"YOU CAN WIN!"
by Norman Vincent Peale
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The author believes he knows of a way to make life work. He has tested it in his own experience and has found that it works for him when worked. He has enjoyed the opportunity of observing its application in the lives of a vast number of people who have likewise found that it works. The author firmly holds to the conviction that any individual who will apply the method of living and attitude of mind outlined in this book will have an amazing and never-failing secret by which he can gloriously win on that battlefield called Life.
WHY I KNOW YOU CAN WIN
NO man is defeated until he thinks he is. The world may lay waste his land and break through his outer fortifications, but as long as the inner citadel of his life remains untaken he can win the battle. A wise old Book tells us that the issues of life are out of the heart. Of a truth they are, and if a man's heart is sturdy, what can the world do to him? Its only recourse in the presence of indomitable courage and faith is to capitulate. The world inevitably gives in to the man who won't give up. Adversity comes in varying form to all men, but some men have the ability to turn misfortune to advantage. James Russell Lowell wisely said, "Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us as we grasp them by the blade or the handle." The secret of winning in life is to get a firm hold on the handle.
One's reaction to mishap and difficulty is determined by the sort of spirit one has within him. Your world, the world you live in day by day, is just about what you make it. It will be no better or bigger or finer than you are yourself.
The inner braces of a man's heart must be equal to the outer pressure of life's circumstances. Let the outer pressure be increased, or even continuously sustained, and the inner support weakened, and life falls in. Long ago I came across a sentence from Thomas Carlyle upon which, the more I see of life, I have had reason to ponder. And the sentence is this: "It was always a serious thing to live." It was never an easy thing, certainly not for any extended length of time, to meet and survive the various hazards of human experience. To stand up against the bullying process of nature is serious business. To meet and triumph over disappointment, adversity, sorrow, and failure is not easy. To avoid or overcome the hostility and misunderstanding of individuals or groups of individuals is difficult. Carlyle was right—"It was always a serious thing to live"—and little wonder he also declared that the chief question life asks of each of us is—"Wilt thou be a hero or a coward?"
Hugh Walpole, in one of his novels, echoes the same thought. One of his characters is made to say a great thing: "It isn't life that matters; it's the courage you bring to it." It is a certainty that the soft and pampered personality will not get very far with the problem of victorious living. If one's spirit is heroic and has a drawing account on the bank of inner power and resource, he will win out in the end.
You may this very day be face to face with critical problems, or you may be bearing heavy burdens and responsibilities, and perhaps you are a bit discouraged, if not quite overwhelmed. It is possible that you are even tempted to give up. We all know how you feel, for there isn't one of us who has not felt just like that a good many times. But you are not going to be defeated. Press deeper into your spirit and there you will find an indomitable, glorious conqueror nothing in this world can overcome.
There are several selves, or personalities, in each of us, and one of them is a timid, little self that meets life with fear and trembling. I notice a cartoon in the paper about a man named Milquetoast, or The Timid Soul. That is in all of us to some extent. This timid self prevents us sometimes from attaining our cherished ambitions.
I read of a woman in one of those small apartments in New York City where the bed comes out of the wall and you pull the kitchen sink out of a drawer when you want to prepare a meal. This woman had a dog, a little snip of a thing, that as far as size was concerned was about right for the little apartment. The trouble was, however, that he had a bark much too large for so small a space, so she went to a doctor and had him operated on, with the result that his bark was reduced about eighty-five percent. Many of us have done the same thing. We have allowed the stern difficulties of life to frighten us so that our timid little self has had its bark reduced, Accordingly, we make a feeble and futile impression upon life. Remember, you are a rugged soul, and that you have it in you to seize fate by the throat and dictate your own terms to it.
