NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL FORCES

This entry is part of 21 in the series article 27

" Truth shall flourish out of the earth, and righteousness shall look 
down from heaven." PSALMS Ixxxv. n. 

IN September, 1656, Oliver Cromwell delivered a 
remarkable speech at the opening of the second pro- 
tectorate Parliament of England. The whole speech 
is remarkable, but the close especially is most unlike 
to anything which before or since has been addressed 
to any national political assembly. After speaking 
on many things of public interest, he suddenly turns 
and tells the representatives of England that he 
"did read a psalm yesterday, which truly may not 
unbecome both me to tell of and you to observe." 
The rest of his speech is a strange sort of commen- 
tary and meditation on this 85th Psalm, from which 
I take my text. When he approaches the end of it, 
we seem to hear his rough voice glow and tremble 
and grow deep as he rehearses the great prophecy : 
" Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness 
and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall 
spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look 
down from heaven. Yea, the Lord shall give that 
which is good, and our land shall yield her increase." 
Before how many other eyes that vista has been 
opened, and the vision of these words has glowed ! 
What hope it has awakened and kept undyingly 
alive this great, glowing prophecy which falls in 
words of matchless music at the end of the 85th 
Psalm of David ! 

Let us study that prophecy a while, and study it 
in the only way in which a prophecy ever ought to 
be studied, as an illumination of present life and a 
guide to present conduct. It may be the worst 
thing possible for us to have the curtain drawn 
aside, and be allowed to revel in the prospect of the 
glorious days that are to be, unless we turn back, 
with our eyes full of that prospect, and understand 
more deeply by its light the poor, blurred, strug- 
gling Present in the midst of which we are still living. 
The almost fatal fault of a great deal of personal 
religion has been that it has gloried in the hope of 
heaven, but has not let that hope play freely on the 
ordinary life of earth, to illuminate its problems, to 
rebuke its baseness, and to inspire its duties. Let 
us not deal so with this prophecy. Let us try to 
understand what sort of a life that will be in which 
truth springs out of the earth and righteousness 
looks down from heaven, so that we may see how 
far our life is from being that to-day, and perhaps 
may discover how we can bring it now a little nearer 
to the realization of that picture. 

The point of the prophecy seems then to lie in 
this, that earth and heaven, the lower and the higher 
world, are represented as co-operating to produce 
the high condition which is promised. There are 
two natural meanings, it seems to me, of such a 
representation. 

First and most literally, I take the earth to mean 
that world of forces which have their origin in the 
nature of this familiar planet where we live. It is 
the visible and tangible world, a world which we 
think that we understand because it is presenting 
itself to our senses all the time. Heaven, on the 
other hand, is the mysterious world that is invisible, 
the world in the existence of which some men are 
always trying to convince themselves that they do 
not believe, but which the race of men is never able 
to let go, the great mysterious world which we in 
general call the supernatural. 

How these two words, earth and heaven, repre- 
sent the two great divisions of the thought of man ! 
When you look abroad over a wide, open country, 
there are two parts of what you see ; one, the green 
earth with its bright fields and sombre forests, and 
rivers and lakes, with its trees and houses, fences 
and barns, and all the clear signs of man's activity; 
and the other, the blue sky, the birthplace of the 
winds, the home of sunlight and of stars, as mys- 
terious and far-away as the first one is close by and 
familiar. And as the horizon at once separates 
these two and joins them to each other, and he 
who watches stands between the two, between the 
heavens and the earth, and feels his one world made 
of the two together; so all man's thinking goes on 
between the natural and supernatural, between the 
simple, definite, familiar operations of practical life, 
the buying and the selling, the building and delving 
and contriving, the social relationships and govern- 
mental operations, which make the movement of the 
earth; and, on the other hand, the vague, unac- 
countable, transcendental influences which come out 
of the realm of unseen things, the regions where 
supernal beings live, the home to which the dead 
have gone, and where the yet unborn are waiting 
for their day to live, the heavens and hells, the 
House where God is as He is not here, the whole 
great universe which comes not to the knowledge 
of the eye or ear, but in which man believes by the 
subtler witness which it bears of itself directly to 
the soul. 

