Theologies, Creeds, and sects divide mankind into antagonistic camps, and even when uniting numbers for a common purpose, frequently lower that common purpose into an enlarged selfishness, which differs little from the narrow personal selfishness which kills all that is highest and best in the soul. The great essential principle of all the best religions of our race is Right-Being and Right-Doing. Form, fashion, and customs, in all lands, and among all people, become too often the substitutes for actual goodness. The writer of "the first General Epistle of John" seems to have discovered the growth of a spurious and formal method of accounting men righteous in his day, when he wrote, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous," and "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God."
Actual righteousness, or right-wise-ness, is a personal thing, and nations, tribes, or "churches" have no power of obtaining it in the mass. It must be inwrought in every separate soul. When Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled," he recognized a great law of human life. The inner intense desire of the soul leads to the outer expression and manifestation of all good deeds.
There is no bondage so cruel as the bondage of sin. There is no freedom so great and joyful as the freedom of righteousness.
Very true is it that "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," whereas the path of evil-doing grows ever darker and darker, till every step of life becomes more and more doubtful and difficult, so that even when the selfish man has obtained all that his selfish aims can gain, he dwells always in deeper darkness of soul. The path out of evil into good is open to every one of us, that "shining path" invites us to enter on it now; as Emerson says, "He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done. And he might have added, "He that is one with God can think as Jesus thought, and according to his measure, do as Jesus did," till evil is put under his feet, and right-doing becomes the very breath of life to him.
So near is God to man,
When duty whispers, 'So I must,'
The youth replies, 'I can.'
So, if once we can emancipate our souls from the thralldom of evil Thought, we shall find our lives Transformed, till we can do all things worth doing, and rejoice and be glad all our days.