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´╗┐Title: Our Unitarian Gospel
Author: Savage, Minot J. (Minot Judson), 1841-1918
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Unitarian Gospel" ***

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OUR UNITARIAN GOSPEL B M. J. SAVAGE "The good news of the blessed God"


NOTE. The sermons which make up this volume were spoken in the Church
of the Messiah during the season of 1897-98. They are printed as
delivered, not as literature, but for the sake of preaching to a larger
congregation than can be reached on Sunday morning.




THROUGH the lack of having made themselves familiar with the matter,
there is a common and, I think, a widespread impression among people
generally that Unitarianism is a new-fangled notion, a modern fad, a
belief held only by a few, who are one side of the main currents of
religious life and advance.

Even if it were new, even if it were confined to the modern world, this
would not necessarily be anything against it. The Copernican theory of
the universe is new, is modern. So are most of the great discoveries
that characterize and glorify the present age.

But in the case of Unitarianism this cannot be said. It is not new: it
is very old. And, before I come to discuss and outline a few of its
great principles, it seems to me well that we should get in our minds a
background of historic thought, that we may see a little what are the
sources and origins of this Unitarianism, and may understand why it is
that there is a new and modern birth of it in the modern world.

All races start very far away from any Monotheistic or Unitarian
belief. The Hebrews are no exception to that rule. The early part of
the Bible shows very plain traces of the fact that the Jews were
polytheists and nature-worshippers. If I should translate literally the
first verse of the Bible, it would read in this way: In the beginning
the Strong Ones created the heavens and the earth. "The word that we
have translated God is in the plural; and I have already given you its
meaning. This is only a survival, a trace, of that primeval belief
which the Jews shared with all the rest of the world."

From this polytheistic position the people took a step forward to a
state of mind which Professor Max Muller calls henotheism; that is,
they believed in the real existence of many gods, but that they were
under allegiance to only one, their national Deity, and that him only
they must serve.

I suppose this state of thought was maintained throughout the larger
part of the history of the Hebrew nation. You will find traces
constantly, in the early part of the Old Testament, at any rate, of the
belief of the people in the other gods, and their constant tendency to
fall away to the worship of these other gods. But by and by all this
was outgrown, and left behind; and the Hebrew people came to occupy a
position of monotheism, spiritual monotheism, that is, they were
passionate Unitarians, so far as the meaning of that word is concerned.
Though, of course, I would not have you understand that many, perhaps
most, of the principles which are held today under the name of
Unitarian were known to them at that time, or would have been accepted,
had they been known.

In the sense, however, of believing in the oneness of God, they were

Now, when Christianity comes into the world, what shall we say? It is
the assumption on the part of most of the old- time churches that Jesus
made it perfectly plain to his disciples that he was a divine being,
that he claimed to be one himself, and that the claim was recognized.

So far, however, as any authentic record with which we are familiar
goes, Jesus himself was a Unitarian. All the disciples were Unitarians.
Paul was a Unitarian. The New Testament is a Unitarian book from
beginning to end. The finest critics of the world will tell you that
there is no trace of any other teaching there. And so, for the first
three hundred years of the history of the Church, Unitarianism was its
prevailing doctrine.

I have no very good memory for names. So I have brought here a little
leaflet which contains some that I wish to speak of. Among the Church
Fathers, Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and
Lactantius, all of them in their writings make it perfectly clear and
unquestioned that the belief of the Church, the majority belief for the
first three centuries, was Unitarian. Of course, the process of thought
here and there was going on which finally culminated in the doctrine of
the Trinity. That is, people were beginning more and more to exalt, as
they supposed, the character, the office, the mission of Jesus; coming
more and more to believe that he was something other than a man, that
he was above and beyond humanity.

But one other among the Fathers, Justin Martyr, one of the best known
of all, takes care to point out explicitly his belief. I will read you
just two or three words from it. He says: "There is a Lord of the Lord
Jesus, being his Father and God, and the Cause of his existence."

This belief, then, was universal, practically universal, throughout the
first three centuries. But the process of growth was going on which
finally culminated in the controversy which was settled by the Council
of Nicaea, held in the early part of the fourth century; that is, the
year 325. The leaders of this controversy, as you know, were Arius, on
the Unitarian side, and Athanasius, fighting hard for the doctrine then
new in the Church, of the Trinity.

The majority of the bishops and leading men of the Church at that time
were on the side of Arius; but at last the Emperor Constantine settled
the dispute. Now you know that the sceptre of a despotic emperor may
not reason, may not think; but it is weightier than either reason or
thought in the settlement of a controversy like this at such a period
in the history of the world. So Constantine settled the controversy in
favor of the Trinitarians; and henceforth you need not wonder that
Unitarianism did not grow, for it was mercilessly repressed and crushed
out for the next thousand years.

Unitarianism, however, is not alone in this. Let me call your attention
to a fact of immense significance in this matter. All this time the
study of science and philosophy, that dared to think beyond the limits
of the Church's doctrine, were crushed out. There was no free
philosophy, there was no free study of science, there was no free
anything for a thousand years. The secular armed forces of Europe, with
penalties of imprisonment, of the rack, of the fagot, of torture of
every kind, were enlisted against anything like liberty of thinking.

So you need not wonder, then, that there was neither any science nor
any Unitarianism to be heard of until the Renaissance. What was the
Renaissance? It was the rising again of human liberty, the possibility
once more of man's freedom to think and study. Though the armed forces
of Europe were for a long time against it, the rising tide could not be
entirely rolled back, and so it gained on human thought and human life
more and more. And out of this the Renaissance came, the new birth of
science, on the one hand, and on the other, issuing in the
Reformation's assertion of the right of thought and of private judgment
in matters of religion; and along with this latter the rebirth of
Unitarianism, its reappearance again as a force in the history of the

During this Reformation period there are many names of light and power,
among them being Servetus, whom Calvin burned because he was a
Unitarian; Laelius and Faustus Socinus, Bernardino Ochino, Blandrata,
and Francis David; and, more noted in some ways than any of them,
Giordano Bruno, the man who represents the dawn of the modern world
more significantly than any other man of his age, not entirely a
Unitarian, but fighting a battle out of which Unitarianism sprung,
freedom of thought, the right of private judgment, the scientific study
of the universe, the attempt, unhampered by the Church's dogma or
power, to understand the world in which we live.

As a result of this Renaissance, what happened? Let me run over very
rapidly the condition of things in Europe at the present time, with
some glances back, that you may see that Unitarianism has played just
as large a part as you could expect it to play, larger and grander than
you could expect it, considering the conditions.

In Hungary, one of the few countries where freedom of thought in
religion has been permitted, there has been a grand organization of the
Unitarian Church for more than three hundred years, not only churches,
but a Unitarianism that has controlled colleges and universities and
directed the growth of learning.

Let us look to the North. In Sweden and Norway it is still a crime to
organize a church that teaches that Jesus is not God. So we may expect
to find no Unitarian churches there; though there are many and noble
Unitarian men, thinkers and teachers. Come to Germany. There are no
organized Unitarian churches under that name here; but there is a
condition of things that is encouraging for us to note. There is a
union of the Protestant organizations, in which the liberals, or
Unitarians, are free, and have their part without any question as to
their doctrine.

There are hundreds and thousands of Unitarians in South Germany. In the
city of Bremen I called on a clergyman who had translated one of my
books, and found out from him the condition of things there. The
cathedral of Bremen has half a dozen different preachers attached to
it. Some of them are orthodox, and some are Unitarian, all perfectly
free; living happily together in this way, and the people at liberty to
come and listen to which one of them they choose. This is not an
uncommon thing in Germany. That is the condition of things, then,

In Holland there are no Unitarian churches, no churches going by that
name; but there are thousands of Unitarians particularly among the
educated and leading men, and one university, that of Leyden, entirely
in control of the liberal religious leaders of the country.

When you come to France, which you know is dominantly Catholic, you
still find a large body of Protestants; but one wing of their great
organization is virtually if not out and out Unitarian. And a few of
the most noted preachers of the modern time in France have been
Unitarians. I have had correspondence with men there which showed that
they were perfectly in sympathy with our aims, our purposes, our work.

In Transylvania and Poland there were large numbers of Unitarian
churches which were afterwards crushed out.

You find, then, all over Europe, all over civilization, just as much
Unitarianism as you would expect to find, when you consider the
questions as to whether the law permits it and as to whether the people
are educated and free.

I should like, not for the sake of boasting, but simply that you may
see that you are in good company, to mention the names of some of those
who are foremost in our thought. Take Mazzini, the great leader of
Italy; take Castelar, one of the greatest men in modern Spain; take
Kossuth, the flaming patriot of Hungary, all Unitarian men.

Now let us come a step nearer home: let us consider England, and note
that just the moment free thought was allowed, you find Unitarianism
springing into existence. Milton was a Unitarian; Locke, one of the
greatest of English philosophers, a Unitarian; Dr. Lardner, one of its
most famous theological scholars, a Unitarian; Sir Isaac Newton, one of
the few names that belong to the highest order of those which have made
the earth glorious, a Unitarian.

And, then, when we come to later England, we find another great
scientist, comparatively modern, Dr. Priestley, who, coming to this
country after he had made the discovery of oxygen which made him famous
for all time, established the first Unitarian church in our neighbor
city of Philadelphia.

The first Unitarian church which took that name in the modern world was
organized in London by Dr. Theophilus Lindsey in 1774; and its
establishment coincides with the great outburst of freedom that
distinguished the close of the eighteenth century.

You must not look for Unitarians where there is no liberty; for it is a
cardinal principle of their thought and their life.

Soon after the London movement, the first Unitarian church in this
country was organized, or rather the first Unitarian church came into
existence. It was the old King's Chapel of Boston, an Anglican church,
which came out and took the name Unitarian.

There is a very bright saying in connection with this old church, which
I will pause long enough to repeat, because there is a principle in it
as well as a great deal of wit. They kept there the old English church
service, except that it was purged, according to their point of view,
from all Trinitarian belief. It is said that Dr. Bellows, who was
attending a service there some years ago, had with him an English
gentleman as a visitor. This man picked up the service, looked it over,
and, turning to Dr. Bellows, with a sarcastic look on his face, said,
"Ah I see that you have here the Church of England service watered."
Whereupon Dr. Bellows, with his power of ready wit, replied, No, my
dear sir, not watered, washed. King's Chapel, then, was the first
Unitarian church in this country. But the number grew rapidly, and in a
few years perhaps half, or more than half, of the old historic Puritan
and Pilgrim churches in New England had become Unitarian, including in
that number the old First Church of Plymouth.

Now, before I go on to discuss the principles underlying our movement,
I wish to call your attention to a few more names; and I trust you will
pardon me for this. There is no desire for vain-glory in the
enumeration. I simply wish that people should know, what only a few do
know, who have been Unitarians in the past, and what great names,
leading authoritative names in the world's literature and science and
art, find here their place.

Among the Fathers of the Revolution, all the Adamses, Dr. Franklin,
Thomas Jefferson, and many another were avowed Unitarians. And, when we
come to modern times, it is worth your noting that all our great poets
in this country, Bryant, Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes, Lowell, and in
this city Stedman, are Unitarian names.

Then the leading historians, Bancroft, Motley, Prescott, Sparks,
Palfrey, Parkman, and John Fiske, are Unitarians. Educators, like
Horace Mann, like the last seven presidents of Harvard University,
Unitarians. Great scientists, like Agassiz, Peirce, Bowditch, Professor
Draper, Unitarians. Statesmen and public men, like Webster, Calhoun,
the Adamses, the Hoars, Curtis. Two of our great chief justices,
Marshall and Parsons. Supreme Court Judges, Story and Miller. Literary
men, like Whipple, Hawthorne, Ripley, and Bayard Taylor; and eminent
women, such as Margaret Fuller, Lydia Maria Child, Lucretia Mott, Helen
Hunt Jackson, Mrs. Mary A. Livermore, and Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.

I mention these, that you may know the kind of men, ethical,
scientific, judicial, political, literary, who have been distinguished,
as we think from our point of view, by being followers of this grand
faith of ours.

And now I wish you to note again, what I hinted at a moment ago, that
it is not an accident that Unitarianism should spring into being in the
modern world coincidently with the great movements of liberty in France
and England, and the outburst that culminated in our own Revolution and
the establishment here of a State without a king as well as of a church
without a bishop.

Wherever you have liberty and education, there you have the raw
materials out of which to make the free, forward looker in religious
thought and life.

Now what are the three principles out of which Unitarianism is born?
First, I have already intimated it, but I wish to emphasize it again
for a moment with an addition, Liberty. Humanity at last had come to a
time in its history when it had asserted its right to be free; not only
to cast off fetters that hampered the body, not only to dethrone the
despots that made liberty impossible in the State, but to think in the
realm of religion, to believe it more honorable to God to think than to
cringe and be afraid in his presence.

Second, coincident with the birth of Unitarianism is an enlargement and
a reassertion of the conscience of mankind. A demand for justice. Just
think for a moment, and take it home to your hearts, that up to the
time when this free religious life was born, according to the teaching
of all the old creeds, justice and right had been one thing here among
men and another thing enthroned in the heavens. The idea has always
been that might made right, that God, because he was God, had a right
to do anything, though it controverted and contradicted all the ideas
of human righteousness; and that we still must bow in the dust, and
accept it as true.

If I could be absolutely sure that God had done something which
contradicted my conscience, I should say that probably my conscience
was wrong. I should wait at any rate, and try to find out. But, when I
find that the condition of things is simply this, that certain
fallible, unjust, uneducated, barbaric people have said that God has
done certain things, then it is another matter. I have no direct word
from God: I have only the report of men whose authority I have no
adequate reason to accept.

At any rate, the world came to the point where it demanded that
goodness on earth should be goodness up in heaven, too; that God should
at least be as just and fair as we expect men to be. And that, if you
will think it out a little carefully, is enough to revolutionize the
theology of the world; for the picture of the character of God as
contained in the old theologies is even horribly unjust, as judged by
any human standard.

In the third place, Unitarianism sprang out of a new elevation of love
and tenderness. As men became more and more civilized, they became more
tender-hearted; and they found it impossible to believe that the Father
in, heaven should not be as kind and loving as the best father on

And here, again, if you think it out, you will find that this is enough
to compel a revolution of all the old theological ideas of the world.

Just as soon, then, as the civilized modern world became free, there
was a new expansion of the sense of the right to think; there was a new
expansion of conscience, the insistent demand for justice; there was a
new expansion of tenderness and love; and out of these, characterized
by these, having these in one sense for its very soul and body, came

Now another point. It is commonly assumed by those who have not studied
the matter that, because Unitarians have no printed and published
creed, they are all abroad in their thinking. They take this for
granted; and so it is assumed by people who speak to me on the subject.
They think that there must be just as many views of things as there are

If there are any persons here having this idea, perhaps I shall
astonish them by the statement I am going to make. After more than
twenty years of experience as a Unitarian minister, I have come to the
conviction that there is not a body of Christians in the world to-day,
not Catholic or Presbyterian or Methodist or Congregational or any
other, that is so united in its purposes, not only, but in its beliefs,
as these very Unitarians.

And the fact is perfectly natural. Take the scientific men of the
world. They do not expect a policeman after them if they do not hold
certain scientific opinions. There is no authority to try them for
heresy or to turn them out of your society unless they hold certain
scientific ideas. They have no sense of compulsion except to find and
accept that which they discover to be true. The one aim of science is
the truth. There is no motive for anything else.

And truth being one, mark you, and they being free to seek for it, and
all of them caring simply for that, they naturally come together,
inevitably come together. So that, without any external power or
orthodox compulsion, the scientific men of the world are substantially
at one as to all the great principles. They discuss minor matters; but,
when they discuss, they are simply hunting for a deeper truth, not
trying to conquer each other.

Now Unitarians are precisely in this position. The only thing any of us
desire is the truth. We are perfectly free to seek for the truth; and,
the truth being one, we naturally tend towards it, and, tending towards
it, we come together. So there is, as I said, greater unanimity of
opinion in regard to the great essential points among Unitarians than
among any other body in Christendom.

Now, as briefly as I can, I want to analyze what I regard as the
fundamental principles of Unitarianism. I am not going to give you a
creed, I am not going to give you my creed: I am going to give you the
great fundamental principles which characterize and distinguish

First, liberty, freedom of the individual to think, think as he will or
think as he must; but not liberty for the sake of itself. Liberty for
the sake of finding the truth; for we believe that people will be more
likely to find the truth if they are free to search for it than they
will if they are threatened or frightened, or if they are compelled to
come to certain preordained conclusions that have been settled for
them. Freedom, then, for the sake of finding the truth.

Second, God. The deep-down conviction that wisdom, power, love, that
is, God, is at the heart of the universe. Third, that God is not only
wisdom and power and love, but that he is the universal Father, not
merely the Father of the elect, not merely the Father of Christians,
not merely the Father of civilized people, but the Father of all men,
equally, lovingly, tenderly the Father of all men.

In the next place, being the Father of all men, he would naturally wish
to have them find the truth. So we believe in revelation. Not in
revelation confined to one book or one epoch in the history of the
world, though we do not deny the revelation contained in them. We
believe that all truth, through whatever medium it comes to the world,
is in so far a revelation of our Father; and it is infallible
revelation when it is demonstrably true, and not otherwise.

The next step, then: in the words of Lucretia Mott, we believe that
truth should be taken for authority, and not authority for truth. The
only authority in the world is the truth. The only thing to which
intellectually a free Unitarian can afford to bow is ascertained and
demonstrated truth. We believe, then, in revelation.

In the next place, we believe in incarnation. Not in the complete
incarnation of God in one man, in one country, in one age, in the
history of the world. We believe in the incarnation of God
progressively in humanity. All that is true, all that is beautiful, all
that is good, is so much of God incarnate in his children, and reaching
ever forth and forward to higher blossoming and grander fruitage. The
difference between Jesus and other men, as we hold it, is not a
difference in kind: it is a difference in degree. So he is the son of
our Father, our elder brother, our friend, our leader, our helper, our

The next principle of Unitarianism is that character is salvation. We
do not even say that character is a condition of salvation. Character
is salvation. A man who is right, who is in perfect accord with the law
and life of God, is safe, in this world, in all worlds, in this year,
in all future time.

And, then, lastly, we believe in the eternal and universal hope. We
believe that God, just because he is God, is under the highest
conceivable obligation, not to me only, but to himself, to see to it
that every being whom he has created shall sometime, somewhere, in the
long run, find that gift of life a blessing, and not a curse.

We believe in retribution, universal, quick, unescapable; for we
believe that this is mercy, and that through this is to come salvation.

These, then, are the main principles, as I understand them, of

There is one point more now that I must touch on. When I was
considering the question of giving this series of sermons, one of my
best friends raised the question as to whether I had better put the
word Unitarian? into the title. He was afraid that it might prejudice
people who did not like the name, and keep them from listening to what
I had to say. This is a common feeling on the part of Unitarians. I was
trained as a boy, and through all my youth and early manhood in the
ministry, to look with aversion, suspicion, on Unitarianism, and to
hate the name. But to-day, after more than twenty years of experience
in the Unitarian ministry, I have come to the conviction, which I wish
to suggest to you, that it is the most magnificent name in the
religious history of the world; and I, for one, wish to hoist it as my
flag, to inscribe it on my banner, not because I care for a name, but
because of that which it covers and comprehends.

Now, not in the slightest degree in the way of prejudice against other
names or to find fault with them, let me note a few of them, and then
compare Unitarianism with them. Take the word "Anglican," for example,
the name of the Church of England. What does it mean? Of course, you
know it is simply a geographical name. It defines nothing as to the
Church's government or belief or anything else. There is the word
"Episcopal," which simply means a church that is governed by bishops;
that is all. Take the word "Presbyterian," from a Greek word which
means an elder, a church governed by its old men or its elders. No
special significance about that. Then "Baptist," signifying that the
people who wear that name believe that baptism always means immersion,
indicating no other doctrine by which that body is known, or its method
of government. "Congregational," no doctrine significance there. It
simply means a church whose power is lodged in the congregation. It is
democratic in its methods of government. "Methodist,", applied to the
members of a particular church because they were considered over-exact
or methodical in their ways. There is no governmental significance
there. The name Catholic? or Universal? is chiefly significant from the
fact that the claim implied by it is not true. Now let us look for a
moment at the word Unitarian, and see whether it has a right to be
placed not only on a level with these, but infinitely above and beyond
them in the richness, in the wonder of its meaning. Let me lead you to
a consideration of it. I want you to note that unity? is the one word
of more significance than any other in the history of man; and that it
is growing in its depth, its comprehensiveness. What have we
discovered? We have discovered in this modern world, only a few years
ago, that this which we see, the earth, the stars, and all the wonders
of the heavens, is one, a universe. Not only that. We have discovered
the unity of force. There are not, as primitive man supposed, a
thousand different powers in the universe, antagonistic and fighting
with each other. We have learned to know that there is just one force
in the universe. That light, heat, electricity, magnetism, all these
marvellous and diverse varieties of forces, are one force, and can be
at the will and skill of man converted into each other.

Next, we have learned that there is one law in the universe. Should we
not be Unitarians? Should we not believe in the unity of God, when we
can see, as far as the telescope can reach on the one hand and the
microscope on the other, one eternal, changeless Order?

Another point. We have learned the unity of substance. We know how
Comte, the famous French scientist, advised his followers not to
attempt to find out anything about the fixed stars, because, he said,
such knowledge was forever beyond the reach of man. How long had Comte
been dead before we discovered the spectroscope? And now we know all
about the fixed stars. We know that the stuff we step on in the street
this morning as we go home from church is the same stuff of which the
sun is made, the same stuff as that which flamed a few years ago as a
comet, the same stuff as that which shines in Sirius, in suns so many
miles away that it takes millions of years for their light to reach us.
One stuff, one substance, throughout the universe; and this poor old,
tear-wet earth of ours is a planet shining in the heavens as much as
any of them, of the same glorious material of which they are made.

Then, again, we have discovered the unity of life. From the little tiny
globule of protoplasm up to the brain of Shakspere, one life throbbing
and thrilling with the same divinity which is at the heart of the

We have discovered not only the unity of life, we have discovered the
unity of man. Not a hundred different origins, different kinds of
creatures, different-natured beings, but one blood to dwell in every
country on the face of the earth: the unity of man.

We have discovered the unity of ethics, of righteousness, of right and
wrong, one right, one wrong. A million applications, but one goal
towards which all those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are

One religion: for underneath all the diversity of creeds and religions,
barbaric, semi-civilized, civilized, enlightened, we find man, the one
child of God, hunting for the clearest light he can command, after the
one Father, that is, the one eternal, universal search of the religious
life of the race.

Religion then one; one unifying purpose; every step that the world
takes in its progress leading it towards liberty, towards light,
towards truth, towards righteousness, towards peace. One goal, then,
for the progress of man.

And, then, one destiny. Some day, every soul, no matter how belated,
shall arrive; some day, somewhere, every soul, however sin stained,
shall arrive; every soul, however small, however distorted, however
hindered, shall arrive. One destiny. Not that we are to be just alike;
only that some time we are to unfold all that is possible in us, and
stand, full statured, perfect, complete, in the presence of our Father.

Do I not well, then, to say that Unity, Unitarianism, is a magnificent
name, a name to be flung out to the breeze as our banner under which we
will fight for God and man; a name beside which all others pale into
insignificance; a name that sums up the secret, the centre, the hope,
the outcome of the universe? Greatest name in the religious history of
man, it coincides with that magnificent hope so grandly uttered by
Tennyson, "One God, one law, one element, And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves."


MY theme is the answer to the question, What do you give in place of
what you take away? For my text I have chosen two significant passages
of Scripture. One is from the seventh chapter of Hebrews, the
nineteenth verse; and it sets forth, as I look at it, the drift and
outcome of the process of which we are a part, the bringing in of a
better hope. Then from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the thirty-
ninth and fortieth verses, expressing the relation in which we stand to
those who have looked for God and his work in the past: And these all,
having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise;
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us
should not be made perfect.

What do you give in place of that which you take away? This is a
question which is proposed to Unitarians over and over and over again.
It is looked upon as an unanswerable criticism. We are supposed to be
people who tear down, but do not build; people who take away the dear
hopes and traditional faiths of the past, and leave the world desolate,
without God, without hope.

Not only is this urged against us, from the other side, but there are a
great many Unitarians, possibly, who have not thought themselves out
with enough clearness to know the relation between the present
conditions of human thought and the past; and sometimes even they may
look back with a regretful longing towards something which they have
outgrown, and left behind.

I propose this morning to answer this question, just as simply, as
frankly, as I can; to treat it with all reverence, with all
seriousness, and try to make clear what it is that the world has lost
as the result of the advances of modern knowledge, and what, if
anything, it has gained.

But while I stand here, on the threshold of my theme, and before I
enter upon its somewhat fuller discussion, I wish to urge upon you two
or three considerations.

It is assumed, by the people who ask this question, that, if we do take
away anything, we are under obligation straightway to put something in
its place. I wish you to consider carefully as to whether this position
is sound. Suppose, for example, that I should discover that some belief
that has been held in the past is not well founded, not true. Must I
say nothing about it because, possibly, I may not have discovered just
what is true?

To illustrate what I mean: Prince Alphonso of Castile used to say, as
he studied the Ptolemaic theory of the universe, that, if he had been
present at creation, he could have suggested a good many very important
improvements. In other words, he was keen enough to see that the
Ptolemaic theory of the universe was not a good working theory. Must he
keep still about that because, forsooth, he was not able to establish
another theory of the universe in its place?

Do you not see that the criticism, the testing of positions which are
held, are the primary steps in the direction of finding some larger and
grander truth, provided these positions are not adequate and do not

The Rev. Dr. George A. Gordon, of the historic Old South Church in
Boston, told us, in an address which he gave in Brooklyn the other day,
that Calvinism was dead; that it was even necessary to clear the face
of the earth of it, in order to save our faith in God. At the same time
Dr. Gordon said frankly that he had no other as complete and finished
system to put in place of it. Was he justified in telling the truth
about Calvinism because he has not a ready-made scheme to substitute
for it?

I wish you to note that I do not concede for an instant that I must not
tell the truth about anything that I perceive because I have not a
ready-made theory of some kind to put in the place of that which is
taken away. It is my business to tell what seems to me true in all
reverence, seriousness, earnestness and love, and trust the
consequences to God.

In the next place, another consideration. I have been talking as though
I conceded that Unitarians, or that I myself, sometimes take away
things, beliefs. Now I wish to ask you who it is that takes away
beliefs. Has Unitarianism ever taken away any faith or hope or trust
from the world? Has anybody ever done it?

If we pit ourselves against one of God's eternal truths, is that truth
going to suffer? Rather shall we not beat ourselves to pieces against
God's adamant? If a thing is true, nobody is going to take it away from
the world; for nobody has the power to uproot or destroy a divine

Who is it, then, that takes these beliefs away? Is it not just this?
Does it not mean that men have discovered that what they supposed to be
true is not true, and it is the old belief that passes away in the
presence of a larger and clearer light? Is not that the process?

When Magellan, for instance, demonstrated that this planet of ours was
round by circumnavigating it, the ship returning to the port from which
it started, did he take away the old flat earth, fixed and anchored,
immovable, around which the sun moved? Why, there was no old, flat and
anchored, stationary earth to take away. There never had been. All
Magellan did was to demonstrate a new, higher, grander truth. He took
away a misconception from the minds of ignorant and uneducated people,
and helped put one of God's grand, luminous truths in the place of it.
That is all he did.

It is modern intelligence, increasing knowledge, larger, clearer light
that takes away old beliefs. But, if these old beliefs are not true, it
simply means that we are discovering what is true; that is, having a
clearer view and vision of God's ways and methods of governing the

I wish you to note, then, in this second place, that Unitarianism does
not take away anything.

One third consideration: Suppose we did. Suppose we took away belief in
the existence of God. Suppose we took away belief in man as a soul,
leaving him simply an animal. Suppose we took away faith in continued
existence after death. Suppose we had the power to sweep all of these
grand beliefs out of the human mind. Then what?

If I had my choice, I would do it gladly, with tearful gratitude,
rather than keep the old beliefs of the last two thousand years.

The late Henry Ward Beecher, in a review article published not long
before his death, said frankly this which I am saying now, and which I
had said a good many times before Mr. Beecher's article was written,
that no belief at all is infinitely, unspeakably better than those
horrible beliefs which have dominated and darkened the world.

I would rather believe in no God than in a bad God, such as he has been
painted. And, if I had my choice of the future, what would it be? I
have, I trust, just over there, father, mother, two brothers,
numberless dear ones; and I hope to see them with a hope dearer than
any other which I cherish. But, if I were standing on the threshold of
heaven itself, and these loved ones were beckoning me to come in, and I
had the choice between an eternity of felicity in their presence and
eternal sleep, I would take the sleep rather than take this endless joy
at the cost of the unceasing and unrelieved torment of the meanest soul
that ever lived. And I would have no great respect for any man who
would not. I would not care to purchase my joy at the price of endless
pangs, the ascending smoke of torment, the wail going up to the sweet
heavens forever and ever and ever.

So, even if it were a choice between no belief at all and the old
beliefs, the darkness would be light to me; and I would embrace it with
joy rather than take the selfish felicity of those men who estimate it
as a part of their future occupation to be leaning over the battlements
of heaven and witnessing the torture of the damned. This, though
sounding so terrible to us now, is good old Christian doctrine, which
has often been avowed. Thank God we are outgrowing it.

These, then, for preliminary considerations.

Now let me raise the question as to what has been taken away. You
remember I said that I have taken nothing away, Unitarianism has taken
nothing away. But the advance of modern knowledge, the larger, clearer
revelation of God, has taken away no end of things. What are they?

Let me make two very brief statements right here. I am in the position,
this morning, of appearing to repeat myself; that is, I must go over a
good many points that I have made from this platform before. But please
understand that it is not on account of lapse of memory on my part. I
am doing it with a distinct end in view, which can only be attained by
these steps.

In the next place, my treatment has so much ground to cover that what I
say will appear somewhat in the nature of a catalogue; but I see no
other way in which to make the definite statement I wish to lay before
you. I am going to catalogue, first, a lot of the things that modern
knowledge has taken away. Then I am going to tell you some of the
things that modern knowledge is putting in place of what it has

In the first place, the old universe is taken away; that is, that
little tiny play-house affair, not so large as our solar system, which
in the first chapters of Genesis God is reported to have made as a
carpenter working from outside makes a house, inside of six days. That
little universe, that is, the story of creation as told in the early
chapters of Genesis, is absolutely gone. I shall tell you pretty soon
what has taken the place of it.

Secondly, the God of the Old Testament, the God of most of the creeds
has been taken away, that God who was jealous, who was partial, who was
angry; who built a little world, and called it good, and then inside of
a few days saw it slip out of his control into the hands of the devil,
either because he could not help it or did not wish to; who watched
this world develop for a little while, and then, because it did not go
as he wanted it to, had to drown it, and start over again; the God who
in the Old Testament told the people that slavery was right, provided
they did not enslave the members of their own nation, but only those
outside of it; the God who indorsed polygamy, telling a man that he was
at liberty to have just as many wives as he wanted and could obtain,
and that he was free to dispose of them by simply giving them a little
notice and telling them to quit; the God who indorsed hypocrisy and
lying on the part of his people; the God who sent a little light on one
little people along one edge of the Mediterranean, and left all the
rest of the world in darkness; the God who is to damn all of these
people who were left in darkness because they did not know that of
which they never had any chance to hear; the God who is to cast all his
enemies into the pit, trampling them down, as Edwards pictures so
horribly to us, in his hate for ever and ever. This God has been taken

In the third place, the story of Eden, the creation of man and then
immediately the fall of man and the resulting doctrine of total
depravity, this has been taken away. That man was made in the image of
God, and then, inside of a few days, fell into the hands of the Power
of Evil, and that since that day he has been the legitimate subject
here on this earth of the prince of this world, that is, the devil, and
that is taught both in the Old Testament and in the New, that man is
this kind of a being, this is forever gone. There is no rational,
intelligent, free belief in it left.

Then the old theory of the Bible has been taken away, that theory which
makes it a book without error or flaw, and makes us under the highest
obligation to receive all its teachings as the veritable word of God,
whether they seem to us hideous, blasphemous, immoral, degrading, or
not. This is gone.

Professor Goldwin Smith, in an article published within a year, treats
the belief, the continued holding to this old theory about the Bible,
under the head of Christianity's "Millstone." He writes from the point
of view of the old belief; but he says, if Christianity is going to be
saved, this millstone must be taken off from about its neck, and
allowed to sink into the sea.

If we hold that theory, what? Why, then, we must still believe that, in
order to help on the slaughter of his enemies on the part of a
barbarian general, God stopped the whole machinery of the universe for
hours until he got through with his killing. We must believe the
literal story of Jonah's being swallowed by the whale. We must believe
no end of incredibilities; and then, if we dare to read with our eyes
open, we must believe immoral things, cruel things, about men and about
God, things which our civilization would not endure, were it not for
the power of tradition, which hallows that which used to be believed in
the past.

This conception of the Bible, then, is gone.

Then, in the next place, the blood atonement is gone. What did that
mean to the world? It meant that the eternal Father either would not or
could not forgive and receive back to his heart his own erring,
mistaken, wandering children unless the only begotten Son of God was
slaughtered, and we, as the old awful hymn has it, were plunged beneath
this fountain of blood I Revolting, terrible, if you stop to think of
it for one reasoning moment, that God cannot forgive unless he takes
agony out of somebody equal to that from which he releases his own
children! That, though embodied still in all the creeds, has been taken
away. It is gone, like a long, hideous dream of darkness.

Belief in the devil has been taken away. What does that mean? It means
that Christendom has held and taught for nearly two thousand years that
God is not really King of the universe; that he holds only a divided
power, and that here thousands on thousands of years go by, and the
devil controls the destiny of this world, and ruins right and left
millions on millions of human souls, and that God either cannot help it
or does not wish to, one of the two. This belief is taken away.

And then, lastly, that which I have touched on by implication already,
the belief in endless punishment is taken away. Are you sorry? Does
anybody wish something put in the place of this? The belief that all
those except the elect, church members, those who have been through a
special process called conversion, these, including all the millions on
millions outside of Christendom and from the beginning until to-day,
have gone down to the flame that is never quenched, the worm that never
dies, to linger on in useless torture forever and ever? Simply a
monument of what is monstrously called the justice of God! This is

Now, friends, just ask yourselves, as you go home, as you think over
what I have said this morning, as to whether there is anything else

Is there anything of value taken away? Let me run over now in parallel
fashion another catalogue to place opposite this one, so that we may
see as to what has been our loss and as to whether there has been any

In the place of the little, petty universe of Hebrew dream, what have
we now? This magnificent revelation of the Copernican students; a
universe infinite in its reach and in its grandeur; a universe fit at
last to be the home of an infinite God; a universe grand enough to
clothe him and express him, to manifest and reveal him; a universe
boundless; a universe that has grown through the ages and is growing
still, and is to unfold more and more of the divine beauty and glory
forevermore. Is there any loss in this exchange?

Now as to God. I have pictured to you, in very bald outline, some of
the conceptions of God that have been held in the past. What is our God
to-day? The heart, the life, the soul, of this infinite universe;
justice that means justice; power that means power; love that surpasses
all our imagination of love; a God who is eternal goodness; who from
the beginning has folded his child man to his heart, whispering all of
truth that he could understand, breathing into him all of life that he
could contain, inspiring him with all love and tenderness that he could
appreciate or employ, and so, in this way, leading him and guiding him
through the ages, year by year and century by century, still to
something better and finer and higher; a God, not off somewhere in the
heavens, to whom we must send a messenger; not a God separated from us
by some great gulf that we must bridge by some supposed atonement; a
God nearer to us than our breath; a God who hears the whisper of our
want, who understands the dawning wish or aspiration before it takes
form or shape; a God who loves us better than we love ourselves or love
those who are dearest to us; a God who knows better what we need than
we know ourselves, and is more ready to give us than fathers are to
give good gifts to their children. Is there any loss here?

In the third place, the new man that has come into modern thought. Not
the broken fragments of a perfect Adam; not a man so crippled
intellectually that, as they have been telling us for centuries, it was
impossible for him to find the truth, or to know it when he did find
it; not a being so depraved, morally, that he never desires any good,
and never loves anything which is sweet and fine; a being totally
depraved, a being who, as one passage in the Old Testament tells us, is
so corrupt his very prayer is a sin; conceived, born, in evil, and all
his thoughts tainted, and drifting towards that which is wicked. Not
this kind of a man. A man who has been on the planet hundreds of
thousands of years, who has been learning by experience, who has been
animal, who has been cruel, but who at every step has been trying to
find the light, has been becoming a little truer and better; a being
who has evolved all that is sweetest and finest in the history of the
world; who has made no end of mistakes, who has committed no end of
crimes, but who has learned through these processes, and at last has
given us some specimens of what is possible by way of development in
Abraham and Moses and Elijah and David and Isaiah, and a long line of
prophets and seers of the Old Testament time; not perfect, but
magnificent types of actual men; who has developed in other nations
such men as Gautama, the heroes and teachers of China, like Confucius;
then Aristotle, Plato, Socrates; the noble men of Rome; who has given
us in the modern world the great poets, the great discoverers, the
great philanthropists; those devoted to the highest, sweetest things;
musicians and artists; who has given us Shakspere, who has given us,
crowning them all, as I believe, by the moral beauty and grandeur of
his love, the Nazarene, Jesus, our elder brother, Son of God, and
helper of his fellow-man; this humanity that has never fallen; that has
been climbing up from the beginning, and not sinking down. Is there any
loss here?

Then let us see what kind of a Bible modern science and modern
discovery and modern scholarship and modern life have given us.

Our Bible is the sifted truth of the ages. There is not a passage in it
or a line for which we need apologize. There is nothing incredible in
it, except as it is incredibly sweet and good and true. It is the truth
that has come to men in all ages, no matter spoken by whose lips, no
matter written by what pen, no matter wrought out under what conditions
or in whatever civilization or under whatever sky.

All that is true and sweet and fine is a part of God's revelation of
himself to his children, and makes up our Bible, which is not all
written yet. Every new truth that shall be discovered in the future
will make a new line or a new paragraph or a new chapter. God has been
writing it on the rocks, in the stars, in the hearts, on the brains of
his children; and his hand does not slacken. He is not tired: he is
writing still. He will write to-morrow, and next year, and throughout
all the coming time. This is the Bible.

We believe, for example, that the saying of the old Egyptian, God shall
wipe away all tears from their eyes, is just as divine and sweet as
when said in the New Testament. We believe that the Golden Rule is just
as golden when uttered by Confucius hundreds of years before Jesus as
it was afterwards.

We believe that the saying about two commandments being the sum and
substance of the law was just as holy when Hillel spake them as when
Jesus uttered them after his time. All truth is divine, and part of
God's divine revelation to his children.

Here is our Bible, then. Now let me speak about Jesus, and see if our
thought is less precious than the old. In my old days, when I preached
in the orthodox church, Jesus was never half so dear, so helpful to me,
as he is now. If I thought of him at all, I was obliged to think of him
as somehow a second God, who stood between me and the first one, and
through whom I hoped deliverance from the law and the justice of the
first. I had to think of him as a part of a scheme that seemed to me
unjust and cruel, involving the torture of some and the loss of most of
the race. You cannot pick the old-time Jesus out of that scheme of
which he is a part. I could not love him then as I love him now. I
could not think of him as an example to follow; for how can one take
the Infinite for an example? How can one follow the absolutely Perfect
except afar off?

But now I think of Jesus and his cross as the most natural and at the
same time the divinest thing in the history of man. Nothing outside of
the regular divine order in it. Jesus reveals to me to-day the
humanness of God and the divineness of man. And he takes his place in
the long line of the world's redeemers, those who have wrought
atonement, how? Through faithfulness even unto death.

The way we work out the atonement of the world, that is, the
reconciliation of the world to God, is by being true to the vision of
the truth as it comes to us, no matter by the pathway of what
suffering, true as Jesus was true, true even when he thought his Father
had forsaken him.

Do you know, friends, I think that is the grandest thing in the world.
He verily believed that God had forsaken him; and yet he held fast to
his trust, to his truth, to his faithfulness, even when swooning away
into the unconsciousness of death.

There is faith, and there is faithfulness; and he shares this with
thousands of others. There are thousands of men who have suffered more
than Jesus did dying for his own truth; thousands of martyrs who, with
his name on their lips, have gone through greater torture than he did.
All these, whoever has been faithful, whoever has suffered for the
right, whoever has been true, has helped to work out the atonement, the
reconciliation, of the world with God, showing the beauty of truth and
bringing men into that admiration of it that helps them to come into
accord with the divine life.

Then one more point. Instead of the wail of the damned that is never,
through all eternity, for one moment hushed in silence, we place the
song of the redeemed, an eternal hope for every child born of the race.
We do not believe it is possible for a human soul ultimately to be
lost. Why? Because we believe in God. God either can save all souls or
he cannot. If he can and will not, then he is not God. If he would and
cannot, then he is not God. Let us reverently say it: he is under an
infinite obligation to his own self, to his own righteousness, to his
own truth, his own power, his own love, his own character, to see to it
that all souls, some time, are reconciled to him.

This does not mean a poor, cheap, an easy salvation. It means that
every broken law must have its consequences so long as it remains
broken. It means that in this world and through all worlds the law-
breaker is to be followed by the natural and necessary results of his
thoughts, of his words, of his deeds; but it means that in this
punishment the pain is a part of the divine love. For the love of God
makes it absolutely necessary that the object of that love shall be
delivered from sin and wrong, and brought into reconciliation with
himself; and the pain, the necessary results of wrongdoing, are a part
of the divine tenderness, a part of the divine faithfulness, a part of
the divine love. So we believe that through darkness or through light,
through joy or through sorrow, some time, somewhere, every child of God
shall be brought into his presence, ready to sing the song of peace and
joy and reconciled love.

Now, friends, I have gone over all the main points of the theology of
our question. I have told you what I think the results of modern study
have taken away. I have indicated to you what I believe is to come and
take the place of these things that are absolutely gone. Ask yourselves
seriously, if you are not one of us, is there a single one of these
things that modern investigation is threatening that you really care to
keep? If you could choose between the two systems and have your choice
settle the validity of them, would you not choose the second, and be
grateful to bid good-by to the first?

Remember, however, at the end let me say, as I did at the beginning,
that, if these things pass away and the other finer things come in
their places, Unitarianism is not to be charged by its enemies with
destroying the old, neither is it to take the credit on the part of its
friends for having created all the new. That distinguishes us as
Unitarians from any other form of faith is that we believe in the
living, loving, leading God of the modern world, and are ready gladly
to take the results of modern investigation, believing that they are
only a part of the revelation of the divine truth and the Father's

We accept these things, stand for them, proclaim them; but we did not
create them. If anything is gone that you did not like, we did not take
it away. If anything is come that you do like, give God the glory; and
let us share with you the joy and praise.


ANY body of people whatsoever has, of course, an undoubted right to
organize on the basis of any belief or principles which it may happen
to hold. This, always, on the supposition that those principles or
beliefs are not antagonistic to human welfare. They have a right to
establish the conditions of membership and limit their numbers as much
as they please.

For example, suppose a set of persons chanced to hold the belief that
the so-called Shakspere plays were written by Bacon. They have a
perfect right to organize a society, and to say that nobody shall be a
member of that society unless he agrees with them in this belief. If I
happen, as I do, to hold some other conviction about the matter, I have
no right to blame them because they do not wish me to be a member. I
can organize, if I please, another society that shall have for its
cardinal doctrinal statement the belief that Shakspere was the author
of these plays. There is no need that I should quarrel with people
holding these other ideas.

Or, if I am a laboring man, in the technical sense of the word that is
commonly used to-day, I have a right to organize a society devoted to
the furtherance of the eight- hour movement, or any other specific end
or aim which seems to me necessary to the welfare of society as
organized in the modern world.

All this we concede at the outset. People have a perfect right to
organize on the basis of their particular beliefs, and to keep out of
their organization those persons who do not happen to agree with them.
But, and here is a most important consideration, if these beliefs seem
to us who are outside to be vital; if they appear to concern us, to
touch our well-being, our future hopes, then we certainly have a right
to study those beliefs, to criticise them, to put them to the test to
see whether they are well founded, whether they have any adequate basis
of support.

And, still further, if the people holding a certain set of beliefs tell
us that they are inspired of God, that they are spokesmen for God, that
they have had committed to them a certain definite deposit of faith for
the benefit of the world; if they tell us that, unless we agree with
them, unless we accept the conditions and come into their organization,
then we are opposed to God, are endangering our own souls, and are
enemies of the human race, then it becomes not merely our right to look
into these matters: does it not become our most solemn duty? Are we not
under the highest of all obligations to decide for ourselves one way or
the other as to whether these claims are valid? For, if they are, then
there is nothing so important for us as that we should accept them and
live in accordance with them, join the societies that are organized on
them as a basis, do our utmost to extend their acceptance throughout
the world.

If they are not valid, then we ought to do our very best to prove this
also, and help those who are in bondage to these false ideas to attain
their liberty, in order that they may join with us in finding out that
which is true, in order that together we may work for the discovery of
the will of God, and that we may co-operate in helping the world to
find and obey that will.

