"We know much more about the universe than the ancient world knew, but the more we know about it the harder it becomes for our spirits to accept the visible universe as the ultimate and final reality. The cold and pitiless forces of nature are not less cold and pitiless when we succeed in discovering their laws and habits. One comes back from his study of the march of suns, and planets, and the spiral movements of world making nebulae with very little to comfort the longings of the heart. He sees that these curves are all irrevocable and inevitable and that each event unfolds out of the one which preceded. It is a wonderful and amazing system, but it offers no tenderness, no love, no balm for the wounds of the spirit. It rolls mercilessly on, and he may be thankful if its wheels do not ride over him — the midget of an hour, riding on one of the flying globes of this mechanical system.
"It is useless to expect tenderness and love and balm in a system of mechanical forces. That kind of world can reveal gravitation and electricity, attraction and repulsion; it can show us matter moving under law; it can exhibit the transformation of one form of energy into some other form; but from the nature of the case it cannot manifest a heart of tenderness or a spirit of love. Those traits belong only to a person, and a mechanical system can never reveal a person.
"If religion is, as I profoundly believe, the essential way to the full realization of life, we, who claim to know about it, ought to interpret it so that its meaning stands out plain and clear to those who most need it to live by. I have always believed and maintained that the apparent lack of popular interest in it is largely due to the awkward and blundering way in which it has been presented to the mind and heart of those who all the time carry deep within themselves inner hungers and thirsts which nothing but God can satisfy. I do not want to write or print a line which does not at least bear the mark and seal of reality — and which will not make some genuine fact of life more plain and sure.
"The struggle for a conquering inner faith has in these strenuous days been laid upon us all. The easy, inherited, second-hand faith will not do for any of us now. We cannot stand the stern issues of life and death with any feeble, formal creed. We demand something real enough and deep enough to answer the human cry of our soul today. We need to be assured that we do not in the last resort fall back on the play of molecules but that underneath us are everlasting Arms. We want to know not only that there is law and order but that a genuine Heart of Love touches our heart and brings us calm and confidence.
"Robert Louis Stevenson has somewhere told of an experience that happened once to his grandfather. He was on a vessel that was caught by a terrific storm and was carried irresistibly toward a rocky shore where complete destruction was imminent. When the storm and danger were at the height he crept up on deck to look around and face the worst. He saw the pilot lashed to the wheel, with all his might and nerve holding the vessel off the rocks and steering it inch by inch into safer water. While he stood watching, the pilot looked up at him and smiled. It was little enough but it completely reassured him. He went back to his room below with new confidence, saying to himself, "We shall come through; I saw the pilot smile! " If we could only in some way catch sight of a smile on the face of the great Pilot in this strange rough sea in which we are sailing, we, too, could do our work and carry our burdens with confidence, perhaps with joy.
--Rufus Jones, The World Within