For some time I have been specially interested in the meaning of the words discovery and revelation, especially in their application to religious thought. At first glance these words appear to be closely united in some respects and distinctly separate in others. As defined by the Standard Dictionary the word "discover" means "specifically, to find and bring to the knowledge of the world; as to discover ... a principle." The word "reveal" means "to disclose, make known, or communicate by or as by supernatural or divine agency or instruction." It is to be noted that as used in these ways the two words indicate the actual existence of something previously unknown, though this existence may have been surmised, for "discover" comes from the Latin dis, a negative, and cooperio, to hide; that is, it means an unhiding of something. "Reveal" is from re, back, and velum, a veil; that is, something is seen when the veil is withdrawn. In each case, therefore, something previously hidden has been found. But here comes a marked distinction; discovery implies a conscious effort on the part of the actor who himself removes or overcomes an obstacle, as in the discovery of America or of a lost article; whereas revelation implies that the obstacle is removed by other means than by the action of the searcher, as the lifting of a fog reveals a scene hitherto hidden, or in the case of the revelation of spiritual truth, that it has come in the measure of that spiritual responsiveness of the individual channel of revelation, which has been attained to through spiritual aspiration and endeavor. In support of these statements, so far as religious thought is concerned, it may be remarked that no passage in the Bible implies that mankind has "discovered" God; but numerous passages say that God has "revealed" himself or His ways to mankind. These revelations have, however, invariably been make to those in active search for God or already occupied in God's service.

A casual glance through the Bible will show that as a general rule these revelations when presented to the world at large have been received with opposition more or less violent. Moses, Elijah, in fact, the prophets generally had to pass through ordeals because of their "Thus saith the Lord." The populace did not then, any more than now, want to be dictated to by any being whom they could not see, hear, or handle; and any one who asserted God's law and the penalty for its infraction was treated as if he were the lawgiver and consequently to blame for their sins of omission or commission. They often attacked the mouthpiece in the hope of silencing the voice and thus escaping the penalty which they were warned would follow as the result of wrong thinking and doing. But in no single instance did persecution, or even martyrdom of the prophet avert the penalty for wrong doing; and in no single instance has obedience to the voice of God failed to reap its reward.

Most conspicuous of all the men who in Biblical history opposed the teachings of his day with a revelation, stands Jesus of Nazareth. At a time when the priests had reached a climax of perfunctory religion, he came,—a more active heretic than any of his predecessors with whom the Jewish nation had had to deal. Prophets had declared God's law, the law of Love, had in isolated instances healed the sick and wrought other miracles in proof of their mission, but Christ Jesus stated God's law more succinctly than had any of his forerunners, and gave a new meaning to the words, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." On the basis of these two commandments he built his ministry, healed the multitude, restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, publicly raised the dead, and taught humanity how to do as he did. His teachings, thus exemplified by his works, carried conviction to the populace, to whom he revealed his mission and who followed him like sheep that had found their shepherd. Such an efflux from the stereotyped rites of priesthood aroused the envy and jealousy of the priests and Pharisees, who, as John writes, began to fear that if they let him alone all men would believe on him. This would mean the downfall of their ritualistic worship and the destruction of their traditional concept of God. So, following the climax of his works, the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, they gathered a council at which, while compelled to acknowledge his miracles, they asked one another the fruitless question, "What do we?" They had no healings no raisings from the dead, no good deeds to enumerate; nothing to prove the truth and value of their dead-letter ceremonies. So, assuming that these forms were right and that Jesus' teachings were wrong, they ignored the necessity of harmonizing their practice with their precepts, rectifying their imperfect—nay, sinful—thoughts and acts, and followed in the footsteps of their progenitors: "From that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death."

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January 12, 1907

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