I assume the existence of these two regions. The 
first, no man denies. We see and feel it every day. 
The second, man believes in, however men have 
now and then denied it. 

And now the promise is that these two worlds are 
some day to come to perfect harmony and co-opera- 
tion, and to conspire to influence the life of man. 
The truth which springs out of the one shall also 
drop out of the other. The great perfection is to 
come by the moral unity of heaven and earth, not 
as something worked out by the machinery of the 
lower world, its government and society and trade 
and study gradually accomplishing for itself man's 
highest good ; nor, on the other hand, dropped out 
of heaven ready-made, a blessing in whose accom- 
plishment the earth has had no share ; not in either 
of these ways, but as the result of their mutual 
effort, the fruit of lower and higher forces both 
working together for the highest moral ends, so 
will the "far-off divine event, to which the whole 
creation moves," at last be reached. 

Let us consider very carefully and clearly just 
what it is that is involved in such a prophecy as this. 
Think what the promise that it gives us is. Think 
also what the limitations of that promise are. It 
says to every man who is trying to do right, and 
finding the struggle very hard to every man who, 
trying to do right, has summoned to his aid all the 
best influences which this earthly life can furnish, 
and who has learned by sad experience to fear that 
they are not sufficient, to every such man it says 
that there are other influences which are trying to 
help him coming out of higher regions than this 
earth. "The heavens are helping you," it says. 
"The world of spirits is your ally. The unseen uni- 
verse is on your side. In ways you cannot guess, 
with an intimacy of approach which you can never 
know, righteousness is looking down from heaven 
on your endeavor to be a righteous man." That is 
a splendid assurance. But see how very definite it 
is. It is all moral. It promises nothing but right- 
eousness out of heaven. 

Now, when I think how men have dealt with their 
belief in the unseen world, I am struck by the 
thought that what they have mostly asked of that 
world has been something else than righteousness, 
and therefore does not fall within the lines of this 
great promise. Think of it ! The old astrologers 
questioned the stars to know their fates. They 
waited and listened night after night to hear some 
message out of the sky, to tell them where they 
were to seek their fortunes, how long they were to 
live, and when they were to die. The modern 
Spiritualist tries to peer through the veil which 
separates the living from the dead, and what he 
mainly promises himself is consolation, some miti- 
gation of the awful loneliness which fills his empty 
house. The Christian Scientist thinks he feels the 
whole air thrilling with power from the depths of 
the unseen, and it seems to be to him almost entirely 
the power of physical healing; he is to have his 
sickness cured. The great ghost-haunted world has 
rung with inquiries for the satisfaction of its curiosity, 
but certainly not with cravings for a purer life and a 
more steadfast strength against temptation. Wealth, 
comfort, health, knowledge, these are all good 
things, no doubt. If the unseen world can give them 
to us, it is right that we should take them. But they 
are not the greatest things. Not one of them is abso- 
lutely necessary. Righteousness, goodness, strength 
of character, those are the only things which a true 
man must have, things which he cannot live without. 
And so I cannot help believing that a large part of 
man's questioning of the unseen world has been 
futile because he has not questioned it for the one 
thing which it was eager to bestow. He has asked 
it to make him rich, to give him consolation, to cure 
his sickness, and not above and before all other 
things to give him righteousness. 

Here comes forth one of the great glories of the 
Christian faith. Christianity is a perpetual assertion 
of the moral purpose of the relations between man 
and the unseen world. In it the mists grow thin, 
the curtain falls. It is a revelation. But a revela- 
tion of what? Only and always of that regarding 
God and heaven whereby man may grow better, 
braver, stronger, purer. It is not a revelation of 
the essential nature of God, nor of the conditions 
of His everlasting life; not of what God is, but of 
what He does ; yet not of what He does in the great 
universe or in the region of pure power; nor of how 
He made the worlds and of how He will bring the 
worlds to the catastrophe in which they shall perish ; 
but of what He does to us to which our life ought 
to respond ; of how He loves us, of how He com- 
mands us. Wherever men have tried to force Chris 
tianity beyond its appointed purpose, they have 
evidently been doing it violence ; and it has always 
resented the violence they did it by losing its power, 
and ceasing to give them its best blessing. 