It is folly, of course, to expect to achieve such a victory on the basis of your own strength. No man, however resourceful or pugnacious, is a match for so great an adversary as a hostile world. He is at best a puny and impotent creature quite at the mercy of the cosmic and social forces in the midst of which he dwells. His only hope is to attach himself to some force superior to and more powerful than the world of things. Obviously the material world provides no force of this character, for all of its forces, such as wealth or fame or power over one's fellows, are themselves weak and ineffectual in the presence of fate and circumstance. People with great wealth and favored position, who exercise influential power, are quite as subject to the troubles and woes of life as their less fortunate neighbors. You cannot win over life by mere possession of money or position. Many who have attained these objectives are still the unhappy victims of fear and anxiety, harassed by feelings of inadequacy and constantly in fear of being unequal to the demands put upon them. They are haunted by the specter of a possible failure. Having put their faith in material things, they are obsessed with the possible tragedy of losing these values. Nor do their possessions relieve them from the fact that they have sensitive human personalities in which inner conflict works its havoc. In my interview work I find on the whole more personality disorganization among the favored class than among the common run of folk. It may be that greater leisure allows more time to think about oneself. It may be that heavier responsibility in the case of those who have positions of leadership breaks down nerve resistance. It may be that participation in the loose and pagan morality of our time is more general in this group. In privileged and unprivileged alike the repeated offenses against conscience and self-respect indulged in so freely today are producing, on the basis of what I see in my conference room, an abundant crop of obsessions and personality disarrangements.
The deeper we proceed in an analysis of the device commonly supposed to open a way of victory over this hard world in which we live—devices such as wealth, power, sensory pleasure—the more certain it is that these are in themselves dead ends. We must relearn a truth our generation has forgotten but which all wise men know—that the center of power is within the spirit of man. Herodotus said, "The destiny of man is in his own soul." To win over the world a man must get hold of some power in his inward or spiritual life which will never let him down. Material things fail; riches tarnish; sensory responses become satiated and jaded; ambitions decay into disillusionment, but inner spiritual power constantly renews itself from deep springs of unlimited supply. Life never loses its flavor or fine taste. The spirit never grows weak or stale. One finds himself becoming more and more imperturbable, more conscious of power, more aware of an astounding invincibility in his soul. I am not overstating the matter. This confidence is based on the actual experience of countless people who have found there is a sure method by which they can win in life, come what may.
The secret of this inner power is the practice of real Christianity. I have never seen anything else that will give one complete victory over life. True, some people find a measure of power in art or music. I know a rich man with fading eyesight who seems to find strength to meet his affliction in a curious way. Late each night he goes alone into a chapel on his estate and plays the great pipe organ. As one hears the plaintive music coming from that darkened church, where a rich man going blind is seated at the organ seeking comfort for his soul, one is aware of the power of music to minister to the human spirit. Of course this power is itself spiritual, for, as Beethoven pointed out, "Music is more than a concord of sweet sounds; it is something from a higher world which we cannot describe, much less define, but which we have the power to invoke." The man in this story, it must be explained, has gained this admirable victory over his affliction from a deeper source than music. Like Abt Vogler, his temple of melody has afforded him a glimpse of the higher truth, that each of life's broken arcs ultimately becomes a perfect round. Thus one may tuck a sublime peace up against his soul, for he knows all will come out right in God's own time.
People who actually practice their Christian faith find that it works in every situation. I referred to "real Christianity." By this phrase I mean to distinguish between that formal type of Christianity which works itself out in beliefs passively held, and that type where one puts his life with all of its concerns in the hands of God and, sincerely trying to live out Christ's spirit in daily life, trusts God to care for him, guiding him in his decisions and sustaining him by divine power and grace. The distinction has fine shadings, for even some faithful members of the church, living on a high moral and ethical standard, stop short of the Christianity I mean to define. They have a Christianity of beauty and character but there is beyond that a Christianity of spiritual power. In a mere ethical Christianity one struggles hard to "be good." In a Christianity of spiritual power one is given a superior strength whereby wrong impulses can no longer dominate him. In a formal Christianity one bears his burdens heavily and with a certain noble resignation. He still believes God can help to make the load lighter but never actually experiences that help. In a Christianity of spiritual power one gets a lifting power under his burdens far beyond anything his own strength can provide. It is as if a spiritual tide comes surging in with a vast shoulder as the ocean lifts a stranded vessel from mud flats.
