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By the ecclesiastical notion there is Absolute Evil in God, a dark deep background, out of which comes evil in the nature of things; and hence comes the total depravity of man, hence the wrath of God, enlivening forever the fire of hell, which no deluge of human tears and blood can ever quench. So the Evil in the world is eternal, not reconciled, not atoned for; it cannot be removed, neither in this life nor that to come, because it is an essential part of God. Nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thonsand are sinners, and their sin is eternal, not to be removed; so their agony has no end. Trace it back logically to its ultimate cause, and it is all God's fault. So every sin not repented of that you and I commit, is not only perpetual wretchedness for us, but likewise an eternal blot on the character of the ecclesiastical God. Under the parlor windows of his little Heaven, where the elect loll on their couches and look out, indolently touching their harps of gold, there lies the immeasurable Sink of Hell, where the Devils, those unclean beasts of the infernal world, wallow continual, rending the souls of men, while the reek of their agony ascends up forever and ever!
But by the true and philosophic or natural Idea of God, all the Evil of the world is something incident to man's development, and no more permanent than the stumbling of a child who learns to walk, or his scrawling letters when he first essays to write. It will be outgrown, and not a particle of it or its consequences shall cleave permanent to mankind. This is true of the individual wrongs which you and I commit; and likewise of such vast wickedness as war, political oppression, and the hypocrisy of priesthoods. These are blots in mankind's writing-book, which we make in learning to copy out God's Eternal Rule of Right in fair round letters, so clear that he may read who runs. The very pain the error gives is remedial, not revengeful ; it is medicine to cure and save and bless, not poison to kill and torture with eternal smart. Here then is a God you can trust—Power, Wisdom, Will, Justice also, and likewise Love. What quality is there a man can ask for that is not in the Infinite, Perfect God ?
Then there will be a Form of Religion adapted to represent such an idea of God. It will conform to Man's Nature, his body and soul, doing justice to every part, for as God made man with such faculties as would best serve his own great end, so it is clear that it is man's duty to use these faculties in their natural way, for their normal purpose. God did not make man with something redundant to be cut off, or lacking something to be sought elsewhere and tied on; he gave us such faculties as are fit for our work.
1. See the effect this idea has on Piety. A natural religious instinct inclines us to love God. If we have an Idea of bim which suits that faculty, then the soul loves God as the eye loves light, the ear sound, as the mind loves truth, use and beauty, the conscience justice, and the affections men
and women. The hungry religious faculty seeks for itself bread, finds it, and is filled with strength and delight. If it find it not, then we are tortured by Fear, that ugly raven which preys on the dissatisfied heart of inan. Now the Infinite God is the object of entire and complete satisfaction to the Soul. You want perfect power for your reverence, perfect wisdom for your intellect, perfect justice for your conscience, perfect love for your affections, perfect integrity for your soul: and here they all are in the infinitely perfect God. So piety will be complete in all its parts, and perfect too in each. I cannot love a wicked man as a good man, nor a foolish and unjust man as one wise and just; no more can I love a foolish God, nor an upjust God, nor a hating God. In proportion as I am wise, just, humane, shall I hate such a God, and repudiate the shameful thought. But the perfect God I cannot help loving him just in proportion to my excellence. He made me so. I put it to the consciousness of every one of you, is it not 80 ? When God is thus presented as infinitely perfect, can you refrain from loving him with your intellect, your conscience, heart and soul? No more than the healthy eye can fail to enjoy the light; no more than the hungry, healthy appetite can help rejoicing in its natural food, the maiden in her lover, or the bridegroom in his bride!
2. Not less does this idea of God affect Morality, the other part of religion. I find certain ideal rules of conduct writ on my body and in my spirit. By inward and outward experience gradually I learn these rules—the laws of God, enacted by him into my flesh and soul. I shall try to keep these laws; I know they are his commardment. I shall turn every faculty to its special work. My general piety, the love of God, shall come out in my normal daily work, in temperance and chastity, the piety of the body; in knowledge of the true, the useful, the beautiful, the piety of the intellect; in justice for all men, the piety of the conscience; in affection for all in their various relations to me, in love for my friend, kindred, wife and child, which is the piety of the heart; yes, it will appear in continual trust, in absolute reliance on the Infinite God, which is the great total generic piety of the soul.
