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Title: Morality as a Religion - An exposition of some first principles
Author: Sullivan, W. R. Washington
Language: English
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  "Religion is Morality recognised as a Divine command."

  "The mind of this age has fallen away from theology to
  morals.  I conceive it an advance."





[_All rights reserved_]


A recent work by M. Guyau was originally announced under the title of
_The Non-Religion of the Future_, and, doubtless, an impression is
generally prevalent that, with the modification or disappearance of
traditional forms of Belief, the fate of Religion itself is involved.

The present volume is a plea for a reconsideration of the Religious
question, and an inquiry as to the possibility of reconstructing
Religion by shifting its basis from inscrutable dogmas to the
unquestionable facts of man's moral nature.  It is now some fifty years
since Emerson wrote that "the progress of Religion is steadily towards
its identification with Morals," and foretold "a new Church founded on
Moral Science . . . the Church of men to come".  It is more than a
century since the immortal Immanuel Kant startled Europe by the
betrayal of the immensity of the emotion whereby the contemplation of
"man's sense of law" filled his soul, shedding henceforth an unfading
glory about the ideal of Duty and Virtue, and elevating it in the
strictest sense to the supreme height of Religion.  What these men--the
prophet and philosopher of the New Idealism--thought and did has borne
fruit in the foundation in America, Great Britain and Ireland, in
France, Germany, Austria and Italy, of Centres or Societies of Ethical
Culture which assume as axiomatic that there is, there can be, no
Religion but that which makes us one with the Moral Progress of
Humanity, by incessant co-operation with "the Power that makes for
Righteousness".  If Religion be, what its name signifies, the unifying
principle of mankind, in no other wise can we be possibly made One with
each other and with the Universal Power than by so living as to secure
the ends for which worlds and men exist.  As the great Ethical prophet
of the West expressed the truth: "My Father worketh even until now, and
I also work".  In such co-operation by moral life we place the very
essence of Religion.

With a view to propagating such a conception of Religion, wholly based
on Morality, a Society was founded in the autumn of the past year which
assumed the title of "The Ethical Religion Society," and described
itself as a branch of "The Ethical Church," "the Church of men to
come," which is one day to emerge from the united efforts of all who
believe in the everlasting "Sovereignty of Ethics," the unconditioned
Supremacy of the Moral Law.  The Ethical Movement is now beginning to
spread in Europe and America.  It is represented very largely in the
United States, where, indeed, it was inaugurated some twenty years ago
by Dr. Felix Adler, of New York; in Germany, by a score or more of
Societies; in Italy, in Austria, in Hungary, and quite recently in
France and Norway.  London, of course, is represented by numerous
Societies, and Ireland possesses one at Belfast.  So far, there has
been nothing definite accomplished towards a federation of these
representative Bodies, though some preliminary steps have been taken in
the formation of an international committee.  The various Societies are
quite independent, nor are their speculative opinions always in
agreement.  One only principle is universally and unreservedly
acknowledged, namely, _the absolute supremacy and independence of
Morality_, whatever philosophical differences may exist as to
speculative matters connected therewith.  The Movement stands for
freedom.  _In certis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas._

As regards the Ethical Religion Society, which meets at Steinway Hall,
Portman Square, and for which alone the present volume has any claim to
speak, it may be said that it expresses the Ethical interpretation with
which the teaching of Kant and Emerson, and the Idealist school
generally, have made us familiar.  During the year of its existence it
may be said to have met a certain need, and to have gained numerous
adherents from amongst those who, finding it impossible to "stand upon
the old ways," were yet in need of an Idealism and an inspiration of
life.  The teaching given weekly at its Sunday Services is summarised
in the following chapters, which are published under the impression
that some information respecting a Body which is content to make the
Moral life its ideal and reverence Conscience as "the highest, holiest"
reality, may be welcome to religious idealists generally.  The volume
is altogether of an introductory character, and merely aims at
conveying the central truth of Ethical Religion expressed by Immanuel
Kant in the well-known words--_Religion is Morality recognised as a
Divine command.  Morality is the foundation.  Religion only adds the
new and commanding point of view._







Some fifteen years ago a discussion was carried on in the pages of one
of our leading monthlies on the profoundly important question, "The
Influence on Morality of a Decline in Religious Belief".  Men of every
shade of opinion, from Roman Catholicism to Agnosticism, contributed
their views, and, as might well have been expected, they came to the
most contradictory conclusions.  The Roman Catholic and Anglican
writers appeared to think that the mere husk of morality would be left
with the disappearance of Christianity; that a sort of enlightened
epicureanism, a prudent animalism, would sway the greater part of
mankind; in a word, that we should be "whited sepulchres," fair to look
on without, but "inside full of dead men's bones, and all filthiness".
The agnostic was no less certain that morality, which had outgrown the
cumbrous garments manufactured by theology, would get on equally well
in the handy raiment provided by science.  The Rev. Dr. Martineau,
speaking as a theistic philosopher, accurately delineated the
boundaries of religion and morality, proceeded to show the
untenableness of these two extreme positions, and nobly vindicated the
complete autonomy or independence of ethics, whether of theological or
scientific doctrines.

Before stating the views which an ethical society advocates as to the
relations between religion and ethics, it would be very opportune to
remark that in the symposium or discussion referred to, sufficient
emphasis was not laid on an extremely important distinction which
should be borne in mind when we estimate the comparative importance of
religion and ethics.  It is this.  Religion, to ninety-nine out of
every hundred men who talk about it, does not mean religion in its
genuine character, but philosophy.  A man's religion is merely a
synonym for the reasoned explanation of the universe, of man, and their
destiny, which he has learnt from the particular ecclesiastical
organisation to which he belongs.  Thus, the Christian religion means
to the Anglican the Bible as interpreted by the Thirty-nine Articles;
to the Dissenter, the same book, as interpreted by some confession,
such as the Westminster, the Calvinistic, or the like.  To the Roman
Catholic it is synonymous with what has been, and what in future may
be, the verdict of a central teaching corporation whose judgment is
final and irrevocable.  Similarly, religion for the Mohammedan is the
precise form which his founder gave it, whilst the Buddhist is equally
persistent in upholding the version of Sakya Mouni.  Now, it is plain
that religion itself is one definite thing, and cannot be made to cover
a multiplicity of contradictory statements.  What, then, are these
Catholic, Protestant, Mohammedan and Buddhist religions?  They are not
religions at all: they are merely philosophies, or systematised
accounts of God, the world, and of man, which have obtained large
support in earlier stages of the world's history.  Religion itself is a
thing apart from these ephemeral forms in which it has been made to
take shape.  It is the great sun of reality, whose pure and authentic
radiance has been decomposed in the spectrum of the human brain, each
man seizing on an individual ray of broken light and making that the
sum and substance of his belief.

  Our little systems have their day,
    They have their day and cease to be;
    They are but broken lights of Thee,
  And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.

It is the aim of this movement, for the establishment of ethical
religion, to re-discover to man's wondering eyes the imperishable
beauty of a religion allied to no transitory elements, wrapped up in no
individual philosophy, bounded by no limitations of time, place or
race, but ever the self-same immutable reality, though manifesting
itself in most diverse ways, the sense of the infinite in man, and the
communion of his spirit with that alone.

  Speak to Him, thou, for He hears, and spirit with spirit can meet,
  Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands or feet.

What has philosophy, creed or council to say to that high and ennobling
conception?  Shall "articles" and "confessions" venture to intrude
there in the innermost sanctuary of man's spiritual being and dictate
to him what he shall hold or not hold of a reality about which he alone
is conscious?  What has the conflict about the Hebrew cosmogony, of
Genesis, baptismal regeneration, or the validity of orders to do with
that serene peace in which religion alone can dwell?  It were profanity
surely to intrude such strife of words in a sanctuary so sacred as that.

One of our saddest thoughts as we reflect on the "little systems," so
called, of the day, must be that they have so inconceivably belittled
religion, tearing away that veil of reverence which should ever
enshrine the Holy of Holies.  The only atmosphere in which religion can
really live is one of intense reverence, and when we hear of revivals,
pilgrimages, elaborate ritualism (I am afraid Emerson describes it as
"peacock ritual"), we may safely doubt whether the soul of religion be
there.  It is an excitement, a large advertisement for one or other of
the many ecclesiastical corporations of the age, but where is the
lonely communing with the Unseen, as revealed in the story of Jesus or
the Buddha?  The reason why Jesus is so fascinating a memory to his
church disciples is that he is so wholly unlike them.  So little is
there really spiritual and suggestive of the higher life in what is
exclusively ecclesiastical, that in their best moments men
instinctively turn away from it, and find inspiration and peace in
quiet thoughts about the Master, who said, "The Kingdom of God," that
is the kingdom of righteousness, or the ethical church, "cometh not
with observation," and "The Kingdom of God is within you".  The more
inward religion is, the less formalism it employs, the more ethical it
becomes, the nearer it approaches the ideal of the great Master.  A
pure and saintly inspiration, an ennobling and yet subduing influence,
a solemn stillness and hushing of the senses that would contend for
mastery, an odour blown from "the everlasting hills," filling life with
an indescribable fragrance; such is religion as professed and taught by
Jesus, and such is the ideal of the Church of Emerson, builded on the
purified emotions of the human heart.

Perhaps I have now indicated what I mean by religion, "pure and
undefiled," though I know too well what truth lies hid in those words
of the "Over-soul," "Ineffable is the union of man and God in every act
of the soul".  The spoken word does but suggest, and that faintly, what
the inner word of the soul expresses on matters so sublime.  Still, so
far as the limitations of thought and speech permit, we have shown how
religion is the communion of man's spirit with the "Over-soul," the
baring of his heart before the immensities and eternities which
encompass him, the deep and beautiful soliloquy of the soul in the
silence of the Great Presence.

  Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line
  Severing rightly His from thine,
  Which is human, which Divine.
        --_Conduct of Life_.

Let us now pass on to inquire what are the relations between religion
so conceived and ethics or morality.  In the first place, it must be
laid down as clearly as words will permit that religion and morality
should always be conceived as separate realities.  Of course, there can
be no such thing as religion "pure and undefiled" without morality or
right conduct; nevertheless, the two words connote totally distinct
activities of the soul of man.  We shall best explain our meaning by
pointing to the obvious fact that there have not been wanting men in
all times who have exhibited an almost ideal devotion to duty without
betraying any sympathy whatsoever with religious emotion such as has
been described.  They have no sense of the infinite, as others have no
sense of colour, art or music, and in nowise feel the need of that
transcendent world wherein the object of religion is enshrined.  I
should say that the elder Mill was such a man, and his son, John Stuart
Mill, until the latter years of his life, when his views appear to have
undergone a marked change.  Some of his disappointed friends ascribed
the change to the serious shock he suffered at his wife's death.  There
may possibly be truth in that opinion; "the winnowing wings of death"
often bring about a searching change.  No one yet has ever been able to
seriously live up to the Hedonistic rule, "eat and drink for to-morrow
we die".  If death were announced, the very last thing man would do
would be to eat and make merry.

However, it is notoriously possible to "bring forth fruits of
righteousness," or, to use modern language, to live the good life,
without seeking any help from that world of the ideal in which religion
lives.  This teaching, of course, is diametrically opposed to that of
the Churches, who lay it down almost as an axiom that without such
extraneous assistance as "grace," generally conveyed in answer to
direct supplication, or through the mystery of Sacramental agencies,
such as Baptism or the Lord's Supper, it is fairly impossible to keep
the moral law.  To the credit of humanity, this dark theology has been
falsified by results in countless instances, and never more frequently
than to-day.  Men whose names are in the mouth of everybody have lived
and died in the enjoyment not merely of the esteem, but of the reverent
admiration of their age, whose lives were wholly uninspired by
religious motives.  I need only mention Charles Darwin, and when we
remember that not even sectarianism ventured to dispute his right to
rest within the hallowed precincts of an abbey-cathedral, ecclesiastics
themselves must be fast forgetting the deplorable narrowness of old
views which made morality and dogmatism inter-dependent terms.

Nevertheless, it must be conceded, and such men as I have spoken of
were the first to admit it, that lives such as these are necessarily
imperfect.  The stunting or the atrophy of the religious instinct, the
hunger and thirst for something beyond the sphere of sense when left
totally unsatisfied, produces at length a restless, tormented feeling,
which turns the very joy of existence to sadness, and dims the light of
life.  Such men may plunge into pleasure, absorb themselves in their
books or research, wear and waste themselves in the making of wealth,
and for a time they are satisfied.  But the imperious craving reasserts
itself at length; there is the cry of the soul for some lost
inspiration, some transfiguring influence to soften the hard way of
life, console a lonely hour, comfort a bereavement, inspire that
tenderness and sympathy, without which we are scarcely even human.  One
remembers Darwin's sorrowful admission, that the deadening of his
spiritual instincts left him incapable of enjoying, or even tolerating,
the rhythm of the poet's verse.  The world has heard the note of
weariness with which Mr. Spencer absolved himself from further effort
on behalf of science and man.  The late Prof. Romanes, in his volume
entitled _A Candid Examination of Theism_, made the melancholy
declaration that the admission of a philosophy of pure mechanism or
materialism had, for him at least, "robbed the universe of its soul of
beauty".  In later years, as is well known, the same writer came to see
things with other eyes.  Mind took the place of force as the ultimate
fact of creation, and with it the sun of loveliness returned once more.

Have we ever sufficiently reflected that the purely negative philosophy
has done nothing for idealism in any shape or form?  It has inspired no
art, music or poetry.  With nothing to draw upon but the blind whirl of
infinite atoms and infinite forces, of which man is himself the
haphazard and highest production, it has contented itself with the
elementary work of destruction, without even attempting to dig the
foundations for anything which it is proposed to erect in the place of
what has been destroyed.  "Scepticism," says Carlyle, "is, after all,
only half a magician.  She calls up more spectres than she can lay."
Scepticism was, nay is, sometimes, a necessary attitude of the human
mind.  But man cannot live on doubt alone, and therefore, though we
profoundly believe the possibility of living the good life
independently of religious sanctions, we unhesitatingly affirm the deep
need man has of religious emotion to satisfy the ineradicable instinct
of his nature towards communion with the unseen world.  Here are the
words of a man who had exhausted the possibilities of life before he
wrote them, conveying in the simplest, though most penetrating way, a
most momentous truth: "_Fecisti nos Domine ad Te, et irrequiêtum est
cor nostrum donec requiescat in Te_".  "_Thou hast made us, O Lord, for
Thyself, and our heart is restless until it find rest in Thee_."  And
if we would have a modern commentary upon this saying of the fourth
century writer, Augustine of Hippo, here are a few words of Victor
Hugo, spoken in the French Parliament of the forties: "_Dieu se
retrouve à la fin de tout_".

Before leaving this point, it would be well to complete the argument by
distinctly stating that, as morality is possible without religion,
religion--or rather we should call it religiosity--is possible without
morality.  This is a matter of very great importance, and what has been
asserted will help us to understand the curious phenomena one meets
with in all periods of the world's history--men and women, apparently
of undeniable religious instincts, exhibiting a most imperfect
appreciation of the far more weighty matters concerned with moral
conduct.  I am not speaking of downright hypocrites who make religion
merely a cloak for the realisation of rascally designs.  I speak rather
of such individuals, who, while betraying a marked religious fervour,
showing itself in assiduous attention at church services,
proselytising, and religious propaganda generally, manifest on the
other hand little or no delicacy or sensitiveness of conscience on
purely ethical matters.  Take for example such men as Torquemada and
the inquisitors, or Calvin amongst the Protestants; take the orgies of
sensuality which were the necessary accompaniment of much religious
worship in Pagan times, and, if we may believe travellers, are not
wholly dissociated with popular religion in India and China to-day.
Or, again, take such a case as that of the directors of the Liberator
Building Society, men whose prospectuses, annual reports, and even
announcements of dividends, were saturated with the unction of
religious fervour.  Or, take the tradesman who may be a churchwarden or
deacon at his church or chapel, but exhibits no scruples whatever in
employing false weights, and, worst of all, in adulterating human food.
An incalculable amount of this sort of thing goes on, and, whether it
be accurate or not I cannot say, it is often ascribed to small dealers
in small towns and villages, "pillars of the church," as a rule, which
they may happen to attend.

Now, in all these cases there is no need to suppose conscious
hypocrisy.  Unconscious, possibly; but, though the heart of man be
inscrutable, we need not necessarily believe that such phenomena are
open evidence of wilful self-deceit.  The far truer explanation is,
that religious emotion is one thing and moral emotion quite another.
The late chairman of the Liberator Building Company, I can well
conceive, was a fervent and devoted adherent of his sect, and was not
consciously insincere, when, in paying dividends out of capital, he
ascribed his prosperity to the unique care of a heavenly providence
which especially occupied itself about all he personally undertook.
The rascality of Saturday was entirely forgotten on Sunday, when, with
bowed head, he recited his metaphysical creed or received the parting
blessing.  The Sunday service, the surpliced choir, those melting
hymns, the roll of the organ's mysterious tones throughout the holy
edifice, the peculiar sense of spiritual well-being and prosperity
which it all combined to produce was probably a joy of his life, and by
no means the meanest.  The mischief was that he had no moral sense, and
the word honesty and duty connoted nothing real to his mis-shapen mind.
He was a morally deficient being.

Now, the ethical Church has come for this great purpose, to make us see
the repulsiveness of a religion of that kind, to assure every man that
no religious services, any more than the eager subscription of
antiquated formularies, constitute the essence of religion.  That is
built on the moral law, and unless it come as the crown and glory of a
life of duty, then that religion is a shameful thing, the sacrilegious
degradation of the highest and holiest thing on earth.  It has come,
this ethical Church, to reinforce the wholly forgotten teaching of the
Hebrew prophets of the utter emptiness of all religion devoid of moral
life, the vanity of sacrifices, oblations and rites, the hollowness of
formularies, creeds and confessions, the indispensable necessity of an
ethical basis for all religious belief and practice.  "What more," asks
Micah, "doth the Lord require of thee than to do justice, love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?"

It has come also to indicate the true relations between ethics and
religion.  Ethics are truly the basis on which religion is built, but
when once the sacred edifice is fully raised, a beautiful reaction is
set up (at least in the ideal good life), and religion becomes one of
the strongest incentives to a dutiful and virtuous life.  This is the
explanation of the truly ideal lives lived by men and women of deep
personal religion, in all sects and creeds, European and Asiatic.
This, too, is the justification of that oft-repeated and profoundly
true saying, that all good men and women belong to the same religion.
It is to that one true, pure, and aboriginal religion we wish to get
back, in which we discover the best ally of morality, the all-powerful
incentive to a life wholly devoted to duty and the service of the human
brotherhood.  The allegory of the Last Judgment, as it is called, as
depicted by Jesus himself in the Gospel according to Matthew,
emphasises this ethical truth in words of great solemnity.  The sheep
and the goats are distinguished, not by the possession or
non-possession of miraculous spiritual powers, professions of belief or
Church membership, but by the humble devotion exhibited to suffering
humanity, and steadfast perseverance in the path of duty.  How was it
possible, we ask again and again, for such a religion as that to be
transformed into the thing of shreds and patches of bad philosophy as
set forth in the Nicene and Athanasian Creed?

Forget all that, we would fain exhort men, forget all but the words
that made music on the Galilean hills, the life "lived in the
loveliness of perfect deeds," the veritable exemplar of a religion
founded on the moral sentiment.  To be touched by the influence of
religious emotion is to approach in greater or less degree to the image
and character of Christ.  To live a life of devotion to duty, however
humble our station may be, is to range ourselves, with that great
Master of ethics, on the side of an eternal order of righteousness
which can never fail.  It is to work with that soul of reason
dominating everything in the animate and inanimate world, to co-operate
with it towards the fulfilment of those high ends which are predestined
for humanity.  Every man must make his choice.  Either he will ally
himself with all that makes for moral advancement--his own, that of
others, and consequently of the world--or he will fight for the powers
of retrogression and decay.  He will live for the hour and its
momentary pleasures, fight for his own hand alone, forget mercy and
pity, seldom think, never reflect, and at length, sated and yet
dissatisfied with all he has experienced, sink impotently and ignobly
into the grave.  Immanuel Kant lays it down as an axiom that the moral
law must inevitably be fulfilled one day in every individual human
being.  It is the destiny of man to be one day perfect.  What a
searching change must sometime pass over those who have taken the wrong
side in this earth-life, who have helped on the process of
disintegration, and contrived to leave the world worse than they found
it!  They fight for a losing cause: they lose themselves in fighting
for it.

It has been said, I have heard it said myself, that "ethics are cold".
Possibly to some they are; but at any rate they are grave and solemn
when they hold language such as this to the pleasure-loving, the
light-hearted, and the indifferent.  To tell a man to do his duty in
spite of all, to love the good life irrespectively of any reward here
or hereafter, may sound cold after the dithyrambics of the Apocalypse
or the Koran, but of one thing we are assured by the experience of
those who have made the trial of it themselves, that any man who "will
do the doctrine," that is, live the life, shall know at once "whether
it be of God"--that alone is the unspeakable peace, passing all

But ethics are not alone.  As I have endeavoured to point out,
religious emotion which grows out of the moral sentiment is the most
powerful stimulus towards the realisation of the good life, and I
consequently urged the supreme value of true religion, as both
satisfying the emotional side of man's nature and stimulating him
towards that sacrifice of self--that taking up of a "cross," as Jesus
put it--which in some measure is indispensably necessary for the
attainment of character.

But I in no wise concede that ethics are "cold"; I in no wise admit
they are uninspiring.  The consciousness that a man possesses of being
one with the great Power of the universe in making for righteousness is
surely an overwhelming thought.  If man would but think, he would come
to feel with Emerson "the sublimity of the moral laws," their awful
manifestation of the working of infinite mind and power, and of man's
nearness to, or rather oneness with, that Power, when he obeys them.
He would come to thrill with an indescribable emotion with Kant, as he
thinks of the infinite dignity to which fellowship with those
mysterious laws elevates him.  He would realise the truth of the solemn

  Two things fill me with ceaseless awe,
  The starry heavens, and man's sense of law.

Ethics cold!  Then what else is left to inspire to us?  We are
bankrupt.  What is there in all the Churches to help humanity if not
their ethics--ethics which are not the perquisite of any sect, no mere
provincialism of any Church or nation, but the heirloom of mankind?

What, we ask, is there to cheer the heart in the Thirty-nine Articles,
the Vatican decrees, or the Westminster Confession?  What mysterious
inspiration lurks in the dogmas of the Oriental councils of 1600 years
ago, dogmas to be believed to-day under peril of perishing
everlastingly?  We do not concede that the ethical Church has no
message to the heart, no comfort for the emotions, no solace to the
deeply tried and afflicted.  A Church which preaches the
imperishability of every good deed, the final and decisive victory of
the good; which reveals to us not only mind, but beneficence, as the
character of the supreme Power in the universe; which bids us remember
that as that Power is, so are we, moral beings to our heart's core,
and, in consequence, to take the place which belongs to us at the side
of the infinite righteousness for the furtherance of the good--such a
Church, such a religion is not destitute of enthusiasm and inspiration.
A philosophy such as this, a religion such as this, will one day sweep
the English-speaking countries in a tempest of enthusiasm.  It will be
welcomed as the final settlement of the conflicting claims of mind and
heart in man, the reconciliation of the feud too long existing between
religion and science.  Everything points to its immense future.  Within
the churches its principles are tacitly accepted as irrefutable.  We
claim such men as Stanley, Maurice and Jowett as preachers of the
ethical Church, and their numbers are increasing every year among the
cultured members of the Anglican clergy.  Leading men of science are no
longer committed to a purely negative philosophy, while one and all
would be prepared to admit that if religion we are to have it must be
one in complete harmony with the moral sentiment in the best men; in
other words, a Church founded on moral science, the ideal of the
saintly Jesus, and of all the prophets of the race.

NOTE.--"I can conceive the existence of a Church in which, week by
week, services should be devoted, not to the iteration of abstract
propositions in theology, but to the setting before men's minds of an
ideal of true, just and pure living: a place in which those who are
weary of the burden of daily cares should find a moment's rest in the
contemplation of the higher life which is possible for all, though
attained by so few; a place in which the man of strife and of business
should have time to think how small after all are the rewards he covets
compared with peace and charity.  _Depend upon it, if such a Church
existed, no one would seek to disestablish it._"--HUXLEY.  I know not
what better words could be chosen wherewith to describe the ethical



Since the era of the re-birth of learning, each successive century has
been generally distinguishable by some marked intellectual development,
by some strong movement which has taken deep hold of the minds of men.
Thus the Renascimento period was followed by the century of the
Reformation, and that again by the inauguration of the era of modern
philosophy, while the eighteenth century has been claimed as the
_Saeculum Rationalisticum_, the age of rationalism, in which the claims
of reason were pushed to the forefront in the domains of religion and
politics.  Nothing remained after that but an age of physical science,
and surely enough has been given us in the nineteenth century which may
with equal accuracy be termed the _Saeculum Scientificum_.

It cannot be doubted that a sort of mental intoxication has been set up
as a result of the extraordinary successes which have rewarded the
efforts of scientific investigators.  Everything now-a-days is
expressed in terms of science and its formulae.  Evolution is the
keynote to the learning of the age.  Thus Mr. Spencer's system of the
Synthetic Philosophy is a bold and comprehensive attempt to take up the
whole knowable, and express it anew in the language of development.  It
is emphatically, professedly, the philosophy of evolution, the rigid
application of a purely scientific formula to everything capable of
philosophical treatment.  Now, having discussed the question of ethics
and religion, their distinction and their intimate relations; having
shown how that religion comes as the crown and glory of the ethical
life, the transfiguration of the ethical ideal and the most powerful
stimulus towards the realisation in practice of what is conceived as
theoretically desirable, it remains for us to complete our treatment of
this aspect of the ethical problem and determine the relations existing
between morals and science.

This question we conceive to be of vital importance.  Just as we must
be inexorable in refusing to base our ethic on religion, and still less
on theology, so must we be equally determined in repudiating the claim
often put forward, that morality is a department of physics, or in any
way founded on physical science.  The scientific professor, feeling the
ground strong under his feet, and sure of the applause of his very
numerous public, has made a bold bid for the control of the moral
order.  He has made a serious attempt to capture the ethical world, and
to coerce morality into obedience to the inflexible formulae of
physics.  The evolutionist, in particular, is consumed with an
irresistible desire to stretch the ethical ideal on his procrustean
couch and to show how, like everything else, it has been the subject of
painfully slow growth and development, and that when the stages of that
growth have been accurately ascertained by research into the records of
the past, the essence of morality is fully explained.  Originally
non-extant, it has become at length, after aeons of struggle, the chief
concern of man, the "business of all men in common," as Locke puts it,
all of which philosophy is tantamount to saying, that morality is
merely a flatter of history.  When you know its history, you know
everything, very much as a photographer might claim to exhaustively
know an individual man, because he had photographed him every six
months from his cradle to his grave.  A very inadequate philosophy of
ethic, this.

But, before coming to close quarters with this extremely interesting
problem, I would protest that we are sincere in our loyalty and
enthusiasm for physical science, sincere in our deep admiration for its
chief exponents.  We claim to be students of the students of nature,
for, after all, nature herself is the great scientist.  The secrets are
all in her keeping.  The All-Mother is venerable indeed in the eyes of
every one of us.  "The heated pulpiteer" may denounce modern science as
the evil genius of our day, the arch-snare of Satan for the seduction
of unwary souls and the overthrow of Biblical infallibility, but we are
not in that galley.  As true sons of our age, we are loyal to its
spirit, and that spirit is scientific.  The late Professor Tyndall said
of Emerson, the veritable prophet and inspiration of ethical religion:
"In him we have a poet and a profoundly religious man, who is really
and entirely undaunted by the discoveries of science, past, present and
prospective, and in his case poetry, with the joy of a bacchanal, takes
her graver brother science by the hand, and cheers him with immortal
laughter.  By Emerson scientific conceptions are continually transmuted
into the finer forms and warmer lines of an ideal world."  It is in no
spirit, therefore, of hostility to physical science or her methods that
we venture to point out that the term science is not synonymous with
experimental research.  The most brilliant work of Darwin, Kelvin or
Edison in no wise alters the fact that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are revealed by their microscopes or decomposed in their
crucibles.  Mental science, and above all moral or ethical science,
have a claim to be heard as well as physics.  Philosophy, strictly
speaking, working by the light, not of the senses, as does physical
science, but by the higher light of the intelligence alone, must be
reckoned with by the thoughtful man.  Yet this is precisely what so
many of the lesser luminaries of science, the popularisers of the great
discoveries made by other and greater men, appear to be wholly unable
to see.  They have borrowed their foot-rule for the mensuration of the
universe, and they apply it indiscriminately.  Everything, from the
dead earth to the glowing inspiration of the prophet's soul, must be
labelled in terms of that infallible instrument.  If it cannot be
reduced to their exiguous standard, so much the worse for it.  Science,
or rather "the heated pulpiteer" of science (for these inflammatory
gentlemen are found both in the pulpit and at the rostrum), can take no
account of it, and that settles the matter once for all.

We may proceed to offer a few illustrations of the attempt of the
scientist to capture the domain of ethics.  The late Professor Huxley,
of whom we would speak with all the respect due to his high position as
a scientific expositor, roundly asserts that "the safety of morality is
in the keeping of science," meaning, of course, physical science.  The
same authority considers science a far "better guardian of morality
than the pair of old shrews, philosophy and theology," in whose keeping
he evidently thinks everybody, not a scientist, believes morality to
rest.  The teaching of such men as Mr. Spencer, Mr. Bain, and Mr.
Leslie Stephen, though they lack the vigour and picturesqueness of Mr.
Huxley's unique style, comes to much the same thing.  Under the
extraordinary delusion that all the world, excepting a few enlightened
scientific men, believes morality to be under the tutelage of a "pair
of shrews," to wit, philosophy and theology, they at once proceed to
fly to the opposite extreme error, and to proclaim that it is under the
guardianship of physical science.  We have already satisfied ourselves
that morality is not based on religion, but contrariwise that religion
is built on the sanctified emotions of the human heart, that is on the
moral ideal--"a new church founded on moral science"--and as to
theology, I should not waste my time in attempting to show that
morality is not based on that.  But it will be worth our while to show
that Mr. Huxley and his brethren are under a serious misapprehension
when they suppose that having dispossessed theology of a property which
no sane man believes it ever possessed, they are at once entitled to
appropriate the same themselves in the name of physical science.  We
shall see that there is a third claimant in the field of whom the
extremists on either side appear to have lost sight, and that when the
case is fully set forth a verdict in its favour will be inevitable.
Meanwhile, let us look at the scientific claim.  Is the criterion of
conduct in the custody of the scientific experimenter?  If a man wanted
to know whether a certain act was good, bad or indifferent, such a
course of conduct permissible or not, is he to consult the biologist or
the chemist?

I venture to affirm, in language of the most explicitness, that
physical science can know absolutely nothing about morality; that
ethics are a matter of profound indifference to it, that, as Diderot,
the encyclopaedist--certainly not suspect in such matters--says, "To
science there can be no question of the unclean or the unchaste".  You
might as well ask a physician for an opinion about law as to put a case
of conscience before an astronomer.

There has been, as a matter of fact, an extraordinary amount of loose
thinking concerning the precise relations between science, ethics and
religion.  The churches, having become irretrievably discredited in
their doctrinal teaching (their very ministers, in the persons of
Stanley and Jowett, openly avowing disbelief in their articles and
creeds), religion has come to be looked upon as a sort of no man's
land, and therefore the legitimate property of the first occupier.
Science, as the enterprising agency _par excellence_ of the century,
has stepped in, and in claiming to exhaustively explain religion,
virtually claims to have simultaneously annexed morality, erroneously
looked upon as a department of religion.

But a little more careful thinking ought to convince the most eager of
the advance-agents of physical science that the discipline they serve
so loyally is altogether unconcerned with the moral life, and wholly
incompetent to deal with its problems.  Mr. Frederic Harrison once
asked, and with extreme pertinence, what the mere dissector of frogs
could claim to know of the facts of morality and religion?  Positively
nothing, _as such_, and in their more sober moments "the beaters of the
drum" scientific would appear to be well aware of the fact.  For
instance, Mr. Huxley himself, oblivious of all he had claimed in the
name of physical science, asked with surprise, in what laboratory
questions of aesthetics and historical truth could be tested?  In what,
indeed? we may well ask.  And yet the physical science which is
avowedly incapable of deciding the comparatively insignificant matters
of taste and history is prepared to take over with the lightest of
hearts the immense burden of morality and to become the
conscience-keeper, I had almost said the Father Confessor, of humanity!
I imagine Mr. Huxley himself would have shrunk before the assumption of
such responsibility.

But let us approach the matter more closely.  To physical science, one
act is precisely the same as another; a mere matter of molecular
movement or change.  You raise your arm, you think with the energy and
profundity of a Hegel; to the physicist it is all one and the same
thing--a fresh distribution of matter and motion, muscular contraction,
and rise and fall of the grey pulp called brain.  A burglar shoots a
policeman dead and the public headsman decapitates a criminal.  To
physical science, those two acts differ in no respect.  They are
exercises of muscular energy, expenditure of nervous power, the
effecting of molecular change, and there the matter ends.  But surely,
you would urge, the scientist would discriminate between those two
acts.  Most assuredly.  The one he would reprobate as immoral, and the
other he would approve as lawful.  But, be it carefully noted, he would
do this, not as a scientist, but as a citizen respecting law and order
and upholding good government based on morality and justice.  As a
moralist, then, but not as a scientist does he pass judgment, for there
is no experimental science which deals with such matters.  Physics
concerns itself solely with what it can see and handle--nothing else.
The actions, therefore, of right and wrong, justice and injustice,
morality and immorality are simply unintelligible to it, just as
unintelligible as they are to the most highly developed animal.  It is
the fully developed mind or intelligence alone which apprehends the
sublime conception of duty, and the indefeasible claims which it has
upon the allegiance of the will, and, in consequence, the scientist who
denounces injustice and iniquity is no longer on the tripod of the
professor, but in the rostrum of the ethical teacher.  If I may say so,
it supplies us with an admirable illustration of a quick-change
performance.  The same man performs a double part, and so adroitly is
the change managed, that the performer himself is deceived into
thinking that he is still the scientist, whereas he has become for the
moment the moral professor.  But he did not acquire that new teaching
in the laboratory; he learnt it in the study.

But there is distinctly one point of close contact between science and
morality, which we must not omit to point out.  Physical science,
particularly physiology, from its intimate acquaintance with the human
organism, is admirably adapted for the function of a danger-signal, so
to speak, to warn the ignorant and indifferent that a life
undisciplined and ill-regulated cannot but end in irretrievable
disaster.  It thus most powerfully subserves the ends of private and
individual morality, just as historical science, which, as Professor
Huxley accurately noted, can in no wise be tested in a retort or a
crucible, can point the moral when the lawless actions of public bodies
or nations threaten the foundations upon which society rests.  The
physiologist can preach a sermon of appalling severity to the drunkard;
he can describe internal and external horrors (as certain to ensue in
the victim's case, as night follows day), compared with which the
imaginings of a Dante are comparatively tame.  He can likewise depict a
deplorable future of disease and decay as reserved for the vicious.  He
can point to a veritable Gehenna strewn with the corpses of unnumbered
victims.  He can prove to demonstration, if we listen to him, that no
organisation such as ours can resist the awful strain put upon it by
the poison of alcohol, and the enervating results of an undisciplined
existence.  "Reform," he can tell us, "or go to perdition;" and most
valuable his sermon will be.