I sat in a railroad train one morning which was filled with college students returning to school from their Christmas vacation. It was an interesting and animated scene, and a babel of conversation filled the car. Directly across the aisle was a group of girls who were greatly excited because at the next station one who was evidently very popular was expected to board the train. When that station was reached, the young lady for whom they waited came in with a rush and there was much feminine ado. But this was as nothing when they discovered on her finger a sparkling engagement ring. They plied her with questions which she tried to answer out of a rather attractive confusion, but finally she sought to silence them all by the sweeping declaration, "Oh, you'll never know what it means to be in love until you experience it." Little did those girls suspect that their conversation would be overheard and repeated in a book, but it is a perfect illustration of what I want to say. That young lady's statement is true about religion as well as love—"You'll never really know what it is until you experience it."
Broadly speaking, there are two types of Christianity. One is traditional or hereditary. Somebody once long ago experienced it. He found it for himself and handed it down to his descendants, many of whom, unfortunately, have treated it like an heirloom, to be preserved with honor, but from which the original freshness has long since departed. A couple came to our church at the heart of New York City one day to be married. They were accompanied by the parents of the groom, who proudly told me that they had been married in our church twenty five years before, and the further interesting fact that the grandparents of one of them had been likewise married there over a half-century previously. I asked them where they were attending church at present and with a surprised laugh they said they did not go to church. They reminded me again, however, that the grandparents had been great servants of God and strong Christians. At home they still had the high silk hat which the grandfather had worn on his wedding day. They were, you see, preserving the grandfather's religion as they were preserving his hat. Both were heirlooms. Their religion was a tradition, not a present experience.
There is too much of this sort of religion in our country. What was vital has now become a relic. It is a traditional religion. Our fathers were for the most part men of personal religious experience. Often was it said of them, "They had religion." That meant that God was real to them. Their hearts were warm with the impingement of the divine power upon their lives. They had an inner strength, a spiritual vitality and virility which made them strong and effective in their lives. They constituted a citizenship upon which this nation grew great and prospered. But they could not pass the experience on to their children, for obviously you cannot hand down an experience. It must be felt by each person anew and for himself. Religious experience cannot be bequeathed like stocks and bonds, and houses and lands. When you try to hand down an experience, the danger always is that it will lose its color and freshness and become ultimately a form infrequently observed, and even then without an adequate sense of its meaning. It is like an old and half-forgotten daguerreotype. The trouble today is that the spiritual life of the world is surfeited with a second-hand religion. It is possible and splendid that one generation should hand down the by-products of religion in the form of a fine culture and noble code of ethics, but religion will thin out, and with it culture and ethics, unless the spiritual impulse is freshly renewed from generation to generation. It is for this reason that periodically every two or three decades in American history a revival of pure religion has swept over the land, relighting the fires of personal and public devotion. Men have referred to these movements as periods of great awakening, and from each of them can be dated the renewal of America's spiritual, social, and even economic life. This is the transformation which takes place when hereditary and traditional religion gives way to religion as experience, new and powerful, in the life of the people. It it profoundly to be hoped that this will happen again in America, and that right soon. It alone can save us.
Thus, the second type of Christianity is religion at personal experience. If a re-emergence of religion as personal experience is the solution for the vitiated life of the nation, so will it restore the power of effective living to the individual. What do we mean by the term "religion as experience"? Briefly, it may be defined as the realization of God in one's own soul. It is not to get a new intellectual or credal conception of God, but to have your heart strangely warmed by a sense of his spiritual presence. After such an experience one does not wistfully listen to others tell what God means to them—he knows for himself. Something has happened to him. He has been changed by a power greater than himself. His life, like an electric bulb that was dark because it was not attached to the flow of electric power, has been firmly connected to the stream of God's grace which now flows through him. To use another figure and returning to the incident of the young ladies previously referred to, religion as experience is like falling in love. One may define love and describe it fervently, but one never completely understands or appreciates it until its mystic process has operated in his own experience.
