Page images
PDF
EPUB

the chaos and gehenna. He will convert the Furies into Muses, and the hells into benefit." There is man's aim; and in man's aim Nature works toward her purpose.

In considering, therefore, the character of the world-purpose, we are bid to take man, not at his poorest, but at his best. We are to take him, not as he is, but as he may be and aspires to be,not in his wickedness and degradation, but in the moral shape he is slowly rising to assume. We are to take him in his highest achievements and his noblest possibilities. We are to take him with his moral ideals even more than with his achievements. We are to think of the highest illustrators of manhood, of the saints and martyrs who have gone to their death rather than deny the truth, of the philanthropists who have lived self-denying lives for the good of their fellow-men, of the men and women who in quiet, inconspicuous stations or in the stress of life's conflicts have stood firmly for the right at whatever cost to self, of such lives of faithful affection, of stainless probity, of duties well discharged, as we have all seen in some realm or other of this common human life we share. We are to think of those in whose faces shine the Beatitudes, who are of humble spirit, who are peacemakers, who are merciful, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who are pure in heart, who go about doing good. These are our patterns for the fashion of human life, and not they who still live in the company of base passions, and are still of

[ocr errors]

the earth and the beast, earthy and animal only. And all these are revealers and apostles of an Eternal Goodness. Not only do they reveal the moral purpose of the universe, but they are sharers and sustainers in its accomplishment.

"For Mercy has a human heart;
Pity, a human face;

And Love, the human form divine;
And Peace, the human dress.

"And all must love the Human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too."

Thus we have our Trinity, as science permits it. Power, Intelligence, Goodness, these are the threefold manifestation of the creative Worldenergy. Power, Wisdom, Goodness, these make our triune God. Nor is there a merely fancied resemblance between this idea and the philosophical trinity of the later Platonic school in Greece, which the early Christian thinkers transformed into a theological Trinity. Out of the mystery of Eternal Being, the vague Source of all power and life, came, these ancient philosophers taught, the Logos, or Creative Word, the Word of Wisdom of which the Old Testament apocryphal writer loved to discourse, the "Word made flesh" which makes the theme of the proem of the Fourth Gospel. And this old doctrine of divine incarnation is true, only (as it has become one of the common

[ocr errors]

places of liberalism to teach) it is not exceptional for one man, but is the law for humanity. This Creative Word, of Power, of Wisdom, of Love, incarnates itself in human character to-day, full of grace and truth; and we may behold its glory. Through human lives, bent on the errands of truth, justice, mercy, and love, it is striving still to lift the whole race of humanity above the sway of ancestral animalism into the higher life of self-controlling reason and moral law. The Power is from everlasting to everlasting, ever before our eyes; and a measure of it is organized in our human brains and hands. But Wisdom, too, reacheth from one end to another mightily, and "it enlighteneth our eyes." Power is only executive, Wisdom is creative; and Goodness, even our human goodness, completes the threefold creative work on this earth, and has been compared to the Holy Ghost of the ancient Trinity, whose "white wings stoop, unseen, o'er the heads of all."

RELIGION AS THE AFFIRMATION OF GOD IN HUMAN NATURE.

ONE of the best definitions of religion I have ever seen I met recently in a printed discourse by a minister of the Swedenborgian church. It was this: "Religion is the affirmation of God in human nature." The dialect of the discourse was somewhat technically theological, of the style peculiar to the disciples of Swedenborg; yet, in the main, the thought contained in this definition was developed simply, rationally, and naturally. The quickening of the soul to the perception of truth, the purification of the heart from all evil impulses and lusts, the instinctive action of conscience in denouncing wrong and approving the right, the consecration of the will to carry out into external deeds the behests of these inward perceptions of truth and rectitude and disinterested love, these were depicted as the essential conditions and evidence of the influx and indwelling of the life of God in the human soul. The writer, for instance, further said that "the spiritual church of God is no other than the indwelling and irradiation of truth and mercy and justice and peace in all man's nature, coming from the centre, the temple where abides the Lord, throughout the whole earth of

[ocr errors]

man's consciousness that silently listens and willingly obeys."

F

This definition of religion as the affirmation of God in human nature seemed to me peculiarly suggestive at this time, as offering possibly certain meeting-points of enlightenment and reconciliation. amidst the religious doubts and controversies which agitate the mental atmosphere of the present age. The contents of the definition, it is true, present no new thought. To affirm God in human nature is that doctrine of the immanence of God in humanity which Theodore Parker made so familiar in his preaching, and which has now become one of the commonplaces of liberal religious thinkers, and is not even a stranger in more evangelical writings. But "the affirmation of God in human nature is an expression of the same truth in less scholastic, simpler, and therefore more impressive phrase. Let us, then, consider this new aspect of our old and familiar doctrine, "Religion is the affirmation of God in human nature."

[ocr errors]

The subject, as it presents itself to my thought, divides into two parts: first, as a doctrine of enlightenment and reconciliation among current criticisms, doubts, and disputes concerning religion; second, as a doctrine of practical reconciliation and applicable to the exigencies and struggles of personal life.

If we apply the method and results of science to the various problems of religion, and if we interpret the proposition contained in this definition of

« PreviousContinue »