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Thoughts of the Spiritual



"Blessed are the poor (the beggars) in spirit; because
theirs is the kingdom of the heavens."—Matt. 5: 3.

In looking at these opening statements of our Lord in that wonderful Sermon preached by Him on the Mount, one cannot but be struck with the fact of how utterly unlike the general ideas of mankind were the ideas He there propounded.

The world had had its many teachers before He came to reveal the higher truths concerning God and Religion; and men had startled their hearers with the novelty and strangeness of what they taught; but never by any one had preconceptions been so ruthlessly assailed, traditional notions so upset, and religious ideas so revolutionized, as by Jesus.

The greatest of all difficulties against which the Master had to contend in imparting Divine truth to mankind, was, to remove that obstructing supposition, held by so many religious persons, viz., that what is contrariant to their own views must of necessity be erroneous.

Men, as a rule, in regard to any teaching which is new to them, do not ask—"Is it true? but is it in agreement with what we have been taught?" If it is not in agreement, then, according to many, there exists the strongest probability that it is false. The rejection of the "Larger Hope" by so many of our co-religionists at the present day, is due to no argument that can be sustained by an appeal to the Bible or reason, but that it is different from the ideas which have obtained currency in the past. That mental attitude was, of old, the bar to the inlet of Divine light on the minds of men; and it is the bar to-day. One of the hardest facts for some to learn is, that however extended may be their vision of truth, there are other truths lying beyond the horizon of their present knowledge, which are undreamed of, perhaps, by them.

Has it ever struck you how completely opposite to the ideas of the time were the ideas that Jesus expressed in those Beatitudes? Have you ever thought of how His teaching must have jarred upon the susceptibilities of those who heard Him speak?

We can picture the look of scorn and contempt that passed over the face and curled the lip of the Pharisee, so satisfied with the infallibility of his Church and the moral and religious respectability of himself, as the Master belauded the ones who in spirit are beggar-like. We can almost hear the laugh of derision on the part of the fashionable, pleasure-seeking ones in that throng on that mountainside, as He accounted happy the souls that mourn.

We can imagine the look of angry dissent that showed itself on the faces of proud and rule-loving priests and Romans, as He exalted the qualities of meekness and mercifulness and patience under wrongs suffered for righteousness' sake. Almost we see the impatient turning of the back upon the Speaker, and hear the disdainful exclamation— "Oh! he is mad!" as the Saviour said—"Rejoice; be exceeding glad, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake." Yes, Jesus was decidedly out of tune with the thoughts of the time, when He preached that Sermon!

And yet the words spoken in that Sermon have revolutionized the ideas of millions in regard to what constitutes goodness and spiritual excellence.

To those words we owe it that our conception of God is a better one than that presented by the Jewish Religion. To them we owe it that England as a nation, in spite of the irreligion of the masses, is immeasurably better in morals and practice than was ancient powerful Rome, or wealthy classical Greece. To those words it is due that the God-qualities of mercy, pity, benevolence, forgiveness and love are energizing in us as a people, to-day, better than they energized in men and women when Jesus walked this earth. To the leavening influence of those words, impregnated as they are with a spiritual power drawn from the Personality of the Divine Speaker, must we attribute it that there are to-day no curling lips, no disdainful looks, and no exclamations of resentment, when the preacher, in the name of Christ, denounces pride and unmercifulness, and belauds humility, forgiveness and self-abnegation.

Oh! yes, that mountain-sermon of Jesus Christ has never lost its power; its echo has never died away. As the ages roll on, and man's perceptions of the Spiritual grow brighter and truer, it will find its response in the hearts of all true men and women who are hungering and thirsting for real righteousness.

It is with such thoughts as these that we proceed to consider the first of the Beatitudes.

The words the beggars—which appear in the Greek of this passage, we translate differently from the translation in the Authorized Version. This will enable us the better to grasp the meaning of the Saviour's statement, and it may also remove a certain misconception which may arise from the term "poor."

It is suggestive, also, that our Lord should have placed this particular one as the first of the Beatitudes. Was He, thereby, defining the soul-condition, out of which all other phases of blessedness must arise? Was He telling men what must be the root of all true Religion; what the antecedent indispensable requirement for the satisfying of the soul's deepest longings; for the obtaining of mercy, for the vision of God, and for the proud distinction of being called "the children of God"? We think He was. We think that the Master, in His own quiet and significant manner, was telling us that the condition of our spirit must constitute our heaven in Time and our heaven in Eternity. "The kingdom of God is within you," said Jesus. "Blessed are the beggars (the beggars) in spirit; because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens."