Perhaps I may best illustrate my meaning by the incident of a young minister whom I know. He is a splendid fellow, cultured, able, and attractive in personality. His character is good in the finest and strongest sense of the word. He preached a religion of beautiful ethics and had a warm compassion for the poor and needy from an economic point of view. One day, however, he came under the influence of a great soul in whom he noticed a deeper experience. There was about this man a strange inner power, so that when he spoke, people's hearts became warm and wistful, and profound yearnings resulted in men and women made over. The young man became acutely aware of a lack in his life. He saw that he had been preaching only words and he said, "I will get this power or give up the ministry." He was in dead earnest, and with absolute sincerity he asked God to give him a new life. He surrendered himself wholly to God and, as always happens when a man honestly puts his life in God's hands, a new contact was established and the man's life became illumined by a mystic and ineffable light. The next Sunday the people filed into the church and leaned indolently back to hear the same old words. But the sermon had not proceeded for many minutes before they came forward on their seats, aware that something had happened. It was the same man outwardly there in the pulpit, but it became apparent they had a new minister. The word—the word made flesh—moved like fire in his speech, and as springtime passes with magic touch over a dead world so did the transforming power of God stir a congregation into new life and experience.
There is nothing like it. It is the one and only medicine that will cure a stale, sinful, or defeated life. This experience of religion will give a deep inner joy and gaiety of spirit. Life no longer will be satiated or without interest. It will be everlastingly fresh. Saint Paul told us about the unsearchable riches in Christ. That is how one will feel about life after the experience—he will have a new sense of peace and a deep quietness in the center of the soul. By means of it one will learn the secret of poise in the midst of the outer confusion of our time. His inner conflicts, being healed, the outer world will no longer overwhelm him. He will know that the outer world goes to pieces largely because one has gone to pieces on the inside. For the first time in his life one will know how to rest. Hitherto he has assumed that rest meant to give a change to the body and mind, but the new experience will teach him that the center of rest is in a soul at peace. He will see that true rest is expressed in the phrase, "O rest in the Lord." The inner restlessness at the center of his personality, the vague sense of guilt deep in the subconscious mind having been settled and solved, he can now find peace and rest that is beneficial and lasting. It is amazing what Christianity offers—power, peace, victory, deep, infectious happiness. What a pity that anyone should miss these blessings so freely offered! But no one need miss them. Put yourself completely in God's hands, and with Saint Paul you will be able to say, "The grace of our Lord flooded my life."
Thus your religion, which may now consist largely of the framework of belief, tradition and ceremonial, and from which you derive not a little comfort and help, can be—and this is the greatest truth you will ever encounter—a force and power to completely revolutionize your life. From it you can draw a power beyond anything you have ever experienced, a power sufficient to overcome any weakness, carry any burden, conquer any sin. Through a surrendered faith in Christ and a daily intimate living in spirit with him you can win over adversaries which formerly seemed too great for the human spirit to bear.
Call the roll of all those things which can defeat a man—suffering and pain, sorrow, disappointment, hardship, frustration, sin. There they stand, challenging, menacing, all but invincible. Who can hope to overcome them? But if one is armed with a strange and wonderful secret, these giants are at his mercy. This secret is not some cure-all, nicely wrapped in cellophane, which you can purchase in a store. It is not an achievement for which you may valiantly struggle. It cannot be purchased, nor can it be won by effort. It is a gift freely offered to you. All you need do is to take it by an act of faith and begin to live on it. Why go on being a victim of fear, anxiety, trouble, and weakness, with vigor of mind and spirit and body being steadily drained off? Great new power and strength can be yours.
Turn to the Bible. In the Bible you read a statement by a man who long ago discovered the truth. He said, "I can do all things through Christ who giveth me the strength." You can learn to say the same thing. That secret can be yours if you want it. You can win. I mean that because I know it is true. It is immaterial what your difficulty is. If it is the worst difficulty in the world, it does not invalidate the fact that you can win if you will adopt this plan of living. There is nothing magical about the Bible, but the secret I am talking about is to be found within its pages. Why sit there defeated when you have at your very elbow a book that can make a new person of you? When you open it, the most human people come walking out of its pages and sit down with you or me and say: "Listen, I have a secret and I want to share it with you. If you take Christ into your life and put your life in his hands, you too can win over anything." "I can do all things through Christ," says the Bible.
