« PreviousContinue »
the well-being and progress of the world, if I interpret the lessons of our latest science aright, is man literally and actually invested.
Nor does the critic have any valid ground for his question who asks, Since human nature proceeds from the one Infinite and Eternal Energy which we now identify as God, why must we not call human nature wholly divine in all its impulses, motives, and doings? The Eternal Energy itself takes care that no such consequence can follow. The God within is his own witness, and testifies clearly what parts of human nature are temporal and earthy survivals of material and animal law, and what parts are vital with eternal and moral purposes. Our doctrine does not teach that God is human nature, but that God is in human nature. Individual man, like the primitive human race, must subsist for a time through the various motives that spring from self-interest and self-gratification. But self-interest is never normally an end in itself. It is only an instrumentality for the accomplishment of some universal good. It is only for universal and eternal purposes that the Eternal Energy can care. Its high law can have no part in providing for personal partialities, nor demean itself to offices of purely selfish gain or pleasure. It is of the very essence of the religious consciousness, when it is awakened, to annul all interests and gratifications which are bounded by self, and to subject all the self-seeking propensities to the service of the general benefit. In his capacity as a
free agent man can pursue the ends of selfish gratification; but, so far as he does so, he is irreligious, he loses the godlike from his nature, and sinks back under the sway of carnal and material law toward the meagre existence of the brute and the clod. But, obeying the God that is within him, man rises ever upward into successively larger and richer realms of mental, moral, and spiritual life.
Our faculties thus clothed with this majesty of Divine Sovereignty, how great the profanation and crime, and how overwhelming should be our shame, if we put them to base uses, if we harness them to the pursuits of selfish avarice and cunning and to the appetites of the flesh! For all such debasement and defilement, the hells open at our feet with ample retributions. The very faculties will dwindle and perish under persistent misuse and abuse. Yet heaven, too, is no distant place nor time, but lies level with the true mind, the pure heart, and the consecrated will. The God that is within human nature is a Power ever ready at hand in all the storms and stresses of life, and needs not to be invoked from afar. Prayer is the excitation of the higher and heavenly faculties of our own natures to take and hold dominion over the impulses. of the heart and the conduct of life, and to redeem us from the sway of our own temptations and sins. The Divinity does not have to be waited for, but waits itself, at the very spot of need, for man's soliciting gesture and effort. If men will draw
the lightning of the skies to do their daily errands, or harness fire and steam for their steeds, and the power comes also sometimes to kill and to maim, man must know that the Deity to whom he is to pray for averting the peril is the Deity enthroned. in the intelligence and skill of the human faculties. If we are summoned into the valley of the shadows to part there with companions whom we have cherished, in the hushed chambers of our own hearts and in "the work of our hands" shall we find the rod and the staff that are waiting to comfort us. The cure for earth's distresses is committed to man's keeping. The elements of Divinity are within him, the elements of heaven. are right around him. To his intelligent and consecrated will is given the task to transform the errors and ills of earth into the moral prosperity and gladness of heaven.] Who of us will not with renewed alacrity enlist in that godlike service?
RATIONAL GROUNDS FOR WORSHIP.
IN calling your attention to the question, "What is worship, and are there any rational grounds for it?" I wish to say at the outset that I use the word "worship" itself with a rational discrimination. It is one of the old religious words which, because of errors and superstitions surrounding them, have fallen largely into disuse among liberal thinkers as damaged phraseology. I am not myself accustomed to employ the word without explanation expressed or implied. In the ordinary ecclesiastical sense it means, of course, some specific act of adoration or homage to Deity or deities; and this act may be performed by a Christian or pagan, by a Jew, Mohammedan, or Buddhist, according to their respective beliefs, by every kind of idolater as well as by an enlightened devotee. It may be the turning of a prayer-machine, as among some of the Asiatic Buddhists, or the counting of beads, as in the Roman Catholic church, or a dance of ecstasy, as among the dervishes, or an act of silent aspiration, as among the Quakers, or a great burst of music by voice and instruments, as in many Christian and other churches. All these and any other acts, under any kind of religious faith, which are believed to give the participants special access to the Deity or deities of their faith, are rightly
classified in religious history under the term "worship." Yet, into whatever empty and meaningless formalities many of these acts have fallen, and however superstitious, idolatrous, and corrupt they may seem to any of us,- and the idolatries are not all among the so-called pagan faiths, - the word "worship" has, when we analyze its origin, a very excellent meaning; and at the root of the practice there is a vital truth which is not yet outgrown, and which is capable of enlightened and beneficent interpretation. In itself, etymologically considered, worship means "the condition of attaining worthiness." The word is of Anglo-Saxon origin; and the first syllable of it means "worth," and the second syllable signifies "means, or "instrument," or "condition" (literally, "vessel," it is probable) for bringing the "worth." In this sense, certainly, it is a very good word to keep. And it is with this underlying sense that I use it in this discourse, with reference to the religious usage of the assembling of people together for some kind of specific and public expression of religious thought and feeling. It is of this kind of usage that I propose to consider whether it has any rational grounds of continuance. Not a few liberal thinkers to-day are disposed to doubt, or even to deny, that there are such grounds. And, in contending that there is a rational basis for worship as thus defined, and as such public services may be conducted, I want to make two or three definite preliminary statements.