Then Religion will not be away off, one side of my life, separate from my daily duty as brother, sister, son, father, mother; not apart from my work as blacksmith, governor, shoemaker, minister, nurse, seamstress, baby-tender, cook, editor, judge, or whatever I may be; but the soul of piety will make religion in all these things. It will not be an exception in my life, condensed into a single moinent of morning or of evening prayer; it will be the instance of my life, spread as daylight over all my work.
One day this Idea of God will shine in human consciousness, and all the rude conceptions which now prevail will vanish as Moloch, Baal, Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, and Thor have faded out from the religion of all live mankind. To-day nobody prays to, nor swears by these names, whereunto millions of men once fell prostrate and poured out such sacrificial blood. One day the God of Infinite Perfection shall be felt and known by all mankind ! Then no bigot, ignorant as a beast, shall essay to rebuke thoughtful men where he knows nothing and they know much. No longer shall priests—illborn to little talent, ill-bred to superstition, ignorance and bad mannersthrust their anointed stupidity in between man and God; no longer shall fanaticism pinch the forehead of the people; no longer shall it mutilate the fair body of man, nor practise yet more odious emasculation on the soul. Religion shall not inildew and rot the fruit of manhood; nor blast the bloom of youth; nor nip the baby bud: but the strongest force in our nature shall warm and electrify the whole plant of humanity, helping the baby bud swell into youthful bloom, and ripen into manly fruit, golden and glorious amid the sheltering leaves of human life. To youth, religion shall give a rosier flush of healthy joy; to maid and man shall it bring strength, more stalwart and a lovelier beauty, cheering them through their single or their married toilsome life ; and it shall set its kingliest diadem, a crown of heavenly stars, on the experienced brow of age.
To-day “all Christendom is Christian." Why? It has the ecclesiastical method, the ecclesiastical conception of God, a mode of salvation by another man's religion, not our own. Let me do no injustice. It has the best form of religion the world has devised yet on any large scale, which has done great service ;, but in all Christendom ecclesiastical Christianity hinders no war, it breaks no tyrant's rod, it never liberates a slave, emancipates no woman, shuts up no drunkery, removes no cause of ignorance, poverty, or crime, cherishes the gallows; it is no bar to the politician's ambition, all reckless of the natural rights of man; it never checks a pope or priest in his hypocrisy. Every monster is sure to have this ecclesiastical form of religion on his side, and when Napoleon or President Buchanan wishes to do a special wicked deed, he bends bis public knees and supplicates his ecclesiastic God, the name in which all evil begins.
But the true Idea of God, the Religion which is to come of it, which is love of that God and keeping all his commandments, will work such a revolution in man's affairs as Luther, nor Moses, nor yet mightiest Jesus ever wrought. God everywhere, Infinite Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Integrity, Religion in all life, over the anvil, in the pulpit, beside the cradle, on the throne—what a new world shall that make, when the great river of God runs in the channel he made for it, singing melodies as it runs, and sending the spray up from its bosom to fertilize whole continents, which sball break out into flowers, that ripen into fruit, the very leaves for the healing of the nations !
OF THE SOUL'S NORMAL DELIGHT IN. THE INFINITE GOD.
“ I will bebold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.”—Ps. xyii. 15.
If a man be sure of the Infinite Perfection of God, the natural object of desire for all his nobler faculties, what tranquillity and delight is there for bim; not spasmodic and violent, but equable and continuous! Then the strongest of all the human powers finds what most of all it needs; and the highest, the greatest of all human delights peoples the consciousness with this Holy Family of Love. I do not wonder that all men are not rich-it is not possible ; nor famous—that, too, is beyond the reach of all save one in a million, even if each were so foolish as to wish he had a great name always rattling bebind him, filling his ears with dust and silly noise. It is not to be supposed that all men will pre-eminently be wise, or witty; nay, not even learned. It does not astonish me that no more try for such things, though feeling yet their charm. But I am amazed that any one should be content to trudge along through life without a good culture of the religious faculty. I should of all things hate to be poor in Piety and Morality. Above all things I would know God and live in tranquil gladsomeness with him.
