Will the soul that could not believe in God, with all his lovely world around testifying of him, believe when shut in the prison of its own, lonely self? It would for a time try to believe that it was indeed nothing, a mere glow of the setting sun on a cloud of dust, a paltry dream that dreamed itself...
. For the misery would be not merely the absence of all other beings, but the fearful, endless, unavoidable presence of his own self. It is the lovely creatures God has made all around us, in them giving us himself, that, until we know him, save us from the frenzy of aloneness. The man who minds only himself must at last go mad if God did not interfere.
There is a thing wonderful and admirable in the parables, not readily grasped, but specially indicated by the Lord himself—their unintelligibility to the mere intellect. They are addressed to the conscience and not to the intellect, to the will and not to the imagination. They are strong and direct but not definite.
....other than miserable can no one be, under the yoke of a nature contrary to his own. Comfort thyself then, who findest thine own heart and soul, or rather the things that move therein, too much for thee: God will avenge his own elect. He is not delaying: he is at work for thee. Only thou must pray, and not faint. Ask, ask; it shall be given you. Seek most the best things; to ask for the best things is to have them; the seed of them is in you, or you could not ask for them.
But perhaps, in saying “He will avenge them speedily,” the Lord was thinking of what most troubles his true disciples; and the suggestion is comforting to those whose foes are within them; for, if so, he recognizes the evils of self, against which we fight, not as parts of ourselves, but as our foes, on which he will avenge the true self that is at strife with them. And certainly no evil is, or ever could be, of the essential nature of the creature God made!
To give us the spiritual gift we desire, God may have to begin far back in our spirit, in regions unknown to us, and do much work that we can be aware of only in the results. With his own presence, the one thing for which most earnestly we cry, he may be approaching our consciousness from behind, coming forward through regions of our darkness into our light, long before we begin to be aware that he is answering our request—has answered it and is visiting his child.
Even such as ask amiss may sometimes have their prayers answered. The Father will never give the child a stone that asks for bread; but I am not sure that he will never give the child a stone that asks for a stone. If the Father say, “My child, that is a stone; it is not bread;” and the child answer, “I am sure it is bread; I want it,” may it not be well he should try his bread?
But what if the eternal, limitless Love, which, demanding all, gives all, should say, “Pray on, my child; I am hearing you; it goes through me in help to him. We are of one mind about it; I help and you help. I shall have you all safe home with me by and by! There is no fear, only we must work, and not lose heart. Go, and let your light so shine before men that they may see your good things, and glorify me by knowing that I am light and no darkness.”
...why should my love be powerless to help another? If in God we live and move and have our being; if the very possibility of loving lies in this, that we exist in and by God himself, we must then be nearer to each other, we must by prayer come closer to each other, than by any bodily proximity or interchange of help. Surely, in the Eternal, hearts are never parted!
If we believe that God knows every man’s needs, and will, for love’s sake, not spare one pang that may serve to purify the soul of one of his children, then how can we think he will in any sort alter his way with one because another prays for him? The prayer would arise from nothing in the person prayed for—why should it influence God?
No man is so tied by divine law that he can nowise modify his work: shall God not modify his? Law is the slave of Life. If you say, he has made things to go, set them going, and left them—then I say, If his machine interfered with his answering the prayer of a single child, he would sweep it from him—not to bring back chaos, but to make room for his child.