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some of the questions he put to one man and the answers he got:
Q.-What does religion mean to you?
A.—It means nothing, and it seems, so far as I can observe, useless to others. I am sixty-seven years of age, and have resided in the same place sixty years, and have been in business for forty-five; consequently I have some little experience of life and men, and some of women, too; and I find that the most religious and pious people are, as a rule, those most lacking in uprightness and morality. The men who do not go to church, or have any religious convictions, are the best. Praying, singing of hymns, and sermonising are pernicious—they teach us to rely on some supernatural power, when we ought to rely on ourselves. I teetotally disbelieve in a God. If I were to die now, being in a healthy condition for my age, both mentally and physically, I would just as lief-yes, rather—die with a hearty enjoyment of music, sport, or any other rational pastime. As the timepiece stops, we die, and that is all about it.
Q.-What is your notion of sin?
A.-It seems to me that sin is a condition, a disease, incidental to man's development not being yet advanced enough. Morbidness over it increases the disease, and, at any rate, it is no use praying about it.
The writer of the book drily remarks at the close of the interrogation, “If we are in search of a broken and contrite heart, clearly we need not look to this brother."
Now compare that statement of experience with this one. In answer to similar questions, another man,
forty-nine years of age, chosen at random, like the other, answers:
God is more real to me than any thought or thing or person. I feel His presence positively. The more I live in closer harmony with His laws as written in body and mind, the nearer do I feel Him to be. I talk to Him as to a companion in prayer and praise, and our communion is joy."
Another, this time a young man of twenty-seven, replies:
“God is quite real to me. I speak to Him, and He answers me. Something over a year ago, I was for some weeks in the direst perplexity. I turned to God's Holy Word, and the promise, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee,' seems to come afresh from God's heart to mine. Every time my thoughts turned to my trouble, I heard that ring, and I knew that heaven spoke to me. God is the nearest of all realities to my soul. He surrounds me like an atmosphere. He is precious, He is necessary, more to me than my own life.”
Now, I suppose we could parallel those two cases in this audience. I am perfectly sure that a number of you have come in here, not because you believe in religion or the Bible, still less in any preacher, but somebody said to you, “We have an hour to spare, shall we go along to the City Temple and see what these people are doing, and what the fellow who is there has to say?” But you have no more touch with us and no more spiritual susceptibility, or you think not, than the organ behind or the walls around me. You can get on perfectly well without any religion. You never pray, and tell me you never want to,
and you would feel it rather unmanly not to fight your own
battles, and you think what puling weaklings these people are who go whining to a Higher Power when they want things done for them, and so on. Now, my friend, over against your case I place in respectful contrast the experience suggested in the words just read as coming from the religious mind. Not all of the people who pray are weaker men than you; some of them are tremendously strong, and, to say the least of it, you had better judge of Christianity in particular and of religion in general by the best and the strongest it produces rather than by the weak. If you do, you will find some things between you and me that ought to make you pause and think whether you have got hold of the right philosophy of life.
Partly between these two strong contrastive types of mind there is another great body of experience represented, for anything I know to the contrary, by a majority, a distinct numerical majority, of those who are present this morning. A man of this third type
. sometimes prays and sometimes does not; occasionally he feels an impulse to cry to his Maker. Perhaps an overmastering sorrow drives him to his knees, but, for the most part, prayer has very little to do with his ordinary everyday experience; yet he would be glad to know that there was any reality in prayer, You will perhaps tell me that you have prayed many a time, and you are not conscious that you have got any answer; but if there be such a thing as answered prayer you would like to know of it, that you may get fast hold upon the things that are unseen and eternal. I cannot do better than ask you to come with me as close up as ever you can get to the words of my text; for if ever there was an unequivocal statement of the experience of prayer and a promise of answer to it, it is in that text, “ If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Those words must answer to somebody's experience, for we have the temerity to read them in the pulpit nearly nineteen hundred years after they were written. Ah," somebody will say, “you beg the question, they were not written so far back; you stick St. John's name on, but did John ever write them, and did Jesus ever say them?” I think John did write them, and that Jesus did say them, and the reason why I think so is that they have stood the test of so many centuries, whether it be sixteen or nineteen. They are here, and they have value. Men heed them, pray because of them, cling to them, rest upon them. They regard them as a gracious promise, they build them into heart and life, and your preacher of this morning, not to speak of scores of other people who would say the same thing, believes them to be deathlessly true. The Master who spoke them is speaking them still, and He speaks them in the midst of our congregation to-day. "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you”-no stranger voice this
ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Let us further examine into the scope of this stupendous promise.
“If ye abide in Me.” “Now,” says my friend the sceptic, willing or unwilling, “I may try this exercise of yours, but to me praying is just like talking at the air; the words go, but they do not bring anything back. I may act on the eternal, but there is no reaction. It is like uttering oneself to an atmosphere." Take your phrase "an atmosphere.” You have prayed to-day to an atmosphere, and you got an answer. All your human relations are questions of atmosphere. You never yet had anything to do with a person but you were dealing with an atmosphere, one that you could feel and describe, and has value. You know it because it reacts on your experience. Every man has his atmosphere, and when you were trying to sell a man a dozen yards of calico across the counter, and asked him a certain price for it, and did your best to get him to pay it, you were praying; it may have been on a low level, but you were praying to a living person, whose atmosphere was round about you, distinct from any atmosphere you ever knew before, and that man's value for you at this moment, whatever it may be, was an exact equivalent to your prayer. Do you think this is a far-fetched illustration? It is not; nothing of the sort. All religion is a question of personal atmosphere. We live with a living Being. Christianity is no code of rules or system of philosophy; it is a spirit, a life, an atmosphere, and we are dealing with a Person who is, at any rate, not less than any person you ever met in this life. Now if I declare the Person with whom I am dealing across my spiritual counter to be Jesus Christ, you cannot contradict me, if experience goes to confirm my faith. Has He kept His word? Has He done aught for me? My prayer has come back laden with something worth the having, and I send it forth again in faith that the return will increase. “If a man abide Me and I abide in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit."