A Theory of Christian Education

An Education Day Address by Arthur Holmes

They should perceive with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their hearty
And should turn again. — Matt. 13: 15.



THE text quoted is very properly a text on edu-
cation. It is so both by content and context.
Jesus, the great Teacher, has just been engaged in in-
structing His students or disciples. His method is a
perfect example of the art of teaching. He uses
stories called parables to arrest their attention, and
to convey his meaning, the best method of oral in-
struction yet invented. Seizing upon events common
and familiar, like sowing, he leads his hearers from the
known to the unknown. From the concrete things of
every-day life — material, palpable, tangible — he pro-
ceeds to the abstractions of that spiritual kingdom so
profound in its inner implications that the most acute
powers of prophets, seers and sages have not yet
fathomed all its depths. Then he closes with a warn-
ing dissertation on the process of learning in its
three steps of perceiving, understanding and acting.

” Perceive with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And should turn again. ”

Sight, insight and action! Herein are contained all
the stages of all learning; herein is epitomized all
education in all its processes, secular or religious.
This is true whether applied to perceiving, under-
standing and side-stepping a rattlesnake or a card-
game; whether perceiving, understanding and apply-
ing a mathematical formula or a spiritual principle.

What Education Is Not.

Naturally such a conception of education may
sound strange to the average man, to whom the word
” education” immediately brings up a number of more
or less clear implications. To him ”going to school”
and ”getting an education” mean the same thing.
Likewise, the layman associates education with book-
learning. The printed page and a mind “debauched
by learning,” to borrow Bishop Berkely’s famous
phrase, go hand in hand. One without the other is
inconceivable to the average American, who has be-
come imbued with a worship for education not equaled
in any other land, except possibly in Germany, the
land of ” Ideaolators. ” Education, schools, books —
this is the holy trinity of desires contained in every
good American father’s ambition for his boy.

From this primary misconception naturally flow
others, commonly found floating about in the atmos-
phere of newspapers, magazines and public speeches,
all of them glaringly evidential of the lack of insight
concerning this vital matter of education. The most
prominent subsidiary notion is that one which makes
education consist of a knowledge of a mass of hetero-
geneous and disconnected facts, an idea recently illus-
trated by a noted questionnaire, sent out by one of our
most prominent men of practical affairs, in which he
quizzes college graduates upon a number of facts

which can be found in any book of reference in any
library of the land, and with which no man of liberal
education would try to encumber his mind.

A man so educated might be densely ignorant
about life and its usages. On proper occasions, he
might exhibit his learning with pride by conversing
with a visiting national politician or Chautauqua
lecturer, or in answer to anxious inquiries about rare
phenomena, as, for example, whether the suspected
possibility of the earth’s colliding with a comet would
be disastrous to the world; or what mushrooms are
edible; or how a man might find where to drive a
nail into a plastered wall so as infallibly to strike an
upright beam; or is there anything in carrying a po-
tato in one’s pocket for rheumatism? A knowledge
of such things may be unusual, but is it useful?

The belief that unusualness of knowledge is the
essence of education is a belief resulting directly from
the necessity of acquiring education away from the
usual walks of life in a school or college, and out of
books. Because ordinary men have not studied books,
the book-learned man assumes a superiority over his
fellows. The superiority is sometimes exploited by
educators themselves as the chief value of their im-
partations. It is said, untruly perhaps, that a Greek
professor, advocating the retention of his language in
the college course, brought forth as his final argument
the assertion that the study of Greek gives to the man
who has studied it a feeling of superiority over the
man who has not studied it! This aristocracy bred
by education, as commonly conceived, is far from the
conception of the statesmen who insist that education
is, and must always be, the foundation of democratic


Emphasis upon peculiar and unusual knowledge
leads to another misconception contained in the de-
fense of certain subjects in every curriculum, which
are there by force of tradition, and can give no useful
reason for their existence except to dispense a livelihood
to some incumbent of a chair. The existence of such
subjects is defended upon the ground of their value
as “mental discipliners. ” They somehow affect the
”mind.” They provoke ” culture. ” Modern educa-
tional experiment has exploded this venerable theory,
but the masses still hold it.

To strip from education all these and other mis-
apprehensions, and to set forth simply and clearly
what education is, and what it does for its possessors,
ought to be the clear purpose of every speaker upon
the subject. Education is too valuable for personal
life, for the continuation and maintenance of our Gov-
ernment and our religion, for the happiness of man-
kind in general and peoples everywhere, to have its
utility blurred and falsified by outworn draperies of
mediaeval superstitions and its free movement ham-
pered by burdensome traditions of a long-dead past.
Education is not the acquisition of a body of hetero-
geneous facts, not mere book-learning, not a knowledge
of school-worn and school-made traditions, not the use-
less and ornate embellishment of an intellectual

What Education Is.

