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individual alive, and the hunger for posterity, which perpetuates mankind— this hunger for God is not to he put down. Here and there an individual man neglects the one or the other, the instinct of food, of kind, of religion; but the human race nor does, nor can. In Mankind instinctive nature is stronger than capricious will. Whimsy alters the cut of Ahab's beard, or the shape of Jezebel's ringlets; but the beard itself grows on Ahab's cheek and chin, will he or nill he, and Jezebel's head is herbaged all over with curls, growing while she sleeps
Soon as Man outgrows the wild state of infancy, where he first appeared, in his primitive sense of dependence he has always felt his need of God, as in his instinctive perception he has always felt the Being of God reflected therein, and formed some Notion of God, better or worse. Go where you will, you find that men know God. The notions they form of him vary from land to land, from age to age. They are the test of the people's civilization; how rude with the savage! how comprehensive with the enlightened, thoughtful, religious man! But no nation is without them, or without a sense of obligation towards God or the practice of some form of service of him.
The notion men form of God, and the corresponding service they pay, are both proportionate to the people's civilization. The Indian Massasoit's conception of God, two hundred and fifty years ago, fitted him as well as ours fits us. Let us never forget this, nor think that we are proportionately more favored than our fathers were. Little baby Jimmy in Pennsylvania, some seventy years ago, was as mnch pleased with a penny trumpet, which worried his aunts and uncles, as President Buchanan now is with the Presidency of the United States and power to scare all Democrats into obedience. To us our fathers in 858 are barbarians, and we wonder how they stood it in the world, so poorly furnished and provisioned as they were. You will be barbarians to your sons and daughters in 2858, and they will wonder how you continued to live and have a good time of it. Yet you and I think life is decent and worth having. Milk and a cradle are as good for babies as meat and railroad engines for men. Small things suit little folks. So is it in religion as all else besides. I love to read the religious stories of rude nations—the Hebrews, the Philistines, the New England Indians. The Iroquois thought there were three Spirits, the Spirit of Beans, of Squashes, and of Indian Corn, and these made an Agricultural Trinity, three beneficent persons in one rude conception of a Mohawk God. Such a notion served their souls as well as the stone tomahawk and snow-shoe their hands and feet. Let us never forget that each age is as sufficient to itself as any other age, the first as the last. The immense progress between the two is also the law of God, who has so furnished men that they shall find satisfaction for their wants, when they are babies of savage wildness and when they are grown men of civilization.
From the beginning of human history there has been a continual progress of man's conception of God. It did not begin with Jacob. Isaac and Abraham; it will not end with you and me. Yesterday I mentioned some of the facts of this progress in the Bible, and pointed out the Jehovah of the Pentateuch eating veal with Abraham and Sarah, wrestling with Jacob, trying to kill Moses and not bringing it to pass; I showed the odds between that conception of God and " Our Father who art in heaven," which filled up the consciousness of Jesus, and the God who is Perfect Love, which abode in the consciousness of another great man. This progress is observable in all other people, in the literature of every nation.