I realize that many people do not understand religion in this vital way. They think of religion as something that has to do with what they regard as stale and musty churches and dull services of worship. But that isn't religion at all. Religion deals with an electric power or force which is all about us, just as sound waves are in the air. When you come into your living room, for instance, your radio is silent and lifeless. You turn a dial. You tune your radio to the sound waves that are filling the air and immediately these sounds are brought into your room and you take into your consciousness that with which the air is filled but which the moment before were meaningless to you because you had not tuned in. All about us in the universe is this value called the power of God, but we are impervious to it. It means nothing to us. We are closed to it. We go on day by day living in our own feeble human strength, which is drawn from inside ourselves and which soon runs dry. Accordingly, we are worried; we are nervous; we are defeated time and time again; we have no sense of conquest at all.
Religion means that you get tired of living like that. You become aware of a power in the world that you do not possess. What, then, do you do? You tune in. You bring your spirit into harmony with the Spirit of God. That's very simply done too. You say with the faith of a little child, "Lord, I bring my human spirit to you and I ask you to fill me with your power." Then the miracle happens. As the strains of an orchestra fill the room when a radio is tuned in, so the marvelous melody of God comes into your life. Then as you look at these things which formerly over-whelmed you, you can say with Saint Paul, "I too can do all thing through Christ." Why am I so positive about all this? First, because I had the same experience myself. Anybody who wants to dispute the reality of this can do so to his heart's content but I know this is true because it happened to me, and the greatest argument in the world is to be able to say, "I have experienced it." The second reason I know it is true is because I have seen it happen frequently to other people.
But will this secret of real Christianity work in the actual life of a realistic world? The answer that many people with problems identical to your own have discovered it will. Let us look at one or two area of human experience to which the principle has been applied.
There, for example, is sorrow, a universal experience. In every home comes the day when a vacant chair speaks mutely of a dear one gone. Everywhere are people who long for "the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still." Every man ultimately must face the problem of sorrow and the poignant longing for one he has loved long since and lost awhile. In my work as a clergyman I have been in countless homes of sorrow. I have stood by many a grave with bereaved families, beholding the sad obsequy wherein one dearly loved is lowered to a last resting place. Always the thought of the suffering of it profoundly impresses me. It is a cruel and terrific wrench of nature to take from a family circle one whose form and figure, whose smile and touch, the sound of whose voice is inexpressibly precious and to lay that one in the earth and go back to a cheerless place. Looking upon people in these circumstances I have often wondered how they bear it. It is surely one of the supreme crises of life and calls for resources more than human. If I believed in Christianity for no other reason, I should prize it for what I have seen it do for people in sorrow. If some mighty vandal should destroy our literature, two passages I would seek to save from the catastrophe would be these—"I am the resurrection and the life," and the other, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me—in my Father's house are many mansions." I would save them for the reason that I do not see how men and women could go on without them. From them I have seen the bereaved draw a mystic power that has sent them back from the place of heartbreak to the world of affairs with a strange light shining in their eyes. It is thrilling to see how a real Christian meets sorrow and to observe the working of the inner power under these most pathetic circumstances.
I had two funerals in one day. One in the morning of that day was in a very humble home, a place, clean and neat, but a home of poverty. Previously I had conducted funeral services there for two sons, and now the father was dead. Her family now all gone, the heartbroken wife and mother sat alone in her grief. She was clad in a simple, well-worn dress, long out of style. Her hands, lying clasped in her lap, were rough and red, the hands of a woman who had known only toil. Her head was bowed as I repeated to her the dear old words of comfort. She rocked slowly to and fro in her chair as I reminded her that in her faith she would find comfort and that God was near. Suddenly she looked up and her eyes were filled with tears, but there was a radiant light on her face like sunshine through summer rain. "Yes," she said softly, "I know—all that you say is true. I feel him; I feel him now. Christ has been here today. He is here now by my side."
