is, our imagination is instantaneously baffled, overwhelmed, confounded, by its velocity as well as by both its minuteness and its immensity of operation. On the one hand it has been estimated that the gas in the air which we breathe consists of molecules of which there are nineteen million, million, million in a single cubic centimetre, and that each of these molecules dashes backwards and forwards through all the seconds of all the years at the rate of five or six hundred yards a second. On the other hand we can set no boundaries whatever to the universe. No telescope was ever yet contrived so strong but that at the furthest limits of its range, chiefly, however, in one plane, star-clusters seem to blossom out ; and who can say how far beyond there may be star-clusters more again ? Light starting to-night from the nearest of the fixed stars, at a speed of i86,000 miles a second, cannot reach us for three long years ; and light from some of the nebula faintly gleaming there in the space-distances has taken thousands of years on its long, sure journey thence to our eyes. What we see is the star, or rather the light about the star, as it was long before Babylon was built or the Pharaohs arose in Egypt. The star as it is to-day will shed its light on the eyes of our children when a longer history has been written from to-day than the history since first the antique men scratched their strange records on the rocks. Such is the scale of that universe, through-out which pulses that ceaseless Energy which is the manifestation of the Living God.
And then we have seen how God reveals himself also along the line of the Moral Law. He has set in us a mysterious sense by which we know that certain kinds of conduct are worthier than other kinds. We know by some necessary law of our minds that reverence is more noble than conceit and that compassion is more noble than vindictiveness. It is a constantly recurring experience with us that, when two lines of possible conduct present themselves to us, we know that we ought to pursue the one and not the other. And we are convinced that that is God's judgment as well as ours, and that God makes us judge so because he judges so ; and that the same springs of action which are nobler for us are nobler also for all beings every-where before whom the like choice is presented ; and not only that, but that whatever beings God may have impressed with a moral consciousness in the remotest past or shall so endow in the remotest future, with them also the like moral law has held and shall hold good. The moral law, we are persuaded, is as universal in space and in time as the physical laws of gravity or the refraction of light. ` The rule of right,' says Dr. Martineau, ` the symmetries of character, are no provincialisms of this planet they are known among the stars ; they reign beyond Orion and the Southern Cross ; they are wherever the Universal Spirit is ; and no subject mind, though it fly on one track for ever, can escape beyond their bounds.' Yes, and we may add : that was so from an Alpha ere ever the planets broke from the central sun and shall be so to an Omega when all the worlds now astir with life shall be dead worlds floating dark through space.
Language has no words, imagination has no pictures, in which to set forth the sublimity of this infinite and eternal range of the one Causal Energy and the one Moral Fiat which are two of the self-utterances of the Living God.
But I have now to try to expound how God is revealed to us along one other line of thought and feeling.
We have seen how by its very constitution the human mind forms a multitude of judgments independently of and prior to any reasonings or arguments, judgments that we cannot help believing to be true, though we are for ever in-capable of demonstrating or proving their truth.
If anyone says that there is no world at all outside us, we cannot prove that he is wrong, and yet we know that he is wrong. We trust our senses.
If anyone says that the consciousness now in my mind that I was very tired when I had to trudge from St. Paul's to Piccadilly last Saturday for want of an omnibus, is a mere delusion, I cannot prove that he is wrong, and yet I know that he is wrong. I trust my memory.
If anyone says that the idea that there is any cause making the minute-hand move round the face of the dial, or making the sun set in the west, is a groundless fancy, I cannot prove that he is wrong, and yet I know that he is wrong. I trust my natural belief that every phenomenon has a cause.
If anyone says that my conviction that I ought not to nourish vindictiveness against John Smith for that ill-natured remark he made yesterday, and that I ought to tell the truth about that absurd and disagreeable little mistake I made on Monday rather than hide it by a lie, is a baseless superstition I cannot prove that he is wrong, and yet I know that he is wrong. I trust my conscience.
