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The One Thing Needful

In going through life the most indifferent observer is struck with the vast amount of suffering and misery prevalent, which in various forms and degrees of intensity, falls to the share of most human beings. Even in the lives of those who are considered the most fortunate, what are called the troubles and sorrows, far outweigh the joys of life. To most mortals sorrow and suffering appear to be as inevitable as the sunrise. Why this is so we are not just now concerned, but the fact is indisputable. Admitting all this the question naturally arises, wherein lies the remedy? In our present stage of evolution most of us must experience periods of anguish, and if we cannot point out a way of escape absolutely, we can show how to neutralize its effects, so that suffering will be no longer feared or dreaded, but looked at in its proper perspective, as a necessity for moral and spiritual advancement. In therapeutics the cause of a disease is sometimes not discovered until a palliative is tried; so with the ills of life, when the true remedy is applied, it is proved not only a cure but a preventative also—a solution of the "mystery of suffering."

This remedy which when applied is a cure for all the vicissitudes and troubles of life, is not difficult to obtain. It is no secret, in the possession of any particular race, religion, creed, or individual; no abstruse theology, comprehensible only to the philosopher, but a formula understood by the learned and illiterate alike: it is the simple practice of goodness in all its forms. Like Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders, so have the great mass of religions, beliefs, and dogmas been built upon this truth until it has been almost crushed out of recognition beneath its ponderous burden. But the contrast between burden and bearer is clear and distinct, and to the earnest truthseeker never in danger of being confounded. All the great religious teachers of mankind have taught that by the practice of virtue all the troubles and misfortunes of life may be transcended. Socrates said: "No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death." Marcus Aurelius wrote: "No matter what the actions of other people are, my business is to be good." Did not Jesus of Nazareth say, "Learn of me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light;" and His faithful follower S. Paul, "All things work together for good to them that love God?" Yet, despite these and similar utterances by the saviors of mankind, there are those who would tell us there is no merit or excellence in the practice of goodness, and that virtuous thoughts and deeds, unless qualified by certain theological opinions, are so many wasted efforts. If good actions bring not forth good fruit, how then can evil deeds bring forth good fruit? If a man's good works be not requited by an entree into that place, or state, denominated by the term "Heaven," it is certain his evil works cannot be so rewarded.

The essence of all true religion is goodness; not a pharisaical goodness, because of its "respectability," but a constant striving after perfection in thought, word, and deed. It is not only the essence of true religion, but the basis of all religions, and of all reform in the individual. The foundation on which we must build our lives is this, that no matter what happens we must be good, not goody-goody, but honest, virtuous, upright, and loving. This is the one thing needful, the one truth above all others which must be realized. Jesus, the personification of Truth, reiterated this over and over again, and He who said, "I am the Truth," cannot be a false guide. When this truth of the divinity of goodness has been comprehended, and assiduously put into practice, then we realize we are building upon a rock, and the foundation of our life is secure. And though the winds of adversity may blow, and the waves of sorrow and misfortune come upon us in a deluge, we stand fearless, neither anguish nor joy can move us, for we have built upon the rock of righteousness, and we know with Socrates that no evil can now befall us.

Therefore, we set our face towards the Eternal City, and with the cry on our lips and ringing in our ears, "I must be good!" we go forward turning neither to the right nor to the left until we reach the portals where time ends; then, as the barrier closes behind us, we receive the Royal welcome, and hear the gracious words, "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many."

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Thomas W. Allen

  • Brother of author James Allen
  • Not much else is known about him. If you have information about this author to share, please contact me.
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