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T) EPTE'ORD SCEIOOT,. FOR BOTH SEXES,
VAV cocci.Toury ,INT. J.The Fall Term of this School will Open 9th mo. 7th, 1885. For circulars and further particulars. address (till Smo. 12th), HENRY R. RUSSELL, Principal, Cottage City, Mass.
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The Friends' journal.
INTELLIGENCER. Vol. xlii.—No. 24.
} PHILADELPHIA, SEVENTH MONTH 25, 1885.
JOURNAL. Vol. xiii.-No. 652.
I think God sometimes sends what we have cried for,
We are like children in our poor unreason,
ANSWERS TO PRAYER.
We talk sometimes as if the only answer we could understand was getting what we want. We say, when we have asked for a thing and it has been given us, that we have had “an answer to prayer.” And, alas, when we have asked for something, and it has not been given to us, we are but too ready to say, “our prayer has not been answered,”—perhaps we even say it has not been heard. Now surely this is a very blind and wilful way of talking about prayer. It seems strange that any one can think thus of our Heavenly Father who has ever had to do with the bringing up of a little child. Do we not need teaching just as the little children need it, to whom we must so often say No.; and to whom it is often so difficult to make our reasons plain 7
While we think that the only use of prayer is to get our own way, we cannot wonder (it is indeed a mercy) that it is so often denied. It would truly be giving us a scorpion in the place of a fish, and stones instead of bread, to give us wilful, blind creatures, a right to have everything go on just as we should like. This is very far from being Jesus Christ's thought of prayer. As He used it and spoke of it, it is just speaking to God, as a child speaks to its father and its mother—as a grown man or woman can speak only to the One who knows all, and who turns away from none, be their sins, and their sorrows, and their darkness, what they may. He always listens; does He always answer?
Think for a moment in what manner we can expect Him to answer us. We know that He does not walk by our side in outward form like one of ourselves, though we thank Him daily that He has spoken to us through human lips. But it is not only, or most
of all, in the presence of any human being or outward form, that we are with God. He is ever with us; in Him we live and move and have our being. We rightly feel that His answer to our prayers will not come in spoken words, but in life. Life is the voice of God. It speaks to us at every moment, whether we understand it or not. How then shall we learn to distinguish His words? How * Why, how will your little child come to know what you mean when you speak to it? Must it not learn your language, by little and little, by trying and failing, and trying again; always under your own eye, and closely held by your own hand? It is not for weeks, perhaps not for months, that it even knows that your are speaking to it. And when after a time the little face begins to brighten at your voice, and the watchful eyes to follow your actions, and something like trust begins to grow up within, have you not still a great deal to do before you can make the little one understand your full meaning? When first you have to say No, does it always even try to understand 2 Does it not sometimes go on crying for the thing it longs for? And how, while it is fretting against your No, can you explain anything more ? When we have prayed with eager longing for something our hearts are set upon, and it has been withheld from us, what are we to do next? Shall we go on begging and begging, and crying out for the thing we want 2 Or would it not be best to be silent for a while, and first learn to quiet ourselves; trusting that when we are quiet He will be able to make more of His meaning plain to us? It is just at such times as this that we have the best chance of learning to understand the language in which He speaks to us. The thing we asked for may have been indeed denied, and then our first business is to learn to take No for an answer. Or it may only have been delayed, and then we may quietly try again, asking once more either for the same or for some better thing. But first we must consider which of these answers has really been given us. Perhaps, for instance, you have asked, with a wild passion of entreaty, for some precious life to be spared to you here; clinging to that hope while any room for hope was left. But the blow has fallen—your dear one has died. Your request has been refused. Very well, there is an end of that wish. You must listen to God’s No, and give it up altogether. There is no more to be said. But you need not think therefore that you have not been answered. The answer has been even terribly plain. But sometimes we take for a denial what may mean only delay. Perhaps we ask for relief from pain, and it does not come at once; or for strength to overcome a difficulty, and the difficulty seems only to grow greater. Then let us ask again. It is not “past praying for;” it may only need waiting for. Let us in such cases look up again and again for help or for relief, and if we are not freed from pain and our task is not lightened, at any rate we may find help in learning to endure patiently and to strive bravely; and this is an answer which may well satisfy us and encourage us till at length the pain and the labor, like all other earthly things, come to an end. They will have done their work, and God will show us what they meant. His answer may be neither No, nor Yes; it may be Wait. This is the answer which most of us find it hardest to understand ; but still it is an answer. Each time that we hear it, and lay it to heart, we shall ask more gently, and be better prepared for the next reply. Or perhaps we ask for something which we know, or