Now here is a philosophical word which we shall have to make use of in connexion with these things : the word is ` Intuition.' Intuition is merely Latin for ` a looking at ' or ` a looking into.' And an Intuition in philosophical language is the knowing that a thing is true by simply looking at it. If I say to you : The square drawn on the side of a right-angled triangle opposite to the right angle is exactly equal to the two squares drawn on the other two sides added together,' you will very properly ask me to prove it before you believe it. You may look at the figure in Euclid for half an hour, but mere looking at it will never make you sure that it is true. But if I say to you : ` The whole of this straight line is longer than half of it,' you know that what I say is true, the moment you look at the line and the place where the half of it is marked off. Nay, you know it with your eyes shut. A mental look is enough. I only have to conjure up in your thought a whole line and the half of it, and the knowledge that the whole line is longer than the half is there in your mind along with the thought of the whole and the half without an instant's pause for reasoning or even for reflection. That is a truth known just by looking at it. So that piece of knowledge is an Intuition. Some philosophers use, not only the noun ` Intuition,' but the verb ` to intue ' ; and such a philosopher will say, ` I intue that the whole is greater than the half.'
Now it is only fair to say that some thinkers deny that we have any intuitions at all. Even, say they, if it be true that you really do now see some truths at a glance, it is only that by constant practice you have learnt to work them out in your mind instantaneously. There is suppressed reasoning, or rapid, unconscious reference to experience. You have always found that the whole is greater than the half. You never in all your life came across an exception to the rule. And that is why, the moment you think of whole ' and ` half ' now, the idea ` greater than ' pushes into your mind at the same moment. Other philosophers admit that individual experience alone will not explain the intuition, but they contend that the experience of the race will.
But in the case of memory, at any rate, it cannot be that it is previous experience that makes us judge the moment we look into our minds, that makes us ` intue.' ` Yes, this impression in my mind now of having shivered in the snow-storm corresponds with what actually happened to me last winter ' ; for I have to ` intue ' that memory speaks truth before I can refer to my past experience at all. Nor, again, with the moral sense, can we admit that the judgment ` it is nobler to defend a weak woman from a brute than to stand by and laugh ' is a rapid reasoning or a reference to the experience either of the individual or of the race. It cannot be a rapid reasoning ; for even slow reasoning could never prove it to one who denied it. And it cannot be a judgment founded on experience ; for no experience could persuade us that it was nobler, if we did not feel it so the very first time any such case came up for judgment by our conscience.
We do ` intue ' then. We have ` Intuitions.' But it is quite possible that with the general advance of the mental and spiritual capacity of the human race, they may arrive at new classes of intuitions which were not within the compass of mankind in earlier and less highly developed stages of its existence. Indeed, when we come to think of it, if the teaching of Darwin be true, this must be so. We are descended, he tells us, from the lowest forms of animal life—nay, animal life itself is descended from organisms that were not even animals. But if that be so, then just as we saw in a former chapter, that there must have been some point in the long evolution when the first faint consciousness appeared in connexion with a physical organism (unless indeed that speculation be true which holds that there is an elementary consciousness in all the matter of the universe), so there must have been a point of time when the first spark of memory lighted up the consciousness, and a moment when the necessity to refer all phenomena to some kind of cause first made itself felt in the mind. And just as there was a moment when for the first time the rays of light found a seeing eye to strike on, so there must have been a moment when the universal moral law first struck upon a moral sense in the breast of man. This erect forked creature that we call Man, may have been physically fairly complete ages before the first of those intellectual and moral intuitions, which make up the permanent fixtures in the furnishing of the mind now, had worked into life and taken command of his thought and feeling.
And so even now there may be some new class of Intuitions—of beliefs the nature of which it is in each case to be matured the moment the terms of the belief are presented to the mind—which are kindling into life in the human soul to give it a new dignity and a new hold on God.