You would suppose from the ordinary assumption of those who hold the
old creeds, and who have organized their churches on these creeds, as
foundation stones, that there had been at the outset a clear, a
definite revelation of truth, that it had been unquestioned, that it
had come with credentials enough to satisfy the world that the speakers
spoke by authority, and that the matter had from the beginning been
well understood.

It is assumed that we who do not hold these ideas are wilfully wrong,
that we are not inclined to accept the divine truth, that it is on
account of the hardness and wickedness of our hearts, and that we
prefer evil rather than good. We are told that we might know, if we
would, that the matter is definite, and has been perfectly well settled
from the beginning. This, I say, is the assumption.

Let us now, then, investigate the matter for a little while, just as
calmly, just as simply, just as dispassionately as we are able.

I confess to you, at the outset, that I do not like such a task as to-
day seems to be imposed upon me. I do not like to be put in the
position of seeming to criticise my fellow- citizens, my friends, and
neighbors; but it seems to me that it is more than a task, that it is a
duty, and one that I cannot readily escape. I mean as little as
possible even to seem to criticise people; but I must look into the
foundations of their beliefs, and see whether they are valid, whether
there is any reason why we should feel ourselves compelled to-day to
accept them.

Let us take our place, then, at the outset of Christianity by the side
of Jesus and the apostles. Now let us note one strange fact. For the
first two or three hundred years the belief of the Church was chaotic,
unconfirmed, unsettled. There was dispute and discussion of the most
earnest and most bitter kind concerning what are regarded to-day as the
very fundamentals of the Christian faith.

This would hardly seem possible, would it, if Jesus had made himself
perfectly clear and explicit in regard to these matters? If Jesus were
really God, and if he came down on to this earth for the one express
purpose of telling humanity what kind of moral and spiritual condition
it was in, just what it needed in order to be saved, would you not
suppose that he would have been so clear that there could have been no
honest question about it?

If, for example, Jesus knew he was God, ought not he to have told it so
plainly that no honest man could go astray about it? If he knew that
the human race fell in Adam and was in a condition of loss under the
general wrath and curse of God, ought not he to have said something
about Adam, something about the Garden of Eden, something about the
fall? Yet it never appears anywhere that he did. If he knew it was
absolutely necessary for us to hold certain ideas about the Bible,
ought not he to have told us? If he knew that the great majority of the
human race was going to endless and hopeless torment in the future
unless they held certain beliefs, ought not he to have made it plain?

But take that which I read as a part of our Scripture lesson this
morning, that magnificent picture of the judgment scene, where he
divides the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Who are
the sheep, and who are the goats? Those who are to be admitted with
glad welcome to the presence of the Father are simply those that have
been morally good; and those who are told they must be shut out are
simply those who have bee morally bad. There is no hint of the
necessity of any belief at all. Nothing said about any Bible, about any
Trinity, about any faith, about anything that is supposed to be
essential as a condition of salvation, not a word. Only the good
receive the welcome, and the bad are shut out. That is all.

If this is not true, ought he not to have told us something about it,
and made it perfectly clear?

Now what was the condition of popular belief? Let me illustrate it by
one or two points. Origen, for example, one of the most famous of the
Church Fathers, believed and preached the pre-existence of the human
soul and universal salvation. Now, if Jesus said anything contrary to
this belief of universal salvation, either Origen did not know anything
about it or he did not regard it as of any authority, one or the other.
We cannot conceive of his holding a position of this sort if he had
known that Jesus had pronounced explicitly to the contrary.

Take another illustration. Two weeks ago this morning I had occasion to
quote to you a few words from another of the old Church Fathers, Justin
Martyr, who taught explicitly that Jesus was not the equal of the
Father, but a subordinate and created being. Now, if Jesus had clearly
taught anything approaching the doctrine of the Trinity, is it
conceivable that Justin Martyr had not heard of it, or, having heard of
it, had not accepted it?

At any rate, if these things were true and important, it is
inconceivable that the Church Fathers, the very founders of
Christianity, should have been all at sea in regard to them, should
have held divergent opinions, and should have been discussing these
questions one way and the other for three hundred years.

Let us now see what we have as a basis for belief in regard to what
Jesus really did say. The Gospels grew up in a time when there was no
shorthand writing, no reporting. Jesus does not say one word about
having any record made of his teaching, does not seem to have
considered it of the slightest importance. He simply talks and
converses as friend with friend, preaches to the crowds wherever they
gather, but says nothing whatever about founding any system of
doctrine, says nothing about the importance of having a statement of
his doctrine kept.

The Gospels, as a matter of fact, did not come into their present shape
for many years after his death. How long? The critics are not at one in
regard to it. A book has recently been translated from the German, by a
professor in the Union Theological Seminary in this State, which says
that not a single one of the Gospels was known in its present shape
until between the years 150 and 200 A.D. All scholars do not accept
this; but they are all at one in the statement that it was a great many
years after the death of Jesus before they came into the shape in which
we know them to-day.

There was, then, no clear record at the first in regard to these
matters of belief; and, as I said a moment ago, for the first two or
three hundred years the condition of the Church was chaotic. It was a
long time coming to a consciousness of itself.

Now let us note the time when a few of the creeds were formed, and what
are some of their characteristics.

Although the Apostles' Creed would seem to take us back to the
apostles, we are not to deal with that first, because it was not the
first one of the creeds to come into its present shape.

The oldest creed that we have to-day is the Nicene. When was that
formed? It was agreed upon at the Council of Nicaea, in the early part
of the fourth century. Now note, if you please, what influences shaped
and determined it.

Did those who proposed that this particular clause or that should enter
into it have any proof of their belief? Did they even claim to have?
Why, the idea of evidence, the thought of proof, was absolutely unknown
to the mind of Christendom at that time. Nobody thought of such a thing
as proposing to prove that this or that or the other was true.

The Nicene Creed came into existence very much, indeed, as does the
platform of a political party at the present time. One man fought for
this proposition, another man for that one; and at last it was a sort
of compromise decided by a majority. And how was the majority reached?
Friends, there were bribes, there were threats, there were all kinds of
intimidation, there were blows, there was wrangling of every kind,
there was banishment, there was murder. There has not been a political
platform in the modern world evolved out of such brutal, conflicting,
anti-religious conditions as those which prevailed before and in
connection with the Council of Nicaea.

Anything like evidence? Not heard of or thought of. Anything like quiet
brooding of those who supposed they were, under the influence of the
Holy Ghost, receiving divine and sacred truth? The farthest possible
from any conditions that could be suggested by such a thought.

And at the last, though undoubtedly the majority of the Church at that
time was Unitarian, as I told you the other day it was the decisive
influence of the Emperor Constantine which settled the controversy.
Thus came into existence in the fourth century the oldest of the church
Creeds which is recognized as authoritative in the Catholic, the
Anglican, and the Episcopal churches of the present time.

And this Nicene Creed, if I had time to go into it and analyze it, I
could show you contains elements which no intelligent man in any of
these churches thinks of believing at the present time; and yet nobody
dares suggest a change, or the bringing it into accord with what the
intelligence of the modern world knows to be true.

Let us pass on, and consider for a moment the Apostles' Creed, so
called. There was a time in the Church when people really supposed that
the apostles were its author. There are persons to-day who have not
discovered the contrary. I crossed the ocean a few years ago when on
board were a bishop of one of the Western States and a young candidate
for orders who was travelling with him as his pupil. I fell into
conversation with this young man, and found that he really believed
that the twelve clauses of the Apostles' Creed were manufactured by the
apostles themselves. He had never discovered anything to the contrary.

A still more astonishing fact came to my knowledge last year. During
that discussion over Ian McLaren's creed, in which so many people were
interested last winter, Chancellor McCracken, of the University of New
York, published a letter, in which he referred to the Apostles' Creed
as  written eighteen hundred years ago. It took my breath away when I
read it. I wondered, Could the chancellor of a great University
possibly be ignorant of the facts? Would he state that which he knew
was not true? I could not explain it either way. I was compelled to
think, if he was thoughtless and careless about it, that he had no
business to be about a matter of such importance. But he said the
Apostles' Creed was written eighteen hundred years ago.

Now what are the facts? The apostles had nothing whatever to do with
the creed, as everybody knows to-day who chooses to look into the
matter. It grew, and was four or five hundred years in growth, one
phrase in one shape held in a certain part of the Church, another
phrase in another shape held in another part of the Church, people
holding nothing so sacred about it but that they were at perfect
liberty to change it and add to it and take away from it, until, as we
get it to- day, it appeared for the first time in history at about the
year 500. And yet it stands in the Church to-day claiming to be the
Apostles' Creed.

And this Apostles' Creed, if it were a part of the purpose I have in
mind this morning, I could analyze, and find that it contains elements
which nobody accepts to-day; and yet nobody dares to propose touching
it, such is the reverence for that which is old. So much more reverence
does the world have for that which is old than for that which is true.

If you approach a Churchman in regard to his belief in the resurrection
of the body, he will say, Of course, we do not believe in the
resurrection of the body: we believe in the resurrection of the soul.
But he does not believe in the resurrection of the soul, either.

Let me make two statements in regard to this. In the first place, if he
does not believe in the resurrection of the body, he has no right to
say it, because the House of Bishops, representing the whole Church of
the United states, in an authoritative pastoral letter issued within
three years, declares that fixity of interpretation is of the essence
of the creeds. No man, then, is at liberty to change the interpretation
to suit himself.

And then, again, nobody, as I say, believes in the resurrection of the
soul. Why? Because that statement, with the authority of the House of
Bishops that nobody has any business to change or reinterpret, carries
with it a world underneath the surface of the earth to which the dead
go down; and resurrection means coming up again from that underground
world. Nobody believes in any underground world to-day. You cannot be
resurrected. That is, you cannot rise again unless you have first gone
down. It is the ascent of the soul we believe in to-day, and not its
resurrection, much less the resurrection of the body.

Now a word in regard to another of the great historic creeds.

The third one to be shaped was the Athanasian Creed. Curiously named
most of these are. There was a tradition in the Church that Athanasius,
who was one of the great antagonists of the Council of Nicaea, wrote
this creed called after his name; but, as a matter of fact, the creed
was not known in the Church in the shape in which we have it now until
at least four or five hundred years after Athanasius was dead.

The Athanasian Creed dates from the eighth or ninth century; and in
this for the first time there is a clear, explicit, definite
formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. It never had been shaped in
perfection until the time of the Athanasian Creed; and this creed
contains among other things those famous damnatory clauses? which the
Episcopal Church in this country, to their credit be it said, have left
out of their Prayer Book. But this Athanasian Creed is obliged to be
sung thirteen times every year in the Church of England; and you can
imagine with what grace and joy they must sing the statement that,
unless a man believes every single word and sentence of it, he shall no
doubt perish everlastingly.

The Athanasian Creed, then, takes us only to the eighth or ninth
century. You see, do you not, that, instead of there having been any
clear, explicit, definite statement of church beliefs on the part of
Jesus and his apostles, they are long and slow growths, and not built
up on the basis of proof or evidence, simply opinions which people came
to hold and fight for and preach, until at last they got a majority to
believe in them, and they were accepted by some council.

I wish now to ask your attention for a few moments to one or two of the
modern statements of beliefs. We are face to face here in this modern
world with a very strange condition of affairs. I wish I could see the
outcome of it. Here are churches printing, publishing, scattering all
over America and Europe, statements of belief which perhaps hardly one
man in ten among their pew-holders or vestrymen believes. They will
tell you they do not believe them; they are almost angry with you if
you make the statement that these are church beliefs; and at the same
time we are in the curious position of finding that the man who
proposes himself as a candidate for the ministry in any of these
churches dares not question or doubt these horrible statements. And, if
it is found that he does question them after he gets into the ministry,
he is in danger of a trial for heresy.

We have had a perfect storm here in New York in one of our greatest
churches over Dr. Briggs. And what was Dr. Briggs tried for? Simply for
raising the question as to whether every part of the Old Testament was
infallible. That was all. Another professor in a theological seminary
in the West was turned out of his professorship for a similar offence.
An Episcopal minister, a friend of mine in Ohio, was turned out of his
church for daring to entertain some of the modern ideas which are in
the air, and which intelligent people believe everywhere. One of the
best known Episcopal ministers in this city to-day has an indictment
over his head. It has been there for eight years; and it is only by the
good will of his bishop that he is tolerated. His crime is daring to
think, and to believe what all the respectable text-books of the modern
world teach.

And people in the pews are indignant if you say that their Church holds
these ideas! It is a curious state of affairs. How long is it going to
last? What is to be its outcome? I do not know.

But let us look for a moment at another. Let us note one or two points
in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith.

It teaches still, with what it claims to be absolute authority, that
God, before the foundation of the world, selected just the precise
number of people that he was going to save; that he did this, not in
view of the fact that they were going to be good people at all, but
arbitrarily of his own will, not to be touched or changed by anything
in their character or conduct. All the rest he is to "pass by "; and
they are to go to everlasting woe. The elect are very few: those who
are passed by are the many. And why does he do this? Just think for a
moment. There is no such colossal egotism, such extreme of selfishness,
in all the world as that attributed to God in this Confession of Faith.
The one thing he lives for, cares for, thinks of, labors after, is
what? His own glory. He saves a few people to illustrate the glory of
his grace and mercy. He damns all the rest purely to illustrate the
glory of some monstrous thing called his justice.

This kind of doctrine we are expected to believe to-day.

And worse yet, if anything can be worse. I wonder how many loving,
tender mothers in all these churches know it, how many know that the
little babe which they clasp to their bosoms with such infinite
tenderness and love, which they think of as a gift from the good God,
right out of heaven, is an enemy of God, is under the curse and wrath
of God? How many of you know that your creed teaches that God hates
this blessed little babe, and that, if he does not happen to be one of
the elect, he must suffer torment in darkness forever and ever?

That is taught in your confession of faith, which I have right here at
my hand. The only mitigation of it that I have ever heard of on the
part of consistent believers is the saying of Michael Wigglesworth, a
famous alleged poet of the Puritan time in New England, when he states
explicitly that none of these non-elect children can be saved, but
since they are infants, and not such bad sinners as the grown up ones,
their punishment shall be mitigated by their having the easiest room in

Friends, you smile at this. This poem of Michael Wigglesworth's was a
household treasure in New England for a hundred years. No end of
editions was sold. It was earnestly, verily believed; and the doctrine
is still taught every time that a new edition of the Presbyterian
Confession of Faith? is issued in this country or in Europe.

Shall we escape these things by going into other churches? Some of
them, yes; but the essentials are there in all of them.

Take for one moment the Episcopal Prayer Book. I have had friends in
the old churches who have become Episcopalians for no reason that I
could imagine, except that it seemed to them they were escaping some of
the sharpest corners of the old beliefs; and yet, if you will read
carefully the form of service for the baptism of infants in the
Episcopal Prayer Book as held to-day and in constant use in every
Episcopal Church in this country and England and throughout Europe, you
will find that it is taught there in the plainest and most forcible way
that the unbaptized infant is a child of wrath, is under the dominion
of the devil, is destined to everlasting death, and is regenerated only
by having a little water placed on its forehead and by a priest saying
over him certain wonderful words.

Can you believe, friends, for one moment that a little child this
minute belongs to the devil, is under his dominion, hated of God,
doomed to eternal death, then the priest puts his fingers in some
water, touches its forehead, and says, "I baptize thee," etc., and the
child, after this is said, five minutes later, God loves, has taken to
his arms as one of his own little children, and is going to receive him
to eternal felicity forever?

Can we believe such things to-day? Do people believe them? If they do
not, are they sincere in saying they do, in supporting the institutions
that proclaim to the world every hour of every day of every week of
every month of every year that they do believe them?

I have now said all I am going to about these creeds in any special
way. I wish now to discuss the general situation for a little.

I have heretofore said, I wish to say it again, to make it perfectly
plain and emphasize it, that all these old Creeds are based on the
supposed ruin of the race. They have come into existence for the
express purpose of saving as many souls as possible from this ruin.
They never would have been heard of but for the belief in this ruin.
And yet to-day there is not a intelligent man in Christendom that does
not know that the doctrine of man's fall and ruin is not only doubtful,
but demonstrably untrue. It is not a matter of question: it is settled;
and yet these churches go on just as though nothing had happened.

Is it sincere? Is it quite honest? Is this the way you use language in
Wall Street, in your banks and your stores? Is this the way you
maintain your credit as business men?

Oh, let us purge these statements of outgrown crudities, cruelties,
falsities, blasphemies, infamies! Let us dare to believe that the light
of God to-day is holier than the mistakes about Him made by those who
walked in darkness.

Now let me suggest to you. Every one of these creeds sprang out of a
theory of the universe that nobody any longer holds. They are Ptolemaic
in their origin, not Copernican. They sprang out of a time when it was
believed that this was a little tiny world, and God was outside of it,
governing it by the arbitrary imposition of his law. Every one of these
creeds is fitted to that theory of things; and that theory of things
has passed away absolutely and forever.

Consider for just a moment. Why should we pay such extravagant
deference to the opinions of men who lived in the dark ages, of the old
Church Fathers, of Athanasius, of Arius, of Justin Martyr, of Origen,
of Tertullian? Why, friends, just think for a moment. There was hardly
a single point connected with this world that they knew anything about.
How did it happen that the whole modern world should get on its knees
in their presence, as though they knew everything about the Infinite,
when they knew next to nothing about the finite? Is there any proof
that they knew anything about it? Not one single particle.

Think for a minute. We know to-day unspeakably more about the origin of
the Bible, how it grew, how it came into its present shape, than any
man from the first century until a hundred years ago could by any
possibility know. We know a good deal more than Paul, though he was one
of the writers, unspeakably more. He had no means of knowing. We have
sifted every particle of evidence, every source of knowledge that the
world has to show. We know unspeakably more about this universe than
any man of the olden time had any way of knowing. He had no way of
knowing anything.

I said something recently about the origin and nature of man. Very
little was known about this until within the present century. We know
something about how religions grow. We have traced them, studied them,
not only Christianity and Judaism, but all the religions of the world
back to their origin, and seen them coming into shape. We can judge
something about them to-day. You want the antiquity of the world?
People are bowing in the presence of what they suppose to be the
antiquity, that is, the hoary-headed wisdom, of the world. Why,
friends, as you go back, you are not going back to the old age of the
world: you are going back to its childhood. The world was never so old
as it is this morning. Humanity was never so old, never had such
accumulated experience, such accumulated knowledge, as it has this

If you want the results of the world's hoary-headed antiquity, its
wisdom, its accumulated experience, its knowledge, then get the very
latest results of the very finest modern investigations; for that is
where you will find them.

Then let us note in just a word some other reasons why we cannot hold
these old creeds. The statements that are made about God are horrible.
The statements that are made in regard to the method by which God is
going to deal with his creatures are horrible; and then what they tell
us in regard to the outcome of human history is pessimistic and
hopeless in the extreme.

Where do they claim to get the authority for these old beliefs? They
tell us they find them on the one hand in the Bible. What do you find
in the Bible? You find almost anything you look for. Is it not
perfectly natural you should? The Bible was written by ever so many
different writers during a period covering nearly a thousand years.
Would you expect to find the same ideas throughout it? The book of
Ecclesiastes teaches that man dies like a dog. The Bible upholds
polygamy, slavery, cruelty of almost every kind. You might prove almost
any kind of immorality from the Bible if you wished to.

But take the highest and noblest conception of the Bible you can have.
I was talking with an eminent and widely known clergyman of the
Presbyterian Church during the present year; and we were speaking about
the Bible. I tell you this to show how modern ideas are permeating the
thoughts of men. He said: I confess that, if God had ever given the
world an infallible book, I should be utterly appalled and
disheartened; because it is perfectly clear that we have no such book
now. And, if God ever gave us such a book, then he has lost control of
his universe, and was not able to keep us in possession of it.

Here are Quakers and Methodists proving their beliefs, the Baptists
proving theirs, the Episcopalians proving theirs, the Presbyterians
theirs, all of them different in some particular, and each of them
getting their proof from the Bible.

Let us remember that the Bible is simply a great body of national
literature, and that you can prove anything out of it. Then remember
that it has been proved over and over again by the facts of the
handwriting of God himself to be mistaken and wrong in any number of

God is writing his own book in the heavens, in the earth, in the human
heart; and we are reading the story there. No creed, then, particularly
if it be infamous and unjust and horrible, can prove itself to us so
that we are bound to accept it to-day on the basis of an appeal to any
book. But the Catholic Church claims not only that the book is
infallible, but that their church tradition is infallible too. Is it?
How can a church prove that its declarations are infallible? Is there
any way of proving it? Think for a moment. It can make the claim: the
only conceivable way of proving it is by never making a mistake. Try
the Catholic Church by that test. It has committed itself over and over
and over again to things which have been demonstrated beyond question
to be mistakes. It has made grave mistakes, not only as to fact, but as
to morals as well.

On what, then, shall we base any one of these "infallible" creeds?
There is no basis for any such claim; and thank God there is not. For
now we are free to study, here, there, everywhere; to read God's word
in the stars; to read it in the rocks; to read it in the remains of
old-time civilizations; to read it in the development of education, the
arts, science; to read it in the light of the love we have for each
other, the love for our children, and the growing philanthropy and
widening benevolence of mankind.

We have thus perfect freedom to listen when God speaks, to see when he
holds a leaf of his ever-growing book for our inspection, and to
believe concerning him the grandest and noblest and finest things that
the mind can dream or the heart can love.


FOR a Scripture suggestion touching the principle involved in my
subject, I refer you to the words found in the fifth chapter of the
Gospel according to Matthew, the forty-third and the forty-fourth
verses, "Ye have heard that it hath been said; but I say unto you." I
take these phrases simply as containing the principle to which I wish
to call your earnest attention at the outset.

Jesus here recognizes the fact that the religious beliefs of one age
are not necessarily adequate to a succeeding age. So he says over and
over in this chapter, Ye have heard that it hath been said by the
fathers, by the teachers, the religious leaders in old times, so and
so: but I say unto you something else, something in advance, something

If any one chooses to say that Jesus was infallible, inspired, and
therefore had a right to modify the teachings of the fathers, still
this does not change the principle at all. In any case he recognized
the fact that the beliefs of the old time might not be sufficient to
the new time.

And, even if any one should take the position that Jesus was the second
person in the Trinity, that he was the one who revealed the old-time
truth, and also revealed the new, still the principle is not changed:
it is conceded, whatever way we look at it. For, even if he were God,
he is represented as giving the people in the time of Moses, the time
of David, certain precepts, certain things to believe, certain things
to do, and then, recognizing at a later time that they were not
adequate, changing those precepts, and giving them something larger,
broader, deeper, to accept and to practise.

Because this principle is here involved, I have taken these words as my
Scripture point of departure.

Now to come to the question as to why Unitarians have no creed. Of
course, the answer, though it sounds like an Hibernicism, is to say
that they do have a creed. Not a creed in the sense in which some of
the older churches use the word. If by creed you mean a written or
published statement of belief, one that is supposed to be fixed and
final, one that is a test of religious fellowship, which is placed at
the door of the church so that no one not accepting it is able to
enter, why, then, we have no creed. But, in the broader sense of the
word, it means belief; and Unitarians believe quite as much, and, in my
judgment, things far nobler and grander, than those which have been
believed in the past.

We are ready, if any one wishes it, to write out our creed. We are
perfectly willing that it should be printed. We can put it into twelve
clauses, like the Apostles' Creed; we can make thirty-nine clauses or
articles, like the Creed of the Anglican Church; we can arrange it any
way that is satisfactory to the questioner. Only we will not promise to
believe all of it to-morrow; we will not say that we will never learn
anything new; we will not make it a test of fellowship; we will admit
not only to our meeting-house, but to our church organization, if they
wish to come, people who do not believe all the articles of the creed
that we shall write. Perhaps we will admit people who do not believe
any of it; for our conception of a church is not the old conception.

What was that? That it was a sort of ark in which the saved were taken,
to be carried over the stormy sea of this life and into the haven of
eternal felicity beyond. As opposed to that, our conception of the
church is that it is a school, it is a place where souls are to be
trained, to be educated; and so we would as soon refuse to admit an
ignorant pupil to a school as to refuse to admit a person on account of
his belief to our church. We welcome all who wish to come and learn;
and if, after they have studied with us for a year, they do not then
accept all the points which some of us believe, and hold to be very
important, we do not turn them out even on that account.

Unitarians, then, do have a creed, only it is not fixed, it is not
final, and it is not the condition of religious fellowship.

Now I wish to give you some of the reasons, as they lie in my mind, for
the attitude which we hold in regard to this matter.

I do not believe in having a fixed and final statement of belief which
we are not at liberty to criticise or question or change. Why? Because
I love the truth, because I am anxious to find the truth, because I
wish to be perfectly free to seek for the truth.

Our first reason, then, is for the sake of the truth.

Now let me present this to you under three or four minor heads. The
universe is infinite, God is infinite, truth is infinite. If, then, on
the background of the infinite you draw a circle, no matter how large
it may be, no matter how wide its diameter, do you not see that you
necessarily shut out more than you shut in? Do you not see that you
limit the range of thought, set bounds to investigation, and that you
pledge yourselves beforehand that the larger part of truth, of God, of
the universe, you will never study, you will never investigate?

There is another point bearing on this matter. If a man pledges himself
to accept and abide by a fixed and final creed, he does it either for a
reason or without a reason. If he does it without a reason, then there
is, of course, no reason why we should follow his example. If he has a
reason, then two things: either that reason is adequate, sound,
conclusive, or it is not. If it is not adequate, then we ought to study
and criticise and find that out, and be free to discover some reason
that is adequate. If the reason for his holding the creed is an
adequate one, then, certainly, no harm can be done by investigation of
it, by asking questions.

If the men who hold these old creeds and defend them can give in the
court of reason a perfectly good account of themselves, if they can
bring satisfactory credentials, then all our questioning, all our
criticism, all our investigation, cannot possibly do the creeds any
harm. It will only mean that we shall end by being convinced ourselves,
and shall accept the creeds freely and rationally.

It has always seemed to me a very strange attitude of mind for a man to
feel perfectly convinced that a certain position is sound and true, and
to be angry when anybody asks a question about it. If there are good
reasons for holding it, instead of calling names, why not show us the
reasons? He who is afraid to have his opinions questioned, he who is
angry when you ask him for evidence, to give a reason for the position
that he holds, shows that he is not at all certain of it. He admits by
implication that it is weak. He shows an attitude of infidelity instead
of an attitude of faith, of trust.

There is no position which I hold to-day that I consider so sacred that
people are not at liberty to ask any questions about it they please;
and, if they do not see a good reason for accepting it, I am certainly
not going to be angry with them for declining to accept. The attitude
of truth is that of welcome to all inquiry. It rejoices in daylight, it
does not care to be protected from investigation.

Then there is another reason still, another point to be made in regard
to this matter. People are not very likely to find the truth if they
are frightened, if they are warned off, if they are told that this or
that or another thing is too sacred to be investigated. I have known
people over and over again in my past experience who long wished they
might be free to accept some grander, nobler, more helpful view of
truth, and yet have been trained and taught so long that it was wicked
to doubt, that it was wicked to ask questions, that they did not dare
to open their minds freely to the incoming of any grander hope.

If you tell people that they may study just as widely as they please,
but, when they get through, they must come back and settle down within
the limits of certain pre-determined opinions, what is the use of their
wider excursion? And, if you tell them that, unless they accept these
final conclusions, God is going to be angry with them, they are going
to injure their own immortal souls, they are threatening the welfare of
the people on every hand whom they influence, how can you expect them
to study and come to conclusions which are entitled to the respect of
thoughtful people?

I venture the truth of the statement that, if you should inquire over
this country to-day, you would find that the large majority of people
who have been trained in the old faith are in an attitude of fear
towards modern thought. Thousands of them would come to us to-day if
they were not kept back by this inherited and ingrained fear as to the
danger of asking questions.

Do I not remember my own experience of three years' agonizing battle
over the great problems that were involved in these questions, afraid
that I was being tempted of the devil, afraid that I was risking the
salvation of my soul, afraid that I might be endangering other people
whom I might influence, never free to study the Bible, to study
religious questions as I would study any other matter on the face of
the earth on account of being haunted by this terrible dread?

And, then, there is one other point. I must touch on these very
briefly. The acceptance of these creeds on the part of those who do
hold to them does not, after all, prevent the growth of modern thought.
It does hinder it, so far as they are concerned; but the point I wish
to make is this, that these creeds do not answer the purpose for which
they were constructed. They are supposed to be fixed and final
statements of divine truth, which are not to be questioned and not to
be changed.

Dr. Richard S. Storrs, of Brooklyn, the famous Congregational minister,
said a few years ago that the idea of progress in theology was absurd,
because the truth had once for all been given to the saints in the
past, and there was no possibility of progress, because progress
implied change. And yet, in spite of the effort that has been made to
keep the faith of the world as it was in the past, the change is
coming, the change does come every day; and it puts the people who are
trying to prevent the change coming in an attitude of what shall I say
I do not wish to make a charge against my brethren, it puts them in a
very curious attitude indeed towards the truth. They must not accept a
new idea if it conflicts with the old creed, however much they may be
convinced it is true. If they do accept it, then what? They must either
leave the Church or they must keep still about it, and remain in an
attitude of appearing to believe what they really do not believe. Or
else they must do violence to the creed, reinterpreting it in such a
way as to make it to them what the framers of it had never dreamed of.

Do you not see the danger that there is here of a person's disingenuous
attitude towards the truth, danger to the moral fibre, danger to the
progress of man? Take as a hint of it the way the Bible has been
treated. People have said that the Bible was absolutely infallible:
they have taken that as a foregone conclusion; and then, when they
found out beyond question that the world was not created in six days,
what have they done? Frankly accepted the truth? No, they have tried to
twist the Bible into meaning something different from what it plainly
says. It expressly says days, bounded by morning and evening; but no,
it must mean long periods of time. Why? Because science and the Bible
must somehow be reconciled, no matter if the Bible is wrenched and
twisted from its real meaning.

And so with regard to the creeds. The creeds say that Christ descended
into hell; that is, the underworld. People come to know that there is
no underworld; and, instead of frankly admitting that that statement in
the creed is not correct, they must torture it out of its meaning, and
make it stand for something that the framers of it had never heard of.
I think it would greatly astonish the writers of the Bible and the
Church Fathers if they could wake up to-day, and find out that they
meant something when they wrote those things which had never occurred
to them at the time.

Is this quite honest? Is it wise for us to put ourselves in this

I wish to speak a little further in this matter as to not preventing
the coming in of modern thought, and to take one illustration. Look at
Andover Seminary to-day. The Andover Creed was arranged for the express
purpose of keeping fixed and unchangeable the belief of the Church..
Its founders declared that to be their purpose. They were going to
establish the statement of belief, so that it should not be open to
this modern criticism, which had resulted in the birth of Unitarianism
in New England; and, in order to make perfectly certain of it, they
said that the professors who came there to teach the creed must not
only be sound when they were settled, but they must be re-examined
every five years. This was to prevent their changing their minds during
the five years and remaining on there, teaching some false doctrine
while the overseers and managers were not aware of it. So every five
years the professors and teachers of Andover have to reaffirm solemnly
their belief in the old creed.

It is not for me to make charges against them; but it is for me to make
the statement that so suspicious have the overseers and managers come
to be of some of the professors in the seminary that they have been
tried more than once for heresy; and everybody knows that the leading
professors there to-day do not believe the creed in the sense in which
it was framed.

And, to illustrate how this is looked upon by some of the students, let
me tell you this. My brother was a graduate of Andover; and not long
ago he said to me that when the time came around for the professors to
reaffirm their allegiance to the creed, one of the other students came
into his room one day, and said, "Savage, let's go up and see the
professors perjure themselves."

This was the attitude of mind of one of the students. This is the way
he looked at it. I am not responsible for his opinion; but is it quite
wise, is it best for the truth, is it for the interests of religion, to
have theological students in this state of mind towards their

Modern thought does come into the minds of men: they cannot escape it.
What does it mean? It means simply a new, higher, grander revelation of
God. Is it wise for us to put ourselves into such a position that it
shall seem criminal and evil for us to accept it? If we pledge
ourselves not to learn the things we can know, then we stunt ourselves
intellectually. If, after we have pledged ourselves, we accept these
things and remain as we are, I leave somebody else to characterize such
action, action which, in my judgment, and so far as my observation
goes, is not at all uncommon.

We then propose to hold ourselves free so far as a fixed and final
creed is concerned, because we wish to be able to study, to find and
accept the truth. There is another reason. For the sake of God, because
we wish to find and come into sympathy with him, and love him and serve
him, we refuse to be bound by the thoughts of the past.

What do we mean by coming into a knowledge of God? Let me illustrate a
moment by the relation which we may sustain to another man. You do not
necessarily come close to a man because you touch his elbow on the
street. The people who lived in Shakspere's London might not have been
so near to Shakspere as is Mr. Furness, the great Shakspere critic to-
day, or Mr. Rolfe, of Cambridge.

Physical proximity does not bring us close to a person. We may be near
to a friend who is half-way round the world: there may be sympathetic
heart-beats that shall make us conscious of his presence night and day.
We may be close alongside of a person, but alienated from him,
misunderstanding him, and really farther away from him than the
diameter of the solar system. If, then, we wish to get near to God, and
to know him, we must become like him. There must be love, tenderness,
unselfishness. We must have the divine characteristics and qualities;
and then we shall feel his presence, know and be near him.

People may find God, and still have very wrong theories about him; just
as a farmer may raise a good crop without understanding much about
theories of sunshine or of soil. But the man who does understand about
them will be more likely to raise a good crop, because he goes about it
intelligently; while the other simply blunders into it. So, if we have
right thoughts about God, it is easier for us to get into sympathy with
him. If we think about him as noble and sweet and grand and true and
loving, we shall be more likely to respond to these qualities that call
out the best and the finest feelings in ourselves.

I do not say that it is absolutely necessary to have correct theories
of God. There have been good men in all ages, there have been noble
women in all ages, in all religions, in all the different sects of
Christendom. There are lovely characters among the agnostics. I have
known sweet and true and fine people who thought themselves atheists. A
man may be grand in spite of his theological opinions one way or the
other. He may have a horrible picture of God set forth in his creed,
and carry a loving and tender one in his heart. So he may be better
than the God of his creed. All this is true; but, if we have, I say,
right thoughts about him, high and fine ideals, we are more likely to
come into close touch and sympathy with him.

And, then, and here is a point I wish to emphasize and make perfectly
clear, this arbitrary assumption of infallibility cultivates qualities
and characteristics which are un and anti-divine.

Let us see what Jesus had to say about this. The people of his time who
represented more than any others this infallibility idea were the
Pharisees. They felt perfectly sure that they were right. They felt
perfectly certain that they were the chosen favorites of God. There was
on their part, then, growing out of this conception of the
infallibility of their position, the conceit of being the chosen and
special favorites of the Almighty. They looked with contempt, not only
upon the Gentiles, who were outside of the peculiarly chosen people,
but upon the publicans, upon all of their own nation who were not
Pharisees, and who were not scrupulously exact concerning the things
which they held to be so important.

What did Jesus think and say about them? You remember the parable of
the Pharisee and the publican. Jesus said that this poor sinning
publican, who smote upon his breast, and said, "God be merciful to me a
sinner," was the one that God looked upon with favor, not the Pharisee,
who thanked God that he was not as the other people were. And, if there
is any class in the New Testament that Jesus scathes and withers with
the hot lightning of his scorn and his wrath, it is these infallible
people, who are perfectly right in their ideas, and who look with
contempt upon people who are outside of the pale of their own inherited
infallible creeds and opinions.

We believe, then, that the people who are free to study the splendors
of God in the universe, in human history, in human life, and free to
accept all new and higher and finer ideas, are more likely to find God,
and come into sympathetic and tender relations with him, than those who
are bound to opinions by the supposed fixed and revealed truths of the

We reject, then, these old-time creeds for another reason, for the sake
of man. A long vista of thought and illustration stretches out before
me as I pronounce these words; but I can only touch upon a point here
or there.

One of the most disastrous things that have happened in the history of
the past and it has happened over and over again is this blocking and
hindering of human advance, until by and by the tide, the growing
current, becomes too strong to be held back any more; and it has swept
away all barriers and devastated society, politically, socially,
religiously, morally, and in every other way.

And why? Simply because the natural flow of human thought, the natural
growth of human opinion, has been hindered artificially by the
assumption of an infallibility on the part of those who have tried to
keep the world from growth.

Suppose you teach men that certain theological opinions are identical
with religion, until they believe it. The time comes when they cannot
hold those opinions any more, and they break away; and they give up
religion, and perhaps the sanctities of life, which they are accustomed
to associate with religion.

Take the time of the French Revolution. People went mad. They were
opposed not only to the State: they were opposed to the Church. They
tried to abolish God, they tried to abolish the Ten Commandments; they
tried to abolish everything that had been so long established and
associated with the old regime.

Were the people really enemies of God? Were they enemies of religion?
Were they enemies of truth? No: it was a caricature of God that they
were fighting, it was a caricature of religion that they were opposed
to. When Voltaire declared that the Church was infamous, it was not
religion that he wished to overthrow: it was this tyranny that had been
associated with the dominance of the Church for so many ages.

This is the result in one direction of attempting to hold back the
natural growth and progress of the world. If you read the history of
the Church for the last fifteen hundred years until within a century or
two, and by the Church I mean that organization that has claimed to
speak infallibly for God, you will find that it has been associated
with almost everything that has hindered the growth of the world. I
cannot go into details to illustrate it. It has interfered with the
world's education. There is only one nation in Europe to-day where
education has not been wrenched out of the hands of the priesthood in
the interests of man, and that even by Catholics themselves; and that
country is Spain. It pronounced its ban on the study of the universe
under the name of science. It made it a sin for Galileo to discover the
moons of Jupiter. And Catholic and Protestant infallibility alike
denounced Newton, one of the noblest men and the grandest scientists
that the world has ever seen, because in proclaiming the law of
gravity, they said, he was taking the universe out of the hands of God
and establishing practical atheism.

So almost everything that has made the education, the political, the
industrial, the social growth of the world, this infallibility idea has
stood square in the way of, and done its best to hinder. Take, for
example, an illustration. When chloroform was discovered, the Church in
Scotland opposed its use in cases of childbirth, because it said it was
a wicked interference with the judgment God pronounced on Eve after the

So, in almost every direction, whatever has been for the benefit of the
world has been opposed in the interests of old-time ideas, until the
whole thing culminated at last in this: Here is this nineteenth century
of ours, which has done more for the advancement of man than the
preceding fifteen centuries all put together. Political liberty,
religious liberty, universal education, the enfranchisement and
elevation of women, the abolition of slavery, temperance, almost
everything has been achieved, until the world, the face of it, has been
transformed. And yet Pope Pius IX., in an encyclical which he issued a
little while before his death, pronounced, ex-cathedra and infallibly,
the opinion that this whole modern society was godless. And yet, as I
said, this godless modern world has done more for man and for the glory
of God than the fifteen hundred years of church dominance that preceded

For the sake of man, then, that intellectually, politically, socially,
industrially, every other way, he may be free to grow, to expand, to
adopt all the new ideas that promise higher help, hope, and freedom,
for the sake of man, we refuse to be bound by the inherited and fixed
opinions of the past.

Now two or three points I wish to speak of briefly, as I near the

We are charged sometimes, because we have no creed, with having no bond
of union whatever. As I said a few Sundays ago, they say that we are
all at loose ends because we are not fixed and bound by a definite

What is God's method of keeping a system like this solar one of ours
together? Does he fence it in? Does he exert any pressure from outside?
Or does he rather place at the centre a luminous and attractive body,
capable of holding all the swinging and singing members of the system
in their orbits, as they play around this great source of life and of
light? God's method is the method of illumination and attraction. That
is the method which we have adopted. Instead of fencing men in and
telling them to climb over that fence at their peril, we have placed a
great, luminous, attractive truth at the centre, the pursuit of truth,
the love of truth, the search for God, the desire to benefit and help
on mankind. And we trust to the power of these great central truths to
attract and keep in their orbits all the free activities of the
thousands of minds and hearts that make up our organization.

Then there is one more point. Suppose we wanted an infallible creed;
suppose it was ever so important; suppose the experience of the world
had proved that it was very desirable indeed that we should have one.
What are we going to do about it? I suppose that men in other
departments of life than the ecclesiastical would like an infallible
guide. Men engaged in business would like an infallible handbook that
would point them the way to success. The gold hunters would like an
infallible guide to the richest ores. Navigators on the sea would like
infallible methods of manning and sailing their ships. The farmer would
like to know that he was following an infallible method to success. It
would be very desirable in many respects; it would save us no end of

But it is admitted that in these other departments of life, whether we
want infallible guides or not, we do not have them. And I think, if you
will look at the matter a little deeply and carefully, you will become
persuaded that it would not be the best for us if we could. Men not
only wish to gain certain ends, but, if they are wise, they wish more
than that, to cultivate and develop and unfold themselves, which they
can only do by study, by mistakes, by correcting mistakes, by finding
out through experience what is true and what is false. In this process
of study and experience they find themselves, something infinitely more
important than any external fact or success which they may discover or

So I believe that a similar thing is true in the religious life. It
might be a great saving of trouble if we were sure we had an infallible
guide. I am inclined to think that a great many persons who go into the
Roman Catholic Church, in this modern time, go there because they are
tired of thinking, and wish to shift the responsibility of it on to
some one else.

It is tiresome, it is hard work. Sometimes we would like to escape it:
we would like infallible guides. But I have studied the world with all
the care that I could; and I have never been able to find the materials
out of which I could construct an infallible guide, if I wanted it ever
so much.

Whether it is important or not to have infallible teaching in the
theological realm, there is no such thing as infallibility that is
accessible to us; and I, for one, do not believe that it would be best
for us if there were. God is treating us more wisely and kindly than,
if we were able, we would treat ourselves; because it is not the
discovery of this or that particular fact or truth that is so important
as is the development of our own intellectual and moral and spiritual
natures in the search for truth.

Lessing said a very wise thing when he declared that, if God should
offer him the perfect truth in one hand and the privilege of seeking
for it in the other, he should accept the privilege of search as the
nobler and more valuable gift, because, in this seeking, we develop
ourselves, we cultivate the Divine, and work our natures over into the
likeness of God.

And now at the end I wish simply to say that God has given us the
better thing in letting us freely and earnestly and simply investigate
and look after the truth, cultivating ourselves in the process, and
being wrought over ever more and more into the likeness of the divine.

And I wish also to say, for the comfort of those who may think that
this lack of infallible guides is a serious matter, it may astonish you
to have me say it, that there is not a single matter of any practical
importance in our moral and religious life concerning which there is
any doubt whatsoever. If anybody tells you that he is not living a
religious life or not living a moral life, for the lack of light and
guidance, do not believe him.

What are the things that are in question? What are the things of which
we are sure? Take, for example, the matter of Biblical criticism, as to
who wrote the book of Chronicles, as to whether Deuteronomy was written
by Moses or compiled in the time of King Josiah. Are there any great
spiritual problems waiting for those questions to be settled? Do you
need to have that matter made clear before you know whether you ought
to be an honest man in your business, whether you ought to judge
charitably of a friend who has gone astray, whether you ought to be
helpful towards your neighbors, whether you ought to be kind to your
wife, and whether you ought to lovingly train and cultivate your

Take another of the great questions, as to the authorship of the Gospel
of John. I shall be immensely interested in the settlement of that if
the time ever comes when it is settled; but it would be a purely
critical interest that I should have. I am not going to wait until that
is settled before I lead a religious life. I am not going to let that
stand in the way of my helping on the progress of the world.

I tell you, friends, that these matters that are in doubt, that need an
infallibility to settle them, are not the practical matters at all. We
look off into the vast universe around us, and question about God. Is
he personal? Can we have the old ideas about him? One thing is settled:
we know we are the product of and in the presence of an Eternal Order,
and that knowing and keeping the laws of the universe mean life and
happiness, but the opposite means death. That is the practical part of

We know that the Power that is in this universe is making gradually
through the ages for righteousness; and we know that the righteous and
helpful life is the only manly life for us to lead, for our own sake,
for the sake of those we can touch and influence.

Are we going to wait for criticism to settle metaphysical problems
before we do anything about these great practical matters?

Whatever your theory about Jesus may be, you can at least be like him,
and wait; and, when you see him, you will love him, and know the truth
about him, if you cannot before.

Matthew Arnold, an agnostic, has put into two or three lines, which I
wish to read now at the end, what might well be the creed of the person
who doubts so much that he thinks nothing is settled. If you cannot say
any more than this, here is all that is absolutely necessary to the
very noblest life:

"Hath man no second life? Pitch this one high. Sits there no Judge in
heaven our sin to see? More strictly, then, the inward judge obey. Was
Christ a man like us? Ah I let us try If we, then, too, can be such men
as he."


SCIENCE tells us that the law of growth is embodied in the phrase, "the
struggle for life and the survival of the fittest." As we look beneath
the surface in any department of human endeavor, analyze things a
little carefully, we discover that this contest is going on. We know
that it is not confined to the lower forms of life or the order of the
inanimate world. It is a universal law. We are not always conscious of
it; but, when we do think and study, we discover it as an unescapable

In the religious world, for example, between the different thoughts and
theories which are held among men as solutions of the problems of life
we find this contest going on. Here, again, it is not always noticed;
but in the mind of any man who thinks, who reads, who reflects, this
process is apparent. This view is considered, another view mentioned by
somebody else is set over against it, and the claims of the two
theories are brought up for judgment. And so there goes on perpetually
this debate. Now and again it comes to the surface, and attracts
popular attention. We have been in the midst of an experience of this
kind for the last two or three weeks here in New York City.

