THE WILL OF GOD BY THE AUTHOR OF "PRO CHRISTO ET ECCLESIA

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When Milton, in Samson Agonistes, makes his hero say, speaking of physical strength — God, when he gave me strength, to show withal How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair — he incidentally expresses a time-worn belief of the Church that physical strength is unimportant. Without regarding this as a Christian idea, we agree that the whole value of physical health is in its use. In these days, when there is a cult of health and physical development, we are familiar with people who live to preserve their health or to restore it, fidgeting about the world for climates and diets and exercises — people whose lives grow more and more insignificant, until, should they attain to the utmost physical perfection, they would have reached only a condition which they would share with almost all animals. Animal health, which has no dignity as an end for human life, has dignity and worth as an instrument of the mind, and is its necessary instrument. 1 The substance of this and the following chapter appeared as an article in the Hibbert Journal, April 1906. 232

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 233 If Jesus was the Saviour of the world, he certainly began his salvation with the bodies of men. After having endured in his own person the pains of hardship and exhaustion, and the special pressure of temptation upon physical weakness, he began, as the Revised Version has it, publicly to cure "all manner of disease and all

manner of sickness. And the report of him went forth into all Syria : and they brought unto him all that were sick, holden with divers diseases and torments, possessed with devils, and epileptic, and palsied, and he healed them." He gave physical health, and cast out all such evil forces as were not under the control of the human will. The first manifestation of his glory, according to St. John's Gospel, was at a marriage which he blessed by his presence, and by the gift of an abundant supply of the wine typical of that era of exalted physical life which it was, as it seemed, his mission to proclaim. The necessity which underlay the bestowal of this great gift of vitalising force for the body is explained in the Johannine Gospel when Jesus says that his works were one with the working of the Father through all time. "The intention of nature to heal," the preference of nature for health, of which science speaks, are but paraphrases for the law of God, the will of God, in the matter. Jesus seems to have taken all the popular beliefs of his era, as far as he thought they represented truth, and striven to bless and brake them for the multitude. He took the common belief in marvellous cures, and transmuted it into

234 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH book m a higher doctrine of the power of man and the invariable will of God. He taught that such cures were (i) the direct action of the finger of God; (2) the natural sequence to a definite attitude in the mind of man — not the mind of the healer, but of the sufferer or those responsible for him. The condition on which man could receive in his body more of the overflowing vitality of God he freely preached, which was simply the faith appertaining to the cure. Supposing the sort of cures Jesus worked to have been, as has been so clamorously asserted, actions on nature from beyond the region of nature,

nothing would be more remarkable than that the condition he required should have been this, and this only. He did not demand any moral standard, or the forming of any moral purpose; he did not ask for any loyalty to his kingdom. The body was made whole in every case of manifest desire or need, whether or not the desire extended to and procured spiritual blessing, and without any moralising on the uses of this form of adversity. In several cases warnings were added which showed all too clearly how little was to be expected for the future of those who had been cured. Thus it can hardly be supposed by the most didacticallyminded reader that any work of "spiritual" grace was wrought on the lepers who never even gave thanks. Where Jesus failed to evoke the psychic condition required, as at azareth, he was the first to proclaim that the law under which he worked was unalterable. But the faith which conditioned the action of God in merely curing the body seems

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 235 to have been so elementary that even in faithless azareth he could cure a few sick folk. The action of Jesus in devoting so large a part of his short ministry to the healing of the body, and his readiness to heal apartfrom any qualification except the desire or need of the sufferer, contradict two conventional Christian ideas, — that bodily welfare is unimportant, and that bodily healing was regarded by Jesus as merely the prelude to moral reformation. But, it will be said, surely pain is necessary and salutary because it is the consequence and punishment and cure of sin in the individual and in the race; Jesus cannot have dissociated pain and sin. To this it may be replied that it seems impossible to justify suffering as a cure for sin when experience shows it is quite as often a cause of sin. Further, we have to reckon with the

striking fact that Jesus plainly discountenanced the doctrine that suffering was the consequence of sin in the sufferer; and, in harmony with this, we have the fact, noticed in a former chapter, that suffering entailed by sin does not come to the guilty only, or to them in proportion to their guilt. But our contention here is not that sin and suffering are by Jesus dissociated, or can be dissociated, but rather that they are so closely associated as to be reciprocal parts of one great fact, and both to be warred against as offensive to God and inimical to man. The salvation of the inner life, which we believe lasts beyond death, by union with the life