A hush settled upon the room. The truth of her words could not be denied. I too felt a Presence. It seemed at any minute a third but unseen person would speak. Never in any cathedral has he been nearer than in that humble room. The simple little woman seemed to radiate spiritual power. Her face shone like a transfiguration and the conviction in her voice was electric, unworldly, as if she were face to face with God, as indeed she was. I saw in her, as in a flash, the ancient grandeur of the Christian faith. This simple woman marched up the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain. Nothing could defeat her. In her I saw the indomitable, victorious spirit of a real Christian. She had something deep and true, a secret priceless beyond words. This was no time for histrionic display or pretty theories. Here was a woman up against about as stiff a proposition as one could imagine and I saw her win her battle. And the secret—Christ was with her. She had put her life in his hands and he did not fail her. Into her spirit he poured that ineffable value we call the grace of God, by which she became more than a conqueror. You see, it works in real life.
On the afternoon of the same day I sat with a leading business man of that city in his beautiful home. His wife was dead and he too sat in his grief. What a contrast with the other home of the morning, Here was all that wealth could provide of beauty and loveliness. Costly rugs were on the floor; exquisite pictures and hangings were on the walls. But what did it all matter?—a beloved wife was gone and a man whom I knew to be a strong leader in the business world was broken with grief.
Again I spoke the great old words, and he listened as a man thirsty for the water of life. I shall never forget what he told me in the tender friendship of that hour of sorrow. He was a man of somewhat austere mien, with no outward evidence of sentiment in his nature. He was a typical aggressive and efficient business man of the sort that compels respect and gains dominance. Within his home, however, he was dependent, leaning upon his wife, who was almost a mother to him. He was shy about social contacts and much preferred to remain at night quietly in his home reading, his wife knitting or reading on the opposite side of the table. As many men of similar type, he was a boy never quite grown up but putting on a strong front before the world. "You know," he said, "I've found something in religion that I never felt before. Last night I knelt by my bed as usual to pray. I've done this every night since I was a boy. When I was married forty years ago," he continued, "my wife and I agreed to pray together every night. We would kneel by the side of the bed and she would pray out loud. I couldn't do that," he explained. "And anyway she was so much better at it and I always felt God would listen to her." Rather shyly he said that he would take his wife's hand as she prayed and like two simple-hearted children she would lead this strong husband of hers up to a kindly God who must have looked with delight upon them, judging from the way he blessed them. "Well," he went on, "we did that all these years and then—then he took her away and last night I knelt down alone. Out of long habit I put my hand out for hers but her hand was not there. It all came over me then how I missed her and loved her and I wanted her so badly I could hardly bear it. I felt as I did long ago when I was a boy and scared and wanted my mother. I put my head down on the bedside and I guess for the first time in my life really prayed. I said: 'O God, I've heard about people really finding you, and I believe you do help people. You know how much I need you. I put my life in your hands. Help me, dear Lord.'" He turned from his story and looked me full in the face and his eyes were filled with wonder as he said: "Do you know what happened? Suddenly I felt a touch on my hand, the hand she always held. It was a strong, kindly touch and I felt a great hand take my own. I looked up but could see no one, but all the pain seemed to go out of my mind and a great peace came into my heart. I knew that God was with me and would never leave me." And as I listened I knew it too. Again I saw the wonderful miracle of faith whereby a man, a good man but one to whom religion had always been a formality, under a great sorrow break through into the area of spiritual power and win over a crushing adversity.
Real Christianity is very wonderful and there is no power equal to it when it has full control of a personality. By it any problem can be solved. The question might be raised, "Can it deal in similar effective fashion with the affairs of the world?" The answer is, it can do so if enough of us will have genuine faith in it and utilize it in our social problems. We need no other social program nor method, for none that we might devise would have the qualifications or force possessed by Christianity. All we need is more real faith in the Christian method. We hear a great deal today about world peace and social justice and the preservation of Democracy, and these problems are critical and vital. We flounder about from one idea to another, and many voices are raised, calling attention to themselves as possessed of some wisdom especially designed to solve these problems. Thinking and discussion are of great value and should be encouraged, but I am sure that after the last word is said and the last panacea has been analyzed we will have to return to the New Testament for a way to a better world. Only one Man by his wisdom and resources has the authority to say, "I am the way," There is one verse in the New Testament which holds the secret. Think of the trouble we would save ourselves and the number of conferences and speeches and election campaigns we could be spared if we would simply take this secret and put it to work. We have laid great stress on certain ethical teachings of the Master, and rightly so. We have felt that if we could persuade people to adopt these ethical principles, peace and justice would inevitably result. Perhaps so; and the effort should be persistently maintained, but why do we neglect another aspect and quality of religion which has been demonstrated in practice as having unmeasured power beyond any strategy man's poor brain may devise?