When we turn our attention to declaring what
education is, we are tempted to wrap up our idea in
a neat bundle, tie it with red tape, and deliver it
labeled with a definition. But to people who know
that a cow-pasture is something more than a wire
fence around a vacant lot, definitions of organic

processes, wide-reaching and all-embracing in their
human interest, can not be so cleverly and expeditious-
ly handled. Dynamic processes throbbing with living
interests do not come in bundles; individual, social
and human activities can not be confined with the
curfew-call of a philosophic definition. For those who
must feed upon such intellectual pabulum, the dic-
tionary is always handy; encyclopedias are not absent
and the volumes of educators fill the shelves of our
libraries, though it will be found that, in the best of
these, satisfactory definitions of education are con-
spicuous by their absence. Our immediate business is
to try to understand education in essential points and
make application of this understanding in a thoroughly
practical way to the spiritual and mental life of all
people. The moment we try to do that, we are con-
fronted with the alternatives of being too narrow or
too broad; of settling the whole matter by quoting
glibly some pseudo-educationist’s aphoristic summary
which presents only one phase of the subject; or else
taking refuge in the frequent example of those who
must speak when they have nothing to say and broad-
ly asseverate that ”education is life!”

To avoid these two extremes, let us begin by point-
ing out the obvious fact that education is both a
process and a product. The process aims to develop
men. Men are born with an inheritance ; that inheri-
tance is developed by environment and teaching, by
the mechanical forces surrounding them and by the
more or less conscious efforts of their fellows. The in-
herited faculties, like imagination and reason, for ex-
ample, enable men to discover and to create new in-
ventions and works of art. The inherited and the cre-
ative are not education, nor are they due to education.


Education embraces that zone of human activities ly-
ing between these two. That zone of activities is oc-
cupied by habits. Education, then, is the process of
habit-making, and its product is habits — ^habits of feel-
ing, habits of perceiving, habits of thinking, habits of
acting. When Pepys heard a piece of music and thus
acquired and retained a state of sesthetic exaltation
lasting all night, he enjoyed one habit of feeling, due
to his musical education. When Newton discovered
the similarity existing between a white feather, a lump
of coal, and the full moon, and named the similarity
” gravitation, ” he did it by relating by similarities;
in his case mathematical similarities, in which he was
profoundly educated. When Darwin saw amongst a
multitude of organic facts the one similarity of ” strug-
gle for existence,” so contrary to the accepted doc-
trine of the lilies of the field and the birds of the
air, he did it because he was in the habit of thinking,
or noting similarities. When Byron swam the
Hellespont, he was an educated swimmer in the habit
of taking long aquatic trips. When Demosthenes spoke
“On the Crown,” he was by habit an orator. When
Jesus went to the cross instead of fleeing for His life,
He had acquired the habit of doing His Father’s
will. When a child repeats the multiplication table, he
has acquired certain habits of mental association which
it is almost impossible to break. Habits — habits of
mind and body — these are the distinct and the whole
province and product of education, in whatever form
it may appear and to whatever height it may ascend.

Apply This Doctrine to the Church.

A religiously educated man is one whose habits
of worship are regular. He prays without ceasing,
regularly, easily; finding the exercise as sweet and

nourishing to his soul as his habitual meals are to his
body. Contrasted with him is the man who has no
religious education, no habits of discerning the face
of God, nor bending his knee in worship, nor draw-
ing from the holy Word messages of deep consolation
and untiring inspiration. How laboriously does the
minister of God labor with those of his congregation,
whose religious education is only half finished; whose
attendance at church is spasmodic as the weather;
whose spiritual life vacillates between the mounts of
transfiguration and the low-lying valleys of worldly
pleasure; whose spiritual feeling, perceptions and ac-
tions are all uncertain, unfixed, undisciplined by the
habit of fidelity to the Lord. The process of changing
such a man into a really religious man is the process
of habit-making, and that is religious education. Let
us see how the Master indicated the process in His
talk to His disciples or students.

Perceiving is the first step in the learning process.
The insistence of the Master that some people have
eyes and see not seems paradoxical in its opposition
to the common experience of mankind. Yet His as-
sertion is in perfect accord with all modern research
into human idiosyncracies. It is literally amazing to
a student of human capacities and capabilities to dis-
cover how profoundly different men really are, though
superficially they may appear to be the same. There
are adults and children without any visible physical
defects, who can not see many common objects. They
are psychically blind. Many there are who can not
see green or red anywhere in nature. They are color-
blind. Mentally diseased patients are found who, af-
flicted with varieties of amnesia, are totally unable
to see printed words, or only certain printed words,

or to hear spoken words, or only certain spoken words.
Some can read pages all except the letter ”a;” when
that letter appears to the normal person it is a blank
to the patient. These amnesias can be reproduced by
hypnotism, and subjects can be blinded temporarily
to objects perfectly visible to others. These, and many
other astounding facts, have been discovered and re-
corded in works of science dealing with such subjects,
and all of them must be taken into consideration by
any one dealing with a large and promiscuous public.
But, disregarding the special and abnormal cases,
it is also true with all people that they do not see
everything before their eyes, even when their eyes are
wide open. In fact, no one can see continuously; his
attention will not permit it. He sees only in beats;
things appear and disappear, appear and disappear.
Try a simple experiment. Look steadily at a star al-
most invisible; watch it without faltering; fix upon it
your whole attention. Note that it will repeatedly
appear and disappear in spite of all you can do. The
same situation is true with all the senses. The waver-
ing sound of a fading, long-drawn bell-tone is another
illustration. The tone itself is steady, but our per-
ception of it rises and falls like the waves of the sea.
“What is true in these cases is true, but unnoted, in
all cases; we see and we do not see; hear and do not
hear. Ordinarily, what are called after-images, which
will follow upon any strongly perceived object, bridge
over these gaps and seem to make our perceiving con-
tinuous, just as they do at a moving-picture show,
where the pictures do not follow one another continu-
ously upon the screen, but come and go by jerks as
the mechanism of the machine proves. In fact, an
interesting investigation has been made to show how

much of the total time of one performance is passed
with nothing on the screen whatever, and a calcula-
tion has been made to find what percentage of the ad-
mission fee is paid by each spectator for looking at a
perfectly blank sheet! Yet how many of each thou-
sand people will not swear that he sees pictures on
the screen each and every instant of his looking-time !
Verily, the movie-goers have eyes and see not!