But the thing I want you to note is -- and that is the great lesson I
have in mind this morning that all of this superficial discussion of
one point or another is only an indication of a larger, deeper contest.
When, for example, men are debating as to the infallibility or
inerrancy of the Old Testament, as to the story of the creation as told
in Genesis, as to the nature and work of Jesus, as to the future
destiny of the race, when they are discussing any one of these
particular problems, they are dealing with matters that are really
superficial. Underneath these there is a larger problem; and to this
problem and its probable issues I wish to call your attention this

There are two great world theories, complete each in itself, both of
them thinkable, mutually exclusive, one of which only can be true, and
one of which must finally become dominant in the educated and free
thought of the world. These two theories I wish to place face to face
before you this morning, call your attention to some of their special
features and note the claims they have on our acceptance.

Before doing this, however, I wish you to note that there are
indications of a dual tendency on the part of the human mind which has
not been manifested in the development of these two theories alone, but
which has had illustrations in other directions and in other times.

In the early traditions of Greece and Rome you find two tendencies on
the part of the mind of man. There was, first, an old-time tradition
which placed the Golden Age of humanity away back in the past. The
people dreamed of a time when Saturn, the father of gods and men, lived
on the earth, and governed directly his children and his people. In
that happy time there was no disease, no pain, no poverty. There were
no class distinctions. There were no wars. The evil of the world was
unknown. That was the Golden Age which a certain set of thinkers then
placed far back in the past. They told how that age was succeeded by a
bronze age, a poorer condition of affairs, how the gods left the earth,
and ill contentions and evils of every kind began to afflict the world.
This was succeeded by the age of brass, that by the age of iron; and so
the poor old world was supposed to be getting worse and worse, lower
and lower, from one epoch of time to another.

But also among these same people there were another set of traditions,
illustrated sufficiently for our purpose by the story of Prometheus.
According to this the first age of humanity was its worst and poorest
and lowest age. The people lived in abject poverty and misery. They
were even neglected on the part of the gods, who did not seem to care
for them, but treated them with contempt. Prometheus is represented as
pitying their evil estate, caring more for them than the gods did; and
so he steals the celestial fire, and comes down to the world and
presents it to men, and so helps them to begin civilization, a period
of prosperity and progress. For this he is punished by the gods.

The point I wish you to note is that even among the Greeks and the
Romans there were two types of mind, one of which placed the Golden Age
in the past, and the other of which placed it in the future as the goal
of man's endeavor and growth.

A precisely similar thing we find in the Old Testament, so that these
two types of mind appear among the Hebrews. In one of these we find
again the Golden Age, the perfect condition of things, placed at the
beginning. There was a garden, and man and woman were perfect in it.
There was no labor, no toil, no pain, no sorrow, no fear, no trouble of
any kind. But that was followed by sin, evil, entering the world, by
their being driven out; and so the world has again been going from bad
to worse, as the ages have passed by.

On the other hand, among the Hebrews, as illustrated in the writings of
the great prophets, the master minds of the Hebrew race, there is the
opposite belief manifested. There is no fall of man, no perfect
condition of things, no Golden Age at the beginning, in the prophets.
There is none in the teaching of Jesus. Rather do they look forward
with kindling eye and beating heart to some grander thing that is to

Here is this dual tradition, then, in the world, in different parts of
the world, this dual way of looking at the problem of life.

Now I wish to place before you the two great contrasted theories of the
universe. In presenting that which has been dominant for the last two
or three thousand years, two thousand, perhaps, speaking roughly, I am
quite well aware that I shall have to seem to tell you what you
perfectly well know, what I have said on other occasions; but it is
necessary for me to run over it, and I will do so as briefly as I can,
setting it before you in outline as a whole, so that you may see it in
contrast with the other theory which I shall then endeavor to set forth
also as a whole.

According to that theory of the world, then, which lies at the
foundation, the old-time and still generally accepted theory of
Christendom, the world was created in the year 4004 B.C. It was created
in a week's time. This was the general teaching until thinkers were
compelled to accept another theory by the advances of modern
investigation. The world was created inside of a week. God got through,
pronounced it good, and rested. Then in a short period of time we do
not know how long evil entered this world which God had pronounced
perfect. Satan, a real being, the leader of the hosts of the fallen
angels, the traditional enemy of God, who had fought him even in his
own heaven and been cast out, invades this fair earth. He seduces our
first parents, gets them to commit a sin against God which makes them
his enemies, turns them into rebels against his just and holy
government. The world, then, is fallen. Now from that day to this the
one effort on the part of God, according to this theory, has been to
deliver the world from this lost condition. Jonathan Edwards, for
example, published a book called "The History of Redemption." He
conceived the entire history of the world under that title, because the
history of the world, according to this theory, has been the history of
the effort of God to deliver man from the effects of the fall.

Now let us note the story as it proceeds a little further. The world
exists for I think I have a date here which may interest you 1,656
years, God meantime doing everything he could, by sending angels and
special messengers and teaching the people; and he had accomplished so
little that the world was in such a condition that he was compelled to
drown it. So came the flood. After that, he chooses one family, one
little family and the descendants of that family, one little people,
and bends all his energies to the education and training of that
people,-- a small people inhabiting a country on the eastern coast of
the Mediterranean Sea just about as large as the State of

For more than two thousand years he devotes himself to the training of
this people. How does he succeed here? He sends his messengers again,
his angels, his prophets, one after another. He inspires a certain
number of men to write a book to deliver his will to the people, fallen
into such condition that they are incapable of discovering the truth
for themselves. But, after all his efforts, they are so far from the
truth that, when the second person of the Trinity appears, they have
nothing to do with him except to put him to death. After that, God
sends the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to organize his
Church, spread his truth, convert men, bring them into the Church, and
so fit them to be saved. And, after two thousand years of that kind of
effort, what is the result? They tell us that not more than a third
part of the inhabitants of the world have heard anything about it, that
the majority of those who have heard about it reject it. Mr. Moody told
us last year that in this country, which we love to think of as the
most favored and highly civilized and intelligent country in the world,
out of seventy millions of inhabitants, not more than thirty millions
ever see the inside of any kind of church. I do not vouch for the
accuracy of the statistics. I wish to impress upon you the result of
this theory of this six thousand years of endeavor on the part of God
to bring his own children to a knowledge of his own truth. The upshot
of it is that the few, the minority, will be saved, and the great
majority eternally lost.

Now here is one world theory, one scheme of world history which I wish
you to hold clearly and as definitely as possible in your minds, while
I place alongside of it another theory.

According to this other, God did not suddenly create the world in a
week or in a hundred thousand years. It is a story of continuous and
eternal creation. As Jesus said, with fine and noble insight, "My
father worketh hitherto." He did not recognize that God was resting on
any day or through any period of time.

 The world, then, has always been in process of creation. The same
forces at work in accordance with substantially the same laws. The
world has been millions of years in this process; and the process all
around us, if we choose to open our eyes and note it, is still going on
with all its wonder and divinity. And we know, as we study the heavens
above us, or around us rather, with our telescopes, that there are
worlds and systems of worlds in process of creation on every hand. We
are permitted to look into the divine workshop and observe the divine

The world, then, is always in process of creation. This is the first
point in the new theory. It follows, of course, from this that we are
to hold the story of the antiquity of the earth, the earth millions of
years old, instead of six thousand or ten thousand.

And then, in the third place, it tells us the story of the antiquity of
the human race.

All scholars, for example, as bearing on this I will give you just this
one illustration, know that there was a civilization in Egypt, wide-
spread, highly developed, with nobody knows how many ages of growth
behind it, there was this civilization in Egypt before the world was
created according to the popular chronology that has been generally
received until within a few years.

We know that man has been on the earth hundreds of thousands of years.
This is the next point in that story.

In the next place, they tell us a wondrous tale of the origin and
nature of man, tracing his natural development from lower forms of
life. When I say "natural," I do not wish you to think for one moment
that I leave out the divinity; for, according to this story of the
world which I am hinting and outlining now, God is infinitely nearer,
more wonderfully in contact with us, than he ever was in the old.
Natural, then, but divine at every step, so that we are seeing God face
to face, if we but think of it, and are feeling his touch every moment
of our lives.

No fall of man, then, on this theory. No invasion of this world by any
form of evil or any evil person from without. This story of the fall of
man came into the world undoubtedly to account in some philosophical
fashion for the existence of pain, of evil, and of death. We account
for it on this new theory much more naturally, rationally, more
honorably for God, more hopefully for man.

The history of the world, then, since man began has not been by any
means a history of universal progression. Evolution, however much it
may be misunderstood and misrepresented, does not mean the necessity of
progress on the part of any one person or any one people, any more, for
example, than the growth of the human body is inconsistent with the
fact that cells and composite parts of the body are in process of decay
and dissolution every hour, every moment of our lives.

Nations grow, advance, if they comply with the laws, the conditions, of
growth and advance; and, if not, they die out and disappear. And so is
it of individuals. But, on the other hand, in the presence of the
loving, lifting, leading God, humanity in the larger sense has been
advancing from the beginning of human history until to-day; and the
grade, dim glimpses of which we gain as we look out toward the future,
is still up and still on.

According to this theory of the universe, there does not need to be any
stupendous breaking in of God into his own world after any miraculous
fashion. We do not need an infallible guide in religion any more than
anywhere else, unless we are in danger of eternal loss because of an
intellectual mistake. We do not need any stupendous miracle to
reconcile God to his own world; for he has always been reconciled. We
do not need any miraculous bridging of any mythical gulf; for there
never has been any gulf. And the outcome, not as we look forward are we
haunted by fearful anticipations of darkness and evil; as we listen, we
do not ever hear the clanking of chains; as we look, we know that the
dimness that hangs over the coming time is not caused by "the smoke of
the torment that ascendeth up forever and ever." It is a story of
eternal hope for every race, for every child of man and child of God.

Here are these two theories, then, two schemes of the universe and of
human history. Which of them shall we accept?

I wish you to note now, and to note with a little care, that you cannot
rationally accept a part of one theory and a part of the other, and so
make up a patchwork to suit yourselves. Take, for example, the one
question, Is man lost or is he not? He is not half lost or sort of
lost: he is either lost or he is not lost. Which is true? If he is not
"lost," then he does not need to be "saved." He may need something
else; but he does not need that, for the two correspond and match each
other. Let us think, then, a little clearly in regard to this matter,
and remember that the outcome of the conflict between these two
theories must be the supremacy of either one or the other.

Now, before I come to any more fundamental and earnest treatment of the
subject, let me call your attention to certain things that are
happening to the old theory.

How much of that old theory is intact to-day? How much of it is held
even by those who, being scholars and thinkers, still hold their
allegiance to the old-time theology? Let us see. The story of the
sudden and finite creation of the world is completely gone. Nobody
holds that now who gives it any attention. They have stretched the six
days of the week, even those who hold the accuracy of the Genesis
account, into uncounted periods of time. So that is gone. The antiquity
of man is conceded by everybody who has a right to have and express an
opinion; that is, by everybody who has given it any study. Every
competent and free scholar knows to-day that the story of the fall of
man and the whole Eden story, is a Babylonian or a Persian legend that
came into the life of the Jews about the time of their captivity, and
was not known of till then among them, and did not take hold on the
leading and highest minds of their own people. And there are, as you
know, hundreds, if not thousands of clergymen in all the churches to-
day who are ready to concede that the story of Eden is poetry or legend
or tradition: they no longer treat it as serious history. And yet, as I
have said a good many times, they go on as though nothing had happened,
although the foundation of their house has been removed. Only theories
which stand in the air can thus defy the law of gravitation.

Nobody to-day who has a right to have an opinion believes that God ever
drowned the world. That is gone. As to the question as to whether we
have an infallible book to guide us in religious matters, there are
very few scholars in any church to-day, so far as my investigations
have led, who hold any such opinion. That is gone; and the Bible, the
Old Testament, at any rate is coming to be recognized, not as
infallible revelation, but as ancient literature, immensely
interesting, full of instruction, but not as an unquestioned guide in
any department of life.

There are many among the nominally old churches who are coming to hold
a very different theory concerning Jesus, his life, his death, and the
effect of his death on the salvation of man. More reasonable ideas are
prevailing here. In every direction also there are thousands on
thousands who are becoming freed from that horrible incubus of fear as
they look out towards the future.

As you note then, point after point of this old scheme of the universe
is disappearing, being superseded by something else; until I am
astonished, as I converse with friends in the other churches, to find
how little of it is really left, how little of it men are ready, out
and out, to defend. In conversation with an Episcopal clergyman a short
time ago on theological questions, we agreed so well that I laughingly
said I saw no reason why I should not become a clergyman in the
Episcopal Church.

Now, friends, what I wish you to note is this: that there is not one
single point in this old scheme of the universe that can be reasonably
defended to-day. It is passing away from intelligent, cultivated human

And note another thing: it is a scheme which is a discredit to the
thought of God. It is unjust. It is dishonorable in its moral and
religious implications. It is pessimistic and hopeless in its outlook
for the race. It does not explain the problems of human nature and
human experience half as well as the other theory does, even if it
could be demonstrated as truth.

Now let us look at the other. The other theory is magnificent in its
proportions. It is grand in its conception and in its age-long sweep
and range. It is worthy of the grandest thought of God we can frame;
and we cannot imagine any increase or heightening or deepening of that
thought which would reach beyond the limits of this conception of the
universe, magnificent in its thought of God. And, instead of being
pessimistic and hopeless in its outlook for man, it is full of hope, of
life, of inspiration, of cheer, something for which we well may break
out into songs of gladness as we contemplate.

And, then, it is true. There is not one single feature of it, or point
in it, that has not in the main been scientifically demonstrated to be
God's truth. I make this statement, and challenge the contradiction of
the world. Whatever breaks there may be in the evidence for this second
theory that I have outlined, every single scrap and particle of
evidence that there is in the universe is in its favor; and there is
not one single scrap or particle of evidence in favor of the other. As
I say, I challenge the contradiction of the scholarly world to that

It is true then. Being true, it is God's truth, God's theory of things,
the outline of human history as God has laid it down for us; and, as we
trace it, like Kepler, we may say, "O God, I think over again thy
thoughts after Thee."

Now I wish you to note one or two things concerning this a little
further. There are a great may persons who shrink from accepting new
ideas because they are haunted with the fear that in some way something
precious, something sweet, something noble, something inspiring that
they have associated with the past, is going to be lost. But think,
friends. When the Ptolemaic theory of the universe gave way to the
Copernican, not only did the Copernican have the advantage of being
true, but not one single star in heaven was put out or even dimmed its
light. All of them looked down upon us with an added magnificence and a
fresher glow, because we felt at last we were standing face to face
with the truth of things, and not with a fallible theory of man.

Do not be afraid, then, that any of the sanctities, any of the
devoutness, any of the tenderness, any of the sweet sentiments, any of
the loves, any of the charities, any of the worships of the past, are
in danger of being lost. Why, these, friends, are the summed-up result
of all the world's finest and sweetest achievement up to this hour; and
our theories are only vessels in which we carry the precious treasure.

I am interested in having you see the truth of this universe, because I
believe you will worship God more devoutly and love man more truly and
consecrate yourselves more unreservedly to the highest and noblest
ends, when you can think thoughts of God that kindle aspiration and
worship, and thoughts of men as children of God that make it grandly
worth your while to live and die for them.

Do you think there is going to be a poorer religion than there has been
in the past? I look to the time when we shall have a church as wide as
the horizon, domed by the blue, lighted by the sun, the Sun of
Righteousness, the Eternal Truth of the Father; a church in which all
men shall be recognized as brothers, of whatever sect or whatever
religion, in which all shall kneel and chant or lisp their worship
according as they are able, the worship of the one Father, cheered and
inspired by the one universal and eternal hope for man.

Do not be afraid of the truth, then, for fear something precious is
going to be lost out of human life. Evolution never gives up anything
of the past that is worth keeping. It simply carries it on, and moulds
it into ever higher and finer shapes for the service of man.

 I intimated a moment ago? I wish to touch on this briefly for the sake
of clearness that man, according to this new theory, does not need to
be saved, in the theological sense, of course, I mean, because he is
not lost. He has never been far away from the Father, never been beyond
the reach of his hand, never been beyond the touch of his love and
care. What does he need? He needs to be trained, he needs to be
educated, he needs to be developed for man is just as naturally
religious as he is musical or artistic, as he is interested in problems
of government or economics, or any of the great problems that touch the
welfare of the world.

Man needs churches, then, or societies of those interested in the
higher life of the time, needs services, needs all these things that
kindle and train and develop and lift him up out of the animal into the
spiritual and divine nature which is in every one of us. So that none
of the worships, none of the religious forms of the world that are of
any value, are ever going to be cast aside or left behind.

But there is one very important point that I must deal with for just a
little while. I will be as brief as I can.

I have been very much surprised to note certain things that have come
out in the recent religious discussions. The editor of the Brooklyn
Eagle, for example, has deprecated all talk in regard to matters of
this sort, saying, in effect: What difference does it make? What is
involved that is of any importance? Why not let everybody worship and
believe as he pleases? A writer in the New York Times? I think perhaps
more than one, but one specially I have in mind has said substantially
the same thing. It does not make any difference. Let people worship as
they please, let them believe as they please, let them go their own
way. What difference does it make?

Friends, it makes no difference at all, provided there is no such thing
in the world as religious truth. If there is, it makes all difference.
Let us take this "Don't care" and "No matter" theory for a moment, and
in the light of it consider a few of the grandest lives of the world.

If it makes no difference what a man believes in religion or how he
worships or what he tries to do, how does it happen that we Unitarians,
for example, glorify Theodore Parker, and count him a great moral and
intellectual hero? Why should he have made himself so unpopular as to
be cast out even of the Unitarian fellowship? Was he contending for
nothing? Was he a fool? was he making himself uncomfortable over
imaginary distinctions? Perhaps; but, then, why are we foolish enough
to honor him?

Why is it that we glorify Channing, who at an earlier period was cast
out of the best religious society of the world for what he believed to
be a great principle? Why is it to-day that we lift John Wesley on such
a lofty pedestal of admiration? He left the Church of England, or was
cast out of it, went among the poor, preached a great religious reform,
led a magnificent crusade, teaching a higher and grander spiritual
religion, a religion of heart, of life, of character, against the mere
formalism of the Church of his time. Was he contending about airy
nothings without local habitation or a name? If so, why are we so
foolish as to admire him?

Go back further to Martin Luther, putting himself in danger of his
life, standing against banded Europe, and saying, "Here I stand: God
help me, I can do no otherwise!" What is the use? What did he do it
for? If it made no difference whether a man worshipped God
intelligently or according to the things Luther thought all wrong, what
was the difference? What was he contending about, and why does the
world bow down to him with reverence and honor?

Why are we fools enough to honor the men who were burned at Oxford? Why
do we honor to-day the line of saints and martyrs? Why do we look upon
Savonarola with such admiration?

To go back still farther, why was it that the early Christians were
ready to suffer torture, to be racked, to be persecuted, to be thrown
into kettles of boiling oil, to be cast to the wild beasts in the
arena? Were they contending for nothing at all? If it makes no
difference, why were they casting themselves away in this Quixotic and
foolish fashion and, if there was nothing involved, how is it that
these names shine as stars in the religious firmament of the world's

Go to the time of Jesus himself. A young Nazarene, he leaves his home
in Nazareth, joins the fortunes of John the Baptist. After John the
Baptist had been fool enough to get his head cut off contending for his
theory, Jesus takes up his work, dares to speak against the temple,
dares to challenge the righteousness of the most righteous men of their
time, dares at last to stand so firmly that he is taken out one
afternoon and hung upon a tree on the hill beyond the walls of the
city, the one supreme piece of folly in the history of the world from
the "Does not make any difference" point of view.

Is there any truth involved? Does it touch the living or the welfare of
the world? If not, why, then, are these looked upon as the grandest
figures since the world began? Are all men fools for admiring them,
except these wiseacres who stand for the theory that it makes no
difference and who ought not to admire them at all?

Suppose you apply the principle in other departments of life. We had a
tremendous issue in this city and country last fall over the financial
question. Would it have made any difference which side won? If it was
just as well one way as the other, why not let the people who clamored
for silver have silver, those who wanted greenbacks have greenbacks,
and those who desired gold have gold? What was the use of troubling
about it? We thought there were principles involved.

Take it in the economic world, the individualist here with his theory,
the socialist here with his; theories outlined like those in Edward
Bellamy's "Looking Backward"; a hundred advancers of these different
schemes, each contending for mastery. And we feel that the welfare of
civilization is at stake; and we stand for our great principles. Take
it in politics. What difference does it make whether the theories
embodied in the reign of the Czar of Russia prevail, or these here in
the United States which we are so foolish as to laud and pride
ourselves so much about? What did we have a Civil War for, wasting
billions of money and hundreds of thousands of lives? Are these great
human contests about nothing at all?

Friends, think one moment. Either man is a child of God or he is not.
Man fell at the beginning of his history, and came under the wrath and
curse of God, or he did not. God has sent angels, breaking into his
natural order of the world, or he has not. He has created an infallible
book or he has not. He has organized an infallible church that has
authority to guide and teach the world or he has not. He himself came
down to earth in the form of a man once and for all, and was crucified,
dead and buried and ascended into heaven, or he did not.

These are questions of historic fact. Does it make no difference what
we believe about them? If man is a fallen being, condemned to eternal
death, and God has provided only one way for his escape and salvation,
then it makes an infinite and eternal difference as to whether we know
it or believe it or act on it or not. If the majority of the human race
is doomed to eternal torture unless it escapes through certain
prescribed conditions, does it make any difference whether we know it
or not?

And, if he is not so doomed, does it make no difference to the heart
and hope, the life, the cheer, the courage and inspiration of man,
whether or not we lift from the brain and the heart this horrible
incubus of dread and fear?

Here are all these churches with their wealth, their intelligence,
their enthusiasm, their inspiration, ready to do something for
humanity. Does it make any difference whether they are doing the right
thing for it or not? We could revolutionize the world if we could be
guided by intelligence, and find out what man really needs, and devote
ourselves to the accomplishment of what that is. The waste, the waste,
the waste of money and thought and energy and time and inspiration
poured into wrong channels, unguided by intelligence, directed towards
things that do not need to be done, and away from things that do need
to be done!

These are the questions involved in discussions as to what God is and
has done and is going to do with his world.

The one thing we need, then, almost more than all others just now, is
to be led by the truth, and have the truth make us free from the errors
and the burdens of the past, so that we may place ourselves truly at
the disposal of God for the service of our fellows.

O star of truth down-shining, Through clouds of doubt and fear, I ask
but 'neath your guidance My pathway may appear. However long the
journey, How hard soe'er it be, Though I be lone and weary, Lead on,
I'll follow thee. I know thy blessed radiance Can never lead astray,
However ancient custom May tread some other way. E'en if through untrod
desert Or over trackless sea, Though I be lone and weary, Lead on, I'll
follow thee. The bleeding feet of martyr Thy toilsome road have trod;
But fires of human passion May lead the way to God. Then, though my feet
should falter, While I thy beams can see, Though I be lone and weary,
Lead on, I'll follow thee. Though loving friends forsake me Or plead
with me in tears, Though angry foes may threaten To shake my soul with
fears, Still to my high allegiance I must not faithless be, Through life
or death, forever Lead on, I'll follow thee.


THE object of all thinking is the discovery of truth. And truth for us,
what is that? It is the reality of things as related to us. There has
been a good deal of metaphysical discussion first and last as to what
things are "in themselves." It seems to me that this, if it were
possible to find it out, might be an interesting matter, might satisfy
our curiosity, but is of absolutely no practical importance to us. I do
not believe that we can find out what things are in themselves, in the
first place; and I do not believe that, if we could, it would be of any
service to us. What we want to know is what things are as related to
us, as touching us, as bearing upon our life, upon our practical

Once more: there has been a good deal of discussion as to whether the
universe is really what it appears to be to us. They tell us that it is
quite another thing from the point of view of other creatures, to
beings differently constituted from ourselves. Again, all this may be.
It might be interesting to me, for example, to look at the world from
the point of view of the fly or of the bird or some one of the animals;
but, again, while it might satisfy my curiosity, it could be of no
practical importance to me. It might be very interesting to me to know
how the universe looks from the point of view of an angel. But, so long
as I am not an angel, but a man, what I need to know is what the
universe is as related to man.

So truth, I say, then, is the reality of things as related to us.

I must make another remark here, in order perfectly to clear the way.
Philosophers and scientific men, a certain class of them, are
perpetually warning us of the dangers of being anthropomorphic. Some
one has said, "Man never knows how anthropomorphic he is." This means,
as you know, that we look at things from the point of view of
ourselves. We see things as men, as anthropoi. This has been erected in
certain quarters into a good deal of a bugbear in the way of thinking.
We are told we can never know the universe really, because we shape
everything into our own likeness, we are anthropomorphic, we look at
everything from the point of view of men.

I grant the charge; but, instead of being frightened by it, I accept it
with content. How else should we look at things except from the point
of view of men, since we are men? We cannot look at them in any other
way. Let us be, then, anthropomorphic. The only thing we need to guard
against is this: we must not assume that we have exhausted the
universe, and that we know it all. This is the evil of a certain type
of anthropomorphism. But I cannot understand why it is important for us
to be anything else but anthropomorphic. I want to know how things look
to a man, what things are to a man, how things affect a man, how I am
to deal with things, being a man.

This is the only matter, let me repeat again, which is of any practical
importance to us, until we become something other than men.

Truth, then, the truth that we desire to find, is the reality of things
as related to us. Now doubt and faith are attitudes of mind, and are
neither good nor bad in themselves, either of them. They are of value
only as they help us in the discovery of this reality about which I
have been speaking. If a certain type of doubt stands in our way in
seeking for truth, then that doubt so far is evil. If a certain
something, called faith, stands in the way of our seeking frankly and
fearlessly for the truth, that is evil. If -doubt helps us to find
truth, it is good: if faith helps us to -find truth, it is good. But
the only use of either of them is to help us discover and live the

The attitude of the Church and by the Church I mean the historic Church
of the past towards doubt and faith is well known to us. It has
condemned doubt almost universally as something evil, sinful. It has
extolled faith as something almost universally good. But in my judgment
and I will ask you when I get through, perhaps, to consider as to
whether you do not agree with me the trouble with the human mind up to
the present time has not been a too great readiness to doubt: it has
been a too great inclination to believe. There has been too much of
what has been called perhaps by the time I am through you will think
miscalled faith; and there has been too little of honest, fearless,
earnest doubt. This is perfectly natural, when you consider how the
world begins, and the steps by which it advances.

Let us take as an illustration the state of mind of a child. A child at
first does not doubt, does not doubt anything. It is ready to believe
almost anything that father, mother, nurse, playmate, may say to it.
And why? In the first place it has had no experience yet of anything
but the truth being told it; and in the next place it lives in a world
where there are no canons or standards of probability. In the child-
world there are no laws, there are no impossibilities, there is nothing
in the way of anything happening. The child mind does not say, in
answer to some statement, Why, this does not seem reasonable. The
child's reason is not yet developed into any practical activity. The
child does not say, Why, this cannot be, because there is such a force
or such a law that would be contravened by it. The child knows nothing
about these forces or laws: it is a sort of a Jack- and-the-Beanstalk
world. The beanstalk can grow any number of feet over night in the
world in which the child lives. Anything is possible. If father and
mother and nurse tell the child about Santa Claus coming down the
chimney with a pack of toys on his back, it does not occur to the child
to note the fact that the chimney flue is no more than six inches in
diameter, and that Santa Claus and his pack could not possibly pass
through such an opening. All this is beyond the range or thought of the
stage of development at which the child has arrived.

So in the childhood world. As I said, anything may happen. But you will
note, beautiful, sunny, lovely as this childhood world is as a phase of
experience, as a stage of development, sweet as may be the memory of
it, yet, if the child is ever to grow to manhood, is ever to be
anything, ever to do anything, it must outgrow this Jack-and-the-
Beanstalk world, this Santa Claus world, this world in which anything
may happen, and must begin to doubt, begin to question, begin to test
things, to prove things, find out what is real and what is unreal, what
is true and what is untrue, must measure itself against the realities
of things, learn to recognize the real forces and the laws according to
which they operate, so as to deal with them, obey them, make them serve
him, enable him to create character and to create a new type of
civilization, new things on the face of the earth.

Now what is true of each individual child has been true of the race.
The world started in childhood; and for thousands of years it believed
very easily, it believed altogether too much for its good, it believed
altogether too readily. Naturally, perhaps, necessary in that stage of
its development; but so long as it remained in that stage there was no
possibility of its becoming master of the earth.

Note, for example, the state of mind of the old Hebrews, I use them
merely as an illustration, because you are familiar with their story as
told in the Old Testament. Similar things are true of every race on the
face of the earth. They knew nothing about the real nature of this
universe. They knew nothing about natural forces working in accordance
with what we call natural laws. Consequently, they lived in a child-
world, a world of magic and miracle, a world in which anything might
happen. It did not trouble one of the people of that time to be told
that, in answer to the prayer of one of the prophets, an axe-head which
had sunk in the water rose and floated on the surface. There were no
natural laws in his mind contradicted by an asserted fact like that. It
never occurred to him to be troubled about it. There was nothing very
startling to him in being told that the sun stood still for an hour or
two to enable a general to finish a battle in which he was engaged. He
did not know enough about the universe to see what tremendous
consequences would be involved in the possibility of a thing like that.
He was not troubled when you told him that a man had been swallowed by
a great fish, and had lived for three days and three nights in its
stomach, and had come out uninjured. There was no improbability in it
to him. Simply, a question as to whether God had chosen to have the
fish large enough so that it could swallow him. To be told again that a
human body that could eat food and digest it, a body like ours, might
rise into the air and pass out of sight into some invisible heaven, not
very far away, there was nothing incredible about it. He knew nothing
about the atmosphere, limited in its range so that it would be
impossible to breathe beyond a certain distance from the planet. He
knew nothing about the intense cold that would make life impossible
just a little way above the surface.

The world in which our forefathers lived until modern times was just
this magic, Jack-and-the-Beanstalk world, a world without any
impossibilities in it, without any improbabilities in it. All this
thought of the true and the untrue, the possible and the impossible,
the probable and the improbable, is the result of the fact that man has
grown up, has left his childhood behind him, has begun to think, has
begun to study, has begun to search for reality, to find out the nature
of the world in which he lives, the forces with which he must deal, to
understand the universe at least in some narrow range, measured by his
so-far experience.

The world, then, until modern times has believed too readily, has
accepted things too easily. Let us note, for example, what have been
called by way of pre-eminence the Ages of Faith, the Middle Ages, the
age, say, from the seventh or eighth century until the thirteenth or
fourteenth. What was characteristic of those ages? Were they grand,
noble? They were ages of ignorance, of superstition, of cruelty, of
immorality, of poverty, of tyranny, of degradation. Almost everything
existed that men would no longer bear to-day; and hardly any of the
grand things that characterize modern civilization had then been heard

Where did this modern civilization of ours begin? Did it ever occur to
you that it began when men began to doubt? It began, we say, with the
Renaissance. What was the Renaissance? The Renaissance was the birth of
doubt, the birth of question, the demand on the part of men, who began
to wake up and think, for evidence. It was the beginning of the
scientific age, the birth of the scientific spirit which has renovated,
re- created, uplifted the world. Men began to think, to look about
them, and to prove all things. And instead of holding fast all things,
as they had been doing in the past, they began to hold fast only the
things which they found by experience, and after testing and trial, to
be good.

Here began, then, the civilization of the world; and all that is finest
and highest in industry, in education, in discovery, in the whole
external civilization of the world, came in with the coming of this
spirit that questions and that asks for proof.

I do not wish you to understand me as supposing that all kinds of doubt
are good, equally good. The Church, as I said a little while ago, has
been accustomed to teach us that doubt was wrong; and there are certain
kinds of doubt that are morally wrong, certain kinds of doubt that are
disastrous to the highest and finest life of the world.

I wish now to analyze a little and define and make clear these
distinctions, that you may see the kind of doubt which is evil and the
kind of doubt which is good.

There are doubts which spring out of the fact that men, under the
influence of personal interest, as they suppose, or strong desire, wish
to follow certain courses, wish to walk in certain paths; and they
doubt and question the laws, moral or mental, religious or what not,
which stand in their way, which would prohibit their having their will.
As an illustration of what I mean, suppose a man is engaged in a
certain kind of business, or wishes to manage his business in a certain
kind of way. He suspects, if he stops and thinks about it, that the
interests of other people may be involved, that the way in which he
wants to conduct his business is a selfish way, that the interests of
other people may be injured, that the world as a whole may not be as
well off; but it seems to be for his own advantage.

Now it is very difficult, indeed, for you to persuade a man that he
ought to do right under such circumstances. He is ready to doubt and
question as to whether these laws of right are imperative, whether they
are divine, whether they may not be waived one side in the interest of
the thing which he desires to do. So you must guard yourself very
carefully, no matter what the department of life may be that you are
facing, if you find yourself doubting under the impulse of your own
wishes, if you are trying to argue yourself into the belief that you
may be permitted to do something which you very much want to do.

Be suspicious of your doubts, then, and remember that probably they are
wrong. Great moral questions may be involved, and doubt may mean wreck

There is another field where doubt is dangerous and presumably an evil.
You will find most people, in regard to any question which they have
considered or which has touched them seriously, with their minds
already made up. They have some sort of a persuasion about it, they
have a theory which they have accepted; and, if you bring them a truth
with ever such overwhelming credentials which clashes with this
preconceived idea or prejudice, the chances are that it would be met
with doubt, with denial, not a clear-cut, intelligent, well- balanced
doubt, but a doubt that springs out of the unwillingness that a man
feels to reconstruct his theory.

Let me give you an illustration of what I mean, and this away off in
another department of life from our own, so that it will not clash with
any of your particular prejudices. Sir Isaac Newton won a great and
world-wide renown, and magnificently deserved, by his grand discovery
of the law of gravity. You will see, then, how natural it was for
people to pay deference to his opinion, to be prejudiced in favor of
his conclusions. It was perfectly natural and, within certain limits,
perfectly right. Sir Isaac Newton not only propounded this law of
gravity, but he propounded a theory of light which the world has since
discovered to be wrong. But it was universally accepted because it was
his. It became the accepted scientific theory of the time. By and by a
man, unknown up to that time, by the name of Young, studied Newton's
theory, and became convinced that it was wrong; and he propounded
another theory, the one which to- day is universally accepted through
the civilized world. But it was years before it could gain anything
like adequate or fair consideration, because the preconception in favor
of Newton's theory stood in the way of any adequate consideration of
the one which was subsequently universally adopted.

So you will find scientific men, I know any quantity of them, grand in
their fields, doing fine work, who are not willing to consider anything
which would compel a reconstruction of their theories and ideas. This
is true not only in the scientific field, but it is true everywhere: it
is true in politics. How many men can you get fairly to consider the
political position of his opponent? He not only doubts the rightness
and the sense of it, but he is ready to deny it. How many people can
you get fairly to weigh the position of one who occupies a religious
home different from their own? And these religious prejudices, being
bound up with the tenderest and noblest sentiments, feelings, and
traditions of the human heart, become the strongest of all, and so are
in more danger of standing in the way of human progress than anything
else in all the world.

People identify their theories of religion with religion itself, with
the honor of God, with the worship and the love of God, and feel that
somehow it is impious for them to consider the question whether their
intellectual theories are correct or not; and so the world stands by
the ideas of the past, and opposes anything like finer and nobler ideas
that offer themselves for consideration. And not only in the religious
field; but these religious prejudices stand in the way of accepting
truths outside the sphere of religion. For example, when Darwin
published his book, "The Origin of Species," the greatest opposition it
met with was from the religious world. Why? Had they considered
Darwin's arguments to find out whether they were true? Nothing of the
kind. But they flew to the sudden conclusion that somehow or other the
religion of the world was in danger, if Darwinism should prove to be
true. And it is very curious to note I wonder how long the world will
keep on repeating that serio-comic blunder from the very beginning it
has been the same; almost every single step that the world proposes to
take in advance is opposed by the constituted religious authorities of
the time because they assume at the outset that the theories which they
have been holding are divinely authorized and infallible, and that it
is not only untrue, this other statement, but that it is impious as

The doubt, then, that springs from preconceived ideas is not only
unjustifiable, but may be dangerous and wrong.

Then there is another kind of doubt against which you should beware.
There are certain doubts that, if accepted and acted on, stand in the
way of the creation of the most magnificent facts in the world. Take as
an illustration of what I mean: when Napoleon, a young man in Paris,
was asked to take command of the guard of the city, suppose he had
doubted, questioned, distrusted, his own ability; suppose he had been
timid and afraid, the history of the world would have been changed by
that one doubt. Take another illustration. At the opening of our war or
in the months just preceding the beginning of active hostilities the
man then occupying the presidential chair had no faith, no faith in
himself, no faith in the perpetuity of our institutions, no faith in
the people; and so he sat doubting, while everything crumbled in pieces
around him. And then appeared a man in whom the people had little faith
at first, and who had no great faith perhaps in his own ability; but he
had infinite faith in God, faith in right, faith in the people, faith
in the possibilities of freedom trusted in the hands of the people. And
this faith created a new nation.

If there had been doubt in the heart of Abraham Lincoln, again the
history of the world would have been &hanged. He believed that "Right
is right, since God is God, And right the day must win: To doubt would
be disloyalty, To falter would be sin."

You see, then, here is another field where you had better be wary of
doubt. Do not doubt yourself, do not doubt the possibilities of noble
action, noble character, of achievement. We say of a young man entering
life, brimful of enthusiasm, that all this will be toned down by and
by; and we speak of it as though the enthusiasm itself somehow was a
fault or a folly. And yet it is just this enthusiasm of the young men
that moves and lifts the world. It is this faith in themselves and in
the possibility of great things, it is this faith that lies at the
heart of every invention, of every great discovery, of every
magnificent achievement. Read the history of invention. The world is
full of stories of men who got a new idea. They were laughed at, they
were told it was impracticable; and, if they had been laughed out of
it, it would have been impracticable. It was their faith in the
possibility of some great new thing, their faith in the resources of
the universe, their faith in themselves as able to discover some new
truth and make it applicable to the needs of the world, it was this
faith which has been at the root of the grandest things that have ever
been done.

It is this which was in the heart of Columbus as he sailed out towards
the West. It is this which was in the heart of Magellan as he studied
the shadow of the earth across the face of the moon, and believed in
the story that shadow told him against the constituted authorities of
the world.

But now let us turn sharply, and find out where doubt does come in, and
where it is as honorable, as noble, as necessary as faith.

People misuse this word "faith." Doubt applies to all questions of fact
that may be investigated, to all questions of history, to all questions
open to the exercise of the critical faculty. For example, if I am told
that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, and I say I accept that statement on
faith, I am abusing the dictionary. I have no business to accept it on
faith. Faith has nothing whatever to do with it. It is a pure matter of
scholarship. It is a matter of study, of investigation, a matter of
clear and hard intelligence and nothing more.

Suppose I am told that the Catholic Church is infallible, and I am
asked to accept it as an article of faith. Here, again, the
introduction of the word "faith" into a domain like that is an
impertinence. Faith has nothing whatever to do with it. That is a
question of fact. We can read history for the last eighteen hundred
years. We can find out what the Catholic Church has said and what the
Catholic Church has done, as to whether it has proved itself absolutely
infallible or not. It is a matter of study and decision intellectually;
and it is my duty to doubt that which does not bring authentic
credentials in a field like this.

Take the question of the authorship of the Gospel of John. Was it
written by the apostle John, who lay in the bosom of Jesus, and was
called the beloved disciple? Have I any business to say I have faith
that it was written by him, and let it rest there? Faith has nothing to
do with it. We can trace the history of that book, find out when first
it was referred to, follow it back as far as possible, find out whether
it was in existence before the apostle John had died or not. It is a
pure matter of criticism, a matter of study; and I have no business to
accept it as a matter of faith, because, if I do, I am in danger not
only of deceiving myself, but of misleading the world. And truth, we
cannot say it too often or too emphatically, truth is the only thing
that is holy in investigations of this kind. Men's beliefs and
mistakes, old, venerable, reverenced though they may have been by
thousands and for hundreds of years, are no less unworthy longer to
delude the minds of men. Truth is divine, truth is the one object of
our search.

Now let us come to consider for a moment the nature of faith. I said a
little while ago that the word is very frequently misused. Nine times
out of ten, when I hear people using the word "faith" and I see the
connection in which they use it, I discover they do not know the
meaning of the word. That which has favor generally under the name of
faith is simple credulity. It is closing the eyes and accepting
something on somebody's authority without any investigation. That,
remember, is not faith.

Let us see now if I can give you a clear idea of what faith really is;
and now I have the Bible and I am glad to say it  behind me. This
magnificent chapter,* a portion of which I read as our lesson this
morning, gives precisely the same idea of faith as that which I am
going to outline. What is faith? Faith is a purely rational faculty. It
is not irrational, but it is perfectly understandable. Suppose there is
a man suddenly accused of a crime, and I never saw him before, I do not
even know his name; but I go into court when he is brought up for
trial, and I say that I have faith in that man, and I do not believe
that he committed the crime. Do you not see that I am talking nonsense?
I have no business to have faith in him, there is no ground for faith,
it is an entire misuse of the word. But now take another case. Here is
a man that I have known for twenty years. I have seen him in business.
I have seen him in his home, among his neighbors and friends, and in
the street. I have met him in all sorts of relations. I have talked
with him, I have tested him. I have been intimate with him. He is
suddenly accused of crime, and is brought into court. I appear, and say
I have faith in that man, I do not believe that he committed the crime.
I do not know that he did not commit it; but I have grounds here for
faith. In the light of his past life, of his experience, of his
temptations, of his opportunities to go wrong, and of his having gone
right, in the light of all this past experience of years, I have faith
in this man; and I say it, and I am talking reason and sense. In the
other case I am talking folly.

Faith, you see, is a rational faculty. Let me give you another
illustration. Suppose I am driving along through the country some
morning when there is a very thick fog hanging over the landscape. The
fog is so thick that I can see no more than ten or fifteen feet ahead
of me; but I discover that I am near the bank of a river, and I come to
the entrance to a bridge. I can see enough to know that here is an
abutment of a bridge and an arch springing out into the fog. I drive on
to that bridge with simple confidence. I do not know that there is any
other end to the bridge. I have never seen it before. I have seen other
bridges, however; and I know that, generally, bridges not only begin
somewhere, but end somewhere. So, though I do not know for certain that
the bridge ends on the other side of the river, for aught I know there
may be a break in it, the bridge may not be completed, something may
have happened to it, I confidently drive on; and in ninety-nine times
out of a hundred my faith is justified by the result. This is a pure
act of faith, but faith, do you not see, based in reality, springing
out of experience, and so a purely rational act of the mind.

Let me give you one illustration of the scientific use of faith, very
striking, beautiful, as it seems to me. The only time Mr. Huxley was in
this country, I happened to be in New York, and heard him give the
opening one of a brief course of three lectures in Chickering Hall. He
was very much interested then in the ancestry of the horse. Most of you
are probably aware of the fact that they have traced its ancestry to a
little creature having five toes, like ordinary animals. At the time
that Mr. Huxley was here, one link in this chain was missing; that is,
one of the forms in the line of the horse's ancestors had not been

But here, for example, was the first one and the second one, we say,
and the third one was missing, and here was the fourth one, and here
was the horse itself. Now, in the light of the presumable uniformity of
nature, Mr. Huxley went on to describe this missing animal. He said, if
the remains of this creature are ever found, they will be so and so;
and he went into an accurate detailed explanation as to what sort of
creature it would be. He had not been at his home in England a year
before Professor Marsh, of Yale College, discovered this missing link
in Colorado, and it answered precisely to the description which
Professor Huxley had beforehand given of it.

Now here is a case of scientific prophecy, scientific faith, a faith
based on previous scientific observations, based on the experienced
uniformity of nature. Mr. Huxley did not know, he could not have known;
but he believed. He believed in the universe, he believed in the sanity
of the universe, he believed in the uniformity, the order, the beauty
of the universe; and the result justified his faith.

Faith, then, is a purely rational faculty. It has nothing to do with
the past, but is always the evidence of things hoped for, the substance
of something not yet seen. It is always looking along the lines of
possible experience for something as possibly or probably to be.

Now at the end I wish to suggest a few things that are in the rightful
province and field of faith, fields where we can fearlessly exercise
this grand faculty, where indeed we must exercise it if we are to
achieve the highest and finest results in the world.

And, in the first place, quoting the words of the old writer, let me
say, "Have faith in God." I do not mean by this, accept certain
intellectual statements or propositions about him, though they may be
mine, and though I may thoroughly accept and believe them.