Would that men, so favourably endowed with this intimate knowledge of
the intricacy of the workings of our bodily frame, so utilised their
great powers in the service of ethics, pointing out to the reckless
transgressor what a scourge nature has in store for him, what
indescribable disasters he is preparing for himself by his audacity in
venturing to break her holy laws.  In the Church which is to be, "the
Church of men to come," the scientist will fill this very _rôle_.  As
the best interpreter of nature, he will be most fitly chosen to
discourse to us of nature's laws.  The priests of humanity in days to
be will not be consecrated by a magical transmission of imaginary
powers, but by their ascertained capacity to open a door in heaven and
earth and reveal to us the secret workings of the Soul of the World.
We shall meet in united worship in the great cathedrals, but no more to
repeat the dead formulae of a past which is gone, but to hear the
living word of to-day, the last revelation the Supreme has made, be it
through the mouth of poet, prophet, philosopher or scientist.  Then,
and only then, shall the Catholic or Universal Church be born, "coming
down out of heaven from God," visibly embracing all humanity, because
excluding none prepared to subscribe the aboriginal creed of the
supremacy of ethic, the everlasting sovereignty of the moral law.

But while we candidly acknowledge the priceless services which science
can render to morality in the way indicated, this in no way warrants
our assenting to Mr. Huxley's dictum that science is the guardian of
morality.  As a matter of fact, science points at the deplorable
results of excess without any regard to morality whatsoever.  She
announces them as definite facts, as certain as to-morrow's sunrise,
because she is intimately acquainted with the human organisation and
the laws which control it.  But she ventures on no opinion as to the
moral worth of the acts in question; she registers results and there
her work ends.  If the scientist does happily go farther, and point out
that conduct conducing to such disastrous consequences must be
irredeemably bad in itself, he is doing most praiseworthy work, but he
is no longer the scientist.  He has slipped off his tripod, and is
repeating the lesson of the moralist.  Let us suppose the acts in
question were not followed by unfortunate results.  Say, for example,
that by uttering a falsehood, by altering a figure in a will, or on a
draft, one could inherit a fortune, what physical science could prevent
our doing so, or instruct us as to the honesty or dishonesty of the
contemplated action?  Put thus, we see at a glance that the matter is
outside the province of science, and quite beyond its jurisdiction.
Morality, therefore, so far from being in the custody of science, has
nothing whatsoever to do with it, but belongs to an entirely different
order, and is ascertained by totally different methods.

If one would know the origin of the theory we are at present freely
criticising, it can be indicated in a moment.  The most ordinary
induction has satisfied men that, in the long run, the Hebrew singer is
right when he says, "The way of transgressors is hard".  Wrong-doing
and calamity are inseparably connected.  Those laws, through which the
voice of the Supreme is ever heard, are so intertwined in their action,
that the infraction of one leads to the infliction of retributive
punishment by the other.  We break a moral law, the physical law will
take up its cause, and we suffer.  We have come, I say, to see the
universal validity of this rule, the absolute irresistibility of the
laws under which we live.  Hence, a shallow judgment has been hastily
framed that you may always judge of the morality of an act by the
consequences it produces.  If the results are good, then the action is
good; if evil, then the action is adjudged bad.  This is, in substance,
the Benthamite or utilitarian ethic, Bentham roundly maintaining that
crime is nothing but a miscalculation, an error in arithmetic.  It is
the failure of a man to count the cost, to weigh the results of what he
is about to do.  That being the case, the scientist being persuaded
that utility and pleasure make an action good, and uselessness and pain
make it bad, he was able to conclude at a stroke that one action
differs only from another in the results it produces, and that since
science was admirably equipped to take stock of results through its
statistical bureau, she, and not the hideous old shrews, theology and
philosophy, was the rightful protectress of morality.

But we, who believe with Immanuel Kant, that the "_All's well that ends
well theory_" has no place in morality, refuse to recognise that the
character of an action is determined solely by the results it produces.
We believe that some actions are intrinsically good, and others
intrinsically bad, totally irrespective of the good or evil they may
effect.  We believe with the Stoics and with Jesus that evil may be
consummated in the heart without any evil results appearing at all.  We
believe that thoughts of envy, hatred, malice, are in themselves bad,
irrespective of results, that such a thing as slander is _ipso facto_
stamped as irredeemably bad long before any of its evil consequences
may be manifest.  We look not so much to consequence, but to the
intention of the doer, and the intrinsic nature of the action
performed.  Pleasure and pain considerations are the last things we
take into account when we weigh an action in the scales of justice.
The theory is therefore hopelessly inadequate to our needs; it breaks
in our hands when we attempt to use it, and, consequently, we refuse
our assent to the proposition that because science can _occasionally_
predict results she is therefore entitled to patronise ethics.

The truth is, that ethics need no such patronage.  Neither the
theologian nor the scientist is essential to their well-being.  Ethics
are beholden to neither of the two claimants who dispute the honour of
their parentage and protection.  They rest on that alone on which
everything in this miraculous universe, science itself included,
ultimately rests, the _reason_ which is at the heart of things.  The
moral law, the sanction of the eternal distinction between right and
wrong, a distinction valid before the very whisperings of science, aye,
and of the voice of men were heard upon this earth, is, to the stately
and impressive system of Emerson and Kant, the first-born of the
eternal Reason itself, the very apprehensible nature of the Most High,
which, the more men grow in the moral life, the more they recognise for
his inner-most character and nature.  Things are what they are, and
actions are what they are, not because of the ephemeral judgments of a
tribe or nation of men, but because they cannot be otherwise than they
are, good or bad in themselves, judged solely by reference to that
everlasting law of righteousness, the aboriginal enactment of the

Men point to the growth and development of the moral sentiment in man,
they show how he has grown from savagery to civilisation, and think
therein that they have explained everything.  They are like the
photographer I spoke of above.  They have found out the history of
ethics, and they think there is nothing more to know.  Far from it.
Identically the same might be said of music and logic.  Man once beat a
tom-tom, and now he writes operas and oratorios.  He once rambled, now
he reasons.  Will any sane man delude himself into believing that music
and logic are nothing more in themselves but the history of the
successive stages through which they have naturally and inevitably
passed?  Neither then is ethic and the moral law.  It is not man's
creation, it is not his handiwork.  It is no mere provincialism of this
dwindling sphere of ours, but a fact and a law supreme, holding sway
beyond the uttermost star, valid in infinity and eternity, at this
hour, the sovereign law of life for whatsoever or whomsoever lives and
knows, the adamantine foundation upon which all law, civilisation,
religion and progress are built.

"This is," says Burke in his magnificent language, "that great
immutable pre-existent law, prior to our devices, and prior to all our
sensations, antecedent to our very existence, by which we are knit and
connected in the eternal frame of the universe, out of which we cannot
stir."  And not only Burke, but centuries before him, the great Roman
orator, in language equally sublime, professed his enthusiastic belief
in that same law, which "no nation can overthrow or annul; neither a
senate nor a whole people can relieve us from its injunctions.  It is
the same in Athens and in Rome, the same yesterday, to-day, and for



In the present chapter we propose to discuss the gravest of all the
grave problems which gather round the central conception of ethic as
the basis of religion.  There are, it may be said, two great schools
which hold respectively the doctrines which may be not unfitly
described as the significance and the insignificance, or rather,
non-significance of ethics.  The latter school, which is that of
Bentham, Mill and Spencer, is content to take ethic as a set of
formulae of utility which man has, in the course of his varied
experience, discovered to be serviceable guides of life.  There is no
binding force in them; the idea of a conscience "trembling like a
guilty thing surprised" because it has broken one of these laws, the
hot flush of shame which seems to redden the very soul at the sense of
guilt, the agony of remorse so powerful as sometimes to send the
criminal self-confessed and self-condemned to his doom, is all said to
be part of an obsolete form of speculation.  There is merely "a
_feeling_ of obligation," such as an animal may experience which is
harnessed to a waggon or a load, but any real obligation,
authoritatively binding on the conscience of man, is repudiated in

Now this teaching I venture to describe as the insignificant ethic, the
ethic which connotes nothing beyond the "feeling of obligation," and
refuses to recognise in morality anything but a series of hints
casually picked up, as to how mankind should behave in order to score
in the game of life.

The significant ethic, on the other hand, discerns in the law of
morality the pathway into the transcendental world, the realm of reason
beyond the boundaries of the sense.  It sees in morality the basis of
religion; it discovers the fact of man's freedom to conform or not to
conform to the eternal law; it unveils the reality of life beyond this
earth-stage of existence, and last and chiefest of all, it discerns, in
the words of Immanuel Kant, "a natural idea of pure theism" in the
unmistakable reality of the moral law, from the very obvious fact that
laws do not make themselves, but are enactments of reason or

We propose, therefore, to address ourselves to the fundamental
question--the question of questions--the being of a subsistent
intelligence and a supreme moral will, responsible for man and all
things, whom we in our own tongue name God, though it were more
reverent to think and speak of the awful truth with Emerson, as the
"Nameless Thought, the Super-personal Heart".  We are to treat of
theism, the philosophical, _not the theological_, term to designate the
truth that the universe owes its existence to infinite Power and
infinite Mind, and that morality is a fact because that Power is moral
also.  To quote Whittier's well-known lines, which express the
essential truth of theism in words of exceeding simplicity combined
with philosophic depth:--

  By all that He requires of me
  I know what He Himself must be;

or, to quote the more vigorous, but equally common-sense statement of
the facts by Carlyle: "It was flatly inconceivable to him (Frederick
the Great) that moral emotion could have been put into him by an entity
which had none of its own".  And finally, we propose to speak of
theism, thus defined, in its relations to ethics or moral science, the
discipline which treats of human conduct and its conformity with a
recognised law of life, the systematising of those principles of life
which man has learned by reason and experience during the course of his
sojourn in this sphere of existence.

Let us begin by some attempt at a definition of our terms.  Ethics, I
take it, we are agreed to consider as the science concerned with
conduct; that is, with the actions of man in so far as they conform or
do not conform with a standard of right, whatever that standard may be.
Ethical, moral, morally good, right, we take to be synonymous terms.
The word metaphysical _male olet_, no doubt.  It is unpalatable, and is
suggestive of, if not synonymous with, the unreal.  However, I do not
think we need be concerned now with the repute or disrepute of
metaphysic generally, since we all are agreed that theism, or that
reality for which theism stands, is in the super-sensible,
super-experiential world, and therefore if theism is an implication of
ethics at all, it is, of course, a metaphysical one.  As to theism
itself, things are not quite so clear, for the term covers, or may be
made to cover, a number of philosophic systems which are not in harmony
with one another.  Thus the theism of the Hebrew Scriptures would
possibly be atheism to Hegel, while the great idealist's position might
be pantheism or worse to a High Church curate.  To us theism means that
at the ground of being, at the heart of existence, there is a
self-subsistent reality which we call by the highest name we know,
_viz._, reason or mind.  "Before the chaos that preceded the birth of
the heavens and the earth one only being existed, immense, silent,
immovable, yet incessantly active; that being is the mother of the
universe.  I know not how this being is named, but I designate it by
the word 'reason'." [1]  Absolute, unconditioned intelligence is the
_Theos_ we acknowledge.  This is the formulary of our philosophical
creed, and as Luther fastened his forty theses to the doors of the
Würtemburg Cathedral, I affix my two humble propositions to the postern
of the ethical church, namely, first, that "In the beginning was Mind,"
and next, that the moral law is the highest expression of that Mind.
And, moreover, that as the mind in man is so ordered as to naturally
proceed from the more known to the less known, from the ascertained
fact of the moral law, we ascend to the source of the moral law, which,
like all things, takes its rise in the _apeiron_, the Boundless of
Anaximander, the Infinite of Mr. Spencer.  Theism, then, as thus
explained, one discerns as an implication of the indisputable fact of
morality, of the sovereignty of ethic, of the indestructible supremacy
of conscience.

And here one may be allowed to quote a singularly luminous passage from
the _Cours d'Histoire de la Philosophic Morale en 18ème Siècle_ of
Victor Cousin, p. 318.  "Kant remarks at this point," he says, "that we
have no right to derive our moral ideas from the idea of God, because
it is precisely from the moral ideas themselves that we are led to
recognise a Supreme Being, the personification of absolute
righteousness.  Consequently, no-one may look upon the laws of morality
as arbitrary enactments of the will of God.  Virtue is not obligatory
from the sole reason that it is a Divine ordinance; on the contrary, we
only know it to be a law of God because it already commands our inward
assent."  This is essential Kantism, the gospel of the _Critique of the
Practical Reason_, and the _Religion within the Boundaries of mere
Reason_.  Not ethics, then, from theism, but theism from ethics.  Not
morality from God, but God is known from and through morality.

Now, here we may be justified in remarking, by way of a preliminary
indication of the truth, rather than of an argument, that the
preponderant weight of modern philosophical authority is emphatically
in favour of some such interpretation of ethic as Cousin sketches from
Kant.  Whatever the cry of "back to Kant" may actually mean, an
idealist ethic is in the air of the schools of this country and
America.  I am not oblivious of such names as Spencer and Stephen, nor
of Höffding or Gizycki abroad, but I think it undeniable that what we
mean by the metaphysical implications of ethic commands the assent, not
merely of the prophets of the church ethical, such as Emerson, Carlyle
and Ruskin, but also of the rising men amongst us who are carrying on
the philosophical traditions of the country.  But passing by the
argument from authority, let us approach the question from the
standpoint of reason.

We may appeal, in the first place, to the truth implied in the very
expression the _Moral Law_.  But it must be explained that by the term
moral law we do not mean a code of five, ten, or fifty commandments,
but simply the expression of the ethical "ought," the announcement of
the supreme fact of moral obligation in general, that is, the duty of
unconditionally obeying the right when the right is known to us.  It is
no more the duty of the moral law to set about codifying laws than it
is of the conscience to practise casuistry.  Conscience is not a
theoretical instructor, but a practical commander.  The intelligence,
the reason in man it is to which is allotted the function of
formulating laws and of deciding what is and what is not in conformity
with right.  Once that is decided, according to its light, by the
reason, then conscience steps in and authoritatively commands that the
right is to be unconditionally obeyed.  And this, of course, solves
that venerable objection that conscience can be no guide because moral
codes have changed and are changing, and are not alike in various ages
and countries.  Conscience has nothing to do with the excesses of
Torquemada, or libidinous rites of Astarte.  Reason was at fault, not
conscience, and that supreme judge, misguided by the reason, appeared
to give a false judgment, whereas, true to itself for ever, it simply
pronounced in each and every instance, that the right must be obeyed.
Like the needle in the compass, it undeviatingly points to the polar
star of duty.

Let us proceed with our analysis of the conception of the moral law.

There are various schools of ethics, but they are all united in
maintaining _some_ obligatory force in morality, that whatever may be
the precise meaning of the solemn word right, the right is binding on
the allegiance of our will.  Hence Emerson, of the rational school, is
philosophically accurate when he deduces purity of heart, or
uprightness of intention, and the law of gravitation from the same
source.  They are both laws, one valid in the spheres, the other valid
among men, the one only difference being that whereas the spheres
compulsorily obey the law of their existence, man by the noble
obeisance of his will--an obeisance which, as Kant points out, raises
him to an immeasurable dignity--voluntarily submits himself to his law,
and thereby fulfils the purpose of his life.

Moreover, we must reflect, as the law of gravitation, which as physical
beings we obey, is none of our making, but merely our discovery, so is
the moral law, the eternal distinction between right and wrong, no
creation of man's.  He is born into a world not his own, and he finds
himself surrounded by an order which is not within the sphere of his
control.  The law, for instance, of numbers, the law of thought, the
facts of the universe, organic and inorganic, the bases on which he has
erected what is compendiously called civilisation--are all provided
otherwise than by his efforts.  He is born into an order of reason
which, by obedience to the law and light of reason within him, he has
developed into the stately fabric of organised, social, political,
intellectual, in a word, civilised life.  But, I would repeat, the
basic facts of this life are none of our creation; they are our
_discovery_, and no more the _invention_ of man than America is the
invention of Columbus.  Hence, with the master-poet of Hellas, we must
acknowledge those--

  _agrapta kasphalê theôn_
  _ou gar ti nun ge kachthes, all aei pote_
  _zê tauta, koudeis oiden ex otou phanê--_

the unwritten irresistible laws, ever-living, whose origin no one can

It would be of no avail, I submit, to point out to Sophocles, as
Spencer pointed out to Kant, that a knowledge of the early condition of
man would have made short work of these sublimities, that the cosmical
man was before the ethical man, in whom we discover very little
evidence of these majestic laws of such universal and undeniable
validity.  The reply would be that the growth of them is only evidence
of what was potentially present from the first, that just as the
beating of brass was no obstacle to the ultimate evolution of the opera
or the oratorio, or the first vague feelings of wonderment with which
primitive man surveyed himself and his surroundings to the creation of
the world of science and philosophy, so the undoubted fact that man was
unmoral at the start is no obstacle to the belief that the moral law
was as existent then as now.  Nay, just as the cosmic process itself
from the first contained the promise and potency of an organic form
ultimately to be called man and to become "the crowning glory of the
universe," so also, we hold, it contained the potentialities of that
whereby man was enabled to crown the splendid edifice of creation by
the imperishable deeds he has done, and that just as it would be futile
to ask one to point out traces of man amongst "the dragons of the
prime," or some Bathybiotic slime, so it would be equally irrelevant to
demand indications of moral life in the tertiary man.  But, as in the
savage of to-day, as in the infant, it is there; and the fact that it
ultimately appears shows that it was there.  So surely as the laws of
music, mathematics and thought, are of the Sophoclean category of
eternal facts, man's discoveries not his creations, so also are the
moral laws, and, therefore, when Mr. Spencer points out the aborigines
who are destitute, to all appearances, of what we understand by the
term morality and traces its growth through almost everlasting
generations of men, he is but describing the history of ethic, the
development of morality, just as one might write the history of music,
or of the rifle, from the days of the blunderbuss to the Mauser or
Lee-Metford; but what ethic, what morality, is _in se_, he leaves
untouched.  The form differs from the content, _history_ differs from
the _reality_ of which it is the history, and morality is more than the
story of its vicissitudes, of its gradual, painful development from the
pre-historic times to our own.

What, then, is morality _in se_ apart from its history?  It is, as
asserted, that universal law, obligatory on all rational beings in
virtue of their rationality, binding them to live for the right.  The
_instinct_ of humanity is with us, that instinct which commands a man
to live for the right, and instinct does not err.  Just as we
instinctively recognise a righteous retribution in the downfall of the
wrong-doer and feel outraged when he prospers, even temporarily, in his
wickedness, so we equally apprehend by an immediate intuition that what
is recognised as the good ought to be obeyed, and loyally obeyed, by a
man.  _Fais ce que tu dois: Advienne que pourra_, is the expression of
this faith that is in humanity, and I cannot conceive how any ethical
philosopher can venture to contest its truth, no matter what his test
of morality may speculatively be.

And, now, we may point out what we conceive to be the significance, the
implication of the facts just set forth.  If we are to think about the
matter at all, if we are not to adopt a Positivist attitude and
absolutely bar metaphysic as a sterile and unprofitable investigation,
it seems to me that the moral law, like all law, points unmistakably to
reason as its source; and since, as already pointed out, man does not
create the moral order in which he lives any more than he creates the
mathematical or chemical laws which he uses, but simply discovers them
by observation, the moral law must be the expression of a mind other
than man's.  When we say "other than man's," we do not mean
specifically, but individually, for we hold the specific oneness of all
mind in all intelligent creatures from first to last.  We mean, the
moral law is an expression of the "Mind which is the Whole," the Mind
which is the Infinite, so that, just as Mr. Spencer refers everything
ultimately--and in this he is "not far from the kingdom of God"--to an
"Infinite and Everlasting Power," we refer everything, the moral law
above all, which to us is the highest expression of the Divine known to
this earth, to an Infinite and Everlasting Mind, the Soul of the World,
the Soul of all souls, the inexhaustible Intelligence upon whose
treasury I am drawing now as I think and write, upon whose stores all
creatures are drawing in every intelligent action of their lives.

Law we define as an ordination of reason.  From first to last it is so.
From the laws which we daily obey to the everlasting laws holding the
spheres together--can we account of them as other than the expression
of reason?  So do we account of the moral law, with this essential
difference, that while the rules of man, the laws of man, may be
arbitrary, the moral law is no arbitrary enactment, but essential
righteousness; it is the Supreme Mind and Will in actual
manifestation--the moral law _is_ God.  I mean thereby that it could
not be otherwise.  It is beyond the power of omnipotence to dispense
with it.  Right recognised as right could never be other than right, it
could never become wrong, any more than two and three could become
interchangeable ideas.  One may say now that this definite act is
right, and a century later that it is wrong; but for all that, for all
the imperfection, the limitation, of our intelligence, as much in the
moral as in the mental spheres, one thing is certain, that the right
does exist and is eternally dissevered from the wrong, and that this
"quite infinite distinction" is the instant revelation of Supreme Mind.

Now, if to bar this conclusion it were argued that so far from the
moral law being an expression of mind, supreme or otherwise, it was
merely the generalised experience of mankind which had discovered that
certain acts were attended by pleasurable or useful results, and
certain other acts by painful and mischievous consequences, which had
led men to describe the first class as good and the second as evil, one
might reply that herein we have stated a truth but not the whole truth.
To us the fact that good living and well-being are so intimately
associated, and that "the way of the transgressor is hard," is only one
more evidence of the main contention of our school.  Surely, if man
awakes to the discovery that the laws, neither of nature, health, nor
of private or public life, can be violated with impunity, more than
ever is he convinced that the universe is, in Emerson's singularly
expressive phrase, "so magically woven" that man must come to ruin if
he sets himself to systematically disregard them.  The word "woven" is
an illumination in itself, showing how the warp of constant nature and
life and the woof of man's conduct are meant to work and must work
harmoniously together.  And if this be indeed so, if we adopt Bentham's
language and call "pleasure and pain our sovereign masters," what have
we but a further indication that things are so ordained, that the
universe is so constructed, so to speak, that you cannot get the good
out of it unless you conform to moral law--in other words, that in the
long run wrong, virtue and happiness are reconciled?  Well, but the
ordering of things, the ordaining of a course of things, what is this
but the work of intelligence?  And therefore Bentham, no less than
Kant, contributes his quota to the universal conclusion that the moral
law implies theism in the sense explained.  Wherefore, it may be added,
there is no reason whatsoever why a rational ethic such as has been
sketched should not avail itself of the unquestionable services of
experience in determining what is and what is not in conformity with
morality.  If a man sees the world as one, and all intelligence as one,
he will be assured beforehand that things are so constituted that
mischief cannot permanently or ultimately befall him if he lives what
he knows to be _the life_.  And, therefore, the considerations of pain
and pleasure, utility and mischievousness, are extremely serviceable
criteria whereby we are assisted in that codification of morality, in
that determining of what is good and what is evil, only it must ever be
pointed out that they are not the ultimate explanation or basis of
morality, which is built, not on any hedonistic or utilitarian
foundation, but on the reason in us, in the universe, which commands us
to live as offspring of that reason, or as Paul puts it from his point
of view, as "children of the light".

And, in explaining why pleasure and pain cannot be regarded as "the
sovereign masters" of ethic, we may add to the evidence for our
conclusion.  It appears that Bentham and his school do not observe the
proprieties of language in identifying the moral good, the moral right,
with pleasure.  The ideas are really incommensurate, as is well pointed
out in Schurman's monograph on the Kantian and the evolutionary ethics
of Spencer.  The ethical "ought," the word which gives the keynote to
the whole science, does not and cannot mean what is "pleasurable,"
"serviceable," or "useful".  The word essentially implies the "ideal,"
the conformity to a definite standard of right, the approximation
towards a goal or standard of conduct implicitly recognised as absolute
good.  But the ideas of "pleasurable," "useful," and the like concern
the moment only; they merely suggest that man should secure the
advantage offered or avoid the pain which may befall him here and now,
or some time subsequently to his contemplated action.  Hence there is
no obligatory force in this ethic.  Prudential motives, suggestions of
expediency, abundance of counsel, if you will; but we miss the note of
authority, the commanding voice, the categorical imperative, the solemn
injunction, "Thou canst, therefore thou must".  Indeed, it seems
difficult to see how one could convince a man on hedonistic or
utilitarian grounds that a course of conduct on which he was bent, and
to which he was allured by the overmastering impulse of a vehement
nature, and which promised him sensible gratification, possibly even
material advancement, was not legitimate.  I do not press this, nor do
I suggest that moral elevation of life is not discernible amongst
professors of this interpretation of ethics equally with those who take
an idealist view.  All I say is, that the recognised terminology of the
ethical life, the "ought," the "must," receive an ampler recognition, a
fuller interpretation, in the rational schools than in those of Bentham
and Spencer.

And, finally, we may approach the question from the point of view of
evolution.  Everybody knows the pitiless manner in which the late
Professor Huxley contrasted the ethical man with the cosmical process,
how he pointed out that the one hope of progress lay in man's ability
to successfully combat by ethical idealism the rude realism of the
material order of which he is a part.  The facts need no exposition.
Every man has the evidence of it in himself, in the periodical
insurrection of the ape and tiger element in him against the authority
of some mysterious power which in the course of his long sojourn here
has been acquired, and to which he recognises that the allegiance of
his life is due.  That tearful, regretful expression of the _Grand
Monarque_, after one of Massillon's searching, scathing sermons on the
sensual and spiritual in every man, "_Ah, voilà deux hommes que je
connais très bien!_" may be repeated with even greater truthfulness by
every one of us, now that Darwin has superseded St. Paul in the
explanation of the phenomenon.

Now, here we have a surprising contradiction in Nature, the startling
apparition of an element in man so utterly opposed to all that is
beneath him, that a scientific chieftain tells us that his only hope is
to kill out that ape and tiger, or at any rate keep it under unceasing
control.  Whence is this extraordinary human element, and what
explanation can be given of the contradiction unless there be some
higher synthesis into which the antinomy is taken up and resolved into
unity?  If out of the primordial nebula both the cosmos and man, with
all that he is, have been evolved, then it would appear, plain as the
writing on the wall, that some extraordinary transformation has come
over the scene as soon as man appeared, and that an element utterly
irreconcilable with all that has appeared previously manifests itself
in him, not as an accident or a fortuitous occurrence, but as an
essential, nay, as _the_ essential law of his being.

How can we explain this?  How can we account for this complete _volta
face_ in Nature, which bids man turn his back on all that made the
universe and him, and resolve to live by a law so irreconcilable with
the methods of the cosmos, that I take it we should be justified in
saying that had it been in operation before man Nature itself could not
have been evolved?

We believe the contradiction receives its explanation in the synthesis
already suggested, that above the two processes, the cosmical and
ethical, there is another, that of absolute intelligence or mind,
energising through them both from first to last, but in widely
different ways.  In the cosmos, by ways which we describe as non-moral;
in us by law, which we recognise as moral.  In every grade of being, in
every stratum of Nature, the self-same ever-active Mind is manifest,
nay, the very distinctions of Nature's life are fixed by the intenser
or remisser energy wherewith the eternal Mind functions in them.  From
first to last it is mind-power behind all and in all.  "In the
beginning was Mind; in the beginning was the Reason."  Lao-tze is
right; the Alexandrian mystic is right; _En archê ho Logos_, and the
Mind was the light of man, the light of reason, the holier light of
conscience, leading him if he will but follow it, in the way which has
been described in language of philosophic precision by the Hebrew poet
as "the way everlasting".

Man may sing a _Magnificat_, because mighty things have been done in
him, such as a cosmos or an infinity of worlds never knew or shall
know.  And thus the very contradictions manifested by evolution do but
contribute to the truth of the general conclusion, that there is a
Power, not dead, dull, inert, but an ever-living, ever-energising Mind,
whence the mighty procession set forth, unto which it is ever
returning.  There is a Power above the water floods and cosmic
disasters which is bringing to fulfilment purposes known from
everlasting, which we are compelled to acknowledge as beneficent.  We
see its workings in history, in the rise and fall of nations; we
witness the morally, no less than the physically, unfit fall out of the
ranks.  Progress here and there may seem to stop, but the course of
things is "never wholly retrograde".  Is not that hope strong in every
man of us, going before us as an unquenchable light, encouraging us to
persevere even to the end, because we shall not be deprived of the
fruits of our toil, and no demon power shall come to dash the cup of
happiness which we have striven to fill?

And what is this but to confess that the Power manifested in the cosmos
is identical with the Power manifested in life, that physical and
psychical are ultimately one, that virtue and well-being are
indissolubly associated?  What is this but to confess the supreme
synthesis, embracing all apparent contradictions, the ultimate harmony
in which all discords are ultimately merged and lost for ever?  What is
it finally but to proclaim our faith one with that of the most eloquent
voice heard in this century, poet and philosopher in one, the sublime
Victor Hugo: "_La loi du monde matériel, c'est l'équilibre, la loi du
monde moral c'est la justice_"?  Pindar's words again!  "Justice is
rightful sovereign of the world."  The Reason which is revealed as
equilibrium in the spheres, reveals itself as justice among men.  Both
spring from one indefectible source.  "_Dieu se retrouve à la fin de

[1] Lao-tze, quoted in Huc's _China_, vol. ii., p. 177.



To think of what Immanuel Kant has been to the many men and women of this
century, who, having unlearnt the old traditions, had not yet found a new
inspiration--the souls that were athirst for the waters of life which the
ancient wells could no longer supply--is to be reminded of the pious and
generous tribute which the Jewish exiles, after their sad return from the
Babylonian captivity, paid to Nehemiah and his brethren, the reorganisers
of their race.  "Let Nehemiah," they said, "be a long time remembered
amongst us, who built up our walls that were cast down, who raised also
the bars of the gates!"  Precious indeed is the man who can recreate the
shattered fabric of the Commonwealth, re-enkindle the pure flame of
patriotism, and restore the inspiration of religion.  A benefactor indeed
is the thinker who can give us a glimpse of the Divine on rational terms,
satisfy the exigencies of the intelligence without denying the cravings
of the heart, and provide an idealism for the inspiration and guidance of

Perhaps it is not too much to say that the temporal destitution of the
repatriated Jews was a symbol of the religious and ethical decay of the
last century.  Protestantism of the orthodox type, which essentially was
and is nothing more than the substitution of a book for a Pope, the
pruning of the tree dogmatical, the lopping off of some of its more
reprehensible excrescences, had visibly failed to meet the necessities of
"the irresistible maturing of the human mind," to quote an expression of
Emerson's.  The older Church had prophesied accurately enough that
Lutheranism would turn out but a half-way house to infidelity, and sure
enough it did.  Its thorough application of the principle of private
judgment in matters of religion could no more justify the inspiration of
Leviticus than the federal headship of Adam and the dogma of endless
vindictive punishment.  Hence Lutheranism necessarily meant the gradual
disintegration of dogma, that is, of all super-rational truth, for every
man "outside the sacred circle of those bound over not to think".

When we remember, in addition to the decay of Protestantism, that Roman
Catholic countries afforded more than sufficient evidence of the
inability of their own religion to meet the increasing needs of the
age--how France, Spain, and Portugal were devastated by the sceptical
disease; how they insisted on and carried the total suppression of the
Jesuit Order, beyond compare the ablest body of men their Church had ever
produced; how the French Revolution was in its inception profoundly
anti-Christian, and in its progress even anti-religious--when, I say, we
call to mind these facts, we are able to appreciate the accuracy of the
statement that, through the maturing of the intelligence of man, the
ancient traditions had lost their hold, not only of Protestant, but of
Catholic, lands.  Without leaving for a moment the eighteenth century, I
think we are warranted in stating that the close of the nineteenth
century does not witness a rehabilitation of those traditions.  The truth
is more obvious than ever that in the men of to-day,

  The power is lost to self-deceive
  With shallow forms of make-believe.

Now, it would appear that Immanuel Kant was the man of destiny for the
work of the reorganisation of ethical and religious life.  I look upon
him as the morning star of the New Reformation.  He witnessed in his own
day the very low-water mark of scepticism, reaching even to the gross
atheism of Holbach in the _Système de la Nature_.  He had the advantage
of everything which David Hume, "the Prince of Agnostics," as Mr. Huxley
styled him, found to say, and indeed Hume exercised a marked influence on
his German brother-savant, as we may, perhaps, later see.  The whole work
of the _Encyclopaedia_ in France was done under his eyes; the galaxy of
brilliant writers who composed that school were contemporaries of
Immanuel Kant.  He witnessed the crash which accompanied the downfall of
the old regime in France, the enthronement of anarchy in the place of
government, the complete eclipse of religion, and the worship of reason
symbolised on the altar of Nôtre Dame as my tongue refuses to describe.
It was the era of the deluge: the water-flood had burst upon Europe; and
there was nothing, no institution of State or Church, no philosophy, no
religion then extant that could stem the rush of the torrent.  Never was
the effeteness of ancient systems, the impotence of the old idealism,
more conspicuous.  In the midst of this wreckage the problem of
reconstruction had to be faced.  Immanuel Kant did face it, and his
object was to provide against the recurrence of atheisms and anarchies,
to make godlessness and revolutions impossible, to ensure religion's
being a help instead of a gross and deplorable hindrance to progress, and
to provide man with an idealism and an enthusiasm which would satisfy his
utmost desire for knowledge, and yet stir the pulses of his moral being
by the suggestion of an irresistible emotion.

Such I conceive to have been the work which Immanuel Kant undertook in
the system of the transcendental philosophy.

The name of this thinker is so famous, I had almost said so venerable, in
the ethical Church, that I may be allowed to put before my readers, who
may be unacquainted with the details, a few personal or biographical
notices concerning him.

Immanuel Kant was born at Königsberg, in Prussia, on 22nd April, 1724, of
humble parentage.  He was apparently destined for the Church, since his
first efforts were directed towards the study of theology in the
university of his native town.  But natural science and philosophy proved
of far more powerful attraction, and, abandoning Divinity, he earned his
livelihood, first of all, by acting as a private tutor in the
neighbourhood of Königsberg, and afterwards by assuming a similar office
in his own university.  He subsequently, at the age of forty-six, became
a professor of the Philosophical Faculty, a post he retained till his
death in 1804.  The deep reverence and religious emotion which betrays
itself in Kant's ethical writings was probably due to the influence of
his parents.  His father was venerable in his eyes as a man of moral
worth.  Honesty, truth and domestic peace characterised his home.  For
his mother the philosopher cherished the tenderest of recollections, and
to her religious feeling, detached as it was completely from formula and
system, he probably owes the fervour with which he speaks--as do Emerson
and Carlyle--of the sublimity of the moral laws, and of the infinite
dignity of a life lived in harmony with them.  When he lost his father at
the age of twenty-two, he wrote in the family Bible: "On the 24th of
March my dearest father was called away by a blessed death.  May God, who
has not vouchsafed him great pleasure in this life, grant him the joy

After a youth spent under the spell of such surroundings, we are not
surprised to learn that Kant was of a singularly grave, gentle and quiet
demeanour, which in old age tended to deepen into austerity and increased
conscientiousness, were that possible, in the fulfilment of his duties.
With the simple words, "It is the time," his servant Lampe called him
every morning at five minutes to five, and never to the end, according to
the testimony of his servant, was the summons disobeyed.  In the
thirty-four years of his professorship he was reported to have been only
once absent from his chair, and that owing to indisposition.

Kant lived a solitary life; he never married.  Like more than one eminent
man in the past and present, absolute want prevented his inviting the
woman he loved to share his lot.  The world has just learnt that Tennyson
was engaged to his wife for twenty years, from her seventeenth to her
thirty-seventh year, owing again to stress of circumstances, and there is
living now one eminent man for whom, as for Immanuel Kant, comfort,
competence, and fame have come too late to allow of any share in the
blessing and joy of home.  Such things cannot but deepen the hold these
elect spirits have and shall have upon men unto all time.

Of religion Kant conceived a noble idea, but he did not find it realised
in the Churches of his day.  Sacerdotalism, even in its mildest forms,
was abhorrent to him.  During his manhood he never entered a church door,
a fact which is a source of deep pain to many of his most enthusiastic
biographers.  Once only did Kant take his place in the procession which
made its way to the cathedral on an especial day in the year, and was
joined by the rector and professors of the university, but on arriving at
the door he turned back and spent the hour of service in the retirement
of his rooms.  To his free soul it was a performance, professional and
sectarian, and in consequence, something of a profanation.  His disciple
Hegel must have been moved by similar feelings when he replied to the
questioning of his old housekeeper why he did not attend Divine service,
"Thinking is also a Divine service!"

