Pax Vobiscum

Pax Vobiscum

PAX VOBISCUM HENRY DRUMMOND I heard the other morning a sermon by a distinguished preacher upon "Rest." It was full of beautiful thoughts; but when I came to ask myself "How does he say I can get Rest?" there was no answer. The sermon was sincerely meant to be practical yet it contained no experience that seemed to me to be tangible nor any advice which could help me to find the thing itself as I went about the world that afternoon. Yet this omission of the only important problem was not the fault of the preacher. The whole popular religion is in the twilight here. And when pressed for really working specifics for the experiences with which it deals it falters and seems to lose itself in mist. The want of connection between the great words of religion and every-day life has bewildered and discouraged all of us. Christianity possesses the noblest words in the language; its literature overflows with terms expressive of the greatest and happiest moods which can fill the soul of man. Rest Joy Peace Faith Love Light--these words occur with such persistency in hymns and prayers that an observer might think they formed the staple of Christian experience. But on coming to close quarters with the actual life of most of us how surely would he be disenchanted. I do not think we ourselves are aware how much our religious life is made up of phrases; how much of what we call Christian experience is only a dialect of the Churches a mere religious phraseology with almost nothing behind it in what we really feel and know. To some of us indeed the Christian experiences seem further away than when we took the first steps in the Christian life. That life has not opened out as we had hoped; we do not regret our religion but we are disappointed with it. There are times perhaps when wandering notes from a diviner music stray into our spirits; but these experiences come at few and fitful moments. We have no sense of possession in them. When they visit us it is a surprise. When they leave us it is without explanation. When we wish their return we do not know how to secure it. All which points to a religion without solid base and a poor and flickering life. It means a great bankruptcy in those experiences which give Christianity its personal solace and make it attractive to the world and a great uncertainty as to any remedy. It is as if we knew everything about health--except the way to get it. I am quite sure that the difficulty does not lie in the fact that men are not in earnest. This is simply not the fact. All around us Christians are wearing themselves out in trying to be better. The amount of spiritual longing in the world--in the hearts of unnumbered thousands of men and women in whom we should never suspect it; among the wise and thoughtful; among the young and gay who seldom assuage and never betray their thirst--this is one of the most wonderful and touching facts of life. It is not more heat that is needed but more light; not more force but a wiser direction to be given to very real energies already there. The Address which follows is offered as a humble contribution to this problem and in the hope that it may help some who are "seeking Rest and finding none" to a firmer footing on one great solid simple principle which underlies not the Christian experiences alone but all experiences and all life. What Christian experience wants is _thread_ a vertebral column method. It is impossible to believe that there is no remedy for its unevenness and dishevelment or that the remedy is a secret. The idea also that some few men by happy chance or happier temperament have been given the secret--as if there were some sort of knack or trick of it--is wholly incredible. Religion must ripen its fruit for every temperament; and the way even into its highest heights must be by a gateway through which the peoples of the world may pass. I shall try to lead up to this gateway by a very familiar path. But as that path is strangely unfrequented and even unknown where it passes into the religious sphere I must dwell for a moment on the commonest of commonplaces. EFFECTS REQUIRE CAUSES Nothing that happens in the world happens by chance. God is a God of order. Everything is arranged upon definite principles and never at random. The world even the religious world is governed by law. Character is governed by law. Happiness is governed by law. The Christian experiences are governed by law. Men forgetting this expect Rest Joy Peace Faith to drop into their souls from the air like snow or rain. But in point of fact they do not do so; and if they did they would no less have their origin in previous activities and be controlled by natural laws. Rain and snow do drop from the air but not without a long previous history. They are the mature effects of former causes. Equally so are Rest and Peace and Joy. They too have each a previous history. Storms and winds and calms are not accidents but are brought about by antecedent circumstances. Rest and Peace are but calms in man's inward nature and arise through causes as definite and as inevitable. Realize it thoroughly: it is a methodical not an accidental world. If a housewife turns out a good cake it is the result of a sound receipt carefully applied. She cannot mix the assigned ingredients and fire them for the appropriate time without producing the result. It is not she who has made the cake; it is nature. She brings related things together; sets causes at work; these causes bring about the result. She is not a creator but an intermediary. She does not expect random causes to produce specific effects--random ingredients would only produce random cakes. So it is in the making of Christian experiences. Certain lines are followed; certain effects are the result. These effects cannot but be the result. But the result can never take place without the previous cause. To expect results without antecedents is to expect cakes without ingredients. That impossibility is precisely the almost universal expectation. Now what I mainly wish to do is to help you firmly to grasp this simple principle of Cause and Effect in the spiritual world. And instead of applying