You may doubt the representation of God that is made in any one of the
theologies of the world, as to whether the statements made about him
are accurate. It is not this intellectual belief that I am talking
about at this minute. Have faith in God! You may not even use the name.
I am no such stickler for phrases as to condemn a man who cannot say
"God." I have known a good many men, who have hesitated to pronounce
the name, who were infinitely more divine in their life and character
than those who are glibly uttering it every hour of their lives. It is
not this I mean. It is something deeper, higher, grander than that. As
you look along the lines of history from the far-off time when we begin
to trace it until to-day, and see the magnificent march of advance, an
orderly universe lightening and glorifying as it advances, becoming
ever finer and higher and better; as you observe the order and truth
and beauty and good dominant, and ever coming to be more and more
dominant as the years advance, believe in this and trust this, trust to
all possibilities of something finer and grander by way of outcome in
the future. Have faith in God!

And, then, have faith in truth. I meet only a few people that seem to
me to have utter faith in truth, who really believe that it is safe to
tell the truth, always tell it. I talk with a great many people I wish
to mention this as an illustration of what I mean who speak in the
greatest commendation of the Roman Catholic Church. They say, We do not
know what we should do in this country if we had not the Roman Catholic
Church to keep a certain section of the people down, to keep them in
order. I wonder if people ever realize just what this means. It means a
lack of faith in God and faith in truth and faith in humanity, all
three. If it is not safe to tell the truth, then I am not responsible
for it. I propose to say it, although people tell me that there is
danger of the explosion of the universe on account of it. If there is,
I am not responsible for making it true. Oh, I get so tired of this
kind of timidity, this playing hide-and-seek with people! I have had a
minister tell me that he wished he was free to tell the truth in his
pulpit, as I am; and then I have had people in his congregation tell me
afterwards that they wished their minister would preach the truth
plainly, as I did. Simply playing hide-and-seek with each other!

You remember the story of the man in Italy, who asked the priest if he
really believed the religion of the country; and the priest said, "Oh,
no! we have to go slowly on account of the people; they believe it."
And when the people were asked if they believed it, they said, "Oh, no,
we are not such fools; but the priests believe it." And so people play
hide-and-seek with each other, not daring to tell the magnificent,
clear truth of things.

Have faith in the truth. It is feared that it is not quite safe to tell
people the truth, because they are not quite ready for it; and I have
had no end of conversations during the religious discussion of the last
two or three weeks right in this line. It seems to me very much like
saying that, because a man has been shut up in a dark prison for a long
time, you had better keep him there, because it would be such a shock
to him suddenly to face the light. Undoubtedly, it would be a shock.
Undoubtedly, it would trouble and stagger people for a little while to
be told the simple truth; but how is the world ever to get ahead, if
you keep on, as a matter of policy, lying to it for ages? How is it
ever going to find the truth? Shall I lie for the glory of God, the
supposed honor of God? I will take no such responsibility.

Let us have faith in the truth, then. Tell it fearlessly, simply,
utterly; and, if God is not able to take care of his own world, why,
the sooner it ends and we get into a stage of existence where it is
safe to tell the truth, the better.

Have faith in men. Have faith in the people. This it is that we trust
to in all our hopes of progress for the future. This it is which
distinguished Lincoln among our statesmen. You remember that grand
saying of his, true and humorous, so that it sticks in our memory, and
we can never forget it, "You can fool all the people a part of the
time; you can fool a part of the people all the time; but you can't
fool all the people all of the time." Here is the basis on which we
rest our republic. Our republic is fallen unless the people are really
to be trusted.

Have faith, then, in the people, faith in their healthy instincts,
faith in their general sanity, faith in their desire for the right and
the true; and this is a genuine exercise of faith, for the past history
of the world justifies it.

And, then, have faith in yourself as a child of God. I do not mean
conceit now. I do not mean an overestimate of your ability, but belief
that you can do great, grand, noble things, belief that you can become
something great, noble, grand; belief in the possibility in this life
or in some other life of unfolding all that is highest, truest,
sweetest, in manhood and womanhood. It is this faith that is able to
create the fact and make that which it trusts in.

Let us then believe in God, believe in truth, believe in humanity,
believe in ourselves; and then we may work towards the coming of that
far, grand time when the dreams of the world shall be realized and its
faith shall become reality.


MY subject this morning is an attempted answer to the question, "Is
Life a Probation ended by Death?" It will broaden itself naturally, if
we cannot accept that theory of it, into the further question, What is
the main end and purpose of our life? I take my text from the fifth
chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, the fifteenth and the
sixteenth verses. I will read them as they appear in the Old Version:
"See, then, that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time."

The idea of the writer is that, as we pass through the world, we should
do it with our eyes kept intelligently open, looking about us on every
hand, trying to comprehend the situation, to see what things are, and
what we ought to do to play our part in the midst of them. Not
heedlessly, not unwisely, he says, perhaps hardly the harsh word
"fools," but as wise, as persons intelligently ready to take advantage
of the situation and make the most of the condition in which one finds
himself; redeeming the time, or, as the Revised Version has it, "buying
up the opportunity "; being ready, that is, to pay whatever price is
necessary in order to make the most of the situation.

This, then, is the spirit according to our text in which we should look
over the problem of life; and this is the method by which we should
attempt to guide its practical affairs.

That which people regard as the matter of most importance, any
particular theory or plan of life which they may hold to be for them
the most desirable, this, of course, is that to which they will direct
their chief attention, on which they will lavish their thought, on
which they will pour out their care, to which they will consecrate
their energies. If now the theory or plan of life be false, if it be
inadequate, if one is looking in the wrong direction for the success
that he desires, or if he expects to achieve the great end and object
of living by means which are not real, which do not match the actual
facts of the world and of human life, then of course his effort is so
far thrown away. He wastes energies, power, time, enthusiasm on wrong
ends which might be used to the attainment of things which are real and
fine and high.

Is it not then of the utmost importance that our conception of life,
what it is for, what we ought to attempt to reach, and how we should
make this attempt, should be an accurate one? Any young man starting
out in life, if he sets up for himself a goal which is unworthy, which
does not match his faculties and powers, and if he proposes to reach it
by means which are not adequate to the attainment of his desires, do
you not see how he wrecks and wastes his life? His opportunity is gone;
and by and by he wakes up to find that the years have been dissipated,
and he has not attained any worthy or noble end.

If this be true of a young man as he looks forward to a scheme or plan
of life here during these few short years, how much more is a similar
thing true, when we are contemplating not merely the question of a
business, or professional or social failure and success, but are
looking at the grander and more inclusive theme of the beginning and
aim and outcome of life itself We have inherited from the past the idea
that this life here, under the blue sky for a few years, as we live it,
is a probation, that we are put here on trial, and that death ends it,
and that, when we have passed that line, gone over from that which is
visible here into the invisible, we are either "lost" or "saved," and
things are definitely fixed forever.

I am perfectly well aware that the most of us who are here have given
up this idea, though there may remain fragments and suggestions of it
in our minds still haunting the chambers of the brain, not yet
outgrown, not yet cleared away. But with most people in the modern
world, if they are sincere, if they are consistent, the one great
question with them is whether they are to be saved or lost in another
life. And, if this be the true theory of things, then not only ought
men to bend all their thought, their energies, devote their
enthusiasms, consecrate their time and money to it as much as they do,
but a thousand times more.

We look, perhaps, with a sort of amused curiosity, some of us, from
what we regard as our superior point of view, at a man like Mr. Moody;
and yet Mr. Moody is one man out of a million for his consistency and
consecration to the thought which underlies all the Protestant churches
of the modern world, with the exception of a few here and there. Mr.
Moody believes that this life is a probation ended by death. There are
thousands on thousand on thousands of men who say they believe it, who
still cast in all their influence with churches that are based on it,
and who yet devote their energies mainly to making money, to attaining
social success, to pleasures of one kind or another, to political
ambitions, who live as though this great fate were not overhanging the
world, who meet their neighbors for pleasure or business, believing, if
they are sincere, that this neighbor is heedlessly walking on to the
brink of a gulf, and yet never speaking to him about it, never saying a
word to imply that they really believe it; and yet this fear hangs over
them, haunts their consciousness waking or sleeping; and, if you ask
them if they believe it, they will say they suppose they do. In hours
of danger, when disease threatens them or they are looking death in the
face, they are affrighted, and try to flee to the traditional refuge as
a place of safety.

The whole great Catholic Church teaches that nobody has the slightest
chance of being saved except by becoming a member of her great body of
believers and partaking of her sacramental means of grace.

This, I say then, is the great underlying belief of Christendom; and,
if it is true, the world ought to consecrate itself, head and brain and
soul, time, money, power, prayer, enthusiasm, everything, to delivering
men from the imminent danger. If it is not true, then it ought to be
brushed completely one side, put out of consciousness, of thought, of
fear. The world ought to be dispossessed of its haunting presence. Why?
So that we may fix our attention on the true end and aim of life, and
find out what it means to live, how we ought to live, and why and what
for, what ought to be the goal of our human endeavor.

So long, then, as this belief does lie at the foundation of all the
great churches of Christendom, so long as it is employed in all the
criticisms of us who do not any longer accept it, it seems to me that
it is worth our while to reconsider the question for a little while, so
that we may clear our minds and thoughts, and may fix our attention
definitely and earnestly on that which ought to be the goal of all our
endeavor, our enthusiasm and our hope.

Let us, then, look for just a few moments at this theory, and see what
it means and implies.

It is said that our first father was put on probation, was called upon
to decide, not for himself only, but for all his descendants, as to
what the future history of the inhabitants of this planet should be.
Two famous books were published only a few years ago by Dr. Edward
Beecher, the eldest son in that famous family. These were "The Conflict
of Ages" and "The Concord of Ages." Dr. Beecher argued that anything
like a fair probation on the part of Adam was an impossibility. This in
the face of the prevailing beliefs of the time when the books were
written. He said that, if a man were to choose on such a momentous
question as this, choose adequately, choose fairly, he must be so
circumstanced and endowed that he could comprehend the entire result of
his choice. He must be able to look down the ages imaginatively, and
see on one hand all the line of sin and misery, of death, finite and
eternal, which should issue from his choosing in one direction. He must
be able to comprehend all the good, the music, the joy, the beauty, the
glory, the infinite perfectibility, in this world and the next, which
should follow his choice in the other direction. And he said that Adam
had no such opportunity as that, and was not endowed with the ability
or the experience to make any such momentous choice; in other words,
that the fundamental basis of the whole theological scheme of the world
was unjust and unfair.

This was Dr. Beecher's contention. How did he get over the difficulty?
He believed in the pre-existence of human souls, and that in some other
life before Adam there must have been an intelligent and fair choice,
and that we here and now are only fighting out one stage of the results
of that far-off decision. But, if you will stop to think of it a
moment, you will see that this puts the difficulty only a little
further back: it does not solve it. How does this first person, if it
is so, countless millions of ages ago, happen to be endowed with
intelligence and experience and ability enough to make such a momentous

And now just consider a moment. Is it conceivable that a sane person
should intelligently choose evil, unless he had some inherited bias or
tendency in that direction? For what does the choice of evil mean? It
means sorrow, it means pain, it means death, it means everything
horrible, everything undesirable, and means that a person deliberately
and intelligently pits himself against an infinite and almighty power
in what he knows must be an eternally losing battle. Can you conceive
of a sane person making such a choice as that?

If one of these first ancestors in the Garden of Eden, or no matter how
far back, had a right to choose for himself, I deny his right to choose
for me. What right had he to choose for you? What right had he to
determine that you should be born with a perverted and corrupt nature,
so that you would be certain to choose evil instead of good, helpless
in the hands of a fate like this?

Now you may look at this theory any way you please, place this
probationary choice at the beginning of human history on this planet,
or place it just as far back as you will, it is inconceivable, it is
unfair, it is unjust, it is insane, it is everything that is foolish
and wrong. And yet, note clearly one thing. So long as the world
believes this, so long as the one end and aim of human life, as held up
to people, is to be saved, think of the waste, think of the time, the
anxiety, the enthusiasms, the prayers, the consecrations; think of the
wealth, think of the intellectual faculties, think of the moral
devotion, this whole power of the world expended on a false issue,
turned into wrong channels!

Is this a dead question? Is there no reason for us to consider it here
in this latter part of the nineteenth century? Why, nine-tenths of
Christendom to-day is spending its time in trying to propitiate a God
who is not angry and trying to "save" souls that are not "lost."
Expending its energies along mistaken channels towards issues that are
entirely imaginary! Think, for example, if during the last two thousand
years all the time and the money, all the intelligence, all the
consecration, could have been spent on those things that would have
really helped men to find out the meaning of life, and to illustrate
that meaning in earnest living; suppose the money that has been spent
on the cathedrals, on the monasteries, spent in supporting hordes and
hordes of priests, spent in all the endeavor to save men in a future
life, if all this had been used in educating men and training them into
a comprehension of what kind of beings they really are, what kind of a
world this is in which they have found themselves, spent in training
them into mastery of themselves, spent in teaching them how to
understand and control the forces of nature in order to serve and
develop the higher life, think what a civilization might have been
developed here on this poor old planet by this time! How much of the
disease, how much of the corruption, how much of the unkindness, how
much of the cruelty, how much of all that still remains in us of the
animal, might have been outgrown, sloughed off, put underneath our

Is it not, then, a vital question, so long as so many thousands, so
many millions of people are still consecrating their time, their money,
their energy, in the attempt to do that which does not need to be done?

Let us turn, now, and for a little while face another theory of human
life; try to find out, or to suggest, what we are here on this planet
for, what may be accomplished, how much of grand and true may be
wrought out as the result of our attempt.

The philosopher Kant has somewhere said that there are three things
needed to the success of a human life, "something to do, some one to
love, something to hope for." The old Catechism says that the chief end
of man is "to glorify God and enjoy him forever." I indorse the words
of Kant; I agree most heartily and thoroughly with the Catechism.
Philip James Bailey, the author of that once famous poem "Festus," has

"Life's but a means unto an end; that end, Beginning, mean, and end to
all things, God."

This also I indorse. I believe that life is something inner, something
deeper than that which we ordinarily think of as constituting the
matters of chief concern regarding it. Let me quote two or three lines
again from Bailey's "Festus," familiar to you because so fine.

We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; In feelings, not
in figures on a dial.

We should count time by heart-throbs. "He most lives Who thinks most,
feels the noblest, acts the best."

What is human life, then? What is it for? The object of life is living.
But what does living mean? Most people cannot answer that question,
because they have never more than half lived, and consequently have
never appreciated its depth and significance. As I have had occasion
over and over and over again, to say to business men, and I like to say
it on every opportunity, it seems to me, as I look over the face of
society, that most people live only in some little fragmentary way,
some corner of their being.

Most men spend their lives in the attempt to accumulate the means to
live, and forget to begin to live at all. Sometimes, as you are riding
through the country on a winter evening, you come to a silent farm-
house, and you see one window lighted; and, if you should go and knock
at the door, you would probably find out that the light is shining from
the kitchen, where the family is gathered in the evening, perhaps as a
matter of economy to save fire, perhaps to save trouble. And, if you
examine the lives of these people, you would find that they live
chiefly in the kitchen. They may have a sitting-room where they spend a
few leisure hours; perhaps they have the beginning of a library; but
they do not spend much time in that. They have little opportunity for
the life of the parlor, representing the expansive, social human life
which comes into contact with other lives. And so you will find that
this, which is a figure, represents that which is true of most of us.
We have only begun to live; and we live in the lower ranges of our
nature, or perhaps we have touched life on a higher level in some
tentative sort of way. But the most of us are only partly alive, have
only developed a little of what is possible in us, have only come in
contact with some fragments of this wonderful universe that is all
around us on every hand.

What, then, is the meaning of life? What shall we try to do? What are
we here for? I do not attempt to go into the profound explanation of
mysteries too deep for me to answer, as to what must have been in the
mind of God when he planned and created this universe of which we are a
part. My task is a humbler one. Let us see if I can help you comprehend
a little part of it. Take an illustration.

An immensely wealthy man suddenly dies, leaving his estates to a little
boy seven or eight years of age. He has wide stretches of land, hill
and valley, river, woods, all that is beautiful as making up a
landscape. The house represents the accumulated resources of the
experiences and the intelligence of a lifetime. There are not only
beautiful drawing-rooms, telling of taste, but there is a library in
which is all that the world has been able to accumulate of learning, of
literature in every department. Here is another room containing
instruments of music and the works of the great composers. There is an
art gallery, containing some of the finest masterpieces in the way of
painting and sculpture; and then there is a room devoted to scientific
experiments,-- chemistry, the microscope, the telescope. Here are means
and opportunity for finding out what the world has so far developed.

Now has this young boy come into possession of these things? He has
inherited them, he is his father's heir. We say they belong to him; but
do they belong to him? In what sense and to what extent do they belong
to him? They belong to him just in so far and just as fast as he
develops himself into capacity of comprehension and enjoyment, no
faster, no farther. As he enters upon his inheritance then he is put
under tutors. Some man comes to teach him the languages which he does
not comprehend; and by and by that part of the library which is
composed of books written in other speech than his own begins to belong
to him. It belongs to the tutor a good deal more than it does to the
child, until the child has learned the lessons of the tutor. And so
another teacher comes to instruct him in art; and the masterpieces of
art belong to the person of taste, of culture, with appreciation, to
the teacher again, to any one who knows and who feels, instead of to
the boy, who merely has possession of the title-deeds.

Do you see the suggestion of the picture? Man wakes up here on this
planet what sort of a being? Not at first "a little lower than God," as
the old Psalmist says of him, but only a little higher than the
animals, ignorant of himself, ignorant of his surroundings, weak,
undeveloped in every faculty and power. He begins, we say, to live; and
what does that mean? He begins to explore this wonderful world, which
is his heritage; and do you not see that along with this exploration
there goes of necessity a process of self- development? I would pit
against that statement of Kant's a phrase something like this. The
object of life is threefold: it is to become all possible, it is to
serve all possible, it is to enjoy all possible. But I cannot outline
completely either one of these suggestions; for they blend, they
intermingle, as you will see in a moment. They are like different notes
in a piece of music that are so blended together that they constitute
one tune, while separate they are only fragments, or discords.

The first thing, then, if a man wishes really to live, is that he
should develop himself, unfold the faculties and powers which lie
dormant in him. He is a child of God. He is capable of comprehending
within his limit that which is divine. He is capable of being touched,
played on, by all the phases and forces of the universe surrounding
him. He is an instrument of ten thousand strings; and marvellous may be
the music of his life.

First, he should be as complete an animal as possible. Then he should
develop himself as a being capable of thinking, of knowing. How many
men are there that take possession of the intellectual realm that lies
around them on every hand? Just think. Let me hint suggestions,
illustrations, in one or two directions. A man goes out for a walk in
the park, or, better yet, into the country. The park is too artificial,
perhaps, to carry just the meaning that I have in mind. Let it be a
walk in the country, then. How much do the grasses and the flowers have
to say to him?

I have a friend in Washington, a famous botanist, a botanist not only
of all things that live and grow to-day, but who has pushed his
researches back and down into the prehistoric ages so as to understand
and explain the records, the prints, the leaves and twigs, the forms of
every kind that are on the rocks and left to tell the story of a life
that has passed away many thousands on thousands of years ago. How much
of all this marvellous realm, or even a suggestion of it, is revealed
to the ordinary man as he walks through the field?

Look in the direction of geology a moment. Here is a river course; here
is the shape of a hill top; do they say anything to the ordinary man
who walks with his head down, and occupied with some problem of Wall
Street, perhaps? Here are marvels of creative power. God shaped the
slope of that hill as really as though he smoothed it down with his
hand. And he who understands the methods of world building, of
landscape-sculpture, may stand in wonder and awe and reverence before
the forces that have been at work for millions of years, and are at
work the same to-day. How many men have even a conception of the
wonders of the microscopic world? To how many men do the star have
anything to say at night? A man looks at a bowlder, unlike any other
rock there is to be found anywhere in the neighborhood, and perhaps he
does not even ask a question about it; while a man who has made a
careful study of these things sees spring up before him in his
imagination that long ice age before man lived on the planet, when this
bowlder was swept from some far-off place by the glacial power,
deposited where it is, scraped on its surface by the passing of the
ice, as if God himself had left his sign-manual here, his autograph,
that he, in after- ages who might make himself capable of reading,
might understand.

These merely as fragmentary, brief hints of what it is to live in the
intellectual realm.

Go up to that realm where the intellect is blended with the emotions,
the glamour of pictures, poetry, sculpture, music, beauty of color and
form and sound. What a world this is, infinite resources of an infinite
universe, appealing to, and, if a man responds, calling out the
faculties and powers of his own nature that are capable of dealing with
these things, so that a man may feel that he is thinking over the
thoughts of God, tracing his footsteps, listening to the marvellous
music of his words! This is one of the results of self-development, if
a man is unfolding, developing himself, becoming as much as possible.

Now let us turn sharply to one of these other phases which I spoke of,
of doing what we can to help the world. And now note, this universe is
so cunningly contrived that a man cannot possibly be successful as a
selfish man. It is one of the most conclusive proofs, it seems to me,
not only of the divine goodness, but of the moral meaning and scope of
the world. Selfishness is not wicked only, it is the most outrageous
folly on the face of the earth. If a man develop himself, if he
develops that which is finest in him, that which is best and sweetest
and truest, he develops not only his power to think, but his capacity
to love, his capacity to enjoy, and to bestow enjoyment; and he cannot
possibly succeed in the long run, and in the best ways, on selfish

People used to have a notion that he who grasped and retained
everything he could get hold of was the fortunate, the successful man.
People had an idea in politics, for example, that that nation was
happiest which humbled other nations; and, if it was superior to all
the rest, by as much as they were poor and devastated, this nation was
fortunate. We know now that a nation finds its prosperity in that of
other nations, in its ability to exchange, to trade, to carry on all
the grand avocations of life with them. If a man writes a book, he
wants the world intelligent enough to understand and appreciate it. If
a man paints a picture, he wants artistic ability on the part of the
public, so that they will appreciate and buy his pictures. If a man
carves a statue, he wants the people to appreciate glory of form enough
to see how great and true his work is, and reward him for his endeavor.
In other words, no man would write a book, and go off with it alone by
himself. No man would paint a picture, and hide it. No man would carve
a statue, and conceal it from his fellows.

We have learned, and are learning constantly in every direction, that
our happiness is involved in the happiness of other people. The world
is haunted to-day and I thank God that it is with the thought of the
unhappiness, the misery, of men. What does it mean? It means that men
have developed so on their sympathetic side that they cannot be happy
themselves while the world is unhappy. So you see that this self-
development, which I placed as the chief thing at the outset in the
meaning of life, carries with it the necessity on the part of those who
are developed, of doing everything they can to develop and lift up
everybody else; so that making the most of yourself means making the
most of everybody else.

And now, if I turn for a moment to that other point, merely to
distinguish it by itself, although I have been dealing with it all the
while, the end and aim of life once more is to be happy. I am perfectly
well aware that the old Puritan theology has taught otherwise, so far
as this life is concerned. I was brought up with the feeling that, if I
wanted to do anything, the chances were it was wrong, that it was a
good deal more likely to be in the way of virtue if it was something
that was disagreeable to me. And yet, curiously enough, this old
Puritan theology invented and held up before men, as a lure to lead
them to virtue, the most tremendous bribe that ever entered into the
imaginations of men, eternal felicity on the one hand, and eternal woe
on the other. So that it conceded the very thing that it seemed to
deny, that men naturally and necessarily sought happiness, and could
not possibly do otherwise.

And so we learn to live, to think, to serve others. We are beginning to
learn also that this desire for happiness is natural, is necessary, is
right. If a man is not happy, you may be sure there is something wrong.
If there is pain in the body, it means disease, difficulty,
obstruction, something out of the way. It means that God's laws are not
perfectly kept. If there is pain up in the mental realm, pain in the
moral realm, pain in the spiritual realm, it means always something
wrong. Man ought to be happy. He ought to seek happiness as the great
end and outcome of human life.

And we are learning, as the natural and necessary result of our
experiences in knowing and in serving, that just in so far as we know
the laws of God, just in so far as we obey the laws of God, just in so
far as we help others to know and obey, just in so far there comes into
our lives the blessedness of the blessed God.

The end of life, then, the object of life here on earth, is to develop
ourselves to the utmost. It is to learn to know, take possession of our
inheritance, this earth, control all its forces for the service of
civilization. It is to rejoice in all this self-development, in all
this help, in all this knowledge, in all this power. It is to feel
ourselves thrilling with the consciousness that we are sons of God, and
are co-operating with him in bringing about the grand result of the
ages, the perfection of man.

And then what? Death? This is only one stage of our career. We are here
at school; we learn our lessons or we do not; we attain the ends we
seek after or we only partly attain them or do not attain them at all;
and then we go on. Does that mean that it ends there? I do not believe
it. I believe that it simply means that we go out into a larger
opportunity, from the planet to the system, to the galaxy, to the
universe, wider knowledge answering to more magnificent resources in
the infinite universe. We, with undeveloped powers that may increase
and advance forever, and a universe so complete, so exhaustless, that
it may match and lure and lead and rejoice us forever; we being trained
as God's children in God's likeness and helping others to attain the
same magnificent ends, this I believe to be the significance, the
meaning, the purpose, of life.

Are there any here this morning who think or fear that the taking away
of the old idea concerning the results of Lying may remove moral
motive, may undermine character, nay make people less careful to do
right? It seems to me hat, if people understand the significance of
this universe, and their relation to it, they will find that all the
carelessness of motive, the ease of salvation, as they call it, is with
the old idea. Our theory is a more strenuous and insistent one. Children
are learning as they become wiser that evil is not only evil, but it is
folly. A man wishes life, health, happiness, prosperity, all good. He
learns, as he goes on, that the universe is in favor of the keeping of
its own laws; and that, f he flings himself against the forces of the
universe, he is only broken for his pains. If you wish to be healthful,
sappy, strong, wish to attain any desirable thing, it is to be bound
not in defiance of the laws of the universe, but in loving and tender

And, then, if you only remember that in this universe and coder the
universal law of cause and effect you are building to-morrow out of
to-day, and next week and next year, and all he future, that every
thought, every word, every action, is  cemented together as a part of
this structure that you build, hat you can make your own future for
good or ill, and that you cannot build it successfully except in
accordance with he eternal laws of things, then you find that here are
the most insistent and tremendous motives it is possible for the human
mind to conceive.

This life of ours, if we lead it nobly and truly, then, we shall find
to be a growth into the likeness of the Divine, a growth into an
increasing opportunity to share the work of our Father in building and
helping men, and that, as the result of this, joy, infinite joy, is to
fill our hearts until we share the very blessedness of our Father.

God made our lives to be a song Sweet as the music of the spheres, That
still their harmonies prolong For him who rightly hears. The heavens
and the earth do play Upon us, if we be in tune: Winter shouts hoarse
his roundelay, And tender sweet pipes June. But oftentimes the songs
are pain, And discord mars our harmonies: Our strings are snapped by
selfish strain, And harsh hands break our keys. But God meant music;
and we may, If we will keep our lives in tune, Hear the whole year sing
roundelay, December answering June. God ever at his keyboard plays,
Harmonics, right; and discords, wrong: "He that hath ears," and who
obeys, May hear the mystic song.


For the sake of clearness, and in order that you may definitely
comprehend the doctrine of sin and atonement which I believe to be the
true one, I need in the first place to outline as a background that
which lies at the foundation of all the popular theologies of
Christendom. I am perfectly well aware that at least a part of the
time, while I am doing this, I shall be traversing ground with which
you are already familiar. Some of it, however, I think may be somewhat
strange to you.

The tradition begins with the story of a war in heaven. In some way
rebellion began among the angels; and he who had been Lucifer, the
light-bearer, prince among the glorious sons of God, took up arms of
rebellion against the Almighty. Naturally, he failed in this inevitably
losing battle, and was cast out into the abyss, with a third part of
all the angels, who had followed him. Then the tradition goes on: God
decided to create the world, that the sons of men born and trained here
might ultimately take the places that had been held by the angels who
had been cast out on account of their sin. But Satan, seeing this fair
and beautiful earth, this wondrous handiwork of God, determined, if
possible, to thwart and defeat the purposes of the Almighty. He
therefore invades this beautiful world. He finds Adam and Eve in their
condition of perfect felicity, innocent, but inexperienced; and they
fall a ready prey to his intention.

They then share his rebellion, accept him instead of God as king.
Henceforth they are followers of him in his age-long warfare against
light and truth, and, unless in some way saved, are to be sharers of
his eternal destiny, cast out into chains and darkness forever.

Now comes the necessity for noting for a moment the nature of sin on
this theory. You see it is not ignorance, it is not weakness merely, it
is not inherited passion only: it is conscious and purposeful rebellion
against God, putting yourself at enmity with his truth, his
righteousness, his love. In action it is some specific deed done
against God or against his truth or his right. As a state of mind, it
is a heart perverted, choosing always that which is evil, a heart at
enmity with God and with all that is good; and the theologians have
always been obliged, as a matter of consistency, to hold, no matter how
noble, how unselfish men might appear to be, that the natural man has
inherently, always, necessarily been evil. He carries about with him
the taint of original sin; that is, sin of constitution, ingrained,
inherited, that which is of the very fibre of his being. This is the
character of man as required by the old theological systems; and this
is how it happened to come about. Evil is not something natural, not
imperfection, not something undeveloped, not yet outgrown. Sin
originated outside of this world, invaded it, and worked its ruin and

Now comes the device that has been called the Atonement, by which it is
supposed that God is going to be able to save at least a part of this
rebellious humanity. There have been a good many different theories of
the atonement that have been held, eighteen or twenty varieties of the
doctrine, three or four of which I must outline, in order to make them
clear to your mind, that you may see what have been the devices by
which the theologians have supposed that they could find a way for the
deliverance of man from this condition of loss, and fit him to share
the felicity for which he was originally intended.

Of course, the main point in the whole scheme is that the Second Person
of the Trinity becomes incarnate, comes down here to this world, is
born, grows up, teaches, suffers and at last is put to an ignominious
death. This is the central idea of the doctrine of the atonement; or,
rather, the Christ is the central figure in that doctrine. But how is
it supposed to work out the atonement that is necessary, in order that
man may be saved? You will see that the world, according to the ideas I
have been delineating, is in a condition of rebellion. What men need is
to be persuaded that they are wrong, convinced of sin, in theological
language, and then made repentant, and in some way be forgiven for the
wrong which they have done.

Now it is supposed that God must invent some scheme by which to make it
possible for him to save these lost and fallen men. If you read the
parable of the Prodigal Son as Jesus has so tenderly, touchingly,
beautifully outlined it for us, you will see that there is no thought
or plan or necessity for either in that. The son left his home,
followed the impulses and passions of youth, had gone among those that
were degraded, had soiled his character, done despite to his father's
love, injured his own nature, degraded himself by his associations and
actions. But when at last he awakes, becomes conscious of his father's
love and righteousness and truth, and says, "I will arise, and go to my
father," there is no talk of God's not being ready to receive him, or
not being able to receive him, or needing to have something done before
he can receive him, no thought of anybody's suffering any more in order
that he may be forgiven. You see all these elements that are associated
with the popular doctrines of atonement are not once thought of, never
even alluded to. He simply arises, and goes to his father; and his
father is so anxious to help him that he goes to meet him before he
reaches the father's house, and gladly falls on his neck and kisses him
and folds him in his arms. It only needs that the son should recognize
the righteousness and goodness of his father, and should wish to go
back. That is the doctrine of Jesus as taught in this wonderfully sweet
and beautiful parable.

Now what are the theories of atonement as outlined in the popular
theology? For the first thousand years of Christian history one of the
strangest conceptions possessed the ecclesiastical mind that has ever
been dreamed of. It was held literally that through the sin of Adam the
human race had become the rightful subjects of Satan, that they
belonged to him. He was their king, their emperor, their ruler, and had
a right to them in this world and the next. And so some diplomatic
negotiations must be entered into with the Devil, in order to deliver a
certain part of these his subjects, and open the way for them to be
saved. So the Church Fathers taught that Satan recognized in Christ his
old adversary in heaven, and he entered into a bargain with God that,
if he could have Christ delivered over to him, in exchange for that he
would give up his right to so many of the souls of men as were to be
saved as the result of this compact. So the work of the atonement used
to be preached as being this sort of bargain entered into with Satan.

But note what quaint, naive ideas possessed the minds of people at that
time. Satan did not know that Jesus possessed a divine nature, and
that, consequently, he could not beholden of death; and so, when he
entered into this bargain, he was cheated, he found out to his dismay
that he had lost not only humanity, but Christ also, had been defrauded
of them both. This was the doctrine of the atonement that was preached
during the early centuries of the Christian Church, at least in certain
parts of Europe.

But later there came another doctrine, the belief that the sufferings
of the Christ were a substitute offered to God for what would have been
the sufferings of the lost. He was made sin for us, he who had known no
sin, as the New Testament phraseology has it. So that he, being
infinite, in a brief space of time during his little earthly career,
during his suspension on the cross and his descent into hell, was able
to suffer as much pain as all the lost would have suffered throughout
eternity. And this suffering of the Christ was supposed to be accepted
on the part of God as the substitute for that which he would have
exacted on the part of the souls of those that for his sake were to be

There is still another theory that I must mention briefly, that which
is called the governmental theory, that which I was taught during my
course of theological instruction. The idea was that God had a moral
government to maintain, not only on this earth, but throughout the
range of the universe among all his intelligent creatures, and, if he
permitted his laws to be broken without exacting an adequate penalty,
then all governmental authority would be overthrown. In other words,
men took their poor human legal devices, their political ideals, and
lifted them into the heavens, made them the models after which it was
supposed God was to govern his great, intelligent universe.

So they said that God would be willing to forgive, he would like to
forgive, he was loving and tender and kind, but it was not safe, safe
for the interests of his universal government, for him to forgive any
one until an adequate penalty had been paid in expiation of human sin.

You see, according to this theory, it does not apparently make much
difference who it is that suffers, whether it is the person who has
committed the sin or not; but somebody must pay an adequate penalty,
and Jesus volunteered to do this, to be the victim, and so to deliver
man from the righteous deserts which he had incurred as a transgressor
of the law of God.

Gradually, however, as the world became civilized, as wider and broader
thoughts manifested themselves in the human mind, as tenderer and truer
feelings took possession of the human heart, these theories receded
into the background; and there came to the front I remember the bitter
controversies over it in my younger days what was called the Moral
Theory of the Atonement. The originator and sponsor for this theory was
the famous Dr. Horace Bushnell, of Hartford. He taught that God did not
need the punishment of anybody to uphold the integrity of his moral
government. He taught that God was not angry with the race, and did not
care to exact a penalty before he was ready to forgive human sin. He
taught that the inner nature of God was love, and that in the Second
Person of the Trinity he came to earth, was born, grew up, taught,
suffered, died, as a manifestation to the world of his love, of his
goodness, of his readiness to forgive and help, and that the efficacy
of the atonement as thus wrought on the part of the Christ was in its
revelation to men of the love and saving power of righteousness.

This was the moral theory of the atonement. It was not supposed to work
any result in the nature of God or his disposition towards men. Its
effect was to work along the lines of human thought and human action:
it was to affect men, and make them willing to be saved instead of
making God willing to save them. This was the moral theory of the
atonement; and you will see how it gradually approaches that which
intelligent and free men, it seems to me, must hold to-day in the light
of their careful study of human history and human nature. It is almost
the theory which is being held by the freest and noblest men of to-day.
The difference between it and that which I shall in a moment try to set
forth is chiefly that Dr. Bushnell confines this work of the atonement
to the person and history and character of one man instead of letting
all men share in this divine and atoning work which is being wrought
out through all the ages.

Let me now come to set forth what I believe to be the simple and
demonstrated truth. My objections against this old theory are
threefold. I will mention them, and have done with them in a word.

In the first place, the supposed origin of sin in heaven seems to me so
absurd as to be utterly unthinkable. This idea of war in heaven,
rebellion against God, smacks too much of the Old World traditions, of
the mythologies of Greece and Rome and of other peoples. Jupiter could
dethrone his father, the god Saturn, because Saturn was not almighty
and all-wise. These gods of the ancient time were merely exaggerated
types of human heroes and despots. There could be war among them, and
one of them overthrown; and Jupiter could divide the universe, after he
had conquered and dethroned his father, with his two brothers.

All this is reasonable, when you are talking about finite creatures;
but try to think for one moment of an archangel, a pure and clear-eyed
intelligence, deliberately choosing to rebel against Omnipotence! He
must have known it would be utterly, absolutely, forever hopeless!
Intelligent creatures do not rebel under conditions like that,
particularly when you combine with the absolute hopelessness of the
case the fact that he knew he was choosing misery, suffering, forever.

As I said, the whole conception of the origin of evil that implies the
rebellion of a spiritual being who knew what he was doing is
inexpressibly absurd, so absurd that we may dismiss it as impossible.
If there were any such rebellion, if you waive the absurdity for the
moment and consider the possibility, God would be responsible; for he
made him. The whole theory is not only absurd: it is unjust in its
implications towards both God and man. And then, and perhaps we need
not say any more about it, we know that it is not true. It did not even
originate in the Bible, it did not even originate among the Jews: it is
nothing in the world but a pagan myth imported into Jewish tradition
just a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus. It is of no more
authority in rational human thought than the story of Jason or
Hercules, not one particle.

Let us now turn, then, to what we know, from the history of man and the
scientific study of the universe, to be something approaching the
reality of things. People have always been talking about the origin of
evil. It is not the origin of evil that we have to face or deal with or
explain at all. Let me ask you to consider for a moment the condition
of the world when man first appeared on this planet. Here among the
lower animals were what? All the vices and all the crimes that we can
conceive of, only they were not vices nor crimes at all. There were all
the external actions and all the internal feelings and passions; but
they were not vices, and they were not crimes. Why? Because there was
no moral sense which recognized anything better, no moral standard in
the light of which they might be judged.

Here, for example, in this lower world, were all hatreds, jealousies,
envies, cruelties, thefts, greeds, murders, every kind of action that
we speak of as evil in man. And yet I said there was no evil there, no
moral evil there, because there was no consciousness, no recognition,
of the distinction between the lower and the higher. This was a part of
the natural and intended order of the development of life, not an
accident, not an invasion from the outside, not a thwarting of the will
of God, not an interference with his purpose, all of this a part of the
working out of his purpose.

Now, when man appeared, what happened? The origin, not of evil, but the
origin of goodness. A conscience was born. Man came into possession of
a moral ideal, in the light of which he recognized something higher
than this animalism that was all around him, and became conscious of
the fact that he must battle against that, and put it under his feet.
So that the life of the world, from that day to this, has been the
growth, the gradual increase, and the gradual conquest of good over
that which was in existence before.

There is no fall of man, then, there is no conscious and purposeful
rebellion against God to be accounted for, there is no need of any
devil to explain the facts. He is only an encumbrance, only in the way,
only makes it difficult and practically impossible to solve our

The old story was that, after the rebellion, pain and death and all
evil came into the human world; and the natural world was blighted.
Thorns and briers and thistles sprang up on every hand; and animals
which before had been peaceful began to fight and destroy each other.
We all know this to be a childish myth, and pagan. The actual history
of the world has been something entirely other than that.

Now I do not wish that you should suppose that I minimize evil, that I
make light of sin, that I do not properly estimate the cruelties and
the wrongs that have devastated the world. I need only suggest to you
that you look in this direction and that to see how hideous all these
evils may be; how bitter, how cruel, is the fruit of wrong thoughts and
of wrong actions. Look at a man, for example, divine in the
possibilities of his being, but through vice, through drink, through
habits of one kind and another, corrupted until it is an insult to a
brute to call him brutal. We do not deny all this. Notice the cruelties
of men towards each other, the jealousies, the envies, the strifes, the
warfares. How one class looks down upon and treats with contempt
another that is a little lower! How masters have used their slaves; how
tyrants like Nero and Caligula have made themselves hideous spectacles
of what is possible to humanity, on a stage that is world-wide and
illuminated by the flash-lights of history!

I do not wish you to suppose for a moment that I belittle, that I
underestimate these evils, only we do not need anything other than the
scientific and historic facts of the world in order to account for
them. What is sin, as science looks at it and treats it? Not something
consciously and purposely developed, not something originating in a
rebellion in some other world than this. It seems to me that we can
very easily account for it when we recognize that man has been
gradually coming up from the lower orders of life, and that he still
has in him the snake and the hyena, the wolf, the tiger, the bear, all
the wild, fierce passions of the animal world only partly sloughed off,
not yet outgrown; when you remember how ignorant he is, how he does not
understand yet the meaning of these divine laws and the divine life,
glimpses of which now and then attract his attention and lure him on;
when you remember that selfishness, misguided by ignorance, can believe
that one man can get something for his behoof and happiness and good at
the expense of the welfare of somebody else, and harm come only to the
person that is defrauded. Right in here, if I had time to treat it in
still further detail, it seems to me we have a simple and adequate
explanation of all the evil that has ever blasted, blighted, and
darkened the history of man.

Now, man being this kind of a creature, having an animal origin as well
as a divine one, gradually climbing up out of this lower life and
looking towards God as his ideal, what is it that he needs? Is there
any need of atonement? All need of atonement! What does atonement mean?
The word itself carries its clearest explanation. In its root it means
"atonement," healing the division, whatever its nature or kind,
bringing man into one-ness with God and men into one-ness with each

Now let me suggest to you a little as to the things that keep man and
God apart, keep men away from each other; and they will suggest the
atonement that is needed to heal all these divisions, and bring about
that ideal condition of things that we dream of and pray for and talk
about, when men shall perfectly love God, and when they shall love each
other as themselves.

What is it that keeps man from God? First, it seems to me, it is
ignorance. What man needs in order to bring him into oneness with God
is first to have some clear conceptions of the divine, some high,
sweet, noble thoughts of God, some knowledge of the laws of God as
embodied in himself and in the universe around him. Man needs
intelligence, then, to help him, needs education.

In the next place, he needs such a picture of God as shall; make him
seem lovable. You cannot make the human heart love that which seems
hateful. The picture of God, as he has been outlined to the world in
the past, has repelled the human heart; and I do not wonder. I do not
think it strange that humanity should be at enmity with that conception
of the divine. Make God the ideal of all that is noble and sweet and
lovely, and the heart will be as naturally attracted and drawn to him
as a flower is toward the sun.

Then man needs to have his spiritual side developed, that in him which
is akin to God, so that he shall naturally live out the divine love.
Education, then, is all on man's side, you will see. God does not need
to be changed: we need to know him, to love him, to come into conscious
relationship with him. This is what we need, so far as our relation to
God is concerned.

Now for the more important side; for it is infinitely the more
important practically. Let me speak a little while of the work of
atonement between man and man. If we trace the history of humanity, we
find that men were scattered in groups all over the world, isolated,
separated from each other, ignorant of each other, misunderstanding
each other, hating each other, fighting each other; and the work of
some other world than this. It seems to me that we can very easily
account for it when we recognize that man has been gradually coming up
from the lower orders of life, and that he still has in him the snake
and the hyena, the wolf, the tiger, the bear, all the wild, fierce
passions of the animal world only partly sloughed off, not yet
outgrown; when you remember how ignorant he is, how he does not
understand yet the meaning of these divine laws and the divine life,
glimpses of which now and then attract his attention and lure him on;
when you remember that selfishness, misguided by ignorance, can believe
that one man can get something for his behoof and happiness and good at
the expense of the welfare of somebody else, and harm come only to the
person that is defrauded. Right in here, if I had time to treat it in
still further detail, it seems to me we have a simple and adequate
explanation of all the evil that has ever blasted, blighted, and
darkened the history of man.

Now, man being this kind of a creature, having an animal origin as well
as a divine one, gradually climbing up out of this lower life and
looking towards God as his ideal, what is it that he needs? Is there
any need of atonement? All need of atonement! What does atonement mean?
The word itself carries its clearest explanation. In its root it means
"atonement," healing the division, whatever its nature or kind,
bringing man into one-ness with God and men into one- ness with each

Now let me suggest to you a little as to the things that keep man and
God apart, keep men away from each other; and they will suggest the
atonement that is needed to heal all these divisions, and bring about
that ideal condition of things that we dream of and pray for and talk
about, when men shall perfectly love God, and when they shall love each
other as themselves.

What is it that keeps man from God? First, it seems to me, it is
ignorance. What man needs in order to bring him into oneness with God
is first to have some clear conceptions of the divine, some high,
sweet, noble thoughts of God, some knowledge of the laws of God as
embodied in himself and in the universe around him. Man needs
intelligence, then, to help him, needs education.

In the next place, he needs such a picture of God as shall: make him
seem lovable. You cannot make the human heart: love that which seems
hateful. The picture of God, as he has been outlined to the world in
the past, has repelled the human heart; and I do not wonder. I do not
think it strange that humanity should be at enmity with that conception
of the divine. Make God the ideal of all that is noble and sweet and
lovely, and the heart will be as naturally attracted and drawn to him
as a flower is toward the sun.

Then man needs to have his spiritual side developed, that in him which
is akin to God, so that he shall naturally live out the divine love.
Education, then, is all on man's side, you will see. God does not need
to be changed: we need to know him, to love him, to come into conscious
relationship with him. This is what we need, so far as our relation to
God is concerned.

Now for the more important side; for it is infinitely the more
important practically. Let me speak a little while of the work of
atonement between man and man. If we trace the history of humanity, we
find that men were scattered in groups all over the world, isolated,
separated from each other, ignorant of each other, misunderstanding
each other, hating each other, fighting each other; and the work of
civilization means to bring men together, to work out an atonement
between nation and nation, religion and religion, family and family,
man and man.

