PEACE is the health of the spirit. When the body is healthy, every organ, every function in it, is obeying orders. Every part of the body is attending to its own business and doing its own work as well as it can be done.
To keep the body healthy, a man must obey steadily all the laws of health, must have enough fresh air, enough and the right kind of nourishment, enough rest and no strain. In so far as all the conditions are fulfilled, a body stays strong and well, and one very happy thing about it is that in so far as the body is healthy and we are able to forget it altogether, it does its own work faithfully day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, and we need not think anything about it, but just guide it as a good and delicate instrument for all the uses of our lives.
The Creator keeps our bodies healthy if we fulfil the conditions of health. If we do not fulfil the conditions, be cannot keep us healthy, for even He cannot interfere with the working of his laws.
It is just so with the health of the spirit, except that to fulfil the conditions of health in the spirit is more difficult, much more difficult, than to keep the body well and strong. And why shouldn’t it be? The spirit is for eternity and the body for only a short space of time at most.
Selfishness in one form or another is the disease of the spirit. I mean, the selfishness which is the root of all evil. Pride, self-importance, self-indulgence, worldliness, jealousy, desire to rule, all are different forms of selfishness and all are phases of the disease of the spirit. There is just this great and radical difference in the process of gaining the health of the spirit and that of gaining the health of the body. People, if they are uncomfortable in their bodies, are very glad to find the cause and to do their part to fulfil the conditions of health until their bodies are comfortable again. Not only that, but when the cause of the discomfort is really in their spirits, they will insist upon it that the trouble is with their bodies and go to the doctor and do this and that and the other for the health of their bodies, and then wonder why they do not get well.
It is not unusual to find men and women dwelling on the fact that they have this disease or that disease, and telling their friends of it; sometimes telling to the same friend the same story of disease twice over. They seem almost to be proud of being invalids, — proud of the diseased state of their system.
On the other hand, moderately wholesome natures, when going to a doctor because of pain in some part of their bodies, are relieved when the doctor gives the pain a name, and say: “How good! The doctor knows what is the matter with me, and he can cure me. I will do exactly as he say now, and be well very soon.” And the wholesome patient does exactly as the doctor says, and is well very soon.
Nature always tends toward health, and when we are fulfilling the laws of health, all the laws of nature are with us, and of course we get well.
All the laws of the spirit tend toward health. They as well as the body are governed by the Creator of all things. But just think of the difference in our habit of obedience. In the first place, there is a much greater inherited tendency to selfishness in our spirits than there is inherited tendency to disease in our bodies. And whereas we are ready to put our attention on disease of the body and to take the best means of getting free from it, we are not ready to acknowledge the cause of disease in the spirit, even though when we refuse to act or to speak or to think from an evil tendency, we become freed from it and are prepared to do better work.
It has not seemed to occur to most of us that the act of repentance is not only clean common sense, but that it is the first law of the health of the spirit. I have heard people confess in an easy sort of way that they had this fault or that fault, but they seem rather proud of it, for they go on acting and speaking and thinking from it, and the idea of being wholesomely ashamed of it and repenting, really repenting, never seems to occur to them. They are like the people who enjoy talking over their diseases with one another.
But most of us do not even acknowledge that we have any especial form of selfishness; we tend to think that all the fault is with circumstances or with other people. We look anywhere and to any one or anything rather than to look inside of ourselves for the cause of our spiritual illness, when looking inside of ourselves and acknowledging and repenting is the only way to get spiritually well. To be sure, many of us call ourselves “miserable sinners” every time we go to church, and some of us call ourselves in general miserable sinners once in a while out of church. But what good does that do?
Of what use would a doctor be who said to his patient: “My friend, your body is in a miserable state of disease,” and then let it go at that, with this or the other general remedy or no remedy at all? Was there ever a man with any real intelligence who went about mumbling that he was a miserable invalid, and took no means whatever of finding out what specifically was the matter with him, and of getting specific remedies for his illness?
