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The Light of the World

The science of spectrum analysis shows, in a manner truly beautiful, that every material element in the universe and each different combination of elements, when ignited, yields a light possessing a peculiar quality of its own. And by examining the spectrum of that light—that is to say, the little many-colored rainbow produced when the light is passed through a prism—the scientist can determine the actual elements by which that light is produced. As to the light of our sun, which, to distinguish it from all other kinds of light, we call sunshine, it is found, by spectrum analysis, to consist of innumerable elements in a state of incandescence. Again, on the mathematical principle that the whole is equal to its parts, it is reasonable to suppose that all the material elements, and therefore all the lights of different qualities in our planetary system, are combined and centered in the sun; and, conversely, that the sun's light, which contains all the energizing power necessary to life, is the sum-total of all the manifold lights that exist in our world, if not in the whole universe. Thus we may regard sunshine as the light of lights.

Between the two worlds—the physical and the spiritual—we see an exact correspondence of plan. As the light-producing elements of the physical world are centered in the sun and the resultant light is distributed thence, like water from a fountain, throughout the whole universe, so the Light of Truth is by Divine Appointment distributed to every individual man, woman, and child of every nation and throughout all the ages, past, present, and future. What a grand thought is this! There is but one Light of Truth, one spiritual Light of the spiritual world; but this stream of Divine Energy, by circulating through Mankind in the aggregate and thus passing through an endless variety of individual mediums, assumes different complexions or colors—different "spectrums," as it were—as represented by the thousand, or more, religions of the world and their quite innumerable manifestations in the "personal religion" of individual men and women. Thus, in all religions alike, we recognize the one and the same Spiritual Energy, the Light of Truth, which in each individual of each religion displays itself in a different way. And the principle is this. There is, throughout, a oneness of Essence, an infinity of Manifestation; there is Unity in Variety, and Variety in Unity. And the result is that we see in both worlds innumerable lights, of different degrees, different qualities, and different combinations of quality according to the quality of the medium through which the light is transmitted. And yet we do not see among the professors of the various religions of the world what one would expect to see, namely, that harmony and orderly relationship which we see in the natural world. If only we could realize fully with the soul's eye, and hear clearly with the soul's ear, that wonderful Harmony produced by Unity in Variety, and Variety in Unity, which the ancient philosophers called the music of the spheres, and compare with it that harsh discord which in the modern world unhappily exists among men and women, even of the same religion, who profess to live and move and have their being through belief in one and the same God, we should blush with shame to think of our littleness of mind in allowing prejudice and ignorance and selfishness to produce discord where there ought to be harmony, strife where there ought to be brotherly love, and darkness where there ought to be light.

In the divine order of things the two elements of Variety and Unity are always to be found together; and, in man, any departure from that order is due to causes more or less under his own control, that is to say, either his own ignorance or his own waywardness. Although no two men can see alike, or think alike, or feel alike, yet any number of men may agree to act in concert, just as the instruments of an orchestra, although quite different in quality of tone, can yet by the skill of the composer and his loving obedience to the laws of Harmony, be so blended together as to form that perfect whole which we call Music. And it is only by thus acting in loving concert and cooperation in obedience to the one common simple Law of our being, the Light of Truth, that we can reproduce in our souls and our lives that unity in variety, and variety in unity, which is the plan of the spiritual, as it is of the natural, universe, and also is the one indispensable condition of man's happiness and well-being, both material and spiritual. But in order to fulfill this condition we must cease to be Pharisees, or Separatists, and learn to live and work together, and for the sake of each other, as brethren having one common Father, the Father of Lights, in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

They say that in some of the old German churches on Christmas Day the people assemble in the early morning long before daybreak, each carrying in his hand a lighted taper, and the combined effect of all these mere specks of light is a general illumination of the whole church. And we? What are we doing with our little taper of a life? Are we blending it with the general illumination as individual worshippers in the Temple of the one true God? Or are we exclusively making our darkness visible by selfishly burning it to waste, each in our little dark corner, and perhaps even hiding it under a bushel? Be the answer what it may, the Light of Truth is entrusted to all alike, the just and the unjust. Through each soul it is to shine and percolate. No one can monopolize what is intended for all. We are to let the light, such as it is, shine forth, not for personal display or for any other selfish purpose, but for the common good. Nor are we to despise our own little taper because of its insignificance. Though only a spark, it is a "vital spark of heavenly flame"—a spark of the Light of the World. The widow's mite was only a taper, but how many millions of other tapers has not the memory of it, by sheer force of example, kindled into one undying illumination through-out the ages! The very flint has its spark lying within its cold bosom waiting to be liberated. Even the glowworm derives its light from heaven and gives it forth unstintingly to the big world around. Nor, on the other hand, are those who are specially gifted with the light-giving powers of intellect to use that gift for selfish purposes, but they are gratefully and humbly to consecrate it by imparting it through the gift of tongues, in their writings, by word of mouth, and by personal influence.

But without, on the one hand, narrowing our view to any particular section of what is commonly called the "mission field," nor, on the other hand, vaguely dissipating our sympathy into a haze of cold indifference, let us remember that the whole world is one great mission-field of which every individual human heart is an integral portion. Let us not discourage the noble purpose of those who feel themselves "called" to do so from carrying the Light even to the uttermost parts of the earth. But as the preaching of the glad tidings was to begin at Jerusalem, so the enlightenment must begin in our own heart.

We commonly say of a light, when it disappears, that it has gone out. Out? Nay, it cannot go out except in the sense of going forth. Physical light is a great cosmic energy, constant and indestructible; and when we cease to see it, it means, not that it has ceased to exist, but that it has changed into some other form of energy, which under certain conditions we call Life, and under certain other conditions, Work. It never "goes out;" it is indestructible; it goes on—on—on forever! The fact is, everything in Nature reflects or throws back some portion of the light that falls upon it from the sky. The portion thrown back serves to make the object visible. As to the remaining portion, science tells us that it is absorbed into the object, whatever it may be, either animate or inanimate, and that in every case the result is Motion of one kind or another. Thus, if the object is a stone or a piece of metal, the result is molecular motion accompanied by a certain amount of heat. If it is a plant, the result is life—vegetable life; if an animal, it is also life but of a higher kind—animal life; if it is a man or a woman, the result is life of a still higher form—human life. Passing one day the window of a shop where philosophical instruments are sold, we saw a little toy-windmill, of which the sails were painted, on one side white, on the other black; and it was so placed that the sunlight shone on the black side only. Now science teaches that black objects absorb a large proportion of the light falling upon them, while white objects throw back the greater part of it. In obedience to this law of light, the little mill was busily spinning round and round; and, the brighter the sun shone, the more rapid became the motion. A lovely picture, this, of a busy cheerful soul—"a spirit of all sunshine; graceful from very gladness; beautiful because bright." Here two things were plainly evident, first, that the mill was under the influence of some Power, not its own; and, secondly, that this mysterious power, which we call light, was every moment transforming itself into mechanical motion—i.e. Work. Now for the moral contained in this object-lesson. The Divine command is that we are to work while it is day, because the night cometh when no man can work; that our light is to shine before men that they may see not us, but our "good works," which are the outcome, or, as a scientist would say, "the mechanical equivalent" of the Light; that we are not only to rejoice in the Truth by working cheerfully while it is day, but to testify to others that the Light is of Heaven; and, above all, we are to take care that this precious Light which God gives us day by day, and does not want thrown back to Him void, is not wasted, but transmitted into useful Action—"good works"—so that men may see our good works and glorify Our Father Who is in Heaven.

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W. H. Gill

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