It may help us to understand this subject better, if we first consider what our Lord did not mean in saying—"Blessed are the beggars in spirit." Most certainly He did not mean that there can be any blessedness in the spiritual part of our manhood being poverty-stricken. The passage in the Authorized Version of the New Testament—"Blessed are the poor in spirit"—seems to lend a support to such a supposition. We are familiar with the reproachful expression—"A poor-spirited individual"; and there are some persons who have never honestly set themselves to find out what it is that Jesus really taught; persons, moreover, who have had the misfortune, perhaps, to come into contact with some Christians in regard to whom the term "poor-spirited" is not misapplied—who quite sincerely imagine that poor-spiritedness is a characteristic of consistent Christianity. It is that idea which causes numbers of men to hold aloof from Religion. They have the notion that the mental attitude of a Christian is incompatible with robust manhood. Were they to voice their thoughts, they would say something of this kind —"Well, you see, we consider Christianity an excellent thing for women and old persons; but its principles are not at all suited to strong and self-reliant manhood. Your Master, Himself, bade you be 'poor in spirit'; and, to be quite candid, we have a supreme dislike to poor-spirited individuals, especially to men of that stamp."

Our reply to them is that the Christ has been misunderstood. He never bade us be "poor in spirit," in the sense that is sometimes supposed; and if an unsatisfactory translation of a word in the Greek New Testament (beggars) has caused any to make such a mistake, there is a better translation which completely negatives the idea.

"Blessed are the beggars in spirit," said Jesus; and He was not referring to a spiritual destitution, but to a spiritual attitude—an attitude which is the God-appointed condition whereby we can be enriched from Infinite resources.

He had no thought of our spirit being impoverished and feeble. Knowing that our spirit, like His own perfect Spirit, was designed to be a powerful and energizing Principle that shall call into play every quality that constitutes true and rightly-balanced manhood, He never meant that any poorness—any inability to function fully, or any phase of non-development, could possibly be an advantage to it. No, the Christ had quite another idea than of poverty in His mind, when He said— "Blessed are the beggars in spirit." We have to realize what our spirit is in relation to our whole being as men and women. It is our essential self; that upon which everything else pertaining to our manhood is built, and it is the formative Principle from which all the attributes that constitute manhood arise. To the spirit belong Mind and Will, and from the exercise of Mind and Will result intuitions, aspirations, emotions, love and so on. Poverty of spirit involves poverty of Mind and Will and a corresponding feebleness in their manifestations.

The mind and will of Christian men ought to be greater energizing principles than the mind and will of those who are not Christians. The Christian has that which an irreligious man has not; he has a wider domain of thought in which his mind may exercise itself, and by virtue of his connection with God, a Divine Will-Force is imparted which enhances the strength of his own will.

In respect, therefore, to the two great manifestations of spirit-life—viz., the exercise of Mind and Will, Christianity instead of tending to make one ''poor in spirit," makes one rich. The development of the spirit's powers, as it manifests itself through the channels of Mind and Will, is the very purpose of the salvation of Christ. To produce a "poor" spirit would be to frustrate that purpose.

To those who think out of the groove of conventional religious thought, this, of course, appears a mere truism; but it is not so to many Christians. We believe that when the spirit of a man turns Godward, and realizes its vital relationship to Him, a tremendous incentive is given to the Mind and Will to function more vigorously. The vastness of God, in conscious relationship with us, ought, in the proper order of things, to open up a vastness in regard to Thought. It ought not to be accounted right that no Christian should exercise his mind outside the limits affixed by other Christians hundreds of years since. Man's knowledge of Divine truth, like every other kind of knowledge, is progressive; and men by the exercise of mind, may, in obedience to an acknowledged law of God, understand the Gospel far better to-day than it was understood five hundred or a thousand years ago. Protestant Christianity admits this in relation to the teaching of the Roman Church; she denies it in relation to any teaching which is in advance of her own. The man who, by prayer, is living in communion with God, has by that very fact opened up an illimitable domain in regard to Mind. In such a case, to stifle Thought, or to confine it within the narrow channels marked out by others in the long past, is a fatal mistake. It is an indication of spiritual poverty. Thought is the evidence of the soul's life, and, like all life that is not declining, it cannot remain stationary. There are many Christians whose mental condition exhibits this spiritual poverty.