Nature had an irresistible fascination for him.  He learnt that also from
his revered mother, whose joy it was to take her child into the world of
Nature, where the Soul of the worlds is so conspicuously at work, and
instil into his young heart a deep and tender love for the beautiful life
around him.  Thus he couples the impressive spectacle of the holy night,
revealed in the shining of the eternal stars, with the supreme object of
emotion, the moral law within the heart, as the most awful of realities.

But not only for Nature in her sublimer aspects did he conceive so
reverential a feeling, the humbler exhibitions of beauty and wisdom were
equally moving to his awakened spirit.  Once he told his friends, whom he
constantly had with him at his dinner-table, he had held a swallow in his
hands and gazed into its eyes; "and as I gazed," he said, "it was as if I
had seen heaven".  The great lesson of Mind in Nature he had learnt well
at his mother's knee, and he never forgot it.  Children, so recently come
out from one eternity, their souls so well attuned to the wonderment and
mystery there lies hid in things, are peculiarly susceptible to such
beautiful influences.  Nature is the temple in which their tender souls
should learn their first lessons in worship and see the earliest glimpses
of the Divine.

Kant lived into his eightieth year, surrounded by the homage of Europe,
which made him, in a sense, the keeper of its conscience.  His ethical
treatises caused him to be consulted from the most distant lands on
questions of moral import.  It is on record that many of his
correspondents paid insufficient postage upon their letters--a fact which
meant considerable loss for the philosopher.  Indeed, so habitual was the
forgetfulness of these ethical sensitives that Kant at length refused to
take their letters in.  After some thirty years of professorship in his
own university his marvellous powers began to fail; his memory served him
no longer; his great mind could think no more the thoughts sublime.  The
keen senses grew dull, and the light of his "glad blue eyes" went out.
His bodily frame, which by assiduous care he had maintained as a worthy
organ of his mind, sank into weakness.  His last years, his last hours
even, are described by his well-beloved disciple and friend Wasianski
with a faithful and pathetic minuteness which, in the view of some of the
great thinker's deepest admirers, might well have been less microscopic.
The spectacle of a great mind losing itself at length in the feebleness
of age, almost the imbecility of second childhood, might well, they
consider, have been withdrawn from the vulgar gaze.  "Yet," as the late
Prof. Wallace most truly remarks, "for those who remember, amid the
decline of the flesh, the noble spirit which inhabited it, it is a sacred
privilege to watch the failing life and visit the sick chamber of
Immanuel Kant." [1]

On the 12th of February, 1804, in his eightieth year, he passed away, the
victim of no special ailment or disease, but exhausted by the life of
deep and strenuous thought upon the most profound and sacred problems
which can agitate the mind of man.  Simple and unostentatious to a degree
during his life, the great master left instructions that he was to be
buried quietly in the early morning.  But for once his wish was
disregarded, and amid the mourning of his Alma Mater, his townsfolk and
the neighbourhood around, he was laid to rest in the choir of the
University Church, which during life he would never enter.  As with Kant
so with Darwin, all men instinctively feel--even the most narrow of
sectarians--that the lives of such men were--I will not say
religious--but religion, and so they lay them at last within the shadow
of their altars as the worthiest and best of the race.  It shows us how
deeply seated is the ethical emotion in man; it shows us that the
religion of every man at his best moments is such as Immanuel Kant
described and realised in his calm and beautiful life--a religion based
on the sublime realities of the moral law.

And now, perhaps, we may say something of the thoughts of our
philosopher, though at present it cannot be more than of a fragmentary
character.  If the ethical movement is to prove enduring, the name and
teaching of Immanuel Kant must be frequently before us, and numberless
opportunities afforded for an ampler account of his doctrine.  For the
moment my purpose was rather to put before my readers some idea of the
man himself whose teaching is now exercising so deep an influence on the
religious tendencies of the hour.

Every time you read of the vicar of a parish changing pulpits with his
Nonconformist brother; every philanthropic meeting you hear of as
addressed by clergymen of all denominations; every garden party given by
a bishop or a dean to a Dissenters' Conference; every advance you
gratefully note towards a wise and patient tolerance of theological
dissensions, the sinking of sectional differences in the interests of a
higher and purer life--ascribe it all to the beneficent influence of
Immanuel Kant.  Before his day all these fraternisings would have been
impossible; the ancestors of these reconciled brethren were ready to
scourge and burn each other, until Kant came and shamed them out of their
narrowness and bigotry.  Men talk no more of "mere morality," as though
it paled into positive insignificance by the side of the dogmatical
majesty of articles and creeds.  Kant has taught them "a more excellent
way," and in so far as they have learnt that one lesson, they and we are
members of the one great Church--the Church of the ethically redeemed,
the Church of men to come--the idealism, the enthusiasm, of the ages to
be.  Never let it be forgotten.  We are not concerned to controvert or to
destroy.  The message of Kant to the Churches is that in all essentials
we are at one with them, and the trend of thought is now setting visibly
towards the substitution of an ethical for a doctrinal basis of religion.
You are powerless to resist the times, we would urge.  Whether the old
names and formulae survive or not, "the irresistible maturing of the
general mind" will make it impossible for men to acquiesce in any
religious belief not grounded on the conviction that the sole test of a
man's status is not what he believes, but what he does.  This is Kant,
this is Christ, and this is the message of the ethical Church.

But to return to the teaching of the philosopher of ethics, I must remind
my readers again that I am unable to do more than sketch the outlines of
the great ethical system which he gave to the world.  More than that will
not be needed for the moment.  But before undertaking even a synoptical
account of the transcendental ethic, I think it advisable to remark that
Kant's title to philosophical immortality rests upon his constructive
work as an ethicist, and not on his critical work as a speculative
thinker.  It is well known that the two philosophies of Kant are not
_primâ facie_ harmonious, that he finds himself compelled to deny as a
critic that of which he is most certain as a moralist.  Thus the great
facts of theism, immortality and the autonomy or freedom of the will, he
professes himself unable to know save as revelations of the moral order.
His mind, or pure reason, can know nothing of them; it is his will or
practical reason which discerns them as plain deductions from the
overwhelming fact of the moral law.  This fact has led some critics to
describe Kant as a sceptic.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We
might almost quote of him what Browning wrote of Voltaire:--

  Crowned by prose and verse, and wielding
        with wit's bauble learning's rod,
  He at least believes in soul and is very sure of God.

No one more so; yet as a thinker he professed himself unable to
_demonstrate_ these high truths.  In that sense Kant's famous _Critique
of the Pure Reason_ may be described as the forerunner of the systematic
agnosticism which is set forth in the _First Principles_ of Mr. Spencer.
But there is this immense difference, that Kant was convinced of the
reality of that which the mind of man could not demonstrate.  The great
facts were existent indeed, but he was powerless to reach them with the
instruments at his command.  In consequence, he laid it down as a
principle that man must ever act as though it were actually demonstrated
that we were free, our innermost being imperishable, and a supreme judge
and dispenser of justice to administer the moral laws which are the guide
of life.  It would be out of place to state the arguments whereby Kant
justified his belief in a controlling mind in the universe and in the
spiritual nature of man, while avowing his inability to demonstrate those
truths.  It must suffice to state here that the truths which lie at the
foundation of religion were a matter of profound conviction with the sage
of Königsberg, all the deeper perhaps because he would not claim to
subject them to an intellectual dissection or to be able to measure out
heaven and earth in the exiguous terms of human thought.

But as soon as he leaves the plane of the pure or speculative reason and
rises to the level of the practical reason or the will, then the full
truth bursts upon his astonished gaze, clearer than the meridian light.
He sees no more "half shade, half shine," but the truth pours itself
"upon the new sense it now trusts with all its plenitude of power".  It
is the will, not the mind, which discloses the full revelation to
Immanuel Kant, and makes him the deeply-reverent, religious man he ever
was, the convinced theist, the believer in his power to control his acts
by the independence of his will, and in the possibility, or rather the
certainty, of his being one day morally perfect--not indeed within the
limits of the life which now is, but in a future life of unlimited
duration.  That which to Wordsworth was an intimation was to Kant an
intuition after the vision of the glory of the moral law had flooded his
innermost soul.

And this we may, perhaps, briefly show before bringing the chapter to an

The fundamental principle of the Kantian system is the primacy of the
will.  The key to the mystery of man's being Kant finds, not in the
marvellous faculty of intelligence, but in that power of self-movement,
that capacity for self-originated energy which we call the will.  Reason
is "regulative," he said, but not "creative" and "constitutive," like the
will.  It is the latter faculty which makes us what we are, determines
our life, fixes our character, and decides our destiny.  As you act, so
you are.  This principle once conceded, the majestic system at once takes
shape.  What is it that governs the world of phenomena outside us?
Physical laws, and supreme amongst these laws, that of equilibrium or
gravitation.  What is it that governs the reason?  The laws of thought,
those aboriginal rules, none of man's creation, but the essentially
necessary guides which he was bound to discover and to follow if he is to
think accurately, that is, if his thoughts are to be in conformity with
fact.  And what is it which governs the will of man?  "Do you tell me,"
the master would urge, "that the inert masses of the spheres have each
their own movements regulated for them, that nothing from a stone to a
star is shaped or moved without the intervention of eternal laws; that
the lispings of children no less than the meditations of a philosopher
must conform to law, and that the will of man, whereby he makes himself
to be what he is, shapes his character, influences his surroundings, and
fixes his destiny--do you venture to say that that is lawless in a world
where all is law?  No," he proclaims in words which burn conviction into
his soul: "it, too, has its laws, the highest, holiest thing in all this
universe, the law of laws which confronts man wherever he goes, fills all
his sublimest thoughts, subdues his soul to the most reverent worship,
and is the holiest inspiration of his religion.  It is the moral law, the
supreme concern of the will of man, a revelation to man alone of his own
unspeakable dignity, the norm or standard whereby he is to regulate his
life--this it is which is the law of his will.  As gravitation rules the
stars, so the moral law, the sanction of the eternal distinction between
right and wrong, controls the will, not compulsorily, not arbitrarily, as
though it could by any possibility be otherwise, but freely.  So
sovereign is its power, so authentic are its claims, that if it had might
as it has right, it would rule the world."  It is, therefore, to use
Kant's own language, a _categorical imperative_, that is, an
unconditional command.  "Thou canst, and therefore thou must."  By the
very manhood you possess you are bound wholly to surrender yourself in
submission to what you know to be the right for the right's sake alone.
You must make it your own law, and obey it as inflexibly as the stars
keep their courses in the everlasting way.

  Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
  And the most ancient heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong.

We may see now how Kant bases his whole system upon the indestructible
fact of ethical law, the primeval intuition of the awakened spirit of man
into the eternal distinction between good and evil.  Standing on that
foundation, he is able to descry the world of transcendental
realities--"the land which is very far off"--which the pure and critical
reason could never behold.  But though the eyes of the mind were holden,
the intuition of the will enables him to gaze direct into the unseen and
discern freedom, soul, immortality and God as eternal facts.  For whence
this sublime law of life unless we conceive mind, not blind chance, as
the arbiter of things?  Whence this constraining power within me,
exerting itself to the uttermost to win my allegiance to the right,
unless I am free to obey or disobey?  How is not the very conception of
morality entirely obliterated in the false philosophy that would fain
persuade man that because he is _in_ the world he must needs be _of_ it,
and because the tides rise and fall with the phases of the moon, that his
actions are fixed and controlled by influences utterly beyond his power?
We have no room for the "man-machine" in the beautiful school of Immanuel

And, finally, the awful question of the future Kant solves in the light
of the same sublime principle.  "That law," he urges, "which is the
essential law binding humanity must one day be fulfilled in every one of
us.  There is a moral as well as a physical evolution which you try in
vain to confine to the limits of the life which now is.  There is no
argument known to science justifying such an attempt."  Kant believes in
the Eternities, because every man born of woman is destined to be at last
in absolute conformity with that law of everlasting righteousness which
is for us what the law of balance is to the infinite worlds.  All life,
that which now is and whatever is to be in the hereafter, is simply a
never-ending progress towards an ideal whose dignity is infinite.  Hence
the command of Jesus, "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is also
perfect," would be endorsed by Kant as in strict harmony with the
philosophy which does not teach that the physical act of dissolution
called death fixes the moral state of man for ever, but that all life,
whatsoever it may be and wheresoever it may be lived, is but an approach
towards a goal of infinite value, the will of man absolutely conformed to
justice, or the moral law.

As Kepler described the philosopher and the scientist as "thinking again
the thoughts of God," even so does the Kantian ethic aspire to absolute
conformity of will with that Will which is supreme and eternal, the moral
order itself personified.  This is immortality: this is everlasting life,
even as the Christian disciple and philosopher describes it: "This world
passeth away and the desire thereof, but he that doeth the Divine will
endureth for ever".  The phenomenal world is a pageant, a scene.  Only
"the good will" (Kant's constant expression) in absolute harmony with the
Supreme Will is real and eternal.

[1] _Philosophical Classics_, p. 85.



I suppose there is no teaching more frequently insisted upon in the Old
and in the New Testament as the truth of a judgment, now, or in the
future, upon the misdeeds or sins of men.  Let criticism prune and cut
as it will, while it exhibits the deplorably low standard of morality
once prevalent among the Hebrew peoples, and therefore prevalent among
their Gods, their Elohim, Adonai and Jahveh, one thing, at least, is
undeniable--that that which is recognised as immoral is reprobated and
forthwith visited with condign punishment.  Doubtless, acts which to us
are wholly reprehensible are discussed without attaching any stigma to
them, and are even permitted, and sometimes suggested, by Jahveh
himself, as in the story of Judith and Holofernes.  Such ethical
insensibility is wholly natural, viewing the state of development at
which the Hebrew people had arrived, and should cause no wonderment in
those who are familiar with the Deity of Christian Mediaevalism, and
the methods and practices he was supposed to favour.  But what should
be carefully noted is, that nothing is adjudged immoral but is
forthwith sternly reprobated and condemned to a fitting retribution.
"The way of transgressors is hard" was a conviction with the race.  In
the same way, the ethical note rings out in the New Testament, that
right and wrong are eternally dissevered, sheep ever separated from
goats; that virtue must be rewarded and vice be condemned and punished.

Now, this teaching of the judgment to come, the bare announcement of
which by Paul filled Felix, the Roman governor, with such dire
consternation, is the subject of which we propose to set forth the
philosophical and ethical explanation.  In the Bible we have the
mythical setting much as we have the mythical version of the agony of
spirit undergone by Christ before he definitely committed himself to
his prophetical work.  It is for us to-day to disentangle the
substantive truth from the maze of legend with which an imperfectly
developed age has surrounded it and discover the true _raison d'être_
of that doctrine which "the Bible Christian" confesses under the aspect
of the "Last Judgment".

Now, I take it that no educated man believes in the drama, or rather,
the panorama, of the "last judgment"; the vision of Jesus sitting in
the clouds, with every human being that ever was or shall be gathered
before his throne to hear definite sentence pronounced upon them.  The
_mise-en-scène_ demands of course the presence of bodies, and I suppose
it is needless to point out the dogma of the resurrection of the body,
insisted upon by all the Christian Churches, is a blank impossibility.
We may acquire other bodies in that unknown state, should we stand in
need of such appurtenances--a fact which we may wholly disbelieve--but
of one thing we may rest assured, that these identical bodies in which
we die can by no possibility conceivable to us be brought back.

I once read a highly imaginative article in a religious magazine which
attempted to solve the unsolvable by suggesting that after men's bodies
had been buried in sufficient numbers, the whole soil of our planet
would consist of nothing but the substance of the bodies of the dead,
and that when that momentous epoch arrived, the Almighty would give the
order for the sounding of the final trump, and the whole solid globe
would be forthwith transmuted, or rather re-transmuted, into human
bodies--in what condition it was not stated--for the countless myriads
of "souls" ready to take possession of them.  Probably, this pious
romance was woven in the days before cremation, and as the next century
will not be very old before we shall be compelled to resort to that
method of disposal of the dead, at all events in our larger cities, it
becomes increasingly difficult to comprehend how men of the future, to
say nothing of the past, are going to be provided with their own bodies
so as to put in an appearance at the great assize.

We may rightly wonder how men and women of the nineteenth century can
still believe in the Churches and Chapels which teach such deplorable
absurdities as the revelation of God, and how it happens that when
religion appears upon the scene of their daily life, their common sense
can so totally desert them.  One need say nothing of the inadequacy of
the judgment pronounced, the summary classification of the myriads of
humanity as white sheep or black goats, or the character of the rewards
and punishments allotted.  The one redeeming point in the narrative is
that whatever judgment is pronounced is decided, not on doctrinal
grounds, about which no two of Christ's followers can be got to agree,
but on ethical grounds, on character manifesting itself in public
spirit and care for the unfortunate--the bruised reeds and smoking
flax--of our communities.  It would seem impossible to maintain after
this final scene that creeds and faiths have any decisive influence on
our status here or hereafter.

But though now seen to be no more than a variant upon the apocalyptic
tradition and literature which represented that Jesus was to return
speedily to earth and rule among his saints for a thousand years--a
delusion which apparently possessed even the trained intellect of Paul,
and subsequently led to the pseudo-Peter explaining that his
fellow-Christians must not be in too great a hurry, because "a thousand
years are as one day and one day as a thousand years in the sight of
the Lord"--it has done an incalculable amount of harm in the past.  It
has shut men's eyes to the awful fact of retribution, administered here
and now, and prevented their realising any punishment other than the
savage, barbarous and wholly vindictive punishment of torturing
eternally by fire.  It shuts men's minds to the operation of moral
laws, to the fact that judgment is executed instantaneously upon the
commission of wrong.  It has, and it does, to the serious detriment of
moral development, lead man to put off until late in life, sometimes to
the very hour of death itself, restorative work which should have been
undertaken immediately on the recognition or conviction of misdeeds.
The notion that he is not to be called up for judgment until he is
rendered incapable by death of doing any further mischief, has been a
moral obstacle in the path of man, and therefore of the race, wholly
beyond the power of calculation.  Foolish priests once thought that by
the invention of the dogma of hell they could terrorise men into
morality, and so they preached their Divinity, the magnified copy of a
fiend, who would have cheerfully created humanity out of nothing and
damned them everlastingly, had not he himself, in the shape of his son,
who is one in being with him, decided to appear upon earth and atone to
himself for the mischief, which presumably he could have very well
foreseen, perpetrated by man.

And what has been the effect of such teaching on humanity?  It is
impossible to doubt that it has led to results deplorably,
indescribably wicked.  Whence, for instance, arose the horrors of the
mediaeval inquisition, the insensate tortures inflicted upon men like
Huss and Bruno solely for theological errors, if not from belief in
this demon-deity whom the Church worshipped?  If their practices were
but a shadow of the horrors he was supposed to be everlastingly
inflicting on mankind, who could raise a protest against them?  Shall
man be juster than his God?  This perverse Christian morality is
responsible for the worst cruelties which have tormented the human race
since the days of ecclesiastical domination.  If the Deity is inhuman,
why should man be otherwise?  Therefore, inhuman tortures will be
inflicted on prisoners.  The rack and thumb-screw will be used to
extract secrets.  Men will be immured alive within narrow walls and
allowed to perish by inches.  The Austrian prisons in the northern
Italian provinces will be so constructed that the miserable victim can
neither sit nor lie down nor see the light of day.  Floggings and
scourgings will be universal, _lettres de cachet_ an institution.  Why
not?  Where the god has no sense of justice, why should man?  Hundreds
and hundreds of thousands of victims will perish at the stake and in
the flames in atrocious agony because they are wizards or witches or
have had dealings with imaginary devils.  Why not?  The god does worse
than all this.  He keeps his victims alive for the sole purpose of
glutting his ire and satiating his insatiable vengeance.  Nay, things
are so ordered that the very happiness of the elect is enhanced, not
only by the knowledge, but by the sight, of the appalling, unavailing
anguish of the lost, and we have seen such a philosopher as Aquinas
representing the Deity as conducting the "elect" in troops and droves
to the heavenly shores and giving them "a glimpse of hell" by way of
stimulating their enjoyment of the celestial beatitude.  Why not?  I
ask again.  My only wonderment is how we ever got rid of it.  Picture
the world under the universal dominion of this foul superstition.  It
reigns on the thrones of kings, in the cabinets of statesmen, it is
preached in the pulpits, taught in the schools, it is the earliest
lesson that trembles on the lips of innocent children.  The most
ingenious, subtly contrived, widespread and all-pervading influence is
especially created to propagate it everywhere in the shape of the
Christian Church--a Divine institution, possessed of the keys of life
and death, of heaven and hell--the sole representative of the Deity on
earth.  How, we ask, in wondering gratitude, did the world ever escape
the tyranny of such superstition?  This fact alone--this
deliverance--is enough to make one believe that there is a "Power, not
ourselves, which makes for righteousness," that the course of human
events is never wholly retrograde.

And, now, what is the truth about the "judgment to come"?  What is the
ethical equivalent of "hell fire"?  In the first place, we refuse to
believe in a "last judgment" because we know that judgment is not only
pronounced but executed instantaneously, automatically, I would say, on
the commission of wrong.  There is no need to wait for the day of
judgment or even for the hour of death.  If a man has done wrong he
sits condemned that self-same moment.  _Illo nocens se damnat quo
peccat die_.  There is no need of God, angel or devil, to announce the
fact or deliver judgment; the man has pronounced his own sentence,
executed judgment on himself.  This is, in essence, the ethical
doctrine of compensation, that this universe is so woven, that the
nature of things is such that "things are what they are, that the
consequences of things will be what they will be," that we can no more
hope to avert them by crying out for help to man, saint or God, than we
can hope to hurl back the waves that dash upon the strand at flood
tide.  Our view is that moral laws are as irresistible as physical, and
admit of no more dispensation than the everlasting order of Nature.
One of our main reasons for repudiating the conception of the
miraculous is that it involves a violation of eternal order and
therefore of eternal reason, and if freely admitted in the physical,
would doubtless be speedily introduced into the moral order, to the
destruction of civilised society.  We believe that this universe is "so
magically woven" that it is absolutely impossible to escape the
consequences of our deeds, and if the Buddhist doctrine of Karma
represents that teaching, then we are among its most enthusiastic
adherents, because it is absolutely true to fact.

But let us look at the matter more closely.[1]

Have we ever sufficiently reflected how that "all things are double,
one against the other," in this mysteriously governed world, that
everything has its counterpart? the world appears to be split into
halves, which yet cleave to each other, as a man is haunted by his
shadow.  "An inevitable dualism bisects Nature, so that each thing is
half, and suggests another thing to make it whole."  Thus--spirit,
matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper,
under; action, rest; yea, nay.  "All things are double, one against the

All the woes of existence arise from our deliberate resistance to the
law of oneness, to that integration which is so conspicuous in Nature.
We are incessantly seeking to take the one half and leave the other,
and straightway Nemesis overtakes us.  We want to enjoy the pleasures
of sense without attending to the inexorable requirements of mind, and
such an appalling satiety sickens our souls, that we forget ourselves
in the commission of deeds unspeakably wicked; we possibly degrade
ourselves in the eyes of all men by falling even into the clutches of
the law, or we border on the verge of self-destruction in our
unspeakable _ennui_.  We would have the half, while Nature planned the
whole, and we pay the last farthing.  The results are naturally so
appalling that it is not to be wondered that men sought to express them
under the image of a fire which will not be quenched, a worm of remorse
which can never die--an immense despair for which there is no relief.

Life is full of distressing illustrations of this ethical law.  A man
who owns but the clothes he wears one day, is a millionaire the next,
and he attempts the impossible task of bisecting life, which has been
manifestly planned as a whole.  He appears to succeed for a time, but
one day men are startled to hear that he has owned up that he had
chosen the wrong path, and has determined to quit it in suicide.  A few
months after, the community is compelled to witness an almost
unparalleled degradation, that of a young man born in the purple, with
every advantage that birth, position, education or matrimonial
connections could give him, sentenced as a felon for the meanest
treachery, because he would halve life which was planned a whole, and
forgot the Fates, the dread Erynys, who administer the ethical law of

But it is the same in lesser as in greater things.  Without hesitation,
we may ascribe our minor sorrows to the one self-same source, the
attempt to dissever the sensual sweet, the sensual strong, the sensual
bright, from the moral sweet, the moral deep, the moral fair.  We
forget that purity of heart and the law of gravitation arise in the
same eternal spring, that the world is a whole, that moral and physical
are grounded in one source, and we pay the penalty.  "The soul says
eat; the body would feast.  The soul says the man and woman shall be
one flesh and one soul; the body would join the flesh only.  The soul
says, Have dominion over all things to the ends of virtue; the body
would have power over things to its own individual ends."

Now, this conduct never yet met with any success.  You thrust your arm
into the stream to divide the water, but it re-unites behind your hand.
You attempt to live your life on one side only, to dissever that which
was made for unity, and calamity comes to crush you.  Men and women
marry for flesh or gold, they put half their whole into the contract,
and their sacrilegious bargain smites them with a curse.  It is the law
of compensation, the workings of that moral gravitation which causes
all things to fit into their own places, and is to us the clearest
indication of the workings of the Divine in all this tumultuous life.

Wonderful discernment of the ethical prophet!  We cease to see God
omnipresent in all things, and our blindness ends in our destruction.
We see the sensual allurement, but not the sensual hurt; we see the
mermaid's head, but not the dragon's tail; we think we see our way to
cut off that which we would have from that which we would not have.
"How secret art Thou who dwellest in the highest heavens in silence,
that bringest penal blindnesses on such as have unbridled desires,"
quotes Emerson from Augustine's confessions.

No "last judgment," then, but a first judgment, a judgment here and
now, swift, sudden, irreversible upon every man and woman who dare to
take their lives by halves, to forget the seamless unity wherewith the
universe is woven.  This is the ancient doctrine of Nemesis, who keeps
watch in the universe and lets no offence go unchastised.  The Furies
are the attendants on justice, and if the sun in the heavens should
transgress his path, they would punish him.

This is that awful yet sublime doctrine of retribution which is the
groundwork of the masterpieces of the ancient Greek tragedies, the
inspiration without which the world would never have known the
Agamemnon or the immortal trilogy of Sophocles.  It is the doctrine
which made Plato describe punishment as going about with sin, "their
heads tied together," and Hegel define it as "the other half of sin,"
while Emerson shows that "crime and punishment grow out of one stem.
Punishment is a fruit which, unsuspected, ripens with the flower of
pleasure which concealed it."  They are linked together inexorably, as
cause and effect, and no god can dispense in this law, because the law
itself is God.

Hence, there can be no such thing as "forgiveness of sin".  An act once
done is irreparable.  Its consequences must endure to all time.  Our
most agonising repentance cannot undo the past, it can only avail to
safeguard the future.  We cannot escape the law of compensation.  There
is no magnified man in the skies, swayed by human passions, ready, at
the call and entreaty of prayer, to obstruct the operation of natural
laws.  Theories of atonement by blood shedding, sacrifices for the
forgiveness of sins, arose in the days when man believed in such a
deity as that, but we know none such now, and wise are we if we
recognise--oh, how well it had been if in our youth we all could have
known--that the consequences of an act are absolutely inevitable, that
deeds once done, words once spoken, are traced ineffaceably on the
tablets of universal nature and must reverberate throughout the
universe to all time!

Severe teaching, you say.  Yes, one pauses here when thoughts of hell
and devils never once made man pause.  The truth is, no one really
believes the insensate teaching of the Churches on punishment.  Even
their adherents have outgrown them.  Nothing is clearer from history
than that fear of hell fire never yet made man moral.  It could not
keep the Church of mediaevalism, its priests and its bishops, aye, and
its supreme pontiffs--numbers of them--even decent living men, to say
nothing of morality or virtue.  It is worse than useless now;--an
insult to reason and an outrage on religion.  But what _will_ hold a
man is the doctrine of compensation, of judgment pronounced _by
himself_ directly his iniquity is accomplished, of sentence
self-executed, unpardonable and irremissible, now and for ever.

And, added to this, the conviction that his crimes are committed, not
"against God," who can in no wise be personally influenced or injured
by man's misdeeds, being wholly destitute of human passions and
emotions, but against his fellow man, or against his sister woman.

One knows, alas! the beginning of the end to which the lost have come.
If only youth had been taught in the opening days of life, when
impressions are so vivid, that there is no such article as the creeds
of the Churches falsely proclaim--"the forgiveness of sin"--that one
only wrong act may, rather must, be the starting point which will one
day precipitate a catastrophe, how many would have been saved from the
nameless depths, of which we must be silent, how many spared the
anguish of an unavailing remorse!

Must this false teaching indeed go on for ever?  Will it never dawn
upon our priests and ministers, our masters and mistresses in schools,
that God bears none of the burden of humanity; his heart never breaks
because a life is withering in despair?  He takes no hurt from the
weltering sorrows by which so many are overwhelmed.  It is man, it is
woman, who bears the agony; the crushing burden of wrong-doing falls on
them.  Look no more then, we urge, to a phantom deity, to an idol-god
in the skies, a figment of a disordered imagination, but think on your
brother man before you dare to set mischief in motion.  When you
apprehend the nearness of danger, think of the future, think of
consequences, think only of the irremissibleness of sin, which not all
the waters and baptisms, though it were of blood, through which the
Churches can pass you, will ever be able to efface.

How much knavery in actual progress in this wilderness of men in London
might one not hope to stop if this doctrine of compensation could be
brought home?  How much company-promoting, fraud, mendacity,
adulteration of food, could we not render impossible, if ethical and
prophetical teaching took the place of the Church catechisms and the
creeds, if men could be persuaded that the success of their
ventures--quite legitimate in the eyes of the civil and criminal
law--can only be purchased by the tears and ruin of human beings?  The
dogma of endless future punishment was apparently impotent to restrain
the ultra-orthodox directors of the Liberator Company, but I take it
that no man who had been schooled in Emerson, could have sat at that
board and thanked an Almighty God for the exceptional favours he had
been mercifully pleased to bestow on their conscious frauds.  The
vindictiveness of a purposeless hell has, of course, failed
ignominiously as a deterrent from crime.  We cannot conceive infinite
Intelligence inflicting an excruciating and endless punishment simply
for punishment's sake.  We are superior to such methods ourselves; we
refuse to associate them with God.  What we do believe in, what we are
sure of, is that a man's sin must find him out, that he must reap as he
sows, that the consequences of his misdeeds are eternal, that--

  All on earth he has made his own
  Floating in air or pent in stone,
  Will rive the hills, the sea will swim,
  And like his shadow follow him.

[1] In what follows I have freely borrowed from the great "Essay on



We have already learnt in the study of the doctrine of Compensation
that the misfortunes of life are due to man's attempt to bisect the
world and life, and seize greedily on one half to the partial or total
neglect of the other.  Life having been planned a whole, inevitable
disaster overtakes the man who would behave as though it were a thing
of shreds and fragments.  Now this law of what we may call the Divine
unity is equally valid in the purely intellectual order.  That,
likewise, refuses to admit schisms and divisions to break in on the
solidity of its unbroken ranks.  An attempt to view life and its
problems exclusively from our own standpoint, is to fail to grasp
truth; our shadow gets projected over the surface, and the light is
partially concealed, if not wholly confused.  No better illustration of
this fact, I believe, could be afforded than that supplied by
conscience, the practical dictate of reason which controls the moral
life of man.

In days of old when man was nothing in his own or anybody else's eyes,
in the ages when he thought to magnify the Deity by belittling himself,
an interfering agency of the Divine was necessarily invoked on almost
every conceivable occasion; "the hand of God" was seen in every
occurrence.  From the comparatively minor matters of bodily ailments up
to the colossal disasters which nature is capable of inflicting--in all
the visible interference of the supra-mundane power was discerned.
Those were naturally the days of the "Divine right of kings," when all
civil power was held to have been centred in one individual by the
express act of the Divinity; those were likewise the days when the
conscience of man was exclusively interpreted as the articulate
utterance of God.  But, inasmuch as man was too ignorant and wicked to
rightly interpret that supreme oracle, he was bidden to leave it in the
custody of a sanctified corporation, the Church, and to keep his
thoughts and his conduct in tune with the dominant ecclesiastical
sentiment of the hour.

Now, from that extraordinary position a reaction was of course
inevitable.  Man could not go on for ever describing himself as "a
worm" and an outcast, or avowing himself "a miserable sinner" and a
limb of Satan; and consequently, with an awakened sense of human
dignity, inspiring him, not with vainglory, but with an ever-deepening
self-reverence, the ascription of all agency to supernatural power
began to be seriously curtailed.  "The Divine right of kings" went its
way with other archaisms into the limbo of oblivion, from which the
reigning monarch in Prussia would appear to be vainly endeavouring to
rescue it, while man began to realise that the causes of natural and
human phenomena were to be sought in nature and in man.  As a
consequence of this, a new theory of conscience began to take shape,
which was ultimately described by one of the boldest of later English
philosophical writers, the late Professor Clifford, as "the voice of
man commanding us to live for the right".[1]

In these definitions of conscience, as "the voice of God" and "the
voice of man," we have an instance of propositions which in logic are
called _contraries_.  Both, therefore, cannot be exclusively and
simultaneously true, but both may be simultaneously false.  Thus, "all
men are white" and "no men are white" are contraries, but they are both
false.  And this, I submit, is the judgment to be pronounced on these
two exclusive definitions of conscience.  Neither is, exclusively
speaking, true, but there is a measure of truth common to both, and
that measure it will be the purpose of the following remarks to

But, before going any farther, we must get a clear idea of what we mean
by conscience.  In a general way, of course, we all know what is meant
by the word: an appeal to conscience would be intelligible by every
one.  We understand it to be a faculty which decides on a definite
course of action when alternatives of good and evil are before us.  We
look upon it as an instinct, magnetic in its power, incessantly
prompting us towards the fulfilment of duty, and gravely reproaching us
on its dereliction.  We recognise it as the sweetest and most
troublesome of visitants; sweetest when the peace unspeakable sinks
into our souls, most troublesome when we have been guilty of a great
betrayal.  So delicate is that voice that nothing is easier than to
stifle it; so clear is it that no one by any possibility can mistake it.

Thus, in general terms, we may describe conscience.  Coming now more
closely to a philosophical analysis of the conception, we shall find
therein much enlightenment for the purposes of our present
investigation.  In the first place, the word is of comparatively late
origin.  It does not occur in the Hebrew writers of the Old Testament.
Its earliest appearance is in the Book of Wisdom, the work of a
Hellenistic Jew extremely well acquainted with the trend of Greek
thought in the third century B.C.  It does not occur in the Gospels,
except in the story of the sinful woman whom Christ refused to
condemn--a history which, though profoundly in accord with the
sympathetic genius of Jesus, is none the less an interpolation in the
eighth chapter of the Johannine Gospel, so much so that Tischendorff
excised it from his last edition of the text of the New Testament.  St.
Paul certainly uses the word once in the Epistle to the Romans, and
though known in the latter days before the advent of Christianity, we
may assume that mainly through that religion the word was popularised
throughout the world.

But what is the faculty which corresponds to the word conscience?  We
shall find etymology of great assistance in giving precision to our
thoughts.  The word is, of course, a derivative from the Latin,
_conscientia_, knowledge with, or together.  Now, _scientia_ is the
simple knowledge of things by the reason, while _conscientia_ is the
knowledge which the reason has of itself; it is the realisation of
one's selfhood--the realisation of the _ichkeit des ego_, as the very
expressive German phrase has it, "the selfhood of the I".  In English
philosophical language we commonly denominate this self-realisation
consciousness, a word of precisely the same etymological origin as
conscience.  If, in the next place, the reason is occupied, not with
the reflex action of self-contemplation, but with moral action or the
discernment of right from wrong, then it is called, and is, no longer
consciousness, but _conscience_.  Putting it technically, consciousness
is a psychological expression, while conscience is ethical.

