Who daily showeth
Himself to me in His gifts?
Being forced to work and to do your best will breed you a hundred virtues which the idle will never know.
To Heaven a silent offering of praise.
Earth may not know that I have ever been;
Yet pleasure to the eye of Heaven to give,
And thence, one sweet, approving smile to win,
Is, sure, no worthless mission to achieve.
—H. E. B.
Praise is a spontaneous action of heart and mind. When one is filled with a spirit of praise it becomes necessary for him to find some mode of expression. The Psalmist exclaims, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within, bless His holy name. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's," and we know that back of the words lies a heart full of grateful praise to God.
One of the conditions of health is a spirit of praise; and many people limit themselves, in every possible direction, by neglecting to praise God for His goodness. This is not because God requires formal thanks from His children, but because a sympathetic responsiveness to His loving-kindness is an absolute necessity if we are to grow in grace.
But many people say: "Of course I know God is good, yet life seems so hard; there is so much malice, jealousy, strife, and bitterness in life, so many trials, and so much suffering, that it seems difficult to find cause for thanksgiving."
Now, if we could only realize that we see in others the very characteristics which are in us, and that if we think the world a gloomy place it is because we ourselves are gloomy, then we would know how to go to work to cultivate the spirit of praise.
"Charity begins at home" in a deeper sense than many have imagined. To see beauty without we must first see beauty within. As Emerson has so finely expressed it: "God did not make some beautiful things, but Beauty is the creator of the universe." To know God in the soul is to live in a realm of beauty and strength and to rejoice evermore.
Let us get the thought firmly fixed in mind that the soul is God; that there is really no imperfection within; that the real being is love itself. Then will we cease our faithless crying unto God for this or that outward benefit and will give ourselves heartily to the work of expression. The world, heretofore, has thought possession was the great blessing—the end for which we should strive. But as a matter of fact we really possess all things and need only to express them fully on the earthly plane. The imperfections of life concern only the province of expression. The whole matter of growth is merely a matter of finding one's self and then learning how to give a complete revelation of soul on the mental and physical planes.
It is most interesting to note the gradual awakening of a little child to its own identity. The first things of which the baby becomes conscious are entirely outside of himself—a bright object or some moving body; then after a while his own hands and feet absorb his attention; and so he travels in his search of himself, always from the exterior to the interior realms; the order being, first, physical consciousness, then mental, and, lastly, spiritual knowledge.
Now, the race passes through the same gradual awakening; and for long ages the world has been dwelling in the personal stage of consciousness. Personality, to the general run of men, is the most interior self; whereas that, like the mind and body, is only a channel through which the real self speaks. Even Jesus refused honor as a person, for he knew that there is no such thing as personal power. Power, glory, beauty, strength—all are in and of God, and they all reside in the secret place of the soul. Our business is to know these real properties and to let them shine through our persons. So only can men glorify the Father.
We hear a great deal nowadays about psychic development, as if it were synonymous with spiritual life; but we should make a clear distinction between the two. There certainly is a mediumship which is profitable to all men, and if the mind is open for the reception of all true and uplifting thought there is no loss of perfect self-control. But where we give our bodies up to the control of any other mind than our own we are making a great mistake which can only result in the weakening of our will and power without its bringing any gain to the mind that controls.
Spiritual life has to do with the great soul qualities of faith, hope, and love; but earthly mediums are sometimes noticeably lacking in these respects, while their psychic powers may tend to retard the growth of other souls in the knowledge of God.
There are doubtless many latent powers in man which shall yet blossom into true usefulness for the healing of the nations; but the gifts of clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, and the like, should not be used for mere personal gratification, or for the benefit of curiosity-seekers. Furthermore they should come as the result of natural development rather than as something that is forced or abnormal.
It is through our misuse of power that we bring down upon our heads the woes of life; and it is only through knowledge—the deep soul-knowledge—that we can ever expect to escape pain or trial. God's punishments are not arbitrary; they are merely the operation of law. If we persistently go contrary to law then we must suffer. But pain is, after all, not a curse but a blessing, for it is through its stern ministry that we become conscious of wrong-doing and set about bringing ourselves into conformity to law.
When man has sought diligently throughout the external realm for power and happiness and has become conscious of his failure to find that which he needs, he at last begins to seek within i m and as he persistently travels farther and farther into the heart of things, passing clear through the physical, mental, and personal realms, he finally comes into touch with God and exclaims in joy: "Praise the Lord, O my soul, Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things!"
This subject of food is most important. We all realize the need of food for our bodies, but that is as nothing compared to the nourishment needed by the soul. It has been apprehended by seekers after truth, that physical food is not enough. It has been said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God; and those who have fed on the Word have found that a strength and vitality is theirs, far greater than any which could be derived from physical food.