In the New Testament we read these electric words, "If ye have faith" (not a vast amount of faith but real faith) "as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain (what a disparity—a grain of mustard seed pitted against a mountain!), Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove." That is not all of this amazing verse—"And nothing," (yes, that is what it says) "and nothing shall be impossible unto you." That is about as inclusive and unqualified a proposition as it would be possible to imagine. One may seek to explain it or interpret it, but there it stands in nowise watered down. It is a man-sized, straightforward, take-it-or-leave-it promise. Why do we shy off from it? The reason is, it requires more faith than we possess. More's the pity, for the few times that such faith has been exercised it has astounded the world with its results. If we could get even a few people to embrace and live on this mustard-seed faith, we could utterly revolutionize the world in the name of Christ, putting all actual and would-be dictators to flight, and establish peace, prosperity, and democracy so firmly it would take years of political bungling and religious compromising to undo. Our hope today is in no political or social program. The next election, whoever wins, will not save us. Our hope, our future, our destiny lie in getting a few real people to stake their all on the workability of the faith that moves mountains. Remember what eleven Galilean peasants once did. Remember what three men, Charles and John Wesley and George Whitefield, once did. Remember what one business man once did. He lived in New York City in 1857, the year of a great panic. He listened to speeches and read articles and voted for men who were supposed to know how to save the nation. Finally, he decided that God ought to have a chance. He announced that on a certain day in a certain place in Fulton Street he would pray about the country. He "met" first alone. Then a few joined him. Soon the room was crowded. Other meetings, crowded by business men, sprang up in other parts of the city. "The movement spread like wildfire to other cities. The noon hour in business districts from coast to coast saw the streets deserted as business men prayed together in faith that God's power was available to the nation. The result—the great spiritual awakening of 1857, which brought in its wake one of the most thorough religious and business revivals in American history.
We have been unable through our own efforts, despite all our cleverness, to get the nation out of the doldrums. Meanwhile religion of the mountain-moving variety has decayed very largely into formalism or ethical programism. The people who ought to lead give little attention or serious thought to spiritual values. They do not even go to church, but argue aimlessly on country-club porches. Meanwhile God patiently waits in the shadows for a few real people to believe in him and consecrate themselves to him so they can become channels through which he may pour his vast power to transform a nation from defeat and near chaos to victory and new life.
We have power in our hands to save our generation and we do not use it. This is the supreme tragedy of our time. When I say that the apparently insoluble problems of today can be solved by religious faith, my conviction is based on no idle fancy or wishful hope, but upon the scientific fact that what has happened once can happen again. It has been done and therefore can be done. Consider an historical parallel.
In 1805 a man named William Lloyd Garrison was born. He grew to young manhood, and taking a straight look at human slavery said he did not like it. He said it was wrong and announced that he meant to destroy it. People laughed at such bumptiousness, and when they tired of laughing, they sneered and said Garrison was a fool. They pointed out that slavery was a great mountain in human history, an ancient, firmly planted institution. It had existed from the dawn of civilization. The great empires of Egypt, Greece, and Rome had been built on slave labor. Single individuals owned as many as ten thousand slaves. The English uptaking world had long recognized slavery as a basic institution, blessed by religion. When the Peace of Utrecht was signed in 1713, which gave England a monopoly on the West African slave trade, the treaty was celebrated in Saint Paul's by the singing of a Te Deum written by the Christian composer Handel especially for the occasion. In America slavery was likewise firmly established. In 1835 the governor of South Carolina declared: "Slavery is the cornerstone of our Republican edifice. Destroy slavery and you put a stop to all progress." The same principles were held in the North. A professor in Yale University said, "If Jesus Christ were now on earth, he would, under certain circumstances, be a slave holder." In 1855 the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church declared, "God has permitted slavery for wise reasons." At the time of the Dred Scott decision most of the members of the Supreme Court were slaveholders. The law honored it, the Church blessed it, business profited by it, and the nation recognized and practiced it. It was a mountain, as granite is a mountain, and who could destroy it?