But this is not all. Nobody sees everything before
his eyes. He sees only some things; others he misses.
“Why does he see what he sees? The answer tersely
put is: ”He sees what he wants to see! He hears
what he wants to hear!” John uttered a profound
truth when he said, ”He that loveth, knoweth God.”
First, what he wants to hear, and see by reason of in-
herited interests, or instincts. Some are they who are
born with low instincts; some with the instincts of
gentlemen and ladies. From earliest consciousness,
their worlds are different because their inborn inter-
ests are different. From the same fireside one boy
flies to the city, another to the ocean, another to the
wilderness, another stays and farms the old place.
The difference in their preferences is the difference
in their inborn tastes. The whole task of conscious
education is to overcome inborn aptitudes for low and
evil sights and sounds, and to implant an interest for
the good, the true and the beautiful. That can be
done by teaching and by self-decision. A lady and a
gentleman were walking along a slum street on one
side of which foul waste water ran in the gutter, while
on the other was a lumber-yard, full of spruce timbers.
“Huh,” said the man in disgust, “smell that gutter!”
“No, thank you,” sweetly responded the lady, “I pre-
fer to smell the lumber.” Blessed are they who have

ears to hear and prefer to hear the gently intoned
words of the Master as they floated on the sweet air
of Galilee with their message of eternal healing.

Then, again, we see what we have been in the habit
of seeing. Repetition engraves upon the walls of our
memories deeper and deeper reliefs in hardening repli-
cas of the objects gazed upon. This crowd of mem-
ories, which the psychologist calls the *’ apperceptive
mass,” enables men to see and hear, and, to a large
extent, determines what they shall hear and see.
”Unto yon,” said Jesus to His disciples, who had al-
ready learned some things from Him (or, to put it in
the barbarous language of psychology, had already
acquired a religious ”apperceptive mass”), ”is given
to know mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. . . . For
whosoever hath [this apperceptive mass], to him shall
be given, and he shall have in abundance.” In these
simple words He announces a law of human nature,
not only profound in its application, but sound in its
scientific conception. “What a warning to us to use
rightly our eyes and ears! To pluck out those eyes
if they offend by seeing the unholy; to stop our ears,
and run for our spiritual lives from people with the
poison of asps under their tongues! Once we see or
hear certain intense and crashing sights and sounds,
and never again will the dark mercifully shut out the
horror nor will forgiving silence bring forgetfulness.
Always will the law of God taunt us with recurring
vision of the forbidden thing.

What I mean by limited vision is lucidly brought
out by the experience of a hired man over in Illinois,
who all his life had raised hogs. He spent his days
and his nights with them; fed them, tended them,
nursed them, knew their nature, their grunts and

sighs, their likes and dislikes, diseases and tempers.
When in 1893 the exposition was given in Chicago,
he saved his money for months, went to the fair and
spent a week, came back home and amazed his em-
ployer’s family by not saying a word about the won-
ders he had anticipated seeing and hearing. One day
the farmer’s wife could stand it no longer. *’John,”
she said at dinner, ”tell us what you saw at the ex-
position. We are all dying to hear.” John laid down
his knife and fork, looked off into vacancy and then
triumphantly recalled what he had seen in the terse
statement, ”I saw von beeg hawg!”

Naturally, that was all he could see. In that re-
spect he was a perfectly cultured gentleman. He had
studied hogs in all phases from their suckling baby-
hood to their final destiny in blutwurst. But when
the uproar of the city struck upon his ears, he was
deafened, and when the world treasures of that ex-
position tumbled themselves upon his bewildered sight,
he was blinded with the chaos of variety and saw
nothing until, wandering into a side-show, he came
upon a dear, familiar friend, one whom he could see,
understand, appreciate, and over whose pen he leaned
with steadfast and perfect admiration.

That story makes me almost believe that heaven
will not be heaven for some unless there are count-
less millions of ineffable swine reaching mile upon
mile as did the human faces appearing to De Quincey
in his opium dreams.

The way to the ability to see is the way of educa-
tion. We must have things pointed out to us by some
teacher. ”Look at zee feesh!” Agassiz used to say
to the beginner, who came to him to learn the mys-
teries of nature. The student would look at “zee

feesh” a few minutes and present himself to the pro-
fessor, who would ask a question or two, and then re-
peat, ”Look at zee feesh!” The crestfallen student
would look and report, look and report, and again
and again be sent back to the task of looking at a
dull-eyed, dry-scaled, stuffed fish, sometimes looking
for months before the professor thought he had seen
it. That is the process, whether with fish or paintings,
music or religion. We all must learn to see! No one
can see without that training. Let him, who thinks
otherwise, tell where fishes’ ears are? They hear.
How? If that is too hard, tell whether a cow’s ears
are placed before her horns or behind them! “Which
way do the horns of a waning moon point? What is
the difference in process between a horse’s getting up
and a cow’s? Or, to be personal, and hence absolutely
familiar, how many teeth do you have — of your own?
When you fold your hands, which thumb is on top?
Wives, ask your husband of ten years’ standing what
color your eyes are! Husbands, ask your wives how
many pockets you have in your suit! Certainly none
of these things is worth knowing, but they all illus-
trate the fact that unless we have pointed out to us
perfectly plain things in our world, we will never,
never see them, no matter how sharp our eyes are.

All of us have had the humiliating experience
which came recently to me in the revelation of my
own blindness to pictures. With an art professor, I
was admiring the works of a world-renowned painter.
My artist friend mentioned this man’s great stained-
glass picture in the Curtis Publishing Co.’s building
in Philadelphia. I confessed I had never seen it.
He was amazed; asked me if I had been in the build-
ing, and when I said ”Yes, more than once,” he told

me of that wonder in glass, probably the greatest of
its kind in the world, hanging in the lobby near the
fountain. The fountain I remembered; the picture, I
sadly confessed, was as the nothing of nothings to me.
To the art teacher that was inconceivable; how could
any man drink at that fountain as I had done and
miss the imperishable picture on the wall? Simply
because I did not see, and in that respect missed the
fountain of living water, one deep draught of which
would have left me with the image of an eternally
satisfying vision of loveliness.

Still another modifier of what we see must be
mentioned. It has recently been emphasized in Ein-
stein ‘s famous relativity theory. According to Sir
Oliver Lodge, the essence of that theory consists in
the recognition that the world is what it is because of
the observer’s position. Certainly this is true of much
that we do see. If, on a train traveling forty miles
an hour, I drop my knife, it falls straight to the floor
and lands at my feet. A man who could stand out-
side and see the path of the falling knife, would see
that it fell not in a straight line, but in a pronounced
curve. “Which is correct? Place one hand in cold
water, the other in hot water, then, after an interval,
place both in the same basin of tepid water; to one
hand the same tepid water feels cold; to the other,
warm. “Which is it? Hot — cold? Husband says pan-
cakes are cold; wife insists they are warm enough
for anybody; a family jar shakes the felicity of matri-
monial adventure and threatens the permanency of
the home, all because of Einstein’s relativity. Jam
is sour or sweet depending upon whether we have been
just previously eating pickles or ice-cream. A door
looks three feet wide when we stand directly in front

of it ; but its width decreases in infinite stages to noth-
ing as we move in a half-circle from facing it to one
side of it. Once, from a hill on a bright day, I gazed
upon the far landscape of a beautiful country. Like
a silver ribbon, all sparkling in the sunshine with a
million diamond ripples, ran a river through the trans-
lucently emerald plain, dotted here and there with
clumps of trees that reminded me of the far-famed
plain of Milano. A little later, when I rode close to
that river, I was horrified at the turgid and filthy
stream; yellow, mud-filled, covered with rotting debris
brought down by a recent storm! Verily, one must
stand in heavenly places, upon Pisgah’s peak, or the
Mount of Transfiguration, to see the beauties of the
Lord in all their holiness! And let no vain material-
ist with his moribund realism deny the right of man
to see that phase among all the infinite number of
possible phases of this world which really do exist!
Infinite is the world; numberless are its facets; irides-
cent are its phenomena ; God give us the will to choose,
the eye to see, and the ear to hear that side of it
which will be, forever, inspiring in its wholesomeness
and loveliness!

So far we have been dealing with the ordinary eye-
sight and hearing. We have found wonders, to be sure,
but they abound in God’s world everywhere. We have
been shocked out of our usual modes of thinking, but
Jesus was shocking in that respect. We have met
paradoxes, but Jesus delighted in calling attention to
them in real life. We have found that we can train
ourselves to see what we want to see; that such seeing
does not give us a fool’s paradise, but a real phase
of the real world, as the latest science points out. See-
ing is believing and believing is seeing.


Now we turn to the inner eye; to insight, under-
standing, to the meaning and significance of things we
see and hear. Here education plays a multiplied part.
Ignorance binds and distorts and nullifies so much of
the world of reality that always education has been
extolled for the freedom it gives by opening the inner
eyes of its followers and for introducing them into
totally new worlds from which the ignorant are for-
ever shut out. Poets and philosophers have vied with
one another in extolling this power of learning, and
it is, and always will be, the chief crown and glory of
the trained mind.

Illustrations of this power crowd in multi-
tudes upon the mind. For example, there is the
old story of the shepherd and his son being met
under an oak-tree by three similarly uniformed
soldiers. All three soldiers remarked the tree;
one noted its wood; another, its bark; another, its
shade. ^’A carpenter, a tanner and a farmer,” said
the old shepherd, with elementary Sherlock Holmes in-
sight. Dr. Jenner heard from an unlettered girl that
a sore on a milkmaid’s finger produced by an affection
on the cows’ teats rendered the girl immune to small-
pox. In this casual and unconnected fact the learned
man saw a cure for that awful scourge of Europe
and the salvation of 100,000,000 lives in a century.
To-day, hardly any civilized community is disfigured
with people whose faces are pitted with that terrible
disease. With the round oaths of pioneers, the placer
miners in Nevada, about 1859, cursed the ”black sand”
which mingled with their gold and persisted in falling
to the bottom of their water sluices and mixing with
the yellow dust, which was rendered valueless ‘on this
account. A couple of German students, armed with

