Among the memories in Livingstone's life there are few if any that he cherished more than the thought of his old Sunday school teacher, David Hogg, who sent for him as he lay dying and said, "Now lad, make religion the everyday business of your life, and not a thing of fits and starts, for if you don't, temptation and other things will get the better of you."
Not only was Ezekiel given the assurance of God's power and glory in the events of the world, but he was given a vision of the future blessedness which is to descend upon mankind. This vision took the form of a great city and a great temple. Accompanied by a heavenly guide, Ezekiel in his vision saw a stream of water issuing from the foundations of the temple and flowing eastward. A short distance from the temple the angel measured the waters, and the waters were only to the ankles. Still farther on he measured them again, and the waters were up to the knees of Ezekiel as he passed through them. Again he measured them, and the waters were up to his loins. And then a final measure, when he found a river too deep to ford, a river to swim in.
As he followed the course of the river he marked the many trees with their greenness and shade which grew on either side of the river. Wherever the river flowed there was vegetation and life. He could follow the river as it flowed eastward by the trail of green, here dark and deep, and there fresh and tender, which it left behind it. "Every thing shall live whither the river cometh" (Ezek. 47:9); even the Dead Sea, that monster among inland seas, heavy with salt, more than a thousand feet below the level of the ocean, with no outlet, and its bituminous waters scarcely tolerating any forms of life, was healed by the temple-born river which emptied a pure, life-giving stream into its bosom.
This is a vision. It is hardly a real river which Ezekiel is describing, but a river which in its origin, its gradual increase, its universal benediction, is a symbol of the power and blessedness of true religion.
In his Farewell Address, Washington said: "Religion and morality are the indispensable supports of political prosperity. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. Morality is a necessary spring of popular government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?"
There are not a few today who evidently believe that we can have national morality without religion. You might as well expect to have a stream without a fountain, or a tree without a root. Mere philanthropy, altruism, or expediency, will never suffice to uphold society or the state. All moral sanctions go back to belief in God and the higher law.
Morality without religion is only a kind of dead-reckoning—an endeavor to find our place on a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we have run, but without any observation of the heavenly bodies.—Longfellow
The religion of some people is constrained: they are like people who use the cold bath, not for pleasure, but necessity and their health; they go in with reluctance, and are glad when they get out. But religion to a true believer is like water to a fish: it is his element, he lives in it, and he could not live out of it.—J. Newton
From the Charleston News and Courier we have this wise and warning word: "One of the propaganda gambits is the assertion that the Soviet government allows a large measure of religious freedom. We would not be surprised if the current National Council of Churches mission to Moscow returned with such a report. It is true, of course, that churches are allowed a limited degree of activity. But these churches are permitted to operate in order to promote aims of the Soviet state. The Russian Orthodox Church—a tool of the Communist authorities—in gaining admission to the World Council of Churches won a beach-head in the Christian world which will prove useful to the Kremlin.
"If one wants to measure accurately Soviet intentions toward religion, one has only to look at the situation of the Jewish faith in Russia. The Jerusalem Post, published in Israel, recently detailed some of the restrictions put on free exercise of Judaism. Soviet pressures against the Jewish faith are so intense that it is even forbidden for Jews to bake the matza, unleavened bread, used during the Passover. 'No matza will be baked legally in the Soviet Union this year,' said The Post. 'Matza is prohibited in the name of anti-religion.'
"The Jerusalem Post reports that the city of Odessa, 'with its 200,000 Jews,' is included in the area where matza-baking is banned. A fine of 115,000 rubles was imposed on the Riga Jewish community as a 'tax on private profits accumulated by the officers of the congregation,' said the Post. Now, added this Israeli journal, 'Passover has also been described as Zionist propaganda.'
"These restrictions on Jews are a reminder that the Soviet Union is not neutral on the subject of religion. Anti-religion is the official doctrine of the Soviet state. Toleration is extended only when it serves propaganda purposes, or when it allows Moscow to send political agents abroad in clerical garb."
When Bishop Phillips Brooks sailed from America on his last trip to Europe, a friend jokingly remarked that while abroad he might discover some new religion to bring home with him. "But be careful of it, Bishop Brooks," remarked a listening friend; "it may be difficult to get your new religion through the Custom House."
"I guess not," replied the Bishop, laughingly, "for we may take it for granted that any new religion popular enough to import will have no duties attached to it."
At a recent conference of Baptists, Methodists, and English Friends, in the city of Chengtu, China, two Chinamen were heard discussing the three denominations. One of them said to the other:
"They say these denominations have different beliefs. Just what is the difference between them?"
"Oh," said the other, "Not much! Big washee, little washee, no washee, that is all."
A recent book on Russia relates the story of the anger of the Apostle John because a certain peasant burned no tapers to his ikon, but honored, instead, the ikon of Apostle Peter in St. John's own church. The two apostles talked it over as they walked the fields near Kieff, and Apostle John decided to send a terrible storm to destroy the just ripe corn of the peasant. His decision was carried out, and the next day he met Apostle Peter and boasted of his punishing wrath.
And Apostle Peter only laughed. "Ai, yi, yi, Apostle John," he said, "what a mess you've made of it. I stepped around, saw my friend, and told him what you were going to do, so he sold his corn to the priest of your church."