236 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH of God, is to the religious mind so much more important than the salvation of the body that we cannot believe that Jesus, who was, if nothing more, the world's supreme religious genius, would have given half his attention to the salvation of this earthly body unless he had believed it to be essential to the full salvation of the spirit. Every Christian believes in one sense that health of body is necessary to the perfection of spiritual life, because he cannot think of a future salvation without the idea of perfection in a body or the equivalent of a body. It must be evident to the open mind that there is very little in the teaching of Jesus that can even suggest that he encouraged men to hope for a future salvation except as they experience it in this world; and the best Christian thought of every age, more especially of our own day, is eager to believe that salvation of the spirit is offered to us in this life. But we are in the throes of a transitional period, and we have not yet widely realised that if some perfect vehicle is necessary in the future to perfection of the spirit, so a healthy body must be necessary now to the highest degree of spiritual health attainable in this life. V/e are endeavouring to perpetuate false ideals of spiritual health, — ideals consistent with bodily weakness and disease — because

high spiritual attainments were certainly reached by the saints in a period when bodily strength was ignorantly supposed to be a hindrance to spiritual attainment. Our religious prejudices are still fed by the eminent devotion that we find in the memoirs of mediaeval ascetics, because we have

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 237 not realised that their spiritual life became lusty in spite of, not because of, their neglect of the body. A corporate prejudice is always the path of least resistance for the individual mind; and yet, at the door of our understanding the Christ would seem to wait, in simplicity offering a perfectly natural, because a perfectly divine, salvation. He has summoned many messengers who call to us with many voices to open and let this salvation in. In the first place we have the voice of philosophy, emphasising the essential oneness of body and mind. Take the words of our leading English psychologist: "To regard mind as the collateral product of its own external perceptions is simply to invert the facts. One might as well say that reflections produce their own mirror, or that houses evolve architects. We are led, in a word, to doubt that mind and matter can be dual realities, either phenomenal or ontal." And again, "Since all that we know and feel and do, all our facts and theories, all our emotions and ideals and ends, may be included in this one term — experience, it is by raising this question as to the nature of experience that, as I think, we shall see the untenability of dualism." * ext let us hear what medical science has to say: "My contention simply is that from the standpoint of general pathology all normal and morbid mental phenomena must be regarded merely as

1 Prof. James Ward, Sc.D., aturalism and Agnosticism, vol. ii. pp. 106, no.

238 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH book m the expression of the functional reaction of the organ concerned." * ext we come to the opinion of a physiologist. "A reflex has already taken place when the motor reaction of a cell is brought under the influence of an irritant. . . . The gesture by which we mechanically respond to the bow of another person is a reflex, an almost unconscious reflex when we bow abstractedly, a more complex reflex when we rapidly take in by the mind's eye the motives that prompted this act of politeness. And always and everywhere, whether it is a case of the action of the most humble organ or of the most exalted workings of our mind, it is just the same mechanism. ... A compliment tickles our self-esteem and influences our determinations. A cutting word excites our wrath and makes our blood boil. The involuntary gesture is associated with our mental reactions. . . . Physiology must undertake the work of pursuing the study of these reactions of the organism, whether they have to do with nutrition and the ordinary reproduction of all living beings, or with the simple psychic facts that are observed in animals, or the marvellous mechanism of the human mind in its highest manifestations. . . . "The simple idea of absolute or relative human liberty leads us to establish an essential difference between a fault of character and a mental malady. This distinction, and I cannot repeat it too often, is artificial and untenable. At what degree 1 From paper read before the British Medical Association, 1901, by W. Ford Robertson, M.D., pp. 67, 82-3.

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 239 do indecision, irritability, impressionability, and emotional disturbances become sicknesses ? Are sorrow and pessimism faults or illnesses ? In the mental domain it is still more impossible to try to make this distinction. It seems only to exist when one is looking at the extremes. It seems normal to us to be sad when we lose a friend, to be discouraged in the presence of failure; but we regard anybody as diseased who commits suicide in order to escape the perplexities to which we are all subjected. We all have our periods of indecision, which often appear exaggerated to the eyes of others; but we send a patient to a physician when he passes hours in agonising perplexity without being able to decide whether he will change his shirt to-day or to-morrow. . . . Properly speaking, then, psychology is only a chapter of physiology, of biology/' * Or let us listen to the cry of the practical religious reformer. The Jesuit tells us that if he has the custody of a child for its first seven years, by God's help he will form its life; and he does it. Who can hold a child morally responsible for the environment of its earlier years ? The revivalist cries, "Give me crowds, and music, and power of speech by which to excite their sensibilities, and God will snap the chains of habit and education that hold many individuals in the crowd, and start them on a new life from which they will not revert;" and it is done. Yet the hour and the music and the oratory are to men thus converted mere physical accidents. 1 Dr. Paul Dubois, Psychic Treatment of ervous Disorders*

