Chapter VIII. The Fear of Death and Abundance of Life
 

I

After all, the conquest of fear is largely a question of vitality. Those who have most life are most fearless. The main question is as to the source from which an increase of life is to be obtained.

An important psychological truth was involved when our Lord made the declaration, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This, I think, was the first plain statement ever made that life was a quantitative energy; that it is less or more dynamic according to the measure in which the individual seizes it. But once more the Caucasian has stultified the meaning of Jesus of Nazareth by evaporating it to the tenuous wisp which he understands as spiritual. Between the pale ghost of such spiritual life as he has evoked from the Saviour's words and manly and womanly vigour in full-blooded exercise he has seen no connection.

II

Few of us do see a connection between strength of spirit and strength of limb; but it is there. I am not saying that a strong spirit cannot coexist with a feeble frame; but the feeble frame is a mistake. It is the result of apprehension and misapprehension, and bred of race-fear. The strong spirit would have put forth a strong frame if we had given it a chance. Abundant life must be life, healthy, active, and radiant. It should show the life-principle no longer driven from sea to land, and from land to air, or battling with a million foes, but vigorous and triumphant.

This vigour and triumph we ought to work into our point of view, so kneading it into our subconsciousness. Strong in proportion as our subconsciousness is strong, fearless in proportion as our subconsciousness is fearless, the going from strength to strength becomes a matter of course to us. Urging us on in sheer joy of power, abundance of life becomes still more abundant through the indwelling of the life-principle. That mystic resistless force, which has fashioned already so many forms, is forever at work fashioning a higher type of man.

Each one of us is that higher type of man potentially. Though we can forge but little ahead of our time and generation, it is much to know that the Holy Ghost of Life is our animating breath, pushing us on to the overcoming of all obstacles. For me as an individual it is a support to feel that the principle which was never yet defeated is my principle, and that whatever the task of to-day or to-morrow I have the ability to perform it well. The hesitation that may seize me, or the questioning which for an instant may shake my faith, is but a reminder that the life-principle is not only with me, but more abundantly with me in proportion to my need. My need is its call. The spasm of fear which crosses my heart summons it to my aid. It not only never deserts me, but it never delays, and is never at a loss for some new ingenuity to meet new requirements. "From strength to strength" is its law, carrying me on with the impetus of its own mounting toward God.

III

And the impetus of its own mounting toward God is not confined to what we view as the great things of life. Between great and small it makes no distinction. It is as eager on behalf of the man behind a counter as on that of him who is governing a country. The woman who has on her shoulders the social duties of an embassy, or the financial cares of a great business, has it no more at her command than she who is nursing her baby or reckoning her pennies to make both ends meet. It rushes to the help of all. Wherever there is duty or responsibility it is begging at the doors of our hearts to be let in, to share the work and ease the burden.

As I get up each morning, it is there. As I plan my day while I dress myself, it is there. As I think with misgiving of some letter I tremble at receiving, or with distaste at some job I must tackle before night, it is there.

It is there, not only with its help, but with its absolute knowledge of the right way for me to act. The care that worries me may be so big as to involve millions of other people's money, or it may be as small as the typing of a letter; but the right way of fulfilling either task is pleading to be allowed to enter my intelligence. My task is its task. My success will be its success. My failure will react on it, since failure sets back by that degree the whole procession of the ages. Whether I am painting a great masterpiece or sewing on a button my success is essential to the Holy Ghost of Life.

IV

So I, the individual, try to confront each day with the knowledge that I am infused with a guiding, animating principle which will not let me drop behind, or lose my modest reward, so long as I trust to the force which carries me along. By trusting to it I mean resting on it quietly, without worrying, without being afraid that it will fail me. "Fret not thyself, else shalt thou be moved to do evil."[34] By doing evil, I presume is meant making a mistake, taking the wrong course. If, however great the cause, I fret myself I disturb the right conditions. By disturbing the right conditions I choke off the flow of the life-principle through my energies.

[34] The Book of Psalms.

V

At a moment when the little buffer state between Egypt and Assyria was afraid of being overrun by the one or the other it was frantically casting about to decide with which it would throw in its lot. "With neither," a great prophet thundered in the ears of the people. "In calmly resting your safety lieth; in quiet trust shall be your strength."[35]

[35] The Book of Isaiah.

My small experience in the conquest of fear can be condensed into these four words: Calmly resting! quiet trust! That amid the turmoil of the time and the feverishness of our days it is always easy I do not pretend. Still less do I pretend that I accomplish it. I have said, a few lines above, that I tried. Trying is as far as I have gone; but even trying is productive of wonderful results.

VI

Least of all do I claim to have covered the whole ground, or to have discussed to its fulness any one of the points which I have raised. Whole regions of thought which bear on my subject--such as psychology, philosophy, and religion as I understand the word--I have carefully endeavoured to avoid. My object has been to keep as closely as possible to the line of personal experience, which has a value only because it is personal. Telling no more than what one man has endeavoured to work out, what I have written seeks no converts. Though, for the sake of brevity, it may at times seem to take a hortatory tone, it is a record and no more. In it the reader will doubtless find much to correct, and possibly to reject; and this must be as it happens. What I hope he will neither correct nor reject is the sincerity of the longing to find God's relations to the phenomena of life, and the extent to which the phenomena of life reflect God.

VII

In the end we come back to that, the eternal struggle whereby that which is unlike God becomes more and more like Him. In watching the process, and taking part in it, there is, when all is said and done, a sense of glorious striving and success. With each generation some veil which hid the Creator from the creature is torn forever aside. God, who is always here, is seen a little more clearly by each generation as being; here. God, who ever since His sun first rose and His rain first fell has been making Himself known to us, is by each generation a little better understood. God, whom we have tried to lock up in churches or banish to Sundays and special holy days, is breaking through all our prohibitions, growing more and more a force in our homes and our schools, in our shops and our factories, in our offices and our banks, in our embassies, congresses, parliaments, and seats of government. Into His light we advance slowly, unwillingly, driven by our pain; but we advance.

The further we advance the more we perceive of power. The more we perceive of power the more we are freed from fear. The more we are freed from fear the more exultantly we feel our abundance of life. The more exultantly we feel our abundance of life the more we reject death in any of its forms. And the more we reject death in any of its forms the more we reflect that Holy Ghost of Life which urges us on from conquest to conquest, from strength to strength, to the fulfilling of ourselves.