When a little boy, I used to hear ministers preach that the natural man did not love God; but I was sure the natural Boy did. They said that Religion was something man naturally turned off from and avoided, and only the Holy Ghost could catch and bring him painful back. I confess I was filled with wonder, for to my young experience it seemed as natural for a man, at least a boy, to worship God, to love God, to trust in him, and feel a delight in him, as it was for my father's bees to get wax and honey from the yellow blossoms of the willow or the elm—the first flowers of the late Northern Spring—or to revel in the lilacs which hung over the bee-house, or rejoice in the white clover of New England, that, beautifying the fields all around, wooed those little bridegrooms to its fragrant and sweet breast. No theological education and gray-bearded experience with mankind makes me now wonder less when I hear the old calumny repeated for the thousandth time.
Look all the world over, and see how man delights in God. These roses do not unveil and disclose their fair bosoms to the sun more naturally than spontaneous man opens his soul to God and welcomes the great Star, shedding infinite daylight therein. Men with fire sacrificing their sons unto Moloch, or Jehovah, men crushed before the car of Juggernaut, men in convents, women einaciated to nuns, crowds of men in Philadelphia, New York, Berlin, and London, thrilled with bristling horror at the terrible phantom which some bony Calvinist calls out of his dark imagination to scare them withal, these testify of the necessity man feels to turn his face towards God; and if he find not the true, then will he fasten on some cheating substitute. If there be no God that he can love, then he crouches down beneath the conception of some God of Damnation, and is horrified with fear. The Soul, like the mouth, goes ever, and must be fed, if not on what it would, then at least on the best it finds.
Mankind takes great delight in its religious consciousness. With what joy did Egypt build up its pyramids, and from a mountain Brahmanic Indians hew their rock-cut temples out! The wondrous architecture of the Ionian Greeks in many a marble town, the fantastic mosques of the Mohammedans, the arabesques of Moslem piety, the amazing churches of the mediæval Christians—all these were built with solemn joy! Not without delight did laborious men express the nation's gloomy religious consciousness in these things. Phænicians worshipping Melkartha, Siamese prostrate before their great idol of a silver Buddha, Nootka Sound Indians all a rainy day sitting on the eaves of their god-house and drumming with the naked feet, Catholics on Easter Sunday, kneeling by thousands before St. Peter's that the Pope may say “Peace be with you!" Protestants crowding to a camp-meeting or a revival-all these are witnesses to this great religious instinct, stronger than all outward force, which moves them toward the Divine.
I think my own life has not been lacking in happiness of a high character. I have swam in clear sweet waters all my days; and if sometimes they were a little cold, and the stream ran adverse and something rough, it was never too strong to be breasted and swam through. From the days of earliest boyhood, when I went “stumbling through the grass," “ as merry as a May bee,” up to the gray-bearded manhood of this time, there is none but has left me honey in the hive of niemory, that I now feed on for present delight. When I recall the years of boyhood, youth, early manhood, I am filled with a sense of sweetness, and wonder that such little things can make a mortal so exceeding rich! But I must confess that the chiefest of all my delights is still the religious. This is the lowest down, the inwardest of all—it is likewise highest up. What delight have I in my consciousness of God, the certainty of his protection, of his Infinite Love! There is an Infinite Father-nay, Infinite Mother is the dearer and more precious naine—who takes a special care of me, and has made this world, with its vast forces, to serve and bless me, an Elias chariot on which I shall ride to heaven-nay, am riding that way all the time! God loves me as my natural mother never did, nor could, nor can even now with the added beatitudes of well-nigh two score years in heaven. I stand