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damned.'' I find no adequate reason for thinking Jesus ever spoke these words, found only in the doubtful addition to the second canonical Gospel. Yet there seems evidence enough to show that Jesus himself really taught that ghastly doctrine, that a great wickedness unrepented of entailed eternal damnation on an immortal soul! Paul says human love never fails; it suffers long and is kind, and yet both he and the man whom he half worshipped, teach that God has no love for the wicked man who dies in his impenitence; endless misery is his only destination. Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New do you find the God of infinite perfection, infinite power, wisdom, justice, love; it is always a limited God, a Deity with imperfect wisdom, justice, love; God with a Devil beside him, the created fiend getting the victory over his Creator! The Bible does not know that Infinite God, who is immanent in the World of Matter and Man, and also lives in these flowers, in yonder stars, in every drop of blood in our veins; who works everywhere by law, a constant mode of operation of nntural power in Matter and in Man. It is never the dear God who is responsible for the welfare of all and each, a Father so tender that he loves the wickedest of men as no mortal mother can love her only child. Does this surprise you? When mankind was a child, he thought as a child, and understood as a child; when he becomes a man he will put away childish things.
How full of encouragement is the fact of such a growth in man's conception of God, and his mode of serving him! In the beginning of Hebrew history, great power, great self-esteem, and great destructiveness, are the chief qualities that men ascribe to God. Abraham would serve him by sacrificing Isaac; Joshua, a great Hebrew filibuster, by the butchery of whole nations of men, sparing the cattle, which he might keep as property, but not the women and children. This was counted service of God, and imputed to such marauders for righteousness. In the notion of God set forth in the Fourth Gospel and the First Epistle ascribed to John, it is love which preponderates, and by love only are men to serve God. With Jesus it is only goodness which admits men to the kingdom of heaven, and there is no question asked about the nation, creed, or form; but this sweet benediction is pronounced: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me;" "Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
Shall you and I stop where the New Testament did? We cannot, if we would, and it is impious to try. What if Moses had been content with the Egyptian chaos of a Deity, "where every clove of garlic was a god ;" what if Jesus had never broke with the narrow bounds of Judaism; what if Paul had been content with "such as were Apostles before him," and had stuck at new moons, full moons, circumcision and other abominations, which neither he nor his fathers were able to bear; where would have been the Christian Church, and where the progress of mankind? No, we shall not slop! It would be contrary to the spirit of Moses, and still more contrary to the spirit of Jesus, to attempt to arrest the theological and religious progress of mankind.
God in Genesis represents the conception of the babyhood of humanity. Manhood demands a different conception. All round us lies the World of Matter, this vast world above us and about us and beneath; it proclaims the God of Nature; Power speaking unto flower, star quiring unto star; a God who is resident therein, his law never broke. In us is a World of Consciousness, and as that mirror is made clearer by civilization, I look down and behold the Natural Idea of God, Infinite Cause and Providence, Father and Mother to all that are. Into our reverent souls God will come as the morning light into the bosom of the opening rose. Just in proportion as we are faithful, we shall be inspired therewith, and shall frame "conceptions equal to the soul's desires," and then in our practice keep those " heights which the soul is competent to win."
THE ECCLESIASTICAL CONCEPTION OF GOD, AND ITS RELATION
The great and dreadful God.—Daniel ix. 4.
In the Religion of civilized man there are three things:—Piety— the love of God, the Sentimental part; Morality—obedience to God's natural laws, the Practical part; and Theology—thoughts about God and Man and their relation, the Intellectual part. Tlje Theology will have great influence on the Piety and the Morality, a true Theology helping the normal development of Pveligion, which a false Theology hinders. There are two methods of creating a Theology,—a scheme of doctrines about God and Man, and the relation between them, viz.: the Ecclesiastical and the Philosophical.*
The various sects which make up the Christian Church pursue the Ecclesiastical method. They take the Bible for a miraculous and infallible revelation from God—in all matters containing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—and thence derive their doctrines, Catholic, Protestant, Trinitarian, Unitarian, Damnationist or Salvationist. Of
* See Mr. Parker's Sermon of "False and True Theology."— February, 1858.
course they follow that method in forming the Ecclesiastical Conception of God, in which the Christian sects mainly agree. They take the whole of the Bible, from Genesis to the Fourth Gospel, as God's miraculous affidavit; they gather together all which it says about God, and from that make up the Ecclesiastical Conception as a finality. The Biblical sayings are taken for God's deposition as to the facts of his nature, character, plan, modes ef operation—God's word, his last word; they are a finality—all the evidence in the case; nothing is to be added thereto, and naught taken thence away. Accordingly the statement of a writer in the half-savage age of a ferocious people is just as valuable, true, and obligatory for all time, as that of a refined, enlightened, religious man in a civilized age and nation; for they are all equally God's testimony in the case, his miraculous deposition; God puts himself on his voir.dire, and it is of no consequence which justice of revelation records the affidavit of the Divine Deponent. The deposition is alike perfect and complete, whether attested by an anonymous and half-civilized Hebrew fillibuster, or by a refined and religious Christian philosopher. The statement that God ate veal at Abraham's, or that he sought to kill Moses in a tavern, is just as true and important as this, that " God is love." It is said in the Old Testament that the Lord is a "consuming fire;" he is " angry with the wicked every day," and keeps his anger for ever; that he hates Esau; that he gives cruel commands, like that in the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, forbidding all religious progress; that he orders the butchery of millions of innocent. men, including women and children; that he comes back from the destruction of Edom red with blood, as described-in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah. In the New Testament he is called Father; it is said that he is Love, that he goes out and meets the returning prodigal a great ways off, and welcomes him with large rejoicing.