Garrison said he could. Garrison believed in God with the faith of a child. "I trust in God," he said, "that I may be his humble instrument of breaking at least one chain." He became the most hated man of his time. He was ostracized and burned in effigy, but he went up against the mountain. He was a man aflame. His biographer declares: "The continuousness of Garrison is appalling and fatigues even the retrospective imagination of posterity. He is like something let loose. I dread the din of him. I cover my head and fix my mind on other things; but there is Garrison, hammering away till he catches my eye and forces me to attend to him. If Garrison can do this to me, who am protected from dread of him by many years of intervening time, think how his lash must have fallen upon the thin skins of our ancestors. The source of Garrison's power," declares his biographer, "was the Bible. He read it constantly. It was with this fire that he started his conflagration."
So, armed with faith that nothing could daunt, Garrison rolled up his sleeves, took his little hammer of mustard-seed faith, and approached the great mountain of human slavery. He brought down his little hammer and a faint tingle was heard. The people laughed and booed and sneered. But Garrison brought it down again and again. Blow after blow fell until his little hammer became a great sledge, the reverberations of which could be heard throughout the land. As he beat with his faith upon the mountain, a crack began to show. It widened until the people shouted with a mighty voice, "Look, the mountain is breaking!"
The glorious, thrilling fact is that just fifty-eight years after Garrison was born, human slavery was outlawed forever in the United States of America. It is an illustration of the shining truth that any mountain can be broken down by faith when men are completely surrendered to God. We can end war, depression, moral decadence, social injustice, and restore declining democracy if enough of us, like Garrison, will take seriously these words, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed . . . nothing shall be impossible unto you."
There is still another area where Christianity must give power to win in life if it is to measure up to the place we have assigned to it. It must help you and me as individuals to overcome ourselves. We have been discussing the method for solving the intensely perplexing problems of society. It would perhaps be easier to accomplish that feat than to solve the intricate and complex personality of one man's own self. If you are like most of us, you are yourself the most difficult person with whom you will ever be forced to deal. Every man somehow must come to terms with himself. That is not easy of accomplishment. There is a perverse element in each of us, and in some it constitutes a real problem. Every right-thinking and normal person wishes his better nature to prevail. No man consciously wants to live life on a low or inferior spiritual level, but there is something in us that prevents us from being what we want to be. It is the fact that our whole nature has not been brought under God's control. There are still pagan areas within us. These unspiritualized elements of our lives get us into trouble.
Miss Muriel Lester, the distinguished social worker of England, tells of an old woman who was frequently in her cups. Miss Lester labored with her in an effort to help her gain control over herself. It was discouraging business, the futility of which seemed to impress the old lady herself. One night after a spree, hearing Miss Lester's kindly admonitions, she cried out in bewilderment, "Miss Lester, God never made a better woman than I am, but I can't live up to it." So may it be said of many of us. Saint Paul stated the same dilemma in more classical phrase, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The good that I would I do not; but the evil that I would not that I do."
Here is a man who found the answer. He was a successful executive and enjoyed a plentiful supply of money. He was what might be called an "up and out" in contrast to the common phrase, "down and out." Without money, he would have been the latter, for he was the victim of his own sins. He was, it seemed, in an almost continual state of partial or complete intoxication and there was no restraint to his habits. He came into contact with some people who had themselves experienced the restorative powers inherent in Christianity and the ancient and astonishing miracle of new birth took place in this man to the end that there was a complete change in him. Now, Sunday after Sunday I see his radiant face in the congregation and behold a man who knows the meaning of triumphant living. I heard him say one day, "I would not give one day out of this new life for all of my past experience." And I knew that a man who could look as transparently happy as he did at that moment meant what he said.