the keen insight of laboratory training, happening to
come that way, saw in the accursed thing of the
miners pure oxide of silver, and the assurance that
somewhere in the mountain-side, above the stream, was
a mother-lode of precious metals passing the avarice
of man. Inspired by them, prospectors set to work
and discovered the precious vein which was named the
Comstock Lode, from which an endless stream of
wealth, amounting in some years to ten millions of
dollars, has been taken ever since. Nearly like this is the
story told by Dr. Russell H. Conwell, the lecturer,
about oil in Pennsylvania. A man there sold his farm
for $850 — and no sense — and went “West to discover oil.
Men with insight discovered, above a bended board
bridging a stream on the place, a shining, iridescent
film. They knew it for oil, drilled on the farm, and
discovered the first well of oil in the pioneer oil-field
of America. Daguerre laid upon a plate, treated with
iodine, a silver spoon; a resulting image of the spoon
pre-portrayed the wonders of photography. A Nurem-
berg glass-cutter dropped aqua fortis upon his spec-
tacles, and glass-etching resulted. A lithograph ma-
chine failed to place a sheet properly; Ira W. Rubel
saw the result and offset printing came as a new proc-
ess of reproducing. Bequerel placed uranium in a
drawer with a photographic plate, an image formed
and man’s eyes were opened to a new world of rays,
infinite in extent and manifold in variety, by which
we talk across continents and fling messages through
the ether clear round the world. Lastly and leastly,
too, Montgolfier, charged dutifully with airing his
wife’s gowns, noticed how the skirts ballooned with
the heated air, and when the mistress came home she
found her husband busy sending up little paper bal-

loons. His actions were not silly; they were the first
efforts toward aerial navigation.

Literally, without end, these illustrations might be
multiplied, all pointing to one moral; namely, that
education gives insight and meaning to the otherwise
blinding and blind facts of experience presented to
the eye and ear of the ignorant and unlearned. To
the religiously uneducated they come; messages so
common, so every-day, that their inner and precious
value for the individual and the world are not under-
stood, and the words of God fall to the ground of
humbler lives and more discerning ears. Hence, the
world wonders at Bunyan, George Fox, John Woolman ;
at Billy Sunday, who, drunk on the curb, heard God’s
voice in a Salvation Army song ; or at Sherwood Eddy,
called by the tennis courts of Northfield to the un-
ordained bishopric of Asia.

In the process of acquiring and using an education
which I have been emphasizing, Christian education
and secular education are identical. In what is seen
they are different. Christian education enables, yea,
compels, the learned in Christ to see Him. Some see
Him in church only; some in the holy ordinances;
some in the Bible ; some in forms of worship ; all these
are in the primary grades of Christian education.
Some, more advanced, see Him in their homes; some,
still more advanced, see Him in the housework, the
shop, the office; some even see Him in their fellow-
men, as in a composite portrait, for

‘*In every form of the human,
Some hint of the highest dwells;
And scanning each earthen vessel,
In the place where the veil is thin,
We catch, in beautiful glimpses,
Some form of the God within.”


And a few see Him everywhere, and these have gradu-
ated already into heaven.

A friend of mine told me how he first came to
think of a sermon which so set forth the Christ to his
congregation that twenty-seven people came forward
one Sunday morning and made the good confession.
The preacher had been at a lake, gazing with absorbed
soul upon the ravishing sunset piling the western dome
of heaven with such gold as only the Infinite can use
with indifference to cost. To the gazer’s mind came,
first, the thought of that common, but miraculous, fact,
that all people love beauty; some one kind, some an-
other, according to education. Is there one kind of
beauty the humblest and most ignorant can love? Yes,
the beauty of service, a beauty that can be seen in the
lowliest and meanest and commonest tasks, even in
the sacrificial ashes of the tabernacle sacrifice, and in-
stantly his mind leaped to it, in the everlasting and
perfect service of the Son of God. His sermon on
”Sacrificial Ashes” set forth so clearly the lowly
Christ in the singular beauty of ministering service
that others saw and many were saved.

But a skeptical housekeeper may object to seeing
any beauty in monotonous home drudgery, or any
Christ in washing and ironing. Well, for her benefit,
I’ll give another true illustration. My church in Phil-
adelphia was composed of working people. I used to
make pastoral calls in the kitchen as readily as in the
reception-room. One day I called on Mrs. Martz, when
she was working on a hot, murky, Philadelphia day,
unlike anything this side of Dante’s second Inferno.
The good woman was ironing, working away at the mo-
notonous job of running an unpoetic flat-iron back-
ward and forward over clothes that would be soiled

again next week and endless weeks thereafter. But I
noticed on her face a look not in keeping with the
task; a shining of the eye and a glory, that, per-
haps, Martha, or probably Mary, wore, in a bustling
household where housekeeping was far more tiresome
than in enamel-wared, running hot-and-cold-watered,
modern establishments. That look on this ordinary
woman’s face was explained when I noticed the open
Book lying on her ironing-board, from which, to the
rhythm of her work, she had been committing to mem-
ory truths so full of eternal beauty and human depth
that they had transformed her little room to the
groined arches of the Eternal and her common task
to the ministrations of angels round the throne of

Doing the Word.