Nevertheless, it must be most carefully remembered that the two
functions are performed by one and the same reason--immaterial and
indivisible in us.  Truly speaking, there is no real, but only a
conceptual, distinction between the reason of a Darwin elaborating his
famous law, realising his selfhood, and acknowledging his obligations
to the eminent man--only less so than himself--who had simultaneously
lighted on the great discovery of the age--the law of organic
evolution.  As Paul says of those manifold endowments of the earliest
Christians, "A diversity of gifts and a diversity of graces, but in
them all worketh the self-same spirit," so say we of the reason at the
very heart of our being, the sole, self-sufficing explanation of the
multitudinous phenomena of our mental life.  Hence we arrive at a
definition of conscience as "the practical dictate of the reason in us
prescribing obedience to the good and avoidance of the evil".  Two
elements, therefore, are discernible in this definition:  first,
reason, as such, pointing out what is good and evil; and, secondly,
reason, as conscience, ordaining that the good is to be done and the
evil left undone--a distinction to be carefully borne in mind when the
problem of conflicting consciences has to be faced; how it comes, for
instance, that morality appears to differ in different countries, and
even in the same individual at different periods of his life.

But of that nothing further need be said now, but we may immediately
pass on to see in what sense conscience, thus explained, is, in the
first place, to be accounted the voice of God.

Outside a philosophy avowedly atheist it seems difficult to understand
how there can be any doubt that the eternal distinction between right
and wrong betokens the presence in this world of men of a supreme power
and a supreme mind.  "How comes it," let us ask with Emerson, "that the
universe is so constituted," that that which we instinctively recognise
as good makes for the individual and the general welfare, and that
which we must perforce reprobate as evil works uniformly disaster?  We
recognise that things are unalterably so ordered that by no possibility
could lying, slander, malice and hatred be other than intrinsically
evil, and their opposites be other than essentially good.  But how is
it that things are so ordered?  Whence these uniformities of
approbation and disapprobation?  Is there any answer conceivable but
that the power responsible for the world is a moral power?  Whence is
existence itself but from the subsistent source of all being?  Whence
is life but from one ever-lasting source?  Whence is intelligence but
from the world's Soul, which is the soul of men?  And towering above
being, above life and reason, is conscience, the supreme guide, the
light enlightening every man that cometh into this world.

  Luce intellettual, piena d'amore,
    Amor di vero ben pien di letizia,
  Letizia die trascende ogni dolzore.

What is this "light intellectual," this "love of the true," so
unutterably blissful as to quiet all pain and sorrow, but the radiance
of the eternal falling athwart the shadows of this lower life?  What is
this miraculous monitor--this "man within the breast," as the Stoics
called it--but the very articulate utterance of the supreme Reason
bidding man to live for the right?  No great son of earth ever
interpreted it otherwise.  From the days when Socrates scattered "the
sophist clan" in Athens, and forced men by the irresistible majesty of
his own moral elevation to believe in a morality which was more than a
string of rules sanctioned by convention; from the hour when he refused
to escape from prison because his conscience bade him submit to
die;--from the days of the sublime martyrdom of Socrates and Jesus, the
noble school of the Stoics, down to the philosophic Titans of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Germany, with the glorious sage
of Königsberg at their head, there has been but one answer to the
question, What is conscience?  Conscience, they proclaimed, is the
voice of God.  So surely as the maternal instinct in woman is the voice
of universal Nature, so surely is conscience the witness in us that we
are indeed "sons of God".  If that teaching of the "Over-soul" be the
truth, then since the Divine is incarnate in every man, by what other
voice _can_ we be guided than by the Divine utterance commanding us to
live by a moral law?  We are Divine by nature, by what other law of
life should we live?

Or, how are we to explain the appearance of so strange a visitant in a
universe which is dominated by the "struggle for existence"?  The
intellectual difficulty of atheism is so insuperable that we hear of it
no more from men of science.  I think Mr. Spencer's speculations have
given it the _coup de grace_.  But difficult as is the question of the
origin of the cosmos, far more so is that of conscience.  On what
principles are we to explain how a world, evolving itself mechanically,
cycle after cycle, has eventually produced an element so utterly at
variance with itself, an element which puts right before might,
self-surrender before the struggle for existence, and the law of pity
in place of the survival of the fittest?  Is conscience a development
of the cosmic process?  And, if so, how is such a _volta face_ in
nature explicable on purely mechanical grounds, even if the process
itself were so explicable?  And how striking a fact that the last words
Mr. Huxley[2] spoke in public should have been devoted to prove that so
opposed were the cosmic and ethical processes--in other words, so
completely at variance are the law of conscience and the law of
evolution--that only by the triumph of the former over the latter is
progress possible in the world.  Again, I ask, since conscience is not
the voice of Nature, of what is conscience the voice and witness if not
of one of whom it is written, "In the beginning was Reason; in the
beginning was Mind"?[3]

But there is another aspect of the question, and we must now pass on to
inquire how far conscience is also "the voice of man commanding us to
live for the right".  Quite at the beginning of this ethical movement
we protested, as plainly as words would allow, our entire allegiance to
the teachings of physical science, and our readiness to abandon any
doctrine of ethical religion which is disproved by experimental
research.  So convinced are we of the absolute unity of truth, because
with Plato we believe in the unity of its source in the Divine
intelligence, that to us it is inconceivable that there should be any
fundamental contradiction in the orders of the real and the ideal.
Things seen and unseen, the passing and the eternal, both ultimately
take their origin in the same source, the Infinite.  No finite thing
can be the ultimate explanation of the universe, because it itself
requires explanation.  Hence, whatever science has to tell us about
conscience will be enthusiastically acclaimed by us as true equally
with what we learn from the masters of the higher experience, the
philosophers who break unto us the bread of life.

Now what has experimental science to say about the conscience?  It does
_not_ say that it is the voice of God--a fact by no means calculated to
disturb those who remember that physical investigation is not concerned
with such speculations.  Half the mischief and misunderstandings which
occur over these border questions, which are, so to speak, under two
jurisdictions, arise from our forgetting in what capacity and by what
principles certain well-known scientific men have made pronouncements
on matters such as conscience, morality and religion.  There are two
sides to them, the physical and the hyper-physical or metaphysical.
And here it may not be amiss to offer a suggestion that one should
mistrust that parrot cry so often heard from men who speak most
confidently about that which they know least, that metaphysic is
synonymous with unreality, or in plainer words, moonshine.  A very
little reflection will be sufficient to satisfy us that without the aid
of conceptions higher than those of sense-experience--and that is all
the word metaphysic means--it would be absolutely impossible to
formulate a single scientific generalisation.  What is the very concept
of law, or system, but a metaphysical idea?  To cease to be
metaphysical would be to cease to be rational, to have no higher or
wider conceptions than those of a dog.  Hence, like M. Jourdain, who
had been talking prose all his life without knowing it, some of our
most daring anti-metaphysicians have been philosophising by the very
method they had in their ignorance so contemptuously denounced.

Therefore, when we hear from Mr. Spencer that conscience, so far from
being the voice of God, is but "the capitalised instinct of the tribe,"
an empirical fact established by heredity, just like fan-tails in
pigeons; when Mr. Clifford popularises this teaching in St. George's
Hall by announcing that conscience is the voice "of man bidding us to
live for man," and Mr. Leslie Stephen tells us that the Socratic
conception of conscience "is part of an obsolete form of speculation,"
we know precisely what judgment to pass upon their assertions.  They
are speaking, one and all, of the historical growth or natural
evolution of that rational faculty in man which they, equally with
their opponents, describe as the conscience.  And keeping within those
limits they are strictly accurate in what they say.  Who is there that
does not know that time was when the inhabitants of Europe were as
destitute of moral instincts, and therefore of a conscience, as the
Tonga islanders?  Who does not know that man, instead of beginning at
the top and tumbling headlong to the bottom, really began at the bottom
and learnt everything by a very severe discipline in the hardest of all
schools, that of experience?  Certainly, we are ignorant of none of
those things, and therefore readily assent to Mr. Spencer's teaching
that conscience is not a fixed criterion of morality, but a faculty in
a ceaseless state of transformation, "in a perpetual state of
becoming," that its dicta are, in a certain sense, constantly changing
and improving with the progress and development of the race.
Certainly, as scientists and anthropologists, we should say precisely
the same thing.  We should recognise the developed conscience in man as
obedient to the law of growth equally with his physical organisation,
because we know of men now existent in whom the faculty is still in a
very rudimentary state.  Every advance in humanitarianism, in our
treatment of men and animals, is evidence to us of the illimitable
capacities of moral expansion in our nature, and therefore of the
growth of conscience, or the moral sentiment.

But are we to conclude therefrom that conscience is nothing more than a
product of organic evolution?  It is a shallow philosophy, a surface
system, indeed, which is content with such an estimate, and is only
possible in a school of bald empiricism which imprisons man within the
boundaries of his sense-experience, and resolves him into a string of
feelings bound together, like a rope of sand, by nothing.  The truth
is, that Mr. Spencer, Mr. Bain, Mr. Mill and the whole _corps_ of
experimental philosophers are confusing the reality with its outward
manifestation or history.  Indeed, by their principles they are
constrained to do so.  Once affirm that nothing beyond the reach of
your sensory organs is trustworthy, and conscience must be, like the
nervous system, the development of a shock or a thrill.  But it has
never apparently dawned upon these thinkers that the very
distinguishing note of conscience, its compulsory power, its assumption
of authority to command the obedience of the will and its capacity to
torment the soul with an overmastering remorse--to make a man say, "my
sin is greater than I can bear"--is left wholly unexplained and
unaccounted for in the historical analysis with which they favour us.
What we want to know is: Whence has conscience the strange, mysterious
power to influence us even in the sanctuary of our thoughts; why does
the wicked man flee when no one pursueth except that the sleepless eye
of his own outraged conscience is upon him and he cannot tolerate its
reproachful gaze?  Nowhere do we feel the inadequacy of the
sense-philosophy more piercingly than in this matter of conscience.  It
has cut the world in twain and treated it as a piece of mechanism and
reduced man to the position of an automaton.

But the facts are too strong; Nature is too strong.  Every time some
splendid heroism, some complete self-surrender is made; every time some
deed of moral enthusiasm thrills the pulses of the world, or some
lonely man or woman succeeds in crushing some infamous desire; every
time for the sake of the good, for the sake of the right alone, we
resist "even unto blood," conscience is exalted and enthroned above the
stars, lifted utterly out of the low and insignificant category of
physical experiences in which they would vainly endeavour to imprison

The commanding voice is heard throughout the ages, and men will, men
must, ask: Who is it--what is it that spoke?  They will not be put off
with the reply that _all_ they hear is an echo of the past,
reverberating throughout the race as the successive generations arise.
Ah! but whence has it power to command me, even in the sanctuary of my
deepest solitude, in the loneliness of my silent thoughts?  No
ancestral traditions, no shouts of blessing or curse of multitudes can
influence me there.  I am alone in the abysmal depths of my
personality, solitary as though in a desert world, and yet the
mysterious voice is heard, the solemn sense of obligation and duty
makes itself felt.  It bids me respect myself, my moral dignity, though
no one be nigh; it bids me chase the phantoms of evil from my mind.

In vain do you attempt to evade its jurisdiction by pointing to the
acknowledged facts that men form different estimates of their duties in
different countries and in different ages.  Conscience is not concerned
with that.  Such subordinate tasks as the formation of moral codes, the
ascertainment of the conformity or nonconformity of certain precise
acts with morality are the work of the reason.  Conscience is no
_theoretical instructor_.  Far more than that, it is a _practical
commander_.  It speaks but one voice.  Obey what you know to be right,
for the right's sake alone.  And conscience has never wavered in the
inculcation of that precept.  The reason of man has been constantly
advancing, discovering the content of the moral law just as it has been
discovering the content of the geometrical, mathematical or musical
law; but conscience, like the polar star, has been pointing steadily in
one direction, the direction of duty, without error, without failure.
"An erring conscience," says the ethical master, "is a chimera."

We learn, thus, from the teaching of both schools that conscience is at
once the voice of man, the accumulated and concentrated moral
experience of the race, but still more the voice of the eternal Reason
which is revealed to our wondering eyes in the true, the good and the
beautiful.  If "this universe in its meanest province is in very deed
the star-domed city of God"; if "the glory of the One breaks through it
all in every place," what are we to say of that which is higher than
the stars, more radiant than the sun, diviner than all worlds--the
conscience of man nobly conformed to the great obedience of the
everlasting laws?  What are we to say of lives such as those of Gotama,
Socrates and Christ?  Nothing.  Like the psalmist of Israel, I am
struck dumb in the presence of a vision so majestical.  _Deveni in
altitudinem maris et silui_: "I came unto the great deeps and I held my

[1] See his well-known essays, "The Ethics of Belief" and "The Ethics
of Religion".

[2] Prof. J. Seth, in his _Study of Ethical Principles_, concludes from
Mr. Huxley's Romanes lecture that "agnosticism could scarcely have been
the final resting place for such a mind".

[3] I have ventured to repeat here a portion of the argument set forth
in the chapter on "Ethics and Theism".



One of the most striking characteristics of the ecclesiastic, as
opposed to the religious mind, is its tendency to concentrate its
attention upon detail to the exclusion of fundamental principles.  We
are assured that the same habit distinguishes the statesman from the
party man, or mere politician.  At any rate, we have had abundant
evidence during the past fifty years--evidence which has been
emphasised during the past year--that the love of detail, of all that
comes under that washing of cups and platters, of first places and
salutations in the market-place, resplendent raiment and broad
phylacteries, which Jesus so summarily denounced in the official
religion of his own time, is still a mark of the ecclesiastic temper in
the England of to-day.  If a man--even though that man be a
pope--should question the validity of its "orders," volleys of
sacerdotal refutation are fired from the press, the whole atmosphere is
electric with the controversial charges such profanity provokes.  But
let a man proclaim that there is no such institution as "orders" at
all, that true religion, that Christianity, as conceived by its
founder, is destitute of ritual, priest and sacrifice, and everything
is still as a Quakers' meeting.  How is it that men will seriously
devote their energies to repelling such side attacks as those directed
against them by rival churches, while they totally neglect to satisfy
an enlightened age as to the validity of the fundamental assumption on
which their entire system reposes?  The pope and the Eastern Churches
may be serious rivals in the camp ecclesiastic, but what are our native
pontiffs and priests to reply to men like Hatch, Jowett and Stanley, to
say nothing of Martineau, who roundly proclaim that "orders," as
understood by them, are nothing more nor less than a superstition?  For
instance, what would the patrons of the "mass in masquerade" answer to
Stanley's direct and emphatic pronouncement: "In the beginning of
Christianity there was no such institution as the clergy; it grew
naturally out of the increasing needs of the community . . . the
intellectual element in religion requires some one to express it, and
this, in some form or other, will be the clergy"?[1]  Surely if there
were no "orders" in the beginning, then a priesthood was no creation of
Jesus, his apostles were no priests, they created, therefore, no
priests, and a priestly caste grew up as an intrusion in Christendom
just as it arose in the religion of the holy Buddha in India, and
attempted, though unsuccessfully, to invade the severely simple
religion of Mohammed.

The view which ethical religion takes of sacerdotalism is very well
known, but it is essential to do more than merely repudiate the notion
of priesthood as an integral portion of religion; our duty is also to
possess ourselves of the facts of history and criticism so as to
satisfy ourselves and others who may need such instruction, that
sacerdotalism is not only not ethical, but is anti-Christian, and that
the greatest anomaly the world presents to-day is that of the clergymen
of the Eastern and Western Churches arrogating to themselves the
possession of powers which the founder of their religion and his
earliest followers not only never exercised, but of which they had not
even a remote conception.

A singular interest has been added to this inquiry by the
recently-revived controversy between two of the many Churches into
which Christendom is divided on the highly debatable matter of Anglican
orders.  The said controversy had been in a state of suspended
animation from the time of the Stuarts up to the Tractarian movement,
when it was partially revived, and a fair crop of literature sprang up
around it.  It has been reserved, however, for our own days to witness
its complete vivification under the auspices of the High Church
societies and certain _sagrestani_ among "the nobility and gentry" of
our day.  To the credit of the female sex, we hear of no ladies being
_prominently_ identified with the movement.  Even Oxford, once "the
home of lost causes and impossible ideals," concerns itself with these
_minutiae_ no more.  Like the later pantheon of imperial Rome, it
offers its impartial hospitality to representatives of every form of
orthodoxy and heterodoxy.  The shadowy warfare is now waged,
apparently, in the London press and magazines, in the bulls of popes
and the responsions of archbishops.  Of course, the renewed inquiry set
on foot by the industry and temerity of Lords Halifax and
Nelson--_tanti nominis umbra_ surely, in this latter case, to engage
itself in such a battle--could have but one ending, namely, the
reiterated and emphasised condemnation of our national ecclesiastics as
nothing better than mere laymen, and the renewed degradation of the
officiating curate to the level of his neighbouring Nonconformist
minister who celebrates "the Supper" and preaches in his coat.

The papal representatives in this country have published a rejoinder to
the official reply of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, which, if
I may shelter myself behind the authority of the _Times_[2] reviewer,
does not err on the side of dignity, moderation and scholarship.  It is
said to be jaunty, perky, off-hand, suggestive of "the smart evening
journalist"--this last is very serious--and, worse than all, it is an
appeal, not to theologians or scholars, nor even to thoughtful and
instructed men, but "to the gallery".

Who the gallery in this particularly Divine comedy may be I really do
not know.  I strongly suspect that if the piece were put upon the
boards--and everything is now dramatised, from the trials of Satan to
the Dreyfus case--the gallery would be the emptiest department of the
theatre.  And this opinion I am pleased to see confirmed by the closing
remarks of the review above noticed, which warns the Christian bishops
and pastors of the present day that the comparative merits of one set
of "orders" as opposed to those of another set have "little interest
and not much meaning for nine Englishmen out of ten".

But what, I think, the average man would be interested to know is
whether there be such things as "holy orders" at all.  Very many of
them are, in this matter, I believe, in the position of those
interesting Asiatics who "knew not whether there be such a thing as a
Holy Ghost," and I think it will be abundantly easy to show that the
ignorance of the ordinary man as to the precise nature of "orders" was
shared in also by our Asiatic friends whose existence is noticed in an
early chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.  We shall therefore proceed
to show the groundlessness of the entire controversy from evidence
which satisfactorily establishes that the authentic form of
Christianity, as fixed by its founder and his followers for two
centuries, admits of no such thing as a priesthood in the sense
contemplated by the disputants whose wordy warfare has now, we
understand, been closed for ever.

To begin, then, whence arose the idea of a priest?  What is the meaning
of the word?  Etymologically, we may take it to be identical with the
Saxon word _preost_, which again is doubtless, though it is not
admitted on all hands, identical with the Greek _presbys_ or elder.  A
priest, then, originally and literally, signified senior or elder,
whether in the family or the State.  How an elder came to be associated
with religion was in this wise.  Every philosopher and anthropologist
has been constrained to admit the presence in man of an instinct of
unity, impelling him not merely to society or intercourse with his
fellows, but to communion with a power unseen.  This instinct, as
already defined in a former chapter, is religion.  Now the initiatory
development of this aboriginal instinct was very humble, and if we wish
to know what our direct ancestors once were, we need only consult the
record of anthropological research among such savages as the Fijians or
Tonga Islanders.  The shape assumed by religion amongst such people was
most probably ancestor or ghost worship.  The dead father or chieftain
is still seen in the dreams of his children or people, and the
mysteriousness of the new shape and presence he assumes excites the awe
and reverence which is at the root of the religious habit.  The chief
becomes the tutelary deity or protector of his tribe, or locality over
which he ruled.  Other chieftains are added to him in course of time,
and soon we have a veritable pantheon of gods, good and evil, whom it
is necessary to placate by certain offices and functions, very much as
it is necessary to covet the favour of powerful men on earth.  Whose
duty shall it be to perform such rites?  Naturally, it falls to the
head of the family and the head of the State.  They are the born
officers of religious functions, the father for his home circle, the
chieftain for his clan or tribe.  Thus Livy tells us that Numa, the
Roman king, was accustomed to offer sacrifice, but that the increasing
cares of State caused him to relinquish the office in favour of
specially appointed individuals who were called Flamens, and Mr.
McDonald,[3] in his account of the Blantyre negroes, informs us that
during the temporary absence of a chief, it devolved upon his wife to
take his place at the sacrificial altar.  Numberless instances are
supplied in such works as Tylor's, Lubbock's, and Spencer's
_Ecclesiastical Institutions_, which go to show this primatial or
pontifical authority resident in the chief of the State, and the
transference of its offices to subordinate people, who gradually and
naturally became an official body or caste called priests or elders, as
representatives of heads of families, or of the tribe or State.[4]  At
any rate, however much interested people may be inclined to dispute the
lowly origin of religion and worship, the indisputable fact remains
that such worship and sacrifice goes on among aboriginal peoples at
this very hour, and there is not one shred of evidence, beyond a
mistaken prejudice, which goes to show that our religion had any other
origin than that.

We may now enter on the further inquiry whether Christianity, meaning
thereby the religion personally professed and practised by Jesus of
Nazara, was a sacerdotal or sacrificial system in the sense already
explained.  Such an inquiry necessarily resolves itself into this
further one, namely, whether there is any reliable evidence that the
founder of the Christian religion was himself a priest, taught a
sacerdotal doctrine, or exercised any sacerdotal functions.

Though he died a comparatively young man, if we may believe the gospel
narrative, which makes him to have lived either to thirty-one or
thirty-three years, though Irenaeus emphatically asserts that he lived
to fifty years, we may most assuredly proclaim him a priest in the
sense of elder, or leader of men.  One whom schools of thought,
represented by men so opposed as Mill, Renan, Matthew Arnold, Spinoza,
Goethe, Napoleon and Rousseau, conspired to honour must have been
indeed a "king of men".  But this is not what is meant by the question.
By priest we mean here what the ecclesiastic means, namely, one who is
set apart by the act of God, signified by some external rite or
ceremony, whereby power is conferred to perform certain definite
functions impossible to the ordinary man.  He alone, in virtue of his
consecration, can mediate between man and the Deity, can propitiate him
for the sins of men, can forgive those sins, and mechanically
communicate holiness by the adoption of a definite ceremony and the
pronouncement of a precise formula.  Nay, in virtue of his peculiar
status, the priest is able to superinduce a physical sanctity in solid
and liquid substances, like bread and wine, and quite independently of
his own belief, or the belief of the bystanders, or even the
recipients, cause those substances to be no longer what to every
conceivable physical test they still continue to be, but the body and
blood of a man who lived more than 1800 years ago.  In a word, a ritual
may be described as "a system of consecrated charms or spells, and the
priest is the great magician who dispenses them".[5]

What we ask, then, is precisely this: Was Jesus a priest in this sense?
Unhesitatingly and most emphatically we reply--and without any fear of
serious attempt at refutation--that he was not, and that, in
consequence, the whole scheme of sacerdotal religion as prevalent in
the Roman and Oriental Christian Churches, and to a moderate extent in
the Anglican Church, is entirely baseless, grounded, not on the
institution of Jesus their reputed founder, but on an infantine
superstition which the third century of Christianity took over from the
Jewish and Pagan traditions which had preceded it.  Hence the whole
protracted controversy, which has set no end of theological hair on
end, about the validity of these orders and the invalidity of those, is
so much beating the air, because Christianity, as understood and
instituted by Christ, knows no place, any more than Buddhism or
Mohammedanism, for priest, rite or sacrament.

Let us proceed to offer some evidence for this statement.  In the first
place, the whole tenor of Christ's life was not that of the priest, but
of something entirely different; Christ was a prophet.  What is a
prophet?  We shall very imperfectly appreciate the character of the
prophet if we look upon him as nothing more than an historian "for whom
God has turned time round the other way," so that he reads the future
as if it were the past.  Most extraordinary instances of clairvoyance
are brought to our notice in which things, eventually realised, turn
out to have been previously known, but the clairvoyant is not the
prophet.  The prophet is the spirit representative of the Supreme
Spirit before our own.  He is the image--perfected by intercourse with
the Unseen--of "the Invisible Goodness".  He uses no rites, sacraments
or symbols, for he is all that in himself.  If his pure, lofty,
ennobling life cannot impress the eternal upon the souls of men, then
assuredly no bread, wine or oil, can do it.[6]  Hence, we see, a
prophet is born, not made.  No consecration can make one any more than
installing a scene painter in the studio of a Raphael could ensure a
reproduction of a Transfiguration, or the Madonna di Foligno.  And no
desecration, no excommunication from church, chapel or sanhedrin can
unmake him.  The prophet is one of those royal beings who are kings by
right Divine, aye and human too, for all fall down instinctively before
him.  It is the verdict of history that all that is most blessed we owe
to the prophets--not to the priests--to Moses, Confucius, Chrishna,
Buddha, Socrates, Zoroaster and Christ.

Now, surely no one can seriously question that the life of Christ as
described in the gospel narrative is of a pronounced anti-sacerdotal
type.  He was not of the priestly family, no man laid hands upon him,
he never exercised priestly functions.  His teaching so directly tended
to the disparagement of priesthood as such, that the official hierarchy
of his country, quick to perceive it, compassed his death in the
interest of their self-preservation.  "What do we, for lo! the whole
world has gone after him?"  His first sermon was the announcement of a
prophetic mission.  In the synagogue of his own town, among the humble
folk who had seen him grow from boyhood to youth and manhood, he made
the announcement: "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord
hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor".  If he entered the
stately courts of the temple, it was to teach rather than to worship,
and never to sacrifice.  At the close of a day's teaching, he retires
to the hillside of Olivet, and feels the Great Presence in the night
breeze upon his brow and in the heaven above him as deeply as within
the walls of the "Holy Place".  It is not, "Lo here, lo there!" for
"the Kingdom of God is within you".  A priest would have said the
Divine Presence is upon the altar, but Christ discerns it always and
everywhere.  His teaching was almost entirely delivered under the
canopy of heaven--on the mount of beatitudes, in a public street, in
the market-place, from a fishing boat to crowds upon the strand, in a
corn-field, or occasionally in some private dwelling-place.  The only
invective that broke the calm of his peaceful speech was directed
against the ruling sacerdotal influence; he was emphatically a "Prophet
of the Most High".

The word _hiereus_, or sacrificing priest, is never once applied to him
in the Gospels, and only in one epistle, that to the Hebrews, and there
its appearance is not unworthy of our notice.  Christ is declared to be
a _hiereus_, or priest, _only after_ his removal from earth.  It is
stated that it is an office which did not, which could not have
belonged to him while on earth--precisely the point we contend.  But
how is it that in this epistle he comes to be designated as a priest at
all?  It was probably due to the exigencies of controversy.  The
epistle must be looked upon as a polemical pamphlet directed against
those Hebrews who refused to embrace the new reform and derided its
absence of priest, sacrifice and altar.  Conscious that Jesus left no
priesthood behind him, that his teaching was anti-sacerdotal and
non-sacramental, there was nothing for the writer but to suggest that
the great prophet himself was the high priest, the _solitary member of
the caste_ in the new gospel, and that therewith men are to be
satisfied, because more than compensated thereby for the absence of the
altar and hierarchy of old.  So we have here an unique instance of the
exception which proves the rule.  Once and once only is the founder of
Christianity affirmed to be a priest, and then by an anonymous writer,
in a production which the whole Western Church for centuries refused to
acknowledge as inspired, and on examination it turns out that by the
very nature of the priesthood ascribed to him, such an institution is
no longer possible on earth; it is banished for ever into invisibility,
and can have no longer any representatives amongst men.

In like manner we find no instance of any attempt on the part of Jesus
to make his immediate followers priests.  He called them "witnesses,"
bade them "preach" and "teach".  If he told them to baptise, or to
break bread in memory of him, we shall soon see that, in the first
three centuries of Christian history, his words were emphatically not
taken to mean that no one but they, or such as they, could perform
these offices.  That which men call "the apostolic succession," and to
which some of them apparently attach supreme importance, is nothing but
a chimera, positively unknown to Jesus or his apostles, and absolutely
unintelligible to the Christian Church for more than 200 years.  The
most profound silence on the whole subject prevails during this period,
in vivid contrast with the language held on the subject by subsequent
writers.  In the face of available, and even readily accessible
evidence, it is impossible to maintain that, before the age of Cyprian,
the Bishop of Carthage, who flourished about the middle of the third
century, there was any such distinction between clergy and laity as the
apostolic succession theory maintains to-day.  The very names of the
clergy, such as deacon, presbyter, and bishop, are lay terms, borrowed
from civil not ecclesiastical life.  A deacon is a domestic servant; a
presbyter, an elder; and a bishop an overseer or bailiff; and in
conformity with these names there was no office or function of the
Church so exclusively proper to the clergy as not to be capable of
performance also by the laity.  And if this can be shown, what follows
but that the whole conception of "holy orders" is an absolute
innovation upon the original teaching of Jesus--a corruption fruitful
in disorders, or rather disasters, of the most deplorable character,
and at this very hour tending more than any other ascertainable cause
to divide man from man, and perpetuate the mischief of religious

To begin with, then, preaching was indiscriminately permitted in the
apostolic times and subsequently.  This may be gathered freely from the
Acts and Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter xiv.
Moreover, one of the most interesting monuments of the second century
is a homily delivered by a layman at Rome, a fragment of which had long
been known as the second epistle of Clement,[7] and the remainder of
which came to light in 1875 in two forms, a Greek MS. and a Syriac
translation.  Moreover, the _Apostolical Constitutions_, which are
still later--going well into the second century--expressly contemplate
preaching by a layman.  Dr. Hatch does not hesitate to say that the
earliest positive prohibitions of lay preaching were issued solely in
the interests of ecclesiastical order, not because there was any
inherent right in the priest to teach as opposed to the layman.

Next, in regard to baptism, there need be no hesitation in admitting
the capacity of the layman to baptise, because the Church of Rome
admits it to-day, nay, it admits that a Mohammedan, or even the heathen
Chinaman--if indeed he be such--could lawfully and validly perform that
function.  This, I submit, is not to be construed as an act of
liberality on the Church's part.  It is simply the result of the
impasse to which it would otherwise be brought by the grotesque
teaching that the Deity would condemn everlastingly the soul of an
unbaptised infant.  This, according to Augustine, being the Christian
religion, naturally some loophole had to be fabricated, because priests
are not always at hand in moments of emergency, and consequently the
validity of lay baptism had necessarily to be recognised.

But there is one office which the Anglican, no less than the Roman
Church, would reserve to the priest, and that is the celebration of the
Eucharistic Supper.[8]  It is abundantly clear to historians that the
root-source of the superstitious belief in orders is to be found in the
Eucharist and the theories which sprang up in the third century
concerning the elements.  It cannot be doubted that previously to the
age of Cyprian, the communion was held to be what its name
designates--an holy assembly, a pledge of unity symbolised by the
common partaking of bread and wine after the example of Christ.  Now,
it is clear from the Ignatian epistles, writings of the second century,
whoever may have been their author, that the Christians of those days
were accustomed to hold Eucharistic meetings other than those over
which a presbyter or elder presided.  The practice is indeed reproved
by the writer, but in exceeding gentle tones.  "Break one bread," says
the writer; "be careful to have only one Eucharist"; "let that be the
valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by some one
commissioned by him".

It is surely positively inconceivable that Ignatius of Antioch, or
whoever the author of these letters is, can have held the sacramental
doctrine subsequently introduced and have used language of such mild
remonstrance to the Asiatic Christians he addresses.  What would the
present occupant of the See of Antioch, of Lincoln, or of Rome say to a
number of Christians who assembled together to-day, took bread and
wine, and after repeating the Lord's prayer--for they did no more in
the early centuries--proceeded to partake of it?  Their holy horror is
scarcely conceivable.  And yet, these lay folk would be the true
Christians, not their sacerdotal denunciators.  Let us repeat, there
was no office open to the priest which was not equally open to the
layman.  Merely considerations of order and procedure restricted
ecclesiastical functions to a particular body or caste of men, and
consequently the theory of the essential distinction between priest and
layman is not a tenable one because it is none of Christ's making.[9]

It has been remarked that perverse conceptions of the Eucharist were
responsible for the equally corrupt teaching about orders.  This is the
case.  Previously to the third century, the Eucharist remained what it
had ever been, "the breaking of bread," the commemorative meal.  Then
there came a change, and men began to read into it a sacrificial
meaning and to interpret it as a mystical repetition of the death of
Christ.  From Cyprian this novel theology apparently passed to
Augustine and Ambrose in the fourth century, and thenceforth it became
dominant, though by no means universally so, until the eighth and ninth
centuries.  The rise of Athanasianism in the fourth century, and the
abuse of the doctrine of incarnation by that bishop, reacted naturally
in the matter of the Eucharist.  Christ, who was proclaimed to be the
solitary incarnation, the Deity hidden behind a veil of flesh,
naturally paved the way for the Eucharist as a sacrament wherein the
Deity is hid behind the veil of bread.  The one incarnation is, as it
were, the complement of the other.  Hence, a rigidly literal meaning
was given to Christ's utterances about eating his flesh and drinking
his blood, and Christians were taught to believe that by the
manducation of his bodily frame his holy spirit could be incorporated,
as though, for example, a man might hope to become a poet or a sculptor
by feeding upon the flesh or bones of a Shakespeare or a Michael
Angelo.  Only mind can know and receive mind, and it is really
difficult to comprehend the grossness of soul which suggests to man the
idea that by feasting on the flesh and blood of his God he may hope to
become like a God.

It would be just as easy to show that in the matter of church
government and discipline everything was, in the early days, on a
thoroughly democratic, or representative basis.  Power, as in the
England of to-day, is recognised to reside in the community, not
exclusively in the presbyters.  St. Paul's first epistle to the
Corinthians recognises this in the matter of the removal of officers.
The epistles of Clement and Polycarp recognise the same thing.  Bishops
are always elected by the people, and the net conclusion therefore is
that no such thing as a hierarchy of ordained deacons, priests and
bishops was known to Christ, to Paul, or the writers of the first two
and a half centuries.  The teaching and belief of those days was
nonsacerdotal and non-sacramental, and nothing but a superstitious
accretion overlaying the original truth can account for the spectacle
which vast portions of the Christian world now present, as indeed do
vast portions of the Buddhist world.  The fate reserved for both these
great prophets seems to be identical, the submergence of their pure and
elevated ethical teaching beneath an accumulated mass of traditionary
and ceremonial law; but here in the West, at all events, there appears
to be a well-grounded hope that it is not altogether impossible to get
back to Christ and his pure and wholesome teaching.  Prophets have
arisen in this past century who have far more influence than many
priests, and there may be "some standing here" who will witness the
close of the reign of the priest and the restoration of the dominion of
the prophet.

The priests and scribes sat in the chair of Moses in the days of
Christ, and that chair is overturned.  No one knows where to look for
it.  Now we have another priest who sits in Peter's chair, a third who
holds Augustine's seat, and a fourth and a fifth who can trace back
their priestly ancestry in unbroken line to some era of superstition
and decay.  The same thing goes on in India and Ceylon, and in Thibet
you have the Grand Lamas, to whom successively is united, by a sort of
hypostatic union, the holy Spirit himself.  Always and everywhere the
shadow of the priest, the mystical, magical dispenser of the favours of
heaven!  We look to the days when religion shall be purified of such
conceptions, when no one shall venture to stand between a man and his
conscience, or claim to possess powers unattainable by other men, or
pretend that the favour of heaven can be purchased by any other means
than those indicated by the prophet of old and no less by the
conscience of mankind--a life in accordance with righteousness, that
is, a life in conformity with the moral law and the example of that
supreme among the prophets of the race--Jesus who was called the Christ.

[1] _Christian Institutions_, p. 193.

[2] See _Times_, 5th February, 1898.

[3] Quoted in Spencer's _Ecclesiastical Institutions_.