Here has been the birthplace of evil dogmatism. 
Men have said to Christianity, "Tell us how old the 
world is! Tell us the composition of the Divine 
Being. Tell us how long and in what way God 
means to punish the wicked. Tell us what God re- 
quired before He could forgive mankind." And 
always the answers which they thought they got to 
those questions came to them hard and rigid, and 
bred in them bitter and uncharitable dispositions. 
But whenever men have begged of their great Re 
ligion simply the influence which should make them 
better men, saying, "Oh, drive out our sin, and fill 
us with holiness, with unselfishness, with truthful- 
ness! " she has responded with a quickness and pro- 
fusion which showed that now, at least, they had 
touched the key of her true purpose ; now they had 
summoned her to the task which she most loved, 
and for which she recognized that she was made ! 

Is such a definition and limitation of its purpose a 
degradation of our great Faith? Is it a demand that 
she shall abdicate the highest offices and count her- 
self fit only for a lower task? Surely not so! It is 
the crowning of her with the hardest duty that any 
power can undertake upon the earth. We do not 
know what force might be needed to remove moun- 
tains, to pluck the Himalayas from their seat and 
toss them into the midst of the astonished sea; we 
only know that it must be a force so different in 
kind as to be incomparable with the other kind of 
force by which a human nature shall be changed 
down to its root and a bad man be made good. 
But the longer we live, the more certainly we come 
to know that no force of any kind can be greater or 
more glorious than this which undertakes to regen- 
erate a human life. Who would not rather trans- 
form badness into goodness than read the secrets of 
the stars or turn the ocean from its bed? So hard 
to do, so great a triumph when it is done, appears 
to us as we grow older the conquering of these wild 
passions and the bringing out of the possibilities of 
a human soul ! 

It is a moral power, then, that the unseen world 
is to exert upon our human life. And then, the 
next question rises ; whether it is possible for us to 
know the nature of that influence. How can the 
parts of the universe which we do not see make it 
possible for us to live better lives here in our earthly 
homes? It is a great question. We cannot know 
all its answer. But we may know something of it. 
We may say at least this : that the very knowledge 
that the unseen world is moral must bring strength 
and clearness to the moral life of any human being 
who apprehends that truth. 

Do you see what I mean? Here is a man trying 
to do right, and finding it very hard. He hears 
men all about him calling him a fool because he 
tries. He sees men all about him acting as if there 
were no difference of right and wrong. His own 
heart is full of misgivings. He is sorely tempted. 
His passions rise up against his principles, and de- 
nounce them as tyrants. Tell me, will it be any- 
thing nay, will it not be everything to that man 
if he can know that the right and wrong which make 
the subjects of his hourly struggles are things not 
only of this narrow earth of his, but of the whole 
wide universe? Will it not be everything to him to 
know that there is no world, out to the farthest 
bounds of space, in which it is not wrong to lie or 
steal, or to do impurity ; no world where it is not 
good for any being, of whatever most exalted or 
degraded sort he may be, to tell the truth, to be 
pure, and to forget himself in serving others? 

Only suppose the opposite of that. Suppose that 
the poor creature struggling to do right, here upon 
our earth, with so much here against him, came to 
know that all this distinction between right and 
wrong was a purely local thing ; that all the beings 
of the unseen worlds knew nothing of it, that there 
was a whole universe in which happy and effective 
life went on without any dream of there being any- 
thing disorderly in stealing, or lying, or murdering, 
or being selfish. Would not his feeble struggle 
grow far feebler still? Would not morality often 
seem to him like a mere provincial prejudice? 
Would not his fight often seem to him but a fruit- 
less folly? Would not truth cease to spring out of 
the earth when righteousness had ceased to look 
down from heaven? 

We can easily see how the same thing is true upon 
a smaller scale. Here is some man in a barbarian 
country, in Timbuctoo or Madagascar. A spark of 
divine fire has fallen into his heart, and has kindled 
there the fuel of his better nature. He has rebelled 
against the brutality and wickedness by which he is 
surrounded. He has begun to struggle for a better 
life. Truth has sprung out of the gross earth of his 
savage circumstances. The savage men around him 
laugh at him. They hate him. Even if their hearts 
admire him, they think his poor struggle the most 
hopeless dream. Hundreds of times, in his despon- 
dent moods, the poor fellow is ready to think so 
himself. 

