'"Tis life of which our nerves are scant—
O life, not death, for which I pant,
More life and fuller that I want."
I preach a gospel of true worldliness. Let us eat, drink, and be merry with the fruits of righteousness, and know that we shall not die tomorrow.
We err in thinking spiritual good can be purchased by self-denial. Life is not a matter of barter: a meal the less, a virtue the more; a material indulgence sacrificed, a spiritual illumination gained; this world denied, another world secured as a reward. Let us recognize the full value of the here and now.
Too long have we postponed our highest good to an uncertain future. We have thought life an illusion, and lived in a dream of "heaven."
We have been reluctant to face our responsibilities of today.
Our piety has been largely indolence. Rather than reconstruct the world in which we find ourselves, we have been willing to postpone our good things to another, which we pictured as ready for our habitation and peopled with congenial spirits enjoying their reward. Yet we have no reason to think that death releases any soul from even the least of its responsibilities. Rather must it open its eyes to a larger recognition of them.
Can we not understand that the work we are postponing is not to be escaped by death, but that after death we shall demand infinitely more of ourselves than we do now, as a necessary condition of the peace that we desire?
If we could realize this, would we not take up more gladly the life that now is, and work out its problems with greater satisfaction and cheerfulness?
The religion that feeds itself on the emotions, and talks of the life that is to come rather than apply itself to the duties and privileges of the hour, must prove worthless at the last.
The wedding feast is open only to those who are equipped for its festivities.
Heaven is doubtless a very great disappointment to most people.
Many a saint whose body lies buried beneath a solemn monument sculptured with some text of promise and reward, whose friends imagine him to be among the very chosen ones around the throne, we have every reason to believe is groping sadly for the light of truth to which he denied recognition in this life, and seeking to undo, as far as possible, the work that was most loudly praised among his fellow men.
This is no fanciful speculation.
This world is our problem. If we focus upon it all our spiritual powers, we will discover that it is not the "desert" we have named it.
It is a garden of delights, a veritable Eden to those who are not blind and deaf.
What right or reason have we to suppose a "Paradise Lost," or anticipate a "Paradise Regained?"
It is a shuffling evasion of the truth.
The promise of a millenium in the infinite perspective is a moral anesthetic, with which we hush the clamor of our souls, demanding better things of us in the present.
All responsibilities and possibilities are ours today.
Let us have done with this affectation of aversion to the world in which we live, this indefinite postponement of our happiness and powers. Let us cultivate worldliness, and learn truly what it is to enjoy the present.
There is no problem that belongs to our time which we cannot solve.
But we must work on the line of principle and not of precedent. Power does not come through policy and compromise.
We cannot build in the external till we have fashioned the architecture first in mind.
Sociology is a science of root culture. It will never prove possible to paint the leaves and color the fruit successfully, except through the juices of the tree.
We have all the factors of an earthly paradise within ourselves.
The great temple of humanity will never be built by any other than human hands.
Let us learn to mix the mortar and cut the blocks and plant our derricks, with confidence in our ability to build.
Let us work with song and gladness. Let us rejoice in all the life that is ours.
Then we will no longer exhaust ourselves in fighting shadows.
We will find the Tree of Life standing in the midst of our garden, like the orange tree of the south, bearing at the same time bud, blossom, and fruit, and know that "God giveth us richly all things to enjoy."
Nothing can delay or hasten us except ourselves. Nobody can hinder or obstruct events related to us. It is the interior condition of the individual that governs absolutely all and everything related to his life.
Realization is possession. Postponement is the only obstruction. Both are in mind and govern "circumstances."
When we come to the moment of interior realization of either health or opulence, we enter into full possession, and our thought becomes externalized as surely as fruit follows blossom.