[4] The appointment of Aaron by Moses, the leader of the Hebrew people,
is the exact counterpart of the institution of the Flamens by Numa.

[5] Martineau, _Studies of Christianity_, p. 38.

[6] And, therefore, we note the inconsistency of the sacramentarian
theory.  It insists on moral goodness in the recipients and ministers
of sacraments.  But if the rite works of itself, its mechanical
performance should be sufficient.  But no; goodness is needed to secure
any benefit therefrom; and this, of course, is the explanation of the
alleged results of the sacraments.  The moral goodness of the recipient
has already secured the blessing before any rite has been administered.

[7] So that what had been thought to be a papal letter turns out to be
a lay homily, showing that a layman could preach as well as a pope in
the second century of our era.  This suggests the notorious fact that
unordained ministers are equally, if not more, successful in awakening
ethical and religious emotion than priests and bishops.  Nay, women
like Catherine of Siena could hold Europe, its kings, and popes
spell-bound, when "mere men" were powerless.  Has any one in this
generation read more powerful appeals to the religious sense than the
fragments of the sermons of Dinah Morris in _Adam Bede_, more thrilling
descriptions of an unavailing remorse than in the sermon on the text,
"Keep innocency, and take heed to the thing which is right, for this
shall bring a man peace at the last," which is preached by the agonised
minister in _The Silence of Dean Maitland_?

[8] The recent papal rescript on Anglican ordination makes it the test
of the comparative value of the rival "orders".

[9] Tertullian in the _De Corona_ distinctly declares that though "it
is only from the hands of our president we receive the Eucharist, if
there be an emergency, a layman may celebrate as well as a bishop".  I
am indebted to the late Dr. Edwin Hatch for the historical evidence
above adduced as to the church practice prevalent in the earliest
centuries of Christianity.  I would recommend interested readers to
consult his Bampton Lectures, delivered in 1882.



The most important consequence of the new faith that religion is rooted
and grounded not in doctrine but in morality, is the belief that the
religious instinct grows with the growth and advancement of the moral
sense.  The old conception that everything religious was revealed once
for all 1900 years ago, that it is impious to add to, or modify, the
heavenly communication then made, we find ourselves obliged to
repudiate in terms.  And, hence, we have no creed or articles.  We
never know when, owing to advancing knowledge, we may be compelled to
discard them.  The desperate straits to which the Churches and their
professional apologists are reduced in their endeavours to reconcile
antiquarian statements in Scriptures and theologies with the
authenticated facts of mental and physical science, are not such as to
encourage us to attempt a definition of the Indefinable, or the
comprehension of the Infinite within the exiguous limits of human
thought and speech.  We are too young by some centuries to so much as
think about the formulation of a doctrinal code.

The moral sense, it is abundantly obvious, is growing from day to day.
The community herein is the counterpart of the individual.  And hence,
the moral and religious observances of to-day may become obsolete
to-morrow.  "The altar-cloths of one generation become the door-mats of
the next."  Hence, I am full of confidence that though everything may
be against us now, one thing is on our side--that is, the future.  We
saw an illustration of this truth in the history of the relations
between the priest and the prophet; we shall witness a further instance
of its workings in the history of prayer.

What is the attitude of a human and ethical religion towards that
characteristic manifestation of piety which we call prayer?  Doubtless
its views will be found to diverge notably from those which were
prevalent in other days when scientific knowledge was imperfect, and
conceptions of man and the Infinite even more inadequate than they
admittedly are at present.  The origin of prayer is, like the origin of
all things terrestrial, extremely humble.  When primitive man found
himself face to face with the more terrible of the natural
phenomena--terrors and portents which he was wholly unable to
explain--his only resource was to ascribe their appearance to the
agency of beings like himself, though, of course, immeasurably more
powerful.  These phenomena being often attended by the destruction of
the results of laborious industry, and even of human life itself, it
became a matter of urgency to devise means whereby the anger of the
preternatural powers might be appeased, and a cessation of the
successive scourges effected.  It was then that man began to offer up
entreaty, supplication, petition and prayer to the dread divinities in
whose power it was to behave so malevolently towards man and his

That this account of the matter is not fanciful, the reports of
travellers and missionaries in savage lands make certain; and as the
inhabitants thereof now are, we certainly once were in our ancestors
who dwelt in these northern islands, in the days after the cessation of
the glacial periods.  There is not one shred of scientific evidence
available which would help us to the comforting belief that, however it
may be with the Matabele or the Tonga Islanders, the ancestors of
Christian England were anything different.  That, then, which is called
the instinct or habit of prayer, had its origin in the ignorance and
superstition of an age which knew nothing of the inviolable reign of
law throughout the infinities of the Divine creation, in an age whose
religious conceptions were as gross as their scientific ideas were

Now, the unscientific and unphilosophical taint, which marked the
earliest heavenward cries of terrified man, has clung to the petitions
which he offers up at this hour for material favours and blessings.  At
the close of a prolonged drought, the Archbishops of Canterbury and
York compose a prayer for rain, and as a drought cannot last for ever,
rain does eventually come, and the same dignitaries then order a prayer
to be offered up in thanksgiving.  But does any one really suppose that
the natural order of the phenomena has been altered at the request of
the clergy by an Almighty mind?  It were preposterous, grotesque and
irreverent, in the highest degree to think so.  And the proof that it
is preposterous is seen in the fact that prayers are no longer offered
up for the advent or cessation of the effects of phenomena whose causes
have been scientifically determined.  Thus, in mediaeval days, man
placed bells high in the steeples of his churches to deafen the demons
who caused the storms of thunder and lightning which destroyed his
property.  At this day one may read the inscriptions on the bells which
testify to the belief of the time.  But as soon as the lightning rod
was discovered by Franklin, and its absolute ability to conduct the
electric current to the soil, bells were no longer requisitioned as
antidotes to storms, and prayers and litanies ceased to be sung to
petition the Divine clemency against the effects of the weather.  In
the same way an outbreak of cholera or diphtheria once sent people in
their thousands to the churches and chapels; now it sends them to the
drains, and while prayers proved but a poor prophylactic against
epidemics, the most pious credulity now places unbounded faith in a
sanitary system approved by a first-class surveyor.  Can there be any
possible doubt that, when the laws of meteorology are as well known as
those which govern the tides or the thunderbolts, the archbishops will
cease to order any more prayers for the purpose of controlling the

Then, there is another aspect of petitionary prayer which demands a
passing notice.  It actually represents the Supreme Being as an
individual who will interfere with what are manifestly natural laws to
suit the convenience or even the whim of the votary; and worse than
that, that the course of events will be so ordered as to meet the
requirements of the individual supplicant, to the exclusion of the
needs, the convenience or circumstances, of numberless other human
beings who may be seriously incommoded, possibly even wronged, if the
first votary's supplications are granted.  It is of little avail to
have recourse to the mechanical theory that infinite power is capable
of so adjusting matters as to satisfy everybody.  These are words and
phrases more sonorous than satisfactory.  When, for instance, war
breaks out between two Christian powers, the Almighty is at once
petitioned to crown both combatants with victory, and that done,
victory is always assumed by the conqueror to mean that the Divine
blessing has been with him to the exclusion of his adversary.  But the
remarkable fact to the impartial observer uniformly is, that victory
always rests with those who have made the best preparations, conducted
the campaign in the most skilful manner, and fought with the greatest
determination, or as Napoleon curtly put it, that as far as he could
see, Providence was always on the side of the strongest battalions.

I recently heard read a lady's letter in which she poured forth her
most fervent gratitude to heaven because her husband had been elected
to a certain influential position over the heads of seventy
competitors.  Unless sixty-nine other equally desirable posts were
magically created by Divine power, it seems difficult to understand, on
the supposition that the election was the arbitrary act of God, how the
claims of all were satisfied in this individual instance.  The truth is
that the prayer of petition ought instantly to cease as infantine,
irrational, and irreverent.  The serious man cannot bring himself to
offer up vocal prayers for temporary or spiritual benefits, which are
manifestly attainable by the capacity of man's natural powers, or which
cannot be heard without a selfish indifference to the equal rights and
claims of others.  And, therefore, no petitionary prayers find a place
in the service of the ethical Church.  The God whom we recognise is the
"Mind who meditates in beauty and speaks only in law"; the "beneficent
Unity," the "beautiful Necessity"; the law which is not intelligent,
but Intelligence.  It were as impious to pray for an infraction of the
natural laws of Divine ordaining as it were foolish to wish that the
law of gravitation were suspended to gratify a passing need or whim.
In the Talmud there is a prophetic intimation of the religion which
asks no favours, but prays by living the moral life.  It foretells the
day when prayer shall cease in the Jewish Church, and thanksgiving only
be henceforth heard.  This exactly expresses what we feel should be the
attitude of the reverent man in the silence of the Great Presence--his
life an attestation of his recognition of what he owes to the Being
whose nature he shares.

But, it will doubtless be urged, prayers are answered even when offered
for purely temporary blessings, or at any rate, numberless men and
women contend that they have been so answered in their own experience.
Members of the more emotional forms of Nonconformity are especially
emphatic in their testimony to the efficacy of prayer, though I doubt
not that their more educated ministers would hesitate to commit
themselves to the belief in its more extreme forms.  Mr. Armstrong
certainly disavows it for the Unitarian body, a Church always to be
held in reverence as having done more to rationalise religion in this
country and America than any other agency we could indicate.  But what
are we to say to such testimonies?  This, that the prayers have been
answered by the supplicants themselves, when even, indeed, we have not
to deal with a matter of mere coincidence.  But, I would expressly
guard against the inference being drawn, that I question the Divine
Personality.  I lay down no dogmatic statements as to the efficacy of
vocal prayers.  What I do say is, that all I know of God as revealed in
nature and law forbids me to entertain the notion that the order he has
seen fit to establish is to be capriciously altered at the request of
any of his creatures.  It is not irreverence, but a sense of reverence
which prohibits me from believing that the Being whose presence and
power are revealed in the least as in the greatest of the phenomena of
nature, is open to arbitrarily interfere with the established course of
things because an individual or a score of individuals wish it.

But what of the alleged answers to prayers which are held to establish
its efficacy?  I unhesitatingly ascribe the results to increased
activity, more resolute determination, on the part of the natural will
of the votary.  Let a man, for example, become convinced that the
crisis of his life has arrived, that a certain policy must be at once
adopted, a certain post secured, or an examination passed, and the
natural bending of the energies in a given direction redoubles his
ordinary powers.  If a post has to be obtained and influence is
necessary, he prosecutes a more resolute canvass; if an examination
must be passed, a degree secured, he reads with increased application,
and, as a matter of course, he succeeds.  If, in the meantime, he has
had recourse to prayer, his womankind, or possibly he himself, will
ascribe the entire results to that agency, while the results are
altogether due to his own persistent efforts.  _He has answered his own
prayers_.  Does the most pious individual believe, if all efforts were
remitted, or no exceptional energy put forth by the individual in
question, but the whole matter left entirely "in the hands of God," as
the phrase runs, that any successful results would have ensued?  Not
one.  And hence those axioms which the common-sense, even of the most
credulous, adopts as true, namely, that, "Heaven only helps those who
help themselves," or, as another pious recommendation goes, "Pray as
though everything depended on God, _act as though everything depended
on yourself_".  What wonder, when this advice is followed out to the
letter, that we are overwhelmed with assurances that prayers have been
answered, when a man is appointed to a sinecure or has obtained a
life-pension?  What one would like to ask is this: Do these credulous
people suppose that the event would have been otherwise, had the young
candidate not prayed?  Do they suppose that the Deity would positively
have snatched away the prize at the last moment, and given it to
another, simply because he had not been consulted in the matter?  If
they do, then we must confess our ideals of the Divine are very
different from theirs.

Powers are given to man for one purpose--that he may use them--and to
us it is wholly irrational to suggest that what is given with one hand
is to be taken away with the other, because the formality of
supplication is not employed when anything of moment is to be put into
execution.  The notion that intelligence was put in man only to be
shattered, a will given him only to be forthwith distorted by passion
or blinded by ignorance, and that "there is no health in us" unless we
abase ourselves to the dust and proclaim our utter worthlessness, is to
men and women of this time wholly inconceivable.  That nothing
ethically valuable can be accomplished except after instant prayer, or
after copious outpourings of Divine grace, that the curse of absolute
sterility is upon all our attempts to conform to the dictates of the
moral law, unless God be with us in prayer, is henceforth an impossible

Tell us that the man and the world are dependent at every instant of
time on the sustaining and prolonged creative act of the Infinite
Being, and we are one with you, nay, we probably go beyond you.  "He is
not very far from any one of us" means more to the scientific
philosopher than to the mediaeval theologian.  But spare us the
repetition of those stale legends that man was made and unmade in the
space of a few moments, and that ever since the manducation of the
forbidden fruit his powers have withered, and that there is no remedy
available for their recovery but incessant prayer and sacramental
ordinances.  Our reading of history is exactly the reverse.  With the
progress of time we discern the advance of man, and with the diminution
of sacerdotalism and a mechanical religion we think we note an
accelerated progress; that in those countries in which men are nobly
self-reliant, and look _within_ instead of _without_ for the source of
their inspiration and power, the course of moral life takes a higher
turn; that in proportion as men are true to themselves and the powers
of their own being, they ascend in the scale of moral perfection.  We
think that to teach a man to look without him for assistance is to
cripple half his powers, to make him unlearn the grand gospel of
self-reliance, to loosen the fibres of his moral being, and thereby to
check his individual progress.[1]

It must have been some such conviction as this which led the late
Master of Balliol to say that the longer he lived the less he prayed,
but the more he thought.  Precisely; it is not irreverence but a
deepening reverence for the Divine powers within us, which shames us
into trusting them when anything great is to be done.  What god are you
praying to, we ask in dismay, when you lift up your hands and your
eyes, or turn to east or west, or kneel or lie?  Is there any god in
the wastes of infinity, in a sunstar, a swarm of worlds, who is not in
that miraculous soul of yours?  Is there aught anywhere greater than a
son of God?  Is a stone, a star, a heaven studded with infinite
glories, a greater place than your eternal soul?  Then look within you.
Speak with yourself, commune with your own heart, summon up the
irresistible energies of your nature and nothing shall be impossible to
you.  This is "the prayer of faith" that never shall, that never can,
go unanswered, the concentration of the myriad energies of our souls to
meet an attack, to prosecute an enterprise, to overcome obstacles, aye,
to make our lives sublime with a heroism that men shall call divine.
"The less I pray, but the more I think!"  Aye, it is not prayer in the
old sense, the cry of the soul that believes itself craven, weak and
wanton, because it has always been told so by blind guides; it is not
this aimless outpouring of energy directed towards a Divinity in the
skies, when the very Life and Mind Divine are the endowments of every
rational creature, that has made man great; but thought, concentration,
the serious, resolute application of the powers that man does possess,
the bending of the iron energies to the accomplishment of the
individual task--this it is which has "conquered kingdoms, wrought
righteousness, obtained the promises," riveted man's dominion over
nature and made him what he was intended to be--the crown and glory of
the universe.

And at this point we may make a further suggestion towards explaining
the genesis and the continued maintenance of vocal prayer as a part of
religious worship.  The practice would seem to be due not merely to
ignorance or disregard of the obvious law of cause and effect, by which
material phenomena are necessarily controlled, but to less worthy
conceptions of the Divine Mind governing all things.  The Deity of the
Christian and Mohammedan worlds is a Being eternally dissevered from a
world which he has by an omnipotent effort evoked from nothingness--a
conception now regarded as impossible.  Consequently, while God is in
his high heaven, surrounded by his court, the world holds on its
courses, and is periodically corrected by special interferences,
generally said to be due to the intervention of prayer.  Thus, the
grand historical evolution, which caused the Roman Empire to appear at
the close of the three great Eastern Empires, and that monument of
human genius itself to ultimately collapse and make way for the nations
which now constitute modern Europe, in no wise strikes Augustine, or
any orthodox teacher, even of to-day, as the outcome of purely natural
forces and influences--the action and reaction of powers wholly
human--but as part of a Divine scheme, which was foreordained for the
purpose of founding the Christian Church.  This, in briefest outline,
is the famous argument of "The City of God," the first Christian
attempt at a philosophy of history.  Everything mapped out by Divine
ordinance, and men moved like puppets to accomplish the scheme.  Attila
the Hun appears at the gates of Rome, in the fifth century, and
threatens to sack it, and thereby delay the execution of the plan, and
prayer averts the disaster.  In all moments of danger, threatened
catastrophe, public or private, the doctrine inculcated was recurrence
by prayer to the external Deity, who would so modify things by his
omnipotent power, as to reconcile the interests of all concerned.  I do
not think it can be said that such a frame of mind is distinctive of
the Protestant of to-day, certainly not of the instructed Protestant,
who may acquiesce in the vicarious repetition of certain formulas by
his clergyman on Sunday morning, but would certainly not in practice
endorse the theory that Divine intervention might be called in at any
moment by prayer.  But it is the attitude of the Roman and Greek
Churches, as it is of the Mohammedan religion, and doubtless of the
less educated in the sects of Nonconformity.

Now this conception of Divinity is Oriental, whence indeed our current
religion arose.  It represents the Supreme Being as an aged man clothed
in flowing robes, his hair "white as wool," seated on a golden throne
and ceaselessly adored by myriads of voices who sing day and night,
Holy, Holy, Holy, or Hallelujah.  It is the conception of a Divinity
who existed an eternity in the solitude of his own kingdom, amid
silences unbroken by any voice, who suddenly comes to the determination
to create worlds and man out of nothing, and orders men to pray and to
praise him.  He is angry if they do not; he is "a jealous God," and
will punish those who offend him "to the fourth generation".  He is
sorry he has made man and proceeds to destroy him, and then
subsequently regrets that decision.  In a word, the God of the Hebrew
tradition, whom the Christian Church still popularly preaches, is in
reality a magnified copy of an Oriental Sultan, whose tastes and
proclivities are such as the _Arabian Nights_ has familiarised us
with--greedy of praise, adulation and homage, cruel and vindictive to
those who refuse their worship and adoration.

Now this Orientalism is no longer tolerable in the eyes of thoughtful
people.  We cannot conceive that the Infinite Being should find
pleasure in hearing all day and night how wonderful he is, and how
miraculous his works.  It is not easily intelligible how services and
litanies of "praise" can be acceptable to the Creator when they would
certainly be nauseous to the best men on earth.  Jesus openly reproved
one who praised him as "the good master".  "Call no man good," he said:
"God only, he is good."  Wellington's reply to the famous individual
who claimed to have "saved the life of the saviour of Europe" is too
well known to repeat.  The truth is, that these prayers and chants are
offered up not for God's sake, but for _ours_.  They are a relief to
the heart surcharged with religious emotion, the outcome of the
vehement impulse of the soul towards communion with the Life of its
life.  Speaking reverently, prayer and praise are like a lover's
protestations, which are not an act of adulation at the shrine of his
mistress, but an irresistible unburdening of the greatness of the
emotion that fills his heart.  But no lover could speak from his soul
in a public place, in the sight or hearing of other men.  Solitude,
silence, "the element in which everything truly great is made," is
needed above all else, that the soul may find adequate utterance for
thoughts so sublime.

And, therefore, Jesus warned man to pray in his own chamber, in secret,
the lonely soul bared in the presence of the Alone, "to the Father
which seeth in secret".  Hence no sound of spoken prayer is heard at
our services.  The deed is too solemn.  Nevertheless, the whole object
of the series of acts which are done is to suggest, to create, first
thought, and then emotion, after the manner of the Hebrew psalmist, who
sang "In the midst of my thoughts shall a fire flame forth".  The
_hymns_ are chosen with the idea, not of praising the Almighty, who
needs no such praises, but of filling our souls with a sense of the
unearthly beauty of the moral life, of the life perseveringly devoted
to high ideals of self-culture and human service, and thereby lifting
our souls to thoughts of that fair world of the Ideal in which such
conceptions are eternally realised.  Likewise the _readings_ set before
us the burning words of first one and then another prophetical soul to
deepen in our own the conviction of the seriousness of life, its
far-reaching responsibilities, the realisation of the boundless
capacities for good or evil which man has within him, and the utter
worthlessness of all things on this earth compared with character,
integrity, the perfection of the will by conformity with the moral law.

In the midst of such influences by which we are surrounded during the
hour, all too brief, which we devote to the world of the Ideal on one
day out of seven,[2] it is hoped that thoughts will sometimes burn in
many hearts, that reverence, awe, fear, regrets for the past, fervent
resolutions for the future, hope, aspiration, and love; in a word, all
the sanctified emotions of the human heart, which together melt into
the supreme emotion of religion, will sometimes arise to sternly rebuke
the selfish life, shame us out of our moral lethargy, and comfort those
whose one solace is that their honour is intact, though misfortune has
stricken them in mind or body, or robbed them of the goods of earth, or
the cheer and comfort of friendship and of love.  It is hoped that the
influence of what is said and done then will endure beyond the hour of
our meeting, and fill some other moments of our lives when we are, as
we should be, at seasons, alone--alone with ourselves, and _therefore_
alone with God, in solemn communion with the Soul who is the soul in
us, and who asks for no articulate voice of prayer, but only that our
life in every word and deed should be worthy of our exalted nature.
Life is prayer.  Conduct is sacrifice.  Morality is religion.

  When I am stretched beneath the pines,
  When the evening star so holy shines,
  I laugh at the lore and the pride of man,
  At the sophist schools and the learned clan;
  For what are they all in their high conceit,
  When man in the bush with God may meet?

[1] See the concluding words of Emerson's essay on "Self-Reliance".

[2] The Ethical Religion Society meets weekly on Sunday mornings.



There is a common but none the less erroneous impression amongst those
who walk and worship in the old ways, that the newer forms in which the
religious sentiment expresses itself are insensible to the more solemn
aspects of life, its sins and sorrows, its disappointments and
disillusionment, and most of all to the final catastrophe which men
call death.  Ours, they would impress upon us, is a fair weather creed,
good enough when all goes well, but painfully inadequate in the storm
and stress which the inevitable trials of existence inflict upon us.
Sorrow, they impressively warn us, is ever the rock upon which all such
systems must split.

Now, to say nothing of the obvious reflection that what we now call the
old, that is, the orthodox ways, are in reality exceedingly new, and
that even the "chosen people," or their immediate predecessors, were
left wholly destitute by the Deity of any such comforts as are held so
indispensably necessary to a well-ordered existence--to say nothing of
this, the argument, if worth anything, would go to show that the
religion which offered most consolation was the true one; and since no
traveller ever returns from that bourne, so near and yet so far, to
advise us of the truth or falsity of these ultra-mundane comforts, we
seem compelled to hesitate more than ever before we forsake that sturdy
and plain-spoken guide called reason, whom we as confidently follow in
the region of religion as in the business of everyday life.  The
Society for Psychical Research has some remarkable evidence to offer,
apparently establishing to physical demonstration that _the_ man
[Transcriber's note: the _man_?] in us does not die but lives, and
communicates with his fellows after the final fact of this earth called
death.  But, however this may be, and we are not called upon now to
offer any opinion on these matters, the so-called revelations are
wonderfully silent on those topics which sentimentarians apparently
erect into the supreme test of a religion's truth or falsity.  As far
as one may judge, the departed appear to be occupied with nothing more
sublime than filled their thoughts during this present sphere; in fact,
as is well known, they often appear to exhibit a painful declension in
moral life and to have lost immeasurably in character by their passage
from this stage of being to the unknown land beyond the grave.

Reason, therefore, being in no position to settle the rival claims of
the physical delights of the Mohammedan paradise, the comparatively
insipid ideal of the Apocalypse, and "the nameless quiet" of the
Buddhist Nirvana, feels compelled to pass them all by and to hold that
of the invisible universe we are painfully ignorant, and that the only
deathless reality is the will of man conformed to the great obedience
of the moral law.  It believes that the test of a system is not what it
promises but what it performs, and we may take it as an absolutely
certain thing that if any of the "systems" of our day secured palpably
higher ethical results amongst its adherents, the world would flock to
that Church forthwith.  As Augustine says, "no one loves the devil,"
which, being ethically interpreted, means no one wants to be bad, and
if any ecclesiastical corporation, by an appeal to history or to
present and urgent visible facts, could justify its claims to
successfully strengthen man's oftentimes rebel will in the pursuit of
the great ideal, men would follow it to the world's end, such is the
power of truth and goodness over the human heart.  But the truth is, no
such agency has ever been discovered.  In the sixteenth century the
Council of Trent was summoned "to reform the Church in its head and
members," a plain confession of ethical failure.  Do men suppose that
Luther, or a whole synod of monks, could have torn Europe in pieces in
about a score of years, when Anglicans have been debating auricular
confession and the eastward position for the last fifty, unless the
Continent had undergone a moral _débâcle_?  Luther's paltry diatribes
about indulgences would have left men as cold as stone; it was the
fervour of the ethical enthusiast thundering against immoralities in
high places which rent the Christian Church in twain by the most
violent and widespread schism it had ever known.

No, the test of a thing is not what it promises but what it does.
_Exitus acta probat_.  And if the enlightened men and women of our time
are disposed less and less to rely upon creeds as a basis of religious
communion, it is because they see that whatever the future life may
have in store for mankind, they cannot better prepare for it than by
living worthily in this.

But as evidence that they who follow the ethical obedience are in no
wise insensible to the sterner aspects of life, we shall now pass on to
say what in our judgment should be the religious attitude of man face
to face with the inevitable certainty of death.

If we pause one moment to reflect on the physical aspect of death, it
would only be to remark that it is as natural an occurrence as birth.
In fact, as is obvious to the most superficial mind, birth and death
are inextricably interwoven.  The great life of the worlds is so one,
so powerful, so omnipresent, that nothing can so utterly pass away as
to give birth to nothing--no, not even the cremated remains which are
blown to the four winds.  The theory that death is a non-natural
occurrence arbitrarily inflicted by the Deity in his anger at Adam's
disobedience is no longer taught even in the nursery, because aeons
upon aeons before man's advent hither death reigned supreme over
sentient existence, and the bones of the doomed are in our museums to
attest the fact.  Nay, we have recovered the ice-embedded body of the
mammoth, its stomach filled with undigested food, food it ate as far
back as the glacial period, by which it was overtaken and frozen in its
ice grave 200,000 years ago.  The Roman sentinel, overwhelmed where he
stood by the lava of Vesuvius, defiant of disaster in his inflexible
devotion to duty, is not a surer proof of the natural fact of death
than the mammoth that died in Alaska before man's appearance on the
earth.  The law of growth is the law of death.  Life begins, it
increases, it reaches its meridian, it begins to waver and then
steadily to decline, till at length the bodily frame dissolves, and

  That which drew from out the boundless deep
    Turns again home.

It is so with all things, from a fungus to a giant of the forest, from
a stone to a cluster of stars whose light takes 4000 years to reach us.
It is only a question of time when our own sun shall set in impotence
and rise again no more.  All things are passing away, everything is
unstable, change is at the heart of all.  How solemn, how true the
words, whose melancholy haunts the more the memory dwells on them:
"this world passeth away and the desire thereof, but he that doeth the
Divine will endureth for ever"!  As we said, the one changeless thing,
beyond the doom of sun-stars and swarms of worlds, is the will of man
nobly submissive to the Great Obedience of the Supreme Law--the Law of
Justice and of Truth.  That alone can never die.

Let us turn now to the ethical and religious aspect of that which we
have seen to be in itself so natural, so inevitable.

In the first place, we conceive that it in no wise interrupts the
progress of the individual life.  Certainly the conditions under which
existence maintains itself in that other state must be far other than
those which obtain here, for there man is destitute of his bodily
environment.  The conditions of such a life are wholly unpicturable,
wholly unimaginable, but not _inconceivable_.  These are high matters,
like the truths of sublimest philosophy, wherein it is impious to
intrude with so inferior a faculty as imagination, and demand that an
image or representation of a bodiless existence be presented to it.
What picture does man make for himself of the force of gravitation, nay
of the force which drives the crocuses out of the soil in spring?  It
is enough to _know_ that the force is there; it is enough to know that
a man's body is not his _self_.  Surely every one who reflects must be
conscious that his body is _his_, just like his clothes; and therefore
not _he_, any more than the raiment wherewith he is covered.  Foolish,
then, is it to ask for pictures like children; let us be satisfied to
know with the reason, which we alone of all earth-born creatures
possess, that the body is not _we_ but _ours_, and that we are not mere
ephemerals, but are "going on and still to be".

Now these words of Tennyson exactly express our ethical teaching, that
man is "ever going on and still to be," and that death, so far from
putting a stop to the eternal progress, is but a stage, an incident in
the journey, possibly--for we know so little of these matters--a very
insignificant one.  The theory commonly inculcated, certainly commonly
held, is that the fact of death ushers in a perfect transformation
scene, more wonderful than anything thought of or devised by man, nor
should we be accounted irreverent did we describe the language of the
book of Revelation as pantomimic in the exuberance of its splendour.
All sorrow is supposed to cease as if by magic, the sun shines
perpetually, it is eternal noon; the home of the blessed is a wondrous
city, built four-square, whose streets are of pure gold, whose rivers
are of crystal, and whose foundations are laid in precious stones.
Sweetest songs of earth resound in the heavenly courts; yea, even
musical instruments are there, and life would appear to be one
prolonged religious service.  Into this celestial blessedness departed
souls enter new-born, and take their allotted places once and for ever;
they never apparently move from them; they grow no better; there is no
room for further development, nor possibility of deterioration, but a
fixed and immovable moral status is, to all appearances, arbitrarily
imposed upon them for evermore.  The impression one gathers is,
therefore, of a large and glorified amphitheatre, tiers rising above
tiers into infinity, seats along them, each of which is tenanted by an
individual elect spirit whose merits are precisely proportioned to its

Now that existence prolonged, I will not say into eternity, but into a
week is the very reverse of inspiring.  Of course, we are aware that
Dean Farrar has as effectually explained away the Orientalisms of the
Christian heaven as the Paganisms of the orthodox hell; we are ready to
believe that the Apocalypse--which is held now not to be a Christian
book at all, but a Jewish composition, edited and amended by a
Christian hand--sets forth only figures and types of the great supernal
blessedness.  This we know, but our difficulty is not with the form but
with the content, that is, with that which these hyperboles symbolise.
It is fairly inconceivable to us that a matter which, according to the
Churches, merely concerns the body, soon to be resolved into its
component gases, should exercise so miraculous a transformation on the
soul, or the real man.  _He_ did not die; his body did, and yet they
would have us believe that that mere physical occurrence, that
catastrophe of flesh and blood, means the subsequent and eternal
stagnation of all psychical life; that men either go forthwith into
scenes with which ninety out of a hundred would be wholly unfamiliar,
or are thrust headlong into a subterraneous locality called Sheol, or
the grave in Hebrew, the English equivalent of which is hell, the only
difference being that, whereas the good can grow no better, the wicked
can and do grow worse.

Doubtless, I shall be reminded that these teachings do not occur
explicitly in the Thirty-nine Articles, any Church Confession, or a
Papal Decree.  That may very well be so, as regards them all, but there
can be no doubt that the main assertion is accepted as dogmatically
true by all Christian Churches--namely, that a wonderful and searching
change does occur at the moment of death, whereby "the time of
probation," as it is called, comes to an end, and all possibility of
further "merit before God," or, as we should say, of ethical
advancement, relentlessly cut off.  To quote a letter of Cardinal
Newman's, written in 1872 to the Rev. W. Probyn-Nevins, and published
subsequently by him--in the _Nineteenth Century_ of May, 1893--"The
great truth is that death ends our probation, and _settles our state
for ever_, that there is no passing over the great gulf".  Amidst much
that is uncertain, for instance, as to whether real devils are in hell,
a real fire, and whether it be bright or dark, whether the appalling
torments are ever mitigated, say on certain feasts of the Christian
Church, such as Christmas Day and Easter, or whether eventually the
pains ultimately die completely away and thus usher in that "happiness
in hell" in which Mr. Mivart is, or was, so deeply interested five
years ago--amidst all these highly debatable points, Newman pronounces
one thing certain, that "death ends our probation," that "there is no
passing over the great gulf".

Now, whence did he learn this strange teaching?  How is he dogmatically
certain of that one thing, while all the rest is in a haze?  From stray
texts, such as, "Whether the tree falleth to the north or the south, in
whatsoever place it shall fall, there shall it lie"; or, from the
parable of wise and foolish virgins, some of whom happened to be
asleep, and awoke at the critical hour to find that during the long
night-watch for the bridegroom their store of oil had become exhausted?
Surely tropes and parables are a highly insecure foundation whereon to
build such a momentous teaching.  Certainly, it is gravely questionable
whether any direct statement in the Hebrew or Christian writings can be
adduced to support the common notion that bodily dissolution is a
spiritual reagent, and _ipso facto_ seals the destiny of a spiritual
essence.  Vast numbers of even Anglicans repudiate the notion in the
name of theology and religion.  We repudiate it in the name of reason,
which was put into us for no other purpose, we know well, than to judge
not only the statements Churches put forth, but the sacred documents on
which they build them.  We repudiate the notion in the name of that
reason which shows us that the Infinite Mind, whose light and life we
share, was millions of years preparing this earth for man's habitation,
aeons of time so fashioning the course of things that a body might be
prepared in which that mind which we call soul might energise; aeons of
time so ordering the course of events that man should emerge one day
from the savagedom and animalism of the past to enter upon the path of
a progress which we believe to be endless.  I say the reason which
demonstrates this to us with a certitude which not the most intolerant
bigotry dares to question to-day, tells us also that it is wholly
preposterous that all that is left to man wherein to work out his own
individual moral progress is the brief span of threescore years and
ten, that after these days "few and evil," the chapter is closed, the
book sealed for ever, and the status of man inexorably and unalterably

I frankly avow I would as soon believe the Buddhist _Jataka_ as such a
wholly irrational account of the ways of God with man.  Just think of
the palaeolithic man, who had no glimmering of moral discernment; think
of the cave-men whose skulls we possess in scores, that bear eloquent
testimony to their deplorable degradation--think of such creatures
dying, and their mental and moral status stereotyped for ever.  "Death
ends our probation!"  A precious revelation this!  Where and what are
these men now?  When Newman visited Greece in the thirties what
impressed him, or rather oppressed him, as he stood above the glorious
bay of Salamis, over which once rode the hundreds and thousands of
galleys and triremes which transported the unnumbered hosts of Xerxes
to Greece, was the awful thought that all those million men, including
the proud monarch who reviewed them from the spot on which he then
stood, were "_still alive_".  Alive!  And where were they, and what
were they doing?  I cannot conceive anything more appallingly
depressing, nay, maddening, than to believe that all that heavenly
orchestration is going on while Xerxes is possibly in an Apocalyptic
hell, and his hosts either bearing him company or wandering aimlessly
about in the same stupid, stolid, unmoral, unspiritual condition in
which they were the moment they were engulfed in those blue waters.
Why, Nero fiddling while Rome was burning is a pleasant memory compared
with it!

But we have not reached the end yet.  "Deep calleth unto deep," and the
extreme deductions from the perverse notion that the act of dying is
the signal for the infliction of an everlasting mental and moral
sterility, finally convince us of the groundlessness of this feckless
theology.  According to these deductions of which I speak, one grievous
offence against Divine or ecclesiastical law--such, for instance, as
grave scandal or the omission to attend at mass--is sufficient to
condemn a man to eternal reprobation.  If it be supposed that death
cuts the offender off before he has the opportunity to make confession
of his fault or otherwise express his sorrow, we are soberly asked to
believe that the horrors of Tartarus are his eternal doom.  Surely the
mediaeval authorities who formulated this precious teaching must have
been bereft of the most elementary notions of ethical law.  One act, or
a dozen such acts, do not stamp the delinquent as habitually bad, still
less as one irredeemably wicked.  Habits are only generated by a
constant repetition of corresponding acts, just as good habits are
formed with difficulty, and only after persevering and resolute
attention on the part of our wills.  So, also, an evil disposition is
only the outcome of a deliberate surrender of our moral nature to
perverse inclinations.

