Bible Lesson LI
Acts 1:1-12
The Measure of a Master

 

by Emma Curtis Hopkins

 

Emerson tells us that the measure of a master is his success in bringing all men round to his opinion twenty years later on. We all understand the term “twenty years” to mean any length of time the master happens to take for establishing his principles. The old masters had to wait many times twenty years for bringing men round to their opinions.

“For prejudice, that spider shrewd,
Did o’er them weave, in wicked mood,
Her cobwebs through the halls of fame,
From threads of slander, threads of shame,
Till death, with bosom bluff and strong,
From groins and rafters where they throng,
Swept clear away the unclean array.”

The master’s opinion must be truth or his opinion will not be made of stuff strong enough to bear the wear and tear of time and ignominy. The seven crusades are now judged as sentimental folly. Gamaliel’s idea is known to be wiser. “Refrain from these men and let them alone, for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught.” (Acts 5:38) This lesson (Acts 1) brings to thought the teaching of mental science that there is a particular and special characteristic exercised consciously or unconsciously by each one of us when we meet one another.

One very beautiful and enchanting mind could not be happy except when people were adoring it, so it sought among the ways of winning praise and found that all people have some one touch of vanity in them. With an instinct quickened by a hunger as sharpening as physical starvation, this mind would run the gamut of your human foibles, till your weakest vanity was discovered. Then with the precision of a Guido Reni it would make that the keynote of all your conversations thereafter, flattering that one love of flattery in you till you joined the ranks of adorers. But time always cheapened the flattery, and by and by that skillful player on human foibles could not bring any more grist to your mill. Being carnal and temporal, not divine and infinite, the supply of stimulants gave out.

Another character loved to be praised for keen quick-wittedness. So whenever it was making preparation to meet “the Count” or “the Duke” or “my Lord” or “the distinguished Mr. or Mrs. So and So,” there was always an imaginary conversation prepared coming by instinct wondrously close to what did take place, in which this seeker for praise of repartee was figured as quick and sharp indeed. The right retorts and responses were written down and learned beforehand. Everyone did praise this marvelous quickness of brilliant response. But by and by people grew afraid to associate with this mind because there was no parrying its thrusts. It was like the mechanical gambling machine, which no human player can win anything from. So great and small avoided it.

It is found by physiological psychology that we are all given to touching some vanity of intellect or sentiment in our fellow beings, which, if we be too indulgent of its practice, surely bringeth us to grief.

There is only one chord in our brethren we can wake to eternal delight, and that is the one Luke touches, namely the Theophilus chord. This chord is the love of God strung fine and strong across the soul of every creature from the archangel to the human dwarf. Whoever loves to strike this nature, never absent, always in tune, always responsive, will win deathless friendships, eternal comradeship, and wholesome encomiums.

Luke was the healing mind, the artist, the musician. This healing mind is in us all. At its highest it is quick to run the gamut of men’s tastes and virtues. It calls your attention to your own possibilities it puts so glowingly before you. It tenderly sweeps the heartstrings of love and tells you how you are beloved by one whose love cannot fail you, whose treasures of wisdom and joy are awaiting your acceptance.

To read the writings of Luke is to awaken in ourselves the skill akin to his. For to read an author is as though we associated with his character. Do not be surprised if the admirer of Shakespeare is a panderer to human foibles; or if the admirer of an egotistic poet is egotistic.

The true physician diagnoses your case as an easy one to cure. He has one remedy only. He always uses it. The more of it you take, the healthier you get. He sees that you are heartsick, and tells you that you have had only the “John Baptism,” which is simply the promise of something good to come to you in the future, and that indeed no heart was ever made to feed on promises – it must have present satisfaction. He then tells you that no matter if you are an organ-grinder, or a shoemaker, you really have the possibilities of a Beethoven and of a John of Patmos. He says that all you need is to have your soul’s secret keys played on by a Master Hand.

This is the truth. The strings of the soul harp quiver under His fingers. “Ah, God my Maker, I love Thee!” you respond. The hot tears flow. The hardness is melted. No one has told you who you were till Luke came into your neighborhood. The hardest enemy of the God who has seemed to let him have a lot inferior to his neighbors, finds that as soon as the true God is described, and His real dealings with every creature are proclaimed, he loves Him with all his mind, and strength, and heart, and soul.