Now, say the Churches, all these statements are true, and the Christian believer must accept them all. Reason is not to sift and cross-examine the Biblical testimony, rejecting this as false and including that as true; for the whole of this evidence and each part of it is God's affidavit, and does not require a cross-examining, sifting, amending. We are not to reconcile it to us, but us to it; and if it conflict with reason and conscience, we should give them up. All the Bible, says this theory, is the inspired Word of God, and one part is just as much inspired as another, for there are no degrees of inspiration therein; each statement by itself is perfect, and the whole complete. The test of inspiration is not in man; it is not Truth for things reasonable, nor Justice for things moral, nor Love for things affectional. The test is wholly outside of man; it is a Miracle— that is, the report of a miracle; and so what contradicts the universal human conscience is to be accepted just as readily as what agrees with the moral instinct and reflection of all human kind. In the third century Tertullian, a hot-headed African Bishop, said, "I believe, because it is impossible ; " that is, the thing cannot be, and therefore I believe it is! It has been a maxim in ecclesiastical theology ever since; without it both Transubstantiation and the Trinity would fall to the ground, with many a doctrine more. I think Lord Bacon was an unbeliever in the popular ecclesiastical doctrines of his time; he would derive all Bcience from the observation of nature and reflection thereon; but he left this maxim to have Eminent Domain in Theology! It was enough for him to break utterly with the Philosophy of the Schools; he would not also quarrel against the Theology of the Churches: thereby he lost his scientific character, but kept his ecclesiastical reputation.
Joshua, the son of Nun, was a Hebrew fillibuster, with a half-civilized troop of ferocious men following him; he conquered a country, butchered the men, women, and children; and he gives us such a picture of God as you might expect from a Pequot Indian in the days of our fathers. It is taught in the Churches that Joshua's statement about God is just as trustworthy as the sublime words in the New Testament, ascribed to John or Jesus, and far more valuable than the deepest intuitions, and the grandest generalizations of the most cultivated, best educated, and most religious of men to-day! The Christian Churches do not derive their conception of God from the World of Observation about us, or the World of Consciousness within us, but from the "Book of Revelation," as they call that collection from the works of some hundred writers, mostly anonymous, and all from remote ages; and they tell us that the teachings of Joshua are of as much value as the teachings of Jesus himself, far more than those of Fenelon or Channing.
Now from such facts, and by such a method, the Christian sects have formed their notion of God, which is common to the Greek, the Latin, and the Teutonic Churches; only a few sects have departed therefrom, and as they are but insignificant in numbers, and have had scarcely any influence in forming the ecclesiastical conception of God, so I shall omit all reference to them and their opinions.
To-day I shall not speak of the ecclesiastical Arithmetic of God, only of the Ethics thereof; not of God according to the category of number— the quantitative distribution of Deity into personalities; only of the character of God by the category of substance—the qualitative kind of Deity, for that is still the same, whether conceived of in one person, in three, or in three million, just as the qualitative force of an army of three hundred thousand soldiers is still the same, whether you count it as one corps or as three.
Look beneath the mere words of theology, at the things which they mean, and you find in general that the ecclesiastical conception of God does not include Infinite Perfection. It embraces all the true and good things from the most religious and enlightened writers of the Bible, but it also contains all the ill and false things which were uttered by the most rude and ferocious; one is counted just as true and valuable as the other. Accordingly God is really represented as a limited being, exceedingly imperfect, having all the contradictions which yon find between Genesis and the Fourth Gospel; he is not infinite in any one attribute. I know the theological language predicates infinite perfection, but the theological facts affirm exceeding imperfection. Look at this in several details.
1. God is not represented as Omnipresent. When the theologian says, "God is everywhere," he does not mean that God is everywhere always, as he is anywhere sometimes; not that he is at this minute present in this meeting-house, and in the air which my hand clasps, as he was in the Hebrew Holy of Holies when Solomon ended his inauguration prayer, as he always is in some place called the Heaven of Heavens. There are degrees of the Divine Presence; he is more there and less here. Some spots he occupies by his essence, others only potentially. He was creationally present with all his personal essence at the making of the world, but only providentially present with his instrumental power, not his personal essence, at the governing of the world. Thus the Queen of England, by her power, is present in all Great Britain and the British possessions, while by her person she occupies only a single apartment of the Palace of St. James in London, sitting in only one chair at a time. So it is taught that God must intervene miraculously to do his work: must come into a place where he was not before, and which he will vacate soon. So the actual, personal, essential and complete presence of God is the very rarest exception in all places save Heaven. He is instantial only in Heaven, exceptional everywhere else. He is not universally immanent, residing in all matter, all spirit, at every time, working according to law, by a constant mode of operation and in all the powers of matter and man, which are derived from him and are not possible without him; but he comes in occasionally and works by miracle. He is a non-resident God, who is present in a certain place vicariously, by attorney, and only on great occasions comes there in his proper person. That is the ecclesiastical notion of Omnipresence.
2. He is not All-Powerful, except in the ideal Heaven which he permanently occupies by his complete and personal presence. On earth he is restricted by Man, who thwarts his plans every day and grieves his heart, and still more by the Devil, who continually thwarts his Creator. I know the ecclesiastical doctrine says that God is omnipotent, but ecclesiastical history represents him as trying to make the Hebrews an obedient people, and never effectiug it; as continually worrying over that little fraction of mankind, "rising up early and speaking " to them, but the crooked would