They accept certain religious views for no other reason than that they have been authoritatively pronounced to be "orthodox" by some leader, or Council, or Church. They never allow themselves to think about those views. Nay more, they consider it positively wrong to do so. They imagine that to question anything which has been labeled "De Fide" by the School to which they belong is an indication of a lack of faith, and so when doubts arise they are instantly extruded as being imcompatible with what is good.

They elect not to think for themselves; not to set themselves earnestly to ascertain what is truth; but to leave others to settle that point for them. Surrendering all right to think, except in strict accordance with what has been defined, they, like a great intellect who left the English Church for a Church whose claim to final authority is more pretentious, prostrate their mind at the feet of any ecclesiastical community or sect that asserts infallibility, and imagine that to think reasonably and logically is inimical to faith.

Persons of this mental stamp can do that which astonishes others whose mind is differently constituted. They can love God and exhibit all kinds of moral excellencies, and yet assent at the same time to doctrines which are opposed to every conception of love, justice and mercy. Such persons have lulled their mind into so great a condition of inactivity as to make it insensible to argument. You may prove to them that the passages of Scripture upon which have been reared huge doctrinal superstructures of horror and unreason are mistranslations. They will only shake their head, and tell you that your mind has been ensnared by the Evil One. You may show them that what one Council has declared to be true, another Council has proclaimed untrue. That will not provoke them to consider the matter independently. They have antecedently settled to whom they will listen. Convinced that their assent to certain doctrines will secure to them God's favor and a passport to heaven, they consider that there is a decided virtue in not permitting the mind to think.

These are they who must be classed among the poor in spirit. In that great department of their being—the mind—through which their spirit energizes, there is arrested development. Thought in them has reached a halting stage. They are not the ones whom the Saviour called "blessed."

Again, in regard to that other medium through which the spirit expresses itself—the Will—a mistaken idea is often entertained. Too frequently it is supposed that the suppression of the will-power in us is an indication of high spiritual development. It is nothing of the kind. The person of little or no will-power is a being of spiritual non-development. There are numbers of sincere persons who account the complete extinguishment of their will for the Will of God, or for the will of some Church, or person that is regarded as an agent of God, as the culminating point of Christian excellence. Such persons will pray—"Thy Will be done in earth as it is in heaven," and imagine that they are asking for grace to become so passive and will-less, as just to submit themselves to the Will of the Almighty. They are wrong; that is not the magnificent meaning of the petition. Other such persons enter a monastery or nunnery, or a brotherhood or sisterhood, and by unconditionally surrendering to another their will, and the right to order their thoughts and the concerns of their life, imagine that they are advancing their spirit's growth. They, too, are wrong. The growth of no spirit is advanced by the suppression of Will-power. The petition in the Lord's Prayer is no supplication for the extinguishment of our will in such a way that we may become merely passive, and endure the Will of God. That would be to ask God to take away from us a magnificent power with which He has endowed us. The words of the petition are not simply that we may endure in a right spirit that which the Will of God may order or permit; but that the Will of God may be done. "Let Thy Will become (become) as in the heaven so also upon the earth." The Will of God is done in heaven; not merely endured. The highest spheres of spirit-life are not peopled by automata, whose will-power has been absorbed by the Supreme Will-power of the universe. Every exalted being there is doing the Will of God because he, himself, is willing to do it. In other words, the doing of God's Will in heaven involves not the suppression and inertia of other wills, but the enhancement of their energy to such an extent as to make them function concordantly with the Will of God. An angel who only suffered the Will of God and did not actually do it, would be a being "poor in spirit." His spirit, in one of its departments of energy, would be inoperative. The same principle applies in regard to God's Will being done on earth. God's Will will never be done here like as It is in heaven, until the will of every man is so cultivated and quickened in power as to be energizing concurrently and harmoniously with the Will of God. And that implies the activity, and not the passivity, of the will of man. It implies that we must be actively doing, and not simply meekly enduring, the Will of our Father. Thus, the one, however good in other respects, who schools himself to will nothing and do nothing in regard to the experiences of life, but to suffer patiently and resignedly the Will of God, is not advancing his spirit's growth. Patience and Resignation are Christian graces, and bring down upon us God's blessing; but only so when they cause our will to motion still more actively Godward. Extinguishment or suppression of will-power denotes poverty in spirit, and the Christ was not belauding this.