the principle generally to each of the Christian experiences in turn I shall examine its application to one in some little detail. The one I shall select is Rest. And I think any one who follows the application in this single instance will be able to apply it for himself to all the others. Take such a sentence as this: African explorers are subject to fevers which cause restlessness and delirium. Note the expression "cause restlessness." _Restlessness has a cause_. Clearly then any one who wished to get rid of restlessness would proceed at once to deal with the cause. If that were not removed a doctor might prescribe a hundred things and all might be taken in turn without producing the least effect. Things are so arranged in the original planning of the world that certain effects must follow certain causes and certain causes must be abolished before certain effects can be removed. Certain parts of Africa are inseparably linked with the physical experience called fever; this fever is in turn infallibly linked with a mental experience called restlessness and delirium. To abolish the mental experience the radical method would be to abolish the physical experience and the way of abolishing the physical experience would be to abolish Africa or to cease to go there. Now this holds good for all other forms of Restlessness. Every other form and kind of Restlessness in the world has a definite cause and the particular kind of Restlessness can only be removed by removing the allotted cause. All this is also true of Rest. Restlessness has a cause: must not _Rest_ have a cause? Necessarily. If it were a chance world we would not expect this; but being a methodical world it cannot be otherwise. Rest physical rest moral rest spiritual rest every kind of rest has a cause as certainly as restlessness. Now causes are discriminating. There is one kind of cause for every particular effect and no other; and if one particular effect is desired the corresponding cause must be set in motion. It is no use proposing finely devised schemes or going through general pious exercises in the hope that somehow Rest will come. The Christian life is not casual but causal. All nature is a standing protest against the absurdity of expecting to secure spiritual effects or any effects without the employment of appropriate causes. The Great Teacher dealt what ought to have been the final blow to this infinite irrelevancy by a single question "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?" Why then did the Great Teacher not educate His followers fully? Why did He not tell us for example how such a thing as Rest might be obtained? The answer is that _He did_. But plainly explicitly in so many words? Yes plainly explicitly in so many words. He assigned Rest to its cause in words with which each of us has been familiar from his earliest childhood. He begins you remember--for you at once know the passage I refer to--almost as if Rest could be had without any cause: "Come unto me" He says "and I will _give_ you Rest." Rest apparently was a favour to be bestowed; men had but to come to Him; He would give it to every applicant. But the next sentence takes that all back. The qualification indeed is added instantaneously. For what the first sentence seemed to give was next thing to an impossibility. For how in a literal sense can Rest be _given_? One could no more give away Rest than he could give away Laughter. We speak of "causing" laughter which we can do; but we cannot give it away. When we speak of giving pain we know perfectly well we cannot give pain away. And when we aim at giving pleasure all that we do is to arrange a set of circumstances in such a way as that these shall cause pleasure. Of course there is a sense and a very wonderful sense in which a Great Personality breathes upon all who come within its influence an abiding peace and trust. Men can be to other men as the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Much more Christ; much more Christ as Perfect Man; much more still as Saviour of the world. But it is not this of which I speak. When Christ said He would give men Rest He meant simply that He would put them in the way of it. By no act of conveyance would or could He make over His own Rest to them. He could give them His receipt for it. That was all. But He would not make it for them; for one thing it was not in His plan to make it for them; for another thing men were not so planned that it could be made for them; and for yet another thing it was a thousand times better that they should make it for themselves. That this is the meaning becomes obvious from the wording of the second sentence: "Learn of Me and ye shall _find_ Rest." Rest that is to say is not a thing that can be given but a thing to be _acquired_. It comes not by an act but by a process. It is not to be found in a happy hour as one finds a treasure; but slowly as one finds knowledge. It could indeed be no more found in a moment than could knowledge. A soil has to be prepared for it. Like a fine fruit it will grow in one climate and not in another; at one altitude and not at another. Like all growths it will have an orderly development and mature by slow degrees. The nature of this slow process Christ clearly defines when He says we are to achieve Rest by _learning_. "Learn of Me" He says "and ye shall find rest to your souls." Now consider the extraordinary originality of this utterance. How novel the connection between these two words "Learn" and "Rest"? How few of us have ever associated them--ever thought that Rest was a thing to be learned; ever laid ourselves out for it as we would to learn a language; ever practised it as we would practise the violin? Does it not show how entirely new Christ's teaching still is to the world that so old and threadbare an aphorism should still be so little applied? The last thing most of us would have thought of would have been to associate _Rest_ with _Work_. What must one work at? What is that which if duly learned will find the soul of man in Rest? Christ answers without the least hesitation. He specifies two things--Meekness and Lowliness. "Learn of Me" He says "for I am _meek_ and _lowly_ in heart." Now these two things are not chosen at random. To these accomplishments in a special way Rest is attached. Learn these in short and you have already found Rest. These as they stand are direct causes of Rest; will produce it at once; cannot but produce it at once. And if you think for a single moment you will see how this is necessarily so for causes are never arbitrary and the connection between antecedent and consequent here and everywhere lies deep in the nature of things. What is the connection then? I answer by a further question. What are the chief causes of _Unrest_? If you know yourself you will answer Pride Selfishness Ambition. As you look back upon the past years of your life is it not true that its unhappiness has chiefly come from the succession of personal mortifications and almost trivial disappointments which the intercourse of life has brought you? Great trials come at lengthened intervals and we rise to breast them; but it is the petty friction of our every-day life with one another the jar of business or of work the discord of the domestic circle the collapse of our ambition the crossing of our will or the taking down of our conceit which make inward peace impossible. Wounded vanity then disappointed hopes unsatisfied selfishness--these are the old vulgar universal sources of man's unrest. Now it is obvious why Christ pointed out as the two chief objects for attainment the exact opposites of these. To Meekness and Lowliness these things simply do not exist. They cure unrest by making it impossible. These remedies do not trifle with surface symptoms; they strike at once at removing causes. The ceaseless chagrin of a self-centred life can be removed at once by learning Meekness and Lowliness of heart. He who learns them is forever proof against it. He lives henceforth a charmed life. Christianity is a fine inoculation a transfusion of healthy blood into an anaemic or poisoned soul. No fever can attack a perfectly sound body; no fever of unrest can disturb a soul which has breathed the air or learned the ways of Christ. Men sigh for the wings of a dove that they may fly away and be at Rest. But flying away will not help us. "The Kingdom of God is _within you_." We aspire to the top to look for Rest; it lies at the bottom. Water rests only when it gets to the lowest place. So do men. Hence be lowly. The man who has no opinion of himself at all can never be hurt if others do not acknowledge him. Hence be meek. He who is without expectation cannot fret if nothing comes to him. It is self-evident that these things are so. The lowly man and the meek man are really above all other men above all other things. They dominate the world because they do not care for it. The miser does not possess gold gold possesses him. But the meek possess it. "The meek" said Christ "inherit the earth." They do not buy it; they do not conquer it but they inherit it. There are people who go about the world looking out for slights and they are necessarily miserable for they find them at every turn--especially the imaginary ones. One has the same pity for such men as for the very poor. They are the morally illiterate. They have had no real education for they have never learned how to live. Few men know how to live. We grow up at random carrying into mature life the merely animal methods and motives which we had as little children. And it does not occur to us that all this must be changed; that much of it must be reversed that life is the finest of the Fine Arts that it has to be learned with lifelong patience and that the years of our pilgrimage are all too short to master it triumphantly. Yet this is what Christianity is for--to teach men the Art of Life. And its whole curriculum lies in one word--"Learn of me." Unlike most education this is almost purely personal; it is not to be had from books or lectures or creeds or doctrines. It is a study from the life. Christ never said much in mere words about the Christian graces. He lived them He was them. Yet we do not merely copy Him. We learn His art by living with Him like the old apprentices with their masters. Now we understand it all? Christ's invitation to the weary and heavy-laden is a call to begin life over again upon a new principle--upon His own principle. "Watch My way of doing things" He says. "Follow Me. Take life as I take it. Be meek and lowly and you will find Rest." I do not say remember that the Christian life to every man or to any man can be a bed of roses. No educational process can be this. And perhaps if some men knew how much was involved in the simple "learn" of Christ they would not enter His school with so irresponsible a heart. For there is not only much to learn but much to unlearn. Many men never go to this school at all till their disposition is already half ruined and character has taken on its fatal set. To learn arithmetic is difficult at fifty--much more to learn Christianity. To learn simply what it is to be meek and lowly in the case of one who has had no lessons in that in childhood may cost him half of what he values most on earth. Do we realize for instance that the way of teaching humility is generally by _humiliation_? There is probably no other school for it. When a man enters himself as a pupil in such a school it means a very great thing. There is much Rest there but there is also much Work. I should be wrong even though my theme is the brighter side to ignore the cross and minimise the cost. Only it gives to the cross a more definite meaning and a rarer value to connect it thus directly and _causally_ with the growth of the inner life. Our platitudes on the "benefits of affliction" are usually about as vague as our theories of Christian Experience. "Somehow" we believe affliction does us good. But it is not a question of "Somehow." The result is definite calculable necessary. It is under the strictest law of cause and effect. The first effect of losing one's fortune for instance is humiliation; and the effect of humiliation as we have just seen is to make one humble; and the effect of being humble is to produce Rest. It is a roundabout way apparently of producing Rest; but Nature generally