And indeed I believe that this is so. I believe that by a new range of Intuition, select souls, at any rate, if not all the run of common men, know when they are touched by some exceeding beauty that then and there they are in the presence of the Living God, and that thereby God touches them, that therein God speaks to them.
To guard against any misunderstanding of what I wish in this chapter to press upon the reader, let me here say that of course the sense of beauty itself is not new in the human mind. It has been there through all historical time. It is a quite specific sense, having its own laws and its own objects just as much as the sense of cause or the sense of right and wrong.
Quite as many and as ingenious attempts have been made to analyse what we mean by ` beautiful' as to analyse what we mean by ` right ' and ` wrong.' Yet in the end all that we shall be able to say about our sense of beauty is that it is a certain specific kind of pleasure which we derive from the contemplation of certain objects. These objects may be perceived by us through the eye or the ear or any of the physical organs of sense, or they may be objects of pure thought in the contemplation of which we take delight. What it is in the objects which excites the special feeling that we have when we say, ` How beautiful ! ' is a question on which philosophers from Athenian Plato to Burke and the Scoto-Irish Hutcheson have debated much. Some have contended that the essence of beauty lies in utility, so that when we say, ` How beautiful ! ' we merely mean ` How useful, how admirably adapted to its purpose ! ' Others, again, think that you cannot draw the line between the sense of beauty, and the sense of right and wrong, so that when you say ` How noble, how praiseworthy was the conduct of Casabianca on the burning deck ! ' you merely mean how beautiful it was. But I think that we must all feel that though adaptation to its purpose, or utility, often enhances the beauty of a vase or a building or a living organism, yet the pleasure we feel in beauty is something other than the pleasure we feel in usefulness, and the perception of beauty is something other than the perception of usefulness. And I think that we must all feel likewise that, though undoubtedly noble conduct is beautiful, yet to say that it is beautiful is something else than to say that it is good or righteous, and that the delight we feel in contemplating it as beautiful is at any rate not quite the same as the reverence it awakens in us because it is noble.
The nearest that we can get to defining what it is in an object of our contemplation that makes it beautiful and kindles in us that specific pleasure which things beautiful create would seem to be to say that it is a certain unity in variety, a certain harmony of the constituent elements. That harmony may be harmony among the colours in the object, as in a beautiful sunset (though in a beautiful sunset there is much more as well), or it may be harmony among the different elements of its form, as in a beautiful Greek temple, or it may be harmony between the form and the ideas with which the object is connected, as a church spire pointed to the heaven where we imagine God to dwell ;—the most tapering spire would not be beautiful but ugly on a factory. I have seen a factory-chimney shaped like a spire, and it was hideous. Or it may be harmony between the outward form and the high thought and pure feeling which belong to a sweet or noble character, as in the face of a young girl or of a great and good man. But whatever be the qualities in objects that excite in us the sense of beauty, the sense is here in us, known to us all, though perhaps not excited by the same object in my mind and my neighbour's ; and it differs from every other sense that we have. It is the source of a unique pleasure to us different from any other pleasure, and capable of rising into a delight most pure in quality and most intense in degree.
Now I have expressed the belief that a new kind of Intuition is in our time coming into being in the soul of man which consists in this : that when he is under the strong spell of exceeding beauty—when this sense of the beautiful is excited in him to the highest degree—he knows that a Holy Unseen Power is there touching him with its presence and, through the beautiful thing that he is contemplating, addressing him soul to soul.
