Weighhouse Chapel in London

Sunday, December 29, 1912: an evening meeting at the King’s Weighhouse Congregational Church at the corner of Weighhouse Street and Duke Street, London

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Hazrat-e `Abdu’l-Baha dar safr-e-Europa (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his European travels), page 86.

I thank God for the presence here of so many esteemed persons, whose hearts are united, whose very faces announce the glad tidings of God. The signs of love are evident in your faces. For when we examine the world of existence, there is nothing greater than love.

Love is the cause of life. Love is the means of salvation. Love forges a connection between human hearts. Love grants glory and progress to the human race. Love is the means of entering the Kingdom of God. Love confers eternal life. His holiness Christ declares: “God is Love:” what then is greater than love?” According to Christ’s words, there is nothing greater than love in the world of existence.

There are many communities in the world, each with a particular purpose, and for every gathering, some particular thing is fitting. Love is what is fitting for religious communities. Religious communities must be the cause of love between people. No-one is excluded, because His Holiness Christ declares “The Sun of God shines upon all.” This means that God is loving to all. All creation is submerged in the seas of divine mercy. The divine religions should be the cause of friendship and love among people, because love is the foundation of the divine religions. The holy scriptures announce that the foundation of the heavenly religion is love.

Although another dynamic may become the cause of friendship, none can compare to religion as the cause of love. For example, consider how the foundation of heavenly religion in the time of Christ and afterwards was the cause of fellowship. When his holiness Christ appeared the peoples of Rome and Greece, the Chaldeans, Assyrians and Egyptians were all hostile enemies, one for the other. Nevertheless, in a short time they were merged in a united community and exhibited the greatest friendship and love to one another. Contending peoples became a single religious community. From this example we understand that the religion of God is the cause of love and fellowship and not the cause of hostility and enmity.

Likewise, when his holiness Moses was manifest, the highest degree of unity was established among the Israelites. This too is proof that religion is not only the cause of love, it should be regarded as the mightiest power imaginable in this world for fostering fellowship and love. The power of diplomacy and policy cannot be relied on to establish this unity. They cannot give us a heartfelt love for one another. Learning and the arts cannot sow this love in our hearts. That power is the power of religion, for it is born of love. It bestows honour and glory.

It is the power of religion that illumines the world. It is the power of religion that bestows eternal life. It is the power of religion that eradicates the roots of enmity and contention among the people. Study history and you will see the extent to which religion has been the cause of fellowship and love. That is, the foundation of all the religions is love, however blind imitation in religion is the cause of enmity and contention.

When we examine the foundation of the heavenly religions, it is purely good, but when we look at the unthinking imitations of today we see that it is evil.

Since the foundation of the religions of God is one, it is the cause of fellowship. But blind imitations differ, so they are the cause of hostility and enmity. Take the belligerent peoples of the Balkans today: were they to discover the foundation of the religion of God they would immediately be reconciled to one another, because all the heavenly religions are guides to unity and love. Alas, a thousand times alas! people have forgotten the foundation of God’s religion and have held fast to this or that blind imitation, imitations that are contrary to the foundation of the religion of God. Therefore they have shed one another’s blood, destroying one another’s households.

How great has been the suffering of the prophets of God! How many afflictions they endured! Some were imprisoned, some banished, and some were martyred, offering even their lives as a sacrifice. Consider what afflictions his holiness Christ endured. In the end he accepted the cross so that love and fellowship might be established and the hearts might be bound to hearts.

How unfortunate, that the followers of the religions became forgetful, neglecting the foundation of the heavenly religions, holding fast to these rusty imitations, and because these imitations differ, they go to war, one against the other.

A thousand times alas: that which God established as the cause of life, they have made the cause of death. Something that God gave as the instrument of salvation, they have made a cause of destruction! Religion, which is the means for the illumination of the world of humanity, they have made to be the cause of darkness!

A thousand times alas, weep for the religions! How widely these foundations have been forgotten, while vain imaginings have taken their place! Because the imaginings are diverse, there is warfare and conflict.

This era is the era of illumination, the era of sciences and technologies, the era of discoveries. This is the era when the realities of things are unveiled. This is the era of justice and freedom. Yet observe: there is warfare between the religions, war between peoples, war between governments and between the regions of the world. How regrettable this is!

We should sit in the dust and weep, that Iran has been the scene of warfare and contention: war between religions and between the schools of religious thought. The religions have been enemies of one another, they have shunned one another. They have considered one another unclean. There was war between the ethnic groups and between governments and regions.

At such a time of darkness, his holiness Baha’u’llah appeared and dispelling that darkness. He proclaimed an all-embracing oneness. He proclaimed the oneness of all the religions. He proclaimed the oneness of the diverse peoples. All who have accepted the counsels of that holy soul are today living in perfect fellowship with one another. Conceptions of that kind, between the religions, have been dispelled. Today in Iran and in other places in the East, communities have been established where people from all religions live with one another in perfect fellowship and love. For example, you can see the greatest friendship between the Christian, Muslim, Jew, Zoroastrian and Buddhist, joined of one association: all are united and agreed. There are no quarrels or contention, no war or killing. Rather, they live in complete fellowship with one another, because they have forgotten the blind imitations and set aside those imagined things. They hold fast to the foundation of the heavenly religions, and because the foundation of the heavenly religions is real and reality knows no multiplicity, they are closely bonded to one another, to the extent that they would sacrifice their lives. But other groups, who have not accepted the counsels of his holiness Baha’u’llah, are fighting and contending even today.