Then suppose that for a moment the curtain can 
be lifted which hides from him the world of civilized 
and Christian life. Suppose that some voice finds 
its way across the seas, to tell this solitary struggler 
that there are lands in which the struggle which in 
his island seems so exceptionally strange is the 
accepted law of life ; that there are lands where the 
things he seeks are recognized as the only worthy 
prizes of a human soul, the things without the at- 
tainment of which any life is a wretched failure. A 
breath out of this great tempest of desire for more 
perfect human living, which we call civilization, 
strays in and blows with coolness and refreshment 
on his heated forehead. Is he not filled with new 
courage? Does not the impossible grow possible to 
him as he listens? These distant, unseen lands, 
where higher life is lived, are to him a very heaven. 
To see righteousness looking down out of that 
heaven makes the ground under his feet to blossom 
with new hope. Behold ! the love of beauty, the 
culture of character, the desire for progress, the 
service of fellow-man they are not dreams ! They 
are realities ! The best parts of the world are full 
of their realization now. He who in barbarism 
imagines them, and struggles for them, has only 
caught sight of what it really is to be a man. 

Is not our illustration perfect? Must it not be 
that if to you and me there can be made known 
simply this with regard to heaven not where it is, 
not what the blessed souls are doing there, but only 
this that there goodness is the power of life, and 
that goodness there is of the same essence exactly 
as goodness here, if this can be made known to 
us, are we not strong? Is there not in us then the 
power of martyrdom? Is not ridicule robbed of its 
sting? Is not our little, dusty struggle dignified 
and glorified when it is seen to be a true effort of 
loyalty to the same great Master who "preserves 
the stars from wrong," and by whom the eternal 
heavens "are fresh and strong"? Do we not fight 
with new courage against our Sisera when we know, 
as Deborah sang in her great song, that the stars 
in their courses are fighting against him, too? 

Can we know that? Can we be sure of such a 
pervasive morality filling the universe like a life- 
blood? or is this which I have been saying only a 
splendid theory? I am not sure that there is not 
something in the very moral sense itself, which, to 
one who is truly in its power, proclaims its univer- 
sality, some intuition which makes the struggler 
after goodness anywhere absolutely sure that there 
can be no most transcendental land wherein that 
same struggle is not going on. How that may be, 
I do not know. But the real assurance that the 
universe is all pervaded by morality comes to us, 
I believe, not from that intuition, but from the 
belief in God, and therefore has its full strength 
only when the belief in God is fully strong. This 
is one of the many ways in which religion and 
morality are bound together. God fills the universe 
with Himself, and is the principle of its life; and 
God is essentially and necessarily moral. Therefore 
no part of the universe which He thus fills with 
Himself can be unmoral. Right and wrong must 
be the critical distinction everywhere, because He 
is everywhere and everything is His. That is the 
argument. It rests on the identity of God and the 
essentialness of the moral element in His nature. 

I can conceive of there being regions which God 
governs, to which He has not made known truths 
which He has shown to us. There may be realms 
in His dominion which know nothing of some 
manifestations of His power with which we are 
most familiar. But that God should be the God of 
any farthest star which carries inhabitants capable 
of morality, of any highest heaven or deepest hell ; 
and yet, that those distant regions know nothing 
of the difference of right and wrong that is in- 
credible! "Thus saith the Lord, The Heaven is 
my throne and the earth is my foostool. Throne 
and footstool are full of the nature of the one same 
God. It cannot be that the throne is ignorant of 
that power of His Presence which gives to the foot- 
stool its deepest and highest glory. 