The clearest cases of this Intuition occur when the object exciting the sense of beauty is beautiful natural scenery. Now there is no doubt that, in the West at least, the sense of a divine beauty in natural scenery is in the main a new endowment of man. There is little trace of it in its modern form in classical antiquity. Virgil indeed startles the reader of the second Georgic by a passage which reveals a true sensibility to the spiritual impression which the loveliness of Nature may convey ; but that passage is rather a prophetic foregleam of modern feeling than a characteristic illustration of Roman sentiment. To Scipio and to Hannibal the Alps were but the vast buttresses or barriers of Rome. Even to so late a writer as Dr. Johnson the mountains of Scotland presented no ćsthetic charm. And while in early English poetry there is often a recognition of what is picturesque in Nature, we rarely meet with passages revealing that in sublime or lovely scenery the soul has been caught up as into the presence of God. But we in our century have virtually added a new delight to life. The ravishing sense of beauty in the great harmonies of nature, in the glorious sweep of earth and sky, has possessed the latest generations as it never possessed their predecessors. It is not then by mere chance that in our time also has been developed, as never before, that Intuition which, under the sense of great beauty, ` intues ' the living presence of God.
Of this new Intuition Wordsworth has been the priest and prophet, and it is worth while to recall at length the classic passage in The Excursion in which he has exhibited it. He has just described the boyhood of his friend, the Wanderer, now an old man wise and good and sweet. He tells how even as a boy the Wanderer ` had felt the power of nature,' and was prepared to receive ` the lesson deep of love ' which nature has it in her to convey.
Now this passage is not poetry only, but, like so much of Wordsworth, a close psychological study. It is a precise statement of a unique experience of the soul. These are the central and dominating statements ; ` In their silent faces (those of the clouds) he read unutterable love ' ;
Rapt into still communion his mind was a thanksgiving to the power that made him ' ; ` In the mountains did he feel his faith' ; ` Nor did he believe—he saw.' ` Read,' ` felt,' ` saw,' ` communion '—these words are all efforts to express the immediateness of the spirit's consciousness of God under the stimulus of beauty. The sense of God there, of visitation from the living God, was not a reasoned thought or chain of thinking. The result of that is belief ; but this was more—it was immediate sight ; and I can have no doubt that the true reading is as I have given it, ` nor did he believe '—not, as you will find it in some editions, ` now did he believe.' He did not merely believe—he saw. It was not any argument, ` this is so beautiful and wonderful that God must have made it.' It was an immediate and direct perception, an Intuition, a seeing of God there by the immediate sensibility of the spiritual organ.
And though rarely perhaps is this spiritual sense so clear and powerful as in Wordsworth, yet there are few of us who have not known something of it. Different organisms are sensitive to different sorts of beauty. To some sublime scenery, to some quiet meads and streams, to some the ever unresting sea, to some the marvel of the nightly stars, to some a wayside flower—to some again the mysterious charm of music or of song, to some a poem, to some the face of a little child, to some a face beautiful with the story of a long and faithful life, has most quickening power. But I hardly think that there can be any of us who have not known the mystic influence of one or other of these media of divine grace. The spirit of the man has been disturbed by the frictions or worries of life. All has seemed at cross purposes. The weight of care has seemed too heavy to be borne ; when by some blessed chance the spirit has been submitted to the action of beauty—sublimity or loveliness—in one or other of these forms, and with the sense of beauty has instantaneously broken forth in the soul the sense of a divine and gracious presence before which care and worry have been dissipated like mist before the midday sun. It is an overwhelming sense of a spiritual presence, strong, tender, holy, which on the moment bursts into life ; and even when the vision is past, it may leave a vividness of impression on the memory which for years may sustain in a man a more vivid assurance of God than either the revelation of God as the universal Cause or the revelation of God as the Source of the moral law. In moments such as these we recognize with passionate conviction the supreme truth of the great Johannine declaration that ` God is Love.'
` But,' you will say perhaps, ` after all, these impressions that you describe are mere impressions —often evanescent impressions—and you cannot prove that they are not all pure fancy.' If you are a philosopher you express this by saying that the impression may be purely subjective, and there may be no objective fact corresponding to it.
I admit your argument, but I set beside it precisely parallel arguments, exactly as forcible, exactly as feeble.