Luke (the Christian who represents you as a being of God-like genius) gets martyred by the preachers who preached the worm-of-the dust doctrine till they got you down to beggary and your neighbor into luxury. But Luke’s teachings live, and the preachers themselves are converted to his teachings if they ever listen to him an instant.

He always preaches Jesus Christ risen, alive, at hand, ready to manifest any instant. Jesus Christ is this power of the knowledge of God, which quickens into abiding demonstration. By which is meant that the knowledge of Truth is the Jesus Christ power. This knowledge of truth being kept in mind – held onto as true – by and by becomes so real that it is outwardly demonstrated. The outward demonstration is the Holy Ghost power of Jesus Christ.

This Holy Ghost power of Jesus Christ is possible to every one of us, on every plane of living. Suppose on the commonest scale of this principle you are knowing to the fact that the one you are working for is not paying you as good wages as you earn, and as you know that he can afford to give you – this knowledge of right, this knowledge of justice– is your Jesus Christ power. Hold on to this knowledge, and it will quicken by and by into the conscience of the meanest employer on record. Something will take place without any intervention on your part, which will either set you into a field that will more than make up for what you have seemed to lose, or turn his heart and purse inside out to make restitution.

People have the most practical doctrine in the Jesus Christ teaching as set forth by Luke. Commentators and Bible historians have searched all around for a historic Theophilus, but they could not find one. Luke was speaking to the Theophilus chord in the soul of the peasant, and that of the king. That string that vibrates with hope and faith in God and wakes the airs with loving cadence, when it is touched in gentle mother, or ruthless pirate.

Luke is so very personal that he is divinely impersonal, for Luke is the artist of God and the health of “my people Israel.” No matter what plane you live on, this Luke will heal you by waking the love-of-God chord in you. He does not scorn you if you are a farmhand, or a brakeman on the train. He says, “What do you really want?” Then he tells you that always the God within you is able to lay hold on just what you think you ought to have. He then tells you that after you have gotten that desired object well into hand, then you will be on another plane, and will be naming something else as your aspiration. He shows you that on having attained that object – your God within – which pushes your knowledge of what you ought to have, forward and still forward, quickens your knowledge with the white glory of the Holy Ghost, and from that instant all things are done for you.

Luke says the knowing power within is Jesus Christ, the owner of the kingdom of the world and the riches of them, who will restore unto you your lost Israel or the beautiful home and happiness you had years ago.

There is a broad hint in the eleventh verse that people ought not to be looking into the skies for their Jesus Christ power. They have a right to think of it as here and now working with them tangibly and helpfully.

According to this idea it is as unscientific to found an orphans’ home and trust to prayers to bring skimmed milk and burnt porridge enough for each day, as it was for the ragged monks of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries to go begging crusts from door to door. Any kind of living, which an unprovided-for Christian calls trust, is as removed from the demonstration of Jesus Christ unto the power of the Holy Ghost, as the dumb hope of the vagabond dervish that Allah will send him a money price for exhibiting the hooks through his eyelids.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are visible, tangible helps to our getting on in abundance of possessions – so abundant that we do not speak of them as remarkable and unusual signs of our uncommon piety.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are visible, tangible helps to our wise words, so that we are not set over or under our fellowmen, but realize that there is no respect of persons with God.

Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are visible, tangible aids to our perfect health, so that we do not need to fear disease, pain, old age, accidents, and deformities. All these things will disappear with the knowledge of truth. The truth is that to know a principle, and to hold on to your knowledge of it, will win your cause as sure as you live. Right here we are called to notice that so far all our great teachers have thought sorrowfully of the extreme length of time that it has taken for great truths to win their way. Why should this be so when the disciples were only ten days turning from disciples (learners) into apostles (teachers)? Because people have believed in time and heaven to come. They have looked afar off. “According to thy faith be it unto thee.” (Matthew 9:29) If God is within and without every creature, only waiting for the right words to be spoken to do exceeding abundantly above all that we have asked, we will take down the veil of belief in time and lay hold of our fullness of joy now.