His holiness, Baha’u’llah promulgated certain principles, the first being the oneness of the world of humanity. Addressing all humanity, he says “You are all the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf), that is, each of you is as it were a single leaf or fruit and you all belong to the tree of Adam. You are all one family, and the servants of God, you are all the sheep of one shepherd. The true shepherd is God and he is kind to all. Given that the true shepherd is kind and is caring for all the flock, why do we quarrel with one another and take religion as a pretext for killing and conflict? We take ethnicity as a pretext and wage war. Why do we make differences between our homelands a pretext and express hatred and enmity for one another, although these are all imaginings?

Thus the first [principle] is that religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. The second is that all people are one race and the surface of the earth is one homeland. These differences are imaginings. God did not make these religions contend. He laid one foundation. God did not divide up the ground, he created it all as one planet. God did not distinguish between the ethnicities, they are created as one people. Why should we establish these hypothetical distinctions? Why do we differentiate, saying “this is Germany” and “this is France,” when all is one? God has created all as one and is kind to all. We should not reinforce these imaginings that cause contention and conflict, and especially not in the case of religion, which is the cause of love, the cause of illumination, which is spirituality in the heart, which is the effulgence of the Kingdom. If we were to make such a beloved object the cause of contention and conflict, what an error this would be, what thoughtlessness, what a failure!

Another teaching of his holiness Baha’u’llah is this: that religion should be the cause of fellowship and love. If it is the cause of hatred and enmity then irreligion is better, for religion is the remedy for human infirmities. If the remedy causes illness then undoubtedly the first thing to do is to discontinue the treatment. If religion becomes the cause of enmity it is absolutely evil and its non-existence is better than its existence.

Another of the teachings of his holiness Baha’u’llah is that religious prejudice, ethnic prejudice, national prejudice and political prejudice destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices persist, there will be no repose for the world of humanity. Therefore these prejudices must be forgotten so that humanity may find repose.

Praise be to God that we are all his servants and are submerged in the ocean of God’s mercy. Given that we have such a kind Lord, why should we contend with one another, why should we be unkind? Why should we be darkness upon darkness?

In brief, there are many teachings of Baha’u’llah. If you wish to learn more, turn to the books and current reports. Then you will learn that this religion has been the cause of fellowship and love among people and preaches universal peace.

Now, as the English people are noble-minded and the English government is a just government, I hope that through them the banner of peace may be raised throughout the world, the oneness of the world of humanity may be witnessed, and this dark world may be illumined, these wars may be transformed into peace and this contention may give way to unity and concord.

3 thoughts on “Weighhouse Chapel in London

  1. The Persian text is published in Khetabaat-e Abdu’l-Baha:
    where the Persian name given to the Church reads klbg zwy hwks / کليسای کلبگ زوی هوکس . This is a copyist’s error for Kngrui duks / کليسای کنگروی دوکس , i.e. the Congregationalist church on Duke(s) street.

    The Rev. Edward Williams Lewis (b. 1872 Derbyshire, England ?), was Minister of the King’s Weigh House Church (Congregationalist), on the corner of Weighhouse Street and Duke Street in 1912-1913, and he and J R Campbell often exchanged pulpits. He was also on the Christian Commonwealth editorial board. Thanks to Jan Jasion for this information.

    For those interested in visiting the chapel in London, the King’s Weigh House Congregational church is now the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile. It is located on Duke Street, which is off Oxford Street, opposite Selfridges. It has a wikipedia page : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_Catholic_Cathedral_of_the_Holy_Family_in_Exile

    A translation of the talk is published in Mirza Ahmad’s Sohrab’s Diary, page 89, but Sohrab embroiders on the Persian notes so freely that the translation is not reliable.

  2. Hi Sen, this is a wonderful talk. I see that it is the one with the famous comment about religion needing to be abandoned if it is the cause of enmity. But that is just one important thing that Abdu’l-Baha says here.

    About your translation, I suggest different paragraphing at this point: “That is, the foundation of all the religions is love, however blind imitation in religion is the cause of enmity and contention.” This comes at the end of a paragraph. I suggest beginning the new paragraph with the words “However, blind imitation in religion is the cause of enmity and contention.” This is the first time this idea appears and Abdu’l-Baha expounds on it in the next few paragraphs, so I would treat it as new paragraph indicating a new argument.

    • Abdu’l-Baha often said that if religion caused division, then no religion is better. This appears quite often in his lists of Bahai principles. On this blog, in the “Eleven essentials” list of teachings, Abdu’l-Baha says:

      Third, religion is the foundation of harmony and love, of solidarity and unity. If religion is made the cause of enmity it yields not solidarity but rather troubles, and the absence of religion is better than its existence. The abandonment of religion is preferable to this.

      I cannot separate the themes as you suggest, because Abdu’l-Baha put both into three successive sentences:
      “the foundation of all the religions is love, however blind imitation …
      “the foundation of the heavenly religions…is purely good, but when we look at the unthinking imitations …
      “…the foundation of the religions of God is one, … But blind imitations differ, …”

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