My impression of green grass and brick walls may be all subjective ; there may be no objective existences corresponding to them. Yet I believe in the grass I see and the wall against which I knock my head. The impression of cause may be all fancy. I cannot so much as conceive the beginning of a proof of its reality. Yet I believe that my will is the cause of the smashing of the cupboard door with my fist, and that the divine will is the cause of the circling of the planets round the sun. It may be a mere subjective impression that the behaviour of Jesus in Gethsemane was nobler than the behaviour of Judas. I cannot begin to prove it. Yet I know and you know that so it was.
And so when, under the midnight heavens, or in the bosom of the everlasting hills, or in the thrill of the melody of perfect song, the impression that God is laying hold of my spirit and that I am in veritable communion with him shines out vivid in me, I cannot prove that it is not self-deception, but neither can I doubt that it is real and vital fact.
But still formidable objections are put forward, It is quite true that men sometimes trust impressions which are delusions, though they seem so self-evidently true. When I had once advanced an argument similar to that which I am now pressing, a friend of high intellectual and religious character wrote to me : ` You speak of the starry heavens restoring to your soul peace and consciousness of God : I have found a cup of coffee have the like effect. Do you not think that a dose of opium or hashish, if of right amount, would open up heaven to you ? ' Is then what I have described a veritable Intuition, or is this action of the beautiful upon the soul the mere working of a drug, the delusion of which will pass away when the effect is worked out of the system ?
Now it is quite possible that even a cup of coffee may upon occasion help to clear and quicken the faculties, for the interdependence of mind and body is a fact of our present constitution which we can neither escape nor deny. But the argument of my friend is clearly intended to suggest that what I have thought to be a true Intuition originating in our sensibility to beauty is really a sort of feverish or intoxicated illusion such as arises from the stimulation of drugs. There seems to me to be one very practical test whether this is so or not, whether Wordsworth's Wanderer was under a hallucination akin to that of an opium-smoker or whether he was really drawn into communion with God. So far as I know, all illusive states of consciousness, whether in fever or under the action of intoxicants or narcotics, are followed by reaction. The false exaltation gives way to a corresponding depression ; the vivid assurance is succeeded by a period of blank doubt and darkness. But this is not the case when the pure sense of beauty has quickened in a man's spirit the sense of the God-presence. The actual vision, the actual sense of contact with God, that indeed passes away. But after it has passed away and is a memory only, the man finds himself not less, but more sure of God than he was before the vision. There are many men whose faith, a faith sustaining and inspiring all through life, rests mainly on the recollection of such seasons of direct vision. There is no reaction. And that is the token that these moments of direct vision are not moments of the disease of the soul, but of its true health ; and that the vision itself is not a phantasmagoria presenting a lie, but an actual insight presenting a truth.
I knew a man some thirty years ago who was troubled in spirit through grievous things, and the world seemed dark to him and almost without God. And in his care and pain he went out at night on to a lonely common and stood beside a great stone quarry. And the stars were in the heavens and in their eternal silence looked down upon him. And there and then he knew that God was with him and felt that living touch of God upon his spirit. And rarely since then has he felt God quite so near. But the memory of that moment of vision has remained with him always, and it has made him more sure of God than any argument ; nor when he has recalled that moment, has he been able to doubt that that was a true revelation of the Eternal to him in his weakness and his need.
And if we put that other test which I have so often advocated, ` Does it work ? '—I do not think the answer can long remain in doubt. If a man thinks that under the awe and the solemnity of the mountains or the stars or the sea he has seen God with the eye of the soul, does the belief work ? Does it make this being, Man, a more efficient creature and open up fresh powers in him ? After an opium pipe or a dose of hashish, I suppose a man will think himself endowed with the genius of a Shakespeare. And at the moment he may indeed produce verses above what he could have written without the drug. But flatness soon supervenes, and so far from his being a more efficient poet that day week than he was before, his nerves are all ajar and he cannot concoct a decent verse. Not so with the man who in soberness of soul has believed that God touched him when the sheer hills rose before him, or Mendelssohn's ` Hymn of Praise ' flooded his being, or the human eyes of one revered and beloved looked into his own. The vision passes, it is true. But it leaves the man the stronger and the purer. ` Such high hour of visitation from the living God,' as Wordsworth puts it, is indeed an hour only. But like that meat in the strength of which Elijah went for forty days, it does not drug, but feeds the man, entering into his mental and moral fibre so that all his efficiency for what is good is augmented and not deteriorated.
