Question: “What is the chief end of man?.
Answer : To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.
So runs the first paragraph of the old Westminister Shorter Catechism, which some of us never heard of and others have forgotten since we were children. The first paragraph is all I remember, and that stuck by me, chiefly, I suppose, because I never understood just what “glorify God” meant, and I could not see how I could “enjoy Him forever” when He was always regarding me from His place up in the skin with a stern face and searching eye, ready to punish me for every little mistake I made and finally burn me up in the flames of hell if I wasnt good all the time.
After a while I gave it up and tried not to think about it any more, because it took all the pleasure out of life and kept me in a constant state of terror. God was then an imaginary person, entirely external to me and to the world I lived in.
It was not until long afterward, when I had come to think for myself, that I began to realize I did not even know God, to say nothing about understanding and enjoying Him. Then began a search which lasted until middle age before I really found Him. I wanted to know Him, to be able to identify Him, to recognize Him in some form or relation that I could lay hold of and understand.
For a long time–many years–I was obliged to say “No” when asked by ministers, evangelists or religiously solicitous friends during “revival seasons” if I had “found God.” I could not truthfully answer otherwise, even when I had attained to a seemingly pretty clear intellectual concept of the being and attributes of the Deity. It seemed to me that merely hearing and knowing something about God was not really either finding or knowing Him. I kept on hoping that the time would come when I should be able to say that I had really found Him and come to know Him–or, perhaps, that He had found me.
Ultimately the time did come and I realized then not only what the first paragraph in the catechism meant, but that it embodied a great fundamental truth. I came to see that the most important thing in the world is to be able to find and identify God; to be able to see the Divine in every act and every relation in life; but above all to be able to identify that which is essentially divine in ones self and co-operate with it; for there must be something recognizable in us which links and identifies us with the Supreme Being.
Here is the way I ultimately made that identification: Here am I, said I to myself, a living being, an individual, a sensate thinking, feeling, willing, reasoning person. I have a mind and I have a body. With my mind I perceive, I think, I reason. With my body, obedient to my will, I exist and function in all my relations as a man. My body, from varying points of view, is an organism, a mechanism, a chemical laboratory, a dynamo, an instrument, a tool, a workshop; but in that workshop and in every department of it power is being used intelligently, force is being applied purposefully and effectively to accomplish its ends.
Every action that goes on within it, every thought and exertion of the mind, every breath, every pulsation of the heart, every act of digestion, assimilation or elimination requires the use of power and the expenditure of force. What and whence is this power? What is it source and nature? Chemists, physicists and biologists in their respective fields, are not able to answer these questions. The power evidently is one, the forces many. In this most scientists agree, but they all, or nearly all, fail or refuse to identify by discoursing learnedly of chemical and physical actions and reactions of ions and protons, of “energy” and “force,” which latter two “weasel words” they wrongly use synonymously, to the confusion of many, in their attempts to avoid any admission that involves the recognition or acceptance of the idea of the Supreme Being.
Life is the fundamental power or principle which rules not only the individual organism, but the whole universe. Life is a real thing, an entity, a being, the original source and sum of all the forces in all realms of existence. Life is in God and of God, for Life is God and God is Life. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of man”.
As this truth gradually became clear to me I saw a great light in which was revealed to me my exact relation to the Supreme Being. I saw that the life which I have is a part of His Life, one and inseparable. I live because He lives in me. The power that is in me is mine only by virtue of my participation in the Divine Life, for there is but one life, one power, one energy in all the universe. In identifying this power I identified God, identified myself with Him, and thus came to a realization of what it means to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.