Chapter 4 — Keeping the Whole Law
God’s work is done. He is the law. He is the supply. Our work is to obey the law, to receive and distribute the supply. One of the things to which we seem most persistently blind when we first begin to apply Truth principles is that we must take the initiative: We must begin obeying the law before it begins working for us. We’ve mentioned this. But let us repeat: We must turn on the electricity before we get light. We must walk out into the sunshine before we feel its warmth. We must put the weight on the scales before the balance tips. We must light the fuse before the blast goes off. We must snap the shutter of the camera before we get a picture. We must strike the key before the organ tone responds.
In many cases the response is instantaneous; in others it requires time. If we would grow potatoes we must plant them and wait for them to grow. If we would hatch chickens, we must put the eggs under the hen or in the incubator, and wait through the incubating period. If we would make bread, we must put it into the oven and wait until it is baked. All this is as we see it from our present standpoint.
The most easily recognizable differences between everyday work and what we commonly call miracles are two. One has to do with the part that we suppose we play in initiating causes, and the other has to do with the lapse of time that we believe necessary between the causes and their effects. The more we learn about the laws that govern the doing of anything, the less we see ourselves as initiating agents, and the more the time lapse shrinks.
We previously classified as a miracle the instantaneous occurrence of an event that we have been accustomed to seeing occur slowly. But we cease to call things miracles when we see them as consistent results of the operation of laws, even when we bring the time lapse down to the fraction of a second.
Let us go a step further with this idea. Electric light, as now apparently “produced” by the touching of a button, would have been a miracle in the days before men learned the laws back of the phenomenon. A hundred years ago it took perhaps a month to send a message across the Atlantic; today a man speaks in London and is simultaneously heard in New York. Miracle? Not at all; radio.
It is difficult to understand how any one even vaguely familiar with the scientific progress of the last fifty years can doubt the possibility of so-called miracles, or question, on the ground of impossibility, the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth. Whether the historical accounts that we have of Jesus’ miracles are correct to the last detail or not is beside the point. One can hardly look at what is today commonly done, and say that Jesus’ miracles, as described, were impossible.
But the results of obedience to law, whether swift or slow, are sure; that point any sane student will admit. It follows as a corollary that the way to test any alleged statement of law, to learn whether or not it does truly state law, is to try it; for law must work if its conditions are fulfilled. Law is not a person with powers of choice; law has no choice but to obey its own terms. So, in considering the work that we have to do, let us consider the statements of law by authorities that we have some reason to respect, and recognize that putting them to the test must necessarily be a part of the task. Jesus, the master of obedience to law and consequently the master of its results, gave a few statements of law for us to test. He suggested that we test them. He begged us to test them. It was the chief purpose of His life and death to induce us to test and prove them. He lived and died with the one great purpose of demonstrating that testing them proves them. He proved them. He used them, and for Him they overcame the world.
What were these rules? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And He gave admonition is such as these: Turn the other cheek. Give your cloak with your coat. Go the second mile. Did it ever occur to you that it may be called a discovery of Jesus’ that, if it is good to follow a principle a little way, it is well to go further; in the parlance of the street, to “go the limit” on it? That, in substance, is what Jesus begs us to do. Paraphrased, His instructions might read: “Fear not; only go all the way in your observance of law.” If His instructions express law, that law will work once or a million times. If it is law it will work in New York or Honolulu, Japan or Kamchatka, the earth or Mars, now, tomorrow, and throughout eternity. And Jesus says that love is law.
How simple it all is! Here in black and white are twenty-eight words, on which Jesus said “the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.” We have only to follow their instructions just as they are written, in order to test that statement of His. If the benefits of being in harmony with law accrue to us, instantly or gradually, we may fairly conclude that He spoke the truth. Until we do test them and find them untrue, we can hardly say that what He said cannot be true, or that it is thoroughly impracticable in modern life. Can we?
