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A PERSONAL WORD

THIS volume is somewhat of the nature of a confession of faith. While I am not aware of any contradiction between the views advanced here and the views presented in earlier books of mine, I am conscious of new feelings and a new mood of the spirit toward the Eternal wonder that is the object of all faith. The new feelings, the deeper mood, and the lengthened experience have brought, I fondly imagine, a clearer and surer insight. So the things of faith, the essentials of Christian belief, appear to me after many years of serious reflection and teaching.

The idea that gives unity to the volume, is the idea of the good as the inevitable quest of the human spirit. So the constitution of man is, so it works, so it can be understood; it is everywhere and always, inevitably, a quest for the good. This idea pervades the entire discussion; it emerges for recognition, in new connections, in nearly every chapter. The idea of the good is the common possession of Greek philosophy as represented by Plato and Aristotle, and the Old and the New Testaments; it is the possession of all great insight into life. The idea of the good is, I believe, the surest clue to the labyrinth of exist

ence. By no other path have I been able to gain freedom, and maintain hope; in no other way am I able to see that God can maintain his control, his ultimate control over man's world, and at the same time, respect the reality of man's share in shaping his own destiny.

During the last eight or ten years I have given, each season, a course of Friday evening addresses, illustrated usually by poetic masterpieces. These courses, with two exceptions, have been chiefly, though never exclusively, inspirational. One of these two exceptions, was a series of addresses on the Religious Value of the Divine Comedy; the other was a course on Aspects of the Infinite Mystery. Of this course, given in the winter of 1914–15, nine addresses were repeated by request of the people of the Old South Church, on Sunday mornings, 1915–16.

When the series closed I received from the Committees of the Old South Church and the Old South Society, the following request:

The Church Committee of the Old South Church, and the Standing Committee of the Old South Society, having heard with great profit the course of addresses by its minister, Reverend Dr. George A. Gordon, on “Aspects of the Infinite Mystery," and being deeply impressed by their evident helpfulness to our congregation and by many expressions of a desire to possess them

in permanent form, request him to publish them in a volume. We are persuaded that they will be welcomed by many thoughtful men and women, seeking light on the profoundest problems of religious aspiration, problems illumined by these fruits of many years of study and experience, expressed in untechnical form which the intelligent reader may readily understand.”

To meet this request it became necessary to write what had been spoken; to re-open the entire subject; to endeavor to discuss it in a less inadequate manner. More than two-thirds of this book had no place in the spoken word; the thoughts that constituted these addresses have been written into the wider, and I trust, deeper treatment of the great theme.

Part of Chapter Seven was published in booklet form by The Pilgrim Press, under the title, “Fealty to the Ideal”; the tenth chapter was read, in part, before the National Council, October, 1915. Chapters Eleven and Twelve were added to make the treatment a little less incomplete. The book is thus an organization, partly from notes, but mainly from the thoughts that have been gathering in my mind, during these later years, as I have confronted the mystery of existence.

If as one grows older one may not claim with the seer in Campbell's poem,

'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore

And coming events cast their shadows before,” one may claim greater freedom from conventional views, greater sincerity, not only of feeling, but also of responsible, perhaps, awe-struck thought. Sincerity of the judgment, the accountable judgment deepens with the years, no less than the sincerity of emotion, in normal human beings.

Traditional standards, except in so far as they witness to the integrity of truth, count for little when a man is writing with his eye upon reality, and under the sense of obligation to reality. To be regarded as conservative or radical, orthodox or heterodox may be of some interest for youth, even for manhood; for one standing in the presence of the Eternal mystery, and trying to reflect something of its meaning as life draws toward evening, such designations are of absolutely no account. One has something on hand infinitely more serious than the attempt to get votes from either the liberal or the conservative camp. One feels that Reality alone is judge, and that it will be well with one only in so far as one does homage to reality.

The question often rises, How does the great mystery look in the late afternoon of a laborious day? Different men will give different answers, and different readers will prefer different answers

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