The Will to Hope

Isa. 57:10.---' Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope: thou dist find a quickening of thy strength; therefore thou wast not faint.'

The context shows that the words were spoken to Israel of the time of her apostasy. They describe an attitude of willfulness and of the unteachableness of a worldly heart. Yet at the same time, as so often in the generous breadth of the prophet's mind, they reveal a kindly feeling of honest admiration as of one who should say, Thy endurance was worthy of a better cause. 'Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope, Thou didst find a quickening of thy strength.' The picture is that of one who has traveled a long road and is utterly wearied with the journey, who yet will not give up hope, and, as he definitely puts aside the thought of failure, feels his strength revive, grips his load with a firmer hand and marches on.

The verse is extraordinarily modern. For what it carries with it by implication is the whole system of teaching which is based upon the power of mind to control bodily life. In the margin of the Revised Version the Hebrew of the last clause, is, 'Therefore thou wast not sick.' Sickness or faintness of spirit is perhaps intended, but the health of the body is clearly involved too. Thus we touch here the principles of mental healing.

There are a good many forms which these principles have taken in our time. The most outstanding is, of course, Christian Science. Then we have in America the Emmanuel Movement---a movement connected with Protestant churches which seeks to combine bodily healing with the ordinary proclamation and teaching of Christian truth. And, again, there are in our own country, as well as elsewhere, many smaller bodies of Christians who practice faith-healing. The one thing which all these alike rest upon is the power of ideas imparted to the mind to strengthen the bodily life. The method is not new. Indeed, mental healing is probably the oldest form of the healing art. Before men knew how to gather drugs from herbs they prayed to their gods for relief, and through prayer found some gift of strength.

In ancient times a great medical school was to be found on the Greek island of Cos. There, under the sanction of the altars of Greek deities, a treatment was given to sick people which combined mental with physical remedies. The uncovered ruins of this great establishment occupy a large area, stretching over a terraced hillside backed by a cypress grove, and looking out upon a splendid prospect of mountain and sea. The great pile of buildings which formed the home of the school of medicine at Cos comprised many rooms for sleeping in, ranged round the temple courts, for what was known as "incubation," or sleeping in a temple, was an approved remedy for sickness. But there were other rooms as well as halls devoted to the pursuit of art, and the drama, and literature, and music, where the Greek priest-doctors brought to bear upon their patients' illnesses all the influences of a well-educated mind, as well as the benefits arising from baths and drugs.

There are reserves of life in us all which we seldom draw upon. It rests very much with our will whether we are weakly or strong, and especially it depends upon this---the measure of our expectation of good. 'Thou wast wearied with the length of the way; yet saidst thou not, There is no hope. Thou didst find a quickening of thy strength; therefore thou wast not sick.' That, as the prophet saw, might be true of any man. He said it, as we have seen, of those who were on a wrong course. Wrong as that course was, the law of life held good for them that, within certain limits, the spiritual elements in man can rule the physical, and the bad man who has the will to hope finds his powers revive.

Now if that is true as a general law of man's life, how much it means for the man who is living in obedience to God. How much more reason there is for the good man than for the bad man to refuse to say, 'There is no hope.' For if the moral bias of our life swings round insistently upon the side of right, we are in the main flow of the universe. The text, however, is for the hour when a man cannot see how the tide is flowing towards the good, when the obvious facts of life seem against him, when he is utterly tired with the long road which has no turning in it. 'Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way.' Now is the time to realize that the help God sends is likely to be just in that long way and through its very lengthiness. If He can make us resist the temptation to hopelessness He will make us stronger men. Let us learn from our social service. If a man is sunk in poverty, it is better to give him work than to give him money. If he is ailing, we say, if we can, something like this, 'Silver and gold have I none, but . . . in the name of Jesus Christ walk.' And in like manner God will surely answer our cries of distress through us rather than through our circumstances. For God never acts through us without leaving us after the action better and abler persons than we were before.

This is an attitude we owe not only to ourselves, but also to others. For how easily we change the temperature of each other's hopes and fears, with all that they mean of moral power or weakness. You will recollect Charles Dicken's story The Haunted Man, the story of the man who, because he could not face out and conquer his own sad memories, closed with the offer of a ghost to cancel in him the memory of sorrow, and to enable him to remove from others, too, the remembrance of grief. And you will recall how, wherever he went, the haunted man cast a shadow over people's lives, turning happy families into vexed and quarrelling ones, because he took from them the sympathy-roots out of which our best happiness springs. The truth of the story at its broadest is that we are able, wherever we go, by our own courage or cowardice to cast sunshine or shadow upon the lives of others. And sometimes the influence which passes from us is a conscious one. The Seventy-Third Psalm tells the experience of one who was greatly driven to doubt God, as he saw wickedness prospering around him. He was tempted to say,

Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, And washed my hands in innocency. But he did not say it---If I had said, I will speak thus; Behold, I had dealt treacherously with the generation of thy children.

In our very souls we must be loyal to each other, remembering that faith and hope and love at all times are moral powers, making for the strength and the health of the whole man, and that in times of stress, when the way is long and wearisome, the men whose life is guided by the revealed will of God must find for his own sake, and for the sake of his comrade, that the challenge of weariness becomes the occasion of the will to hope---hope that is sure and certain in the righteousness of God.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha