Зображення сторінки

wealth so lavishly displayed in their homes, still further surprise is experienced. Take any one of the huge buildings downtown, where hundreds of firms, with their clerks, are daily absorbed in business affairs, and what do we find ? Into a vast number of offices the direct rays of the sun never enter, and they are dimly lighted by shafts, by reflectors, or by gas. Their sole dependence for air are windows, which are rarely opened, and which look upon small, dingy courts or narrow, gloomy streets, from which lofty adjacent buildings exclude all light. Ventilation is scarcely known in these places. Elaborate and costly devices are often provided to carry off foul air, but they constantly fail to act, as there is no provision for pure air or for providing heated currents to carry away the impure atmosphere. In the private offices of the heads of firms open fires may give some relief, but steam coils are the main dependence for warmth, and slowly and remorselessly roast the occupants with their dry,

nd slowly and rebilitating temperatusements, just

Many offices are situated in basements, just over damp cellars; others are off dark, dank halls in close proximity to foul plumbing fixtures; while everywhere the unwholesome fumes from gas-jets, the burnt dust which settles on steam-coils, and the impalpable impurities from samples or goods stored near by, contribute to pollute the atmosphere. Any plumbing is thought to be good enough for business buildings. The wear and tear to which it is exposed from careless clerks and boys, and the neglect of janitors, with the absence of water for flushing, all contribute to make it unwholesome. Furthermore, the sewers are often very bad, in many cases, stone drains roughly constructed, without proper pitch or ventilation, and with no means to keep them free from deposits. They were originally intended to carry off surface water, and are wholly un. suited to convey sewage. There is no barrier to prevent sewer air from finding its way into buildings, nor are soil pipes carried through the roof, of full size to permit its escape into the atmosphere above. Hence such buildings are found saturated with sewer-gas, and their occupants, too absorbed in business cares to heed their unsanitary surroundings, learn only too late what are the physical effects of such exposure.

These conditions undoubtedly explain the worn, weary, blanched, and prematurely aged look of so many business men. The wholesale introduction of steam for heating office buildings threatens to increase the crop of evils just pointed out, and to intensify the nervous strain which Dr. Weir Mitchell and other specialists note as so destructive to health. Our people are starving for the want of fresh air, and it is no wonder that the tired broker or merchant, after a toilsome day in his stuffy office, seeks relief in stimulants or becomes the victim of chronic dyspepsia, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and brain paralysis. Some of the most remarkable examples of unsanitary conditions in my experience have been in business offices, and in more than one instance in new buildings supposed to have perfect plumbing. In the directors' rooms of wealthy corporations and the private offices of bank and insurance presidents these evils are found in their worst form.

Here, then, are certain facts which are sustained by the steady growth of zymotic disease and by the evidence of many observers, who have had like opportunities with myself to inspect dwellings. The question may pertinently be asked, What are our wealthy citizens going to do about it? Will they continue to pursue the ostrich policy which has prevailed of late years with such direful results ! In other instances, when large numbers of people have been threatened with danger, societies have been formed to diffuse knowledge and inaugurate reforms. It would, therefore, seem timely to found an Association for Improving the Condition of the Rich, to send missionaries and to diffuse tracts among the benighted class, who, as has been shown, are exposed to such dangers. Undoubtedly the whole community would be interested in so benevolent a .movement, and would contribute liberally toward its support.


our wealthy ctrich policy which instances, when



In our day a class of able men, many of them distinguished scientists, think that the biblical view of prayer is altogether false; that it will do well enough for children and ignorant men and women, but can no longer satisfy the intelligent and the learned. These men represent prayer as futile, because the laws of the material universe are absolutely immutable — nothing can in the least change or modify them; therefore, to pray for rain or for recovery from sickness is as great a folly as it would be to attempt to dam up Niagara with a straw. When the atmospheric conditions are fulfilled, the rain will descend; when the physical and hygienic conditions are suitable, the sick will be restored to health. Yet we must be just to these scientific men. They do not all agree in opinion any more than the theologians do. Some of them are theists: their God is a personal God, who hears prayer. He may, they affirm, in answer to prayer, bestow on men spirital blessings. If they pray for enlightenment, the spirit illuminates their minds; if for forgiveness of sin, that blessing is bestowed and the assurance of it; but, say they, we cannot rationally pray for physical good, for material blessings, since in the material realm all is governed by laws fixed, unchangeable.