ought to know, that our Father intends for us; something of which we ought hever to despair. We may long for restoration or redemption for ourselves or our beloved—for the return of the lost sheep—for life from the dead. When a prayer like this is in our heart we must not easily let it go. Such a prayer reaches beyond this life, and need not be cut short by death. We need not be always urging it in words; we must not think to be heard for our much speaking; we must not think that our love can be wiser or more tender than our Father's love, or our patience and faithfulness more enduring than His; but we must cling to the hope even when it seems to take the shape of despair; we must hold it fast although it may burn like fire, or gnaw with unceasing pain; we must listen for hard lessons; we must be ready for the rebuke of life, and prepared to go even into “the outer darkness,” if it be there that His hand shall lead us, only we must never let go that blessed Hand, and in such an hour as we think not the full answer shall come. There are as many kinds of prayer as there are needs of the human heart. It is as natural for us to pray as it is for a child to call to its mother. The great thing we have to do is to learn the language, not only of prayer, but of the answers to prayer. Perhaps one chief reason why we are told to ask, is that the very act of asking leads us to watch for the answer. Our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him, and might in many cases give just as much if we never asked at all. But if we took all His gifts silently and without looking up to Him, they could not have half the meaning for us which they may carry to the watchful child-like heart. The smallest things may be used as messages where love and trust are, and the greatest benefits can say nothing where these are not. A loaf of bread will feed the body, wherever it comes from ; but when it comes in reply to a cry for help it may bring new life to the fainting soul. We do not know what life can be till we have learnt to look for God's meaning in all that it brings. * I have said that Life is the voice of God; and the first step towards understanding that wonderful Voice is surely to listen quietly. But we shall not come to understand much if we pick out the pleasant things and call them. His “answers.” We must take the bitter with the sweet, or else we do not give Him a
fair chance to teach us. And do we not wish to be taught by Him? Is it not worth while to give up thinking our own thoughts, and going our own way, if so we may learn to enter into the mind of our Maker, and have our whole life filled with the meaning which is truly Light? The voice of the Lord is indeed not always to be heard without trembling. We must give up our own way if we would learn to walk with God; and must welcome even the pain He sends if we would enter into the fullness of His meaning. But if we dare so to trust Him fully, we shall never be left alone. If we could learn not only to be often speaking to Him, but also to be always hearing Him, always listening for His voice and trying to obey it, then indeed our life would be a life of prayer, and of answered prayer —a life of Communion with God. This is indeed the path of life; which “shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” It need not be a life in which strange signs and wonders take place; but it is a life whose meaning becomes clearer and clearer as we go on. It is always an uphill path—often a rough one. It ma lead us through fire and water, and “sundry kinds of death;” but the longer we try it the less we shall think of giving it up, and the more ready we shall become to give up everything else for it. His will is our everlasting rest, and in His presence is the fullness of joy. It may cost us our life to follow Him; it may cost us pain and toil, and many things which we dread more than death ; but those who have once learnt to know His voice will count nothing dear to them which keeps them back from Him. “He that will lose his life for my sake shall save it.” If this is a hard saying, we have but honestly to ask Him, and sooner or later He will make its meaning clear to us, if only we will listen to Him.—Caroline E. Stephen, in Friends' Quarterly Easaminer.
EXTRACTS FROM A LETTER OF AN EDITOR OF THE INTELLIGENCER AND JOURNAL TO A FRIEND.
. . . . We believe there is a prevailing unity of thought in our Society on all vital subjects, and in our work we recognize and endeavor to meet the want of our readers. Our principal concern is to keep to Friends' doctrine and testimonies as these are understood by the seven Yearly Meetings that compose our body, and this we aim to do, not in the special sectarian views of any class, but on the broad basis of that unity which finds agreement in essentials, and exercises a charity that thinketh no evil towards non-essentials.
The only doctrine that makes it necessary for us to be a separate and distinct religious organization is our fundamental belief in the sufficiency of the “light within,” when yielded to and obeyed, to guide into a saving knowledge of “the Christ,” “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Nor does this belief rest only upon that which was written of him “in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” but upon that which is revealed to the soul of each. We cannot go farther than this without entering upon debatable ground, yet it is required of us to give a reason for the hope that is in
us, and hence, as the revelations of truth come to the mind, and the tongue of utterance is given, the instrument that is chosen must, if true to Him who calls to service, hand forth of that received, according to the intelligent comprehension that has taken form and shape in the mind, and may be conveyed in words to those who hear.
