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trend in religion is one of the giant facts of history, a force no man can stay or conquer. Eight hundred years ago Hildebrand that King of Popes-created the mightiest organization known to man in the modern Catholic hierarchy, with its legion of celibate priests and nuns, but even that power is constantly suffering defeat in its attempt to subjugate civilization to its central dogmas; for civilization is affecting the Roman Church by a ten-fold greater influence than that church wields in any land today. And civilization is proceeding along broad lines of national development,
We are now ready to affirm that there is an American Religion. A phase of faith, a type of thought, an ideal of life -truly and typically American. There is not yet an American Church,-not even in the sense in which we have here used the words, but there is already an American Religion.
Our sectarian churches are importatations. They were born across the sea.
Their dogmas date from the dark ages, or from the twilight of the reformation. Their rites and ritual were fashioned in the cloisters and monasteries of Europe. Their creeds were written written by men learned only in a crude philosophy and a false science. The monarchical element in them is large.
They do not
trust to the reason and conscience of what Abraham Lincoln used to call the plain people." On the contrary, they assume to determine for the unlearned what they must believe, and what they must do in order to be saved.
But within these sectarian churchesand without-is growing day by day, in strength and beauty, the true national religion. That is, a religion in exact harmony with the splendid development of our many-sided civic life. A religion filled with the spirit that founded, and has preserved our benign institutions. Whoever can discern truly the enduring ideals of American Democracy—those regal sentiments that move and mould our sixty millions strong-knows the
forces that will, sooner or later, inspire the heart of the church, and write her creeds.
Can we not say that first among these forces is our confidence in the average man? In man as man. In the raw material of human nature. Our republic rests upon that faith. We believe-as one of our orators has said that not only the inevitable, but the best power this side of the ocean is the unfettered average common sense of the masses. This being our faith, we trust the people to make laws, to elect magistrates, to conduct commercial and industrial enterprises representing the wealth of a continent, and, what is vastly more important, to form freely domestic and religious ties affecting the present and future welfare of a great nation, and all in the faith that liberty, within the bounds of order, is the first law of life.
Now does any one imagine that a people can come to know and love this truth-to thrive by its power, and grow mighty by its wisdom-and not extend
to all the interests of man the same divine law of liberty? King-craft and Priest-craft are twin tyrants. One slain, the other dies. Ancient prerogative overthrown, ancient creed declines. A people self-governed in civil and industrial affairs must proceed to independence in the graver concerns of religion. Having discarded the Old World idea. that man is created to be ruled by somebody else in matters political, the next step-easier to take than the first-will achieve absolute liberty of reason and conscience in the realm of religion. Civic freedom we have. Religious freedom from the bondage of sect and creed we are daily winning.
Another fact of prime importance in the development of our free institutions has been the merging of races into a great cosmopolitan people. We are not English, German, French or Irish. We are more fortunate, for we are Americans. Our political and social life, therefore, is not an importation. It is a creation-something new under the
The American Church will be the child of these new conditions. The religion of any one race-Jewish or other -will not constitute the faith of that church. The best thought of all lands and ages will live in its creed. The truth of today will be equally honored with the truth of the olden time, and the Bible of our era will be held as sacred as ancient scripture.
And this also is coming to pass, for our own saintly Emerson is moving this age to freedom in spiritual things much as Saint Paul enlightened Jew and Gentile ages ago. And with Emerson what a group of kindred souls-native to the soil-reverent, free, loyal, loving-God's best gift to this dear land. The intellectual life of America is dedicated to lib erty. Where thought dwells, let faith dwell also.
From the beginning the American people have evinced a strong practical sense, a robust talent for discerning the good and evil in theories, social and religious. We do not originate new