It is for this reason that any religious system which demands the absolute surrender of the will of a person to the will of another is harmful to the spirit. There may be advantages connected with the monastic and conventual life, but they are overbalanced by the disadvantage that arises from the will-power of a person being made inactive. The one who elects to hand over either to a person or a Church his right to think and to will; who renders implicit obedience to commands whether they commend themselves to his reason or not; and who, instead of ruling his spirit himself, allows another to rule it, is no robust and developed Christian. He is one of the "poor in spirit." Not of such was the Saviour speaking. He pronounced no blessing on arrested development in Mind or in Will. The Christian, for the very reason that he is a Christian, is meant to be pre-eminently a being of Thought. All restriction and coercion of Mind is, therefore, harmful to his spirit. If he be living in communion with God, the vigorous energizing of his mind, which for a while may even lead him to hold erroneous views, is more conducive to his spirit's growth than any sleepy acquiescence in doctrines, accepted without thought and real conviction, can ever be. A truth lies crystallized in those words— "There is more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds," because "honest doubt" is an indication of the thrill of mental life, and there can be no real faith allied to mental inactivity or stagnation. The Christian, too, because he is a Christian, is meant to be pre-eminently a being of Will—a being who, because his will has been brought into contact with the Divine-Will, has received an imparted strength, which should make his controlling power of himself greater than that of non-Christian men.

To what, then, was our Lord alluding when He said—"Blessed are the beggars in spirit"? As we have already asserted, He was thinking not of the spiritual condition, but of the attitude of the spirit. A man's spirit can be described as "blessed" when, before the great Father-Spirit it is in the attitude of a beggar.

It may seem strange and paradoxical, but it is a fact, that man's spirit is never so strong as when it feels that, apart from God, it is very weak; never so magnificently independent as when it knows it is utterly dependent upon Him; never so capable of so much as when conscious that it can do so little without His aid; never so full of life and vigor as when it realizes that in Him it "lives, and moves and has its being"; and never so rich and resourceful as when it is absolutely conscious that except for Him it has nothing. Yes, it is distasteful to us who are so puffed up with the idea of our own importance and self-respectability and independence, that the Saviour Christ should have taught that we are grander in our spiritual being; that we better fulfil the design of our being, and only secure for ourselves happiness and blessedness, when we stand before the great Diagnoser of every one as the "beggar-spirits."

"Two men went up into the temple to pray"; the one was a beggar-spirit, and the other was not. Both were beings "poor in spirit." The one was lacking in spiritual development and did not know it; the other was in a like condition, and did know it. The man who was not a beggar-spirit stood and prayed "with himself"—i. e., he did not pray at all. Like a good many of the religious ones who have succeeded him, his first thought was to remind the Almighty of the sharp contrast between himself and those whom he regarded as outside the pale of goodness. He was so supremely self-satisfied with his supposed own inherent resourcefulness, that it never struck him that he owed whatever spiritual respectability he had to the Being he was worshiping. He merely thanked God for not having made him "as other men are." The other man—the beggar-spirit, prayed quite otherwise. No contrast between himself and others did he draw. Not a word suggesting self-resourcefulness did he utter. He had a consciousness that he was not what he ought to be, and a wish to be better than he was; but he knew that the possibility of better things, and the very desire for them, were both of God.

"God be merciful to me, a sinner," cried the spirit beggar-man, and of that one the Master Christ said—"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified in the act of prayer rather than the other."

Two particular reasons suggest themselves why a spirit in the attitude of a beggar is blessed, (a) In that attitude we rightly adjust ourselves to receive the blessings of God.

One of the great laws of God, which Science of late years has helped us to understand more fully, is the one known as "adaptation to environment." It tells us that no creature in non-adjustment to its right environment can receive those blessings that are meant to accrue therefrom.

That is a principle which we know obtains in the Physical World, and without doubt it obtains throughout the universe of God. For example:— There are certain blessings that come to the tree from its environment—the soil, the atmosphere, the rain and the sunlight. There are blessings that come to the fish, the bird and the animal, from their environments—the water, the air and the food-supplying earth. But each of these recipients of blessing must be adjusted to its particular environment in order to receive it. The tree standing out of the soil, or the fish removed from the water, or the bird deprived of the air, or the animal taken away from the green earth, is incapable of receiving the blessings of its environment. They are not in adjustment. Then, again, in order to receive the blessings arising from environment, there must be the right functioning in regard to that environment. The tree, the fish, the bird, and the animal must properly dispose themselves toward their surroundings. They can draw no blessing apart from this rightful disposition.