At last we come to the doing of the Word. Herein
has lain an age-long difficulty; here has been centered
and focused the efforts of many religionists the world
over. Between the seeing and the understanding of
the right on the one hand, and the doing of it on the
other, has always lain that mysterious abyss which
separates man into his ideal and his actual selves, so
lamented by Paul. Herein, too, not always clearly
discerned, resides that antagonism between education
and religion latent in so many ministers who are not
able either to convince the man of intellectual power,
nor to persuade him to religious observances when his
mind is convinced. It has always been assumed that
the fault lies with the recalcitrant will.

This assumption is due to the teaching of the old
psychology. It taught that voluntary action stood at
the end of a psychic series beginning with an idea
followed by a feeling, followed by a separate and dis-

tinct act of the ”will” which launched a course of
action. Therefore, it followed that a man’s intellect
might be filled full of invaluable precepts and his
emotions resolved to penitential tears by the sublim-
ity of ideals, and yet his stubborn or paralyzed will
would not act. Moral and religious teachers set the
essential mark of distinction between religious and pro-
fane education at this point and quite consistently
bombarded in theory, at least, the penitent’s will.

This assumption of a real hiatus between thinking
and willing has led to more than one mischievous re-
sult both in and out of the church. For instance, it
has fostered the delusion that a man might keep his
conduct perfectly respectable while allowing his mind
to run riot with evil thoughts. The same fallacy lies at
the basis of creedism, which demands exact correctness
in a man’s theological beliefs without necessary con-
formation of conduct to Jesus’ example, and, in an op-
posite direction, leads to religious formalism, in the
vesting of the essentials of worship in a mechanical
observance of traditional rituals without thought or
feeling. Still worse, it lends support to the popular
and pernicious dictum, ”It doesn’t matter what a per-
son believes in religion; let every one think as he
pleases.” In writhing agony the world learned, from
Germany’s belief in a God without heart, that it does
matter what people believe in religion as elsewhere.

Is there a chasm between thought and action? Can
education be divorced from conduct? Is the point of
attack the human will? Let us answer these questions,
calling both upon Scripture and modern science, in
order to attempt what John Wesley engraved upon the
foundation stone of Kingswood School, “Let us unite
the two so long divided, knowledge and vital piety!”


First, let us search the Scriptures, beginning with
the Master’s learning process quoted above. He does
not indicate any necessary gap between understanding
and acting. The tenor of his teaching points to a
series — seeing, understanding and turning; or not see-
ing, not understanding, and not turning. The as-
sumption is that men would turn if they understood.

In other places the Scriptures are more explicit.
They emphasize over and over again, not only the abso-
lute necessity of an understanding heart, but the
direct and necessary connection between thinking and
acting. The outer and the inner go together. What
a man thinks, he will do; what a man thinks, he will
become; this in general terms is the twofold aspect
of the same law of thinking, taught both in the Bible
and in science. As a man thinketh in his heart so is
he; out of the heart are the issues of life; whatsoever
things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good
report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,
think on these things; set your mind on things that
are above; be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind; beholding His glory, we are changed into His
image from glory to glory — are some of the emphases
upon the power of thinking, not only to conform con-
duct, but also to transform character. To these might
be added the insistence of Jesus upon the inner life
as the real battle-ground, upon which moral and re-
ligious struggles are fought out, and man’s eternal
destiny is determined.

Because of Jesus’ equal emphasis upon conduct,
and the dwelling of all New Testament writers upon
the same point, these texts can not be interpreted as
teaching that if the heart is right, the outer act is
still in jeopardy. Rather, we must look for some plain

and necessary connection between the two, which will
explain the demand for both as fulfilling the require-
ments of a religion based upon full possession of the
whole man and not merely a part of him; not alone
his intellect concerned with correct doctrine; not mere-
ly his heart filled with useless, go-and-be-warmed sym-
pathy; not merely his conduct, perfect though its
etiquette may be when paying addresses in the courts
of the Lord. Running through and connecting all
of these is a relation to each other, which insures the
transpiration of one another if the first is attained, a
relation which very properly places the springs of
the issues of life, not in mechanical inheritance, nor in
material environment, but in the human heart.

The new psychology agrees with Scripture, and in-
dicates precisely the mode of inciting voluntary action.
It insists that man is fundamentally built for action.
Every impression made upon him immediately pro-
duces an expression in the form of some muscular
activity. Sometimes the activity lies wholly within the
body and is therefore not noticeable by others. Some-
times it is external. But in all cases impression leads
to expression. This is the so-called “psychological
arc,” the primary law of animal action. The law
manifests itself in a thousand ways, many of them
obvious when attention is called to them. If a win-
dow falls, or a shot rings out, or a sudden lightning
flash cuts the air, people perceiving it involuntarily
jump; if the odor of frying bacon wafts itself indo-
lently through the window upon the summer breeze,
each sensitive salivary gland responds to that impres-
sion with an appropriate watering of the mouth. A
baby’s eyes follow a moving light, and hardly anybody
can keep his head from turning if he sees an unex-

pected movement from the corner of his eye. Some
instinctive actions are fatally performed whenever the
proper object is presented to them. Laughter, as we
learned at school, is sometimes impossible to suppress;
crying, likewise; few can stand tickling with perfect
immobility and a sneeze is irrepressible. All these
actions flow immediately upon the proper stimulations,
and do not wait for any act of the will. And what is
true with these actions is asserted to be true of all
kinds of human actions, including those commonly
called voluntary, or ideational, which are preceded in
consciousness by some idea of an end or a purpose
to be achieved by the action. These last deserve our
special consideration.