Just think what meaning this truth gives to the 
Incarnation, to the visible coming of God into the 
world in Jesus Christ. Out of a heaven all full of 
the power of morality, a heaven where the right is 
supremely glorious, and the wrong is supremely 
horrible, the God in whom that morality of the 
heavens consists comes forth into our earth, where 
the same morality, the same distinction of right and 
wrong exist, but far more feebly, more cloudily and 
dimly. "What illumination will follow wherever 
He shall go!" we say. "How, as He treads the 
earth, goodness the most despised will lift its humble 
head, and wickedness, however splendid, will cower 
and shrivel!" It will be to return a moment to 
our illustration it will be as if the citizen of civilized 
Europe went with his Christian standards to Mada- 
gascar and walked among the savages. The souls 
that dreamed of progress and of holiness will know 
him and be strong. The brutal and barbarian ty- 
rants will be ashamed through all their brutality. 

And think what will be the joy of him who brings 
the illumination. I love to think of the self-con- 
sciousness of Christ. How radiantly full of joy it 
must have been ! Even although the torch which 
He brings must be held up at last upon a cross, 
what then? The joy of making the universe of His 
Father more perfect in its harmony, the joy of 
making earth hear and respond to the righteousness 
of heaven, what is the suffering of the cross to that ! 
Oh, if any of us could only be Christ, it would be so 
easy for us to die like Christ ! The cross did not 
increase, but only manifested His Divinity. 

This truth does not exhaust our subject. I do not 
doubt for a moment that there are more active min- 
istries which the righteousness of heaven renders to 
the truth of earth than those which belong simply 
to its existence, those which result necessarily from 
the fact that the worlds of unseen life are moral. I 
do not doubt, though no man ever can reduce it to 
an exact science and tell its methods and its laws, 
I do not doubt that there is ever flowing out a great 
active influence from all the worlds in which right- 
eousness is established as the law of life, to help 
this poor world of ours, and to help every soul in it 
that is trying to be good. We are so slow to think 
that there are any ways in which soul may help 
soul, besides the few poor ways we know ! We 
limit help to sight and sound and touch. Who can 
say, who can believe, that it is not possible for every 
righteous soul in heaven to help every soul striv- 
ing for righteousness here on earth, with a help just 
as true, though unseen and unheard, as that with 
which a strong man lifts a weak man who has fallen 
in the ditch, or a wise man guides a foolish man with 
a whisper in his ear? It can be so. No man can 
say it is impossible. In highest moods we feel their 
presence with a sense deeper than the senses. The 
spirits of the universe are helping us ; and most of 
all, the Spirit of God, in whom the universe abides 
and is forever righteous and forever one. 

In such active ministry of the unseen worlds to 
the earth in which we live, I do indeed believe. 
But now, I would go back and fasten your remem- 
brance on that of which I have been mostly speak- 
ing: The universe is moral. Even in their mere 
passive character and being, the unseen worlds are 
full of help for every righteous soul. Tell me, my 
friends, is not this a truth for you to teach your 
children, something for you to give them very early, 
so that they may live by it all their lives? They ask 
you, perhaps in curious words, perhaps only in the 
inquiry of wondering faces and of actions which 
are evidently feeling about for their best motives, 
why they should do right. You try to answer them. 
You point them first, no doubt, to their own natures. 
It is written there that right is right, and wrong is 
wrong, and that to do the right and not the wrong 
is the only possible true life for them. That is ab- 
solute. That would abide even if there were no 
other moral being in all the wide universe except 
this child of yours. 

But the child is not the only moral being. You 
tell him about God, that his Heavenly Father wants 
him to be righteous, that He will be displeased and
sorry if His child is wicked. That would be true if 
he and God were all alone, if there were no other 
moral being in the universe but just those two. 
But there are others, and so you go on and tell him 
how all the best men whom he knows are struggling 
against temptation just as you bid him struggle. 
Then you enlarge the field. You give him books 
to read, or you take him travelling from land to 
land, and point out to him that this moral struggle 
is not a thing of his country or race alone, but is 
wherever man is throughout the wide world. Then, 
wider still, you lift the veil of History and show him 
that all the noble souls in all the ages were moral, too, 
all elder brethren of his in this desire to be good. 
You make yourself a prophet, and assure him that, 
however man may change in future ages, still, until 
man ceases to be man, this search for character must 
be the endless aspiration of his race. Then you 
take his hand and lead him out of the world of man 
into the world of lower nature ; and even there you 
let him see how a blind craving for something which 
corresponds to righteousness in man is visible, a 
struggle to obey its law and to fulfil its purpose even 
in beast and weed. All this you do to make him 
brave and strong. 