Religious progress cannot be wholly prevented ; it may be hindered and kept back for a time. This is the mischief;—men form an ecclesiastical organization, and take such a conception of God as satisfies them at the time, stereotype it, and declare all men shall believe that forever. They say "This is a finality; there shall never be any other idea of God but this same, no progress hereafter." Then priests are made in the image of that Deity, and they misshape whole communities of men and women; and especially do they lay their plastic hand on the pliant matter of the child, and mismould him into deformed and unnatural shapes. What an absurdity! In 1780, in a little town of Connecticut, Blacksmith Beecher, grim all over with soot, leather-aproned, his sleeves rolled above his elbows, with great, bare, hairy arms, was forging axes " dull as a hoe," and hoes "blunt as a beetle," yet the best that men had in Connecticut in those days. What if the Connecticut lumberers and farmers had come together, and put it into their Saybrook Platform, that to the end of time all men should chop with Beecher's axes and dig with Beechers hoes, and he who took an imperfection therefrom, his name should be taken from the Lamb's Book of Life, and he who should add an improvement thereto, the seven last plagues should be added unto him! We all see the absurdity of such a thing. In 1830, in Boston, Minister Beecher, grim with Calvinism, surpliced from his shoulders to his feet, Geneva-banded, white-choked, a stalwart and valiant-minded sou of the old blacksmith, was making a theology—notions of Man, of God, and of the Relation between thein. His theological forge was in full blast in Hanover Street, then in Bo wdoin Street, and he wrought stoutly thereat, he striking while his parish blew. But his opinions were no more a finality than his father's axes and hoes. Let Blacksmith Beecher, grim with soot, and Minister Beecher, grim with theology, hammer out the best tools they can make, axes, hoes, doctrines, sermons, and thank God if their work be of any service at that time; but let neither the blacksmith over his forge, his triphammer going, nor the minister over his pulpit, his Bible getting quoted, ever say to mankind, "Stop, gentlemen! thus far and no farther! I am the end of human history, the last milestone on the Lord's highway of progress; stop here, use my weapon, and die with it in your hand, or your soul." Depend upon it, mankind will not heed such men; they will pass them by; whoso obstructs the path will be trodden down. Progress is the law of God.
At an early age the Christian Church accepted the Ecclesiastical Method of theology, namely—that every word between the lids of the Bible is given by God's miraculous and infallible inspiration, which contains the religious truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and to get doctrines, men must make a decoction of Bible, and only of Bible, for that is the unique herb out of which wholesome doctrines can be brewed. By that method it formed its conception of God. First, it fixed the Ethical Substance of God's character, the quality of God, with all the contradictions which you find in the Old Testament and the New. Next it fixed the Arithmetical Form of God's character, the quantitative distribution into three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, alike in their Godhead, diverse in their function. Thus the capability to produce was in the Father; the capacity of being produced was in the Son; the capacity of being proceeded from was in the Father and the Son, and the capability of proceeding was in the Holy Ghost. These are the differentia of the total Godhead. All that was fixed well-nigh fifteen hundred years ago.
Since that time there have been three great movements within the Christian Church. First, an attempt to centralize ecclesiastical power in the Bishop of Rome; that was the Papal movement. Next was the attempt to explain the ecclesiastical doctrines by human reason, not to alter but expound and demonstrate by intellect what was accepted by faith; that was the Scholastic movement. Then came at last the attempt to decentralize ecclesiastical power, and bring back from the Roman Bishop to the common people what he had filched thence away; that was the Protestant movement. It split the Western world in twain, following the ethnological line of cleavage; and since that there is a Roman Church with a Pope, and a Teutonic Church with a People. But the Papists and their opponents the Laists, the Scholastics and their enemies the Dogmatists, the Protestants and Catholics, all accepted the Ecclesiastical Method of theology, and so tho Ecclesiastical Notion of God. So within the borders of the Christian Church, from the Council at Nice in 325 to the Council at North Wobnrn in 1857, there has been no revision of the Conception of God, no improvement thereof. Protestant and Catholic, Scholastic and Dogmatist, Laist and Papist, agree in the ethical subtances of God and in the arithmetical form. The Athanasian creed set forth both; in the fourth century it was appointed to be read in the churches. What is called the "Apostles' Creed" has little apostolic in it save its name; yet it has been held orthodox for sixteen hundred and fifty years. All this time there has been no progress in the ecclesiastical conception of God, as set forth in the great sects of the Christian Church ; the same creed which answered for the third century suffices the Church today. So long as the Church holds to this ecclesiastical method of theology there can be no progress in the notion of God, for only Biblical plants may be put into the ecclesiastical caldron, and from them all only that conception can be distilled, though it may be flavored a little, diversely here and there, to suit the taste of special persons.