Here, again, as in the case of God, the first thing that needs to be
overcome is ignorance. Look back no further than our late war. I think
every careful student of that tremendous conflict is ready to say
to-day that, if the North and South had been acquainted with each other,
known each other as they know each other now, the war would have been
impossible. We need to know other men. As you go back, you find curious
traditions illustrating this ignorance of different nations and
different peoples of each other. Plato, for example, taught it as a
virtue that the Athenians should hate all other peoples except the
Greeks and all other Greek cities except Athens; and they spoke of the
outside nations that did not speak Greek as barbarians, people who
could not talk, people who, when they essayed to speak, said, "Ba, ba,"
misusing words and expressions. They had traditions of men who carried
their heads under their arms, who had only one eye, which was in the
middle of their forehead, all sorts of monstrosities in human shape,
antagonistic to the rest of mankind.

Even in modern times those ignorances, misconceptions, and prejudices
are far from being outgrown. Lord Nelson counted it as a virtue in an
Englishman that he should hate a Frenchman as he did the devil. How
many people are there to- day who look with an unprejudiced eye upon a

The things, then, that keep nations apart are ignorance. Then there is
the lack of sympathy. You will find people walking side by side here in
our streets, people in the same family, who find it impossible to
understand each other.

They cannot put themselves in the place of another; they cannot
comprehend something which is a little different from what they are
accustomed to hear; not only cannot they understand it, they cannot
lovingly or patiently look at it. Think of the things that have kept
people apart in physical and mental and spiritual realms, the rivers,
the mountain chains, the oceans; differences of religion, differences
of language, differences of civilization; different ethical ideas,
until people of the world have sat looking at each other with faces of
fear and antagonism instead of with the dawning in their eyes of love
and brotherhood.

Now what the world needs is something to atone, to bridge over these
differences, to bring men into sympathetic and loving acquaintance with
each other. I wish to note two or three things that have wrought very
largely and effectively in this direction. Does it ever occur to you
that commerce is something besides a means for the accumulation of
wealth? Commerce has played one of the largest parts in the history of
this world in atoning the differences, the antagonisms, between nation
and nation and man and man. It has taught the world that there is a
community of interests, and that, instead of fighting each other, they
are mutually blessed and helped by coworking, co-operating, exchanging
with each other.

So the inventors, the discoverers, have helped to bring about this
sense of human brotherhood, this community of human interests. How
much, for example, was wrought when the electric wire was placed under
the seas, and, instead of allowing weeks and weeks for a
misunderstanding to grow and for ill-feeling to ferment between England
and this country, puts us in such quick relations that a
misapprehension could be corrected in an hour. All these things have
helped bring the world together, are engaged in this magnificent
religious service of atonement, of making nations one, making humanity
one, a family.

I do not wish you to suppose that I misunderstand or underestimate the
work of the Christ in this direction. He has done a grander work of
atonement than any other figure in the history of the world. He
revealed to us the glory, the tenderness, the love, of God, and so
lifted the heart of the world towards the Father as no other one man
has done who has ever lived. And, then, he lived out and manifested the
glory, the tenderness, the wonder, of human character and human life as
hardly any other man who has ever lived; and on so world- wide a stage
did he do this that the influence of his work has overrun all national
barriers, and is rapidly coming to be world-wide, and in admiration of,
and love for him, Jew and Greek, and barbarian, Scythian, Arabian,
European, and Asiatic, all the nations of the world are becoming one.
For no matter what their theory may be about him, whether they hold him
to be God or man, they hold the ideal that he set forth and lived to be
spiritually human and nobly divine. So Jesus is more and more, as the
ages go by, helping us to one-ness with God, helping us into
sympathetic one-ness with each other.

But I would not have you think that Jesus is the only one who has
wrought atonement for the sin of the world. Every man in his degree, in
so far as he has been divine and human, patient, faithful, has rendered
service to the world, has done his part in bringing about this
magnificent consummation.

Look for a moment at Abraham Lincoln. Think what he did by the atoning
sacrifice of his life for liberty, for humanity, for truth. On the one
hand, his murderer showed what sin may come to in its ignorance, its
misconception, its antagonism to whatever is right and good and true.
And, on the other hand, he, with words of forgiveness on his lips,
words of human love, with all tenderness and charity in his heart,
illustrated again and lived out the sweetness of divinity and the
tenderness of humanity.

As another illustration, human, simple, natural, just let me say a word
concerning the act, the attitude, of General Grant at Appomattox. He
did more at the surrender of Lee to send a thrill of brotherly sympathy
through North and South and help wield this nation into one than he
could have possibly done by the most magnificent achievement of arms,
when he refused to take his opponent's sword; when he let the officers
go away with their side-arms; when he told each man that his horse or
his mule was still of right his because he would need it to begin the
new life again that was before him.

Facts like these suggest the naturalness, the humanness, as well as the
God-likeness of the work of atonement that is going on all over the
world, as it climbs and swings slowly up out of the darkness and into
the light of life. Jesus the great atoning sacrifice? Yes, but
thousands on thousands of others atoning in just the same divine way,
just the same human way, just as naturally, just as necessarily. Every
man who does an honest day's work, every man who is kind and loving in
his family, every man who is helpful as a neighbor, every man who
stands faithfully by his convictions of truth, every man who shows that
he cares more for the truth than he does for worldly success, that he
knows that in that truth only is immortality, and that it is greater
and better and sweeter than even life, every man who consecrates
himself in this way is doing his part towards working out the atonement
of human sin, the reconciliation of man with God, the reconciliation of
men with each other.

Let us, then, while loving Jesus, while reverencing him for the
grandeur of his work and the beauty of his life, let us rise and claim
kinship with him, rise to the dignity and glory of the thought that we
are sons of God as he was, and that we may share with him the grandest
service that one man can render to his time, the helping of people to
find and love and serve God, the helping of people to discover and love
and serve each other. The outcome of this atoning work is simply the
coming of that time which we speak of familiarly without half
comprehending it, when the world shall recognize the universal
Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man.


SOME years ago I heard a minister, then widely known throughout the
country, say in a public address, "Prayer is the power that moves the
arm that moves the world." Can we accept that to-day as a definition of
a rational view of the relation in which we stand to God? Many of you
will remember that not long ago the churches and the scientific men of
England and America were much stirred and roused over a discussion
concerning the practical efficacy of prayer. There was much talk of
what was called the "prayer-gauge." I think it was Professor Tyndall
who proposed to test the question as to whether prayer was a real power
in the physical world; and his test, if I remember rightly, was
something like this. He said: You churchmen claim that prayer is able
to heal the sick. Now, he said, let us take a certain hospital. We will
divide it, a certain number of wards on one side, and a certain number
of wards on the other, equalizing so far as we can the nature of the
illnesses which afflict the patients. You now concentrate as much as
you please, and as many as you please, the prayers on certain wards in
the hospital, and we will commit the rest to the ordinary treatment of
the physicians; and we will see if you are able to produce any results.

Against a certain type and theory of prayer I suppose a test like that
is legitimate enough; and this type, this theory, is the one that has
prevailed throughout Christendom largely for a good many hundreds of
years. I suppose you can remember in your boyhood some of you are as
old as I that it was not an uncommon thing for the minister to pray
earnestly for certain things that intelligent men would hardly think of
praying for in the same fashion to-day. It was not an uncommon thing, a
few years ago, to have a special prayer- meeting during a drought in
the endeavor to prevail upon God to send the rain; and there was
certainly a Scriptural warrant for it; for Elijah is represented in the
Old Testament as having, by the power of prayer, shut up the heavens
for three years and a half, and then as bringing rain again as the
result of his petition. If you study the Book of James, and remember,
when you do study it, that it was not written by the apostle, but by
some unknown author towards the middle of the second century, you will
see that he teaches that, if any one is sick, you are not to send for a
physician. The brethren are to assemble, the invalid is to be anointed
with oil, they are to pray over him, and the explicit and unqualified
promise is given that the prayer of faith shall save the sick. And yet
we have been confronted for ages with the spectacle of people breaking
their hearts in pleading prayer for those that were sick, and seeing
them fade and vanish from their sight in spite of their petitions.

I have heard it said a good many times that the fame of the Cunard line
of steamships touching the matter of the safety of its passengers was
to be explained by the piety of the founders of the line, and the fact
that they prayed every time a ship sailed that it might safely cross
the seas and land its passengers without accident in the wished-for
haven. Are there no prayers for other lines? Has no one ever prayed on
behalf of a ship that did meet with an accident? But this would be
explained on this theory by saying that the prayer was not the prayer
of faith or that there was some defect in it somewhere.

I refer to these things simply by way of illustration to recall to your
mind that prayer used to be supposed to be a power touching the winds,
the waves, the prosperity of the crops, insuring safety during a
dangerous journey; that it was a power that was able to heal disease,
that could accomplish all sorts of strange and startling effects in the
physical realm.

And now I simply wish to call your attention to the naturalness of that
kind of prayer in the olden time. To some of us this thought may seem
strange, it may seem almost absurd, to-day; but remember it was not
strange, it was not absurd, in the times when the old theory of the
universe was thoroughly believed in, not only by church members, but by
scientific men as well.

What was that old conception? I have had occasion to refer to it in one
connection or another a good many times; and now I shall have to refer
to it again, so that you may clearly see what is involved in this
question of the efficacy of prayer. God was supposed to be up in
heaven, away from nature. Nature was a sort of mechanism, a machine
that ordinarily ran on after its own fashion. God had made it, indeed,
in some sense, God supported it continually; but it went on apart from
him, and he was away from it. He was, as Carlyle used to say, looked
upon as an absentee God. He was up in heaven. He ruled this world as
the Kaiser rules Germany, arbitrarily. He was not even always supposed
to know everything that was going on, at least, if you are to judge by
the tone of the prayers of a good many people such as I have heard. He
needed information concerning matters. He needed to be pleaded with,
that he might interfere and accomplish some results that would not
otherwise take place. He ruled the world arbitrarily and from a

Now, if any German wishes a certain thing accomplished that would not
happen in the ordinary course of nature and human life, he knows that
the Kaiser has almost unlimited power; and, if he can persuade him to
undertake it, it may be accomplished. So he will send a petition to the
Kaiser; and he will back that petition with all the influence that he
is able to bring to bear upon it. If there is a prime minister who
stands specially high in favor with the Kaiser, do you not see how much
might be accomplished by winning his ear, and getting him to intercede
on behalf of the petitioner? Do you not see right in there the parallel
to the old idea that used to dominate us in regard to the government of
the universe? If only we could get God interested in the matter, if we
could bring to bear upon him an adequate amount of influence, if we
could get Jesus to intercede with him, then something might be

Are these antiquated ideas? I received a letter only a little while
ago. It told me nothing new; but it came to me with a shock, roused me
to a recognition of ideas still dominant and popular in the common
mind. It was from a Catholic. He said: We do not worship Mary; but she
is in the spirit world, and she is in sympathetic relation with this
world's sorrow and trouble. We pray to her, asking her to intercede
with her son, because a mother's influence is efficacious. Think for a
moment of the implications of this theory of governing the universe.
God is away off, has forgotten us, or does not care, at any rate, is
not doing for us the things we need. If we can get Jesus to intercede!
But, according to this Catholic theory, Jesus had perhaps forgotten or
was not attentive. So he pleads with his mother, and gets the mother to
exert her influence on Jesus so he may exert his influence on God, and
at last something may be done. I confess to you, friends, that this
theory of things does not seem piety to me, but the precise opposite.

I ask you now to follow me while I attempt to point out some of the
difficulties that confront us in this old-time theory of prayer. Why is
it that we cannot pray to God to change the order of the natural world?
Why cannot we believe that prayer is the power that moves the arm that
moves the world??? Why cannot I consistently pray to God to heal my
disease or the disease of a friend, or to save the soul of some friend
who would otherwise be neglected by the divine care? Why cannot I any
longer pray to God to send his light and truth to the heathen world?
Why cannot I pray to him to insure my safety in mid-Atlantic, to do
something to prevent my colliding with a derelict, as the Van-dam has
done during the last few days? Do you think there was no one on that
ship that prayed? What is the difficulty in the mind of the
intelligent, modern thinker when he faces this conception of prayer?

Let us think a little clearly just a moment; and I imagine I can make
it plain. We no longer think of God we cannot think of him as outside
the system of nature, and as possibly interfering with it to produce a
result that would not otherwise take place. Why? Because God is the
soul, the mind, the heart of nature. The forces of the universe, acting
according to their changeless and eternal laws, are simply God at work.
And, when I pray to God to interfere, I am praying him to interfere
with himself, I am praying him to contradict his own wisely and
eternally and changelessly established methods of controlling the

The question is sometimes asked, but a man can interfere with the
course of nature, and produce a result that would not be naturally
produced without it? Certainly, because man does not stand in this
relation to natural forces. But man, however, does not change any law,
he does not interfere with any law. He simply discovers some law and
obeys it, and in that way produces a result that would not otherwise be
produced. But man does not stand, I say, in this vital relation to the
forces of the universe and their laws. When you remember that these
forces working, as I said, changelessly, eternally, after their
methods, when you remember that these are God in his ceaseless and wise
and loving activity, then do you not see that he cannot contradict or
interfere with himself? Here is the great difficulty in regard to this
old method, this old conception of prayer which confronts the
intelligent, the educated, the thoughtfully devout man.

When I was first struggling out into the light? as it seems to me now
from my old theological training, I met another difficulty that I think
will appeal to you. It seemed to me an impertinence for me to be
telling God, as I heard so many people on every hand, all sorts of
things that he knew before. I reconsidered the words of Jesus, You are
not to give yourself to much speaking in your prayers, for your Father
knoweth what you have need of before you ask him. And then there was
another difficulty which troubled me more than any of the others, a
delightful, splendid difficulty it has seemed to me since those days.
It was connected with the thought of God's goodness and love. There are
heathen, they tell us, who have got a glimpse, from their point of
view, of this fact about God. It is said they do not bring any
offerings, except some flowers, to the deities they regard as good,
because, they say, they do not need to be persuaded. They bring all
their costly offerings to the bad gods, the ones they are afraid of;
and they attempt to buy their favor or buy off their anger.

When I waked up to the free and grand conception of the eternal love
and the boundless goodness of the Father, then it seemed to me that
many of my prayers in the past had been so far from reasonable that
they were absurd, and so far from piety that they were wrong. To
illustrate what I mean. When I was minister of an orthodox church in
the West, a lovely, faithful lady came to me to raise some question
touching this matter of prayer. It had been suggested, I suppose, by
something I had said; and I asked her this question: What would you
think of me if I should come to you, and with pathos in my voice, and
perhaps with tears in my eyes, plead with you to be kind to your own
children, beg you to give them something to eat, beseech you to furnish
them with clothes, entreat you to educate them, to do the best for them
that you knew how? What would you think of it? I asked. She said, I
should feel insulted. And I replied, Do you not think that God is
almost as good as you are?

If you are anxious and ready, do you think that God needs to be pleaded
with and entreated and besought in order to make him willing, in order
to make him kind, in order to bring some sort of pressure to bear upon
him so that he will do the things for his children of which they most
stand in need? No scientific difficulty, no question of theories of the
universe, has ever affected my practice in the matter of prayer so much
as this overwhelming, blessed thought of the loving-kindness and care
of the infinite Father. He does not need to be informed, he does not
need to be persuaded. Has not Jesus told us that your heavenly Father
is more ready to give the things which you need than you are to give
good gifts to your children?

And so I came to have a difficulty with the kind of prayer- meetings in
which I was brought up as a boy, and which I used to lead as a young
and earnest minister. I have heard kinds of prayers which have seemed
to me reflections on the goodness and the kindness of our Father in
heaven. I remember one man I used to hear him over and over again, week
by week who would pray, It is time for thee, O God, to work! And, as I
came to think of it, it hurt my sense of reverence. I shrank from it.
And I could not believe that God was going to let thousands of souls in
China or Africa perish merely because Christians in America did not
pray hard enough and long enough for their salvation. Why should they
meet with eternal doom on account of the lack of enthusiasm or devotion
of people of whom they have never heard?

So I used to find myself troubled about this question of praying so
hard for the salvation of other people's souls. If, as the old creeds
tell us, it is settled from all eternity as to just who is to be saved
and who is to be lost, there would hardly seem place for a vital
prayer; and if, as a friend of mine, a minister, and a very liberal and
broad one, though in one of the older churches, said to me, "I believe
that God will save every single soul that he can save," then do you not
see again that it touches this kind of prayer? If he cannot save them,
then why should I beg him to do it? If he can, and loves them better
than I do, again, why should I plead with him after that fashion to do

These, frankly and freely spoken, are some of the difficulties
connected with a certain theory of prayer.

I gladly put all that now behind my back, and come to the grand and
positive side of my theme. I wish to tell you what I myself believe in
regard to this matter of prayer. And, in the first place, let me
suggest to you that prayers, even the prayers of the past, any of them,
the most objectionable types, are not made up only of petition; they
are not all begging, teasing for things. There enter into their
composition gratitude, adoration, reverence, aspiration, a sense of
communion with the spiritual Being, a longing for higher and finer
things; a sense of refuge in time of trouble, a sense of strength in
time of need, a sense of hope, uplift, and outlook as we glance towards
the future. A prayer, then, you see, is a very composite thing, not a
simple thing, not merely made up of the element of pleading with God to
give us certain things that we cannot come into possession of by
ordinary means.

Right here let me stop long enough to ask you to attend a little
carefully to the teaching of Jesus on the subject of prayer. You will
see he chimes in almost perfectly with the things I have been saying.
If we followed his directions literally, we should never pray in public
at all. He says, Enter into your chamber, and shut to the door, and
commune with the Father in secret. He does not advocate long prayers,
nor this kind of pleading, begging prayers that I have referred to. Do
you remember the story of the unjust judge? Jesus tells this parable on
purpose to enforce the point I have been speaking of. He says: Here is
an unjust judge: a widow brings her case before him. She pleads with
him until she tires him out; and at last he says, although I am an
unjust judge, and fear neither God nor men, because with her continual
praying she wearies me, I will grant her petition. Jesus does not say
you are to weary God out in order to get your petitions granted, but
just the opposite. How much more shall God give good gifts unto those
that ask him Read once more that other story of the man who rises at
night and goes to a neighbor for assistance. The neighbor, for the sake
of being gracious and kind, will rise, although it gives him trouble
and he does not wish to, and grant his request. But God is not like
that neighbor: he does not need to be wearied or roused to make him
care for our interests. This is the teaching, you will notice, of
Jesus. If there is anything that appears like contrary teaching, you
will find it in the supposed Gospel of John, written by an anonymous
author, in which quite different doctrines are taught in regard to a
good many things from those that are reported of Jesus in the other

Now I wish to come to my own personal position concerning the subject
of prayer. It is fitting is it not that we should open our hearts with
gratitude to God, no matter what has come to us of good or bright, of
beautiful, sweet and true things, no matter through what channel, by
the ministry of what friend, as the result of the working of no matter
how many natural forces. Trace it to its source, and that source is
always of necessity the one fountain, the one eternal Giver. And, if
there be no more than courtesy in our hearts, ought it not to be easy
and fitting for us to think, at least, if we do not say, Thank you,
Father? Not only thanksgiving, but adoration.

Any uplook to something beautiful and high and fine above you partakes
of the nature of worship. So that prayer which is worship, is it not
altogether fitting and sweet and true? Only as we look up do we ever
rise up, do we ever attain to anything finer and better.

And then there is communion. Is it true that God is Spirit, and that he
is Father of his children, also spirit? Are we made in his likeness? Is
there community of nature between him and us? I believe that he is
human in all essential qualities, and that we are divine in all
essential qualities. I believe the only difference between God and man
is a difference not of kind, but of degree, and that there is,
possibility of constant interchange of thought, of feeling, communion,
between God and his children. Profound, wonderful truth it seems to me
is expressed in those beautiful words of Tennyson's:

"Speak to him thou, for he hears, And spirit with spirit may meet.
Closer is he than breathing, And nearer than hands and feet."

Communion then possible, the very life of that which is divine within

Then I do not believe for one moment that prayer is only a sort of
spiritual gymnastics, that it produces results in us merely by the
exercise of spiritual feelings and emotions. I believe that in the
moral and spiritual realms prayer does produce actual results that
would not be produced in any other way. This, however, mark you
carefully, not by producing any change in God, only changing our
relations towards God. Can I illustrate it? I have a flower, for
example, a plant in a flower-pot in my room. It seems to be perishing
for the lack of something. It may be that the elements in the air do
not properly feed it: it may be that it is hungry for light. At any
rate, I try it: I take it out into the sunshine, I let the air breathe
upon it, the dews fall upon it, the rains touch it and revive it and
the plant brightens up, grows, blossoms, becomes beautiful and
fragrant. Have I changed natural laws any? Not to one parunticle. I
have changed the relation of my plant and the air; and I have produced
a result of life and beauty where would have been ugliness and death.

So I believe in prayer in that sense, that it may and does change the
spiritual attitude of the soul towards God so that we come into
entirely new relations with him, and the spiritual life in us grows,
unfolds, becomes beautiful and sweet, not because we have changed God,
but because we have got into a new set of relations with him.

If I thought that I could change God by a prayer, that I could
interfere in the slightest degree with the working of any of the
natural forces, I would never dare to open my lips in prayer again so
long as I live. We do not need to change God: we need simply to change
our attitude towards him, change our relations to him. Is not this true
in every department of human life? How is it that you produce results
anywhere? You wish a mountain stream to work for you. Do you change the
laws of motion? You adapt your machinery to those laws of motion, and
all the power of God becomes yours. You do not change him, you change
yourself, your attitude towards him. And so in every one of the
discoveries, in every one of the revolutions, that have come to the
world, simply by discovering God's methods, and humbly adapting our
ways to those methods Thus the forces of God, which are changeless and
eternal, produce for us results which they would not have produced but
for adapting our lives to the working of their ways.

A great many people do not think they ever pray. I have never seen a
man yet who did not pray. You cannot live, and not pray: you cannot
escape it if you try. Take Montgomery's famous old definition, "Prayer
is the soul's sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed, The motion of a
hidden fir That trembles in the breast."

Soul's sincere desire. Yes, the body's desire, the mind's desire, the
heart's desire, any desire, any outreach of life, is a prayer, an
appeal for something that only the universe, that only God, can bestow.
So, no matter whether you think you are religious or not, you are a
praying man so long as you are a living man; and you cannot escape the
fact if you try. It is merely a question whether you are a loving praying
man or some other kind.

There is another aspect of prayer to which I wish to call your
attention. Prayer is the refuge of a soul in trouble. It does not mean
here, again, that you change God any. Can you not understand what it
means to go to God, as it were, and fling yourself, like a child,
against his breast and feel yourself folded in the everlasting arms?
Your sorrow may not be removed, the burden may not be taken away, the
life of your friend may not be saved, the sickness may not be healed;
but there is comfort, there is strength, there is peace, there is help.
Why, even in our human life do you not know how it is? You go to some
friend you trust and love with your trouble. Perhaps he cannot lift it
with one of his fingers; but he can tell you that he loves you, he
cares, he would help you if only he were able. He can put his arm
around you, he can say, God bless you; and you are stronger. You go
away with lifted shoulder and with head that fronts the heavens; and
you are able to bear the burden. Is there nothing akin to this in the
sense of coming into intimate relations with the eternal Father, when
troubled, pressed, when the outside world is dark, and feeling that
here is refuge in a love deeper, higher, unspeakably more tender than
that of the dearest friend that ever lived?

And this suggests another point. I have no doubt that sometimes, in my
attempts to lead the devotions of this congregation, I use words which,
if I were to sit down and critically analyze, I could not logically
justify. I do not mean to; but, perhaps, sometimes I do. What of it?
When my children were small, and my little boy came and climbed up in
my lap and expressed himself in all sorts of illogical and foolish
ways, telling me every sort of thing he wanted, impossible things,
unwise things, things I could not get for him, things I would not get
if I could, because I thought myself wiser than he, did these things
trouble me? I loved to have him pour out his whole little soul into
mine, because he was my child and because I did not expect him to be
over-wise. It was this simple touch of kinship, this simple communion
of father and child, which was sweet and tender and true.

So I believe with my whole soul that God loves us, his little children,
with an unspeakable tenderness, a tenderness infinitely beyond that
with which any earthly father ever loved a child, and that we can go to
him freely and pour out our hearts, whether it is wise in expression or
unwise; only let us do it with the feeling, "Not my will, Father, but
Thine, be done," not as though we were trying to persuade him to do
things for us that he would not otherwise do, but merely as the pouring
out of our gratitude, our tenderness, our love.

There is another thing that needs just a word of suggestion. I believe
that we ought to pray to God, not in the sense of begging for things,
but sympathetically bringing in the arms of our sympathy all those we
love and all those we hate, if there are any, and all things that live
on the face of the earth. There is a hint of what I mean in those
beautiful words of Tennyson's:

"For what are men better than sheep or goats That nourish a blind life
within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands in prayer Both
for themselves and those who call them friend? For so the whole round
earth is every way Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."

Let us reach out our arms of sympathy to all the world and bring the
world sympathetically into the presence of our Father. So our own
hearts and loves will broaden, until they, too, are divine.

And, then, there is one other thing. What a strength prayer has been to
the grandest souls of the ages! Never was truer, finer truth written
than those magnificent words of Isaiah: "Even the youths shall faint
and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait
upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with
wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and
not faint!"

Take Jesus in his hour of agony, take Savonarola with his struggle,
take Huss, Wyclif, Luther, take all the grand souls of the ages when
they have simply stood with the feeling, One with God is a majority,
and ready to face the world, if need be, in the conviction that they
spoke for and represented the truth. The times of which Lowell speaks:

"Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, Yet that
scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God
within the shadow, keeping watch above his own."

This sense that God is for the truth and right, and, if you are
standing for the truth and right, the Almighty Power is backing you up,
the ground you stand on impregnable, because of that position. You do
not expect God to work miracles, you do not expect him to do anything;
but simply the sense that you are in his presence, that you are on his
side, re- enforces you more than a thousand men could re-enforce an
army in the time of its need. This is the great sense of surety that
the poet Clough had in mind, when he wrote those wonderfully fine

"It fortifies my soul to know That, though I perish, Truth is so; That
howsoe'er I stray or range, Whate'er I do, thou dost not change. I
steadier step when I recall That, if I slip, thou dost not fall." Here
is the confidence, the strength, that comes from prayer, from communion
with God, from the sense of being in his presence, from a feeling of
fellowship with the Divine.

The truest and finest, the sweetest prayer must come oft of the loving,
the sympathetic, the tender soul. No selfish prayer can expect to enter
into the heart of God. You will note in the words that Jesus teaches
his disciples, it is not "My" Father, it is "Our" Father. And, if we
wish to pray in the divine spirit, we shall broaden that "Our" until it
includes not only our family, our church, our city, our State, our
nation, our humanity, but until it includes all life that swims or
walks or flies, feeling that it is the one life of the Father that is
in us all. For, as Coleridge has finely put it, He prayeth best who
loveth best All things, both great and small; For the dear God who
loveth us, He made and loveth all.


THERE are those who in religious matters, as well as in all other
departments of life, are content to walk unquestioningly the path which
the footsteps of previous generations have made easy and familiar. But
there are others and these among the more thoughtful and earnest minds
to whom it is not enough to utter earnest words concerning enthusiasm
and devotion, consecration and worship. These spiritual attitudes and
exercises must first be made to appear reasonable to them, fitting,
fitting to their conception of God, fitting to their ideas of that
which is highest and finest in man.

So there are many things that pass to-day as forms of worship, many
ideas connected with worship, which this class of minds cannot heartily
and fully accept. Some of them do not seem to them fitting, as they
look upward towards God. They cannot, for example, believe that God
cares for flattery, cares to sit on his throne, and be told by his
creatures how great and how wonderful he is. They cannot think that he
cares to have presents brought to him, gifts offered on his altar, as
men say. They cannot believe that he really is anxious for many of
these external forms and ceremonies, which seem to the onlooker to
constitute the essential element of much that passes as popular

And then, on the other hand, man has grown into a sense of dignity. He
has a higher and loftier idea of his own nature and of what is fitting
to a man; and he cannot any longer heartily enter into the meaning of
words which speak of him as a worm of the dust, which seem to him to
intimate that God cares to have him prostrate himself in utter
humiliation, to speak of himself always as a miserable sinner, as one
without any good in him.

Many of these things from the point of view of the man himself no
longer constitute the real conviction, the real feeling of the noblest
hearts; and so there are many who are troubled over this question of
worship, who are not quite sure as to how much spiritual significance
it may any longer retain, not quite sure as to how vital a part it may
play in the development of the religious life of man.

We find an adequate and perfectly natural explanation of some of these
phases of worship that trouble us to-day, as we look back and note some
of the steps in the religious development of the race. I shall not
raise the question as to how or where or in what way the act of human
worship began. I will simply say that one of the first manifestations
of that which came to be religious worship which we are able to trace
at the present time is to be found in the burial-mounds of the dead.
Men reverenced the memory of the chief of the tribe who had passed into
the invisible. They did not believe that he had ceased to exist: they
rather looked upon him as having become, because invisible, a higher
ruler. They thought of him as still interested in the welfare of the
tribe, still its guardian, still its avenger, still demanding of the
tribe the same reverence that it paid to him while he was yet alive;
and his followers clothed him with all the human attributes with which
they were familiar during the time he was among them. He was still
hungry, he was still thirsty, he still wanted his old-time weapons, all
those things he was familiar with during his earthly career. And so
they brought food, and laid it on the burial-mound above his body; and
they poured out their libations of drink to quench his spiritual

These were very real beliefs on the part of man universally during a
certain stage of his mental, his moral, his spiritual growth. It was a
very natural step beyond this to the origin of sacrifices. All
sacrifice began right here. It was a religious meal, in which God and
his worshippers equally shared. Some animal, supposed to partake of a
life similar to that which distinguished the god and the worshipper,
too, is sacrificed. It is cooked, and the worshippers partake of the
meal; and they fully believe that the god joins in it also. And then
the drink they partake of, and pour out their libation for the
invisible spirit.

So the first sacrifice was a meal eaten together; and just as, for
example, to-day you see a remnant of this idea when a man eats with an
Arab, although the Arab may discover five minutes after that it was his
bitterest foe, he finds himself at least during a little time bound to
amity and peace by the fact that they have shared this sacred meal
together, so in the act of sacrifice it was believed that the
worshipper consecrated himself in loyalty to his God, and that the God
consecrated himself in faithfulness to his worshippers as their
guardian and protector. Here is given the central significance of
sacrifices that have made so large a part of the religious ceremonial
of the world.

These are not peculiar to what we call pagan people. Do you remember
the story of how, after the flood, Noah offers a sacrifice, and God up
in heaven is represented as smelling the flavor of the burning meat and
as rejoicing in it, accepting the offering, and pledging himself to
guard and care for his worshippers? Do you remember, also, that story
of Jacob, how, when he is on his journey, he falls asleep, and has his
wonderful dream, and sees the ladder starting at his feet and ending at
the throne of God, up and down which the angels are passing? When he
wakes in the morning, he says, "Surely, this is holy ground"; and he
takes the stone on which he slept, and sets it up as an altar, and
pours out the sacred oil as an offering to his God.

All the way through the Old Testament, in the history of the Hebrew
people, you trace these same ideas that you find in the life of almost
all the other nations of the world. It was only a step beyond this to
the idea of presenting gifts to God, no matter what the nature of that
gift might be. And, as men came to make him these sacred offerings,
they came also to believe and in the most natural way in the world
that, the more costly the gift, the more likely it was to be accepted
on the part of its sublime recipient.

So human sacrifices arose; for there could be no more sacred gift than
for a man to offer his own child or his own wife to God. The gods were
looked upon as sometimes demanding these tremendous sacrifices as the
conditions of their mercy or their care. I refer you for illustration
to one of the most striking and touching of Tennyson's poems. I think
it is entitled "The Victim." There had been famine in the land, and the
priests have announced that they have learned that the gods demand as
an offering that which is most sacred and most dear to the heart of the
king; and the question is as to whether it is his son, his boy, or his
wife. They think it must be the boy, because he was the one that would
continue the kingly line; but the wife detects the gladness of her
husband when he sees that the boy is to be selected, and knows by that
sense of relief that passes over his face that the priests have made a
mistake, and that she herself is to be the victim. And so, in her love
for him and for the people, she rushes upon the sacrificial knife.

All these ideas, you see, are perfectly natural in certain stages of
human development, logically reasoned out in view of their thought of
the gods and of their relations to them and of what these gods must
desire at their hands. It is not only among the very early beliefs that
you find these ideas controlling the thought and action of men. Study
the ancient classical times as they are reflected in the Iliad, in the
Odyssey, or in Virgil's Aeneid, and you will find that the gods were
very human in all their feelings, their thoughts, their passions. As,
in the Old Testament, Yahweh is reported to have been a jealous God,
not willing that respect should be paid to anybody but himself, so you
find the old Greek and Roman deities very jealous as to what were
regarded as their rights, as to what the people must pay to them; and,
if they are angry, they can be appeased if an offering rare and costly
enough be brought by the worshipper. You can buy their favor; you can
ward off their anger, if only you can offer them something which is
precious enough so that they are ready to accept it at the worshipper's

These are not merely Old Testament ideas, nor only pagan ideas. Some
years ago, when I was in Rome, I visited among others one of the many
churches dedicated to Mary under one name or another; and there was a
statue of the Virgin by the altar, and it impressed me very much to see
that it was loaded down with gifts. Every place on the statue itself to
which anything could be attached, anything on the altar around it, was
weighted down with gold chains, with jewels, with precious gifts of
every kind. These had been brought as thank-offerings, expressions of
worship, or pledges connected with a petition, because I have brought
thee this gift, have mercy, do this for me which I need.

So these old ideas are vital still, and live on in the modern world.
And yet modern and magnificent are those utterances of the old Hebrew
prophet, who had so completely outgrown the common customs even of his
time, when he represents God as saying that he is weary of all these
external offerings. He says: I do not want the cattle brought to my
temples. Those that wander on a thousand hills are already mine. If I
were hungry, I would not ask thee. He does not want the rivers of oil
poured out. What does he want? The old prophet says, What doth the Lord
require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with God? And some of the later writers caught a glimpse of the same
spiritual truth when they said, Not burnt- offerings, not calves of a
year old; when they cry out, Shall I bring the fruit of my body for the
sin of my soul? No, it is a broken and contrite heart, a heart sorry
for its sin, a heart consecrating itself to righteousness and truth,
this inner, spiritual worship.

The prophets, you see, were climbing up to that magnificent ideal so
finely set up by Jesus as reported in the Gospel from which I read our
lesson this morning. They had not only believed that God was to be
worshipped after these external fashions, but that there was some
special place, not only where it was easier to think of him, but where
he demanded the offering should be brought. He said to the woman at the
well: You think it is Mount Gerizim where the people ought to worship,
and the Jews think it is Mount Moriah; but I say unto you that neither
in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem shall men worship the Father. God
is spirit, the universal spirit, every place a temple, every spot
hallowed, if only those that worship him do so in spirit and in truth.

You see, then, how up these stairways of gradual approach the human
race, in the person of its highest and finest representatives, has
climbed, how near it has come to the spiritual ideal of God and the
spiritual thought of that which he requires at our hands.

Is worship, then, so far as external form is concerned, to pass away?
By no manner of means, as I think. As you analyze any one of these old
primitive acts of worship, no matter how crude, no matter how cruel,
how bloody, how repulsive it may be to-day from the outlook of our
higher civilization, you will note that it has in it an element which,
I believe, is permanent, and can never be outgrown. Whatever else there
is, there is always the sense of a Presence, Invisible, mighty, high,
and, from the point of view of the worshipper, holy and set apart.
There is always the feeling of being in the shadow of the high and
lofty One who inhabiteth eternity. There is always the sense of
uplooking, of worship, in the higher sense of that term. Always, at any
rate, the germ of these; and this, it seems to me, we may be sure and
certain, however it may clothe itself in the future, shall never pass

I wish now, if there are any who think it is not befitting the
greatness, the nobleness of man that he should bow himself in the
presence of the highest, humiliate himself, if you choose to use that
term, in acts of worship, I wish now, I say, to consider worship under
two or three aspects, and see what it means. And, in the first place, I
ask you to note that the ability to worship is always the measure of
the rank of a being, it is the test and the standard of greatness.

As you look over the animal world, which one of them are we accustomed
to think of as coming the nearest to man? What one do we love to have
most with us, to associate most with our joys, with the peace of our
homes? Is it not the dog? And as you examine the dog, study carefully
his nature and characteristics, do you not note that there is in his
nature a hint, a suggestion, of that which is the root of all worship?
The dog is the one animal with which man is accustomed familiarly to
associate himself, who looks up with an incipient reverence, love,
almost worship, to his master. And it is this quality in the dog that
enables him to look up, and, however dimly, feel the life of some one
that is above him, that lifts him into our society, and makes us feel
this tenderness of heart-kinship with that which is finest in his

And man is man simply because he is able to look above himself. The old
Greeks had an anticipation of that idea when they called man anthropos;
for the meaning of the word is the upward-looker. As in imagination you
go back and down to the time when man first appeared, developed from
the lower life which preceded him, the first thing you can think about
him as human is the opening of his eyes in wonder, the lifting of his
face in curiosity and question, and the birth of adoration in his soul.
This is that which made him man.

You go and study the lowest type of barbaric life to-day; and you will
find that the barbarian has very little curiosity as compared with the
civilized man. You will find that it is very difficult to astonish him
with anything. He does not wonder. He takes everything for granted. He
does not see clearly and deeply enough to appreciate the marvel. Let me
illustrate from a specimen of barbaric life itself. A few years ago the
chief of an Indian tribe was brought from the plains of the West to
visit Washington. The idea was to impress him as much as possible with
the idea of our civilization, so that he might report it to his people
when he went home. After they had crossed the Mississippi on their way
to the West, the gentleman in whose care he was travelling asked the
chief what the one thing which he had seen during his trip was which
had impressed him the most; and he said at once the St. Louis bridge.
But his companion said, Are you not astonished at the Capitol of
Washington? "Yes," he said, "but my people can pile stones on top of
each other; but they cannot make a cobweb of steel hang in the air."

You see how that perception lifted him above the average level of his
people? He was showing his capacity for higher and nobler civilization.
It is just this ability in the man to wonder, to see something to
wonder at, to worship, to admire, which lifts him one grade higher than
that of the average level of his tribe. So that which makes man a man
is the capacity in him to admire. All admiration is the essence, the
root, of worship. And, the more things a man admires, the greater and
nobler type of man he is seen to be. If he can admire music, if he can
admire painting, if he can admire sculpture, if he can admire poetry,
if he can admire literature of every kind, if he can admire grand
architecture, the beautiful monuments of the world, we say, Here is a
large, all-round type of man. We estimate his dignity, his greatness,
by the capacity that he shows for worship in its lower type; for
worship is simply looking up with admiration.

There is another quality about this worship that I wish to speak of. It
is the power that is capable of transforming a man, making him over
into the likeness of that which he admires. You find the man without
this capacity, and you know it is hopeless to appeal to him, hopeless
to set up ideals, hopeless to place before him enticing examples. There
is nothing in him to which these things appeal. Take Alexander the
Great. It is said he carried around with him a copy of the Iliad, and
that Achilles was his ideal of a hero. Do you not see how this
admiration transformed the life of the young king, and made him after
the type of that which he admired? It does not make any difference what
this special admiration may be. Let a man admire Beethoven, and he will
cultivate instinctively the qualities that make the beauty and
greatness of Beethoven's character and the wonders of his career.

This ideal may be in a book, it may be embodied in fiction. I have
liked always, either on the walls of my room or on the walls of my
heart, to have certain portraits of persons whom I have loved, who are
no longer living; and they are to me constant stimulus. They speak to
me by day, and in my dreams at night their eyes follow me, and seem to
look into my soul; and in their presence I could not do a mean, an
unmanly thing. I love, I reverence, I worship these lofty ideals. And
the quality of these characters filters down through and permeates the
thought and the life.

You remember how the other aspect of this thought is illustrated by
Shakspere. He says, "My nature is subdued To what it works in, like the
dyer's hand." If that with which you keep company, that you admire, is
below you, it degrades; if it is above you, it lifts. In any case you
are transformed, shaped into the likeness of that which you admire.

There is another aspect of this close akin to that which I have just
been dealing with. It is only the worshipper who has in him any
promise, any possibility, of growth. Whether it is the individual or
the nation, it makes no difference. If you find no capacity to admire
that which is above and beyond you, then there is no hope of progress.
Take the young man who thinks he has exhausted the possibilities of the
world, who has reached the stage, who prides himself on not being
surprised, not being over whelmed, not admiring anything. The careful
outside observer knows that, instead of having exhausted the
possibilities and greatness and wonders of the universe, he has simply
exhausted himself.

The man who knows how full the world is of that which is beautiful and
great and true and noble walks through the universe with his head bared
and bowed, and feels, as did Moses when standing in the presence of the
burning bush, that he ought to take off his shoes from his feet, for
the place where he is standing is holy ground. Wherever you are
standing in this universe, which is full of God from star to dust
particle, is holy ground; and, if you do not feel it, if you are not
touched, if you are not bowed, if you are not thrilled with wonder, it
is defect in you, and not lack of God.

If the musician admires his great predecessors and strives to emulate
them; if the painter in the presence of the Sistine Madonna feels
lifted and touched, so that he never can be content with poor work
again; if the sculptor is ready to bend his knees in the presence of
the Venus of Melos, as he sees her standing at the end of the long
gallery in the Louvre; if the lover of his kind admires John Howard,
and can never be content unless he is doing something for his fellow-
men again; if we can be touched by lives like Clara Barton's, like
Florence Nightingale's, like Dorothea Dix's, like the great and
consecrated ones of the earth; if in any department of life we can be
lifted, humbled, thrilled, at the same time with the thought of the
greatness and glory and beauty that are above and beyond us, then there
is hope of growth, then there is life that can come to something fine
and noble in the future.

I wish, in the light of these illustrations of what worship means, to
note the thought that a great many men  conscientious, earnest, simple
who have never been accustomed to think of themselves as religious, and
perhaps would deny it if a friend suggested to them that they had in
them the possibilities of worship, that perhaps they are worshippers,
even if they know it not. A great many persons have thrown away the
common ideals of worship, and perhaps have settled down to the idea
that they are not worshippers at all, while all the time the substance
and the beauty and the glory of worship are in their daily lives and
always in their hearts. I want to suggest two or three grades of
worship, to show that this worship climbs; and I want to call attention
to the fact that on the lowest grade it is worship of God just the same
as on the highest, that all worship or admiration for truth, for
beauty, for good, wherever, however, manifested, is really worship of
God, whether we think of it or call it by that name or not, because
they all are manifestations of God.

Take the man who is touched and lifted by natural beauty, the sense of
natural power; the man who loves the woods, who turns and stands to see
the glory of a sunset, who is lifted by tides of emotion as he hears
the surf beat on the shore, who feels bowed in the presence of the wide
night sky of stars, who is humbled at the same time that he is uplifted
in the presence of the mountains, who is touched by all natural scenes
of beauty and peace and glory. Are not these men in their degree

Take the feeling that is expressed in those beautiful lines of Byron.
We do not think of Byron as a religious nature, but certainly he had in
him the heart of worship when he could write such thoughts as these:

"'Tis midnight.
On the mountains brown
The cold, round moon shines deeply down;
Blue roll the waters; blue the sky
Seems like an ocean hung on high,
Bespangled with those isles of light,
So wildly, spiritually bright.

Whoever looked upon them shining
And turned to earth without repining,
Nor wished for wings to flee away
And mix with their eternal ray?"

And Wordsworth says he feels a Presence that "Disturbs him with the joy
of elevated thought, A sense sublime of something far more deeply

And so you may run all through the poets, these simply as hints,
specimens, every one of them worshippers, touched by the beauty, glory,
uplift of the natural world.

And then pass to the next stage, and come to the worship of the human,
to the admiration of the highest and finest qualities that are
manifested in the lives of men and women. Who is there that is not
touched and thrilled by some story of heroic action, of heroic self-
sacrifice, of consecration to duty in the face of danger and death? And
no matter what this manifestation of human goodness may be, if you can
be thrilled by it and lifted by it, then you have taken another step up
this ladder of worship which leads you into the very presence chamber
of the Divine.

Let a boy read the life of Lincoln, see his earnest thirst for
knowledge, the sacrifice he was willing to pay for it, his consecration
to his ideals of truth, the transparent honesty of the man, the supreme
contempt with which he could look down upon anything poor or mean or
low, the firmness and simplicity with which he assumes high office, the
faithfulness, the unassuming devotion, that he carries into the
fulfilment of the trust. Take him all the way through, study his
character and admire, and you are a worshipper of that which is divine.

So in the case of Jesus, the supreme soul of history in its
consecration to the Father, its simple trust in the divine love, its
superiority to fear, to question, to death. When we bow ourselves in
the presence of the Nazarene, we are not worshipping another God. We
are worshipping his Father and our Father as lie shines in the face of
Jesus, as he illumines and beautifies his life, as he makes glorious
the humble pathways of Galilee, and so casts a reflected glory over the
humblest pathways any of us may be called upon to tread.