Now, as in the body there must be digestion and assimilation, so in the matter of spiritual nourishment we must thoroughly apprehend the truth that we feed upon, and then incorporate it in our daily activities. Spiritual food must be allowed to take shape in the outer world of expression just as the physical food is built into the physical form.
It is really saddening to see how materialistic the majority of people are. You hear them advocating this or that food to make people thin or stout, to quiet the nerves, or to make them strong, never dreaming wherein true strength and graceful proportion consist. They say that certain kinds of food contain certain properties, and that if the physical organism is lacking in these properties one should eat a particular kind of food. Some eat foods containing fatty substances, yet they do not get fleshy. Why is this? It is impossible to explain all these things on physical grounds alone.
When you are trying to build up the body by means of a certain diet, you are dealing with effects instead of with causes, and so there is no permanent benefit.
Then again the question is often asked: What about physical exercise—is it not beneficial? All things are good in their proper place. The mistake consists in looking to the lowest realm for our strength and sustenance.
Now we know that anything we take pleasure in doing is more apt to prove beneficial than if we do it perfunctorily. Years ago I used to have the patients in my institution go out every morning; and I always urged them to go with something of interest in view, and they were always benefited, for they went for a purpose.
But there was one patient to whom I forgot to make the suggestion, and after a few days she said that she always returned to the institution very tired. I said: "What do you do when you go out?" and she replied, "I go three blocks in one direction and three in another." She had done that each day, and failing to derive any pleasure from her monotonous exercise she had received no benefit.
So it is with everything in life. It all depends upon the way we do a thing, the way we think about it. If we could only see it, the tonic does not come from the physical exercise alone, and even the extraction of certain properties from the food we eat depends upon the condition of mind. Many will eat the most nourishing food and fail to derive any benefit from it. You may pay all the attention you like to your food, but you will never build up your bodies till your minds are thoroughly poised.
Of course in the case of people who live entirely on the physical plane there may be the manifestation of perfect physical health, such as is the case with most savages. It all depends upon whether we are living up to our light.
If one is conscious only of his most exterior self, and is true to his physical instincts, he may be a healthy animal, but if he has awakened to a higher plane of life and yet refuses to abide by its instincts, preferring to look to the lower plane for his support, then there is going to be trouble.
The people who stand, as it were, between the two realms—the outer and the inner—those who believe to a certain extent in God and yet will not feed upon His word, certainly can never be well nourished. They may say prayers to God, but they really pin their faith to matter.
They could not possibly say with the Psalmist: "Who healeth all thy diseases—Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things," for to them medicines heal and food satisfies. They are materialists pure and simple. It is a waste of time for such people to say prayers and go through the various forms of religious life, for by their acts they give the lie to their religion.
You may think I speak very strongly on this subject, and it may seem that I am taking a very dogmatic position, but it is the result of years of thought and experience. For a long period I had devoted myself to the subject of food and derived no good from it. Just so soon, however, as I put my faith in other things and forgot the body (in the sense of centering my care upon it), it became well and strong and has remained so ever since.
We must deal with our real selves—the word of God, in the most interior sense—and then will "health spring forth speedily." In the last analysis the secret of life is self-reliance; that is, faith in the love-nature within. All history and experience go to teach us that we must be true to ourselves; we must respond to the deepest instincts of life, and allow the light within to illumine our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. This is what is meant by pleasing ourselves. The world we cannot please, however hard we try, and it is the walking by another's light that has impoverished both ourselves and the world.
Fear and laziness account largely for the multitudes of spiritual parasites. Men refuse to obey the Word that speaks from within, either because they fear the criticism of their fellows or else because they are too lazy to digest and assimilate it for themselves. In these busy days it is so much easier to take our food all ready prepared as we find it set forth in some system of religion.
But salvation is apprehending the life within and revealing it faithfully in all our activities, not the acceptance of some man or creed. The physical bloodshed nineteen hundred years ago can save no one, but it is the spirit of life which animated Jesus that will give us health, grace, and strength.
So we come back to the basic principle of life once more, and say again—for it cannot be said too often—that if we control ourselves in love all things literally will be ours. It is the inward desire which effects all outward expression. To feed on love, to control ourselves according to its behest, is to achieve outward control in mind and body and to be nourished abundantly.
When we know for a surety the satisfying nature of love, not because someone else has told us, but because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, then we cannot help exclaiming: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Who healeth all thy diseases. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things." Then it is that we rejoice alway, finding good in all things and beauty everywhere. The thought is finely expressed in the words: "All goes to show that the soul of man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all organs; is not a function like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will.
"From within or from behind a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
"A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good reside. What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the great soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey."