The average man, so far from taking the advice of the...

The Christian Science Monitor

The average man, so far from taking the advice of the wise man out of the East to choose his words at least as carefully as his food, commonly gives far more thought to his kitchen than to his dictionary. He may, indeed, be said to riot in an inspired carelessness in his use of language. Mr. Ruskin once declared that if you employed words accurately you were in positive danger of being misunderstood. Did not Mrs. Gamp, for example, convert the innocent four syllables of aggravation, in a night, as it were, from increase to irritation? It is, indeed, this accuracy in the employment of words which is so "aggravating" to the sensuous man, the man to whom all discipline is a trial. It means the extinction of the "purple period" with its aroma of cheap sentiment, and the acceptance of a scientific terminology. It means the method of Huxley in preference to the method of Doctor Watts, and that of the fourth gospel in distinction to that of the psalms. It means mental discipline instead of slipshod thinking, and when people realize this, they will stop and ask themselves what they mean by a word like inspiration before they use it.

If you look up the word inspiration in a dictionary, you will discover that it means, first, "the drawing in of breath," and, second, "divine influence," and between the two there seems a great gulf fixed. Even when you come to "divine influence," there is a wide margin for argument. It extends all the way from the Mumbo-Jumbo of Africa to the idols of Hindustan, or from the temples of Pagan Rome to the temples of Christian America. It includes all that separates the Jehovah of Moses from the God of Paul. It is obvious, then, that there is a vital difference between the inspiration of an Indian medicine man and the inspiration of Peter at Lydda. And it becomes of tremendous importance to humanity to fathom the difference in all its varying shoals and depths. But before this can be done the world must learn to think scientifically.

February 1, 1919

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