But shall Mankind stop? We cannot if we would. We can stereotype a creed and hire men to read it, or scare, or coax them; but a new Truth from God shines straight down through creed and congregation, as that sunlight through the sky. In the last four hundred years what a mighty development has there been of human knowledge! In three hundred and sixty years the geographic world has doubled; and what a development in astronomy, chemistry, botany, zoology; in mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, history! How comprehensive is science now! But there has been no development in the Church's conception of God. The ecclesiastical God knows nothing of modern science—chemistry, geology, astronomy; oven the geographic extent of the earth is foreign thereto; neither Jehovah nor the ecclesiastical Trinity ever heard of Australia, of the Friendly Islands, nor even of the Continent of America. The ecclesiastical conception of God was formed before the discovery of America, before modern science was possible. The two'are not to be reconciled. Which shall yield, the Fact of Science, or the Fiction of Theology?
Outside of the orthodox Christian Church there has been a great development of the conception of God, a revision of it more or less complete, certainly a great improvement. Thus the Unitarians rejected the Trinitarian arithmetic, and said, "God is one nature in one person." The Universalists rejected the devilish element and said, " God is love all over, and is not hate anywhere." Once it seemed as if these two sects wi uld make a revolution in the Church's notion of God: but alas! the Unitarians and Universalists both acoept the ecclesiastical method of theology, and when they appeal to the miraculous and infallible Bible in support of their more reasonable and religious notion of God, they are always beaten in that court where Genesis is of as much value as the four Gospels, and murderous Joshua as great a theological authority as beneficent Jesus. So when they rely on the Bible, these sects are defeated, and draw back toward the old Church with its belief of a ferocious Deity; this explains the condition and character of these two valuable sects. Accordingly, little good has come from their movement, once so hopeful. They would change Measures and Doctrines, but they would not alter the Prinoiple which controls the measure, nor the Method whereby the doctrines are made; and so these sects leaven only a little of the whole lump; they do not. create that great fermentation which is necessary to make the whole Church take a new form. How much depends on the first Principle, and the right Method!
Now, by the Philosophic Method, a man takes the Facts of instinctive and reflective Consciousness within him, and the Facts of Observation without, and thence forms his Idea of God. He will be helped by the labors of such as have gone before him, and will refuse to be hindered by the errors of the greatest men. He will take the good things about God in this blessed Bible, because they are good, but not a single ill thing will lie take because it is in the Bible. "God is love," says a writer in the New Testament, and our thoughtful man will accept that; but he will not feel obliged to accept that other statement, in the Old Testament, that " God is a consuming fire;" or yet a kindred one in the New Testament, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment," '• prepared for the devil and his angels." He will understand and believe that " He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; " but he will not assent to this, which the Christian Church teaches, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." Because he accepts the good and true of the Bible, he will not fall down and accept the false and ill; for the ultimate standard of appeal will not be to a Book writ with pens, as a minister interprets it, but to the Facts of the Universe, as the human mind interprets them.
In philosophic men the reflective element prevails; but I do not think they often have much intuitive power to perceive religious truths directly, by the primal human instinct; nor do I think that they in the wisest way observe the innermost activities of the human soul. Poets like Shakespeare observe the play of human passion and ambition better than metaphysicians like Berkeley and Hume, better than moralists like Butler and Paley. Commonly, I think, men and women of simple religious feeling furnish the facts which men of great thoughtful genius work up into philosophic theology. It is but rarely that any man has a genius for instinctive intuition, and also for philosophic generalization therefrom. Such a man, when he comes, fills the whole sky, from the nadir of special primitive religious emotion up to the zenith of universal philosophic thought. You and I need not wait for such men, but thankfully take the Truth, part by part, here a little and there a little, and accept the service of whoso can help, but taking no man for master—neither Calvin, nor Luther, nor Paul, nor John, nor Moses, nor Jesus—open our soul to the Infinite God, who is sure to come in without bell, book, or candle.
When a man pursues this natural, philosophic method of theology, takes his facts from consciousness in his own world, and observation in the world of matter, then he arrives at the Philosophical Idea of the God of Infinite Perfection. That God has all the qualities of complete and perfect being; He has Infinite Power to do, Infinite Mind to know, Infinite Conscience to will the right, Infinite Affection to love, Infinite Holiness to be faithful to his affections, conscience, mind, power. He has Being without limitation, Absolute Being; he is present in all space, at all times;