Now, the hell dogma implies that the so-called "lost" are so
irredeemably depraved as to be incapable of as much as a good thought;
they are described in the graphic language of Aquinas and Suarez as
"obstinated in evil," "confirmed immutably in malice"; in fact,
absolutely diabolised.  And all this for missing attendance at mass on
one of the Church's festivals!  "_Paris vaut bien une messe_," said
Henri Quatre.  It would be well worth attending a mass to escape such a
destiny!  "There must be something rotten in the state of Denmark,"
where such horrors go stalking about unreproved.  As though infinite
justice could be conceivably associated with such a transaction as the
branding of a man as an eternal criminal, blasting every moral
sentiment he ever possessed, arbitrarily reducing him to a condition
infinitely beneath the bestial--and all because he had broken a Church
law in neglecting to attend Divine service.  Many of us incline to
believe that our own punishments, inflicted in the name of law, often
tend rather to degrade the prisoner than to improve him.  At any rate,
not a man in the land but believes that no punishment should be
administered except with a view of amending what is amiss in the
culprit's character.  But contrast this moral attitude of ours with the
method of procedure deliberately ascribed to Deity, and let us ask
ourselves whether the God of some men is not worse than their devil?
No such scruples, apparently, affect that supreme tribunal, but if
bodily death by accident overtake the erring man, then, forthwith, and
as if by magic, the spiritual in him is rendered fiendish, and
henceforth and for ever he is fit for nothing but that genial society
and those edifying occupations which are described in the cheerful
manuals known as, _A Glimpse of Hell_, and _Hell open to Christians_.

Those who witnessed the recent revival of _Hamlet_--a revival which it
would appear is destined to be historic--cannot have failed to notice
how the great master of song permits himself to express the perverse
conception that death is synonymous with everlasting moral stagnation.
Hamlet steals into his murderous uncle's apartment, sword in hand, but
discovering the criminal upon his knees, forbears to strike then, lest
somehow his devotions should save him from his doom.  No, he will wait
until the miserable creature is off his guard, so that death may
overtake him at a moment when no prayer or cry for mercy is possible.
As though a momentary act could undo the mischief of years!  As though
a man is in himself any different after years, of crime because he
utters a sudden cry for mercy!  And, as though by killing him at an
opportune moment, Hamlet could damn his soul for ever!  And it will be
noted, moreover, that the ghost emphasises the treachery of which he
has been the victim, in that he was sent into eternity "unhouseled,
unaneled," as though momentary acts can make up for years wasted and
misspent.  As well might one scatter one's fortune in luxury and
riotous living, and resolve to win it all back in a moment, as misuse
these glorious powers of mind and will we bear within us, turn them to
evil, steep them in iniquity, and then think to suddenly turn and by a
single act bend them successfully to the arduous service of the good.
This is stern teaching, but it is the truth; and a mercy would it be, a
mercy would it have been for us all in the days of our youth, if
instead of the too frequent insistence on the doctrine of the
forgiveness of sin, the doctrine of compensation and retribution, as
taught by Ralph Waldo Emerson, had been instilled into our hearts.  "Ye
shall not go forth until ye have paid the last farthing," is the
teaching.  Dare to break those solemn laws, to pervert these mysterious
powers we possess, Amen, Amen, we cannot escape retribution; we cannot
go forth until we pay the last farthing.

And this last thought prepares for the statement of our view of the
attitude a rational religion takes up in the solemn presence of death.
"Stoicism shall not be more exigent," said Emerson of the new Church.
We take no lax view of life and its responsibilities, but we refuse to
magnify death into the one thing worth living for or thinking about.
_Homo liber de nulla re minus quam de morte cogitat_.  We do not set
about digging our graves, we do not carry our coffins about with us,
still less do we sleep in them--a gruesome practice which has attracted
some fanatical folk.  To us, death is a fact, not an effect, an
incident as natural as birth, in no wise affecting the real, the
spiritual, man.  We therefore utterly disavow all sympathy with the
groundless assumption that a magical change comes over the psychical
powers of a man at that supreme moment, whereby he can do no more good,
but may harden into a more hopeless reprobate.  The notion that a
judgment of the soul takes place, as in the hall of Osiris, of Egyptian
mythology, at the instant of dissolution, whereby the destiny of the
individual is sealed for ever, we repudiate in terms.  Man is judged,
not then, but at every moment of his life.  "The moral laws vindicate
themselves" without the intervention of any external tribunal.  And,
therefore, the eternal progress of the man in us is maintained
uninterruptedly across the gloomy chasm of death, under other
circumstances, no doubt, but still it is the same ceaseless approach
towards the Infinite Ideal, the same untiring journey along "the
everlasting way".  All are in that "way," we may be sure, even those
whom we foolishly deem hopelessly reprobate.  Something can be made of
those failures of men, for

  After last returns the first, though a wide compass
      round be fetched;
  What began best can't end worst, nor what God once
      blest prove accurst.

But such men, the Neros, Caligulas, the Wainwrights and Palmers of all
ages and nations, are but a fractional, an infinitesimal, element in
the great human family.  _Sanabiles fecit nationes super terram_.  "He
hath made earth's peoples to be healed;" they shall redeem _themselves_
one day.  The moment of awakening comes sooner or later to all; there
is an unextinguished capacity for good under the sores and scars of the
most dissolute life, and we may believe that awakening comes when the
spirit enters new-born, as it were, into a world where the illusions of
the flesh, the deceptions of the sense, obtain no more.

There are no final, irredeemable failures.  The Divine in man must
emerge one day; its glory pierce through the gloom of his sin and
shame, and transfigure him anew after the beautiful and pathetic image
of the holy Christ in the legend,[1] whose closing days on earth, they
say, were illumined by one supreme wonder--his face calm and blissful,
glowing radiant like the glory of a setting sun, his very raiment
turned white like the driven snow.  A beauteous imagery!  But there was
no external transfiguration.  It was but a type of the radiant purity
within; a witness to the "beauty of holiness".  It was an emblem of
what all may be in some far-off day, when the lowliest amongst us
learns to follow the Christs, the blessed company of all elect souls,
in the way which begins and ends in the eternal righteousness.

[1] In the same way the Buddha was "transfigured".  See Doane's _Bible



An idealism such as that which substantially identifies religion with
morality, is suitably occupied, as occasion offers, in the discussion
of those questions of public interest which have an immediate bearing
on the well-being of communities.  In this respect it departs markedly
from the attitude taken up by those Churches, which afford little or no
guidance on such matters, probably because it is felt by priests and
prelates that their functions are rather of an ultra-mundane character,
and that their most important duty is to prepare humanity for the
enjoyment of another life after this unsatisfactory stage has passed.
Hence the sharp line of distinction they draw between the Church and
the world, the one the kingdom of saints, the other "lying" hopelessly
"in wickedness".  Hence, again, their distinction of "holy days" and
secular days, Sunday being devoted to religious exercises, while the
remaining six days are presumably to be occupied in wholly secular
enterprise.  The distinction affects our very attire.  Religious rites
being of a totally different character from the duties we accomplish
during the week, there is nothing for it but to don "our blacks," to
quote the language of a current popular play, and enact subsequently
the ceremonial described as the church parade.  It is the same feeling
which causes the average Englishman to lapse into a sort of funereal
solemnity at the very mention of the word religion, or of anything
allied to it.  The divorce of religion from ordinary life could not be
more plainly indicated than by such phenomena as we have noticed.

It is, of course, one of the main objects of our movement to show the
falsity of this distinction between the Church and the world, between
religion and morality.  We submit that it is not the institution of the
founder of Christianity, but of his later followers.  The Church of
Christ meant the assemblage of men _as men, as citizens_.  The entry
thereto was not by the magical washing away of an imaginary birth-sin,
but through the natural and beautiful sacrament of human birth.  The
world is the Church, and the Church is the world, and the "living
stones" out of which "the kingdom of heaven" is built here on earth are
precisely the stones out of which the civil commonwealth arises.  There
is nothing secular, nothing profane, but from first to last the life of
every man, from the miraculous moment of his conception to the closing
of his eyes in bodily death, and beyond death, through the perfecting
of him by an ever-increasing approximation to the standard of all moral
perfection, everything is religious, sacred, divine.  The Church is
nothing but an ethical society, co-extensive with the race, and it is
for the realisation of this ideal that the ethical movement is working,
to show men that religion is morality, is life.

This preamble, then, may serve as a justification for introducing here
such a subject as war.  The Christian Churches, with one single
exception, that of the Quakers, vouchsafe no guidance whatsoever on the
moral aspects of this question.  On the contrary, they rather suggest
that it is a highly moral proceeding, for their ministers pray to their
Deity for the success of their country's arms, and sing their _Te
Deums_ over the mangled corpses of the vanquished.  An archbishop in
Spain offered to guarantee the harmlessness of every American bullet,
and unctuous prayers were reported in the newspapers of last spring as
emanating from Transatlantic pulpits.  Indeed, it would be difficult,
if not impossible, to imagine what the supreme court of their heaven
must be, the perplexities of patron saints and angels, and ultimately
of their Deity himself, in face of the immoral mingling of bloodshed
and religion which went on during the recent Spanish-American war.  But
the Churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, see none of the impiety
which is so revolting to moral men and women, who to their lasting
advantage have emancipated themselves from ecclesiastical guidance.  On
the contrary, the public in America which looks for moral inspiration
to clergymen, is fed upon this sort of doggerel:--

  Strike for the Anglo-Saxon!
    Strike for the newer day!
  O strike for heart and strike for brain,
    And sweep the _beast_ away.

  And let no feeble pity
    Your sacred arms restrain;
  This is God's mighty moment
    To make an end of Spain!

It is our purpose to endeavour to make an end of the immoral
inspiration behind this profane piffle by speaking out our mind on the
subject of war as viewed from the standpoint of ethics.

By war we understand the appeal to _might_ to decide a question of
_right_ between two or more civilised peoples, and of war thus defined
I say that it is the great surviving infamy[1] of our unmoral past, the
persistence in us of animal instincts, of the ape and tiger which
should long since have died out.  That man, in the childhood of the
world, should have decided questions of justice by an appeal to brute
force is only what we should expect.  The laws of life, which are laws
of development, necessarily presuppose the imperfect before the
perfect, the animal as a preparation for the human.  As Immanuel Kant
puts it in a sentence which flashes the light over the whole panorama
of existence, "the _cosmic_ evolution of Nature is continued in the
_historic_ development of humanity and completed in the _moral_
perfection of the individual".  This is the synthesis of the greatest
of the masters of modern philosophy.  The non-moral cosmos makes way
for a process of moral human development, which is consummated in the
perfection of each individual man.  Here is the _Alpha_ and _Omega_ of
all existence.

Now, warfare, or the invocation of might to settle right, was as
natural an accompaniment of earlier conditions as theft or cannibalism.
But is it not obvious that with the disappearance of other unmoral
ideals of the past, we have a right to expect, and to demand, that the
last and crowning infamy of wholesale and systematised manslaughter,
called war, should cease also?  The humanity which has got rid of
slavery in all civilised countries, which has now through England's
instrumentality succeeded in destroying its last strongholds on the
Upper Nile, will also ultimately get rid of war.  The manhood of the
race, which in this country has long since put down the immorality of
duelling as a means of settling private differences, will indubitably
assert itself elsewhere to the final overthrow of warfare as a means of
deciding public disputes.  The great reform is in the air.  It is
everywhere except in the pulpits of Christendom and the "yellow
press"--the jingo journalism of the world.  We all experienced the
growing sense of the unsuitability of war to our modern ideals during
the earlier months of this year while matters were reaching the acute
stage between Spain and the United States.  The best Press in this
country reflected the common sentiment, that the whole proceeding is
savage, barbarous, inhuman, and therefore utterly unworthy of rational
men.  I believe it is this growing horror of legalised carnage which
prevented the late President of the United States' ill-judged message
leading to any rupture between our two countries.  It was felt that
Englishmen and Americans deliberately setting about the destruction of
each other's property and taking one another's lives would amount to a
scandal positively unthinkable--a fratricidal horror to be prevented at
all and any costs.  I am not sure that the same opinion was so
universal on the other side, though undoubtedly it existed amongst the
best men of the country.

America has at present two difficulties to contend with.  First, she is
a _young_ nation, and young people are fond of trying experiments.
And, next, they are burdened, perhaps I should say cursed, with the
most violent, anti-cosmopolitan Press anywhere existent.  A set of
fire-eaters appear to control the New York section, of it, and in the
judgment of many sober-minded Americans, with some of whom I have
myself spoken, the late war was wholly due to their ceaseless,
incessant clamour, and that, given a few months' patience, the Cuban
people might have by plebiscite been able to settle their own destiny.
The starving peasants concentrated in the towns were the alleged object
of the hurry.  Long months passed before any succour reached them.  If
they were veritably starving, surely every man of them must have died
long before an American army of liberation could have been effectually
landed for their relief.  The sympathies of this country were not with
Spain, for it is by her misrule, her acknowledged misgovernment of her
colonists, that all the mischief has been brought about.  One regrets
to have to say it, but Spain has been strangled in the coils of her own
superstition, and progress for her ceased to be when she elected to
live by the light of ideals and principles which are henceforth
impossible.  It is the frantic endeavour of France and Italy to escape
Spain's doom which explains their incessant strife between Church and
State.  The enlightened Frenchman or Italian has a horror of
sacerdotalism as the beginning of the end, always and everywhere, and
as the only religion in those countries is sacerdotal, they are, alas,
in their national capacity, bereft of any religious guidance or
inspiration.  We are, therefore, unable to see anything in Spain's
present position, but the working of the inevitable law of
Compensation, which is sovereign over States as over individuals,
though there are many of us who believe that the avowed humanitarian
objects of the American Government might have been attained by peaceful
methods, had not the country been goaded into a fever of restlessness
and impatience by that deplorable phenomenon of democratic institutions
known as the "yellow press".

At all events, the feeling universal in this country in the early
spring of this year, showed how far and fast we are travelling along
the road which will lead us to the final abandonment of warfare as
unworthy of rational men.  Doubtless we are in advance of other nations
in this respect.  But that is only what history leads us to expect.  We
were the first to free slaves, abandon duelling, reform prisons and
criminal law, and erect humanitarianism into a veritable religion.  And
have we not taught representative institutions to the world?  We are
evidently destined, I believe, to lead the way towards the final
surrender of war.  We keep no standing army.  We shall never again
enter on a war of conquest or aggression.  Our naval armaments and such
military power as we possess are notoriously created and maintained for
defensive purposes only.  Brigandage and pillage we have most certainly
been guilty of in past times, but such a policy could not now survive
the day it was mooted.  We are in the last trenches, preparatory to
finally abandoning the field.

But here it will be urged that there are circumstances which render war
absolutely inevitable, such for instance as an unjust aggression upon
the territory we own, or even live upon; an attack on the national
honour, or a reckless disregard of rights sanctioned by treaty or
international usage.  Were arbitration in such cases even admissible,
we may conceive the would-be aggressor unwilling to have recourse to
it, or possibly to abide by its award.  What is a government to do then?

Now, arguments and pleas such as these are valid enough against a
proposal of universal disarmament to be compulsorily carried out in six
months or a year's time, but they in no wise, I submit, constitute an
inseparable bar to the realisation of "that sweet dream," as Immanuel
Kant called it, of a "perpetual peace".  The ideal is none the less
real because it cannot be at once put into practice; and had we to wait
another whole century, it would still be the duty of our movement to
stand by Kant and boldly set up the grand conception of an universal
peace as the goal for which all that is best among men is inevitably
making.  Still, I trust that in our enthusiasm for ethic and for the
ideal of its master, we have not lost our heads and betaken ourselves
to Utopian impracticabilities.  No ethical man could think of fixing a
limit within which a national disarmament must take place, and the
swords of the world beaten into ploughshares, any more than he could
name the date at which the millennium is to be introduced.  But this
implies no insuperable, or rather, no serious, obstacle to our belief
that the ideal of universal arbitration, through the medium of a
congress of all nations, must in the future, near or distant, be
realised, because it is an ideal which is alone worthy of rational men.
And, moreover, the essential rationality of the ideal gives us a right
to demand that it should be recognised by all public men, by our
legislators who represent us, the Press which aims at reflecting the
life and thought of the age, the professors and masters who have the
care of our youth, and above all by fathers and mothers to whom tender
children are confided, and those men who assume the responsibility of
speaking to their generation in the sacred name of religion.

I say the ideal gives us the right to demand its recognition by men in
such positions of responsibility, and implies a corresponding
obligation on their part, no less than on our own, to labour seriously
for its speedy realisation.  We are, every one of us, agreed that war
is essentially a cruel, barbarous, horribly vindictive and degrading
method of serving the interests of the sublimest thing known to man,
namely, justice.  Wanton warfare, merely for the sake of fighting or
killing, or openly avowed oppression, can scarcely be acknowledged now
even by the most cynical of statesmen.  The public conscience is become
too sensitive for that, so that some question of justice, or the
semblance of it, must be invoked in order to justify its unspeakable
barbarities.  But what an outrage, the deliberate destruction of
hundreds of thousands of innocent men--men who in their simplicity or
ignorance are positively unable to even dimly comprehend why they are
being lashed into a blind fury and goaded to the madness of steeping
their hands in each other's blood--what barbarity, what savagery to
invoke as the minister, as the vindicator of justice!  Let us keep our
eyes steadily fixed on this central, essential wickedness of the whole
business, that it dares to offer its polluted services in the interests
of justice and thereby to profane the holiest thing we know.

Remembering this, therefore, let us ask ourselves what help we get in
our endeavours to effect its overthrow from the recognised ministers of
religion.  Why, it is notorious that what has long been clear to
philosophers like Immanuel Kant, and philanthropists among humble
laymen, has not yet dawned upon the imagination or touched the
consciences of bishops or priests.  Popes, themselves, have created
military orders, "knights and commanders of Christ and the Cross,"
whose profession it was to destroy life in the name of the most
merciful, pitiful man known to us Western people.  Popes have led
military expeditions, conducted campaigns and crossed swords with the
most daring, though the impetuous fisherman, founder of their line, was
bidden by Christ to put up his sword into its scabbard, "for all they
that take up the sword shall perish by it".  Can any man point to one
single condemnation of war as immoral, irrational, opposed to the law
of their Deity or of Christ, in all the collection of councils, bulls
and canonical legislation?  And can any man quote to us the charge of
an archbishop or bishop in the Anglican Communion or the Greek
Communion wherein he has raised his voice against the barbaric survival
of war and condemned it in the name of his Saviour Jesus, who spoke of
the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the pure in heart, the hungerers
and thirsters after righteousness, or, as we say, the ethical
enthusiasts, as his followers?

Why, religion, in the hands of bishops and priests, has allowed a trail
of blood to be drawn across the path of the ages.  I say nothing of
religious persecution and the millions who have gone to torture and to
doom for erroneous beliefs.  I confine myself entirely, to field
warfare.  During a period of 674 years, from 1141-1815, it is an
historical fact that this country and France were at war for no less
than 266 years, or considerably more than one-third, and we must
remember that up to the Reformation both countries were under the
direct guidance, one might almost say the exclusive inspiration, of the
Catholic Christianity of the day.  But where does history record the
act of any religious leaders of those times denouncing war as contrary
to the gospel of Christ and of reason alike?  We are able to quote
numbers of despised heretics who had grasped the truth and emphatically
condemned the brutal institution.  Thus Erasmus: "They who defend war
must defend the dispositions which lead to war, and these dispositions
are absolutely forbidden by the gospel".  Wickliffe, "the morning star
of the Reformation in England," thought it "utterly unlawful,"
according to Priestley; and as Southey writes in his _History of
Brazil_: "There is but one community of Christians in the world, and
that unhappily of all communities one of the smallest, enlightened
enough to understand the prohibition of war by the Divine Master in its
plain literal and undeniable sense and conscientious enough to obey it,
subduing the very instinct of nature to obedience".

These facts are noteworthy because they show that had the official
churches--the Roman, Greek and Anglican--been true to their charge and
commission from their founder; had they been unworldly enough to defy
the world and denounce its barbarous practices, we might have been far
nearer Kant's "sweet dream" of universal peace.  But the churches, _as
churches_, have done very little for the cause of the "Prince of
peace," and now the world itself has outgrown their moral standard and
looks to them for guidance and inspiration no more.  By the light of
reason alone, by the inspiration we gather from the _grands esprits_ of
the race, above all by the teaching of Immanuel Kant in his beautiful
treatise on "Perpetual Peace," we intend to do what in us lies to put
down this surviving, crowning infamy of war, the very thought of which
brutalises the mind, outrages its humanitarian instincts, and degrades
the ideals whereby we desire to live.

But, surely, it will be urged, we cannot refuse to acknowledge
undoubted benefits, both public and individual, which war has conferred
in the past.  It has welded nomad peoples into nations, bred courage,
devotion, loyalty, unselfishness, self-sacrifice even to death in the
hearts of those who have nobly borne their part therein.  Is not the
soldier hero, the military chieftain, the idol of all mankind?

Doubtless he is, and unquestionably through the instrumentality of war
great services have been rendered to the communities of peoples in the
past and noble individual traits of character created.  It is an axiom
with us that the universe is so wondrously ordered that out of the
worst things a soul of good may and does emerge, and so goodly is
creation that its very evils become a source wherefrom good may arise.

  What was good shall be good with for evil so much good more.

Thus, for example, the young lieutenant ordered to sink a hulk across
the bay of Santiago, and his handful of companions have, by exposing
themselves to imminent risk of an awful death, deeply stirred the
feelings of their fellow-countrymen and filled us all with a sense of
admiration at the heroism which can contemn danger and death in the
execution of duty or the quest of glory.  But we must ask whether
humanity is in need of such exhibitions of bravery, whether there are
not other fields of danger which offer tasks equally arduous and
difficult of accomplishment?  We are not insensible to the claims of
military or naval heroism, but I confess I see much more to admire in
Father Damien voluntarily surrendering himself to the slow and
loathsome martyrdom of Molokai, more in the self-devotion of our "white
slaves," as they must, alas! be called, who toil all the day and a deal
of the night in a heavy, noisome, almost disease-laden atmosphere in
the disgracefully crowded slums of our great cities, and all to earn a
few pence wherewith to buy just enough bread to keep body and soul
together in themselves and their children.  Think of the
matchbox-makers, who turn out a gross for a few halfpence, out of which
they must supply some of their own materials.  Think of the
seamstresses, the shirt-makers and tailors' assistants in the veritable
dens of East London, who by slaving for fifteen hours out of
twenty-four can earn eighteenpence a day, out of which four or five
shillings must be paid weekly for rent.  Think of these mean, squalid
surroundings in which a life of positively ceaseless toil must be
lived, the patience and long-suffering with which it is endured, the
silent martyrdom of monotonous, unrelieved existence prolonged over
long years.  Think of it, I say, and compare it with the intoxication
of the battle-field, the cavalry charge, the roar of cannon and
musketry, the rapid movements and counter-movements, the exultation
which the sight of numberless men produces, grim, deadly determination
on their faces, the thought of glory, the hope of renown, the dash of a
few minutes, the stroke perhaps of a few seconds, the wild burst of
untamed, savage human nature temporarily released from the restraint of
reason!  What cannot, what shall not man under such circumstances
accomplish?  Yes, we are not insensible to deeds of immortal daring, of
courage, that must live for ever; nor to the memory of Leonidas and his
Spartans, of the deathless glories of Thermopylae, of the unbroken
chain of chivalric deeds from the days of ancient Greece to "the thin
red line" that broke the fiercest charge, and the handful of Englishmen
that shot away their last cartridge and then stood to die with their
country's anthem on their lips--we are not insensible to all this, but
we say the day for it is past and gone, and the heroism of the
battle-field must be consecrated anew to the service of peace and the
poor.  The millions on millions we are spending on those majestic
engines of destruction, those ships of ours that bastion the brine for
England, what could they not do for the moralisation of the poor and
outcast at our very doors in this city!  Why, in three years that
inferno of the East End, that foul, reeking, pestilential nest of
tenements, unfit for even animal habitation, could be swept clean away
and human homes erected which, to put it on the lowest grounds, would
positively pay a dividend on the capital outlay, as has been
convincingly proved over and over again.

"How long, O Lord, how long," we exclaim with the prophet of old, shall
men be consumed with this ignoble fever, this war-madness which
degrades the combatants far more than it exalts them, which senselessly
destroys valuable property, scatters ruin broadcast, paralyses
industry, robs the poor of all the bread of life, fills the land with
mourning and desolation, with widows and orphans?--war, which we learnt
from wild beasts, our ancestors, which cannot therefore determine a
question of justice, which makes the wrong triumph as often as the
right, which degrades all that touch it by isolating them for months,
for years perhaps, from civilised life, which demoralises the victors,
embitters the vanquished, and, by creating strife, perpetuates the
possibilities of renewed strife--war, which at this moment keeps Europe
in the condition of an armed camp, millions of men leading
comparatively idle lives, with long hours on their hands which they
cannot fill, with the inevitable results, the nauseating record of
filth, disease and abominations too utterly loathsome even to think
about--war, which is the curse of the poor and unfortunate, consuming
the energies of men and the material means whereby their unhappy lot
might be alleviated--war, the hard, cruel, relentless, inexorable
monster of unregenerate man's creation--we, since no pope, bishop or
priest will do it--we execrate it in the name of all we hold holiest,
in the name of reason, morality and religion, and we pledge ourselves
so to act, privately and politically, as to promote such measures--a
federation of all English-speaking nations of the earth, if that will
serve the purpose, or any other method equally or more serviceable--as
will finally exorcise this last of the besetting demons of humanity,
and fulfil thereby the "sweet dream" of our master and inspirer,
Immanuel Kant.

  Ring out the old, ring in the new;
    *      *      *      *      *
  Ring out the false, ring in the true;
  Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
    Ring out the thousand wars of old;
  Ring in the thousand years of peace.

[1] Since these words were written the _Daily Chronicle_ of 10th
September, 1898, quotes them as having been used by a distinguished
living English general.



There is probably no department of morality in which a metaphysic of
ethic is more conspicuously needed than in that which concerns
marriage.  The insurrection of woman against the disabilities to which
her sex was in the past unjustly subjected, due perhaps more to custom
and tradition than to the statute law of the land, has developed in
more recent times into a serious attack on the central institution of
civilised life, on that fundamental fact of Nature on which posterity
and society repose.  We have had an outbreak in literature culminating
in the giddy glory of the "hill-top novel," with its heroine "who did,"
and in America what is tautologically described as the "Free-Love
Society" was founded to propagate the truth of what Rousseau
euphemistically describes as _mariage après la nature_.  For all that,
however, one seems to hear less of the "hill-top" species, and
possibly--with the problem play, without which no theatre was complete
a couple of years ago--it may be fading into the mist of the past.  It
is with communities, we may take it, as with individuals.  There are
moments when, as it has been said, "every one is an atheist, from
archbishops downwards," when a sense of the purposelessness and
futility of perpetual combat seizes the most ardent.  These are the
dark hours when attacks are planned and delivered against the most
sacred institutions, when people are not at their best, but are
restless, rebellious and impatient of restraint; for nations like
individuals can go mad.  Then it is that the wide-awake novelist and
playwright see their opportunity, and the temporary success of the
sex-play or the breezy romance is the reflection of the thoughts--none
of the best--that are for the moment flitting through men's feverish
minds.  But we soon return to saner moments; our moral sense resumes
its normal sway, and sex-plays and romances fade away into oblivion.

Now, it need not be said that the contention on behalf of the rights of
woman is heartily espoused by a movement which bases itself on the
conception of reason and justice as the root facts of existence.  There
was no justice in the "subjection of woman," and we hold that those
opportunities of learning which a cultured age opens up to man should
likewise be at the disposal of his sister; that that freedom, which is
the birthright of the man, to expand the energies, mental and moral, of
his being to their fullest extent and in whatever calling, should also
be acknowledged to be the right of woman.  The constitutional agitation
for the recognition of her rights has met with notable success, and it
has the fullest support of the ethical Church; but we believe that that
agitation has been pushed too far by a very small and insignificant
minority, and made to cover an attack on the institution of matrimony,
which her wisest friends see could only end in the ultimate downfall of
woman herself.  Such an agitation, such an attack, must encounter the
most resolute opposition from a body which derives all its idealism and
inspiration from a life motived, not by the sense, but by reason.  Its
leaders in America have pronounced decisively against any tampering
with the natural sacrament of marriage, and where they detect
tendencies--as unfortunately they do in many of the States of their
Union--to further loosen its bonds, they, with all the influence at
their command, endeavour to strengthen them.

Let me now proceed to justify this attitude of the ethical communion.

We do not base our action on considerations of authority such as move
the Churches of Christendom.  It is not because Jesus assisted at a
wedding breakfast and performed an alleged wonder; not because the
Apostle Paul calls marriage "a great mystery in Christ and the Church,"
but because both Jesus and Paul and the Churches express a truth of
nature itself, that the union of man and woman is not, and cannot be,
the herding of animals; that the bestowal of the body cannot but be the
outward symbol of an invisible bond which is the very soul and life of
the contract.  We thus go behind all Churches and apostles and ascend
to the very roots of Nature herself, and discern in the golden glory
wherewith she surrounds the ideal marriage the significance of her
intentions in its regard--that it is her true and real Sacrament, that
her sons and daughters are themselves its ministers, for they alone are
kindled with the heavenly fire; that not the Church, not the priest nor
ritual celebrates it, but these twain made one by that same

  Love which moves the earth and heavens and all the stars.

That man has so regarded marriage as a sacred and sacramental fact is
authenticated by history in an abundantly available form.  No doubt,
ages must have passed before he emerged from his animalesque condition
and abandoned polygynous and polygamous manners, the marriage by
capture and purchase, which were the stages which mark the historical
evolution of the contract.  But ultimately these barbaric stages passed
away, and we discover in the Teutonic ancestors of Britain that
monogamy which was Nature's ideal from the first.  Just as man was
potential in the primordial slime, so was the marriage of Robert
Browning a possibility in the earliest union of scarce-emancipated man
and woman.  What the institution _could_ become, what it _has_ become,
shows what was the intent of Nature from the beginning.  In the nobler
days of Rome, under the republic and early empire, the same lofty
conception animated her best sons.  It was the decay of reverence for
the sacred bond, the era when a woman's years were told by the number
of her divorces, which called forth the solemn warnings of her moralist
poets and philosophers, and ultimately brought about the emasculation
of the nation's manhood and the downfall of the empire.  We have not
the remotest doubt but that a similar contempt in modern Europe for
Nature's ordinance would involve us in the same catastrophe.  A low
estimate of marriage means contempt of woman; the contempt of woman
means her degradation from her position at the side of man as his
counsellor and his friend to that of his plaything, the instrument of
his pleasure; that again means the enthronement of licence and
licentiousness; that, the softening of the brain power of the manhood
of the race, leading to degeneracy, imbecility, and ultimate
extinction.  We need no ecclesiastical organisation to tell us these
things, nor threaten us with direst penalties here or hereafter.  These
are the penalties of nature's own aboriginal enactment.  As it was in
the beginning, so it is now, and so it shall be unto all time.  No
wonder St. Paul called marriage "a great mystery"!

Now, though it be true that Nature's ideal is that which we call
monogamy, it may be perfectly true that we have not yet reached that
level of morality which makes that condition universally practicable.
That wisest of teachers, Jesus of Nazara, expressly recognised this
distinction when he told the Jews of his own day that their lack of
ethical enthusiasm, "their hardness of heart," as he accurately
expressed it, the emptiness of their souls of everything save narrow
nationalism and religious formalism--an emptiness by no means peculiar
to them--was the sole reason which justified a departure from Nature's
great ideal.  "In the beginning it was not so," he declared, but "Moses
gave ye permission to write out a bill of divorce".  That one exception
may be necessary still, but, let it be understood, it is not the ideal,
and every one knows it, faithful and faithless alike, they whose honour
is intact and they whose souls are smirched.  It is an instinct in the
human heart--no one can deny it--that love is for evermore.
Shakespeare is right, "Marriage is a world-without-end bargain," for
love is felt to be eternal.  The old Roman digest interprets nature
with philosophic accuracy when it describes marriage as "_Conjunctio
maris et feminae et consortium omnis vitae, divini et humani juris
communicatio_".  "The union of man and woman and the companionship of
all life, the sharing of right, human and divine."  That is the
majestic conception of matrimony as it took shape in the brain of those
Roman masters of jurisprudence to whom we owe the law which is the
nerve of civilisation.  They learnt it from that ethical religion which
we, too, reverently follow, from that morality which they found _in
things, in themselves_, in Nature's plain teaching that the union of
man and his wife was a sacramental fact and therefore indelible.

Are we asked for further evidence of this position?  We see it as a law
of our rational being, which refuses to believe that Nature makes no
other provision for us than she does for the animals; that their
instinctive and impulsive association should be the norm of man's
intercourse with woman.  Nay, we see Nature herself as she advances to
the higher stages of animal existence anticipating, in a sense, that
ideal which was only to be fully realised in man.  The lion, the king
of beasts, as he is called, tends towards that ideal, and the elephant
is believed to be even more strictly monogamous.  The loves of birds,
of doves and pigeons, are too well known to need more than a passing
mention, and the grief they experience on the death of their partner
not unfrequently ends in a broken heart.  But how much better is man
than many animals, and what is merely instinctive in them shall not he
consciously obey as his acknowledged law of life?

We may see the truth also in Nature's ordinance, that man's offspring
must be educated in order to reach maturity; that training of a serious
character is indispensably necessary to the development of the powers
latent in them.  But how is such training possible, except through the
unceasing watchfulness of the parents'?  People here and there darken
counsel with the suggestion that the State should assume such
responsibilities.  Was there ever such a suggestion?  As a matter of
mere finance, we are told by the Vice-President of the Council, that
the assumption of the quite partial responsibility for the education of
the children now taught in the elementary schools of the denominational
bodies of the country, would mean an addition of some millions yearly
to the rates.  The education rate is high enough in all conscience, but
where the "hill-top" theory would land us one can scarcely conjecture.
So urgent is this consideration of the claim which offspring has upon
parent, so imperative the need that children should be fittingly
instructed so as to be worthy citizens of a great community, that we
find writers like Karl Pearson, in his _Ethic of Free Thought_,[1]
consistently excepting from the operation of the free-love gospel those
unions which have resulted in the procreation of children.  Mr. Pearson
being of the school of those who deride marriage as "the tomb of love,"
"the source of the stupidity and ugliness of the human race," his
admissions as to the necessity of maintaining some element of
permanence in the contract, if only for the sake of children, is well
worthy of our attention.  It shows how grounded in nature is that
conception of the marriage tie which the Roman digest has put before us.