If one who is a pianist opens a new piece of music, he finds certain marks and signs called notes set down there in black and white. If he follows them, striking indicated keys on his instrument in certain time, he will find that he has fulfilled a law that produces harmony, and music will be the concrete result. If a person is a mathematician and he finds a certain rule set down in black and white in a work on mathematics, he tries it and gets the promised result. If he is a gardener and follows the black-and-white instructions for planting and cultivating that are printed on any package of seeds, he gets flowers or vegetables from those seeds. If he reads the black-and-white instructions for running his new car and follows them, he will run the car.
But we must do all that the rules require. We must go the limit. We cannot make music by striking notes a half tone off those set down in the score; we cannot get four by adding two and one and nine tenths; we cannot get morning-glories by putting the seeds into the ground and refusing to cover them or to water them; we cannot run a car by merely opening the throttle, while we refuse to shift the gears. In short, we must obey the law, the whole law, and nothing but the law, if we would have its good results.
Oh, yes, one may give a partial obedience—and get an indifferent result. That is what most of us do. And sometimes seemingly slight departures from the law in one respect are the obscure causes of failure in seemingly unrelated respects. Have you ever applied this idea to some condition in your finances or in your bodily health that has seemed mysterious to you, and have you carefully scanned your daily conduct to find the departure from law that was the obscure cause? It is an accepted belief that anger, indulged in, will stop the processes of digestion. Will gossip, indulged in, affect the size of my income? Will white lying, indulged in, load my muscles with fatigue? It is not until we take off all the limits and go all the way in keeping the law that we get—miracles!
A thousandth-of-an-inch variation from specifications in the machining of an engine shaft will Produce friction enough in its bearings to ruin them. A hundredth-of-an-inch error in the line of lip or eyelid will ruin a portrait. Why can we not see the obvious parallel and use plain common sense in following exactly, completely, undeviatingly such a law as that of love—the great fundamental law containing all other law? “Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law,” said Paul.
“Ye therefore shall be perfect” seems a hard saying. But why so? We hold the standard of perfection in obedience to natural law. We must. Why not accept the same standard of obedience to spiritual law? Besides, what is more natural than spiritual law, which underlies natural law as spiritual substance underlies visible phenomena?
Natural laws as we know them fit together in a perfect and continuous order. A thousand analogies indicate the same harmony and continuity among spiritual laws. Harmony is the sine qua non of the universe; without it we could not exist. The law of love is the law of harmony. Yet people will tell you that living by the law of love is not practical. It is not—if you go only part way. The way to obey is to obey—completely.
No man is honest who is only partly honest; no statement is true that is only partly true; no signature is valid that is only nine tenths written; no water is ice that is only near-frozen; no stone is over the hill that lacks an inch of the crest; no stock is at par that is one point below; no ship is in port that is just outside; no cistern is tight that has just a little crack in it; no man is alive who is just a little dead! You keep no law till you go all the way. No result is achieved that is just barely missed. A miss is as good as a mile.
But why miss? Learning not to miss is what we have to do, isn’t it?
Pure Christianity, that is, the Christianity that Jesus of Nazareth Himself taught, seems to me highly practical.
I am a business man. My problems are real to me. My primary reason for turning to practical Christianity is to find solutions for my problems; my problems.
They are instant to me, these problems, immediate, pressing. I have employees to pay, a family to support, food, clothing, shelter to provide. I am thinking of these problems almost constantly. Whatever else I may be doing, wherever I may be, I think of them more or less continually. I must, since it is my job to provide the things that are necessary to my business and to my family. Will practical Christianity help me in this? Is practical Christianity “practical”?
Let us consider a little further. Perhaps we shall see whether it is practical or not.
Here is a formula for concrete: cement, sand, water. It is a formula that has been tried and proved. I have decided that I will follow it. I put in the sand and the water. Shall I put in the cement? How much shall I put in? Can I do with less? Shall I skimp a bit? What will happen if I do? But this is a formula, tried and proved, meant to be followed. How far shall I go?
Here is a standard of weights and measures. It says that sixteen ounces make a pound. Are there sixteen ounces in the pound I buy? Are there sixteen ounces in the pound I sell? I have a standard. Shall I live up to it, or shall I skimp a little? What will happen if I subtract an ounce from each pound? How far shall I go?