Yes, and this rightful disposition on their part is the beggar-attitude. The Lord of Physical Nature has said to His Material Universe exactly what He, as the Lord of Spirit, has said to His Spiritual Universe—"Blessed are the beggars." And so, every tree that stretches out its rootlets to drink in the moisture, and its boughs to catch the dew and sunshine; and every fish that scours the waters, and bird that cleaves the air, and animal that roams the earth, is a beggar. Each in its own dumb way is saying—"Apart from my right environment, I have nothing. To it, and not to myself, am I looking for the blessing of my being."

Translate that truth into the domain of the Spiritual. No human spirit can receive the blessedness of its being, apart from its adjustment to its right environment. That adjustment of a spirit is as much a part of God's Purpose in regard to it, as is the attainment of blessedness. Of no soul is it true that God never contemplated its perfection and blessedness. We are aware, of course, that the Western Christian Church has for centuries, more or less, lain under that awful shadow of a doctrine conceived by Augustine, and developed to its culminating horror by Calvin —viz., that "the elect" only are meant to obtain blessedness. But it is not true. It slanders God. It strips Him of all right to be called "One God and Father of all" (Eph. 4: 6), and undermines the very foundation-principle of the Gospel, that "God so loved the world." Every human soul was created in view of being blessed. Deny that, and the Bible stands convicted of being hopelessly illogical in ascribing All-Fatherhood to God and All-Saviourhood to Christ. Again, that every human soul was made for adaptation to its right environment is also certain. No mind but the theological mind would have ever supposed otherwise. Every physical object around us is a witness to this truth. The plants, trees, insects, fishes, birds, animals and physical man have all been constructed in such a way, and endowed with such faculties and powers, as to make it plain that a right functioning toward their environment was the purpose of their construction. Are we to suppose that God ever calls into being those higher creations—human souls—without this inherent capability of adaptation? We have been told that He does. We have been assured that the Father-God has called into existence His great family of human spirits, of whom only a few, comparatively, were intended to reach the possibility of their being; and that even these were not inherently endowed with the least power of doing so. That theology which is fast losing its hold of thoughtful minds, has taught that a human spirit is created an utterly feeble and unendowed thing; except that a good God has given it the power of existing miserably forever in non-adjustment to its environment. It has taught that, before conversion, all human souls must be regarded not as the children of God, but as "the children of the devil." It seems never to strike the supporters of this view that, to say the least of it, it is rather strange and paradoxical that a God of Love should design the myriads of His human creatures in such a way that after they have left His creative hand they are no better than the offspring of Satan.

According to that teaching, the Almighty, in the creation of human souls, has not done so much for them as He has done for the seeds of plants. All seeds are endowed with potentialities of blessing. Have human souls not been correspondently endowed? Is it true that no soul can come within the possibility of blessing, until by a Divine power, exercised not for all but only for the few, it has been constitutionally reconstructed? We think not. We think the idea dishonors God. We believe that as every seed, every egg of insect, fish, or bird, and every unborn offspring of beast or man, has within itself certain faculties and potentialities, put there by its Maker, by which the attainment of designed blessing is possible, so every human spirit has within itself those powers, by the rightful exercise of which it can attain the blessing designed for it. If a human soul is higher in the scale of being than the physical objects of creation, is it not rather unreasonable to imagine that God has implanted, as the endowment of being, for advancement and blessing, so much in the seeds, and nothing at all in human souls. The theory that we are born as "children of wrath" implies that.

It may be objected, that this view of the spirit of man, being, by the fact of its creation, possessed of those latent powers which render it capable of adjustment—does away with the necessity of what is termed "conversion," the "second birth," or "regeneration."

We answer—"By no means does it do away with the need of that Divine reality symbolized by those terms." But conversion, or regeneration, does not involve God's bestowal on the human spirit of a set of faculties not possessed before, or a reorganization of the spiritual constitution in such a way as to put it in another class of being. Our spirit, because it is an emanation from God, the great Parent-Spirit, comes into being with inherent potentialities. Conversion is that Divine touch, that quickening of already-existing latent powers, by which the soul is aroused to conscious life, and made to function rightly. Our Lord described that Divine after-touch of the soul as a begetting from above. "Except a man be begotten begotten," i. e, from a source above; from something outside himself. It is the same in regard to human souls as it is in regard to seeds. Neither are brought into existence by God as resourceless and unendowed creatures; both possess potentialities, however latent and undeveloped, that make adaptation to environment possible; but both also need that quickening touch that comes from right environment. Place a seed, or an egg, where neither light nor heat nor moisture can reach it, and although all the potentialities of life are within it, no advance toward growth and blessedness will be made. It needs, not the faculties by which it can attain development and perfection, but that enkindling power from without to cause those faculties to function rightly.