If it is true that ideas inspire and direct actions,
then at once it is seen how education which imparts
ideas and ideals likewise controls action. Can it be
done? Do ideas initiate action? ”We may lay it
down for certain,” says Prof. William James, the
leading representative of the new psychology, ”that
every representation of a movement awakens in some
degree the actual movement which is its object and
awakens it in a maximum degree, whenever it is not
kept from doing it by some antagonistic representation
present simultaneously to the mind.” Herein is laid
bare the doctrine of the immediate effect of ideas upon
action, and therefore upon education, and upon human
character. And herein is laid bare also the unlimited,
direct and immediate power of the preacher of the
gospel, whose function it is to instill into the minds
of people the ideals of a religious life. Note that
once an idea of an act or a course of action is by any
means lodged in any mind so that there is present no
antagonistic idea, then the resultant action flows out

immediately and inevitably. The whole power of the
preacher, therefore, and of the religions educator,
should be focused upon that one specific and vital
task of fixing ideals of conduct in their hearers’
minds. All else is secondary to this central purpose
of that ‘ ‘foolishness of preaching” by which pagan
Rome was brought to ruin and the whole world shown
the way of salvation.

Opposed to the purpose of the preacher is, of
course, the free will of the hearer, who may definitely,
and obstinately, refuse entrance to any religious ideas.
He may hear, he may understand; and then he may
definitely and finally, to the destruction of his life and
the perdition of his soul, reject. His past habits may
grip him too firmly; his inherited incubus of desire
may be too strong; his environment may drag him
down; all these may be too much for the preacher
to combat, but at least the point of the preacher’s
attack is defined; the citadel to be stormed stands out
amid the outworks, moat, battlements and towers with
perfect definiteness; and it is a citadel that can be
stormed with the kind of offensive weapons in which
the preacher, of all men, is peculiarly trained. He con-
tends not with flesh and blood, but with principalities
and powers in high places; he is opposing spiritual
forces to spiritual forces. His whole mode of attack
is educational.

Again, we may turn to common experiences of life,
to scientific experiment and to psychological lore for
an abundance of illustrations for this power of ideas.
Common life exhibits it in a timid woman trying to
cross the street with a baby-carriage. She waits till
the idea of crossing seizes her mind; starts, sees dan-
gers, gives fleeting attention to the idea ”Go back!”

then, ”Go on!” and flutters backward and forward in
front of vehicles to the instant danger of her own
life and the endangerment of the souls of every driver
in a hurry. Vacillating conduct of this sort is always
due to a play of serially conflicting ideas. Upon such
a play of ideas, many times, has hung the destiny of
nations, and the rise and fall of civilization.

Mind-reading, or muscle-reading, slate-writing,
finding water with forked sticks, the pranks of the
Ouija board, and the whole series of wonder-working
powers, can all be resolved into this simple law of the
impulsive force of ideas. Hypnotism, in all its phases,
relies wholly upon the same power, and illustrates in
a remarkable way the might of an unhindered idea to
have its way with the individual under its spell.
Persons, moved by a suggested idea, swim in imaginary
waters ; make out wills to strangers ; stiffen their bodies
so as to bear immense weights; dance when they never
danced before in their lives; see through solid, opaque
walls; hear at great distances; see letters of micro-
scopic size; are blinded utterly to the presence of some
objects and some persons; can not feel pain when told
not to. Dr. Esdraile, of Calcutta, performed hundreds
of operations upon patients without an anaesthetic.
These and thousands of other examples of the profound
and mysterious power somehow connected with ideas,
make the working of this law in our every-day lives in
each and every so-called voluntary act a matter past
doubt. The power may be escaped by rejecting the
idea; the power may be used for good or evil; the
power itself may be the manifestation of some person-
ality or personalities; of these items no man is sure.
But of the existence of the power and the opportunity
of using it beneficently for leading men and women


and children, either by the long process of constant
suggestion, or by the more startling and sudden process
of conversion into lives devoted to Jesus Christ and
His kingdom, there can be no doubt. Ideas and
action, ideals and conduct, this relationship is fixed
and predetermined, and the one follows the other with
almost fatal invariability.

Surely it must be inspiring to the minister of God,
to the patient, and sometimes uncertain, Sunday-school
teacher, to know that he is a coworker with God, who
gives him access to a wondrous power. That power
is always there. Like the rays of the ether ready to
speak through the wireless transmitter; like the power
of electricity here from the beginning of time; like
the torrential falls of Niagara waiting only to be
harnessed, converted and directed — so this mighty
power lies ready to be used by the servants of God
who will harness it to dominating personalities, trans-
form it into precise and passionate pictures of the
Saviour, and connect it, by the confident testimony of
tongue and pen, with the lives of those ignorant of
the saving power of Christ. Sometimes the power
does not manifest itself immediately; the seed remains
long dormant. The son of a rich American father, a
waster and a wastrel, a derelict in an opium-den in
far-away China, one night heard again the words of
his long-dead Sunday-school teacher, her ideals for
him, her hopes for his life, her prayers for his sal-
vation, and they seized him in that moment with such
power that he gradually rebuilt himself with the help
of God into a decent man and a Christian. Dr. Lyman
B. Sperry used to tell about an engineer on a passenger
train one day passing a long freight train on the op-
posite track. Just as the engines passed each other