Still others affirm that prayer is a rational exercise, not because the petitioner directly receives in answer to his prayer either spiritual or material good, but on account of the reflex influence of prayer in his own mind and heart. It changes him. It lifts him up into communion with Him in whom is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning." No real answer to prayer comes down from God to us, but by prayer we are lifted up toward God and transformed into his likeness. That there is this reflex influence in prayer, no candid observer can for a moment doubt; but that this is all that is implied in answer to prayer, we are not yet ready to admit.

Such, then, are the views, not of all, but of many of the scientists of our day. Whatever may be the diversities in their views, there is substantial agreement in this, that the immutability of the laws of nature shows the folly of prayer, especially for material blessings. That such views are at variance with the Scriptures, the dullest can see. Both the biblical view and this of the materialistic scientists cannot be true; they are utterly in discord with each other, absolutely contradictory. Christ says with positiveness and with sweeping generality, “ Ask, and it shall be given you”; the scientist says it is folly to ask, as no blessing, since the laws of the material universe are immutable, can be bestowed in direct answer to prayer. It is clear, then, that either Christ and his apostles, or the materialistic scientists, are mistaken.

We wish, “with malice toward none and with charity for all,” to call attention to some points in the position of those scientists who have essayed to be not only our scientific, but also our religious teachers, which seem to us to be weak and untenable; and by our tentative criticism to suggest that perchance the soundest science does not yet summon us to abandon the biblical view of prayer; that it is quite possible that he who spake, his enemies being the judges, as never man spake, never dropped a word in reference to prayer which conflicts in any degree with absolute science. The question before us, then, is whether the doctrine of prayer as presented by Christ in the New Testament is at variance with established science.

Let us first briefly define our terms. What is science ? It is what we really know in all departments of investigation, whether the subject be the material universe or the acts and states of the soul revealed to us through consciousness. To know scientifically, to be sure, implies accurate observation, analysis, generalization, and correct classification; but all these processes simply help us really to know, and to know is the pith of the signification of the term science.

An honest, rigid application of this definition would reduce many ponderous volumes on science to the compass of books fitted to take their place in some vest-pocket series. Much of so-called science is nothing but theories or hypotheses to account for phenomena which everywhere confront us, many of which still remain unexplained. We do not object to these hypotheses as such ; they are good in their place. They are the tools with

which scientific men do their work. All advancement in scientific knowledge has been made by using them ; but until proved to be true, they are no more science than the chisel with which the sculptor works is the statue which he brings forth from the marble. We must make a sharp distinction between science, that which is absolutely known, and hypothesis, by means of which we strive to know.

On the other hand, what is prayer? It would not specially serve our purpose to attempt a comprehensive definition of it; but we wish to call attention to a single element which should enter into every just definition of prayer. It must be manifest to any one who thinks at all, that men are dependent beings. In the family, in society, and in business, we all, to a greater or less extent, lean on one another, children on their parents, wives on their husbands, the ignorant and the weak on the learned and the strong, and the poor on the rich. Now, lying at the very core of prayer is the fact of our dependence on God. By asking blessings of him, we confess that dependence; but in this confession of dependence, we not only submit our weakness to his strength, but our ignorance to his wisdom. We ask, conscious that we may make grievous mistakes in asking, so that the innermost spirit of true prayer is the submission of the petitioner to God. The cry of Christ in Gethsemane, as he prayed in agony that the cup might pass from him, “Not my will but thine be done,” is the undertone of all genuine prayer; so that God answers us truly, when, instead of giving us what we ask, he gives us rather the thing which, in his wisdom, he sees that we need.

The real difficulty in the way of God's answering prayer, according to some able scientists, is, as has already been noted, the fact that the laws of the material universe are absolutely unchangeable. This has led some theistic scientists to affirm that prayer for spiritual blessings may be answered, while prayer for physical good — for example, for rain in time of drought-is folly. But if fixity of law makes prayer for physical good ab surd, it must make equally foolish prayer for spiritual blessings, since law is just as fixed in the realm of mind or spirit as in the realm of matter. The laws by which the mind is developed are just as immutable as the laws by which the oak is unfolded from the acorn; the laws by which we think are as rigid and fixed as those which regulate the rivers in their flow or the clouds which

« НазадПродовжити »