We may see the truth, once again, in the acknowledged instability of
the passional element in human nature--particularly in man.  It is
nothing short of amazing to see this very instability urged as a reason
why the marriage tie should be still further weakened, as though man
should deliberately subject himself to the vagaries of sense, instead
of the guidance of reason.  We hear much to-day about the "return to
nature," and, soundly interpreted, that gospel sounds like a breath of
pure mountain air after the stifling atmosphere of modern convention
and unreality.  Would to heaven, I say from my heart, that we were more
natural, that a greater frankness and directness marked our intercourse
with one another, that the shams and pretences of so much of our social
life were made away with, that our lives were more open and free!  The
grand old Stoic maxim had it thus: _Live in accordance with nature_.
Yes, but with what nature?  No thinker, from Socrates to Kant, from
Buddha to Hegel, ever had a doubt but that man's nature was twofold,
and that the law of reason must be supreme in him.  Let an animal live
for sense; it is its nature; but for man another law is ordained, which
bids him think last of enjoyment, and to partake only of that in
obedience to the law of the mind.  The modern evangel of the apotheosis
of the unstable we understand to convey the teaching, "Live in
accordance with sense, or the feeling of the moment".  Be like the
_dame du monde_ whom Mrs. Ward has so accurately drawn in _Madame de
Netteville_, who did not hold herself responsible to our petty codes,
and judged that feeling was guidance enough for her.  That may be all
very well for Madame de Netteville, but how does such teaching look in
the light of Kant's solemn injunction: "Act so that thy conduct may
become a law unto all men"?  Could any one seriously propose to erect
feeling into a supreme criterion whereby to judge of the conduct of

And, to show that the line of argument here adopted is no mere false
asceticism surviving from an undisciplined and pre-scientific age, as
the solemn verbiage of so much second-rate talking expresses it to-day,
we may quote some words of David Hume, Huxley's "prince of agnostics,"
from the _Essay on Polygamy and Divorce_.  The least emotional of
philosophers--a hard-headed Scotsman--he makes short work of the
sentimentality which is invoked now-a-days against the natural law of

"We need not be afraid of drawing the marriage knot . . . the closest
possible.  The unity between the persons, where it is solid and
sincere, will rather gain by it; and where it is wavering and uncertain
that is the best method for fixing it.  How many frivolous quarrels and
disgusts are there, which people of common prudence endeavour to
forget, when they lie under the necessity of passing their lives
together; but which would soon be inflamed into the most deadly hatred,
were they pursued to the utmost under the prospect of an easy
separation!  We must consider that nothing is more dangerous than to
unite two persons so closely in all their interests and concerns, as
man and wife, without rendering the union entire and total.  The least
possibility of a separate interest must be the source of endless
quarrels and suspicions.  The wife, not secure of her establishment,
will still be driving some separate end or project; and the husband's
selfishness, being accompanied by no power, may be still more
dangerous."  Thus our conception of marriage as a nature sacrament, a
permanent contract in Nature's original intention, is abundantly
confirmed by the sceptical philosopher of the eighteenth century.
Whatever man may make of the contract, there stands the fact that that
Nature meant it to be enduring which whispered into the lover's heart
that "love should be for evermore".

It is a far cry from the abstractions of philosophy to the realisms of
French fiction, but we could not better conclude this portion of our
subject than by citing one single sentence from Balzac, in the judgment
of many the first romancer of this century, and one of the greatest
masters of the social sciences.  "Nothing," he declares, "more
conclusively proves the necessity of indissoluble marriage than the
instability of passion."

But here our difficulties begin.  Though it may be abundantly clear
that Nature's ideal is Hume's and Balzac's, is it not a fact that this
"high has proved too high, this heroic for earth too hard"?  Is it not
true that there are murmurs and mutterings of revolt both amongst men
and women against a burden too grievous to be borne?  Does not the
fiction of the day represent a tendency to allow an increased laxity in
the interpretation of the matrimonial contract?  And where there is
smoke there is fire.  What novelists write other people are thinking.
Has the time come to reconsider our position with regard to marriage
and the permanent obligations hitherto associated with it?

We answer decisively, No.  It is not the institution which is at fault,
but the individuals who embrace it.  We spoke of marriage as Nature's
great sacrament, and so it is.  And as with "the Lord's Supper" the
unworthy participant is said to "eat and drink only condemnation to
himself," so is it with they who draw near to Nature's banquet and
attempt, unprepared, to partake of the deepest joys of life.  Their
profanity smites them with a curse.  We hold up our hands in no
Pharisaic spirit of holy horror, but we ask the men and women of this
generation and of those classes from which these mutterings and
threatenings of revolt mainly emanate--we ask them, whether marriage,
as they understand the term, can be other than a bloodless martyrdom?
If that individual who gave her name to a novel two or three seasons
ago, if the young woman known as _Dodo_ be a type--and it was noted by
the critics of the time that such was the character of the fashionable
young _mondaine_ of the day, greedy for nothing but excitement and
sensuous existence, incapable of serious thought, rebellious against, I
will not say the restraints, but even the _convenances_ of civilised
life, with no pretension to anything remotely resembling character or
moral earnestness, a wild, gay, frittering, helpless creature, whom it
were blasphemy to think of in the same day with noble womanhood as we
all have known it--if _that_, I say, is the type of the young
_mondaine_ of the hour, then I have no doubt they will give the
novelists and playwrights plenty of employment in describing their
self-imposed torments, the insufferable bondage to which they are
subjected.  But does any one propose to alter the moral law for them?
If mothers in modern Babylon are ready to labour day and night in
attempting to catch as husbands for their daughters men in whom one and
one only qualification is asked, namely, that of wealth, then their
perdition be upon their own heads and on those of the luckless pair who
are literally speaking "crucified on a cross of gold".  If girls
continue to be brought up with the preposterous notion that marriage is
the one profession open to them, and that therefore they are by no
means to risk the loss of an "engagement," no matter who the employer
may be, and that the wealthier he is the more suitable he is to be
adjudged, then let us abandon all attempts at reaching our ideal.  But
let us at the same time prepare for the overthrow of the home and the
family; for the destruction of "pure religion breathing household
laws," and of the stately, dignified, domestic life, which has been the
glory of every land where Nature's true ideal has been worthily upheld.

If boys are brought up at school, or taught by the social atmosphere
they breathe on first entering into early manhood, to conceive of
marriage as in no wise nobler or loftier in essence than any of those
_mariages après la nature_, those ephemeral associations, terminable at
will; that the only difference between them is, that the one is legal
and permanent, the other voluntary and dissoluble, then so long will
the scandals of divorce and the revolt against marriage continue to be
heard.  What one complains of is the utter lack of reverence in the
view which is taken of this most solemn of all acts.  There is no
idealism in the contract.  The thoughtless youth who has grown up in
what one may call the "wild oats" theory is, we suggest, utterly
incapable of appreciating the absolutely inestimable blessings which
wedded love might have brought him.  How can he?  He has "wasted his
substance, living riotously," and the most precious of all the
treasures he has squandered is that of his idealism.  _His wife can
scarcely be to him what she might have been had he come to her as he
expected her to come to him_.  "The golden gates are closed," "a glory
has passed from the earth".  This is pain enough to make hearts weep,
but it is the operation of that inflexible law of Compensation, that
not all the tears of sorrow, not all the absolutions and sacrificial
atonements of Churches, can undo that past, can make that young man to
be as in the days of his youth, before the experimental "knowledge of
good and evil" touched him.

Our remedy is, therefore, not to destroy the institution of Nature, but
to reform the candidates who undertake to embrace it.  An ethical
religion would reprobate the sacrilegious bargains in which bodies are
exchanged for gold, and refuse to accord them the honorific title of
marriage, which is first and foremost a union of souls.  Time and again
have we seen that the springs of all things are in the invisible world,
from the breath of a flower to the energy that pulsates in the great
bosom of the ocean, or governs the movements of the uttermost star.  It
is so here.  Not the transference of bodies, of titles, of wealth or
station, are the sacrament.  They are merely the accessories, the
outward form, the symbol of something higher and Diviner far, of the
invisible love, which is everywhere, yet manifests itself in especial
manner in these two souls, speaking even in their very countenances of
an emotion supreme and irresistible.  An ethical religion, wholly based
upon and identified with morality, would refuse to sanction any
marriage but that we have described, a union based upon a supreme
affection between two who had worthily prepared themselves for its
consummation, and believed in the permanence of their tie.

With regard to the modern maiden--the _Dodos_ and their kindred
swains--it would be infinitely preferable that they did not degrade the
sanctity of a natural sacrament by profanely prostituting it to their
temporal and social convenience.  Far better that they betook
themselves to "the marriage after the truth of nature" than to the
great human institution of which Milton sang:--

  Hail, wedded love, mysterious law,
  True source of human offspring!

They do but defile it by their patronage, and having manifestly spoiled
themselves by their reckless lives for the entertainment of any emotion
deeper than mere sensuousness, they are bound at length to bring a
noble institution into contempt, and drag it down in their own fall.
You do not believe, we would say to them, in the eternity of soul and
love, and therefore the nature sacrament is not for you.  But having
presented yourselves at its sacred table, and partaken of its rites, do
not, if only for motives of mere decency, betake yourselves to the
denunciation of that of which, indeed, you were never worthy.

Week by week, at the services of the ethical Church, we see numbers of
young men who doubtless aspire one day to share in the benediction
which a true marriage alone can bring them.  Their presence is welcome
as a testimony to the virility and inspiration of the ethic creed which
is strong enough to prevail over other inducements which would take
them far afield.  It shows that spirit overcomes the flesh, and that
the culture of the mind is not postponed to the relaxation and
enjoyment of the body.

What the ethical religion says to all such as they is this: Live so as
to be worthy of that which you one day hope to receive at Nature's
hands--a pure, good and true wife.  Somewhere, in some corner of this
earth, unknown to you, unknown to her, she is being made ready for the
hour of your espousals.  You will know her when you see her.  Wait
until you do.  Remember the requisite preparation of the body, and now
forget not the preparation of the mind.

Marriage is based on friendship, that true kinsman of love, which made
a poet call his friend "O thou half of my own soul!" [2]  Your wife
must be your friend.  True love, the love of which true marriages are
made, is friendship transfigured--the halo, the glory, of a supreme
emotion coming to crown that which is most enduring on this earth.
Just as we say that our religion is morality, is duty, only
etherealised by viewing it as the expressed mind and will of the Soul
of all souls, the World-intelligence, so do we think of marriage as
based on a union of souls by friendship, inspired by a deep mutual
respect, not for what the partners have, but for what they are, and
finally made glorious in the light of an unfading love.  Live, we would
counsel you, so as to be worthy one day of the reverence of a woman's
pure and untried soul.

And our message to womanhood is not dissimilar.  Live, we would say, so
that you be worthy of the respect, of the homage of all men.  Your
nature is such that virtue in you has a double charm, wherefore you are
visibly marked out as the treasury wherein the ideal is enshrined and
handed down through all the generations of men.

A nation is, ethically speaking, worth just what its women are worth,
and we must therefore rejoice, and greatly rejoice, to know that the
contention which is being increasingly put forth by women, that the men
who demand their sisters' hands should themselves be arrayed in
suitable wedding garment, is convincing evidence of a strong ethical
enthusiasm which is beginning to pervade the sex, and a determination
to ennoble more and more that one great sacramental ordinance of
Nature, marriage.

  All things transitory
  But as symbols are sent;
  Earth's insufficiency grows to event;
  The indescribable,
  Here it is done,
  _The ever-womanly leadeth us_
  _Upward and on._

[1] Pp. 431-443.

[2] "Dimidium animae meae" (Horace).



The appearance within the last hundred years of different philosophical
attempts to produce a synthesis which should combine at once a system
of thought for the guidance of the mind, and a source of enthusiasm for
the inspiration of the heart, is significant of many things, but
chiefly of two.  In the first place it is evidence that the present has
outgrown the past; that the religion of medievalism is inadequate to
modern needs; that

  Still the new transcends the old,
  In signs and tokens manifold.

And, next, it would appear to indicate the serious disposition of the
new Age.  If we find the thinkers of humanity uniformly tending towards
a given direction, we may be sure there is an undefined, perhaps
unconscious, though none the less real, desire on the part of the age
to be led thither.  Thus, at the close of the last century, Immanuel
Kant, while undermining the ground on which the faith of old rested,
attempted that new presentation of religion, as essential and sovereign
morality, with which we are so familiar.  And, within half a century of
the foundation of the new Church, we meet with another bold and
comprehensive effort to revivify religion, which had grown cold in the
heart of his country, by showing that its chief expression is to be
found in that "love of the brotherhood" whereby Jesus Christ declared
his own truest followers would ever be known.  "We tire of thinking and
even of acting," this foremost of the thinkers of his age declared, but
"we never tire of loving".  I need not say that these are the words of
Auguste Comte, one of the two men in this nineteenth century who had
learning enough to grasp the universal knowable, and genius enough to
express it in a clearly defined philosophic system.  His fellow and
compeer, of course, is our own Herbert Spencer.

Now, no one will be able to even dimly appreciate the significance of
the work of Immanuel Kant and Auguste Comte unless he realises that the
inspiration which moved them both was that which we call religion.  As
the rivers flow into the sea, so the streams of knowledge converge at a
point which marks the limits of the finite, the boundaries of the
Infinite.  There never was a system of thought yet which did not
culminate in the sublimity of religion.  From the first system of all,
the immortal Aristotle's, down to Kant's, Comte's and Spencer's in our
own times, the issue is always the same: philosophy leads the way to
the Boundless; it lifts the veils of the Eternal.  And therefore Kant
and Comte, each in his own way, while setting forth their exposition of
intellectual truth, endeavoured to provide a stimulus to move the heart
of man to put its plain teachings into execution.

Though at first sight there appears to be nothing but irreconcilable
opposition between the critical and positivist systems, there is,
nevertheless, a fundamental unity which Comte was quick enough to
detect, for he pronounced Kant "the most positive of all
metaphysicians".  What led him to this conviction was the fact that the
German philosopher had, like himself, based his whole idealism on the
sure ground of morality which cannot be overthrown.  As Spinoza was
called by Novalis "a God-intoxicated man," so Comte was described by
Mill as "morality-intoxicated," for in the purity and elevation of his
ethical conceptions he comes nearest of all to the austere standard set
up by Kant and Emerson.

Nor do the points of resemblance stop here.  In the course of this
chapter it will become ever more evident that there is no
irreconcilable opposition between the ethical religion of Kant and the
Religion of Humanity of Comte, nay, that there appears to be a
well-grounded hope that the Church of the Future, which we salute from
afar, and towards the building of which we are each contributing our
share, will in the main embrace as its essential features the teaching
of these two great men.  For that Church will aspire to guide men in
their private and in their public capacities, in their individual and
in their social life.  The ethic of Kant, the categorical imperative of
duty, will be the inspiration of the individual; the _Politique
Positive_ of Comte will govern him in his social and political
relations, while in the supreme concern of worship, I venture to
foretell a widening of the Comtist ideal so as to admit of such
conceptions as underlie the philosophical belief of Mr. Spencer, that
the world and man are but "the fugitive product of a Power without
beginning or end," whose essence is ineffable.  Thus the agnosticism of
to-day will contribute to the reverence of the future, while I firmly
believe that the religion of Humanity will come to be so interpreted as
not to wholly exclude belief in an Existence anterior to man and to all
things, from whom he and all he knows aboriginally sprang, unto whom he
and all things ultimately return.  Nothing shall be lost of these words
of life which have fallen from Wisdom's lips; they are treasured now in
many hearts, and some day, near or distant, they will be one and all
incorporated in some diviner gospel than any which has yet been heard,
and preached in some church, vast enough, catholic enough, for the
inspiration of the race.  _Reposita est haec spes in sinu meo_.

In the meantime, we must attempt something of a succinct statement of
the ethical, social and religious system with which the name of Auguste
Comte is associated.

It is clear that he was early impelled to a study of the principles on
which society rests by the disorganisation into which his country had
fallen, after the upheaval of the Revolution and the disasters of the
Napoleonic era which succeeded it.  It may even be the truth that his
bold and subversive teaching in religious matters was due to a profound
conviction that the virtue of the old ideals had been completely
exhausted, and that if society was to be regenerated, it must be by a
radical reformation of the theoretic conceptions on which it had been
held to repose.  Certainly there was a vast deal in the contemporary
history of France to confirm Comte in his belief that Catholicism had
spent its force.  At a period of crisis in a nation's history, thinking
men naturally look about them for some strong influence, for some
commanding ideal which can serve as a rallying point in times of social
dispersion, and help to keep the severing elements of the body politic
together.  But what had religion done for France in the hour of her
trial?  So little, that the country had to wade through blood in order
to reach a measure of political emancipation which England had long
enjoyed.  In fact, it was the corruption of religion in the person of
its official representatives, its intellectual degradation in the eyes
of the thinkers, which helped to provoke the catastrophe.  What wonder,
then, that a mind so penetrating and alert as Comte's early arrived at
the conclusion that the _ancien régime_ in religion, no less than in
politics, must be abolished if progress was to be possible among men?

Comte, then, was essentially a social philosopher.  His work, indeed,
is encyclopaedic--not one whit less so than Spencer's--but the aim he
persistently kept in view was the service of man by the reconstruction,
through philosophy and religion, of the foundations on which
civilisation rests.  It is impossible not to be impressed by the
grandeur of his conception, and the consuming energy with which he
addressed himself to its realisation.  He seems to recall to us
Browning's Paracelsus, whose "vast longings" urged him forward to some
surpassing achievement, to some heroic attempt

          To save mankind,
  To make some unexampled sacrifice
  In their behalf, to wring some wonderous good
  From heaven or earth for them.

When a young man of only twenty-four years, he had already published
his first work, entitled _A Plan of Scientific Works necessary to
reorganise Society_, thus striking the keynote of his career.  We can
feel nothing but the strongest admiration for the man who from the
first determines to subordinate knowledge, life and love, to the
service of the human race.  It was Comte's incessant teaching that the
sciences were to be cultivated, not as ends in themselves, but as means
whereby to further human welfare.  He would have the astronomer and
physiologist pursue their tasks, not merely for the sake of acquiring
knowledge, for the gratification of the curiosity to know, but for the
betterment of man's lot.  And for the same reason he insisted on the
pre-eminence of the sympathetic affections over the intellect.  The
reason, he declared, must ever be the servant, _though not the slave_,
of the emotions.  Altruism, or the service of others (a word of his own
coining), must be made to prevail over egoism or selfishness.  There
could not be a nobler conception of human duty.

What was the source of the miseries which had driven the people of
France to rebellion but the selfishness of absolute monarchs, of
dissolute nobles who ground their dependants to the dust of
destitution, and of a corrupt hierarchy of clergymen contemptuous of
the people, hypocritical in their conduct, and slaves of the crown?  An
astounding revelation that elementary religion should be preached again
in France by a layman who had turned his back in disappointment on all
that priests and the past represented!

And what is the source of the degradation of our own cities but this
same curse of selfishness which is ready to march to opulence and
luxury over the bodies of the starved and poisoned toilers of our towns
and factories, and thinks it can justify its barbarity by an off-hand
reference to Political Economy and its irrefragable laws?  "Supply and
demand"--sacrosanct enactments of man's brains--how shall they prevail
over the clear dictates of the conscience that thunder in our ears that
it is murderous to grind the life out of the poor in the name of an
economical fetish?  Is not the man more than the meat, and the body
more than the raiment?  How shall not man, then, be better than many
economical laws?  If the laws outrage our sense of justice, then are
they false laws, because false to reason, and they must be abolished.
The unrestricted domination of the competition theory which urges men
to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, and pay the very
lowest wages that poor outcasts are forced in their destitution to
accept--is that to be the permanent condition of large masses of
toilers in the towns of the richest country in the world?  Is the
matchbox-maker to go on for ever turning out a gross for 2 1/4d.,
providing her own paste and string?  Are wretched women to toil from
morning till night folding sheets--sheets of cheap bibles at 10s. a
week and pay lodging and keep a family out of it?  Are men and women to
be decimated by consumption in the poisoned atmosphere of some of our
factories?  No commonwealth can exist on such a basis, and if
economical laws are invoked in its support, those laws are an infamy.
No wonder Carlyle fiercely denounced it all as "a wretched,
unsympathetic, scraggy atheism and egoism".

Well, Auguste Comte had witnessed all this and possibly worse than this
in Prance.  He knew the institutions of his country and of his age, and
he came to the deliberate conclusion that if any progress was to be
made, if this degrading egoism was to be put down, this callous
insensibility on the part of employers towards the labourers, whose
slow martyrdom produces the wealth they enjoy, the whole scheme of
social philosophy would have to be reconsidered and a new foundation
provided whereon to build the commonwealth.  "You want altruism in
place of egoism; sympathy instead of selfishness," he preached.  "How
are you going to obtain it?  For eighteen centuries now you have been
walking in one beaten path, following one and the same light, listening
to the same spiritual guides.  What have they taught you?  Whither have
they led you?  To the impasse which you have now reached.  Has not the
time come to begin anew; to reconstruct, to reorganise society?  And
this time it must be _sans dieu, sans roi, par le culte systématique de

Such is the remedy proposed by Auguste Comte for the malady of the
modern world; this is his revolutionary scheme for the establishment of
society on such a basis as would conduce to progress.  It involves, as
may be seen, the disavowal of the belief in God and king; the
substitution of a republic for a monarchy, and of humanity for God.
Comte conceived religion as the concentration of the three great
altruistic affections, namely, of _reverence_ towards that which is
above us; of _love_ towards that which helps and sustains us, and
_benevolence_ towards that which needs our co-operation.  Religion
being in his judgment a supreme concern of life, though always
subordinated to the larger interest of social welfare, he was anxious
to provide the new commonwealth with an idealism which should set
before man a Being able to evoke these three great emotions.  Formerly
man had bestowed them on God; Comte thought he had found a more
excellent way in suggesting that they might far more appropriately and
profitably be exercised on mankind.  The service of God, therefore,
being changed into the service of man, he contended that the course of
things would set steadily in a higher direction, because all the
immense energy and enthusiasm which the worship of God had been able to
provoke in the past would be available in the cause of suffering,
down-trodden and persecuted humanity.  He wished to dam the stream of
devotion flowing towards the churches and God, and divert it into
channels that had far greater need of it--the unsatisfied and
unprovided needs of all mankind.

Is it urged that religion apart from a belief in God is an
impossibility?  Doubtless such is the conviction of great numbers of
people, and, it must be confessed, such usage of the word is not
consonant with prevalent custom.  Still the emotion which Comte
experienced for Humanity was such as no other word would adequately
express.  As Mr. Mill remarks in his chapters on the Positivist System
(p. 133)--

It has been said that whoever believes in the infinite nature of duty,
even if he believe in nothing else, is religious.  Comte believes in
what is meant by the infinite nature of duty, but he refers the
obligations of duty, as well as all sentiments of devotion, to a
concrete object, at once ideal and real; the human race, conceived as a
continuous whole, including the past, the present and the future. . . .
Candid persons of all creeds may be willing to admit that if a person
has an ideal object, his attachment and sense of duty towards which are
able to control and discipline all his other sentiments and
propensities, and prescribe to him a rule of life, that person has a
religion. . . .  The power which may be acquired over the mind by the
idea of the general interest of the human race, both as a source of
emotion and as a motive to conduct, many have perceived; but we know
not if any one before Comte realised so fully as he has done all the
majesty of which that idea is susceptible.  It ascends into the unknown
recesses of the past, embraces the manifold present, and descends into
the indefinite and unforeseeable future.  Forming a collective
existence without assignable beginning or end, it appeals to that
feeling of the infinite which is deeply rooted in human nature, and
which seems necessary to the imposingness of all our highest

However, we must now endeavour to briefly trace the steps whereby Comte
arrived at what certainly must be acknowledged a most startling

A study of universal history, of which he must be acknowledged an
absolute master, had convinced him that all human institutions, be they
beliefs, forms of society or government, scientific conceptions, or
modes of thought in general, have passed through three distinct stages.
These three stages he called the theological, metaphysical and
positive.  In the first stage history shows that man explained the
origin of everything by explicit reference to wills like his own,
though, of course, invisible; and ultimately, by an appeal to one
supreme Will.  Thus, a thunderstorm, the rise and setting of the sun,
the ebb and flow of tides, the succession of seasons and crops are all
explained by the agency of unseen wills, powers, or divinities.  As
time advances, progress is so far made that all minor deities are
merged in the belief in one supreme Being who created the universe and
is ever responsible for its continuance in existence.

But man at length awakens to the need of a more proximate explanation
of phenomena, and, by such experiment as he is capable of, endeavours
to ascertain, through their intrinsic properties or their outward
manifestations, the cause or causes of their being.  He leaves the
skies and comes to earth, and seeks to read the secret of things by
examining the things in themselves.  This, Comte denominates the
"metaphysical" stage, mainly, because the solutions given were bound up
with abstractions of physical realities.  Thus, if you asked Aristotle
why a vegetable grew, he would reply that it had a "nutritive soul," or
principle, which enabled it to assimilate food.  If one asked why heavy
bodies fall, or why flame and smoke ascend, the answer would be because
everything tends to go to its _natural_ place, implying, thereby, that
there was some occult power or tendency in bodies to behave in certain
definite ways.  Those were the days of the time-honoured legends about
Nature "abhorring a vacuum," tolerating no "breaks," and the wonders of
her "curative force".  These phrases about abstractions were held to be
adequate explanations of any of the facts about nature or man.

At length, there came the period when men demanded a straightforward
answer to plain questions, and refused to acquiesce in the reply that
opium puts us to sleep because there is a _dormitive virtue_ resident
in it.  The powers of observation and experiment having increased, it
became possible by scientific test and analysis to satisfy the desire
for a more immediate knowledge, and thus to discover, for example, that
water is water, not because it possesses the form of _aquosity_, as the
Scholastics would have said, but because it is chemically composed of
oxygen and hydrogen.  This last stage Comte called the "positive," and
hence we perceive what he means when he calls his entire system by that
name.  It marks his conviction that those methods which are so
successful in the discovery of truth in scientific matters should be
applied to the solution of the problems of sociology and religion.  In
other words, "positive" and scientific are practically synonymous
terms, the system pledging its followers to hold nothing which is not
its own evidence, to abandon all attempts to know anything which is not
phenomenal, that is, an object of sense-experience, and consequently to
disavow metaphysics as practically equivalent to the unreal.  Thus, for
Comte, sociology, of which he may truthfully be described as the
founder, is as much a science as chemistry or astronomy.  It deals with
its subject-matter, man, in precisely the same way as the astronomer
with the stars.  And the same is also true of religion.

Such is the famous _Law of the three States_, which has always been
treated by friend and foe as the key to the Comtean philosophy.  It
only concerns us now to describe the use he made of it in abolishing
the belief in God, and thus attempting to revolutionise the conception
of religion.

Closely associated with his Law of the three States is another which he
calls the _Law of the Wills and Causes_.  In fact, there is practically
no difference between that law and the first or theological stage
through which human knowledge goes.  It may be enunciated thus:
Whenever the human mind is in ignorance of the proximate causes of a
given phenomenon, it tends to ascribe it to the agency of superior and
invisible powers.  Hence, ignorance of nature, which modern science has
largely remedied, led men to ascribe to "the act of God" innumerable
events, even the appearance of Halley's comet, which we now
unhesitatingly refer to subordinate agencies.  Why, then, urged Comte,
should we continue to believe in even one supreme Cause, when we may
hope, with the advance of science, to give an explanation of every
natural occurrence or fact?  Convinced on social grounds that belief in
the Deity had been of no service to mankind, he sought for
philosophical reasons to justify his surrendering the tenet, and thus
formulated the famous law which has just been enunciated.  If that law
is valid and universal in its application, we should have to surrender
all hope of Comte's co-operation with what we hold to be rational
religion.  But it is because I am so convinced that it is that very
law, so finely framed and stated by Comte, which makes it impossible to
dispense with belief in a supra-mundane Power, that I adhere to the
ideal which I sketched in the beginning, that Kant and Comte will be
found to be, after Christ, the master builders of the second temple
which is to be the religious home of the ages to come.

For what does his famous law amount to?  To nothing beyond this, that
we are warranted in believing that no single fact, no individual
phenomenon, of nature exists, but will be one day explained by the
all-conquering advance of physical science.  But surely his most
enthusiastic adherent will admit that when every phenomenon has been
singly explained, only half the work, and that by far the less
significant part, has been done.  If the human mind is eager, and
legitimately eager, to explore the scene of nature's manifestations,
much more will it be necessary to attempt some solution of the vaster
fact of their concatenation, of their miraculous combination into that
whole which we call the universe.  It is not so much the isolated
phenomena which strike the mind with such overpowering bewilderment, as
the manifest fact that in their infinite diversity and innumerable
varieties, they are all subordinated to one vast end--the constitution
and the good of the whole.  Explain every sun that lines the eternal
path into the Infinities, where no telescope can penetrate--what is
that to the mind that knows that the numberless series is bound
together by laws which they as unhesitatingly obey as an animal when it
walks?  Hence, by the very terms of his own law, Comte is compelled to
restore to the human mind its belief in a Power other than the world,
for if our only justification for discarding that belief is that
science will explain one day the _individual_ phenomena of the
universe, it is plain that man's science can never hope to explain the
origin of the worlds themselves and the infinite complexities of their
mutual relations.  And if science cannot hope to do that, the mind of
man must, under penalty of going to disruption, assent to the belief
that there is a World-Power who is responsible for the conscious
production of the universe, and therefore of ourselves.

And I am glad to be able to say that Comte never expressly excluded
this belief.  On the contrary, he asserts that if a cosmic hypothesis
is to be held at all, that of an intelligent Mind is far more probable
than atheism.  Indeed of atheism he has written as caustically as the
most orthodox could wish.  He expressly contends that the theory of
design is far more probable than blind mechanism, and if he excludes
theism, it is not so much for philosophical as for social reasons.
Consumed with a passion for human betterment, seeing that the "love of
God" had deplorably failed as an incentive to morality, he made the
tremendous effort of endeavouring to substitute the love of man as a
stimulus towards the accomplishment of duty.  If Comte denied God, let
the Churches and ecclesiastics of France and of Europe bear the
responsibility.  It was the disastrous condition into which Europe had
fallen under their guidance which led him to despair of "God" as a
rallying point for humanity.

But there is, I submit, no inherent necessity in the Positivist system
to insist on the dogmatic exclusion of such theism as we profess under
the guidance of Emerson and Kant, and it is gratifying to be able to
quote so sympathetic a supporter as J. S. Mill in favour of this
interpretation.  "Whoever regards all events as parts of a constant
order, each one being the invariable consequent of some antecedent
condition, or combination of conditions, accepts fully the positivist
mode of thought: whether he acknowledges or not an universal antecedent
on which the whole system of nature was originally consequent, and
whether that universal antecedent is conceived as an intelligence or
not." [1]

I need not say that to us who believe in Mind as the necessary
antecedent to all things, the positivist spirit, so defined, is
essential truth.  We believe in the Great Being revealed in the eternal
order of the physical worlds and in the eternal order of the moral law.
Our worship of God is therefore a worship of goodness or morality, an
ideal of justice, as seen in the lives of only the elect spirits of the
race, and thus "the worship of Humanity" is also the worship of God.
For where is God revealed as _worshipful_ except in the lives of the
great and good?  And if religion be defined to be morality as taught in
the lives of the holiest servants of mankind, in what do we differ
essentially from the ennobling conceptions of Auguste Comte?  The
service of man is seen to be the service of God, for we know nothing of
God until we have learnt to serve goodness and minister to our brother
man.  The day will come when Comte will be honoured in the universal
Church as an apostle of true religion, because, like Kant, he showed
men that there is nothing holier or diviner on this earth than a life
consciously conformed to the obedience of august laws.  Comte, no less
than his brother philosopher, is a servant of humanity, and therefore a
servant of God, and we conceive that both thinkers have laid mankind
under an immeasurable debt by showing us that that emotion of reverence
which all men instinctively feel towards a Power greater than man,
cannot be worthily satisfied except by a conscious endeavour to live as
befits our rational nature, and to serve "the brethren" out of love.

[1] _Auguste Comte and Positivism_, p. 15.




Cynical observers of the tendencies of the age tell us that, like the
Athenians of Paul's days, we are "lovers of new things".  Doubtless we
are, for this century, this "wonderful century," as it has recently
been described, is a new age or there never was one.  Hence, just as
Spinoza saw everything _sub specie aeternitatis_, we may very well have
a tendency to see many things _sub specie novi_.  New things,
astonishingly new things, in every imaginable department of life have
been witnessed by men who saw the opening years of the century, and
_fin-de-siècle_ as we are, the capacities of man are apparently as
inexhaustible as ever.

It would indeed be passing strange were religion an exception to the
uniform progress everywhere in operation.  Doubtless the aspect of that
supreme concern of life does change less rapidly, but change it does
and must: _eppur si muove_.  And it is significant, as one of the most
striking results of the beneficent movements of our time, that, in the
English-speaking countries at least, one of the most powerful, because
the most far-reaching, stimuli to religious progress has been supplied
by the hand of a woman.

It has always seemed to me that Mrs. Humphry Ward's _Robert Elsmere_
was the making of an epoch, and when so shrewd an observer of the
times, so enthusiastic an admirer of "the old ways" as Mr. Gladstone,
thought the book worth criticising and censuring, he bore eloquent
testimony to the effect it was evidently destined to produce.  Its
influence has unquestionably been great.  There are many people who owe
to it their first acquaintance with modern religious thought.  Numbers
of the younger clergymen of the Establishment must have been profoundly
moved by it, because the faith of an Anglican is a comparatively
elastic thing compared with the rigidity of supernatural conceptions
which distinguishes the Roman Catholic communion.  It may even be true
that these sporadic outbreaks of Ritualism, which are so seriously
threatening to "trouble Israel's peace," owe no little of their force
to the far-reaching effects of the new religious controversy.  The
Newcomes of to-day, like their prototype in the novel, may very well
have come to the belief that there is no salvation from that besetting
demon of reason and "intellectual pride," but in a religion of
sensuousness and externalism which Sydney Smith, himself, of course, a
clergyman, once contemptuously designated as "painted jackets and
sanctified watering-pots".  _Panem et Circenses_!  Bread and games!
Give them fumes of incense, blare and blaze of sounds and lights, and
they may learn to forget that there ever was such a thing as a school
of biblical criticism which has turned orthodoxy into a heresy against
reason by telling the truth about the Bible.

Biblical inspiration being attenuated to almost vanishing point, there
is nothing left but to appeal to the Church--not, indeed, to the Church
of to-day, lost amid the mazes and intricacies of sects and schisms,
but to that venerable fiction, "the undivided Church" of the first few
centuries of our era, and thus brand religion with the stigma of
retrogression by proclaiming it the only thing which is incapable of

Not infrequently is a progressive movement attended at first by a
partial reaction, and it is not at all unlikely that Ritualistic
clergymen have been terrified into an increased reliance upon forms and
rites by the disastrous effects produced upon many of their followers
or fellow-churchmen by the new controversial methods of Mrs. Humphry

Now, what is this new controversy?  It consists in the adoption of the
handiest implement available to literary genius, namely, the novel, or
fictional history, and by consummate critical and constructive skill,
showing the disintegration of the old faiths and the building up of the
new in the life of some representative man or woman.  There is much
more in such a novel than appears.  First, there is the work of the
scholar, of the man of research.  He is like the miner who works
underground and digs out of the hard earth that "gem of purest ray
serene," the truth.  Then comes the artist, just as cultured as the
scholar, and only less learned, who polishes the gem and gives it its
setting in pages of brilliant writing, and what is more important
still, weaves it subtly into the daily life of some human being to whom
it has been slowly and always painfully introduced.  Or, to vary the
metaphor, this new controversy is an inoculation performed by one who
possesses a masterly acquaintance with the circulatory system of the
spiritual anatomy, and is enabled thereby to describe with unerring
accuracy the precise effects of the new ideal at every stage of its
progress through the soul.  You see before you the experiment of a new
ideal, at first only suggested, then partially welcomed and even loved.
Then the awful struggle in which no quarter can be given on either
side, and the final victory of the truth.  Such is the new controversy,
the world of truth brought down to the world of life, the fertilising
streams of knowledge turned by some strong, wise hand, into the narrow
channel of an individual existence for the purification and recreation
of life.

Naturally, the distinguished authoress turned her attention first to
the Anglican Church, the most cultured and liberal of the Christian
communities.  Evangelical dissent cannot at present be said to be
interesting, at any rate from the point of view we are considering
to-day.  It is destitute of the historic associations of Anglicanism,
and has been, until very recently, identified with ideals little
suggestive of the intellectual or the beautiful.  It can scarcely be
said to lend itself to effective dramatic or artistic treatment.  I am
by no means forgetful of George Eliot, but every one will see at a
glance that the handling of the religious question by that incomparable
genius is entirely different from that of Mrs. Ward in the books we are
noticing.  _Robert Elsmere_ stands for a system of theology and faith.
_Dinah Morris_ speaks for herself; out of the abundance of a pure and
beautiful heart her mouth speaks words of wondrous grace and truth.

