Bible Lesson LVIII
Acts 5:25-41
A River Within the Heart


by Emma Curtis Hopkins


It is said that pure water if it were set running over the earth would dissolve the rocks, the sands, the woods, the lead pipes, the iron pipes; nothing could withstand it.

There is a river within the deeps of the heart clear as crystal which, if it were set flowing, would dissolve the flesh, dissolve the intellect, dissolve the sorrows, the pain, the poverty of the world. It is the clear water of a pure motive, a noble purpose. A purpose is that which one has resolved to be and to do. Sometimes the God — implanted purpose is not let to run forth at all. It is not thought out in the mind. It is not spoken by the lips. If one has let the deep crystal purpose of God in his heart be thought out by his mind, he has made a channel for the dissolving motive to flow outward over his world, and it is written of him that he is good and great.

Newton said, “Let physics beware of metaphysics.” The prophet when feeling the Spirit inspire him, said, “The earth is clean dissolved before me.” The pure motive in the heart says, “I dissolve slanders; I melt false reports; I disintegrate oppositions.”

People talk of the seven millions of incurable invalids in the civilized world. People talk of the immorality of the globe. They inform me that the rich are becoming richer and the poor poorer by the mistaken legislations of the nations. But the scriptures tell that this is nothing, nothing at all, in the truth of a principle believed in. The scriptures tell me that if a few, a very few, people would mean exactly what they say when they are praying, their meaning would dissolve the sickness, melt the wrongs, make straight through the deserts of poverty, a highway for the bounty of God to flow down, and put away forever the legislation of councils all over the earth.

We find that the best of men do not let the crystal spring of their God — implanted motive really express itself even in their thinking. The Buddhist or Brahmin saint abjects himself down the act of burying himself in the sands for weeks that he may show how absorbed into the universal oneness of Brahma he may get himself, but there is a rock laid across the fount of his spirit which keeps him from accomplishing his wishes. That rock, he never attempts to dissolve by stirring to action the deep crystal sea at the root of his soul. At his lowest point of abjection, he never means to give forth the truth that the soul of the woman is God as the soul of the man is God. So he works at the problem of how to be well, how to be prosperous, how to be happy, and lies down with the question unsolved.

The minister of the civilized religions of earth prostrates himself into humblest devotion, but there is a rock laid across the dissolving waters in the deeps of his soul which he never attempts to touch by stirring into action the marvelous truth that there is no necessity for evil in God’s universe. He tells of the One Presence all God. He tells just as sternly of the necessity for evil in that One Presence. Or if as the mystic, he forgets to think it in consciousness, as the object of his devotions, it is an unsolved creed in his mind unconscious.

At the most dazzling heights of priestly devoutness does the praying man leave across the springs of his soul an ugly blockade of expectation to depend on the money of men to support him? Then he does not mean what he says when he tells the Most High that He is the support of the widow, the provider of all men. The crystal waters of dissolution of want, the melting of need, are not let to flow. He must still work at his question of life with the expectation that men will provide, while his lips praise his God for providing.

“This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Mark 7:6)

In metaphysics, we affirm that expectation is nine–tenths of the cure. That which we expect is that which we mean. While we are expecting anything or any action unlike the perfect health, the perfect success, or the fullness of joy, we have a rock laid across the expectation of the crystal fount in the soul.

How to honestly, truly expect the most marvelous cures, the most brilliant achievements, and the most heavenly delights, here and now, is the principle teaching we look for. He who can teach the minister how to honestly, truly expect to see in his life what he prays for, has made him a minister indeed.

To expect the full measure of all we bespeak is the first stir of the waters of that dissolving sea, at the root of the tree of our life. And to honestly expect is to mean what we say. To mean what we say is to have a nameless Presence over–ruling our hurts, liquefying our hardships, melting our troubles, so that we walk in a pathway of peace.

In this Acts 5:25-41, we see first that it is only in one sphere of belief where troubles are known and felt. That is the sphere of belief in the necessity for evil that good may come. It is the last thin layer of belief in the necessity for evil laid across the fount of the statement of God in the mind, when we are told that the saints must be tried by afflictions to purify their natures. This is not true. Afflictions and humiliations are not necessary to perfect saints or the sinners so–called. God made them all His own perfect Substance. As the Substance of God does not need trying by the fires of misery to test its fineness, so the nature of no man needs to be tried by humiliations to make it shine as the light.

Millions of trials wait for the dissolving waters of this crystal fountain to break forth. From the majestic prophets down through the cycles to the aureoled saints of our century, that rubbish of the thought that God tries the good, has held back the fulfillment of hopes, has dammed up the answers to prayers.

Bunyan was shut up twelve years in prison for preaching of God. He had humbly accepted the error that it is the way of the good to lay hurts in the path of the just. It is believed now that he did more good to the world by being shut into prison than he would have done by being left free in the prime of his strength. He wrote the “Pilgrim’s Progress” because he had time to write as a prisoner. But Christ sets the captive free. Who shall honestly lay to the charge of the Lord of Hosts that His works are best wrought out through bondage or trials? Say, rather, that it was because Bunyan did not absolutely mean what he said when he preached that the truth is freedom; that Christ sets the captives free and leads captivity itself captive.

Who could shut up the Spirit of God? Who could imprison the purpose of God? Nothing can stop the waters of purity from dissolving the globe when once they are generated and set into action. Nothing can hinder the word of protection when once it is generated by the honest faith of a soul. The teachers of Bunyan need never have taught him that trials and hardships are good for the Spirit. Is it true that Bunyan’s book had a wider influence than his preaching to crowds would have wrought? Who can say that he would not have written a nobler book, if he had not let the barrier of a belief in the necessity for trials lie across the word of truth when he preached it?

To have preached to multitudes believing he was not then in prison, but kept free from it by the grace of God, though worthy of death, would have been one power of Good. To be the writer of a book filled with beautiful ideas of the chastening life of the martyrs of Christ, held tightly under the bars of a practical experience of slavery, was another power of good.

But what of the good of a life free as God from bondage? What of a life stepped forth out of pain by its words of pure truth honestly felt? What of a life that can stand out from the poverty, the shame, the trials of a human lot through giving free course to a gospel of absolute safety, absolute peace, absolute provision, and absolute health? Has anyone tried that doctrine?

After thousands of years of practice of the statements of God’s goodness to man, caged in by the beliefs of His miserable love of afflicting His people, let us forego the old lies, and rise like a bird from the snares of the fowlers, free faith, free spirit, free life, free God, from the soul! The only good the worn–out accusations against God has done is to make us sharp to see at this time that such teachings would keep the generations of men purifying and cleaning and refining through tortures world without end.

Tortures begone! It is a principle, no mind with a spark of high purpose, noble resolution, lofty love of the right, will cower under for a moment. It is not necessary that evil should transpire for good to be done! Is there any belief left in the heart of man that a noble character, a lofty purpose, a pure truth, is its own defense? Then let the loftiest idea you can conceive of rise up as your principle of faith — your untrammeled confidence.

The noblest conception of the power of God to come, charging the nations with glory in this hour of our anguish as a betrayed goal of beggars and dying, is that all the pain and poverty and despair shall fall out of sight in an instant. As a world, we repudiate the principle that it is through mistakes that we learn wisdom, or through afflictions that we become good. Across the fountain deep in our hearts where the living waters flow, we allow no ideas of the Apostles, or martyrs, or saints, or divinity students to lie as planks in our creed.

This chapter teaches that good does indeed come forth from a pitiful knuckling to errors in mixture with true ideas of God’s purpose with man, but “terrible as an army with banners” is the glorious thought it flings forth like an arrow of light from an infinite sea of pure crystal, that the children of God are free–born and free–sandaled to run on the highways of peace.

All good for the untrammeled faith; all peace for the unhampered judgment; all health and all delight for the unhindered knowledge of the way of a pure purpose set going on earth. The purest purpose is truest. The truest purpose works quickest. The truest purpose is that nothing shall hinder the touch of the doctrine – that there is no necessity for the world to be in trouble or pain, and no God ever ordained it.

This is the doctrine which shall “suddenly destroy, and that without hand,” (Job 34-20) the armies of sorrow, the nations of trouble. It shall suddenly destroy the imprisoning legislation of capital and politics, the ugly diseases and sorrows of papal decrees and prophetic impositions, for a whole earth full of apostles of the rejection of the necessity for evil, as it did destroy the prison bolts of the Sanhedrin for a handful of apostles, as recorded in this chapter.

It shall melt all the machinations of all the enemies to one man alone, if he bide by the knowledge of the dissolving potency of a pure principle purposed in the heart. There shall ever be heard a Gamaliel at the courts where the cause of them that purpose the gospel of free God is tried. The rocks will cry out, the chains will unclasp. There is freedom for the idea now preached that we need not crouch behind the bars of the Fenelon, Guyon, Protestant Emersonian idea, that we are perfected by trials, or brought forth into greatness by shame.

Why did the man Theudas fail in his enterprise? He crouched under the pious falsehood that the way of the righteous is martyrdom. Why did Judas of Galilee droop and perish in baffled endeavor? Only because he shrank back to the cage of the religion of his fore–fathers, that the life of the just is a pathway of thorns, and the death of the righteous is torture. Why did the Russian lovers of freedom from despotic rule go in weeping exile to the Siberian wastes? Because they did not rise from the chains of the ideas their fathers laid on them that, there is hardship and torture for him who strikes for freedom. They had no idea of the practical application of the text from the wells of inspiration. “Stand and see the salvation.”(Exodus 14:13)

Why did these apostles here mentioned get free from the prisons, free from the captors, free from the laws of their land? Because they let their confidence loose on the bolts and the motives of despots in a stream fine and small, but sufficient to dissolve iron bars, stone laws, and steel motives. Why did they all suffer martyrdom, after this beautiful demonstration of the setting–free power of expectation of good? Because as this lesson unblushingly utters, they “rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of Christ.” They had not suffered shame, they had demonstrated the setting–free power of the gospel.

To suffer shame is no sign of the Christ. That Name is freedom from shame. It is honor and glory. That Name is not the synonym for suffering and sorrow. It is the Name for stepping forth from prisons, from councils, from despots, from armies of capital, from legislation of men bent on defrauding the poor of their rights, from slanders, from pain, from hunger, and from sickness.

That Name is not the prophecy of ages of waiting for just dues, as these apostles have waited, because they refused the mighty doctrine of Jesus that “now is the accepted time.” (II Corinthians) You need not wait for your rights. You need not believe in its being good for your soul or your life to have trouble. You need not think it is good for your neighbors to be shut up in prison or hurt by the law of cause and effect. Nothing is good but good. Be not deceived. You need not pray for submission to evil. You need not ask to bear pain. You need not court tribulations by thinking of them as the ways of God with those whom He loves. They are not His ways with His people. Fenelon and La Compte taught that we yield ourselves as victims to the persecutions of men, because God wills it. This is not Truth. There is no salvation from sin, sickness, and death in such doctrine. Emerson teaches that the gods overload with humiliation those, whose name shall shine on the scrolls of fame. But these gods are not God. They are the imaginations of men. A purer, truer stream flows forth this moment. It is the river, whose purpose is to make glad the city. It is the Science of Good. Whoever is one with its purpose is free.

August 21, 1892


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