Knowing that all things are ours now by right of being in God and having God within, is a power of itself. It brings the Holy Ghost demonstration. He is a mental tramp who has no idea where the support of his household is coming from each day and for all time. He may call his vagabondism pious trust if he wants to, but it is ignorance of ways and means, which Jesus Christ never practiced and never recommended. The world’s way is for one never to know the day the banks may fail, the business collapse, the strikes ruin him. It is the Jesus Christ way to know a truth that shall make us free from even the idea that we have to trust blindly in God for our living, for He knew a sure working principle close up to each one of us. What we know to be true is now working for us. Holding on to it brings it into sight. “And this is life, to know.” Whatever we know ought to be done, we may be sure is hastening to be done. To know that it ought to be done now is to take off the veil of time from out sight. Seeing good times come to us now is the Holy Ghost.

The instant the knowledge of the NOW strikes us we have the power of the Holy Ghost. After the idea of time falls off and the now is in us, we can stop the supposition that money and book learning, or position and fame, are worth striving for or speaking of. These ideas are all the result of having people touch the human strings, which weave the veil before the soul. Their cheapness is already striking the earth with terror, so the loving physician of this hour comes to our discouraged hearts and wakes the soul chords by telling us the story of the power of truth. He paints our own powers in living science before our eyes. He calls it Spiritual Science, which means knowledge of truth. He tells the story over and over. Every time he tells us that our own knowing of truth is as full of energy as the knowing of Paul, or John, or Stephen, we lift up our heads with new hope.

And now he tells us there is a quickening energy belonging to us which we had better use. It is the knowledge of what right thing ought to be done now. The news is the thrilling delight of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the ability this day to fit out our people with purse and script and sword, exactly such as the best people in the world have, without being spoilt by such possessions or boastful of our great piety, for these things are but outward symbols of our knowing what is true and what ought to be done now.

The knowing exactly what ought to be done is Jesus Christ. The actual presence of the finished work is the Holy Ghost power of Jesus Christ.

If you are troubled by the unequal distribution of property in the world, are you sure that all of the Hottentots and states’ prison convicts ought this day to have exact shares of all property by violent seizure of the lands and personal goods of the property owners? If you think all men ought to be taught how to use property before such a seizure, then you really are thinking that knowledge is the thing worth while. Why do you not say so, then? And if you would be very particular what kind of knowledge you would have brought to the inhabitants of this planet, seeing that knowledge of mechanics and languages has not brought the right state of affairs to pass, why do you not state explicitly and definitely what kind of knowledge you want them to have?

One has to know exactly what he wants to have done, and know that it ought to be done, to be indeed waking the true and omnipotent chord of mankind. That which you would have them know is that God is within all creatures equally, without respect of persons when they speak the truth of God.

If you are in doubt about its being a knowledge of God you would have people possessed of, since the preachers of God have seemed to be as weak and unprovided for as the rest of the world, then be exceeding particular to define what kind of God you would have the world think of, for people always get into their own lot and put into other people’s lot the highest ideas they can conceive of. Their highest influence is that which they think to be true.

If your highest conception of God was got from the theology, which represents Him as partial in the distribution of powers, faculties, and virtues, either by inheritance, or by environment, then your knowing is not the knowing of truth. Luke, the physician, has not spoken to you. The love chord is not wakened in you. You need healing of this. It is no wonder you are worried about many things.

Can you not change your mind to think that the spirit of God was breathed into Pilate as fully as into Jesus? This it the truth. Herein is the truth of God, so good. He who can hold on to this knowledge will see his knowledge break forth as the morning in the smiling faith of a planet. This is the truth. It is Spiritual Science. There is no respect of persons with God.

“There is one God above you all and through you all and in you all.” (Ephesians 46) He never sent any evil upon any creature. This is truth. And in your heart you think this ought to be true, do you not? You know it ought to be true. And this knowing which you now admit is touching the wings of the Holy Ghost with the winds of your thoughts. Let the winds of positive knowledge of what ought to be true blow on till the white fire of knowing that it already is true flames hot on the earth!

We do not believe that this need take any time. We do not believe that Jesus Christ thought of time as necessary to bringing to pass perfect health, perfect wisdom, and joyous prosperity for every creature. All the time it has taken to come face to face with the golden age of peace on earth has been the masters’ belief in time. Indeed, they have all accused Jesus Christ of being 1900 years coming among us again. We have no human foible for such masters to quicken to belief in that teaching. The love of God is quickened by the healing knowledge that “Now is the accepted time.” (II Corinthians 6:2)

July 3, 1892

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