What is this simple life that thoughtful men and women desire, and how are they to attain it? Simple means one-fold; open; pure; unmixed; sincere. These terms applied to human life convey a wonderful sense of freedom, of fearlessness and of corresponding purity,—one-fold, therefore nothing hidden in darkening secrecy or under the pall of fear; sincere, truthful, therefore free, noble, upright, fit for any good work the Father has for man to do. A life ruled by these conditions stands as the ideal of worthiness, of happiness, and all mankind long for the opportunity to live in this freedom, this happiness; the question is how the men and women of this age shall live this simple life in the midst of the social a the commercial demands and the temptation to absorption in material things of this twentieth century.

In olden times, when a man became convinced he had sinned as deeply as he thought the mercy of God could condone, he withdrew from his human responsibilities and retired to some desert solitude or mountain fastness, there to lead a life of prayer and fasting, either in penance for a life of violent deeds, or to satisfy a yearning for a closer communion with God than he could obtain in his accustomed occupations and surroundings. Many men and women of the early centuries of the Christian era thus forsook all family ties, all civic duties, thinking that in a solitary life they could purify their thoughts and desires of all that had darkened their lives among their fellow-men. They thought that a diet of pulse and water would cool their blood and help them to pure thoughts; but, as many a sorrowing saint has testified, the sinful imaginings and desires of mortal mind followed him wherever he went; he discovered that his own heart was a fountain of evil which a life of prayer, hunger, thirst, and danger from the wild beasts of the desert could not purify, that it might be fit for the dwelling of the angels of God. The material conditions of life had been joyfully left behind, but still their shadows darkened the sight of those who sought the harmony of Spirit and free communion with God. The hermit's grotto, the monk's cell were not always illumined by the divine countenance yearned for; the peace promised by Jesus did not descend to bless the longing penitent.

Throughout the centuries the same mistake has bound men to sin and suffering, and many among us now, seeking peace, begin at the wrong end. To drop one's natural duties in order to devote all one's time and energies to some form of life that will, to belief, make salvation sure, has been the teaching of ecclesiasticism for ages; but as men grew bolder in the expression of their highest thought, claiming the right to interpret the Scriptures according to human needs and not according to ecclesiastical policy, these men were branded as unbelievers, and were cast out from the churches, thus being helped to the simpler life by the very thing that would have obstructed their success in attaining it.

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June 29, 1907

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