The next step in our ascent brings us to the conscious worship of God
himself. We cannot grasp the divine idea. The finite cannot measure or
outline the infinite; and so, when we say God, we mean only the
grandest ideal that we can frame, that reaches on towards, but can
never adequately express the Deity. And so we worship this thought,
this ideal, growing as our capacity develops, advancing as the race
advances, and ever leading us Godward, as when we follow a ray of light
we are travelling towards its source. And the attitude of our souls in
the presence of this which is divine is truest worship. The humility of
it, the exaltation of it, is beautifully phrased in two or three lines
which I wish to repeat to you from Browning's Saul: "I but open my
eyes, and perfection, no more and no less, In the kind I imagined,
full-fronts me, and God is seen God In the star, in the stone, in the
flesh, in the soul and the clod. And, thus looking within and around
me, I ever renew (With that stoop of the soul which in bending upraises
it, too), As by each new obeisance in spirit I climb to his feet!"

Here is the significance of the thought I had in mind at the opening.
We talk about humbling ourselves. When we can bend with reverence in
the presence of that which is above us, the very bending is exaltation;
for it indicates the capacity to appreciate, to admire, to adore. Thus
we climb up into the ability to worship God, the infinite Spirit, our
Father, in spirit and in truth.

Now to raise one moment the question suggested near the opening, Are
forms of worship to pass away? The reply to this seems to me perfectly
clear. Those forms which sprang out of and are fitted to only lower
ideals of worship, ideals which humanity outgrows, these must be left
behind, or else they must be transformed, and filled with a new and
higher meaning. But forms will always remain. But note one thing: they
sometimes say that we Unitarians are too cold, and do not have form
enough. You will see that, the higher men rise intellectually, the less
there is always of outward expression.

For example, before men were able to speak with any large vocabulary,
they eked out their meaning by all kinds of motions and gestures. But
the most highly cultivated men to- day, in their conversation, are the
ones who get the least excited and have the least recourse to gestures,
because they are capable of expressing the highest, finest, and most
varied thoughts by the elaborate power of speech which they have
developed. And perhaps the highest and finest worship of the world will
not be that which has the most elaborate ceremonial and ritual; but it
will have adequate and fitting ceremonial and ritual, because it will
naturally seek to express in some external way that which it feels.

I sometimes wish and perhaps you will pardon me for saying it here and
now that we Unitarians were a little less afraid of adequate posture
and gesture in our acts of public worship. God is, indeed, everywhere
as much as he is here; but this is the place we have specially
consecrated to thinking about him and to going through our stated forms
of worship. And if, when you enter the house of a friend, you take off
your hat, you bow the head, it seems to me it would be especially
fitting to do it, when one enters a Christian church. And, in the
attitude of prayer, I wish that all might find it in their hearts to
sit with bended brow and closed eyes as in the presence of the Supreme,
shutting out the common, the outside world, and trying to realize what
it means to come consciously to the feet of the eternal One.

I love these simple, fitting, external manifestations of the worshipful
spirit; and, if we do not substitute them for the worship, and think we
worship when we bend the knee, this appropriate expression of the
spirit, or feeling, it seems to ought to help cultivate the feeling and
the spirit, and make it easier for us to be conscious of the presence
of the Divine.

We are men, then, in the highest sense of the term, only as we are
worshippers. And the more worshipful we are, in high and true sense of
that word, the nobler and higher manhood, and the grander the
possibilities in us of de intellectual, moral, spiritual growth.

Let us, then, cultivate the admiring, the wondering, the worshipful
attitude of heart and mind, and recognize on lowest steps of this
ladder that lifts to God, the presence of the same divine power and
beauty and glory as that which we see clearly on the highest, and know
that always, when we are worshipping any manifestation of God, we are
shipping Him who is spirit, in spirit and in truth.

When on some strain of music Our thoughts are wafted high; When,
touched with tender pity, Kind teardrops dim the eye; When thrilled
with scenes of grandeur, Or moved to deeds of love, Do we not give thee
worship, O God in heaven above? For Thou art all life's beauty, And
Thou art all its good: By Thy tides are we lifted To every lofty mood.
Whatever good is in us, Whatever good we see, And every high endeavor,
Are they not all from Thee?


IT is very common for people to identify their special type of religion
or their theological opinions with religion itself, and feel that those
who do not agree with them are in the rue sense not religious. Not only
this. It is perhaps quite less common for them to identify their
particular type of religion with the fundamental ideas of morality, and
think that the people who do not agree with them are undermining the
moral stability of the world. For example, those who question the
absolute authority of the Catholic Church are looked upon the
authorities of that Church as the enemies, not only of religion, but as
the enemies of society, the enemies of humanity, as doing what they can
to shake the very foundations of he social order. You will find a great
many Protestant theologians who seem to hold the opinion that, if you
dare to question the authenticity or authority of some particular nook
in the Bible, you are not only an enemy of religion, but you are an
enemy of morality. You are doing what you can to disturb the stability
of the world.

But, if we look at the matter with a little care, we shall see that we
ought to turn it quite around, look at it from another point of view.
Though every Bible, every particle of religious literature, every hymn,
every prayer on the face of the earth, were blotted out of existence
to-day, religion would not be touched. Religious books did not create
religion, did not make man a religious being. It is the religious
nature of man that made the Bibles, that uttered itself in prayers,
that created the rituals, that sung the hymns and chanted the anthems.
It is man, a religious being, who makes religious institutions, who
creates all the external aspects and appearances of the religious life.
And the same is true precisely in regard to moral precepts. If the Ten
Commandments were blotted out of the memory of man, if every single
ethical teaching of Jesus should perish, if the high and fine moral
precepts of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius and all the great teachers of
the pagan world should cease to exist, if there were not a printed
moral precept on earth, morality would not be touched. It is not these
that have created morality. It is the natural moral nature of man that
has written all the commandments, whether they have come to us by the
hand of Moses or of Gautama or Mohammed or Confucius or Seneca, or no
matter who the medium may have been.

Man is a moral being, naturally, essentially, eternally, and this is a
moral universe, inherently, necessarily, eternally; and, though all the
external expression of moral thought and feeling should be lost, the
human race would simply reproduce them again.

It is sometimes well for us to get down to the bed-rock in our
thinking, and find how natural and necessary the great foundations are.
The Hindu priests used to tell their followers that the earth, which
was flat, rested on certain pillars, which rested again on some other
foundation beneath them, and so on until thought was weary in trying to
trace that upon which the earth was supposed to find its stability. And
they also told their followers that, if they did not bring offerings,
if they did not pay the special respect which was due to the gods, if
they were not obedient to heir teachings, these pillars would give way,
and the earth would be precipitated into the abyss.

But we have found, as a result of our modern study of he universe, that
the earth needs no pillars on which to rest; but it swings freely in
its orbit, as the old verse that used to read in my schoolboy days
says, "Hangs on nothing in the air," part of the universal system of
things, stable in its eternal sound and motion, kept and cared for by
the power that lever sleeps and never is weary. So, by studying into
the foundations of the moral nature of man, we have discovered a last
that it needs no artificial props or supports, but that morality is
inherent, natural and eternal.

I shall not raise the question, which is rather curious than practical,
as to whether there are any beginnings of moral feeling in the animal
world below man. For our purpose this morning it is enough to note that
the minute that man appears conscience appears, and that conscience is
an act which springs out of social relations. In other words, when the
first man rose to the ability to look into the face of his fellow and
think of the other man as another self, like himself in feelings, in
possibilities of pleasure or pain, when this first man was able
imaginatively to put himself in: he place of this other, then morality
as a practical fact was Dorn.

We may imagine, for the purpose of illustration, this man saying: Here
is another being who appears to be like myself. He is capable of
suffering pain, as I am. He does not like pain any better than I do.
Therefore, I have no right to make him suffer that which I do not wish
to suffer myself. This other man is capable of pleasure. He desires
certain things, similar things to those which I desire. If I do not
wish him to take these things away from me, I have no right to take
them away from him.

I do not mean that this was thought out in this clear way, but that,
when there was the first dim perception of this other self, with
similar feelings, similar possibilities, similar pleasures, similar
pains, then there became a conscience, because there was a
consciousness of this similarity of nature. Morality, then, is born as
a social fact.

To go a little deeper, and in order to trace the natural and historical
growth of the moral ideal, let me say that morality in its deepest and
truest sense is born of the fact of sex, because it is right in there
that we find the root and the germ of permanent social relations. And I
wish you to note another very significant fact. You hear people talking
about selfishness and unselfishness, as though they were direct
contraries, mutually exclusive of each other, as though, in order to
make a selfish man unselfish, you must completely reverse his nature,
so to speak. I do not think this is true at all. Unselfishness
naturally and necessarily springs out of selfishness, and, in the
deepest sense of the word, is not at all contradictory to that.

For example: A man falls in love with a woman. This, on one side of it,
is as selfish as anything you can possibly conceive. But do you not see
by what subtle and divine chemistry the selfishness is straightway
transformed, lifted up, glorified, and becomes unselfishness? The very
love that he professes for her makes it necessary for his own happiness
that she should be happy, so that, in seeking for his own selfish
gratification, he is devoting himself unselfishly to the happiness of
somebody else.

And, when a child is born, do you not see, again, how the two
selfishnesses, the father's and the mother's, selfishly, if you please,
brooding over and loving the child, at once go out of themselves,
consecrating time and care and thought and love, and even health or
life itself, if need be, for the welfare of the child?

Right in there, then, out of this fact of sex and in the becoming of
the family, are born love and sympathy, and tenderness and mutual care,
all those things which are the highest and finest constituent elements
of the noblest developments of the moral nature of men.

Imagination plays a large part in the development of morality; for you
must be able to put yourself imaginatively in the place of another
before you can feel for that other, and in that way recognize the
rights of that other and be ready to grant these rights to that other.
So we find that morality at first is a narrow thing: it is confined
perhaps to the little family, the father, the mother, the child, bound
together by these ties of kinship, of love, of sympathy, devoting
themselves to each other; but they may look upon some other family as
their natural enemies, and feel no necessity whatever to apply these
same principles of love and tenderness and care beyond the limits of
their own little circle.

So you find, as you study the growth of the moral nature of man, that
it is confined at first to the family, then to the patriarchal family,
then the tribe; but the fiction of kinship is still kept up, and, while
the member of the primeval tribe feels he has no right to rob or murder
within the limits of his tribe, he has no compunction whatever about
robbing or murdering or injuring the members of some other tribe. So
the moral principle in its practical working is limited to the range of
the sympathy of the tribe, which does not go beyond the tribal limits.
We see how that principle works still in the world, from the beginning
clear up to the highest reaches which we have as yet attained.

Take the next step, and find a city like ancient Athens. Still,
perhaps, the fiction of kinship is maintained. All the citizens of
Athens are regarded as members of the same great tribe or family. But
even in the time of Plato, whom we are accustomed to look upon as one
of the great teachers of the world, there was no thought of any moral
obligation to anybody who lived in Sparta, lived in any other city of
Greece, and less was there any thought of moral obligation as touching
or taking in the outside barbarian. So when the city grew into a
nation, and we came to a point where the world substantially stands
to-day, do you not see that practically the same principle holds, that,
while we recognize in some abstract sort of fashion that we ought to do
justice and be kind to people beyond our own limits, yet all our
political economy, all our national ideas, are accustomed to emphasize
the fact that we must be just and righteous to our own people, but that
aggression, injustice of almost any kind, is venial in our treatment of
the inhabitants of another country? And it may even flame up into the
fire of a wordy patriotism in certain conditions; and love of country
may mean hatred and injustice towards the inhabitants of another
country, or particularly towards the people of another race.

Let me give you a practical illustration of it. What are the relations
in which we stand to-day towards Spain? I have unbounded admiration for
the patience, on the whole, for the justice, the sense of right, which
characterize the American people. I doubt if there is another nation on
the face of the earth to-day that would have gone through the last two
or three years of our experience, and maintained such an attitude of
impartiality, of faithfulness, of justice, of right. And yet, if we
examine ourselves, we shall find that it is immensely difficult for us
to put ourselves in the place of a Spaniard, to look at the Cuban
question from his point of view, to try to be fair, to be just to him.
It is immensely difficult, I say, for us to look at one of these
international questions from the point of view of another race,
cherishing other religious and social ideas, having another style of

And there is another illustration of it that has recently occurred here
in our country, which is sadder still to me. Only a little while ago a
postmaster in the South was shot by a mob. The mob surrounds his house,
murders him and his child, wounds other members of the family, burns
down his home; and why? Under no impulse whatever except that of pure
and simple race prejudice, the utter inability of a white man to put
himself in the position of a black to such an extent as to recognize,
plead for, or defend his inherent rights as a man.

I am not casting any aspersion on the South in what I am saying, none
whatever. Were the conditions reversed, perhaps we should be no better.
It is not a practical problem with us. If there were two or three times
as many colored men in the State of New York as there are white men,
then we might understand the question. Let us not mentally cast any
stones at the people across the line. I point it out simply as
illustrating the difficulty that we have in recognizing the rights, the
moral rights, of people beyond the limits of that sympathy to which we
have been accustomed and for a long period trained.

I believe the day will come when we shall be as jealous of the right of
a man as we are now of the right of an American. We are not yet. There
have been foregleams and prophecies of it in the past. Long ago a Latin
writer said, I am a man, and whatever is human is not foreign to me.
But think what a lone and isolated utterance that has been for hundreds
of years. Jesus taught us to pray, not my Father, but our Father, and
we do pray it every day in the-year; but how many are the people in any
of the churches that dream of living it? A hundred years ago that
heretic, who is still looked upon as the bugaboo of all that is fine
and good, Thomas Paine, wrote, "The world is my country, and to do good
is my religion," a sentence so fine that it has been carved on the base
of the statue of William Lloyd Garrison on Commonwealth Avenue in
Boston, as being a fitting symbol of his own philanthropic life.

How many of us have risen to the idea of making these grand sentiments
the ruling principles of our lives? But along the lines of moral growth
it is to come. The day will be when, as I said, we shall feel as keenly
whatever touches the right of any man as to-day we feel that which
touches the right of one of our own people; and the moral growth of the
world will reach beyond that. I love to dream of a day when men will no
longer forget the inherent rights of any inhabitant of the air or of
the waters or of the woods or any of the domesticated animals that we
have come to associate with our lives.

We feel towards them to-day as in the old days a man felt towards
another man who was his slave, that he had a right to abuse, to
maltreat, even to kill, if he pleased. We have not yet become civilized
enough, so that we feel it incumbent upon us to recognize the fact that
animals can suffer pain, that animals can enjoy the air or the
sunshine, and that they have a right to each when they do not trespass
upon the larger rights of humanity. I was something of a boy when it
first came over me that it was not as amusing to animals to be shot and
killed as it was to me to shoot and kill them. From the time I was able
to lift a gun I had always carried one; but I soon learned that for me
there was no pleasure in taking needlessly the life of anything that
lived. We are only partially civilized as yet in the treatment of our
domesticated animals. How many people think of the torture of the curb
bit, of the check, of neglect in the case of cold, of thirst, of
hunger? How many people, I say, civilized and in our best society, are
careful yet as to the comfort, the rights, of those that serve them in
these humble capacities?

The time will come when our moral sympathetic sense shall widen its
boundaries even farther yet, and shall take in the trees and the
shrubs, the waters, the hills, all the natural and beautiful features
of the world. I believe that by and by it will be regarded as immoral,
as unmanly, to deface, to mar, that which God has made so glorious and
so beautiful. As soon as man develops, then, his power of sympathy, so
that it can take the world in its arms, so soon he will have grown to
the stature of the Divine in the unfolding of his moral nature.

I wish now to raise the question, for a moment, as to what is to be our
guide in regard to moral facts and moral actions. I was trained, and
perhaps most of you were, to believe that I was unquestioningly to
follow my conscience, that whatever conscience told me to do was
necessarily right. The conscience has been spoken of as though it were
a sort of little deity set to rule man's nature, this little kingdom of
thought and feeling and action. But conscience is nothing of the kind.
Half of the consciences of the world to-day are all wrong.

Let me hint by way of illustration what I mean: Calvin was just as
conscientious in burning Servetus as Servetus was in pursuing that
course of action which led him to the stake. One of them was wrong in
following his conscience, then. You take it to-day: some people will
tell you there is a certain day in the week that you must observe as
sacred. Your conscience tells you there is another day in the week that
you must observe as sacred. Can both be right? Many of the greatest
tragedies of the world have come about through these controversies and
confusions of conscience. The Quaker in old Boston went at the cart's
tail, in disgrace, because he followed his conscience; and the Puritan
put him there because he followed his conscience. Were both of them
right? The inquisitor in Spain put to death hundreds and thousands of
people conscientiously; and the hundreds and thousands of people
conscientiously went to their deaths.

What is conscience, then? Conscience is not a moral guide. It is simply
that monitor within that reiterates to us forever and forever and
forever, Do right. But conscience does not tell us what is right. We
must decide those questions as a matter of calm study and judgment in
the light of human experience. It is the judgment that should tell us
whether a thing is right or wrong. And how shall we know whether it is
right or wrong? Simply by the consequences. That which helps, that
which lifts man up, that which adds to the happiness and the well-being
of the world, as the result of human experience, is right. That which
hurts, that which injures men and women, that which takes away from
their welfare and happiness, that is wrong. All these things, as we
shall see before I get through, are inherent in the nature of things,
not created by statute, not the result of the moral teaching of

This leads me to extend this idea a little farther, and to raise the
question as to what is the standard by which you are to judge moral
action. If you will think it out with a little care, you will find that
the standard of all moral action may be summed up in the one word
"life." Life, first, as continuance; second, to use a philosophical
term, content, that which it includes. Life, this is the standard of
right and wrong.

To illustrate, take me physically, leave out of account all the rest of
my nature now for a moment, and consider me as an animal. From the
point of view of my body, that which conduces to length of life, to
fullness, to completion, to enjoyment of life, is right, the only
right, from this physical point of view. That which threatens my life,
that which takes away my sum of strength, injures my health, takes away
from my possibility of enjoyment, that, from a physical point of view,
is wrong; and there can be no other right or wrong from the point of
view of the body.

But I am not simply body. So this principle must be modified. Come up
to the fact that I am an intellectual being. In order to develop myself
intellectually, I may have to forego things that would be pleasant on
the bodily plane. I sacrifice the lower for the higher; and that which
would be right on the physical plane becomes relatively wrong now,
because it interferes with something that is higher and more important.

Rise one step to man as an affectional being. If you wish to develop
him to the finest and highest here, you may not only be obliged under
certain conditions to sacrifice the body, but you may be obliged to
sacrifice his intellectual development. In order that he may be the
best up here, he must put the others sometimes, relatively, under his
feet. So, again, that which would be right on the physical plane or the
intellectual plane becomes relatively wrong, if it interferes with that
which is higher still.

And so, if you recognize man as a spiritual being, a child of God, then
you say it is right, if need be, to put all these other things under
his feet, in order that he may attain the highest and best that he is
capable of here. But you see it is life all the way, it is the physical
life or it is the mental life or it is the affectional life or it is
the spiritual life; and that which is necessary for the cultivation and
development of these different grades of life becomes on those grades
right, and that which threatens or injures one or either of these
grades becomes, so far as that grade is concerned, wrong.

Life, then, continuance, fullness, joy, use, this is the standard of
right and wrong; a standard which no book ever set up, which no book
can ever overthrow; a standard which is inherent, natural, necessary, a
part of the very nature of things.

I wish now for a moment I must of course do it briefly to consider the
relation of religion to this natural morality. And perhaps you will
hardly be ready some of you, at any rate for the statement which I
propose to make, that sometimes, in order to be grandly moral, a man
must be irreligious. I mean, of course, from the point of view of the
conventional religion of his time, he must be ready to be regarded as
irreligious. In the earliest development of the religious and moral
life of a tribe, very likely, the two went hand in hand, side by side;
for the dead chief now worshipped as god would be looked upon as in
favor of those customs or practices which the tribe had come to regard
as right. But religion perhaps you will know by this time, if you have
thought of it carefully is the most conservative thing in the world.
Naturally, it is the last thing that people are willing to change. This
reluctance grows out of their reverence, grows out of their worshipful
nature, grows out of their fear that they may be wrong.

But now let me illustrate what I mean. Religion, standing still in this
way, has become an institution, a set of beliefs, of rites and
ceremonies, which do not change. The moral experience of the people
goes right on; and so it sometimes comes to pass that the moral ideal
has outgrown the religious ideal of the community. And now, as a
practical illustration to illume the whole point, let us go back to
ancient Athens for a moment at the time of Socrates. Here we are
confronted with the curious fact that Socrates, who has been regarded
from that day to this as the most grandly moral man of his time, the
one man who taught the highest and noblest human ideals, is put to
death as an irreligious man. The popular religion of the time cast him
out, and put the hemlock to his lips; and at the same time his teaching
in regard to righteousness and truth was unspeakably ahead of the
popular religion of his day.

Let us come to the modern Athens for a moment, to the time of Theodore
Parker in Boston. We are confronted here, again, with this strange
fact. There was not a church in Boston that could abide him, not even
the Unitarian churches; and in the prayer-meetings of the day they were
beseeching God to take him out of the world, because they thought he
was such a force for evil. And at the same time Theodore Parker stood
for the very highest, tenderest, truest moral ideal of his age.

There was no man walking the earth at that time who so grandly voiced
the real law of God as did Theodore Parker. And yet he was outcast by
the popular religious sentiment of his time.

This, then, is what I mean when I say that we ought to be careful, and
study and think in forming our religious ideals, and see that we do not
identify our own unwillingness to think with the eternal and changeless
law of God. This is what I have meant in some of the strictures which I
have uttered during the last year upon some of the theological creeds
of the time. The people have grown to be better than their creeds, but
they have not yet developed the courage to make those creeds utter the
highest and finest things which they think and feel. This is what I
have meant when I have said that the character of God as outlined in
many of these creeds is away behind and below the noblest and finest
and sweetest ideals of what we regard as fitting even to humanity

Religion, then, may be ahead of the moral ideal or it may be behind it.
The particular type of religion I mean, of course, which is being held
at any particular time in the history of the world. But the moral ideal
of necessity goes on, keeping step with the social experience of the

I must touch briefly now just one other point of practical importance
that we need to guard, in order to be tender and true in our dealings
with our fellow-men. You will find, if you look over the face of
society, that there are two kinds of morality, frequently quite
inconsistent with each other; and sometimes the poorer of the two kinds
is held in higher esteem than the better. I mean there is conventional
morality, and there is real morality.

As a hint of illustration: An American woman goes to Turkey to-day; and
she is shocked by the customs of the women and their style of dress. It
seems to her that no woman can possibly be moral who, although she
covers her head, can appear on the street with feet and ankles bare.
But this same Turkish woman is shocked beyond the possibility of
utterance to know that in Europe and America women carefully cover
their feet, but expose their faces and their shoulders. It seems
terrible to her, and she cannot understand how a European or American
woman can have any regard for the principles of delicacy and morality.

Do you not see how, in both cases here, it is purely a matter of
convention? No real question of morality is touched in either case. I
speak of this to prepare you to note how conscience can be as troubled
over things which are purely conventional as it can over things which
are downright and real. Let me use another illustration, going a little
deeper in the matter. Here is a man, for example, who is terribly
shocked because his neighbor takes a drive with his family on Sunday
afternoon. It seems to him an outrage on all the principles of public
and social morality; and he is eager to get up a society to abolish
such customs, that seem to him to threaten the prosperity of all that
is good in the world. But this same man, perhaps, has been trained in a
way of conducting his business that, while legal, is not strictly fair.
This man may be hard and cruel towards his employees. He may cherish
bitter hatreds towards his rivals. In his heart he may be transgressing
the law of vital ethics, while fighting with all the power of his
nature for that which does not touch any real question of right or
wrong at all.

Or take a woman who, while shocked at the transgression of some social
custom in which she has been trained from her childhood, or, for
example, has come to think that a certain way of observing Lent, on
which we have just entered, is absolutely necessary to the safety of
religion and morals both, is yet quite willing, and without a qualm of
conscience, on the slightest hint of a suspicion, to tear into tatters
the character of one of her neighbors or friends, does not hesitate to
slander, perhaps is unjust or cruel to the servants that make the house
comfortable and beautiful for her; in other words, transgressing the
real laws of right and wrong, she is shocked and troubled over the
transgression on the part of others of some purely conventional
statute, the keeping or breach of which has no real bearing on the
welfare of the world.

A good many of our social judgments are like the case of the old lady
pardon me, if it should make you smile, but it illustrates the case who
criticised with a great deal of severity a neighbor and friend who wore
feathers on her bonnet. Somebody said to her, But the ribbons on your
bonnet are quite as expensive as the feathers that you criticise. "Yes,"
she said, "I know they are; but you have got to draw the line
somewhere, and I choose to draw it at feathers." So you find a great
many people on every hand in society who are choosing to draw these
lines purely artificial, purely conventional in regard to matters of
supposed right or wrong, while they are not as careful to look down
deeply into the essential principles of that which is inherently right
or wrong.

And now at the end I wish to suggest what is a theme large enough for a
sermon by itself, and say that these laws of righteousness are so
inherent that they are self-executed; and by no possibility did any
soul from the beginning of the world ever escape the adequate result of
his wrong-doing. The old Hebrews, as manifested in the Book of Job, the
Psalms, and all through the Old Testament, taught the idea, which was
common at that time in the world, that the favor of God was to be
judged by the external prosperity of men and women. The Old Testament
promises long life and wealth and all sorts of good things to the
people who do right; and I find on every hand in the modern world
people who have inherited this way of looking at things. I have heard
people say: I have tried to do right, and I am not prosperous. I wonder
why I am treated so? I have heard women say, I have tried to be a good
mother: why is my child taken away from me? As though there was any
sort of relation between the two facts. I hear people say, Don't talk
to me about the justice of God, when here is a man, who has been
dishonest all his life long, who has prospered, and become rich and
lives in a fine house, drives his horses, and owns a yacht. As if there
was any sort of connection between the two, as though a man  merely
because he had a fine house and owned a yacht was escaping the
punishment of his unjust and selfish life.

Remember, friends, look a little below the surface. There is no
possibility of escape. I break some law of my body; do I escape the
result? I break some law of my mind; do I escape the result? I break
some law of my affectional nature; is nothing to happen? I break a law
of my spiritual nature; does nothing take place as the result of it?
You might as well say that the law of gravity can be suspended, that a
man can fling himself over the edge of a precipice, and come to no
harm. The precipice over the edge of which you fling yourself may be a
physical one, may be a mental one, an affectional one, a spiritual one;
but the moral gravity of the universe is never mocked, and the man who
breaks any of God's laws never goes free. He may discover that he has
broken it, be sorry for it, begin to keep it again, and recover
himself; but the consequences are sure, inevitable, eternal.

You look at a man who is externally prospering, and because of this you
say he is not suffering the result of the evil he has done. Go back
with me to Homer's Odyssey at the time when Ulysses and his companions
fell into the hands of the sorceress, and his companions were turned
into swine. Would you go and look at these swine, and say they are not
suffering anything? See how comfortable they are. See with what gusto
they eat the food that is cast into their troughs. See how happy they
are as swine. They are not suffering anything Is it nothing to become
swinish, merely because you have your beautiful pen to live in? Is a
not suffering the result of his moral wrong when he debases and
degrades and deteriorates his own nature, and becomes less a man,
because he is surrounded with all that is glorious and beautiful that
art can supply? Look within whatever department of nature where the law
has been disobeyed, and there forever and forever read the result, the
inevitable law, that the soul that sinneth, in so far as it sinneth, it
shall die.


Two WEEKS ago I preached a sermon, the subject of which was "Morality
Natural, not Statutory." Judging by the conversations which I have had
and letters which I have received, it has aroused a good deal of
question and criticism in certain quarters. This must be for one of
three reasons. In the first place, the position which I took may not be
a tenable one. In the second place, it is possible that the views
expressed, being somewhat new and unfamiliar, were not found easy of
apprehension and acceptance. In the third place, it is possible that,
in endeavoring to treat so large a subject, I did not analyze and
illustrate enough to make myself perfectly clear.

At any rate, the matter seems to me of such supreme importance as to
make it worth my while this morning to continue the general subject by
a careful and earnest treatment of the great question of reward and
punishment as applied to feeling, to thought, to conduct, the whole of
human life.

Let me say here at the outset, as indicating the point towards which I
shall aim as my goal, that in the ordinary use of language, in the
popular use of language, I do not believe in either reward or
punishment: I believe only in causes and results. This, as I said, is
the point that I shall aim at. Where shall I begin?

I need to ask you to consider for a moment the state of mind of man, so
far as we can conceive it, when he first wakes up as a conscious being,
and begins to look out over the scene of nature and human life with the
endeavor to interpret facts as they appear to him. Of course, he knows
nothing whatever of what we mean by natural law: he knows nothing of
natural cause and of necessary result. So far as we can discover by our
researches, all the tribes of men about whom we have been able to
gather any information have had a belief, if not in God, at least in
gods, or in spiritual existences and powers that controlled within
certain limits the course of human events. It may have been the worship
of ancestors, it may have been the worship of some great chief of the
tribe; but these invisible beings have been able to help or hurt their
followers, their worshippers; and of course they have been thought of
as governing human life after substantially the same methods that they
used when they were living here in the body.

That is, it has been a magical or arbitrary government of the world
that has been for ages the dominant one in the human mind. People have
supposed that these invisible beings desired them to do certain things,
to refrain from doing certain other things, and they have expected them
to reward or punish them how? By giving them that which they desired,
on the one hand, or sending them something which they did not desire,
on the other. They have brought the gods their offerings, their
sacrifices, their words of praise, and have asked that they might be
successful in war, that they might bring home the game which they
sought when they went on a hunting expedition. When there have been
disease, pestilence, famine, drought, no matter what the nature of the
evil, they have been regarded as allotments of these divine powers sent
on account of something they have done or omitted to do. It never
occurred to them to interpret these as part of a natural order, because
they knew nothing about any natural order. They reasoned as well as
they were able to reason at that stage of culture in any particular age
of the world's history which they had reached. But this has been the
thought of men time out of mind concerning the method of the divine or
spiritual or unseen government of the world.

Is this way of looking at it confined to primitive man, confined to
pagan nations? Do we find something else, some other condition of mind,
when we come to study carefully the Old Testament? Let us see. Take the
first verse which I read as a part of my text. The author of this Psalm
we do not know who he may have been says, "I have been young, and now
am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed
begging their bread." As I have read this a great many times in the
past, I have wondered as to the strange experience that this man must
have had in human life, if this is a correct interpretation of that
experience. I have been young: I do not like to admit that as yet I am
old; but, whether I am or not, I have a good many times seen the
righteous forsaken, and his seed begging their bread.

It seems to me that the writer of this verse was trained in a theory of
the government of human affairs that does not at all match the facts.
He has this magical, this arbitrary theory in his mind. It was the
general conception I think, as any one will find by a careful reading
of the Old Testament or study of Jewish history, the ordinary
conception among the Hebrews, that God was to reward people for being
good by prosperity, long life, many children, herds of cattle,
distinction among his fellow-men, positions of political honor and
power; and the threat of the taking away of these is frequently uttered
against those that presume to do wrong. In other words, it seems to me
that the ordinary theory of the government of human affairs as set
forth in the Old Testament is precisely this same one that I have been
considering as the natural and necessary outcome of the ignorance and
inexperience of early man.

As time went on, now and then some deeper, more spiritual thinker
begins to question this method of reasoning, begins to wonder whether
it is quite adequate; and we have a magnificent poetical expression of
this kind of critical thought in the Book of Job. This Book of Job is
any way and every way worthy of your careful attention. It is the
nearest to a dramatic production of anything in the Bible. James
Anthony Froude said once in regard to it that, if it were translated
merely as a poem and published by itself, it would take rank as a
literary work among the few great masterpieces of the world.

But the thing that engages our attention this morning is not its power
as a dramatic production, but its criticism of God's government of the
world. It has been assumed, as I have said, and we are not through with
that assumption, that, if a man suffered, if he was ill, if his wife or
children were taken away from him, if his property was destroyed,
somehow he had offended God, and that this was a punishment for the
course of wrong-doing in which he had been engaged. But the author of
the Book of Job conceives that this does not quite match the facts; so
he gives us this magnificent character that he declares upright,
spotless, free from wrong of any kind, who yet is suffering. He has
lost his property, it has been swept away, his children have been put
to death, almost everything that he cared for he has lost, and he from
head to feet is sick of a loathsome disease; and he sits in the midst
of his deprivation and sorrow. His friends gather around him; and with
this old assumption in their minds some of them begin to taunt him.
They say, Now, Job, why not confess, why not own up as to what you have
been doing? Of course, you have been doing something wrong, or all this
would not have happened. This is the tone that one of his critics
takes. This is the kind of comfort that he receives in the midst of his
sorrow. But Job protests earnestly and indignantly that it is not true.
He says he is innocent, there are no secret wrongs in his life; and he
wishes that he might find some way by which he could come into the
presence of the great Ruler of the universe, and openly plead his
cause. But his friends do not believe him.

Now the writer of the book lets us into the explanation he has thought
out for this: God for a special reason is testing Job, to see whether
he will be true to him in spite of the fact that he does not get the
ordinary blessings that the people were accustomed to look for as the
rewards of their conduct. But the writer is not consistent with the
wonderful position that he makes Job assume; for, after the trial is
all over, he falls in with the popular theory, and shows us Job, not
with the old children who could not be brought back, but with a lot of
new ones, with herds and cattle again in plenty, with honor among his
fellow-citizens, with all that heart could wish in the way of worldly
prosperity and peace.

So I say the writer is not quite consistent, for he falls back at the
end on the old theory, and he lets us gain a glimpse behind the scenes,
just enough to see that there are cases, special cases, where the
popular theory does not hold; but he still seems to assume that, in a
general way, we are to accept it as correct, and as explaining the
facts of human life.

The Jews acted on this theory in their political history. Their
prophets, their great teachers, asserted over and over again that, if
they were true to their God, if they were faithful in their obedience
to the law, if they lived out all these highest and finest ideals of
ceremonial as well as heart righteousness, that they would be mighty as
a nation, that their enemies would be put under their feet, that they
would have political success and power; and yet their increasing
insistence on this ceremonial and interior righteousness of thought and
life was found to be no adequate defence against the Roman legions.
Political success did not come to them. In spite of all their
obedience, they were swept out of existence as a nation.

Now do we find any difference in teaching in the New Testament? We do;
and we do not. The teaching of the New Testament is not consistent in
this matter. If Jesus be correctly reported, his own teaching is not
quite consistent on this subject. Let me give you one or two
illustrations, that you may see what I mean. John tells us that a
certain man, who had been born blind, was brought to Jesus to be cured;
and the people stood about, and said to Jesus, "Who is it, this man
himself or his parents, that sinned, so that he was born blind?" You
see it does not occur to them that there is any natural cause for a
man's being blind, apart from some sin on the part of somebody. Who is
it, then, his father or mother, or he himself, that has sinned, that is
the cause of it? Jesus says, "Neither this man nor his parents have
sinned," and you think at first that you are going to get an adequate
explanation; but he straightway adds that the man was blind in order
that the works of God might be manifest in him; which we cannot accept
to-day as quite an adequate explanation.

Then take the case of the man who was lying at the pool of Bethesda,
and was reported as cured. Jesus meets him, after a good deal of
question and criticism on the part of the Jews, and says, "Now you have
been healed, see to it that you sin no more, lest a worse thing come to
you," seeming to imply again that sin might be punished by lameness, by
affliction of this kind or that.

So it seems to me that we do not get, even in the New Testament,
entirely free from this old conception. Indeed, there are the verses
which I read as a part of our lesson from the fifth chapter of Matthew,
one of which for a clear or more spiritual insight I have quoted as a
part of my text, "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be filled" with what? Filled with
righteousness; not filled with health, external prosperity, many
children, friends, political position, honor. Blessed are the pure in
heart, for they shall what? See God. "Blessed are the merciful, for
they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are they that are persecuted for
righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

You see these beatitudes strike down to the eternal principle of
natural, necessary causation and result, just as does the last verse
which I have quoted from Galatians, "Be not deceived; God is not
mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," not
something else, that. Here is a clear and explicit annunciation of the
eternal, universal law of cause and effect, of the idea that those
things which happen are not arbitrary infliction, but natural and
necessary result.

Let us, then, consider this matter for a little as we look over the
face of human life as it is manifested to us at the present time. I
suppose hardly a week passes that, either by letter or in conversation,
I do not come face to face with this same old problem, showing that
only partially and here and there have men and women even to-day come
to comprehend the real method after which this universe of ours is
governed. For example, let me give you a few illustrations.

I have a friend in Boston, one of the noblest men I ever knew, sweet,
gentle, true: he came to me one day, and said: "Mr. Savage, I have
tried all my life to be an honest man. I do not own an ill-gotten
dollar. I have tried to be kind and helpful to people in need, in
trouble; and yet," and then it began to dawn on him that he was not on
a very logical track, for he smiled, "and yet I have not got on very
well in the world; I have not made a great deal of money; I have not
been specially prosperous in business." And the implication was that
here, next door or in another street, was a man who had a good many
ill-gotten dollars, and who had not been generous or kindly or humane
or tender, but who had prospered and become rich, as he had not. And he
raised this as a serious objection against the justice of the
government of the world.

I have had mothers; I presume a thousand times, say to me: "I have
tried to take the best possible care of my child. I loved my child, I
watched over it night and day, I have money enough to give it a good
education, I could train it into fitness for life; and yet my child is
taken away." Here is somebody else who has not the means to educate her
child, perhaps whose character and intelligence are a good deal below
the average level. Her child is spared, spared for what? Spared for a
career for which it will be entirely unfitted; and the question is, Why
does God do such things, why is the universe governed in this fashion?

And I have had persons say to me: "I have been ill all my life, I have
suffered no end of pain and trouble: I wonder why? What have I done
that I must be burdened and afflicted after this fashion?" So these
questions are coming up perpetually, showing that underlying the
ordinary surface of our common daily life is still this theory that God
arbitrarily governs the world, and rewards people for being good with
health and with money and with children and with all sorts of
prosperity. There is no end of talk in regard to judgments, as they are
called. I remember when I was living in the West I take this as an
illustration as good as any a neighboring small city was badly
devastated by fire. All the ministers around me in my city began to
preach about it as a judgment of God for the supposed wickedness of
this city. One peculiar thing about this particular judgment, which I
noticed as reported in the papers, was that the last thing which the
fire burned was a church; and it left standing next door, and
untouched, a liquor saloon. It seemed to me a very peculiar kind of
divine judgment, if that is what it really was.

And so, as you look into these cases of supposed divine judgments,
which people are so ready to see in regard to their neighbors, you will
find that it has some serious defect of this sort almost always that
makes you question whether a wise man would be guilty of that method of
conducting his affairs.

This, perhaps, is enough by way of setting forth the popular method of
looking at these problems. I want to ask you now to go with me for a
little while, as I attempt to analyze some of these cases, and get at
the real principle involved as to what it is that is really going on.

Now take this case of the mother whose child is taken away from her, as
she says. Let us see if we can find out what is really being done. It
is possible, of course, that the child has inherited, it may be from a
grandfather or great-grandfather, from somewhere along the line, a
tendency to a particular kind of disease. It may be that, without
anybody's being to blame for it or anybody's knowing it, the child was
exposed to some contagious disease on the street or at school. It may
be that the mother, through a little otherwise pardonable vanity,
wishing to display the beauty of the child rather than to dress it in
the healthiest manner, has been the means of exposing it to cold. It
may be any one of a dozen things has caused the death of this child.
And do you not see that in every case it has nothing whatever to do
with the mother's moral goodness or spiritual cultivation? It is absurd
to think that the mother, in this case, is being punished for something
that she is entirely unconscious of having been guilty of. Do you not
see that there is no logical connection between an inherited disease,
between exposure, between taking cold, between any of these natural
causes and the goodness of the mother? Is it not absurd to talk about
their having anything whatever to do with each other?

I remember hearing a famous revivalist preach some years ago; and in
this particular sermon he represented God as using all means to try to
turn such a man from his path of evil, as he regarded it, into the way
of right and truth and salvation; and he said: First, perhaps, God
takes his property away from him; and that does not change him. And by
and by he takes his wife; and that does not change him. And then he
takes one of his children; and, as he expressed it, he lays these
coffins across his pathway in order to warn him of his sinful
condition, and turn him into the right way.

Think of a God who kills other people on account of my wrong!

I had a friend in Boston once, a lady, a school-teacher, who in all
seriousness told me, when her sister died, that she was afraid God had
taken her sister away because she had not been sufficiently faithful in
attending church services during Lent. Think of it! Not only the lack
of logic in linking things like these together, but the practical
impiety of attributing to God such feelings and action in regard to his
dealings with his children!

Let us take the case of a man who, not being highly elevated in
character, becomes rich. Let us see if we can get at the principles
involved here. Perhaps you can call to mind one or another case that
you may be thinking of while I speak. Of course I shall mention no
names. Here is a man who possesses remarkable natural business ability,
power to read the commerce, the business of his times. He deals with
these in a practical way. He complies with the conditions of
accumulating wealth. No matter for the present whether he does wrong in
doing it or not, that is, whether he is unjust or hard or cruel; but he
complies with the conditions for the obtaining of money in this
particular department of life. Now do you not see that, no matter what
his moral character may be in other directions, whether he is kind to
his wife, whether he is loving towards his children, whether he is
generous in a charitable way, whether he is politically stanch or
corrupt, do you not see that these questions are entirely irrelevant,
have nothing whatever to do with the question of success in the money
field? He sows according to the laws of the product which he wishes to
raise, and the product appears.

Or take the case of a farmer: Here is a certain tract of land adapted
to a particular crop. He sows wisely in this field. He cultivates it:
the rain and the sun do their part; and in the fall he has a
magnificent result. Now has that anything whatever to do with the
question whether the man was a good man or not, as to whether he went
to prayer-meeting or not, as to whether he read his Bible or not, as
to whether he was profane or not, as to whether he was a good neighbor
or not? Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap, and reap it where
he sows it. Is it not perfectly plain? So in any department of human
life, I care not what, trace it out, and you will find that precisely
the same principle is involved, and that you get results, not arbitrary
bestowal's of reward or punishment.

Now I must come having, I hope, made this sufficiently clear, though
after this fragmentary fashion to deal a little more with some of the
ethical sides of this question. I have had no end of persons tell me,
first and last, that it seemed to them that the universe could not be a
moral universe, that it was not governed fairly, that reward and
punishment were not meted out evenly to people; and they based their
criticism on statements of fact similar to those with which I have been

Now let us look into the matter a little deeply; and let us see if we
can find any hint of light and guidance. I have had a person within a
week say to me, "I do not feel at all sure that it means much that
people get the moral results of their moral action in a particular
department of life. If a person becomes a little bit callous and hard,
wisely selfish and prudent, and so prospers in the affairs of this
life, I am not sure that he is not as well off as anybody, perhaps a
little better off, perhaps a little better off than a person who is
sensitive, and worries because he does not reach his ideals; and it is
possible that he serves the world after all quite as well." This is a
kind of criticism, I say, that has been made to me in the last week.

Let us look at it for just a minute. People do not seem able as yet to
understand that a man is really "punished," in the popular sense of
that word, unless they can see him publicly whipped. It does not seem
to them to mean anything because a man deteriorates, because the
highest and finest qualities in him atrophy and threaten to die out. I
used an illustration in my sermon two weeks ago to which I shall have
to recur again, to see if I can make it mean more than it did then. It
is the story of Ulysses who fell into the hands of the famous
sorceress, and whose companions were turned into swine. Now would you
be willing to be turned into a pig, merely because, being a pig, you
would not know anything about it, and would not suffer? Would you be
willing to be reduced to the life of an oyster, merely because, being
an oyster, you would be haunted by no restless ideals, and, so far as
you had any sense at all, would probably be very comfortable indeed? Is
there no "punishment" in this deprivation of the highest and finest
things that we can conceive of?

It seems to me that a person who has deteriorated, who has become
selfish, who has become mean, who has lost all taste for high and fine
and sweet things, and is unconscious of them, is having meted out to
him the worst conceivable retribution. If a man is mean and knows it,
if a man is selfish and is conscious of it, if a man is unjust and is
stung by the reflection, there is a little hope for him, there is life
there, there is moral vitality, there is a chance for him to
recuperate, to climb up into something higher and finer; but, if he has
not only become degraded and mean, but has become contented in that
condition, it seems to me that he is worse off than almost anybody else
of whom we can dream.

Let us see for a moment on what conditions a man who has deteriorated
is well off. There are three big "ifs" in the way, in my thought of it.
If a man really is a spiritual being, if he is a child of God, if there
are in him possibilities of unfolding of all that is sweet and divine,
then he is not well off when he is not developing these, and is content
not to develop them. Browning says, in his introduction to "Sordello,"
"The culture of a soul, little else is of any value."

If we are souls, and if the culture of a soul is of chiefest
importance, then cursed beyond all words is the man who has
deteriorated and become degraded and is content to have it so. Blessed
beyond all words is the soul that is haunted by discontent, haunted by
unattained and unattainable ideals, who is restless because of that
which he feels he might be and yet is not, he who is touched by the
far-off issues of divinity, and cannot rest until he has grown into
the stature of the Divine!