Have you done all you can? Suppose that then 
you can open some inner eye in himself, so that the 
universe of unseen worlds shall all be visibly alive 
with this same struggle ; suppose that you can un 
stop some inner ear so that out of the farthest 
depths of space shall be heard the universal voice 
praising righteousness as the great, the only worthy 
and sufficient, end of being ; have you not filled him 
with a strength which never can fail, a strength 
which will come pouring in to aid him in many a 
weak moment and lift him out of many a despond- 
ing slough? It is the strength of infinite companion- 
ships. His smallest act of duty is done in company, 
hot only with Paul and Plato, but with natures 
whose names he cannot guess, who fill the depths 
of space and the sublimest heights of heaven. The 
breath of eternal sympathy will lift his dull resolu- 
tion as the winds out of the farthest north or south 
lay themselves under the ship's sluggish sails and 
urge it on its way. 

Three of the greatest embarrassments which come 
to a man who, in public or in private life, in the 
great worlds of government or men or in the little 
world of his own soul, sets out to struggle after 
righteousness are these: the sense of loneliness, 
the sense of unnaturalness, and the sense of hope- 
lessness. It seems to him sometimes as if he works 
alone, as if the whole world around him cared noth- 
ing for that on which his heart is set. It seems 
sometimes as if the nature of things sets the other 
way, and as if, in everlastingly resisting his own 
passions and the currents of established life, he were 
doing something against nature, something which is 
almost monstrous. And then these two impressions 
combine to make a dull sense of despair, in which he 
labors on, perhaps, but without buoyancy or hope. 
Do you not see how it must go far to dissipate these 
embarrassments if, on his struggles after goodness, 
righteousness shall look down from heaven? Lo ! 
he is not alone! The universe is with him. Lo! 
what he does is not unnatural. The truest nature 
of things is all upon his side. It is sin that is un- 
natural, not goodness ; and success, so far from be-
ing hopeless, is absolutely sure, the surest thing in 
the universe of God. 

This is what you are to teach your child ; this is 
what you are to hold fast to for yourself the sym- 
pathy and companionship of the unseen worlds. 
No doubt it is best for us now that they should be 
unseen. It cultivates in us that higher perception 
which we call "faith," which is as truly perception 
as is the sight of the eyes. But who can say that 
the time will not come when, even to those who still 
live here upon the earth, the unseen worlds shall 
no longer be unseen? In all times there have been 
men who, at special moments, have seemed to see 
beyond the ordinary bounds of sense, and actually 
with their eyes to behold the forms of beings who 
belonged not to the earth but to the heavens. Who 
can say that some day, centuries off, when the old 
world shall be far older still, and shall have been puri- 
fied by vastly more of pain and labor, it may not be 
given to men to see those beings of other worlds 
than ours who, even now, are round us, and who, 
we know, are living and seeking the same righteous- 
ness with us? 

How that may be we cannot know. But certainly 
our thoughts on this subject ought to have thrown 
some light forward into the great mystery of death. 
It ought to let us see in death all the light we really 
need to see, for if all that I have said is true, then 
must it not also be true that the man who has striven 
after goodness here, and at last, after his years of 
striving which so often seemed to be lonely and 
hopeless, dies, is it not true that he goes into a 
companionship and a certainty which has been pre- 
paring for him all his life? The spirit passes into 
other worlds, and lo ! the faces which he meets upon 
the shore are not strange but familiar. He knows 
the passion in those eyes. He understands the 
resolution of those ardent lips. It is his own eager- 
ness for goodness which he finds here in the heaven, 
out of which for years he has dimly felt it looking 
down. Death has brought him to his own. 

The universe is large, far larger than we think, 
but there is no portion of it so far away, so splendid 
or mysterious, that it does not send us messages 
bidding us and helping us to be pure and brave and 
true and faithful in these common tasks and simple 
duties which God has appointed for us on the earth.
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