2 4 o GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH Mind, independent of brain, is an assumption made because, on the whole, the functions of body and brain account for the self less adequately than does the assumption of mind. Mind, thought of apart, is hypothetical just as God is hypothetical,

and we may add, just as free will is hypothetical. All these conceptions are in the region of faith. We believe in the freedom of our wills, though determinism seems to be a fact of knowledge. We believe that mind can separate from body, but have no knowledge of the abstraction called "the soul/' We may be bewildered by the different standpoints from which our modern schools are showing us this mystery, asserting the oneness of spirit and body in various connections, but we can no longer set aside their many voices. One section of them tells us that the criminal is a criminal because of the defective bodily tissue that he has inherited, and therefore it is cruelty to attribute to him any personal moral failure, or punish him as a delinquent. Another set are telling us that, because parents will certainly transmit their own sins in defective physique to their children, their moral responsibility is heightened by that knowledge and extends, not only to the necessity of a higher moral life, but to the need for the most hygienic life, and that if they refuse to act up to this responsibility they should be judged and treated as criminals. Another set are telling us that, because our every fault is the result of some morbid functioning in the brain-cells, health rather than spiritual life is the counsel of per-

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 241 fection; while another and ever-growing school is declaring that most of our diseases proceed from the morbid action of the brain, which is caused by morbid thoughts under the control of the will, and that, by calling in the aid of religion or philosophy or morals, we can so exercise healthy thoughts as to cure our bodies and keep them in health. Who shall tell us the difference between the spiritual and physical life ? It would take too long to tell the innumerable aspects in which the unity of mind and matter is forcing itself upon us. The bearing of this unity upon the religious

theory of life is very close. If physical evil produces moral evil we can no longer believe that a God to whom moral evil is abhorrent is the author of our physical afflictions. Either moral evil must be within the scheme of God's special providence for the soaring soul, or else physical evil cannot be part of his providence. If we ought, in the name of all that is holy, to resign ourselves to bodily disease as his will, we ought to resign ourselves to sinfulness for the same reasons. If, on the other hand, he calls us, in his name and by his strength, to resist sin because it is loathsome to him, we must, for the same reason, resist disease. If the salvation from sin is by faith and through the energy of his supernatural life, we must, to hold him consistent, believe that he offers the same energy of supernatural life to be utilised by our faith against what is only another aspect of sin. or can we, with any consistency, distinguish between sin and the bodily results of sin by the

242 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH book m argument that it is his will that we suffer the results because the race has sinned. Take, for example, the case of a good man in the prime of life, living well by all the laws of hygiene, morals, and religion, who finds himself suddenly attacked by some hideous organic disease that cannot be attributed to his mode of life. The religious theory is that God sends the disease in order to do a work of grace in his soul which could not otherwise be done. If the man be in a gracious condition there is no doubt that he will be very conscious of unique nearness to God in the extremity of his need. Real, vital, as this experience in itself is, it proves nothing beyond itself. These hours of unique consciousness of God's presence — what are they ? Is a good man really nearer to God at one time than at another ? His consciousness of God's presence is due to the intense attention that he devotes to knocking at the door of God's own place, to seeking his

face, to asking for his grace. Was he incapable in health of devoting this attention ? Is it necessary to believe that God requires the whirlwind of emotion and the fire of pain in which to speak, and that in the quiet monotony of health and the normal exercise of benevolent activities for the spread of the kingdom he cannot make his still small voice heard ? In the meantime the sick man's benevolent activities for the world are stopped; the benevolent activities of his household are withdrawn from the world and centred upon him; the physical health of every one closely connected with him is lowered by

chap, vi THE WILL OF GOD 243 contact with pain and disease; the subjects of this contact are by such lowering made more liable to such disease, even if no contagious germs escape. Is the world so thoroughly saved that it can be through any will of God or his Christ that good men and women who are spending their lives for its salvation must concentrate all their energies in enduring or curing or solacing disease, in order that some vital hours of personal communion with God may be attained ? or, because such is the present order of things, ought that mere fact to induce the Christian mind to believe that the order is of God. "Whatever is, is right" must apply to all vice if it is accepted as a principle. How often are we confronted with the saying that it is the good and the lovely who die young, the useful and the loving who are cut off in their prime, while the useless and crabbed, the worse than useless and worse than sour, live on. This impression is, no doubt, a case of the fallacy of positive instances; but it is only an over-statement of the certain fact that death and misfortune assail and disable those who are helping in every good cause as often as those who are hindering the progress of the race. How does this bear on our faith in a God who wills and works for our moral progress ? The record of every Christian

mission shows how large a proportion of the workers, perhaps after long preparation, fall prematurely on the field, or are rendered useless by accidents or diseases which might occur anywhere or to men engaged in any enterprise —

244 GOD'S CITADEL O EARTH book m misfortunes not necessarily involved in that personal conflict with evil which constitutes some degree of martyrdom, and which may be, even in failure, a moral triumph. All political and commercial records show how many are the forms of disaster that dog the steps of every noble enterprise, as well as the particular form of failure which its nobility challenges. When we reflect on the attribution of all this to the divine attention we cannot but be vividly reminded of our Lord's words, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation."

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