When our Lord said a man must be begotten begotten, He was but proclaiming the same truth in regard to human spirits. By those words He was not declaring that we have been fashioned by God as beings with no capacity for blessing; He was but telling us what the Bible has told us—viz., that man was made "in the image of God," i. e., with a soul marvelously endowed with powers fitting it for union with Him; but that those soul-powers stand in need of that further Divine touch from without in order that they may answer the end for which they were implanted. Now, the environment of our spirit is God. Our spirit was created by Him; it is a spark, an individualized effluence from Him. St. Paul asserted that fact when he said—"In Him we live, and move, and have our being"; and stamped as true the utterance of the Athenian poets —"For we are also His offspring" (Acts 17: 28). We adjust ourselves to our God-environment, when by that touch of Him the faculties of our spirit-self are made to function Godward.

Yes, and that adjustment constitutes us beggar-spirits; because simultaneously with the soul's awakening to move toward God, comes the further conviction that apart from Him,—the true Environment,—the soul's blessing is an impossibility.

(b) Another reason suggests itself why the spirit in the attitude of a beggar is blessed. In that attitude it better realises the possibilities of its being, which realisation affords it an incentive to develop itself.

There is no greater spur to any one's efforts to be something more than he is than the conviction that it is possible for him to become so. Men remain small in mind and character and influence, because it never strikes them that it is possible for them to make themselves great. The ones who have achieved their triumphs in art, science, literature, or anything else, are they who have been convinced that possibilities are open to them.

Men and women who, like the Pharisee of the parable, are so satisfied with the spiritual condition to which they have attained, as never to realize how very much better they might be, never make any advance in spiritual development. The incentive to develop is lacking. The self-satisfied Christian has no possibilities of soul-being, as far, at all events, as this world is concerned. He thinks he has attained them; it only remains for him to congratulate himself that he is so good.

Now, however strange it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that never so well do we realize the possibilities of our spiritual being, and thereby receive incitement to grow Godward, as when we assume the attitude of the beggar-spirit. We can easily perceive why.

There are three distinct phases of thought in the mind of one who begs. First, there is the thought of his poverty, and that he might be better circumstanced than he is. Next, the thought of the resourcefulness of the one to whom he is appealing, and the probability that help will be proffered. And lastly, the realization that a betterment in circumstances is possible.

Now, suppose that one in dire want and distress, and who is incapable, himself, of improving his lot, were to determine resolutely that he would never assume the beggar-attitude, that under no conditions would he ask or receive help and blessing from any one. What then? With no prospect of betterment in regard to his circumstances to cheer and raise him, he would doggedly and sullenly set himself just to endure his experiences, and no more. Possibilities that would have been open to him as the seeker of help, are closed because of his spirit of independence. That man, because he has no realization of any possibilities in regard to his welfare, becomes inactive.

On the other hand, let another in precisely like circumstances of need assume the attitude of the beggar; i. e., let him cast away his pride and independence, and gratefully receive from outside himself the help that will enable him to rise to higher conditions of experience. What then? Will not that very importation of possibility into his experience be to him a spur to move onward?

Apply this to our spirit. Our Saviour Christ said —"Blessed are the beggar-spirits."

Well, there are three distinct phases of thought in the spirit who begs.

It thinks of its poverty. It knows that it has reached no more than partial development, while the God-appointed goal for it is Perfection. That contrast between what it is and what it was made to become, humbles it. It looks at itself and its spiritual acquirements, and says—"I am very poor, very undeveloped. I feel I have any amount of capacity for being what I am not, and for having what I do not possess. I have a mind. I know it to be a priceless endowment; but it is terribly undeveloped. It is little I know; it is the great I do not know. I have a will. That, too, is a magnificent gift: an imparted God-power. But, oh! it acts so erratically. It is so difficult to keep it in tune with its Parent-Will. I have a heart. I know it could be made big enough and strong enough to hold all the yearnings and to respond to all the mighty impulses of Love; but it is a poor, feeble thing—my heart—and often loves but little. I have a character, and it contains the promises of Christ-like flowers of grace; but it is very disappointing: there is as yet nothing in it but the unopened buds of moral excellence. I have a spiritual nature. That, too, I know, was meant to be a cosmos of beauty and grandeur; but it is not such. Its crookedness, its hollows and its uglinesses make it more of a chaos than a cosmos. Oh! yes—I am, indeed, a beggar-spirit in condition. I am poor and needy and undeveloped. Help me, help me, O, my Father-God."