What could there be more unintelligent than our saying day after day that we are miserable sinners, and then taking no means whatever to find out where and how and in what way we are sinning? Common sense and respect for the law of cause and effect would prompt us to find the specific cause of our sin, and bring the right remedy to bear upon it. Thus and only thus can we be led into the atmosphere of wholesomeness which is spiritual fresh air.
When the Lord Jesus Christ said to us, And ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free,” do you not suppose that it was the truth about ourselves and our own spiritual health or lack of health that he meant as well as the truth about all other things’ And again he said, ” Not he that calleth me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” Are we not doing the will of our Father in Heaven when we are obeying his laws for the health of our spirits, as well as obeying his laws for the health of our bodies?
When I write that “Nature tends toward health” I mean that all the laws of God tend toward health, — the health of the body and the health of the spirit. The trouble is, it seems to me, that our standards for the health of the spirit are too low. We do not take the standards of the New Testament and strive intelligently to live in obedience to them. We are altogether too much inclined to take the standards of the world about us, and are entirely too well-satisfied if we appear well.
Suppose it were the custom for all so-called civilized men to have deranged livers, or to have chronic catarrh, or some other chronic form of illness, –every one would be used to it and we would take it quite as a matter of course that all about us should be in disease. Children would be born with the disease, whatever it might be, and it would naturally be the custom of the country and the general standard of health would be lowered accordingly. It is astonishing to see how entirely people’s standards can get lowered so that they really do not suspect a standard higher than their own, but live in vitiated air and call it fresh air.
Now suppose that into a community with such an attitude with regard to disease there should come a man with a standard of health, — sound, normal, quiet health. How long would it take him to wake up the minds of those about him to the fact of the low standard in which they lived and breathed? What a very short time ago it is that it was taken as a matter of course that cholera and yellow fever and other plagues must have their own way and ravage a country with suffering and misery until they got through, and see what a great difference the true standards of preventive medicine have already made. Countries in dread of disease have been cleared and taught to obey the laws of health so that there is no fear of disease whatever.
Spiritual disease cannot be swept away like that; there is no possible form of wholesale regeneration, thank God! All spiritual health in general must grow from work in each separate individual. Every man is as important as if he were the only one. — the only one in the world, — and he only loses his real place in that importance through inflating himself with self-importance. In so far as we find real humility does our real importance in the whole working of things become evident. Here again is the likeness found in the dead machinery of the body to the living machinery of the spirit.
It is interesting to liken the human body to a community of people and to see that in so far as each organ does its work distinctly from every other organ is the body healthy; so is the community of people healthy in so far as each member attends entirely and perfectly to his own duties.
If each individual soul would do his own work, — would in himself work with an alert desire to know the laws of the spirit and to obey them; — if each individual would get the habit of looking entirely to himself for the cause of suffering in himself, and would refuse to compromise in any slightest way, the gain in spiritual health that would come to the world would be wonderful, — most wonderful. The best of it is that through this habit of each individual looking first entirely to himself and not blaming circumstances or the other man in the very least for his own discomfort, the whole family or community would become healthy.
Of course the health of each individual will work towards the health of a community of individuals, and as peace is the health of the spirit, the peace of each individual will tend toward peace for many individuals combined.
The greatest obstacle in the way now is this low standard among us with regard to blaming circumstances or other people. Unlike those seeking for higher standards with regard to the health of the body, we have not to study scientifically to find out the laws of spiritual health. The best text-book that could possibly be is right here with us. It is practical obedience to it in detail that we need, — not criticism as to whether the other man is obeying or not, but steady, persistent obedience in ourselves. Then, too, we need not dig into ourselves to find the various forms of spiritual disease. If we refuse to act or to speak or to think from the forms of selfishness that we do see, other forms of selfishness to be cast off will rise of themselves to our consciousness, and thus will the healthy growth of the spirit go on within us, the main work being done by the Creative Power, — our work being only to fulfil the conditions.
“Gratitude, humility, and penitence connect our weakness with God’s strength.”