a couple of empty box-ears on the freight train jumped
the track and toppled over in front of the speeding
express. Not a moment intervened; the engineer of
the express reached over, and, instead of shutting off
the steam, threw his throttle wide open, with the re-
sult that the already flying engine leaped forward
with a new spurt, cut through the freight cars and
the train came to a stop on the other side without
injury to any one. The passengers, unhurt, but shaken,
crowded out of the cars, took in the situation and then
a group crowded around the man at the throttle with
expressions of gratitude and thanks for their lives.
”How did you think of that?” one asked; ”you had
not a moment to act; how could you be so cool under
that excitement and do the right thing in an instant?”
“I did not think of it in an instant,” replied the engi-
neer, “for I have been thinking for the past three
years that if ever I was caught in a place like that, I
would not attempt to shut off steam, but I would pull
the throttle wide open and cut through. When I was
confronted with the situation, I did not think; it did

Lastly, a man will be what he thinks. Quotations
we could give; illustrations from science could be
culled; history would yield its quantum, and daily life
would open its stores to the observing, and all would
testify to this law. Hypnotism might be invoked to
show how suggestion and auto-suggestion operate to
affect, not only the mind and morals, but the body it-
self. Water, declared to be wine, makes a hypnotized
drinker drunk; mustard plasters refuse to blister
when ordered not to do so; imaginary porous plas-
ters leave their marks upon the skin ; cold water scalds ;
cold pencils, imagined to be hot irons, raise blisters;

all these seeming impossibilities have been, and are
being, performed by scientists under laboratory con-
ditions of the most exacting kind.

All the above-mentioned events are expressions of
power — power somehow connected with ideas. These
ideas not only operate, but they operate injuriously
or beneficently as they convey good or bad meanings.
Ideas are lodged in the minds of persons so affected
by the ordinary means of communication; some peo-
ple can be affected far more mightily than others;
all can be affected to some degree. The effect depends
upon the presence or absence, dominance or weakness
of other ideas simultaneously in consciousness. Not
even the church-member who regularly takes his Sun-
day nap in his pew can escape altogether. Professor
Mosso, an Italian scientist, found a man who had
been wounded in such a manner that a hole was left
in his skull even after the edges of the wound entire-
ly healed. Through that artificial orifice. Dr. Mosso
attached an instrument resting upon the man’s brain,
and connected the instrument with electric wires, so
that any brain change of the subject would be re-
corded upon a moving paper. When the man was
sound asleep and some one opened his door, though
he did not awaken, the indicator showed his brain
was slightly affected. If his name was whispered, a
greater impression was made; if his name was spoken
out loud, it made a relatively startling impression
though the man himself remained sound asleep. Be
not discouraged, preacher and teacher; there is a real
might in the ”foolishness of preaching,” though your
auditors do not always seem to hear.

Some years ago an American stood with others in
the Louvre, in Paris, gazing at a wonderful painting

of Christ. Something unique was there, something
seeming to surpass human technique, so that that pic-
ture was always surrounded by its little crowd of
worshipers. ”I’d like to see the man that could
paint like that” sighed the American. An ever-
courteous Frenchman turned, and said, ”You can see
the artist any day; he is Herr Hoffman; his studio
is near here,” and he added the directions. The next
morning the American called at the studio, found the
door open, saw that no one was within, and entered.
The walls all round were covered from floor to ceiling
with studies and sketches and finished paintings of
the Christ, which the visitor began to study. There
was Jesus, the babe in his mother’s arms; the boy of
twelve in Jerusalem; the young man in the carpenter
shop ; Jesus baptized ; the Master stilling the waves on
Galilee; the loving Saviour raising the dead and open-
ing the eyes of the blind and unstopping the ears
of the deaf; the lonely Jesus fighting out his battle
in Gethsemane ; and, finally, the Saviour of humanity
lifted up on dark Calvary for the sins of the world.
The American so lost himself in these works that he
did not notice he was near the door until he heard
a step; the door opened, and for a moment the
beholder thought he was confronted by the reincar-
nated Christ. It was an old man, it is true, with a
long, white beard and silvery hair, but with something
in his face that was in every one of those pictures.
It was Herr Hoffman himself; at one time in his life
a man who looked like other men, but who had caught
a vision of his Lord and had spent his life trans-
ferring that vision to canvas. And through the years,
as he had been pouring his soul into his task, the
master Artist of all the world had reached down from

heaven an invisible hand and had carved in the linea-
ments of the painter’s face the vision hidden in his
heart. So we all, with unveiled faces beholding His
image as in a mirror, are changed into His image from
glory to glory.

This is the true Christian education, the content
of which is epitomized by Paul in his victory cry,
”I know Him.” It will come by the law and the
grace of God to all those who will see and hear, under-
stand with their hearts, and allow the vision of the
perfect Man to work His will in their conduct and
their character. There need be no struggle, no
agonizing, no battle with tears and groans; nothing
but a complete following of the rules to hear and
see, to attend the house of God, the unceasing prayer,
the daily reading of the Word, the deep, quiet brood-
ing under the Spirit; in short, the following faithfully
of the blessed means to keep the image of Him, who
transforms us by the renewing of our thought of Him,
clear and clean before the inner eye.