I am sending a special delivery letter, which calls for ten cents postage. If I put on but nine cents, what will happen? Can’t I skimp a little? But here is a standard—a law, in fact—that calls for ten cents. Shall I obey?
My business is music. I have here a composition I desire to play. Here is the theme in a dozen bars. Shall I play eleven? Can’t I skimp a little? But the theme is the foundation of the composition. What would happen if I cut it short? How far shall I go?
Questions like these can be multiplied indefinitely. What are they all about? They are about formulas for doing things well. The problem is whether or not, when such formulas have been tried and proved, they should be followed exactly, completely, in order to produce desired results; or whether, when they have been tried and proved, they are to be discarded, tampered with, followed only part way.
You wonder how a sane man can ask such questions. You consider it falling short of your standard of sanity even to consider dropping items out of formulas that have been tried and proved. Yes, it is unnecessary for these questions to be answered audibly, or in writing. They can be answered in your heart of hearts.
We are after results. Can we get perfect results or hope to get them, anywhere, if we are unwilling to fulfill the conditions laid down in the formula? Can we get perfect results by giving short measure? Oh, yes, perhaps we can “get away with it” for a while. But if I cut short the formula, or the measure, is there any question—is there ever any question—of the ultimate result?
Suppose I take a chance, as I sometimes do with the speed laws. What then? Suppose I take a chance and give short measures? Let us pause to ask a pointed question about my procedure: Do I advertise short measures? No. Well, why not? Because I expect to fool somebody by means of my short measure. I expect that somebody is going to take it for full measure, and therefore pay me for full measure; and therefore I shall make a profit, a little more profit, a little more immediate profit. How interesting and enticing! Profit is the legitimate purpose of my business, isn’t it?
But whom do I expect to fool? Do I fool the oven with a short-measure recipe? Do I fool the sun and frost and earthquake with short-measure concrete? Do I fool the laws of harmony when I play false notes? Do I fool the laws of force when I take a chance with the rules of the road? Whom and what do I expect to fool when I take a chance? Myself?
Of what do I take a chance? Disaster, nothing less. And I not only take a chance, I not only invite; I make sure of disaster.
Now here is that formula for practical Christianity about which I have asked. Is it practical? It is offered to me as a formula for life. How far shall I go ?
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Put a pencil mark under that repeated little word “all” and under that other little one-syllable word “as.” That is all you need do to make the whole point of all this clear. Here is your formula, in black and white, unmistakable, tried, and proved, and set down to be followed: the standard in the business of living. A formula for life, just as exact and as scientific as any other. Indeed, it is far more vital than any other, because it is all-inclusive. In its strict observance it holds all the conditions of success in anything.
Do we think we can skimp it?
Remember that Jesus even elaborated on it, in order to tell us how far we must go. He told us that it means, “Love your enemies and do good to those who despitefully use you.” Hard sayings? Why? Isn’t all this perfectly consistent with the general rule about formulas? Are not formulas based on law, and are they not meant to be kept? Are they not meant to get results?
And what are the results that we are promised? Well, suppose we turn back to the Old Testament and see what God says about it; this God whom we recognize as the maker of law: the law of concrete, of music, of love—this God who is Himself the law. Ah, yes, He said something to the effect that we are to bring all the tithes into the storehouse and prove Him now herewith, if He will not open to us the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing greater than we are able to receive. Rather a generous promise, is it not? A generous fulfillment, rather; a fulfillment of conditions to be established by me; of conditions laid down in our formula for living.
Do I expect to get results? Where do I skimp? Is practical Christianity practical? I am told by those who have tried it, from men who work beside me and have tried it out here, all the way back through history to Jesus Christ Himself, who proved it to the ultimate limit, that it is a formula that works. I am promised that it will work to my everlasting good. Shall I observe it in the same generous, unlimited, complete way in which I want it to work for me? If I do not, whom do I expect to fool? With what am I taking a chance? How far shall I go?