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From Natural to Spiritual Religion

From Natural to Spiritual Religion

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
By Stopford A. Brooke, M.A


February 26, 1910

" The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made."
ROM. i. 20.
By Stopford A. Brooke, M.A


February 26, 1910

" The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world
are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made."
ROM. i. 20.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 14, 2013
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FROM ATURAL TO SPIRITUAL RELIGIOBy Stopford A. Brooke, M.AFebruary 26, 1910" The invisible things of Him from the creation of the worldare clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made."ROM. i. 20.JOY, peace, and light are the things we most enjoyin ature, and the deepest lessons we learn fromher are those which these qualities bring to us.They are always present in her kingdom. In amoment we can have them if we have the heartto feel them, and the spirit which can claim them.But if our spirit be oppressed with wrong-doing,or our heart troubled by a self-indulgent sorrow,we do not receive these gifts from ature weimpose, on the contrary, our sorrow or remorseon her. We turn her joy into pain, her peace intostorm, her light into darkness. The river mourns,we think, as it ripples over the shallow ; the quietcloud seems to gather the thunder in its breast ;the sweet sunshine is bitter in our eyes. We havelaid our own burden on the innocent world. Westrive to force the whole creation into sympathywith our travail. And so much is this the habitof many that they have made the mistake of thinking that ature has no reality, no life, exceptin their life. "We receive," they say, " from heronly what we give ; her life is only the eddyingof our living soul." Yet, even while they holdthat she is but the projection of their own mind,they still talk and write of her as if she couldspeak to them and feel with them.This is an example of the truth of things beingtoo much for the theory. According to the theory,there is no outward ature at all ; so that whenthey say, as they frequently do say, that aturesympathizes with them, they are, in reality, sayingthat they are sympathizing with themselves. It
 
is also plain that this notion, were it true, wouldbe fatal to any conception of ature as pervadedand developed by a living Being who takes init a different form from that He takes in humanity ;whose thought and love in her are different fromHis thought and love in us ; who can speak tous from ature, impress us from her, in a differentfashion from that in which He speaks and impressesus through human nature, and who opens to usfrom her doings different secrets of His beingand a different life of His from those He revealsto us through humanity. This latter conceptionof ature was that which Wordsworth held, andit is a high and noble imagination of her. Hisidea was : That since God is in ature in a differentway from that in which He is in us, ature hasa life peculiar to herself and distinct from ours.ATURAL TO SPIRITUAL RELIGIO 73She may therefore be conceived as able to give of herself to us, and perhaps to receive from ussomething of our life.This dim conception pervades a great deal of thework of modern imagination in poetry, fiction, and thearts. It is plain that it represents a whole world of vague experiences. If, then, this conception haveany reality behind it, it would be strange if aturecould not bring us some truth, some help ; if theform of God's life which abides in her could notspeak to that other form of God's life which isin our hearts. And it seems that she can do so,but only under conditions conditions we mustfulfil in order to gain any good from her.When we live the life of joy, or peace, orlight ; when our hearts are open to receive throughself-abandonment and humility ; when we are freefrom the world, and longing to lose ourselves inbeauty, truth, and purity ; when neither greed of wealth, nor false love, nor vile remorse, nor selfishsorrow, nor vanity, nor mad endeavour, overwhelmour inner being, then ature answers our life withher own stream of life ; then she sends her deep quiet
 
to restore our heart or to increase our peace ; then,by kindling in us new thoughts, admirations, sacredfears and loves, by infinite visions and strange sur-prises, she rains upon us showers of the light whosesource is on the hills of heaven.But when we are in opposite conditions to these,enthralled by evil passions, sorrows, or selfishness,she says nothing sympathetic to us, and we are74 ATURAL TO SPIRITUAL RELIGIOdeaf to her voices. She may be distressed (if Imay express what I mean in that human fashion)by our ugly and disordered condition, but theway she has then of meeting us is not the wayof sympathy. What she does, or seems to do, isto display before us a condition of things oppositeto ours. She shows us all her forms of joy whenwe are in sorrow ; she spreads her infinite quietbefore our petulant restlessness ; she opens out herserene order before our tangled soul ; her renewalof life before our hateful apathy ; her wise destruc-tion of exhausted forms of life before our basecontentment with decay. She pours out her wealthof life before the death of our soul, her steadycertainties before our wavering doubt, her content-ment before our greed and recklessness, her un-broken obedience to law before our rebellious self-will. o sympathy whatever with our diseasedsoul only silent rebuke. This is her way ; and itoften makes us wild with anger. But she will notrelax a jot. And her hope is or rather, the hopeof the life of God in her is that perchance, whenwe are tired of our wrong-doing, sick of ourself-communion, we may, induced and inspired byher display of truths opposed to our follies, bringour life, God's Spirit working with us, out of this troubled, disordered, and foolish condition intothat harmony with her which enables her to speak with us as a friend, and not as an enemy.But till we change, she will not be kindly. Wemay weep out our very heart upon her breast, and

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