Such then is the revelation of God to man through man's sensibility to beauty. Philosophers distinguish three main elements of our conscious life—the Intellect, the Will, and the Emotions. They point out that we think, we act, we feel. Nor can you lay your hand on anything that passes in your consciousness but it groups itself under one or other of these three modes. Other beings in 'other worlds may possess other categories of consciousness, other modes of mental life. But to us they are inconceivable. There is no fourth kind of consciousness known to us. It is true that the intellectual life, the life of thinking (which covers understanding, reasoning), and the moral life, the life of acting (which covers willing, choosing), and the emotional life, the life of feeling (which covers loving, hating, enjoying, suffering), are so woven together that you can perhaps not find a single waking moment in your life in which each is not present in some degree. Thought sets Emotion pulsing, and Emotion wakes the Will. The Will falls back on Thought for guidance, and its own action quickens the currents of Emotion. But still, as the white light is really constituted of the three primary colours, so is conscious life constituted of these three elements of consciousness.
And this is what we have now arrived at, and surely it is striking and momentous. In connexion with each several one of these three, God makes himself known to such as patiently and faithfully interpret their own minds. Thought cannot take a step without encountering the demand for Cause—and as the one all-encompassing Cause it encounters God. Will cannot take up the work of life without finding its obedience claimed by the Moral Law, and in the Moral Law it discovers the command of God. Emotion finds itself touched, as soon as it has come to the fulness of life, by the power of the Beautiful, and the Beautiful, in one or other of its multitudinous forms, proves to be the vehicle by which God impresses himself on consciousness as God of Love. These three, I believe, are the modes —and at the last analysis I am inclined to think that they are the only modes—by which that Divine Power and Righteousness and Love to which we give the name of God makes itself apprehended by the human soul and through the long ages works upon human character, helping Man slowly to conquer and put away the inheritance of his grosser animal nature, and by steps which are centuries and flights of steps which are Tons to mount up into true and perfect sonship to him, the Father. There have been prophets, redeemers, inspired men in the story of the world, but to none, I suppose, has inspiration ever come save in one or other of these three forms in which God communicates himself to the human mind.
There is one practice of supreme importance which helps man in the long task which God has set him. I mean the practice of Prayer. A young man, consulting me not long ago concerning the conduct of life, observed to me that he understood that modern science had shown prayer to be a superstition. He only put bluntly and crudely what many are feeling vaguely—an uneasy apprehension that since the chain of cause and effect runs link by link all down the ages, there can be no room left for the appeal of the soul to God. We are but cogs, it is thought, in the great wheel-system of the machine of the universe. As reasonable for us to think to deflect its action by our petition to the Supreme God, as for the cog to ask that the engine shall be reversed. Or, if you will, we are as a fly upon the wheel, but a fly glued on so that he cannot escape. What of that fly's prayers to the power which turns the handle ? And so, I fear, thousands whose fathers never began nor closed the day without solemn appeal to the Father of all, have dropped away from the habit of worship or the recourse to prayer in the trials and difficulties of life. Let us then inquire, do the principles which I have tried in these chapters to expound make for or against prayer as an element in the religious life ? Do they accentuate or remove the difficulties and objections which have been advanced relative to prayer ? To find the answer to that, I ask you to recall the conceptions of the Divine Being to which I have given expression.