“There are diversities of gifts,” but the one-Spirit —in this we can all agree; then why not agree that in the ministry of this Word or Power that which is revealed as saving truth to one mind, and is his by Divine illumination, may be handed forth without prejudice to any. If it carry with it conviction to other minds, and meets the witness for truth therein, it must accomplish that whereunto it is sent. It may not be in the form of words, in which some other equally concerned instrument might clothe the same truth. Shall any say the one is dangerous— “scattering,” and the other, only, is of God? From whence come wars and fightings? queries one of the earliest martyrs to the Christian faith. Come they not from the same source that the lusts of the flesh spring; and shall we not turn from them to those peaceable fruits of righteousness against which there s no law Ż
i If our own spiritual life is bound up in the life of the Society, we will earnestly desire to see it coming to the front, not in the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the spirit, that its standard may be the rallying point for every earnest seeker after the true Light, the world over. And seekers there are, all around us, who, like the “wise men o’ of the East, have seen this star arising, and are coming to its brightness.
Let us be wise as “children of the day,” and, sinking every difference in the fountain of love, let us “mind the Light,” and loyally hold it up for the enlightenment of the nations. We need not fear the most extreme presentation of this fundamental doctrine while it has the authority of “him who spake as never man spake,” and that because of the fullness of the Godhead revealed in him.
In regard to our course as editors, in what may seem, and really is, open to the charge of “a new departure” for the Friends' Intelligencer, it is proper here to say that what we publish of the doings among Orthodox Friends we have reason to believe is giving very general satisfaction. We endeavor to present facts as they transpire, without censure or unfair criticism. Friends of the various branches of that body who read our paper speak favorably of the course we are pursuing.
We are concerned that all our friends will help us to make the united paper an exponent of what is best and most in accord with the Christian profession as interpreted by the Society of Friends. We want sermons, essays, correspondence, and indeed any and every form in which such thought is clearly and intelligently easpressed, and though there may be some divergence, if what is offered is honest conviction, kindly handed forth, in a Christian spirit, it will find a place and be gladly welcomed. Whatever is of God will abide, and whatever is of the reasoning of man, if it “meet not the witness,” must fail. Here we stand, and from this ground ask all who are con
cerned that truth only may prevail, to help us carry forward the work we have undertaken.
DEPENDENCE UPON GOD.
Our common daily life is one of constant dependence upon forms of life which are lower than our own. The beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fish of the sea, the waving grain in the valley, the golden fruit of the orchard, all minister to our growth and development. Life that is conscious, and life that is unconscious, and forces that lie upon still lower planes of organization–air, water, and earth— furnish the realm in which we live. Our dependence upon the lower stage of life is immediate and vital. A few days without the food which nature has slowly prepared in her laboratory, a few days without the water she holds in her cup, a few minutes without the elastic air which envelopes us, and the body is once more remanded to the dust from which it came. This dependence is so absolute and so constant that we are seldom whokly unconscious of it. Occasionally, some one tries the experiment of seeing how long he can live without food; but the majority of mankind need no prolonged abstinence to convince them that such an experiment must be sooner or later unsuccessful. Our daily hunger is evidence of our daily dependence upon the realm of life beneath us.
Then we become conscious, too of the dependence upon our own kind, upon the humanity of which we are a part. It is possible to supply the physical wants of the body by living in isolation, but it is not natural. It is not the large, radiating, sympathetic human life. Civilization is but a network, into which each strand in the social fabric is woven and made dependent upon some other. Without this constant dependence upon our own kind, we could not enjoy the thousand comforts which furnish our homes, the clothes we wear, the houses in which we live, the steamers which bear us over the sea, the railroads which hurry us across the continent, the telephone which carries our message, the type which stamps the printed word. And all these relationships of simple material dependence, which bind us together by mutual interests, shade off into relationships of the mind and heart which are less easily defined, but not less real. It is here that life takes on volume and richness. We depend for growth of intellect and for nurture of the heart upon the lives that are about us.
But sooner or later there is revealed in our experience the consciousness of our dependence upon a Life that is vastly higher than our own. It is a Life that is not only above ours, but beneath it. It is so large that it fills the universe. Whichever direction we take to trace the source of our dependence, we come at last to the underlying Life in which we live and move and have our being. Are we dependent upon the lower forms of life, beasts of the field, fish of the sea, waving grain, and glowing fruit 7 Whence comes the life that informs them, whence all this multitude of conditions which furnish our own lives the field for their manifestation ? Perhaps to most people, the idea of God and our dependence upon him are suggested more directly through the physical life. He is the controller of the vast forces and conditions upon which our earthly existence depends.