Then the beggar-spirit passes to another phase of thought. It thinks about the resourcefulness of the One to whom it has appealed. That mental condition is the precursor of spiritual advance. We are never so well-disposed toward the attainment of the designed consummation of our being, as when our unsatisfactory diagnosis of ourself compels us to look outward for that which we know we want. The beggar-experience that forces in upon our spiritual consciousness the fact that we are very poor, but God is very rich, is a salutary one.

It turns the mind of the individual from the disheartenment and hopelessness that arise from the thoughts being centred only on the self, to the encouragement and promise of blessing that come from their being turned toward another. That mental attitude is the principle to which the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers, as a powerful incentive to spiritual progress. "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus" (Hebrews I2: 1, 2). The English translation of the words, looking away from toward Jesus, fails to bring out the full significance of the Greek. Literally translated, the words mean—looking away from toward Jesus. They exactly describe this second phase of thought on the part of the beggar-spirit— the looking away from the poverty of the self to the resourcefulness of the Saviour. That is exactly the attitude of every being and object that is making for the end of its being—perfection. Every physical creation is dumbly appealing to its environment for help; is looking toward a resourcefulness outside itself. In every plant and tree that extends its rootlets for the moisture, and its branches for the light, and in every creature that disposes itself to bask in the sunshine, we have the physical correspondence of a great spiritual reality. The human spirit, like the physical object, must realize, if it would advance, that its power of so doing is drawn from a resourcefulness without. It is the sense of that which makes men and women beings of Prayer. In the act of praying, they make themselves blessed. They acknowledge that they are beggar-spirits.

Then there is that last phase of thought which presents itself to the spirit who begs. It realizes the possibilities open to it. Its identification of itself with God, its Environment, induces that idea. As soon as the beggar-attitude has brought a spirit into relationship with Him, it realizes, not only what it is, not only what a contrast is presented between itself and the Being before whom it is standing as a suppliant for help, but also what tremendous possibilities of being are open to it, because it is in adjustment with Infinite resourcefulness. To the beggar-spirit, with his gaze riveted upon a God all rich, and all willing to bestow His riches upon those who ask, no height of blessing appears unattainable. The words of the Christ ring in his ears—"All things are possible to him that believeth," i. e., to him who is relying upon God. Of course, this realization of possibility in regard to our spirit will give an enormous incentive to our spiritual nature to function Godward. Nothing will so spur one to the required effort toward a high aim as the deeply-seated conviction that the attainment of that aim is possible and assured. The beggar-spirits are blessed, as the Christ said, because in that posture they link themselves with Divine resourcefulness; and only then do they realize the possibilities of their being as "the offspring of God"; and only then do they have the right incentive to a good life—viz., not thereby to escape the horrors of a Mediaeval-hell, but to answer the great Purpose of the All-Father in creating them—viz.—to become perfect.

There is just one other point in connection with this Beatitude to which we would allude. Our Saviour Christ in saying—"Blessed are the beggars in spirit," added, "because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens." The verb, in this latter clause of the passage, is in the present and not in the future tense. He does not proclaim a blessedness that shall be, but a blessedness that now is.

What did He mean? What is the "kingdom of the heavens," or as it might be rendered, "the kingdom of heavenly-things"? Well, it is a condition, rather than a locality. The Master, when walking this earth, as "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," said, in speaking of Himself— "The Son of Man which is in heaven" (John 3: 13). On another occasion. He said—"The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). Was not the Master teaching us in those words, that the human spirit who has adjusted itself to its true Environment, who in its attitude toward God is the beggar, need never assume the depressed and melancholy airs of those earnest, but mistaken, ones who account the earth-life a "dreary, howling wilderness"; but that even here, in spite of the disappointment and non-development attached to their spirit's sojourn amid the things of the Physical, there can be a heaven within them, which in God's own time shall merge into that larger heaven of consummated Blessedness and Perfection?

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Problems of the Spiritual" (1907 UK Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle
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