While turning these things over in my mind, I got some help from two of the words most currently in Christian use. I had long known that the English equivalents of the Latin equivalents of the terms the New Testament writers used gave but a distorted idea of the original sense; but I had let that knowledge lie fallow.

The first of these words was Repentance. In these syllables, there is almost no hint of the idea which fell from the evangelistic pen, while the word has been soaked in emotional and sentimental associations it was never intended to be mixed with. The Metanoia; which painted a sober, reflective turning of the mind, had been so overcharged with the dramatic that sober, reflective people could hardly use the expression anymore. Repentance had come to have so strong a gloss of the hysterical, as to be almost discredited by men of common sense. It was a relief, therefore, to remember that it implied no more than a turning to God by a process of thought; and that a process of thought would find Him.

The other word was Salvation. Here again, our term of Latin derivation gives no more than the faintest impression of the beauty beyond beauty in that which the sacred writer used. Soteria—a Safe Return! That is all. Nothing complicated; nothing high-strung; nothing casuistical. Only a—Safe Return! Yet all human experience can be read into the little phrase, with all human liberty to wander —and come back. True, one son may never leave the Father’s home, so that all that it contains is his; but there is no restraint on the other son from getting his knowledge as he will, even to the extent of becoming a prodigal. The essential is in the Safe Return, the Soteria, when the harlots and the husks have been tried and found wanting.

I do not exaggerate, when I say that the simplicity of these conceptions was so refreshing as almost to give me a new life. One could say to God, with the psalmist, “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance”—and mean it. One could conceive of it as possible to turn toward Him—and reach the objective. The way was open; the access was free; the progress as rapid as thought could make it. One could think of oneself as knowing God, and be aware of no forcing of the note.

“We can know God easily so long as we do not feel it necessary to define Him.” Once having grasped this truth, I began to see how natural knowing God became. The difficulty of the forced, of the artificial, of the mere assent to what other people say, of which the Caucasian to his credit is always impatient, seemed by degrees to melt away from me. No longer defining God, I no longer tried to know Him in senses obviously impossible. I ceased trying to imagine Him. Seeing Him as infinite, eternal, changeless, formless because transcending form, and indescribable because transcending words and thoughts, I could give myself up to finding Him in the ways in which He would naturally be revealed to me.


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