And then, once more, if it be true that it is worth our while to help
our fellow-men in the higher side of their nature, to help them be men
and women, to help them realize that they are children of God, and to
grow into the realization of it, if, I say, this be worth while, then
lamentable beyond all power of expression is the condition of that man
who does not feel it and does not care for it, and does not consecrate
himself to its attainment. Look over the long line of those who have
served mankind. Who are they? From Abraham down, the prophets of
Israel; Jesus, Paul, Savonarola, Huss, Wyclif, Luther, Channing,
Parker, who have these men been but the ones who were ready at any
price to do something to lift up and lead on the progress of mankind?
These are the ones who have felt the meaning of those sublime words of
Jesus: "He that loseth his life shall save it." If there is any meaning
in that splendid passage from George Eliot, that is so trite because it
is so fine,

"Oh may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence: live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in score
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge man's search
To vaster issues.
So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,
Breathing as beauteous order that control
With growing sway the growing life of man.
This is life to come,
Which martyred men have made more glorious
For us who strive to follow.
May I reach That purest heaven, be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense.
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world."

If, I say, there is any meaning in that magnificent song, then indeed
it is worth while to be miserable, if need be, worth while to suffer,
worth while to sacrifice for the sake of planting seed in the spiritual
fields, and looking for its spiritual results, and not finding fault
with the universe because we do not get results of spiritual goodness
in material realms.

There is one other "if." If it be true, as I believe it is, that this
life goes right on, and that we carry into the to-morrow of another
life the precise and accurate results that we have wrought out in the
to-day of this; if it be true that, when we get over there, it will be
spiritual facts and spiritual things with which we shall deal, then the
man who has cultivated his spiritual nature and has reaped spiritual
results has no right to find fault with the universe because it has not
paid him with material good.

Let us remember, then, that we get what we sow. God has not promised to
pay you in greenbacks for being good; God has not promised to give you
physical health because you are gentle and tender; God has not promised
to give you long life because you are generous; God has not promised to
give you positions of social or political honor because you are kind to
your neighbors, faithful to your wife, true to your children. Can you
not see that whatsoever a man sowest, that shall he reap; and that he
will reap in the field where he sows, and not in some other; and that
God is dealing fairly, justly, tenderly, truly, with you in giving you
the results at which you aim, and not the results at which you do not

So, if you really care to be a man, if you care to be a woman, honest,
noble, tender, true, then be these, and be grateful that you reap the
reward where you sowed, and do not find fault with God or the universe
because he does not pay you for things that you have not done, because
he does not make a crop grow in some field that you have not
cultivated, because it is eternally true that God is not mocked, and
that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.


THE critical and investigating work of the modern world threatens to
shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And there are large numbers
of people who are disturbed and afraid: they are troubled lest certain
things that are precious, that are dear to them, may be taken away. Not
only this, they are troubled lest things of vital importance to the
highest life of the world be taken away. I propose, then, this morning
to run in rapid review over a few of the changes that are caused by the
investigating spirit of the time, and then to point out some things
that are not touched, that cannot be shaken, and that therefore must
remain. And I ask you to have in mind, as I pursue this line of
thought, the question whether doubt has taken away anything really
valuable from mankind. The negative part of my theme I shall touch on
very lightly, and dispose of as briefly as I may.

What has doubt, what has investigation, done concerning the universe of
which we are a part? In the old days, before doubt began its work,
before men asked questions and demanded proof, we lived in a little,
petty, tiny world, which the imagination of the superstitious and the
fear of ignorant men had created. But the cycles and epicycles which
Ptolemy devised, and by means of which he explained, as well as he knew
how, the movements of the heavenly bodies around us, these have passed
away. The breath of doubt has blown upon them; and they have gone, like
mists driven by the wind.

But has doubt quenched the light of any star? Has doubt taken away from
the glory of the universe? Rather, as the result of the work of these
myriad investigators, whose one aim and end was truth, at last we have
a universe worthy to be the home of an infinite God, a universe that
matches our thought of the Divine, a universe that thrills and lifts
us, fills us with reverence, and bends us to our knees in the attitude
of worship.

The same spirit has raised no end of questions concerning God. What has
been the result? We have lost the old thought of God in the shape of a
man sitting on a throne located in the heavens just above the blue or
on some distant star. We have lost the thought of a God as a tyrant, as
a jealous being, as angry every day with his children, as ready to
punish these children forever for their ignorance, for their
intellectual mistakes, for their sins of whatever kind. We have changed
our conception of him; but have we lost God? I will not answer that
question at this stage of the discourse, because I wish merely to
suggest it now, and dwell on it a little more when I come to the
positive treatment of our morning's theme.

Let us glance at the Bible a moment. Doubt and investigation have been
at work there. What has been the result? Have we lost the Bible? No. We
have gained it. We have lost those things about it which were
intellectual burdens because we could not believe them, which were a
moral burden because they conflicted with our highest and noblest sense
of right. We no longer feel under the necessity of reconciling human
mistakes with divine infallibility. Professor Goldwin Smith has told us
recently that these old theories of the Bible were a millstone about
the neck of Christendom, and that they must be gotten rid of if
Christianity was to live. This is all that doubt and investigation have
done to the Bible. They have cleared away the things that no sane and
earnest and devout mind wishes to keep; and they have restored to us in
all their dignity and beauty and sweetness and power the real human
Bible, the Bible which poured out of the heart of the olden time, and
which is in all its truth and sweetness, so far as they go, a
revelation of the divinest things in human thought and human dream.

Preachers tell us every little while that those who ask questions have
taken away our Lord, and they know not where he has been laid. What has
this spirit done concerning Jesus? Has it taken him away from us?
Rather, as the result of all this question and criticism, at last we
have found him, found him who has been hidden away for ages, found the
man, divine son of God, son of man, brother, friend, inspirer,
companion, helper. It has done for Jesus the grandest service of which
we can conceive.

And now one more point. People used to suppose they knew all about the
next world. They knew where heaven was and where hell was, and who were
to be the inhabitants of either place, and why. Doubt and question have
been at work here, and now we do not know where heaven is; and we do
not know where hell is, except that it is within the heart of those
that are not in accord with the divine life. Where the places are, we
know not; but blessed beyond all words be ignorance like this! We know
because we believe in righteousness and truth that there is no hell
except that which we create for ourselves; and that is in this world,
in any world where there is a breach of a divine law. But has the great
hope gone? Has doubt touched that, so that it has shrivelled and become
as nothing? That I shall have occasion to touch on a little more at
length in a moment; and so I leave it here with this suggestion.

I wish you now to note, and to note with a great deal of care, that
doubt, criticism, question, investigation, have no power to destroy
anything. People talk as though, if you doubted a thing, it
disappeared, as though doubt had magical power to annihilate in some
way a truth. If you really do doubt an important divine truth, it may
disturb and trouble you for a while; but the truth remains just the
same. I remember some years ago a parishioner came to me, an
intelligent lady, and said, "Mr. Savage, I have about lost my belief in
any future life." I smiled, and said: "I am sorry for you, if it
interferes with your comfort and peace; but remember one thing, neither
your doubt nor my belief touches or changes the fact." The eternal life
is not something to be puffed away with a breath, if it be real. So
rest right there in the firm assurance that whatever is true is true,
and rests on the eternal foundation of the permanence of God; and
asking questions about it, digging away at its foundations, testing it
in any and all sorts of ways, cannot by any possibility injure it.
Enforce thus this idea, simple as it seems, because thousands of men
and women at the present time are made to tremble by utterances from
the pulpit, as though doubt were really a destroyer. Of course, it
seems commonplace the moment you think of it; and, still for your peace
and for the restfulness of your mind as you look on the things that are
taking place about us, hold fast to this simple idea.

There is one other point which I wish to raise. What is the use of
criticism? What is the use of all this investigating? Why indulge in
all this doubt? And now let me give you an illustration which will lead
me to answering this question and enforcing the point I have in mind. A
farmer, if he selects a favorable piece of ground, plants good seed,
cultivates it properly, if the rain falls and the sun shines, and the
weather is propitious, will have a successful crop. Does it make any
difference now whether the farmer has correct ideas about soil and seed
and cultivation? Does it make any difference whether he has any true
conception of the nature and work of the sunshine in producing this
crop? In one sense, No. In another, a very important sense, Yes.
Suppose the farmer, having gotten into his mind the idea that the sun
is the source of all the life and growth of the things that he plants
and the crops he cultivates, should say, "Well, now, it does not make
any difference whether I have correct scientific theories about the sun
or not: the sun carries on his work just the same." I have heard people
say, over and over again, using an illustration like this: "What
difference does it make what your theories are about the spiritual
life, about the origin and nature of religion, about morality? If you
live a good life, the results are just the same, whatever your thinking
may be." And I grant it. But now suppose the farmer should say to
himself: "The sun is the source of all the life that I am able to
produce, that I see growing around me; and now I will worship him as a
god. I will pray to him, I will sing songs of praise to him, I will
bring birds and animals and burn sacrifices to him; and so I will win
his favor, and get him to produce these wonderful results for me."
Suppose he should so seek his results, and pay no attention to the
character of the soil, to the kind of seed he planted, or to proper
cultivation: would that make no difference?

Do you not see that theory may be of immense practical importance in
certain contingencies? Whether he has any knowledge of the sun or not,
if he complies with the laws, the conditions, if he is fortunately
obedient, then his results will be produced. But, if his ignorance, his
superstition, lead him to neglect the natural forces with which he
deals, then it may make all the difference in the world. So, as I study
the history and development of religious thought, I see everywhere that
men and women, through their ignorance in regard to the real nature of
the universe and of God and of their own souls, are going astray,
wasting time, wasting thought, wasting effort, misdirecting all these
instead of complying with the real natural universal conditions on
which these noblest and highest results which they desire depend.

If a man, for example, believes that he is to please God by a
sacrifice, by an offering, by swinging incense, by going through a
certain ceremony, instead of being righteous and true, does it make no
difference? Carry out the idea as far as you please, I think I have
made plain the thought I had in mind.

So it does make a difference what our thoughts, our theories, may be;
and, therefore, there is good in this work of investigation which
proposes to sift and test and try things, and find out the real nature
of the forces which confront us and with which we have to deal.

Now, then, I come to the positive answering of our question. Are there
some things that doubt cannot touch? And are these things the most
important ones, the ones that we need to feel solid under our feet?
What do we need? We do not need to be able to unravel all the mysteries
of the universe. Any quantity of the questions we ask are not practical
ones. We do not need to wait for an answer to them. Any number of the
things that are in doubt are of no practical consequence; and we need
not wait for their settlement before we begin to live and to help our
fellowmen and to do what we can to bring in the coming kingdom of our

I wish to note now a few of the things that seem to me very stable
things, that doubt cannot disturb. And first I will say that which I
mean when I use the word "God." I wish you to learn to separate between
the word and the reality. Sometimes people are quarrelling over a label
instead of the reality that is back of all. I care very little for a
name. I care for things, for the eternal truths of the universe. May we
then feel that modern doubt does not touch our belief in God? I ask you
to consider a moment, and see. As we wake up, assuming nothing, and
look abroad, what do we find? We find ourselves in the presence of a
Power that is not ourselves, another Power, a Power that was here
before we were born, a Power that will be here after we have died, a
Power that has produced us, and so is our father and mother on any
theory you choose to hold of it, a Power out of which we have come. Now
suppose we look abroad, and try to find something in regard to the
nature of this Power. We can conceive no beginning: we can conceive no
end. And let me say right here that, as the result of all his lifelong
study and thinking as an evolutionist, Mr. Herbert Spencer has said
that the existence of this infinite and eternal Power, of which all the
phenomenal universe is only a partial and passing manifestation, is the
one item of human knowledge of which we are most certain of all.

An Infinite Power, then, an eternal Power, shall I say an intelligent
Power? At any rate, just as far as our intelligence can reach, we find
that the universe matches that intelligence, responds to it, so that we
must think of it, it seems to me, as intelligent. Out of that Power, as
I have said, we have come; and who are we? Persons, persons that think,
persons that feel, persons that love, persons that hope; and we are the
children of this Power, and, according to one of the fundamental
principles of science, nothing can be evolved which was not first
involved, the stream cannot rise higher than its source, that which is
produced must be equal to that which produces it.

This Power, then, eternal, infinite, intelligent, must be as much as
what we mean by person, by thought, by love, by hope, by all that makes
us what we are. Shall we call a Power like this God? Shall we call it
Nature? Shall we call it Law? Shall we call it Force? It seems to me
that, if we take any name less and lower than God, we are indulging in
a huge assumption, and a negative assumption at that. Suppose that,
looking at one of you, I should call you body instead of calling you
man. I should be assuming that you are only body, which I have no right
to do. If I call this Infinite Power, then, Nature, Force, Law, Matter,
I am indulging in a negative assumption which is scientifically
unwarranted. As a reasonable being, then, I think I am scientifically
warranted in saying that belief in God is something that all
investigation only affirms, and affirms over and over again, and with
still greater and greater force.

I have not time to go into this at any further length this morning; but
I believe that we are scientifically right in saying that all the
doubt, all the investigation, all the questioning of the world, have
only given us a stronger and more solid assurance that we have a divine
Power around us, and that we are the children of that Power.

In the next place, to carry the idea a little farther, we want, if we
may, to believe that this Infinite and eternal Power manifested in the
universe is a good Power. If it be not, we are hopeless. I hear
reformers sometimes in their zeal picturing the dreadful condition of
affairs socially or industrially or politically, and saying that the
world is getting worse and worse, that the rich are getting richer, and
the poor are getting poorer, and the republic is becoming more corrupt
week by week and year by year, giving the impression that the world in
general is on the down grade. If I believed that, I should give it up,
I should see no reason for struggle and effort. If an Infinite Power is
against me in my efforts to do good, what is the use of my making the

We want to know, then, as to whether a belief in the goodness of this
Infinite Power is a thing that doubt and investigation have not touched
and cannot disturb. Let us consider just a moment one or two thoughts
bearing upon it.

The pessimist tells us that the universe is bad all the way through,
that this is the worst possible kind of world. When a man makes a
statement like that, I always wish to ask him a question which it seems
to me absolutely overturns his position, how did he happen to find it
out? If the universe is bad all through, essentially bad, where did he
get his moral ideal in the light of which to judge and condemn it? How
does this bad universe produce an amount of justice and truth and love
to be used as a measuring-rod in order to find out whether it will
correspond with these ideals or not? That one question seems to me
enough to turn pessimism into nonsense.

Let us look at it in another way. As we look back, as far as we can
towards the beginning of things, we find this fact: when man appeared
on the earth, conscience was born, as I told you the other day, a sense
of right came with him, and since that day he has been struggling to
attain and realize an ever and ever enlarging and heightening ideal.
This, then, the conscience, the sense of right, the ideal, must be a
part of the nature of the universe that has produced them. And we
notice that these have been growing with the advance of the ages.
Before dwelling on that a little farther, let me touch another
consideration which is germane to it.

If you look over the face of human society, you get proof positive,
scientific demonstration unquestionable, that good is in the majority,
love is the majority power of the world. How do I know? You draw up a
list of all those things that you call evil, and you will note, as you
analyze them, that they are the things that tend to disintegrate, to
separate, to tear down; and you draw up a list of those things that you
call good, and you will find that they are the things that tend to
build up, that bind human society together, and help on life and growth
and happiness.

Now the simple fact that human society exists proves that the things
that tend to bind together are more powerful than the things that tend
to disintegrate and tear down. Just as, for instance, if you see a
planet swinging in the blue to-night, you will know that the
centripetal power is stronger than the centrifugal, or there would be
no planet there. That which tends to hold it together is mightier than
that which tends to disintegrate and fling its particles away from each
other. So the simple fact that human society exists proves that good is
in the majority.

And then, as we trace the development of human society from the far-off
beginning, we find that justice, truth, tenderness, pity, love,
helpfulness, all these qualities have been on the increase, and are
growing; and, since the Power that has wrought in lifting up and
leading on mankind is unspent, we believe that that Infinite Power of
which we have been speaking is underneath this lifting, is behind this
progress, and that the end may reasonably be expected to issue in that
perfection of which we dream and whose outlines we dimly see afar off.

An infinite power, then, a power that is good, a power that we may
study, partially understand, at any rate, and co-operate with. We can
help on this progress instead of hindering it. We can do something to
make the world better. Here are two things then, God and goodness, that
no doubt, no investigation, have ever been able to touch or destroy.

A third thing. We want to believe that there is a meaning in these
little individual lives of ours. Sometimes, when we read of pestilences
or the great wars of the world, when we think of children born and
dying so soon almost as they are born, when we note the brevity of even
the longest life and take into account the sweep of the ages, we
sometimes find ourselves depressed with the thought that these human
lives of ours mean so little. It sometimes seems as though nature cared
nothing for us, and swept us away as the first cold and the frost sweep
away the millions of flies that had been buzzing their little hour of

We need to feel, then, if we are to live manly, womanly lives, that
there is some plan, or may be some purpose in our being born, in our
little struggle of a few years, in our being thwarted, in our
succeeding, in our being sick or well, in our being rich or poor, in
our being learned or ignorant. Does it make any difference how we live
these lives of ours? Is there significance in them, any purpose, any
plan, any outcome, to make it worth while for us to struggle and
strive? We need to know this; and what do the investigation and the
doubt and the struggle of the world say to us concerning these? If
there is anything which science teaches us, it is that the infinite
God, the Power, whatever we name it, that is the thought and life of
this universe, is expressed just as perfectly in the tiniest atom as in
the most magnificent galaxy. There is no such thing as an imperfect
atom in this universe. The infinitesimal atoms below us, and the tiny
orbits through which these atoms and molecules sweep, are as much in
the grasp of the Eternal Law as the movements of the stars over our

Things are not lost in this universe out of the eternal purpose because
they are little. So our apparent littleness, the weakness, feebleness
of our lives, need not disturb the grandeur of our trust in this

Then as we study ourselves, as we see the good that has been growing
through the ages, and as we note the fact that I hinted at a moment
ago, that we can plant ourselves in the way, and hinder the working of
the Divine, so far as our tiny strength goes, or that we can study the
conditions of this growth and co-operate and help it on, and so be just
as truly a builder of the highest and finest humanity of the future as
God is himself, as we note this, are not our little lives raised into
dignity and touched with glory? And why should I cringe and humiliate
myself in the presence of a planet a thousand times larger than our
earth, or a sun a million and a half times larger than the planet that
shakes to its centre as I stamp my tiny foot? I, or one like me, has
measured the sun, weighed it as an apothecary can weigh a gram in his
scales. I have untangled the rays of his light, and am able to tell the
substances that are burning those ninety millions of miles away, in
order to send down that ray of light to our earth. I have untangled the
mysteries of the heavens, and find these only aggregations of matter
like those of which my body is composed; but I deal with all these and
overtop them, speeding with my thought with the rapidity that leaves
the lightning behind. And I know that, because I can think God and can
trace his thoughts after him as he goes through his creative processes,
so I am more than these,-- a child of the Creator. I may feel as a
little boy feels who stands beside his father who is the captain of
some mighty ship. The ship may be a million times greater than he; but
the captain's intelligence and hand made it, shaped it, rules it, turns
it whithersoever he will. And I am the captain's child, like him, and
capable of matching his masterly achievement.

And so I may believe that I, as a child of the infinite Father, am of
infinite importance to him in this universe of his; and I can live a
grand and noble life. Nobody can harm me but myself. Place an obstacle
in my path, and, whether it be insurmountable or not, I may show myself
a coward or a hero as I face it. Tell me I have made a mistake, I can
repair it. Tell me I have committed some moral error, am guilty of sin,
I confess it. But I can make all these mistakes and sins stairways up
which I can climb nearer and nearer to God. You may test me with
sorrows, affliction, take away my property, take away my health, take
away my friends; and the way in which I receive these may either make
me nobler or poorer and meaner, as I will. The sun shines upon the
earth. It turns one clod hard, makes it incapable of producing
anything. It softens and sweetens another, the same sun: the difference
is in the way in which it is received. So these influences may touch
me, may make me hard and bitter and mean and rebellious, or I may stand
all, and say, as the old Stoics used to, "Even if the gods are not
just, I w ill be just, and shame the gods."

So man may say, Whatever comes upon me, I will meet it like a man, and
like a child of the Highest, and so make my life significant, a part of
the divine plan, something glorious and real.

One thought more. When we have got through with this life, and stand on
the shore of a sea whose wavelets lap the sands at our feet, and the
ships of those that depart go out into the mist, and we wonder whither,
what has doubt done, what has investigation done, touching this great
hope of ours, as we face that which we speak of as the Unknown? So far
as the old-time and traditional belief is concerned, I hold that doubt
has been of infinite and unspeakable service. Certainly, I could rather
have no belief at all than the old belief. Certainly, I would rather
sink into unconsciousness and eternal sleep than wake to watch over the
battlements of heaven the ascent of the smoke of the torment that goeth
up forever and ever. But is there any rational ground for hope still? I
cannot stop this morning even to suggest to you the grounds for the
assertion that I am about to make. I believe that, if we have not
already demonstrated eternal life, we are on the eve of such
demonstration. I believe that another continent is to be discovered as
veritably as Columbus discovered this New World. As he, as he neared
the shore, saw floating tokens upon the waters that indicated to him
that land was not far away, so I believe that tokens are all about us
of this other country, which is not a future, but only a present,
unseen and unknown to the most of us.

But grant, if you will, that that is not to be attained, modern
investigation and doubt have done nothing to touch the grounds of the
great human hope that springs forever in the breast, that hope which is
born of love, born of trust, born of our dreams, born of our yearning
towards the land whither our dear ones have departed.

Let me read you just a few lines of challenge to those that would raise
a question as to the reality of this belief:

What is this mystic, wondrous hope in me, That, when no star from out
the darkness bore Gives promise of the coming of the morn, When all
life seems a pathless mystery Through which tear-blinded eyes no way
can see; When illness comes, and life grows most forlorn, Still dares
to laugh the last dread threat to scorn, And proudly cries, Death is
not, shall not be? I wonder at myself! Tell me, O Death, If that thou
rul'st the earth, if "dust to dust" Shall be the end of love and hope
and strife, From what rare land is blown this living breath That shapes
itself to whispers of strong trust, And tells the lie, if 'tis a lie,
of life? Where did this wondrous dream come from? How does it grow as
the world grows?

It must be a whisper of this eternal Being to our hearts; and so, in
spite of all the advance of knowledge, all the criticism, it remains
untouched, brightening and growing. And so there is reason, as we gaze
out on the future, why we should look with contempt, if you will, upon
the conditions that trouble us in this life, the burdens, the sorrows,
the illnesses, when all that life means at its highest is that out of
the conditions, whatever they are, I should shape a manhood, cultivate
a soul, make myself worth living, fitting myself for that which gleams
through the mist a promise, if you will, of something there beyond.

Now I wish simply to call your attention to the fact that doubt does
not touch this eternal Power, does not touch the fact that this is a
good Power, and that it is on the side of goodness, does not touch the
fact that we are the children of that Power and may co-operate with it
for good and share its ultimate triumph, does not touch the great hope
that makes it worth while for us to suffer, to bear, to dare all
things. And these great trusts, are they not all we need to be men, to
be women, to conquer the conditions of life and prove ourselves
children of the Highest?


I TAKE two texts, one of them from the New Testament. It may be found
in the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, the
seventeenth verse, "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the
prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil." The other text is from
Emerson: "One accent of the Holy Ghost The heedless world hath never

The theory of evolution to-day, in the minds of all competent students,
is quite as firmly established as is the law of gravity or the
Copernican theory in astronomy. But, when it was first propounded in
its modern form by Herbert Spencer, when he issued his first book, and
when Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published, there was an outcry,
especially throughout the religious world. There was a great fear
shuddered through the hearts of men. They felt as though the dearest
things on earth were threatened and were likely to be destroyed.
Essayists declared that this theory undermined the foundations of
morals. They said that it took away, not only the Bible, but God and
all rational religion. They told us that, in tracing the ancestry of
man back and down to the animals, humanity was being desecrated, and
that the essential feature of man as a child of God was being taken

If I believed that any of these things were true, I might not be an
enemy of evolution, if indeed it be established; for there is very
little reason in a man's setting himself against an established truth.
But I should certainly be very sad, and should wish that we might hold
some other theory of things. But I believe that it will appear, as we
study the matter a little while carefully, that not only are these
charges that have been brought against the theory baseless, but that
right here is to be found not only the real progress of the world, but
the true conservatism. Evolution is the most conservative theory that
has ever been held. It keeps everything that has been found serviceable
to man. It may transform it. It may lift it to some higher level, on to
some loftier range of life; but it keeps and carries forward everything
that helps. This inevitably and in the nature of things.

There are two great tendencies which are characteristic of that method
of progress or growth which we call by the name of evolution. One is
the hereditary tendency, and the other is the tendency to variation.
One, if it were in full force, would merely, forever and forever,
repeat the past: the other, if it were in full force, would blot out
all the past, and forever be creating something new. It is in the
balance of these two tendencies that we discover the orderly growth of
the world; and this orderly growth it is which constitutes evolution.
Let me illustrate: Here is a tree, for example. The tendency that we
call heredity would simply constantly repeat the past: the tendency to
vary would vary the tree out of existence. The ideal is that it shall
keep its form, for example, as an oak, but that, in the process of
growth, the bark shall expand freely and sufficiently to make room for
the manifestation of the new life. Now, if the bark had power to refuse
expansion, of course, you know, the tree would die. If there were not
power enough to maintain the form, then, again, the tree would cease to
exist. This you may take as a type and illustration of the method of
all life and all progress everywhere.

Those people who naturally represent the heredity tendency  what we
call the conservative people of the world are the ones who are always
afraid of any change. They deprecate the utterance of new ideas. They
hesitate to accept any new-fangled notions, as perhaps they call them.
They are afraid that something precious, something sweet, something
dear, that belonged to the past, may be lost.

This manifests itself in all departments of life. I suppose that there
never was an improvement proposed in the world that somebody did not
object to it in the interests of the established order. And yet, if
these people that do not want any changes made had had control of the
world ten thousand years ago, where should we be to-day? We should
still be barbarians in the jungles. For it is because these people have
not been able to keep the world still that we have advanced here and
there in the direction of what we are pleased to call civilization. You
remember, for example, as illustrating this opposition, how the
workingmen, the laborers of the time, a few years ago, in England,
fought against the introduction of machinery. They said machinery was
going to take their work away, it was going to break down the old
industrial order of the world, it was going to make it impossible for
the laborer to get his living. A few machines were to do the world's
work; and the great multitude were to be idle, and, not having anything
to do, were to receive no pay for labor, and consequently were to
starve. This was the cry. The outcome has been that there has been
infinitely more done, a much larger number of laborers employed,
employed less hours in the day, paid higher wages; and in every
direction the condition of the industrial world has been improved. I
speak of this simply as an illustration of this tendency.

When we come to religion, it is perfectly natural that the opposition
here should be bitterer than anywhere else in the world; and it always
has been. If you think of it just a little, if you read the history of
the world a little, you will find that the last thing on earth that
people have been willing to improve has been their religion. And this,
I say, is perfectly natural. Why? Because men have instinctively felt
and rightly felt, as I believe that religion was the most important
thing in human life. They felt that it was the most sacred thing, that
on it depended higher and more permanent interests than on anything
else; and they have naturally been timid, naturally shrunk from change,
with the fear that changing the theories and the practices and the
thoughts was going to endanger the thing itself. They have said, We
will hold on, at any rate, to these reverences, these worships, these
precious trusts, these hopes; and we will hold on to the vessels in
which we have carried them, because how do we know, if the vessels are
changed or taken away, that we may not lose the precious contents
themselves? This, I say, has been the feeling; and it has been a
perfectly natural feeling.

I wish then, this morning, for a little while to review with you some
of the steps in evolution that the world has taken, and let you see how
it has worked in different departments of human thought and human life,
so that you may become convinced if possible, as I am that evolution
has never thrown away, has never lost, anything precious in any
department of the world since human life began. If I believed it did, I
would fight against it. For instance, here is a devout Catholic
servant-girl. She believes in her saints. She counts her beads and
recites her Ave Marias. She goes to the cathedral on Sunday morning.
And this is her world of poetry and romance. Here is a source of
comfort. This throws a halo around the drudgery of the kitchen, the
service of the house in which she is an employee. Would I take away
this trust, this poetry, this romance, untrue as I believe it to be in
form, inadequate as I believe it to be? Would I take it away, and leave
her mind bare, her heart empty, leave her without the comfort, without
the inspiration? Not for one moment. I would take it away only if, in
the process, I could supply her with something just a little better, a
little more nearly true, something that would give her comfort,
something that would be an inspiration to her, something that would
buoy her up as a hope, something that would help her to be faithful and
true in the work of her daily life. This is what evolution means. It
means taking away the old, and, in the process, substituting therefore
something a little bit better. I would not take away the idol of the
lowest barbarian unless I could help him to take a step a little
higher, so that he should see the intellectual and spiritual thing that
the idol stood for, and so enable him to walk his pathway of life as
firmly, as faithfully, as hopefully, as he did before.

I have been watching the work that has been going on in our streets
during the last months. You, too, have seen how they will replace the
track on an entire line of railway without stopping the running of the
cars. They take away the old and worn and poorer, but constantly
substitute something better for it; and human life moves right on.
Everything is better; the change has come; but that change is; an
improvement. This is what evolution does; for evolution is nothing new
in the world. It is only the name for the method of God, which is as
old as the universe itself, new to us because we have just discovered
it; but as old as the light of a star that has been travelling for
twenty-five thousand years, and has just come into the field of the
astronomer's telescope, so that he announces it as a new discovery..
This is what it means.

Now let me call your attention to the fact that in the world below us
the world of the trees and the shrubs and the flowers and the plants
this evolutionary force is working after precisely the same method that
I have just been indicating. All the fair, the beautiful things have
been developed under this process, in accordance with this method, out
of the first bare and rough and crude manifestations of vegetable life.
Nothing has been thrown away that was of any value. Take it, for
example, in regard to the wild weeds which have become the oats and the
wheat and the barley and the rye of the world. All the old that was of
value has been kept and has been developed into something higher and
finer and sweeter. The aboriginal crab-apple has become a thousand
luscious kinds of fruits; and the flowers all their beauty, all their
fragrance, all their color and form? are the result of the working of
this method of God's power that we have called evolution. Nothing of
any value is left behind in the uncounted ages of the past. All that is
of worth to-day has been transformed and lifted to some higher level
and made a part of the wondrous life that is all around us.

So, when you come to the animal life, you find the same thing. The
swift foot, the flashing wing, the beauty of color, all the wonders of
animal life have simply been developed in accordance with this method
and under this impelling force which we call evolution, which is only a
name for the working of God.

When we come up to the level of man, what do we find? Man as an animal
is not the equal of a good many of the other animals in the world. He
is not as swift as the deer, he is not as strong as the lion, he cannot
fly in the air like a bird, he cannot live in the sea like the fishes.
He is restricted to the comparatively contracted area of the surface of
the land. He is not as perfect as an animal; but what has evolution
done? It has given him power of conquest over all these, because the
evolutionary force has left the bodily structure, we need expect no
more marked changes there, and has gone to brain. So this feeblest of
all the animals physically speaking he would be no match for a hundred
different kinds of animals that are about us is able to outwit them
all, that is, to outknow, he has become the ruler of the earth. And not
only has this evolutionary force gone to brain, it has gone to heart;
and man has become a being whose primest characteristic is love. The
one thing that we think of as most perfect, that we dream of as
characterizing his future development, is summed up in his affectional
nature. Then, too, he has become a moral being.

There are times, like the present, when it seems as though the animal
were at the top, and the affectional nature suppressed, and the
conscience were ruled out of court; and yet you study the methods of
modern warfare as compared with those of the past, you see how pity and
tenderness and care walk by the side of every gun, hide in the rear of
every battlefield to attend to the wounded and suffering. And you know
what talk there has been of pity for the hungry, the desire of the
world to feed those that need; and the one dominant note in the
discussion of the war all over the world has been the question as to
its being right. No matter how we may have decided, whether the
decision be correct or not, the civilized world bows itself in the
presence of its ideal of right, and demands that no war shall be fought
the issue of which is not to be a better condition of mankind.

Evolution, then, tends to the development of brain, heart, conscience,
and the spiritual nature of man. It has left nothing behind that is of
any value to us. It has transformed or sublimed or lifted all up into
the higher range of the life that we are living to-day, and contains
within itself a promise of the higher and the grander life that we
reach forward to to-morrow.

I wish now, for a moment, to illustrate the working of this in regard
to some of the institutions of the world. If I had time, I could show
you that the same law is apparent in the development of the arts,
sculpture, painting, poetry. I must pass them by, however. As
illustrating what I mean, let me take the one art of music. From the
very beginning man has been interested in making some sort of sounds
which, I suppose, have been regarded as music by him. Most of those
that are associated with the barbaric man would be anything but music
to us. The music, for example, that they give in connection with a play
in a Chinese theatre would not be acceptable to the cultivated ear of
Americans. We have left behind much that the world called music. We
have left behind any number of musical instruments. We do not now have
those that the Psalmist makes so much of, the old-time harp, the
sackbut, the psaltery. I do not know, though you may, what kind of
instruments they were. The world has completely forgotten them, and
left them out of sight. And yet no musical note, no musical chord, no
musical thought, no musical feeling, has been forgotten or dropped
along the advancing pathway of the world's progress; and in our organs
all the attempts at instruments of that kind from the beginning of the
world are preserved, transformed and glorified. In our magnificent
orchestras all the first feeble beginnings are developed until we have
a conception of music to-day such as would have been utterly
incomprehensible to the primeval man. What I wish you to note is and
this is the use of my illustration that the advancing growth of the
music of the world has forgotten nothing that it was worth while to

Let me give you one more illustration. Take it in the line of
government. The first tribes were governed by two forces, brute force
and superstitious fear. These were the two things that kept the primal
tribes of the world in order, such order as was maintained in those
far-off times. The world has gone on developing different types of
government, different types of social order. I need not stop to outline
them for you this morning: you know what they are; and I only wish you
to catch the thought I have in mind. I suppose that every time one of
the old types was about to pass away the adherents of that type have
been in a panic lest anarchy was threatening the world. Believers in
these types have said that it was absolutely necessary to keep them, in
order to preserve social order. Take the attitude of the monarchy
to-day, for example, as towards the republic. When we attempted to
establish our republic here in this western world, it was freely said
by the adherents of the old political idea in Europe that it would of
necessity be a failure, that there was no possibility of a stable human
order without a hierarchy of nobles with a king at the top; and I
suppose they believed it. But we have proved beyond question that we
can have a strong government, an orderly government, without either
nobility or king. There is less government in the United States here
to-day than in almost any other country of the world, a nearer approach
to what the philosopher would call anarchy. Anarchy does not mean
disorder, when a philosopher is talking: it means merely the absence of
external government. And that is the ideal that we are approaching.

Paul says, you know, that the law was made for wicked people, for the
disobedient and the disorderly, not for good people. How many people
are there in New York to-day, for example, who are honest, who pay
their debts, who did not commit a burglary last night, who do not
propose to be false to wife and home, on account of the law, the
existence of courts and police? The great majority of the citizens of
America to-day would go right on being honest and kind and loving and
helpful, whether there were any laws or not. They are not kept to these
courses of conduct by the law. They have learned that these are the
fitting ways of life that these are the things for a man to do; and
they despise themselves if they are less than man. In other words, this
governmental order, which exists as an outside force, at last gets
written in the heart and becomes a law of life.

Now precisely the same process is going on in other departments of the
world: it is going on in religion. And now let me come to religion, and
illustrate the working of the law here. The old types of religious
thought and life and practice, the first ones that the world knew, are
long since outgrown. We regard them as barbaric, as cruel.

We have learned that there are not a million gods of whom we need stand
in awe. We have learned that God is no partial God. We have learned
that God does not want us, as universal man once believed, to sacrifice
the dearest object of our love. We have learned that he does not want
us to sacrifice our first-born child, as the old Hebrews used to, and
the remains of which custom are plainly visible throughout the Old
Testament everywhere. We have left behind these old types of religious
thought and life; but the world has lost nothing in the process. The
world has not left religion behind. The whole process of growth and
development in the sphere of the religious life and the development of
man has been one of outgrowing crude and partial and inadequate
thoughts and feelings about the universe and God and man and duty and

We do not care so much about ceremony as the world did once. The most
civilized people in the world are not so given to these things in their
religious development. We do not care so much about creed as they did a
thousand or five hundred years ago. We do not believe that God is going
to judge us by our intellectual conceptions of him and of our fellow-
men. And I suppose it is true, always has been true as it is to-day,
that the adherent of any particular form or theory of the religious
life has the feeling that, when that is threatened, religion is
threatened; and he defends it passionately, fights for it, perhaps
bitterly, feels justified in opposing, perhaps hating, those he regards
as the enemies of God and his great and sacred and religious hopes. And
yet we know, as we study the past, whether we can quite appreciate it
as true in regard to the theories which I am voicing to-day, that the
truth has never been in any danger, and the highest and finest and
sweetest things in the religious life have never been in any danger,
are not in any danger to-day.

Let me indicate in two or three directions. There has been a class of
thinkers, which has done a good deal of talking and writing in this
direction, who are telling us that the poetry, the romance, the wonder,
the mystery, of the world  those things that tend to bring a man to his
knees and to lift his eyes in awe and reverence are passing away; that
science is going to explore everything; that there is going to be no
more unknown; and that, when we have completed this process, one of the
great essentials of religious thought and feeling and life will have
perished from among men. I venture to say to you that there has never
been a time in the history of the world when there was so much of
mystery, so much of wonder, so much of reverence, so much of awe, as
there is to-day. We are apt to fool ourselves in our thinking, and,
when we have observed a fact, and labelled it, to think we know it.

For example, here is this mysterious force that we call electricity,
which is flashing such light in our homes and through our streets as
the world has never known before. The cars, loaded, are speeding along
our highways with no visible means of propulsion. We step up to a
little box, and put a shell to our ear, and speak and listen, and
converse with a friend in Boston or Chicago, recognizing the voice
perfectly, as though this friend were by our side. We send a message
over a wire, under the deep, and talk to London and all round the
globe; and we have labelled this force electricity. And, instead of
getting down on our knees in reverence, we get impatient if our
communication is delayed two minutes or three. We fool ourselves with
the thought that, because we have called it electricity, we know it, we
have taken the mystery out of the fact. Why, friends, do you know
anything about electricity? Do you know what it is? Do you know why it
works as it does? I do not; and I do not know of anybody on the face of
the earth who does. The wonder of the "Arabian Nights" is cheap and
tame and theatrical compared to the wonder of this everyday workaday
world of ours, in the midst of which and by means of which we are
carrying on our business and our daily avocations. The wonder of the
carpet that would carry the person through the air who sat upon it and
wished is nothing compared with the power of electricity, steam, any
one of these invisible, intangible powers that are thrilling through
the world to-day. There never was so much room for mystery, for awe,
for poetry, for romance, as there is in the midst of our commercial
life in this nineteenth century.

This element of religion, then, is in no danger. We know nothing
ultimately. Who can tell me what a particle of matter is? Who can tell
me what a ray of light is, as it comes from a star? Who can tell me how
the movements in the particles of air striking my eye run up into nerve
and brain, and become translated into thought, into light, into form,
into motion, into all this wondrous universe that surrounds us on every

Then take the element of trust. People used to think they could trust
in their gods. Rebecca, for example, stole her father's gods, and hid
them in the trappings of her camel, and sat on them. She thought, then,
that she had a god near her who would care for her. The old Hebrew,
with an ox-team, carried his God, in a box that he called the ark, into
battle, and supposed that he had a very present help in time of need.
But we have the eternal stability and order of the universe, a God that
never forgets, a God on whom we can lean, in whom we can trust, who is
not away off in heaven, but here, closer to us than the air we breathe,
a God in whom we live and move and have our being.

And has this evolution of the religious life of the world threatened
the stability of truth? There never was a time on earth when there was
such a passion for truth as there is today. What means all this intense
activity of the scientific world? these men that devote their lives to
some little fraction of the universe which they study through their
microscope, not for pay, to find one little fragment of the truth of
God; these critics that are rummaging the dust-heaps of the ages in
the hope that they may find one little, bright-glittering particle of
truth in the midst of the rubbish? There never was such a passion for
truth as there is here and now.

Are we going to lose the sense of righteousness which is the very heart
of religion? There never was a time since the world began when the
average man cared so much for righteousness, when he laid so much
emphasis on human conduct, on kindness, on help, on all those things
that make this life of ours desirable and sweet. The ideal of character
and behavior has risen step by step from the beginning, and is higher
to-day than it ever was before. Not because men fear a whipping, not
because they are threatened with hell in another world, not because a
God of vengeance is preached to them, because they have grown to see
the beauty of righteousness, because they know that obedience to the
laws of God means health, means sanity, means peace, means prosperity,
means well-being, means all high and good and noble things. This
righteousness is not driven into one by blows from outside: it blossoms
out from the intellect and the conscience and the heart, as the
recognized law of all fine and desirable and human living.

What are we losing, then, as the result of this growth of the world in
accordance with the law of evolution? Are we losing our hope of the
future? The form of that hope is passing away. We no longer believe in
an underground world of the dead, as the Hebrews did. We no longer
believe in a heaven just above the blue, as Christendom has believed
for so long. We no longer believe in a heaven where all struggle and
thought and study and growth are left out, where there is to be only a
monotonous enjoyment that would pall upon any living rational soul. The
form of it is passing away; but there never was a time when there was
such a great and inspiring hope, not simply for myself and my friends,
not simply for my neighbors, not simply for my particular church. There
never was a time when there was such a great hope, including humanity
for this world and for the next, as that which inspires us now.

Nothing, then, in religion that is of any worth has the world forgotten
or is it likely to forget. All the old reverences and loves and trusts
and inspirations and hopes and tendernesses are here intermingled. They
are in the highest and noblest people; and they are being carried on
and refined and purified and glorified as the world goes on.

And now let me suggest one thought more that may be of comfort to some.
A great many people have been accustomed to associate so much of their
religion with the forms of their religious expression that they fancy
that the world's outgrowing these means that religion is being
outgrown. I said, you remember, when touching upon government as an
illustration of the working of the law of evolution, that governmental
forms were being outgrown just as fast as the world was becoming
civilized. If this world ever becomes perfect, government will cease to
be, in the sense of these external forms, simply because there will be
no need of it; just as you take down a staging when you have completed
a house. So I look forward to less and less care for the external forms
of the religious life. I believe they will remain, and they ought to
remain, just as long as they are any practical help to anybody; but,
because a person ceases to need them, you must not think that he has
ceased to be religious. When the world gets to be perfectly religious,
there will be no need of any churches, there will be no need any more
of preachers, there will be no need of any of the external ceremony of

You remember what the old seer says in the book of Revelation, as he
looks forward to the perfect condition of things. He is picturing that
ideal city which he saw in his vision coming down from God out of
heaven. This was his poetical way of setting forth his idea of the
perfected condition of humanity; and he said, speaking of that city,
"And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God was the temple of it."

The external forms pass away when the life needs them no more. Take,
for example, the condition of things when Jesus came to Jerusalem. You
know how they put him to death. And what did they put him to death for?
They put him to death because he preached of a time when there would be
no need of any temple, no need of any priesthood, no need of any of the
external things that they regarded as essential to religious life. They
thought he was blaspheming, they thought he was an enemy of God and of
his fellowmen, because he talked that way. He said to the woman of
Samaria, You think you must worship God on this mountain, Gerizim, and
the Jews think they must worship him on Mount Moriah; but God is
spirit, and the time will come when you will not care whether you are
in this place or that, but will worship him in spirit and in truth.

You see it was just along these lines that Jesus was preaching and
working in his day. So, when humanity becomes perfected, external
forms, that have helped mould and shape man into his perfection, will
be needed no more. They will fall off, pass away, and be forgotten; but
that will not mean that humanity has forgotten or left behind any great
essential to the religious life. It will mean simply that he has taken
them up into his own heart, absorbed them into his life. He naturally
drops them when he is no longer in need of external supports.

This law of evolution, then, is simply the method of God's progress
from the beginning, the same method which was to be found in the
lowest, the method which has lifted us to where we are, the method
which looks out with promise towards the better things which are to

The one life thrilled the star-dust through,
In nebulous masses whirled,
Until, globed like a drop of dew,
Shone out a new-made world.
The one life on the ocean shore,
Through primal ooze and slime,
Crept slowly on from less to more
Along the ways of time.
The one life in the jungles old,
From lowly creeping things,
Did ever some new form unfold,
Swift feet or soaring wings.
The one life all the ages through
Pursued its wondrous plant
Till, as the tree of promise grew,
It blossomed into man.
The one life reacheth onward still;
As yet no eye may see
The far-off fact, man's dream fulfill?
The glory yet to be.


THE religious opinions of the average person in any community do not
count for much, if any one is studying them with the endeavor to find
out their bearing on what is true or what is false. This is true not
only of popular religious opinions, but of any other set of opinions
whatever; and for the simple reason that most people do not hold their
opinions as the result of any study, of any investigation, because they
have seriously tried to find out what is true, and have become
convinced that this, and not that, represents the reality of things.