I have repudiated the idea which has generally prevailed in Western Christendom that God is a Being outside the universe who has set it going, and only interferes with the working of the machine on occasion. If I be right, then all that kind of praying which consists in asking for interferences is, indeed, ruled out as futile. But if you deem that a loss, I claim that our gain is greater far. So long as men held God to be thus aloof, they kept being assailed by ever fresh doubts whether their prayers could really reach him ; and they kept turning to ever fresh intermediaries who were to be their messengers to the far-off God—Christ, Mary, the saints ; and each of these tended gradually to take the place of God, and to become not only the messenger but the object of prayer. But whatever else the God I have asked you to believe in be, he is not far off, and there can need no messenger from us to him. In one chapter I have maintained that his Living Energy is actually working now in every atom of the physical worlds, including our own bodies, the very lips with which we frame the words of prayer, the very eyes with which we look up to heaven. In the next chapter I have maintained that that haunting sense of moral obligation, of ` ought ' and ` ought not,' which is so familiar to us, is the actual whisper of God in us ; that conscience is his present, living word. And in this chapter I have maintained that when and where beauty moves us with the rarer emotions which it does sometimes awaken, then and there God is touching the soul, revealing himself as Love, and we are in actual present communication with him.
God then is not far off, but Tennyson speaks truth :
Speak to him, thou, for he hears, and spirit with spirit can meet ;
Closer is he than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
Nor, again, as we have seen, is it possible to maintain that God is too great to concern himself with the joys and sorrows, the wants and woes of such small creatures as human beings. He finds it worth while to be active in the filament of a nettle or the throbbing of a molecule. It cannot be less worth while to be active in a human being. His perpetual presence and activity in conscience is the pledge of his concern in the little choices we have to make hour by hour. His communion with us under the stress of beauty is the evidence that he will mingle his spirit with ours, as a friend with a friend or a father or mother with a child. So the fear that we are too small and that God is too great for our prayer vanishes in presence of the facts.
And, indeed, if a man be once moved to the love of God, and be persuaded that God loves him, then the communion between God and man, which we call on the man's side prayer or worship, seems to be only the natural and necessary out-come of the situation. For consider this one universal experience, to the truth of which we can all bear testimony. Wherever there is love, it seeks to find some means of communication with the beloved. It has entered into our very proverbs, this universal experience. ` Love laughs at locksmiths,' says the adage. The minstrel wanders through the lands till the notes of his flute strike through prison bars to the ear of his captive king. The lover binds his letter to the arrow's shaft, and shoots it to the chamber on the tower top where his lady is immured. The heart of friend turns to friend, and even though a thousand leagues may lie between, the missive finds its way from land to land, and did so even before the days of mail steamers and cheap postages. The hands of the betrothed find each other out unseen that love may communicate its thrill from heart to heart. The child flings his arms around his mother's neck, and prattles the words that well up from the depths of his childish being. The husband leaves his work that for a moment he may go and look in his wife's eyes and read again the mystery of their union. Love craves communication with the beloved as the first need of life. Business may stand still, the thirst for knowledge be forgotten, the keenness of ambition be blunted, but affection needs to express itself to the cherished object, and the communion of friend with friend is a universal necessity of life.
And so, unless we are to say that the love between God and man has nothing in common with the love between human beings, that it in no way resembles the love between father and children, we should expect—tremendous and overwhelming and wonderful as the thought may be—we should expect the thrill of actual communication between him, the Infinite and Eternal, and us, his creatures, whose insignificance in comparison with him no words can express, save only that he, out of his love of love, has given us hearts able to love him, our Father, and himself, in all the Eternal Majesty of his being, loves us who are his children.
The difference then in our praying will not be that it will be less vital or less real for our modern knowledge, but that it will pass from petition into communion ; that it will be a seeking not of gifts, but of consciousness of the God-presence. And as consciousness thereof is won, the intellectual life will be cleared, the moral life will receive the sap of a new vigour, the emotional life will pass out of anxiety and trouble into peace and a quiet, abiding joy, till all our worship merges in thanksgiving.