« PreviousContinue »
living God," for more and more of that vital creative power within, that perception of and obe,dience to the law of life which shall be health to body and mind, inspiring purer purposes and lifting to saner thoughts and joys. Among all the institutions of man shall there not remain one which shall attempt to express this august and mysterious, but most vital and real and fundamental of all his relationships,- that relationship from which he cannot possibly escape? and not only attempt to express this relationship, but to incite people more fittingly and worthily to feel the high obligations it involves and to inspire them with stronger purpose to perform well their part in this high partnership wherein divine law is executed. through human action? So long as the human heart is capable of being stirred to loftier and more heroic impulses by earnest speech on the highest themes, or by music and poetry and art, or by the silent sympathy that leaps from heart to heart when numbers come together with a common purpose, so long, I think, will some form of outward temple stand, stand as a symbol of living union between man and the Most High, and serve as a vestibule through which the worshippers may pass to that inner worship which is in spirit and in truth and in living character.
THE WORLD'S PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS: ITS SIGNIFICANCE AND POSSIBLE RESULTS.
It would seem as if great eras in the progress of mankind should be marked outwardly by great events. Yet this is not always so. At least the date historically accepted as the beginning of a new era may have been distinguished by no incidents which at the time were noted as extraordinary. In such cases posthumous legend, generations afterward, is apt to weave fitting dramatic draperies of circumstance for signalizing the new historical departure. But, again, great epochs in history are not infrequently marked by correspondingly conspicuous events, by incidents which at the time were seen and felt to be great and epoch-making. Particular battles have changed the political maps of continents and the destinies. of nations. There have been eminent ecclesiastical councils whose decrees have fixed the religious beliefs of men and women for centuries. The adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Colonial Congress was a most meet and noble. birthmark of this American republic of sixty-five millions of free people. In the nineteenth cen
tury, and especially in this latter half of the century, the progress of mankind has been so marvellously rapid all along the lines of human activity, and more particularly in the development of material civilization and in the advancement of learning, philanthropy, and all branches of science, that we appear to be in the midst of a new era without being able to point to any one conspicuous event to herald its beginning. As a part of this general progress, a most remarkable evolution in religious beliefs and activities has been taking place. I am, indeed, one of those who believe that the forces that have produced the various religions among men have not exhausted their creative capacity, but that the intellect and heart of mankind to-day, in vital touch with these forces, are in the birth-struggles of a new religion. That coming religion which the sagacious Count Cavour predicted thirty years ago, that new Church which our own prophet-eyed Emerson foresaw and foretold, is actually dawning before the eyes of this generation, whether we all consciously behold it or not. Though evolving gradually from the old, it may rightly be called a new religion, because all the tendencies prognosticate an essentially new basis of faith, new articles of belief, new objects and methods of organized activity.
And of this coming religion the World's Parliament of Religions, in connection with the International Columbian Exposition in Chicago, is pre-eminently the most significant general sign
that has yet appeared. It is an event known now in all parts of the world and to be memorable in history, and will worthily mark, in the annals of mankind, the opening of the new religious era, whose dawn we may discern on the horizon of the future. More than twenty years back a fond vision appeared to me of some such gathering of the world's faiths; but little did I dream that my modest prophecy was so soon to be realized,— realized in somewhat different purpose and shape, but even more grandly than I had dared to hope, and under auspices such as then I could not imagine as possibly uniting in a religious conception and enterprise so world-wide and nobly inclusive. It is from this point of view, and with this sense of the greatness of the topic, however inadequately I shall treat it, that I have invited you here to consider with me the theological significance and the possible practical results of that unique representative assembly, - the World's Parliament of Religions.
Even the great Exposition at Chicago-which, taken all in all, is the grandest representation of the achievements of human art and industry the world has ever seen paled its glories last month before the august assemblage of the world's faiths. The eager crowds of people that filled Columbus Hall for seventeen days, and thronged in the passage-ways leading thereto, bore unconscious testimony to the fact, well stated by the presiding chairman, that "there is a spiritual root to all
human progress." I shall ever count it among the inestimable high enjoyments of my life that it was my good fortune to be present at the opening of the Parliament, and to witness the procession of the World's Religions, as their representatives, walking arm in arm, entered the hall, and marched to the broad platform together, their faces all beaming with one harmonious and gladdening light. At the head of the procession walked the president of the Parliament and its auxiliary congresses, a Swedenborgian layman, and at his side. scarlet-robed Cardinal Gibbons, the highest official of the Roman Catholic Church in this country. There followed Jew and Greek, Christian and Buddhist, Brahman and Mohammedan, Parsee and Confucian, Indian monk and Methodist missionary. All races and colors and nationalities, and both sexes, and all the great religions of the globe, and their various sects, Christian and non-Christian, there mingled together in one triumphal march of human brotherhood. And, when the platform was reached and the delegates were seated, the spectacle was as picturesque as it was august. The Japanese High Priest of Shintoism out-cardinalled the Cardinal in the gorgeousness of his apparel. The white-robed Buddhist from Calcutta won all eyes by the purity of his dress, as afterward he won ears by the purity of his English speech, and hearts by the purity of his sentiments. The highcaste Brahmanical monk from India made some of us stiffly dressed Americans envy his loosely flow