works by circular processes; and it is not certain that there is any other way of becoming humble or of finding Rest. If a man could make himself humble to order it might simplify matters but we do not find that this happens. Hence we must all go through the mill. Hence death death to the lower self is the nearest gate and the quickest road to life. Yet this is only half the truth. Christ's life outwardly was one of the most troubled lives that was ever lived: Tempest and tumult tumult and tempest the waves breaking over it all the time till the worn body was laid in the grave. But the inner life was a sea of glass. The great calm was always there. At any moment you might have gone to Him and found Rest. And even when the bloodhounds were dogging him in the streets of Jerusalem He turned to His disciples and offered them as a last legacy "My peace." Nothing ever for a moment broke the serenity of Christ's life on earth. Misfortune could not reach Him; He had no fortune. Food raiment money--fountain-heads of half the world's weariness--He simply did not care for; they played no part in His life; He "took no thought" for them. It was impossible to affect Him by lowering His reputation; He had already made Himself of no reputation. He was dumb before insult. When He was reviled He reviled not-again. In fact there was nothing that the world could do to Him that could ruffle the surface of His spirit. Such living as mere living is altogether unique. It is only when we see what it was in Him that we can know what the word Rest means. It lies not in emotions nor in the absence of emotions. It is not a hallowed feeling that comes over us in church. It is not something that the preacher has in his voice. It is not in nature or in poetry or in music--though in all these there is soothing. It is the mind at leisure from itself. It is the perfect poise of the soul; the absolute adjustment of the inward man to the stress of all outward things; the preparedness against every emergency; the stability of assured convictions; the eternal calm of an invulnerable faith; the repose of a heart set deep in God. It is the mood of the man who says with Browning "God's in His Heaven all's well with the world." Two painters each painted a picture to illustrate his conception of rest. The first chose for his scene a still lone lake among the far-off mountains. The second threw on his canvas a thundering waterfall with a fragile birch-tree bending over the foam; at the fork of a branch almost wet with the cataract's spray a robin sat on its nest. The first was only _Stagnation_; the last was _Rest_. For in Rest there are always two elements--tranquillity and energy; silence and turbulence; creation and destruction; fearlessness and fearfulness. This it was in Christ. It is quite plain from all this that whatever else He claimed to be or to do He at least knew how to live. All this is the perfection of living of living in the mere sense of passing through the world in the best way. Hence His anxiety to communicate His idea of life to others. He came He said to give men life true life a more abundant life than they were living; "the life" as the fine phrase in the Revised Version has it "that is life indeed." This is what He himself possessed and it was this which He offers to all mankind. And hence His direct appeal for all to come to Him who had not made much of life who were weary and heavy-laden. These He would teach His secret. They also should know "the life that is life indeed." WHAT YOKES ARE FOR There is still one doubt to clear up. After the statement "Learn of Me" Christ throws in the disconcerting qualification "_Take My yoke_ upon you and learn of Me." Why if all this be true does He call it a _yoke_? Why while professing to give Rest does He with the next breath whisper "_burden_"? Is the Christian life after all what its enemies take it for--an additional weight to the already great woe of life some extra punctiliousness about duty some painful devotion to observances some heavy restriction and trammelling of all that is joyous and free in the world? Is life not hard and sorrowful enough without being fettered with yet another yoke? It is astounding how so glaring a misunderstanding of this plain sentence should ever have passed into currency. Did you ever stop to ask what a yoke is really for? Is it to be a burden to the animal which wears it? It is just the opposite. It is to make its burden light. Attached to the oxen in any other way than by a yoke the plough would be intolerable. Worked by means of a yoke it is light. A yoke is not an instrument of torture; it is an instrument of mercy. It is not a malicious contrivance for making work hard; it is a gentle device to make hard labour light. It is not meant to give pain but to save pain. And yet men speak of the yoke of Christ as if it were a slavery and look upon those who wear it as objects of compassion. For generations we have had homilies on "The Yoke of Christ" some delighting in portraying its narrow exactions; some seeking in these exactions the marks of its divinity; others apologising for it and toning it down; still others assuring us that although it be very bad it is not to be compared with the positive blessings of Christianity. How many especially among the young has this one mistaken phrase driven forever away from the kingdom of God? Instead of making Christ attractive it makes Him out a taskmaster narrowing life by petty restrictions calling for self-denial where none is necessary making misery a virtue under the plea that it is the yoke of Christ and happiness criminal because it now and then evades it. According to this conception Christians are at best the victims of a depressing fate; their life is a penance; and their hope for the next world purchased by a slow martyrdom in this. The mistake has arisen from taking the word "yoke" here in the same sense as in the expressions "under the yoke" or "wear the yoke in his youth." But in Christ's illustration it is not _jugum_ of the Roman soldier but the simple "harness" or "ox-collar" of the Eastern peasant. It is the literal wooden yoke which He with His own hands in the ...