I was walking in the fields this evening in a stretch of meadows which had just been mown. The smell of hay was still in the air. A few wild roses were left. The blackberry was in blossom, and the hedges were full of flower, though past the prime of the year. The life of the humble herbs of the field is a deep solace to me—and the grasses too that fringe the ditch are exquisite slender bennets with fleecy polls, stems and stalks of many hues, from lush green to straw-color, all beautiful to me, even if the sun had not been shining on them horizontally. The ash was still in full vigor with hardly a leaf distempered. The elderberries that were in white clusters of blossom last time I walked this way, were now heavy with crude berries. The ditch was crowded with nettles in bloom with a black velvet spot on each blossom. There were purple-headed thistles and a few stiff teasels, and just enough water in the ditch to catch the glory of the sun. It was a little past six o'clock, and the bells from the just visible church tower were ringing. The first deep sob of the bells as I walked in the green fields suggested many thoughts. Not with bitterness or sorrow, but with a sort of grave and gentle sweetness I remembered the dead. To me it is not death which is difficult, but life.
Man is a reed, says Pascal, a thinking reed. The bruised reed becomes the thinking reed. To complete the metaphor, we might borrow from Greek thought and say that the Promethean fire, the Seraph's coal from off the altar, is hidden in the reed of man's infirmity; and that this fire, this coal, is the supreme thing in man. Would Nature have made her highest type so frail but that she knows man cannot really die? The reed decays, but the fire in man's soul has fallen from heaven, and, partaking of the divine unity, is inextinguishable. Not thought, then, but conscience obedient to the will of God, is the supreme thing in man. Intellect can always cover the retreat of conscience. Like a subtle lawyer, it can always find a plausible precedent for the thing we choose to do. But to live in good and to love our fellow-men is the everlasting gospel. And I thought, as I wandered there, that if anyone could come to me with irrefragable proofs that such an one as Jesus of Nazareth had never lived I should have replied that the collapse of historical facts need in no way modify the perception of spiritual truth. Truth is from within. Only truth which we have seen and realized can make us free. A church is pledged to support certain doctrines founded on certain historical facts, but the truth seeker is pledged only to the truth. To identify any church with the truth works in the long run a dreadful confusion of mind. A great idea, it has been well said, gives birth to a great organization, and the organization strangles the idea. In the divine economy of life every being has his place. The organization is already there, and it is our duty to discover, each for himself our own work, and to do it. Secondary organizations—churches, sects, societies, brotherhoods—are all transitory, however loudly and confidently they may assert that God is on their side. The true teacher dare not declare that God is on his side, but with pain and difficulty he purifies himself that he may finally be found upon the side of God. Truth is continually advancing, or, rather, man is continually advancing to a clearer perception of the truth, and his guide is the conscience purified. "Shall we then accept subjective truth?" "Is every man to do that which is right in his own eyes?" I answer, yes, certainly. No two human beings stand exactly in the same position, and as we cannot advance except from the position in which we stand, it behooves us to find out how we do stand, and this a man can only discover by searching his own conscience. Saul, searching for his asses, found a kingdom.