Let us note for a moment and I do this rather to clear the way than
because I consider it of any very great importance  how it is that the
great majority of people come by the religious opinions which they
happen to hold. I suppose it is true in thousands of cases that a man
or a woman is in this church rather than that merely as the result of
inheritance and childhood training. People inherit their religious
ideas. They are taught certain things in their childhood, they have
accepted them perhaps without any sort of question; and so they are
where they happen to be to-day. If you stop and think of it for just a
moment, you will see that this may be all right as a starting-point,
but is not quite an adequate reason why we should hold permanently, and
throughout our lives, a particular set of ideas. If all of us were to
accept opinions in this sort of fashion, and never put them behind us
or make any change, where would the growth of the world be? How would
it be possible for one generation to make a little advance on that
which preceded it, so that we could speak of the progress of mankind?
Then, when persons do make up their minds to change, to leave one
church and go to another, it is not an uncommon thing for them simply
to select a particular place of worship or a special organization for
no better reason than that they happen to like it, to be attracted to
it for some superficial cause. How many people who do leave one church
for another do it as the result of any earnest study, or real endeavor
to find the truth? And yet, if you will give the matter a moment's
serious consideration, you will see that we have no sort of right to
choose one theory rather than another, one set of ideas rather than
another, because we happen to like one thing, and not something else.
Liking or disliking, a superficial preference or aversion, is an
impertinence when dealing with these great, high, and deep questions of
God and the soul, of the true or the false.

Then I have known a great many people in my life who went to a
particular church for no better reason than mere convenience. It was
easily accessible, it was just around the corner, they did not have to
make any long journey, and did not have to put themselves out any to
get up a little earlier on Sunday morning, which they would otherwise
need to do. A mere matter of convenience! And this is so many times
allowed to settle some great question of right or wrong. Then you will
find those who select a particular church or a particular church
organization, become identified with it, merely because on a casual
visit to the place they were taken with the minister, happened to like
his appearance, his method of speaking, the way he presented his ideas.
Or perhaps they were attracted by the music. There are persons who
decide these great questions of God and truth and the soul for no more
important a reason than the organization and the capacity of the church

It is not an uncommon thing for people to attend some particular church
because it promises to be socially advantageous to them. It is
fashionable in a particular town. I have a friend, I still call him
friend, a Boston lawyer, who told me in conversation about this subject
one day that he deliberately went to the largest church he could find,
and that, if in the particular city in which he was residing the Roman
Catholic Church was in the majority, he should attend that. There are
thousands of persons who wish to be in the swim, and who are diverted
this way or that by what seems to them socially profitable. Think of
it, claiming to be followers of the Nazarene, who was outcast, spit
upon, treated with contempt, on whom the scribes and Pharisees of his
day looked down with bitterness and scorn, and who led the world for
the sake of his love for God out into a larger truth, who made himself
of no reputation, claim to be followers of him, and let a matter of
fashion decide whether they will go this way or walk in some other path
I Think of the irony of a situation like that!

Then, again, there are those who attach themselves to some one church
rather than to another because, after looking over the ground, they
made up their minds that it would be to their business advantage. They
will become associated with a set of people who can help them on in the
world. It is all very well, if there be no higher consideration, for a
person to be governed in his action by motives like these; but is it
quite right to decide a question of truth or falsehood, of God or duty,
of the consecration of the human soul, of the service of one's fellow-
men, on the basis of supposed financial advantage? There is hardly a
year goes by that persons do not come to me, considering the question
as to whether they will attend my church. I can see in a few minutes'
conversation with them that they have some purpose to gain. They wish
to be helped on in the prosecution of some scheme for their own
advancement. If they succeed, they are devout Unitarians and loyal
followers of mine. If not, within a few weeks I hear of them as devoted
attendants somewhere else, where they have been able to make their
personal plans a success.

These are some of the reasons there are worthier ones than these which
influence the crowd. There are, I say, worthier ones. Let me hint one
or two. I do not think it is any sacrilege, or betrayal of confidence,
for me to speak a name. The late Frances E. Willard, one of the ablest,
truest, most devoted women I have ever known, frankly confessed to me
in personal conversation that she was more in sympathy with my
religious ideas than of those of the Church with which she was
connected, but her love, her tender love and reverence for her mother
and the memory of her mother's religion were such that she could not
find it in her heart to break away. She loved the services her mother
loved, she loved the hymns her mother sung, she loved the associations
connected with her mother's life. All sweet, beautiful, noble; but, if
nobody from the beginning of the world had ever advanced beyond
mothers' ideas where should we be to-day? Is it not, after all, the
truest reverence for mother, in the spirit of consecration she showed
to follow the truth as you see it to-day, as she followed it as she saw
it yesterday?

So much to justify the statement I made, that the average popular
belief on any subject is not a reliable guide to a person who is
earnestly desiring to find the simple truth.

Now let us come to the answer of the specific question which I have
propounded. Why are not all educated people Unitarians? I ask this
question, not because I originated it, but because it has been put to
me, I suppose, a hundred times. People say, You claim to have studied
these matters very carefully, you have tried to find the truth, you
think you have found it. You have followed what you regard as the true
method of search. If you have found the truth, and if other people,
using this same method and being as unbiased as you, could also find
it, how does it happen that Unitarians are in the minority? Why do not
all persons who study and who are educated accept the Unitarian faith?
This question, I say, has been asked me a great many times; and it is a
question that deserves a fair, an earnest and sympathetic answer. Such
an answer I am now to try to give.

In the first place, let me make a few assertions. I have not time to
prove them this morning; but they are capable of proof. The advantage
of a scientific statement is that, though you do not stop to prove it,
you know it can be proved any time, whenever a person chooses to take
the time or trouble. For example, if I state the truth of the
Copernican system, or that the earth revolves around the sun, and you
challenge me to prove it in two minutes, I may not be able to; it may
take longer than that; but I know it can be demonstrated to-morrow or
next week or any time, because it has been demonstrated over and over

I wish now to assert the truth of certain fundamental principles; and
these principles, you note, are those which constitute the peculiarity
of the Unitarian people as a body of theological believers. For
example, that this which is all around us and of which we are a part is
a universe is demonstrated beyond question. It is one, the unity of the
universe. The unity of force, the unity of substance or matter, the
unity of law, the unity of life, the unity of humanity, the unity of
the fundamental principles of ethics, the unity of the religious life
and aspiration of the world, these, I say, are demonstrated. And do you
not see that demonstrating these carries along with it the
unquestioned, the absolute demonstration of the unity of the power that
is in the universe and manifests itself through it? The unity of God?
The Lord our God is one! And this is no question of speculation, it is
demonstrated truth. Now, as to any speculative or metaphysical division
of God's nature into three parts or personalities, there is not, and
there cannot be, in the nature of things, one slightest particle of
proof. The unity is demonstrated: anything else is incapable of

Next, the Unitarian contention I say Unitarian, not because we
originated it by any means, but simply because we first and chiefly
among religious bodies have accepted it as to the origin and nature of
man as science has unfolded it to us, thus precluding the possibility
of the truth of any doctrine of any fall. This is not speculation, it
is not whim. It is not something picked up by the way, that a man
chooses because he likes it, and because he does not like something
else. This is demonstrated truth, as clearly and fully demonstrated as
is the law of gravity or the fact that water will freeze at a certain
temperature. Then the question of the Bible. The Unitarian position in
regard to the origin, the method of composition, the authenticity and
the authority of Biblical books, is a commonplace of scholarship. There
is no rational question in regard to it any more. Next, the question of
the origin and nature of Jesus the Christ. The naturalness of his
birth, the naturalness of his death, his pure humanity, are made
clearer and surer by every new step which investigation takes; and
there is nothing in the nature of proof that is conceivable in regard
to any other theory. If any one chooses to accept it, well; but nobody
claims, or can claim, to prove it, to settle it, to demonstrate it as
true. It becomes an article of faith, a question of voluntary belief;
but there is no possibility of holding it in any other way. So as to
the nature of salvation. It is a matter of character; a man is saved
when he is right. And that he cannot be saved in any other way is
demonstrable and demonstrated truth.

Now, these are the main principles which constitute the beliefs of
Unitarians; and in any court of reason they are able to make good their
claim against any corner. And, if there be no other motive at work
except the one clear-eyed, simple desire to find the truth, there can
be no two opinions concerning any of them.

Why, then, are not all thoughtful, educated people Unitarians? Well may
the listener ask, in wonder, if the statements I have just been making
are true. Now I propose to offer some suggestions, showing what are
some of the influences at work which determine belief, and which have
very little to do with the question as to whether the beliefs are
capable of establishing themselves as true or not.

In the first place, let us raise the question as to what is generally
meant by education. We assume that all educated people ought to agree
on all great questions; and they ought, note now what I am saying, they
ought, if they are really and truly educated, and if with a clear and
single eye they are seeking simply the truth. But, in order to
understand the situation, we need to note a good many other things that
enter into this matter of determining the religious path in which
people will walk. Now what do we mean by education? Popularly, if a man
has been to school, particularly if he is a college graduate, if he can
read a little Latin and speak French, and knows something of music, if
he has graduated anywhere, he is spoken of as educated. But is that a
correct use of language? Are we sure that a man is educated merely
because he knows a lot of things or has been through a particular
course of study? What does a human education mean? Does it not mean the
unfolding, the development of our faculties in such a way that in the
intellectual sphere we can come into contact with and possession of the
reality of things, the truth? Intellectually, is there any other object
of education than to fit a man to find the truth? And yet let me give
you a case. Here is a man, I take it as an illustration simply, not
because I have anything particular against the Catholic Church any more
than against any other body of believers, who has been through a
Catholic college, has made himself master of Catholic doctrine, become
familiar with theological and ecclesiastical literature; suppose he
knows all the languages, or a dozen of them, having them at his
fingers' ends. Do you not see that as a truth-seeker in a free world he
may not be educated at all? He may be educated, as we say, or trained
is the better word, into acceptance of a certain system of traditional
thought, that can give no good reason for itself; for his prejudices,
his loves and hates may be called into play. He may be trained into the
earnest conviction that it is his highest duty to be loyal to a
particular set of ideas.

Take the way I was educated. I grew up reading the denominational
reviews, and the denominational newspapers. I was taught that it was
dangerous and wicked to doubt. I must not think freely: that was the
one thing I was not permitted to do. I went to a theological school,
and had drilled into me year after year that such beliefs, about God
and man and Jesus and the Bible and the future world, were
unquestionably true, and that I must not look at anything that would
throw a doubt upon them. And I was sent out into the world graduated,
not as a truth-seeker, but to fight for my system, as a West Point
graduate is taught that he must fight for his country without asking
any questions.

Do you not see that this, which goes under the name of education,
instead of fitting a man to find the truth, may distinctly and
definitely unfit him, make it harder for him to find any truth except
that which is contained in the system which has been drilled into him
from his childhood up and year after year? Education, in order to fit a
man to be a truth-seeker, must be something different from this merely
teaching a man a certain system, a certain set of ideas, and drilling
him into the belief that he must defend these ideas against all

A good many people, then, who are called educated, are not educated at
all. I have had this question asked me repeatedly: If your position is
true, here is a college graduate, and here is another; and here is a
minister of such a denomination, or a priest of the Catholic Church;
why do they not accept your ideas? Do you not see, however, that this
so-called education may stand squarely in the way?

Now, in the second place, I want to dwell a little on the difficulty of
people's getting rid of a theory which possesses their minds, and
substituting for it another theory. And I wish you to note that it is
not a religious difficulty nor a theological difficulty nor a Baptist
difficulty nor a Presbyterian difficulty: it is a human difficulty.
There is no body of people on the face of the earth that is large
enough to contain all the world's bigotry. It overflows all fences and
gets into all enclosures. Discussing the subject a little while ago, by
correspondence with a prominent scientific man in New England, I got
from him the illustrations which I hold in my hand, tending to set
forth how difficult it is for scientific men themselves to get rid of a
theory which they have been working for and trying to prove, and
substitute for it another theory. I imagine that there may be a
physiological basis for the difficulty. I suggest it, at any rate. We
say that the mind tends to run in grooves of thought. That means, I
suppose, that there is something in the molecular movements of the
brain that comes to correspond to a well-trodden pathway. It is easy to
walk that path, and it is not easy to get out of it. Let it rain on the
top of a hill; and, if you watch the water, you will see that it seeks
little grooves that have been worn there by the falling of past rains,
and that the little streams obey the scientific law and follow the
lines of least resistance. There comes a big shower, a heavy downfall;
and perhaps it will wash away the surface and change the beds of these
old watercourses, create new ones. So, then, when there comes a deluge
of new truth, it washes away the ruts along which people have been
accustomed to think; and they are able to reconstruct their theories.
Now let me give you some of these scientific illustrations. First, that
heat is a mode of motion was proved by Sir Humphry Davy and Count
Rumford before 1820. In 1842 Joule, of Manchester, England, proved the
quantitative relation between mechanical energy and heat. In 1863 note
the dates  Tyndall gave a course of lectures on heat as a mode of
motion, and was even then sneered at by some scientific men for his
temerity. Tait, of Glasgow, was particularly obstreperous. To-day
nobody questions it; and we go back to Sir Humphry Davy and Count
Rumford for our proofs, too. It was proved scientifically proved then;
but it took the world all these years, even the scientific world, to
get rid of its prejudices in favor of some other theory, and see the
force of the proof.

Now, in the second place, it was held originally that light was a
series of corpuscles that flew off from a heated surface; but Thomas
Young, about the year 1804, demonstrated the present accepted theory of
light. But it was fought for years. Only after a long time did the
scientific world give up its prejudice in favor of the theory that was
propounded by Newton. But to-day we go back to Young, and see that he
demonstrated it beyond question.

In the third place, take another fact. Between 1830 and 1845 Faraday
worked out a theory of electrical and magnetic phenomena. It was proved
to be correct. Maxwell, a famous chemist in London, looked over the
matter, and persuaded himself that Faraday was right; but nobody paid
much attention to either of them; until after a while the scientific
world, through the work of its younger men, those least wedded to the
old-time beliefs, conceded that it must be true.

The Nebular Theory was proved and worked out by Kant more than a
hundred and thirty years ago. In 1799 Laplace worked it out again; but
it was a long time before it was accepted. And now we go back to Kant
and Laplace for our demonstration.

Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published in 1859. But it was
attacked by scientists as well as theologians on every hand. Huxley
even looked at it with a good deal of hesitancy before he accepted it.
To-day, however, everybody goes back to the "Origin of Species," and
finds the whole thing there, demonstration and all.

Lyell published a book on the antiquity of man in 1863. It was twenty-
five years before all the scientific men of the world were ready to
give up the idea that man had been on the earth more than six or eight
thousand years.

So we find that it is not theologians only; it is scientists, too, that
find it difficult to accept new ideas. I know scientific men among my
personal friends who are simply incapable of being hospitable to an
idea that would compel them to reconstruct a theory that they have
already accepted. Why are not all educated men Unitarians? Why do not
scientific men accept demonstrated truth when it is first demonstrated
as truth? It puts them to too much trouble. It touches their pride.
They do not like to feel that they have thrown away half their lives
following an hypothesis that is not capable of being substantiated.

Then, in the third place, there are men, and educated men as the world
goes, who deliberately decline to study new truth; and they are men in
the scientific field and in the religious field. They purposely refuse
to look at anything which would tend to disturb their present accepted
belief. In my boyhood I used to hear Dr. John O. Fiske, a famous
preacher in Maine. He told a friend of mine, in his old age, that he
simply refused to read any book that would tend to disturb his beliefs.
Professor William G. T. Shedd, one of the most distinguished
theologians of this country, a leading Presbyterian divine, published
so I am not slandering him by saying it a statement that he did not
consider any book written since the seventeenth century worth his
reading. And yet we have a new world since the seventeenth century, a
new revelation of God and of man. To follow the teaching of the
seventeenth century would be to go wrong in almost every conceivable
direction. What is the use of paying any attention to the theological
or religious opinions of a man who avows an attitude like that?

Faraday, to come now to a scientific illustration, so that you will not
think I am too hard on theologians, Faraday belonged to one of the most
orthodox sects in England; and he used to say deliberately that he kept
his religion and his science apart. He says, "When I go into my closet,
I lock the door of my laboratory; and, when I go into my laboratory, I
lock the door of my closet." He did very wisely to keep them apart;
for, if they had got together, there would certainly have been an

Another scientific illustration is Agassiz. Agassiz unconsciously
wrought out and developed some of the most wondrous and beautiful
proofs of evolution that the world has ever known; and yet he fought
evolution to the last day of his life, simply because he had accepted
the other theory. And he got it into his head that there was something
about evolution that tended to injure religion and degrade man, not a
rational objection, not a scientific objection, but a feeling, a

There is another class of people that I must refer to. Institutions and
organizations come into being, created, in the first place, as the
embodiment and expression of new and grand truths; and after a Arile
their momentum becomes such that the persons who are connected with
them cannot control their movements, and these persons become victims
of the organizations and institutions to which they belong. So, when a
new truth appears, the old organization rolls on like a Juggernaut car,
and crushes the life, so far as it is possible, out of everything in
its way. Take, for example, and note what a power it is and what an
unconscious bribe it is to those who belong to it, the great Anglican
Church. A man's ambitions, if he has learning, power, ability, tell him
that there is the Archbishopric of Canterbury ahead of him as a
possibility. His hopes, the chances of promotion and power, are with
the institution. And, then, it is such a tremendous social influence.
It is no wonder, then, that men who are not over-strong, who have not
the stuff in them out of which heroes are made, should cling to the
institution and remain loyal to it, even while they are false to the
truth that used to animate it and for which alone any institution ought
to exist.

Let me give you another illustration. Edward Temple, late Bishop of
London, and who is now the Archbishop of Canterbury, had a priest of
the established Church come to him and make a confession of holding
certain beliefs which he knew were heretical. The archbishop said to
him frankly: As Edward Temple, I believe them, I am in sympathy with
your views. As the head of the English Church, I must be opposed to
them; and the opinions which you hold cannot be tolerated. That is what
the influence of a great organization may come to.

Let me give you another concrete illustration. Here is our American
Bible Society, which publishes and circulates millions of Bibles all
over the world. It is obliged, as at present organized, to print and
distribute the King James version of the Bible; but there is not a
scholar or a minister connected with the organization anywhere who does
not know at least, since the revision at any rate that in many
important respects the King James version is not an accurate
translation of the original, even if that is conceded to be infallible.
So that this organization stands to-day in the position of being
obliged to circulate all over the world for God's truth any number of
teachings that are simply blunders of the translator, of the copyist,
or interpolated passages that have come down from the past.

So men in every direction become persuaded that they must be loyal to
the organization. I know cases where a minister in conversation with a
friend has said: So long as I remain a member of this Church, I have
got a great institution back of me, and I can accomplish so much
socially and in every way on account of it. I know I do not believe
half of the creed, but any number of other ministers are in the same
box. And so they stay true to the organization, while truth to the
truth is sacrificed.

One other influence that keeps so many of these old ideas alive or
prolongs their existence beyond the natural term  is right in here. Any
number of men, educated, strong, prominent men, give their countenance
and influence to the support of old-time religious organizations
because they believe that somehow or other they are serviceable as a
police force in the world, they keep people quiet, they help preserve
social order. I have had people over and over again say that they
believed it would be a great calamity to disturb the Roman Catholic
Church, because it keeps so many people quiet. Do you know, friends, I
regard this as the worst infidelity that I know of on the face of the
earth. It is doubt of God, his ability to lead and manage his world
without cheating it. It is doubt of truth, as to whether it is safe for
anybody except very wise people, like a few of us! It is doubt of
humanity, its capacity to find the truth, and believe in it and live on
it. Do you believe that God has made this universe so that it is
healthier for the masses to live on a lie than it is for them to live
on the truth? Is that your confidence in God? Is that the kind of God
you worship? It is not the kind I worship. There is no danger of the
ignorant masses of the world getting wise too fast, judging by the
experience of the past up to the present time. There is only one thing
that is safe; and that is truth. Do you know what the trouble was at
the time of the French Revolution? It was not that the people began to
reason and think, and lost their faith, as so frequently said by
superficial historians: it was that they waked up at last to the idea
that the aristocracy and the priesthood had not only been fleecing them
financially and keeping them down socially, but had been fooling them
religiously, until at last they broke away, having no confidence left
in God or priest or educated people or nobility or anything. No wonder
they made havoc. If you want to make a river dangerous, dam it up, keep
the waters back, until by and by the pressure from the hills and the
mountains becomes so great that it can be restricted no longer; and it
not only breaks through the dam, but bursts all barriers, floods the
country, sweeps away homes, farms, cattle, human beings, towns, cities,
leaving ruin in its path. Let rivers flow as God meant them to; and
they will be safe.

So let the world learn,-- learn gradually, and adapt itself to new
truth as it learns, and there will be an even and orderly march of
human progress. The danger is in our setting ourselves up as being
wiser than God, wiser than the universe, and doling out to the
multitude the little fragments of truth that we think are fitted for
their digestion. The impertinence of it, and the impiety of it!

I must not stop to deal with other reasons which lie in my mind this
morning. You can think along other channels for yourselves. I have
simply wished to suggest that, in the kind of world we are living in,
you may not be sure, at any particular age in history, that a set of
ideas is going to be accepted by the multitude merely because they are
true; and, because they are not accepted at once, you are not,
therefore, to come to the conclusion that they are not true. There
never has been a time in the history of the world when the truth was
not in the minority. Go back to the time of Jesus: do you not remember
how the people asked whether any of the scribes or the Pharisees
believed on him? They were ready to accept him if they could go with
the crowd; but it never occurred to them to raise the question as to
whether it was their duty to go with him while he was alone, as to
whether two or three might not represent some higher conception of God,
some forward step on the part of humanity. Consider for just a moment,
let it be in literature, in art, in government, in ethics, anywhere,
find out where the crowd is, and you will find where the truth is not.
Disraeli made a very profound remark when he said that a popular
opinion was always the opinion which was about to pass away. By the
time a notion gets accepted by the crowd, the deeper students are
seeing some higher and finer truth towards which they are reaching.

The pioneers are always in the minority. The vanguard of an army is
never so large as the main body that comes along behind after the way
has been laid out for it.

"Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust."

That is Lowell's suggestion, in that famous poem of his. If we care for
truth, we shall not wait until it becomes popular. The truth in any
direction to-day, if we had the judgment of the world, would be voted
down. Christianity would be voted down among the religions;
Protestantism would be voted down in Christianity; and the highest and
finest thinkers in the Protestant churches would be voted down by the
majority of the members.

Do not be disturbed, then, or troubled, because you have not the crowd
and the shouting accompanying you on your onward march; and remember
that there must be something of heroism in this consecration to truth.
I wish to quote to you, as bearing on this truth, a wonderfully fine
word which I have just come across in a recent number of the
Cosmopolitan Magazine, the word of the Hon. Thomas B. Reed, the Speaker
of the House of Representatives. He says, "One with God may be a
majority; but crucifixion and the fagot may antedate the counting of
the votes." But, if it means crucifixion and the fagot, and we claim to
be followers of the Nazarene and worthy of him, even for that we shall
not shrink. It is our business simply to raise the question, and try to
answer it or ourselves, Which way must I go to follow the truth? And
that way I must tread, whether it means life or death, whatever the
consequences; for the truth-seeker is the only God-seeker.


As you are aware, there are certain churches that have taken the name
of Evangelical, thereby, of course, putting forth the claim that in
some special or peculiar way they have the gospel in keeping. For
"Evangel" is the word translated "gospel," "Evangelist" is a "preacher of
the gospel," "Evangelical" is the appropriate name for the church whose
ministers preach the gospel. And the word "gospel," as you know,
translated, means good news. It is the proclamation of hope, of
something that the world has been groping in darkness for, a message
that should lift the burden off the human heart, make men stronger to
endure, fill them with cheer in the midst of life's difficulties and
dangers, and give them a trust with which to walk out into the darkness
that lies at the end.

A certain section, I say, of the Christian Church has appropriated this
name; and by common consent it has been conceded to it. And as usage
makes language, and the dictionaries only record the results of popular
usage, why, of course, we must confess that this use of words is right.
Right in that sense, I say. But I wish to go back of this popular usage
this morning, and raise the question as to whether these churches that
claim the title are the ones to whom it peculiarly or exclusively
belongs. I wish to put forward the claim that we, though the idea is
entirely against popular thought, are really the ones who are preaching
the gospel of God, and that the liberals of the world come nearer today
to proclaiming the actual original gospel of Jesus the Christ than do
any other body of Christians in the world. I wish to do this, not in
any spirit of antagonism, but simply by way of clear definition, and
that we may understand where we are, and may unfalteringly and
trustingly and loyally and hopefully go on to do the highest work that
was ever committed to human hands.

At the outset, though it will necessitate my saying certain things
which I have said to you before, I must outline briefly that body of
doctrine which goes by the name of "Evangelical." I will not go back
two or three hundred years to include in it such dogmas as
Foreordination, Election, the Damnation of non-Elect or non-Baptized
Infants, though these doctrines still remain in the creeds. I will take
what must be considered the simpler and fairer course of confining
myself to setting forth those beliefs which are generally accepted, and
which are made a part of the creed of the so-called "Evangelical
Alliance" that is, an organization including representatives of all the
great so-called Evangelical Churches. These beliefs, in brief, are that
God created the world perfect in the first place, but that in a very
short time it was invaded by the evil powers, and mankind rebelled
against the Creator, and became the subjects of the devil as the god of
this world. Then man, by thus rebelling against God, lost his
intellectual power to discern truth, became mentally unable to discover
spiritual truth, to find the divine way in which he ought to walk; and
that he became morally incapable, so that, even when the truth was
presented to him, he felt an aversion towards it, and was disinclined
to accept it. The next point is this being the condition of things that
God began to reveal himself to the world, first, by angel messengers,
by prophets, by inspired men, and that then at last, through certain
chosen mediums, he wrote a book telling men the truth about their
condition, about his feeling towards them, about what they ought to do,
and the destiny involved in the kind of life they should live here.
After the world had been in existence about four thousand years,
according to this teaching, and very little headway had been made even
among the chosen people, the few that had been selected from the great
outside and wandering nations, God himself comes down to earth, by
means of a woman specially prepared to be his mother he is born without
a human father. He lives, he suffers, he dies. This, after one theory
or another, I need not go into them, to make it possible for God to
forgive, and to enable him to save those who should accept the terms
which he should offer.

Then, after his withdrawal from the earth, his Church is organized
under the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. Its mission is to
proclaim the gospel among all nations. That proclamation has gone on;
but after two thousand years not a third of the world has heard the
gospel, not a third of the people who walk the planet knows anything
about the book that has been written. But they still stumble along in
darkness, worshipping anything except the one only and true God. So
that this effort up to the present time would strike us, if we judged
it as a human device, as being a sad and lamentable failure.

The upshot of this, according to the Evangelical creed, is that the
great majority of the world is to be permanently lost. Only a few,
those who are converted or those becoming members of the true Church,
connected with it sacramentally or in some way, only the few are to be
saved, and the great majority outcast forever.

This, in substance, makes up what has been called the gospel; and those
who claim that they are preaching the gospel are preaching these things
as true. I am well aware  and I would not have anybody suppose that I
overlooked it  that this creed is undergoing very striking and marked
changes, and that a great many of those things which some of us look
upon as more objectionable are being left out of sight, and not
preached, as they used to be, though they still remain in the creeds.

I am aware, for example, that what it is to be orthodox or evangelical
has been reduced to very low terms as compared with those which I have
just set forth; that is to say, reduced to very low terms in certain
quarters. For instance, Dr. Lyman Abbott, of Brooklyn, tells us that we
need not believe in the infallibility of the Bible any more; that we
need not believe in the old-time Trinity; that we need not believe that
Jesus was essentially different from a man; we need not believe in the
virgin birth, unless we find it easy to accept it. But the two things
which he tells us we must believe in order to be orthodox, or
evangelical, are that in some way, though he does not define how, the
Bible contains a special message from God to the world, and that in
some way Jesus particularly and specially represents God, and that he
reveals him to men, so that, when he speaks, he speaks with authority,
as representing divine truth. Everlasting Damnation eliminated,
Foreordination not referred to, the Trinity transformed, Infallibility
no longer insisted on, the humanity of Jesus granted, to be orthodox,
according to Dr. Abbott, has become a comparatively simple thing.

In my conversations with clergymen of other churches during the past
winter I have discovered that there, too, among certain men, the
conditions of being orthodox are a great deal simpler than they were a
hundred years ago. An Episcopalian tells me it is only necessary to
accept the Nicene and the Apostles' Creeds, and that even then one is
at liberty to interpret them as he pleases; that this is what
constitutes Orthodoxy and makes one evangelical.

But this process of eliminating the hard doctrines has not gone on in
any authoritative way on the part of the Church itself. There has been
no proclamation of any such liberty allowed; and I am not aware that
the most of these men have made any public statement in their own
churches of these positions. It may be known through personal
conversations that they hold these views; and, if they are rendering
good service, they may not be disturbed by the church authorities in
their positions.

So much, then, for a statement as to what constitutes the Evangelical
Church, as to what must be the message of the minister who is to preach
"the gospel of Christ."

Now I wish to call your attention for a moment to another way of
looking at these doctrines. I am not to question their truth. I simply
wish to ask you to note as to whether, considering them true, we should
be inclined to speak of them as good news. Are they a gospel? Can we
with gladness proclaim them to men? For example, suppose God, after
creating the world, loses control of it, an evil power comes in, his
enemy, takes possession of his fair earth, alienates from him the
hearts of the only two of his children who are in existence here, and
who are to be the parents of a countless race. Suppose that is true. Is
it something we would like to believe? Is it good news? Can we call it
an integral part of a gospel?

Suppose, again, that God writes a book, an infallible book, and gives
it to whom? To a few people, to the little company of Jews who lived on
that little narrow strip of land on the eastern shore of the
Mediterranean. He does not give it to anybody else. He has given,
indeed, according to this theory, the Old Testament and the New to
Christendom since that day. But think a moment.

According to what we know to be true now, man was on this planet for
two or three hundred thousand years before God revealed himself at all;
and the race went stumbling on and falling in darkness, no light, no
hand stretched out to help, no voice speaking out of the silent
heavens, the world, apparently, absolutely forgotten, so far as God's
truth was concerned. Suppose that, after two or three hundred thousand
years, God did give an infallible book to the world. As I had occasion
to say a moment ago, comparatively a very small part of his children
have heard anything about it. And, then, what is very striking, the
proofs of its having come from him are so weak that most of the wisest,
the best, the noblest of the world, cannot accept any such claim on its
behalf. Is this, if it be true, good news? Would we speak of it as a
gospel, something of which to be glad, something to proclaim to mankind
as a cheer, a message from on high?

Once more, suppose, after the world had been in existence for two or
three hundred thousand years, God comes down, incarnates himself, wears
a human body, and does what he can to save men. If it is true, in the
economy of the divine government, that human souls could be saved in no
other way, is that good news? Would we think of it as a gospel to
proclaim to mankind, that God himself must suffer, must be outcast, be
spit upon, be reviled, be put to death, and that only so could he
forgive one of his wandering children, and bring him back to himself?

Then, once more, suppose all this to be true, and suppose that, as the
outcome of it all, the countless millions of men and women and children
that have walked the earth during the last three hundred thousand
years, until the Jews received their first light from heaven, suppose
that they have been lost: that is a part of this gospel. Suppose that
since that time all the nations outside of Christendom have been lost:
that is a part of this gospel. Suppose that not only this be true, but
that all people in Christendom who have not been members of churches
have been lost. Suppose even, as I used to hear it preached when I was
a boy, that large numbers of those who were church members were not
really children of God, and would be lost. Suppose this most horrible
doctrine be true. Is it good news? Could we proclaim it with any heart
of courage as a part of the gospel of God?

It seems to me, then, that I am bringing no railing accusation when I
say that those Churches that claim to be Evangelical are not
proclaiming a gospel to the world. But, though this be literally true,
they may claim that they are delivering the message of Jesus the
Christ, and that, from their point of view, this is relatively a piece
of good news, good news, at any rate, to the few who are going to be
saved. So I ask you now to turn, while I examine with you for a few
moments the essence of the gospel which Jesus proclaimed. Note its
terms. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of
God, and saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at
hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel;" that is, this proclamation of
good news, the coming of God's kingdom. Was this the essential thing in
the gospel of Christ?

Let me ask you now to look with me for a few moments. You are perfectly
well aware of the fact that the Jews cherished a belief in the coming
of a Messiah and the establishment of God's kingdom here on earth and
among men. You are not so well aware, perhaps, unless you have made a
study of it, that a belief like this has not been confined to the Jews.
In many other nations a similar expectation has been cherished. We find
it, for example, among some of the tribes of our North American
Indians. It is world-wide, in other words, in its range. It is no
peculiarity of the Jews. But let us confine ourselves a moment to their
particular hope. It is a perfectly natural belief. It required no
revelation in order for it to grow up. They believed that the God of
the world, of the universe, was their God; that they were his chosen
people. Do you not see what a necessary corollary would be a belief in
their ultimate prosperity and triumph? God would certainly bless and
give the kingdom to that people which he had specially selected for his
own. And so, as the coming of the kingdom was postponed, they believed
that it was because they had not complied with the divine conditions,
they had not kept the law or they had not been good, they had not
obeyed him. Somehow, they had done wrong; and that was the reason the
kingdom so long delayed.

Remember another thing. We have come, in this modern time, to place the
kingdom away off in another world after the close of this life. The
Jews had no such belief about it. They expected it to come right here
on this poor little planet of ours; and they expected that a kingdom
was to be set up which was not only to place them at the head of
humanity, but through them was to bless all mankind. Different thinkers
among them held different views, but this in substance was the belief;
and they were constantly looking for signs of this imminent revolution
which was to make the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our God
and of his Christ, that is, his Anointed One.

John the Baptist preached that this kingdom was coming. But he was
imprisoned and beheaded, having come into conflict with the civil
authority. Jesus, then, having come from Nazareth, where he had studied
and thought and brooded over the divine will, takes up this broken work
of John, and begins a proclamation of the gospel; and the one thing
which constituted that gospel was: The kingdom of God is at hand,
repent and believe; accept this statement. And note that "repent" on
the lips of Jesus did not mean what we have been accustomed to
associate with it. The New Testament word translated "repent" means
change your purpose, change your method of life. You have not been in
accord with the truth, you have not been obedient to God; turn about,
come into accord with the divine law, become obedient to the divine

Jesus taught no kingdom in any other world. He believed that the
kingdom was to be here. For, even after he had disappeared from the
sight of men, and this reflects in the clearest possible way the burden
of his message, his disciples expected, not that they were to be
transferred to some other planet or into an invisible world to find the
kingdom, but that Jesus was to come back, to return in the clouds of
heaven, and establish the kingdom here.

The kingdom, then, that Jesus preached was a kingdom of righteousness
here on this earth, among just the kind of people that we are. And,
note, he said, This kingdom of God does not come by observation. You
are not to say, Lo here, Lo there, look for wonders. He says, The
kingdom of God is within you, or among you. It is translated both ways;
and, I suppose, nobody knows which way it ought to be. I believe both.
The kingdom of God that Jesus preached is essentially in us. It is
also, after it is in a few of us, among us, right here already, so far
as it extends, and reaching out its limits and growing as rapidly as
men discern it and become obedient to its laws.

Now I have been asked a great many times how I can be sure, or
practically sure, as to what sayings in the Gospels are really those of
Jesus and what are traditional in their authority, what are doubtfully
his. I cannot go into a long explanation this morning; but I want to
suggest one line of thought. And I do this because I wish it to be the
basis of a statement that Jesus has not made any of these things that
are to-day labelled "Evangelical" any essential part of his gospel at
all. Jesus, for example, does not preach any Garden of Eden or any Fall
of Man. Jesus says nothing about any infallible book. Jesus says not a
word about any Trinity. He nowhere makes any claim to be God. His
doctrine concerning the future is doubtful. But one thing which I wish
to insist upon is perfectly clear: the conditions of citizenship in the
kingdom of God are the simplest conceivable. He says, Not those that
say, Lord, Lord, not those that multiply their services and ceremonies,
but those that do the will of my Father shall enter the kingdom. The
only condition that Jesus ever established for membership in the
kingdom of heaven is simple human goodness, never anything else.

I am perfectly well aware that somebody may quote to me, "He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not
shall be damned." But the reply to that would be, The acknowledged
statement to-day on the part of all competent scholars is that Jesus
never uttered those words. They are left out of the Revised Version of
the New Testament: they are no authentic part of the story of his life
or his teaching.

How can we find his words? In the first place there are the great
central, luminous truths which Jesus uttered, the fatherhood of God,
the brotherhood of men, goodness as the condition of acceptance on the
part of God. And, on the theory that he did not contradict himself, we
are at liberty to waive one side those statements which grew up under
the influence of later tradition, popish or ecclesiastical, and which
plainly contradict these. But the main point I have in mind is one
which scholars have wrought out under the name of the Triple Tradition.
It takes for its central thought, "In the mouth of two or three
witnesses every word shall be established." We know that the Gospels
grew up through a long process of accretion after a good many years.
They were not written or planned by any one person; and, so far as we
know, they may not have been written by anybody whose name is
traditionally connected with them to-day. If, however, we find that
three of the four witnesses agree in reporting that he said or did a
certain thing, we feel surer about it than when only one witness
reports it. And if two report, why, even then we feel a little more
certain than we do when the report is from only one. And yet, of
course, the three may have omitted that which only one has recorded,
and which is true. But scholars have wrought out along this line what
is called the Triple Tradition; that is, they have constructed a
complete story of the life and the teaching and the death of Jesus out
of the words which are common to three of the gospel writers. All of
them tell this same story; and this story of the Triple Tradition has
no miraculous conception, it has no resurrection of the body, no
ascension into heaven. The miracles are reduced to the very lowest
terms, becoming almost natural and easy to be accounted for. In this
story Jesus teaches none of the things of which I have been speaking.

I say, then, that along the lines of the very best critical
scholarship, coming as near to the teaching of Jesus as we possibly can
to-day, we are warranted in saying that this which has usurped the name
of the gospel of Christ is not only not good news, but it is not the
news which Jesus brought and preached. As has been said a good many
times, it is a gospel about Christ instead of being the gospel of

I am ready now to make the claim that we liberals of the modern world
are the ones who come nearer to preaching the gospel of Christ than any
other part of the so-called Christian Church. For what is it that we
preach? We preach that the kingdom of God is at hand. We preach that
there is not a spot on the face of the earth where we are not at the
foot of a ladder like that which Jacob saw in his dream, and which
leads up to the very throne of the Almighty. Jesus taught that the
kingdom of God might begin anywhere and at any time in any human heart.
Note what Matthew Arnold has called the secret and the method of Jesus.
He says, The secret of Jesus is that he who selfishly seeks his life
shall lose it: he who throws it away for good and God finds it. Do we
need to go very deeply into human life to discover the profound truth
of that saying? Seek all over the world for good and happiness, and
forget to look within, and you do not find it. The kingdom of heaven is
within. It is in the spirit, the temper of the heart, the disposition,
the life. And the secret of it is in cultivating love and truth and
tenderness and care, those things which bring us into intimate
connection with which we mean when we say, Be unselfish, and that in
doing this we find our own souls. For the man who gives out of himself
love and tenderness and care, of necessity cultivates the qualities of
love and tenderness and care; and those are the ones which are the
essence of all soul-building. And he who looks outside for the greatest
things of life misses them; while he who looks within, and cultivates
the spirit, finds God and happiness and truth.

This gospel, then, that the kingdom of God is at hand, is always ready
to come, is the gospel which we proclaim. And now I wish to extend that
idea a little. The form in which Jesus held his dream of human good has
changed in the process of the centuries. We no longer expect a
miraculous revelation of a kingdom coming out of the heavens to abide
on earth. The form of it is changed; but the essence of it we hold
still, the same perfect condition of men here on earth and in the
future which Jesus held and proclaimed.

Now let me hint to you a few of the elements that make up this hope for
man which we liberals proclaim everywhere as the gospel, the good news
of the coming kingdom of God.

In the first place, we proclaim the possibility of human conquest over
this earth. What do I mean by that? I mean that man is able and he is
showing that ability ultimately to control the forces of this planet,
and make them his servants. Within the last seventy-five years this
increasing conquest has changed the face of the planet. We now use
water power not only, but steam, electricity, magnetism. All these
secret forces that thrill from planet to planet and sun to sun we use
as our household and factory drudges, our every-day servants. And it
needs only a little imagination, looking along the lines of past
progress, to see the day when man shall stand king of the earth. He
shall make all these forces serve him. I believe that we have only just
begun this conquest. Already the wonders about us eclipse the wonders
of novelist and dreamer; and yet we have only begun to develop them.
What follows from this? When we have completed the conquest of the
earth, when we have discovered God's laws of matter and force and are
able to keep them, it means the abolition of all unnecessary pain,
unnecessary pain, I say; for all that pain which is not beneficent,
which is not inherent in the nature of things, is remedial. And we
preach the gospel, the coming of God's kingdom when pain shall be
abolished, and shall pass away.

Another step: We preach the gospel of the abolition of disease. We have
already, in the few civilized centres of the world, made the old
epidemics simply impossible. They are easily controlled. Nearly every
one of those that rise to threaten Europe and America to-day come from
the religious, ignorant, wild fanaticism of Asia, beyond the range of
our civilized control. The conditions of disease are discoverable; and
the day will come when, barring accidents here and there, well-born
people may calmly expect to live out their natural term of years. We
preach this gospel, then, of the kingdom of God in which disease shall
no more exist.

We preach a gospel that promises a time when war shall be no more. At
present wars are now and then inevitable; but they are brutal, they are
unspeakably horrible. And how any one who uses the sympathetic
imagination can rejoice, not over the victory, but over the destruction
of life and property which the victory entails, I cannot understand. We
have reached a time when civilized man no longer thinks he must right
his wrong with his fists or a club or a knife or a pistol. On the part
of individuals we call this a reversion to barbarism. The time will
come, and we are advancing towards it, when it will be considered just
as much a reversion to barbarism on the part of families, states,
nations, and when we shall substitute hearts and brains for bruises and
bullets in the settlement of the world's misunderstandings. We preach,
then, a gospel of the coming of the kingdom in which there shall be no
more war. And then life under the fair heavens will be sweet.

There shall be no more hunger in that kingdom. To-day see what
confronts us, bread riots in Spain and in Italy, thousands of people
hungry for food. And yet, if we would give ourselves to the development
of the resources of this planet instead of to their destruction, this
fair earth could support a hundred times its present population in
plenty and in peace. There shall be no more famine in that kingdom the
gospel of which we preach.

Then, when men have lived out their lives, learned their lessons, and
stand where the shadow grows thicker, so that we try in vain to see
beyond, what then? We preach a gospel of life, of an eternal hope. We
believe that death, instead of being the end, is only a transition, the
beginning really of the higher and the grander life. We cannot look
through the gateway of the shadow; but we catch a gleam of light beyond
that means an eternal day, when the sun shall no more go down. This we

And we do not partition that world off into two parts, the immense
majority down where the smoke of their torment ascendeth forever, and
only a few in a city gold-paved and filled with the light of peace.
Rather we believe it is a human life there just as here, that we are
under the law of cause and effect, that salvation is not a magical
thing, that we are saved only in so far as we come into accord with the
divine law and the divine life. And, if anybody says we preach an easy
gospel because we eliminate an arbitrary hell, let him remember we
preach a harder gospel, a more difficult salvation, not a salvation
that can be purchased by a wave of emotion or by the touch of priestly
fingers, a salvation that must be wrought out through co-working with
God in the building of human character, a salvation that is being

This is our gospel; but it is a gospel of eternal and universal hope,
because we believe that every single soul is under doom to be saved
sometime, somewhere. We preach the inevitable results of law-breaking,
are they to last one year, five, a hundred, a thousand, a million, ten
millions? There is no possibility of heaven except as people are in
perfect accord with the divine law and the divine life; for that is
what heaven means. You can no more get heaven out of a disordered
character than you can get music out of a disordered piano. This
salvation which we preach is the constituent element of life. You
cannot have a circle if you break the conditions of a circle. You
cannot have a river if you break the conditions the very existence of
which constitutes a river. So of anything in God's natural world. There
are certain essential things that go to make these what they are. So
heaven, righteousness, happiness, the constituent elements of these are
right thinking, right feeling, right acting, obedience to the laws of
God, which make them possible.

We believe that God, through pain, through suffering, down through the
winding ways of darkness and ignorance, one year, a million years, must
pursue the soul of any one of his children until that child learns that
suffering follows wrong, and must follow it, and that God himself
cannot help it, and so, learning the lesson, by and by turns, comes
back, and says: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee,
and am not worthy to be thy son: make me at least as one of thy hired
servants. And then the love that has pursued all the way, that has been
in the light and that has been in the dark, shall go out to meet him,
and fall on his neck in loving embrace, and rejoice that he who was
dead is alive again, and he who was lost is found.

This is the gospel we preach, a gospel of God's eternal, boundless
love, the good news that every human being is God's child; that here on
earth, co-operating with God and discovering his laws, we may begin the
creation of his kingdom now; that we may broaden and enlarge it until
it encloses the world; and that it reaches out into the limitless ages
of the future. And this, as I said, is the gospel of the Christ,
changed in its form, if you please, but one in its essence; for he
came, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying: The time
is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your purpose,
accept the message, and come into accord with the divine life. This is
the gospel that the Christ preached: this is the gospel we preach

Do I make, then, an extraordinary claim when I say that we are the
Evangelical Church, that the church which preaches the gospel is here?

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Unitarian Gospel" ***

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