The idea of God reaches up to them through lower forms of life and being, as the flower rises and blooms from the sod. But our dependence upon God is something more than a dependence upon an energy, infinite and eternal though it be, which contributes the force for our own lives. Our sense of dependence rises through higher forms of feeling and experience. It becomes a dependence upon an infinite mind and heart. We are not more dependent upon God for the food we eat, for the air we breathe, than we are dependent upon him for the constitution of our minds. To study the manifestation of God in the universe is to study the manifestation of mind as well as of power. Our intellectual life is nourished and quickened by the material for thought which it finds all about it. We are sustained and enriched on the intellectual side by a Life which is higher than our own. The fundamental forms of our thought are but the trellis upon which we climb to a higher conception of God. But most of all upon the moral side of our lives does this sense of dependence reveal to us the need of a higher life than ours. It is here at times that we feel our own insufficiency more completely than any words or images can express it. This moral capability with which we are endowed is the offspring of a Higher Life than our own. We have not originated our own nature, nor can we find fulfillment for that nature in our own independent resources nor wholly in the human life about us. We must lean here upon the life of God. The moral problems which to us seem insolvable only reveal our dependence upon a higher ideal of righteousness than that which is fulfilled in human society. The imperfections of our personal lives, our consciousness of sin, all point us to a Perfect Life. Without this ideal, humanity would be unutterably bereft, and its progress along the path of moral development effectually barred. Thus, upon the physical, the intellectual, and the moral plane of our lives, our dependence upon God is continually and unmistakably revealed. For the refreshment of our bodies, for the awakening of our minds, for the purification of our souls, we must turn to God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. He it is who has opened to us the doorway of life and set before us the eternal goal. In our prosperity, we may turn to him with gratitude; in our misfortune, for strength ; in our impurity, for cleansing. God is then no longer an abstraction to us. His relation to our life is more real and immediate than any thing of which we can think. In the dark and hard places of our earthly lot there are a sweetness and refreshment in the simple thought that God exists. Our hope and faith are built upon no figment of the imagination, but upon the Eternal Reality of the universe. We live, because God lives; and, because God lives, we shall never die.—Christian Register.
“For those who have time and capacity for it, the critical study of Holy Scripture should not be lost sight of; but there is a wise saying of an old father, which we quote because it may be a guide to those who can pursue such studies, and at the same time a comfort to those who cannot. He says: “If I spend a day in ascertaining the critical meaning of a text
I am well repaid ; if I spend two in discovering its spiritual meaning, I am still better repaid ; and if I spend three in getting at its practical teaching, I am best repaid of all.” Whatever, then, may be the current of our Bible reading, let us never omit the spiritual and practical bearing of it. The Bible is intended mainly and chiefly to minister to our higher life. It has, indeed, its other uses. Even as a literary book it enriches and enlarges the mind. Its history, its poetry, its political economy, are such that no library is well furnished without it, and no man is well educated who is not familiar with its contents. Chalmers used to say that the secret of Scotch thrift was the thorough acquaintance of his countrymen with the Book of Proverbs.”
I think it needful that we take some means to promote the further spread and knowledge of the principles of the Society of Friends, not so much because they are our principles, but that they are right in themselves, and if more generally known and practised would advance the happiness and well being of the race. And I would that our younger members, as well as all others, should realize that our principles, taken as a whole, are superior to those of any other religious body of people. And in this it is not my wish to undervalue those of any or all other sects, but that notwithstanding the many excellencies of these, each in their own way, still ours embody in themselves all these and carry them further than they. If any ask why I so esteem them, I answer, in the words of Scripture, “by their fruits.” When we remember, at the rise of our Society, how clearly they were shown the evils that prevailed at that time, and the mercenary character of the religious portion of the community, and how war, slavery and oppression abounded, and these were not only not rebuked by those who claimed to be the ministers of the Prince of Peace, but were actually upheld and vindicated by them. Now the principles of Friends not only showed these things in all their deformity, but also enabled those who embraced them to boldly declare against them, and also to suffer when brought to the strait to either be silent or endure the consequences. As they kept near this same principle they went on bearing the word of life to the people, and submitting to the abuse that a benighted and superstitious public sentiment awarded them, kept thus ignorant by a selfish and mercenary priesthood. Now, I claim a principle that can and has done this is better and superior to that which controlled those ministers and those who acted with them in that day, and in our own time allows such extreme inconsistencies to abound as compared with the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament.
I advocate the idea that these principles have within themselves intrinsically those excellencies and qualities, and that when they become the controlling power of our life's actions their innate virtues become revealed in our fruits among men.
Now I want to be distinctly understood here that I claim and desire to represent that the saving and redeeming power exists in those principles I refer to.