Hence, having held up the mirror to the face of Anglicanism, our
authoress has turned her attention to that older Church, so rich in
memories of the past, with so unequalled a record in the service of
humanity, and able even to-day to command the allegiance, the nominal
allegiance at all events, of more than two hundred million beings.  In
_Helbeck of Bannisdale_ we have the world and life of Roman Catholicism
displayed with a minuteness and a precision which I should have thought
scarcely possible to one not "of the household of the faith".  It is,
indeed, an ideal world, a world that belongs to the past, for the
Helbecks have all but passed away.  The _Time-Spirit_ has been too much
for them, and that beautiful old-world courtesy, that silent, shrinking
piety which was nurtured on memories of martyr-ancestors who were
broken on the rack for the ancient faith, and long years of isolation
and the proud contempt of the world, is now, as some Catholics
regretfully deplore, a thing of the past.

No one knows this better than Mrs. Ward, and she has, I conceive it,
purposely chosen a type such as Helbeck, almost an impossible survival
in our time, because she could not otherwise have made Catholicism
interesting.[1]  Nor could she have succeeded in pressing home her own
rooted conviction of the hopelessness of any attempt at compromise
between the new spirit of reason and life and that of the faith of
saints and martyrs.  The modern Catholic, who stultifies himself and
vilifies his faith by apologetic articles in this or that secular
review, in which he attempts to show that the Church which taught the
inspiration of Genesis and condemned Galileo was all the time not
untrue to the scientific conceptions of Copernicus and Darwin, is a
very poor person in the eyes of many of us; and one thing is abundantly
certain, that by no possibility could even Mrs. Ward have made him the
hero of a novel.  For a Helbeck, who has reckoned up the chances of
life, and deliberately made his choice, casting in his lot wholly with
an idealism for which the modern world has absolutely no sympathy, we
can and do feel a deep respect.  But for your ambidextrous apologist or
theologian, the fellow who can make words bear double meanings, and
even infallible oracles tell contradictory stories, we have nothing but
contempt, because he is a trifler with truth.

And, now, we may turn to the book.

Mrs. Humphry Ward has long taught us to expect excellence, and in
_Helbeck of Bannisdale_ we are not disappointed.  She does not work,
indeed, on so large a canvas as in _Robert Elsmere_, nor do her
materials allow her to be quite so interesting as in that masterpiece.
At all events, that is my individual opinion.  The atmosphere is very
close throughout the book, and one has a feeling that the windows of
that old, old house of Bannisdale have not been opened for centuries.
One breathes a stifling air.  Light and freedom come alone through that
delightful creation, Laura Fountain, a creature you do not easily
forget, with an instinct, rather than a reasoned conviction, of
rational truth and liberty, a being of almost wild impulse, clever,
though partially educated, but good to the heart's core.  Altogether, a
winsome, lovable girl, and tragic as was her end, one scarcely knows
whether she was not happier in her fate, hurried hence on the swift
waters of the river she had grown to love, than she ever could have
been in her projected marriage with one to whom religion meant almost
unmixed gloom.  Doubtless Helbeck found consolation in it, but it was
such as he was unable to allow others to share.  Noble as we
instinctively feel the man to be, tender as is the passion wherewith he
envelops the object of his love, the shadow of the Cross is ever there.
Forgotten in the first sweet hours of their mutual avowal, it soon
reveals its sorrowful presence, and gradually deepens into such
unutterable gloom that the broken-hearted girl is forced to surrender
first love and then life to the inexorable exigencies of his old-world

This, then, is the issue of the dramatic interest of the story, that
the attempt to unite the living with the dead ends in the destruction
of the living, in the breaking of hearts, in one case, even unto death.
For the lives and loves of Helbeck and Laura must be regarded as
allegories of the eternal truths which encompass us.  It may seem a
harsh, a needless thing to cloud the closing page with such sudden and
unutterable woe.  Why should not these two pass out of each other's
lives, as do numberless others who realise the mistake of their
projected union?  There is no reason whatsoever save this, that all
things whatsoever are written in _Helbeck of Bannisdale_ are, like the
history of Isaac and Ishmael, told as in an allegory.  They are symbols
of the gulf which separates the new life from the old, and they serve
to convey the reasoned conviction of the distinguished authoress that
the inspiration of the "Ages of Faith" is inadequate to the complex
needs of the larger life of to-day.

These two unhappy beings illustrate that law of growth and progress
which forbids the youth to indulge in the pleasures of the child, or
the man to find his recreation in the pastimes of youth.  And as with
man, so with the race.  There was a time when the world was full of
Helbecks, an age when the religion of the Cross was the highest,
holiest, known.  But man, in his maturer years, has outgrown that, just
as the Cross supplanted an idealism more imperfect than itself: and the
proof of its inadequacy is seen to-day in the blaze of evidence
supplied by the slow and inevitable decay of those peoples who were
once its steadiest champions.  Spain and Portugal are being numbered
among the dead.  Italy and France are making violent endeavours to
escape their doom, by restricting the liberties of the official
representatives of their legally established Church, because they
instinctively feel that their dogmatics mean death to the peoples who
live by them.  Hence, the cry, _le cléricalisme, voila l'enemi!_ in
France, and the _libera chiesa in libero stato!_ in Italy.  The modern
state, the modern man cannot live by the old ideals: the dead would
strangle the living.  And, therefore, Laura Fountain, the modern
maiden, must die.

For, look at Alan Helbeck.  He is a man who felt, who knew, himself to
be an anachronism, a man who had realised so fully the genius of his
religion, that he was thoroughly uncomfortable in the society of any
who were alien to it.  He saw none of his neighbours; once only he had
been induced to attend a hunt ball.  The doctrine, _Extra Ecclesiam
nulla salus_, he adopted in all its rigidity.  He fulfilled Newman's
ideal to the very letter: he was "anxious about his soul".  He never
gave anything else a serious thought.  To escape hell--that nameless
terror which stirs the soul of man to its very depths, as Mrs. Ward
very aptly quotes from Virgil on her title page--this was the purpose
for which Helbeck of Bannisdale conceived he had been placed here by a
beneficent God.  And on the supposition that "Acheron" is a reality,
Helbeck was absolutely right.  If hell is indeed "open to Christians,"
and if the path to life be exceeding strait and narrow, our bounden
duty, as men of common sense, would be to "go sell all we had and give
to" orphanages, like the Squire of Bannisdale, and appease this gloomy
God by a life of austerity and utter renunciation.

Why, then, do not all Christians turn Helbecks?  Simply because for the
very life of them they cannot believe in their own inspired
eschatology.  Verbally, of course, they assent to the whole code of
immoralities connected with future retribution, but "a certain
obstinate rationality" in them prevents their translating their faith
into practice.  Hence, the Catholics we meet are no more Helbecks than
ourselves.  They do not believe in emptying their houses for the sake
of orphanages, fasting rigorously in Lent, abstaining from intercourse
with their fellow-beings, or going about chanting, "Outside the Church
no salvation".  Quite the contrary.  But the truth remains that Helbeck
was true to the ideal, and because he was, it is possible to see a
romance and a dignity in his life, not always observable in his modern
co-religionists.  Nobody has anything to say against _their_ "version"
of Christianity, because it is, to all intents and purposes, identical
with the sane ideals supplied by modern thought.  No French or Italian
statesman would have one word to say against them, but they have a
morbid dread of Helbecks.  If the Helbeck ideal were multiplied
indefinitely, it requires very little foresight to pronounce the
gradual extinction of the commonwealth.  A nation of men who were
simply and seriously living so as to escape Hades would make a speedy
end of the most prosperous community.

And yet this man had once lived, aye and loved.  But his love was
lawless, and when all was over, he is taken by a church dignitary in
Belgium to witness the death of a bishop.  The prelate, weak in body,
but strong in faith, is vested in his pontifical robes, and makes an
extraordinary impression upon the young layman by the fervour with
which he makes his final profession of faith.  While in the exaltation
of spirit produced by this solemn scene, he is induced to attend a
"retreat," or series of spiritual exercises, to be conducted by a
Jesuit in a house of their Order.  "Grace" had apparently not finally
triumphed, because he was within measurable distance of expulsion owing
to the indifference of his behaviour.  However, the preacher took him
seriously in hand, and after one more stirring appeal to absolute
self-surrender to the Cross, or, in plain language, to turn his back on
the common human life of men, Helbeck's conversion is finally effected,
and from that day to the close of his life at Bannisdale, his one
thought was the Cross and the safety of his soul.

He had been living this melancholy existence for a number of years,
when Laura Fountain, the daughter of a Cambridge professor, and a
member of the Ethical Society there (so we are told), broke in upon his
life.  Her father, as much for pity as for love, had married as his
second wife the sister of Alan Helbeck, and during his life had
apparently succeeded in teaching her something of the gospel of reason,
because Augustina practically abandoned her creed.  But on the death of
her husband, it revived, and she experienced a longing to return to her
old home.  Of course, there was joy before the angels and her brother
Alan at the penitent's return.  Being absolutely dependent for her
creature comforts on her step-daughter, there was nothing for it but
for Laura to accompany the invalid, and prepare to spend some of her
time in the house of a rigid professor of a religion which her father
had taught her to despise.

The utmost skill is shown in the gradual transformation of their
feeling, from one of pitiful condescension on the one side and
undisguised revolt on the other, to sentiments of growing esteem and
respect which ripen at length into a love which is tender and deep.
The love scene which ensues on that early summer morning when Helbeck
discovers the "wild pagan" girl, as he thought her, in a state
bordering on exhaustion, after her long walk across country through
half the night, is a very beautiful and touching one, and reveals all
the mastery which the authoress commands of the language and mystery of
the emotions.  The image of the infidel child had stolen into the
strong, stern man's heart, and, next to the master passion of his life,
his sombre religion, completely dominated him.  They become engaged, to
the almost inexpressible scandal of the household, from the sour old
housekeeper up to Father Bowles, with his "purring inanities"--a
wonderful creation--and the courtly Father Leadham, a Jesuit and a
Cambridge "convert".  But Helbeck holds out, trusts bravely to "the
intercession of saints" and the attractiveness of Catholic worship, and
thus some days of unclouded sunshine enter into his dark and troublous
life.  Like the gentleman he is, he makes no attempt at proselytism,
and gives his word that by no speech or act of others shall his future
wife be molested.

They spend a few weeks at the sea, where Bannisdale and all it
represents is forgotten.  Laura has grown to love and lean upon this
strong, resolute man.  She enjoys an almost unique experience in
triumphing over a life which had been believed to be inaccessible to
woman's influence.  But the sunshine is soon overcast.  They are back
again in that atmosphere of depression which Bannisdale exhales, and
the agony begins.  The poor girl sees the life from the inside, so to
speak, and the hopelessness of it all dawns upon her like a desolation.
Never could she bring herself to say and do the things she sees and
hears about her; a voice she cannot still seems to rise from the depths
of her being, defying her to go back on her past and forget the life
and example of her father.  "You dare not, you dare not," it kept
saying to her.  No, the system would hang like a pall of death between
her and her love: she could never possess his heart.  Half of it, more
than half, would be given to that ideal of gloom he worshipped as the
Cross, which he correctly interpreted as the essence of the Catholic
teaching.  When, finally, Helbeck stands by the account given of the
life of the Jesuit saint, Francis Borgia, who cheerfully surrenders his
wife, disposes of his eight little children and then goes off to Rome
"to save his soul" by becoming a Jesuit, the cup is full.  Her lover
tells her the story of his own life, how he had been brought to his
present ideals--a story of exceeding great pathos, which utterly
overcomes the sensitive, shrinking girl by his side--but it was the
end.  Half-hysterically she falls into his arms, and Helbeck almost
believes the great renunciation is to follow.  "His heart beat with a
happiness he had never known before."  But he was never farther from
the truth.  "It would be a crime--a _crime_ to marry him," the
heart-broken girl sobbed, when she reached the privacy of her own room.

And so she turns her back on Bannisdale.  But fate compels her to
return.  Her step-mother is dying, and Laura's presence is
indispensable.  Once again the old battle is renewed 'twixt love and
creed, and in her anguish this child of the modern world resolves to
force herself to submit that she may save her love.  Father Leadham
can, he _must_, convince her.  Has he not convinced Protestant
clergymen and other learned people?  Why not a poor, untutored girl
such as her?  But it was never to be.  She was afraid to lose her love,
but there was something in her which conquered fear, and it reasserted
itself at the last.  "I told you to make me afraid," she had once said
to Helbeck in one of their sweet moments of reconciliation, "but you
can't!  There is something in me that fears nothing, not even the
breaking of both our hearts."

And so, with the awful inevitableness of a Greek tragedy, the action
moves towards the closing doom.  It is sad beyond words, and we are
grateful for Mrs. Ward's noble reticence.  "The tyrant river that she
loved had received her, had taken life, and then had borne her on its
swirl of waters, straight for that little creek where, once before, it
had tossed a human prey upon the beach.  There, beating against the
gravelly bank, in a soft helplessness, her bright hair tangled among
the drift of branch and leaf brought down by the storm, Helbeck found

He carried her home upon his breast, and at the last they laid her
amongst the Westmoreland rocks and trees, in sight of the Bannisdale
woods, in a sweet graveyard, high in the hills.  The country folk came
in great numbers, and Helbeck, more estranged than ever now, watched
the mournful scene from afar.

Such is the tragedy of faith and love, which bequeathed to the already
lonely and sorrowful man memories so unspeakably sad, and led this new
Antigone to immolate herself in so awful a manner--"a blind witness to
august things".

For us there remains but one question.  Helbeck, it is plain, can never
win Laura, but can Laura ever hope to win Helbeck?

One would have to answer with many distinctions.  In the first place,
much has been done already.  The true Helbeck type is fast
disappearing, buried or lost in inaccessible places like the fells of
Westmoreland, or Breton castles, far from the highway of humanity's
daily life.  Had not Mrs. Ward reminded us of him, we should have
almost forgotten his existence.  The modern spirit, of which Laura is
the type, has steadily eliminated the species.

Next, though Roman Catholicism occupies a far different position from
that it held in the days when Yorkshire and Lancashire were plentifully
studded with houses and homes such as Bannisdale, it must be remembered
that the successors of the sixteenth century Helbecks are only _magni
nomines umbra_.  To the modern Catholic, religion is less than ever a
life to be lived, a distinct type to be created; it is increasingly
recognised merely as a creed to be believed.  Helbeck of Bannisdale you
could pick out of a crowd, but a congregation at the Oratory or Farm
Street differs in nothing from one at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, or the
smartest Congregational chapel.  They all mingle indistinguishably in
the "church parade" and are lost.

It is the victory of the "world" overcoming "faith".

The modern Catholic believes with the Church as against the world, in
the importance of "orders" or the truth of transubstantiation and
infallibility, but his life is with the world.  Emphatically, his
_conversation_ is not in heaven.  He is one of us.  He is like
Nicodemus, a disciple in secret, for various reasons, of which he is
probably utterly unconscious.  His Catholicism no more alienates him
from modern life than Wallace's profound belief in phrenology puts him
beyond the pale of science.  His differences with the modern world are
purely speculative, having little or no bearing on practical life, and
therefore the world is content to take Catholicism at its own
valuation.  How far this is from Helbeck one can easily divine, but
Laura has brought them leagues from that Westmoreland home of
impossible ideals and all it symbolises.

At the same time, no one need look for the disappearance of that
speculative system known as modern Catholicism.  The type, the life
indeed has gone, and gone for ever; but there will always be a "crowd
which no man can number," who prefer to sit and submit to being up and
doing for themselves.  Reason and authority must ever continue to be
the watchwords of the two great sections into which humanity is divided
on the religious question.  They must ever be contrasted as habits of
mind, as sources whence faith arises.  But it needs no exceptional
discernment to see that the religion of the strenuous and progressive,
the peoples who move the world and make its history, cannot by any
possibility known to us be a religion of undiluted authority.  As a man
is, so are the gods he worships, for the gods are the ideal.  Therefore
the progressive nations who find it impossible to stand still, not to
speak of looking back, will more and more recede from even the remnant
of the Helbeck ideal which remains to us to-day, and find their
inspiration in a religion which is advancing like themselves.  What!
science grow, knowledge increase, freedom advance, and religion only
stagnate!  Perish the thought!  Our religion, like our knowledge, grows
from day to day, because it is only through the deepening knowledge of
the universe and of himself that man is enabled to rise to a
proportionate knowledge of That of which all things are but transitory
symbols.  Creeds and systems, prisons of the infinite spirit of man,
never can they befit the age in which the ideal of progress has
entered, like an intoxication, into the soul.  "The snare is broken and
we are delivered."  Woe to the man, woe to the people, who are content
to sit or stand!  Woe to them whose hope is in the dead past, and not
in their living selves!  Woe to the faith that has no better message
for the eager, palpitating generations of to-day, than a bundle of
parchments from the third or fourth century, or the impossible
practices of an age when the life of the world stood still!  They shall
never inherit the earth.  The new heaven, the better land, is reserved
for the strenuous and the progressive alone, for "the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away".

[1] The Rev. Father Clarke, of the Jesuit Society, in the _Nineteenth
Century_ of September, 1898, refuses to recognise Helbeck as true to
the Catholic type.  Certainly, he is not a modern Roman Catholic, and
probably Mrs. Ward knows this as well as her critic.  The question is,
which conforms to type, the old or the modern English Catholic?  Mr.
Mivart's "liberal catholic" criticisms of Father Clarke in the October
number of the same review are good, very good, reading.



Prophecy and poetry are the embodiment in artistic form of the abstract
conceptions of the philosopher.  As the philosopher thinks, so the
prophet preaches, so the poet sings.  Thinking, speaking, singing, are
the three acts in the ascending scale of the soul's self-manifestation.
Generally speaking, these high functions are not found in their
perfection in one and the same soul; rarely do you meet with the spirit
of the philosopher, prophet and poet incarnate in one mortal frame.
Such enterprise is too great for all but the greatest, and amongst
these may possibly be classed the poet-prophet of Israel, Isaiah, the
writers of some of the Vedic hymns and Hebrew psalms, and Jesus of
Nazara, whose soul was full of music, and whose thinking and preaching
will probably fill the thoughts of man throughout all time.

The significance of philosophical and prophetic teaching in religion is
a frequent subject of thought in our circles, and now the recent
publication of Tennyson's life enables us to say something of the
_Religio Poetae_--the idealism which inspired the soul of a nineteenth
century poet.

The poet's name is not without significance and interest.  It is a
Greek word signifying "maker" or "creator"--_Poiêtês_.  There is a
philosophy in language however much we continue to ask, "What's in a
name?"  When those wonderful Greeks wished to express the thinker's
art, they spoke of _Sophia_ or wisdom; when they heard the first
preacher who told them of their innermost selves, they called him the
_Prophêtês_ or prophet, the man that speaketh forth as from an
illimitable deep; and when they listened to the soul of music coming
from the lips of a Homer or a Sappho, they called it by the most
expressive name of all, "making" or "creation".  The poet was a
creator.  And so he is if we come to think of it.  Out of the materials
supplied to him by the thinking of other intelligences, he weaves his
song of joy and beauty which holds our senses as in a spell, and steeps
our souls in ecstasy.  He is a "reed," to use an expression of Tennyson
himself, "through which all things blow to music".  He is the creator
of the ideal world _par excellence_; the keys of the Unseen are in his

We say that he transfigures the thoughts of other intelligences, that
he turns his genius to the rhythmic expression of the towering
fantasies of the philosopher.  And he does.  Poetry without thought
would be a jingle--a word which, if we may trust the reviews, is a
satisfactory account of much of the "minor" poetry of the day.  If a
man does not see somewhat deeper into himself and things than the
average human being, never among the sacred band of lyric souls can he
find a lasting place.  Philosophy is the propaedeutic of poetry.  But
surely, it may be urged, the book of nature is open to every one, and a
poet's soul may sing of that without any need of the philosopher's
interpretation.  Has not some of the sublimest verse been Nature
poetry?  True, but this undoubted fact only confirms our statement.
When Wordsworth interprets nature in song, he is borrowing from a
philosopher; he is reading the thoughts of an intelligence other than
his own.  He is revealing to you the innermost thoughts of that supreme
Mind, who conceived the beautiful whole, and made it to be a thought of
himself.  The deepest thinker is he who thinks his thoughts into deeds.
There is a First Philosopher as there is a First Poet or Maker, and
because we are in our innermost selves of his kindred, we have the
power to think his thoughts again, and create an ideal world which
shall be the counterpart of his own.  Men may be philosophers and poets
because the First Poet and First Thinker is their Parent.

This is not mysticism, still less imagination, but the soberest of
realities.  In it you read the interpretation of the indisputable fact
that the world's greatest poets were men of intensely religious
feeling.  They come so near to the Supreme Poet that their sense of the
Infinite is extraordinarily developed.  It is gravely questionable
whether a man can be a great poet unless the influence of his great
prototype be a power in his life; unless his religious instincts be
reverently cultivated.  A religious sense is needful to the highest
flights.  Go over the greatest names of the past and present and you
will see how "the Over-soul" has been the truest source of inspiration.
The unknown singers of the Vedic hymns, Homer, Sophocles, Virgil,
Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe, Wordsworth, and in our days,
Tennyson and Browning--in them all the religious sense, the instinct of
communion with the unseen world, is a distinguishing mark and
characteristic.  A name here and there may be quoted on the other side,
but as far as my memory serves me for the moment, it would appear on
closer examination that such were exceptions only in appearance.  An
excess, not a defect, of reverential feeling is often the explanation
of such non-manifestation of religious emotion as we may notice.  With
Goethe, they would appear to feel the presumption of individualising,
the great Soul of the worlds by even so much as naming him.

  Who dare name him, and who confess I believe him!

There is a reverent as well as an irreverent impatience of forms
associated with the Formless and the Infinite; and because of it one
never yet heard or read of a man truly great who had not the
profoundest reverence for religion.  But, however that may be, it is
plain that we are justified in speaking of a poet's religion, and in
discussing the religious conceptions which took shape in the soul of
one of the two great poets of the Victorian era.

Five years ago Tennyson passed hence, "crossing the bar" on that
tideless sea, still as the silent life which left its worn-out frame to
"turn again home".  So much as the great poet desired that the world
should know of his own aspirations, his hopes and fears of the great
Hereafter, has been given to us in his own sweet singing, and a memoir
written by his son.  It turns out that Tennyson was no exception to his
noble order.  Like all the great singers he was a man of faith--a man
penetrated to his heart's core with the sense of the indestructible
character of the religious instinct, and of man's deep need of
communion with the Great Life which is within and beyond him--the Soul
of souls whom men call God.

The significance of this fact is not to be lost upon reflective minds.
In an age when positive science has made a progress which borders
almost on the miraculous; when discoveries of the innermost secrets of
nature, coupled with astounding combinations of her elements and
forces, which supply us with the chemical contrivances and implements
for further research surpassing the wildest dreams of astrologers and
alchemists of old, there has been an unmistakable tendency to push the
Divine agency farther and farther back in the chain of phenomenal
causation, until it would appear that it had been finally thrust out of
the world altogether.  "I have swept the heavens with my telescope,"
said Lalande, "and I have not found your God."  "The heavens are
telling no more the glory of God," said Auguste Comte, "but that of
Herschel and Laplace."  Is it indeed so?  The past has done all in its
power to make it so, and Lalande and Comte represent the inevitable and
natural reaction against the incredible puerilities, the stupid,
obstinate opposition to all science not in conformity with the Nicene
and Athanasian Creeds, or the fables incorporated in the Hebrew
Cosmogony.  But that past is past indeed, and never can come back
again.  The world returns no more to discarded ideals; the conception
of theology as "queen of the sciences" is as hopelessly impossible in
the civilised world as the Divine right of kings.

The result is that prophets and poets are "men of God" still, and
notwithstanding Lalande and Comte, the heavens are not so dazzling as
to quench for them the glory of a Diviner revelation which they scarce
conceal.  I frankly say that I had rather believe all the fables of the
Talmud and the Koran than that the empty shadows of a vulgar
superstition are all that lie beneath the stately verse of "In
Memoriam," or the "Rabbi Ben Ezra" of Browning.

The religion of Tennyson is a perfume which fills much that he writes.
It is a "spirit" which broods over many a song, but is incarnate, so to
speak, in the elegy which immortalises the tomb of his lost friend.
For Tennyson, the spirit of poetry is the spirit of religion--a blowing
to music of the deepest thoughts of the philosopher.  In "Merlin and
the Gleam" we may read this as in an allegory:--

  Great the Master
  And sweet the magic,
  When o'er the valley
  In early summers,
  O'er the mountain,
  On human faces,
  And all around me
  Moving to melody
  Floated the gleam.

The spirit of poetry, which bade him follow on in spite of
discouragement, touched all on which it hovered with a mystic light,
"moving him to melody".  It was the soul of religion, binding the
spirit of man to nature and to "human faces" in themselves, and to the
Supreme, in whom all is One.

But what is an allegory in the spirit of the gleam is a reality in the
song of love, "passing the love of women," which he laid as the noblest
offering ever yet made at the bier of a departed friend.  The religion
of Tennyson is there, but the poem must be carefully studied if its
true inwardness is to be grasped.  Isolating a few stanzas wherein the
poet, alarmed and perplexed at the cruelties and terrors of Nature, her
dark and circuitous ways, her astounding prodigality and wastefulness,
lifts up in his helplessness "lame hands of faith," and falters where
once he firmly trod, many writers have professed to see in Tennyson the
expression of a reverent agnosticism.  Such agnosticism we may all
respect, for it is very different from the noisy, clamorous thing
which, aping in name the humility of greater men, insists that the
sense limitations imposed upon its own intelligence shall forthwith be
erected into a dogma to be accepted as infallible by everybody else's
intelligence.  Be as reverent as Darwin in your agnosticism, as
tolerant as Comte, we would say to such men, and there is much to
commend in your teaching; but spare us the ridiculous spectacle of a
handful of pamphleteers and minor essayists arraigning the sublimest
philosophy ever known to the world, and consecrated by the homage of
ninety out of every hundred thinkers who have ever approached its
study, as a system erected upon a mirage--the image of a man's own
personality distorted by its projection into the infinite.  Tennyson
himself once said that "the average Englishman's god was an
immeasurable clergyman, and that not a few of them mistook their devil
for their god", That may very well be, but the philosophers of the
world who have built the house of wisdom are not "average Englishmen,"
and to describe their theism as the imagination of an immeasurable
man--surpliced clergyman or otherwise--is a criticism, not of the
philosophers, but of their would-be critics.  _Non ragionian di lor, ma
guarda e passa!_

But Tennyson was a passionately convinced theist.  With that scrupulous
voraciousness which, according to those who knew him most intimately,
was his leading characteristic, he surveys nature not only with the
reverent eye of a mystic, but with the exact vision of science, and
faithfully reports what he sees--so faithfully, indeed, that he was
hailed by Tyndall in, the sixties as "the poet of science".  Loving
truth, "by which no man yet was ever harmed," he does not hesitate to
portray nature "red in tooth and claw with ravine shrieking against the
creed" of a moral and beneficent power.  And when no reconciliation is
obvious he can but "faintly trust the larger hope" and point hence
where possibly the discords of life will be resolved into a final

  What hope of answer or redress?
  Behind the veil, behind the veil!

But these facts, however unmistakable, are powerless to alter the main
inevitable conclusion that beneficent power does rule the cosmos,
though they may modify it provisionally, until a better insight into
the workings of nature supplies us with a clue to the mystery's
solution.  He is a sorry philosopher indeed who will insist that
nothing whatever can be known because everything cannot be known, that
an established fact must be no fact because no explanation of it is
forthcoming.  Tennyson is not one of these thriftless people, and the
"In Memoriam," read aright, leads one upward "upon the great world's
altar-stairs that slope through darkness up to God".

The poem is a drama of life.  It was not written at one time or one
place, but over a path of some years.  Those years and places are a
symbol of the ever-changeful thoughts and moods of man who communes
much with the world concealed behind the veil of sense.  It is the
vivid portraiture of the soul, its sorrows, doubts, anxieties, and
aspirations; it tells of the eclipse as well as of the dawn and
meridian of faith.  In fact, it is Tennyson's own religious life which
is the life of uncounted numbers in these latter times.  Before the
supreme sad experience, the sudden, and to him incomprehensible, death
of Arthur Hallam, the poet had agnostic leanings.  He did then
veritably fail and "falter" before the questions of life and death
which beset him.  His long years of comparative poverty, "the eternal
want of pence," his failure to attract any measure of attention, his
long-delayed marriage as far off as ever, the _res angusta domi_ which
made his family dependent upon him, all conspired to shut out the
vision of anything but an iron necessity controlling him and
everything.  Such lives are infinitely pathetic, and perhaps one had
rather devote oneself to ministering to minds distressed like these
than to any other form of charitable enterprise.  Such souls have been
wounded inexpressibly; they are sore to the most delicate touch, and
gentle indeed must be the hand, and soft the voice, which would comfort
stricken creatures like these.  To think of such afflicted spirits is
to recall the picture of the ideal servant of Jahveh, of whom Isaiah
sings in words of unearthly beauty: "A bruised reed he shall not break
and a smoking flax he shall not quench," for only by ministrations such
as these can they be healed.

Strangely enough, as it would seem, it was the last and saddest
experience of all, the blow which almost crushed his life, which
brought the young soul back to health and strength.  It was the hand of
death, inopportunely touching the fairest and noblest thing he ever
hoped to know, which helped him to see that--

  My own dim life should teach me this,
  That life shall live for evermore,
  Else earth is darkness at the core,
  And dust and ashes all that is.

The conception of such a life as that of his lost friend, annihilated
with the vanishing of the touch of his hand and the sound of his voice,
was plainly an impossible one, and if one remembers all the bright
hopes, the extraordinarily brilliant future which, in the judgment of
all who knew him, were buried with that young life, it is impossible to
marvel at the change his death produced in the heart of his poet friend.

Now this temporary eclipse of faith is truthfully set forth in the
poem, together with the manifold reasons which weigh at times so
powerfully, even with the most devout minds, suggesting that the
universe is not "righteous at heart".  We all know them well, for we
have felt them, and it is a comfort for us to be assured that minds
more penetrating, consciences more sensitive, and emotions far deeper,
have been enabled to withstand the shock which nature so rudely deals
at our moral instincts, and to believe with a fervour and enthusiasm
conquering all obstacles, that--

  Will be the final goal of ill,
  To pangs of nature, sins of will,
  Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;
  That nothing walks with aimless feet;
  That not one life shall be destroyed,
  Or cast as rubbish to the void,
  When God hath made the pile complete.

It is "the heart-piercing, mind-bewildering" mystery of evil and pain
which has quenched the light in many a sincere and fervent heart.  But
it is not for ever.  Two things we may remember for our guidance amid
all this weltering sea of sorrow and distress.  First, it is not all
nature.  It is only a side of it; and if it is the most obvious, it is
only because it is a breach of the order and beneficence so uniformly
obtaining.  And next, the holiest hearts, the spirits of the just made
perfect on earth were not adversely influenced by it.  In spite of it
all, an elect spirit, such as Jesus of Nazara, could patiently endure a
life of austerity, and meet a death of unspeakable anguish with a
calmness and resignation seldom equalled and never surpassed.  "Father,
into thy hands I commend my spirit," is a serious rebuke to those who
suffer so little and complain so loudly that the times are out of
joint, the world as probably as not the work of malignity or
indifference, and that he is no God who does not stretch forth an
omnipotent hand to slay the accursed thing of evil where it stands.
This is in very deed "the crying of an infant in the night".  We forget
when we utter these foolish things that we ourselves should be among
the first to fall beneath that avenging hand.

And so with Tennyson.  It was the visitation of evil in its most
mournful shape--the cold hand of death that fell upon the brow of his
beloved friend--which opened his eyes.  His faith in goodness, in
beneficent purpose, was restored.  The cloud was lifted for evermore.
He married.  Wedded love, mystic symbol, sacramental image of a union
higher still, came at length as an added blessing, after years of
expectancy and disappointment.  "When I wedded her the peace of God
entered into my heart," he wrote.  His cup was full; "out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and therefore he sang that
stately invocation, that sublime _Magnificat_ which, we may well
believe with his own most intimate friends, will endure while the lips
of men frame the sounds of our English speech.

  Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
  Whom we, that have not seen Thy face,
  By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
  Believing where we cannot prove.

  Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
  Thou madest man, he knows not why;
  He thinks he was not made to die;
  And Thou hast made him: Thou art just.

Thus were "the wild and wandering cries, confusions of a wasted youth"
forgotten in the song of adoration, which is in reality the epilogue of
the elegiac drama.  We can almost imagine its coming after the closing
glory of the bridal hymn which sings to its last note of God:--

  That God which ever lives and loves,
  One God, one law, one element,
  And one far-off Divine event,
  To which the whole creation moves.

A wedding on earth--that of his sister--is thus for him the symbol of
that love eternal which moves all things: _Amor che tutto muove_, of
Dante's peerless song.  That light of love once seen anew he never
lost.  As life declined it grew in intensity: brighter and more
reassuring than ever did it glow as the darkness of earth began to
close round him.  It was borne in upon him with a depth of conviction
too deep for utterance that death was but a fact, like any other in our
many-sided life, that it was but a momentary occurrence, in no wise
impeding that progress of the individual spirit in that path which has
been with philosophic accuracy described by the Hebrew psalmist as "the
way everlasting".  The most perfect prayer is that: "Lead me in the
ever-lasting way," for it is the destiny of man to one day reach that
journey's end; to be one day perfect; to be absolutely conformed in
mind and will to that most sacred of realities--the moral law.

It was this new vision which dawned on his soul, when the face and form
of his much-loved friend was taken away, and filled him with a profound
calm as the inevitable hour drew near.

  I can no longer
  But die rejoicing,
  For through the magic
  Of Him, the Mighty,
  Who taught me in childhood
  There on the borders
  Of boundless ocean,
  And all but in Heaven,
  Hovers the gleam.

In the old days long past, when, tormented with doubts, embittered by
disappointment, he would fain be rid of his burden, the voice of the
Master kept ever repeating:--

  "Follow the gleam".

And so he followed--followed it through life, over the wide earth,
until the land's end was reached.  But even then the Spirit did not
forsake him.  The "gleam" still shone like a star in the deepening sky,
till it stood at length over the waters at the gates of the great bar
that led out into the Infinite.  And last of all, the "call," clear and
unmistakable; and there sure enough, waiting beyond the bar, was the
"Pilot," the Master of the gleam, "ready to receive the soul".[1]

[1] Jean Valjean's death in _Les Miserables_.



  The God on whom I ever gaze,
  The God I never once behold;
  Above the cloud, beneath the clod,
  The Unknown God, the Unknown God."

One great function of poetry is to keep open the road which leads from
the seen to the unseen world, and as the last echoes of this noble poem
die away, it would seem as though a door had been opened in heaven and
an unearthly vision had been revealed to our wondering eyes.  It is as
though some strange inspiration had fallen upon one suddenly, like that
which the seer in the Apocalypse felt when he said, "And immediately I
was in the spirit".  The truth is we have been led into the invisible
world, we have gained with the poet "a sense of God".  The strange,
undefinable attraction of the infinite is upon us.

Perhaps we have not yet learnt how strong that fascination is; how that
it is not only the source of that inner light which we see reflected in
the countenance of the philosopher and saint, but that it is powerful
to arrest the attention of men who are for ever saying that no such
reality exists, or, that even if it does, man need no more concern
himself about it.  Has he not the solid earth and the realm of sense?
Why should he seek what is beyond it?  _O caecas hominum mentes_!  Man
cannot help himself.  Well does the ethic master say, "What is the use
of affecting indifference towards that about which the mind of man
never can be indifferent?"  And why not?  Because man came thence?
There is that in us "which drew from out the boundless deep".  In some
incomprehensible way the infinite is in us, and we are therefore
restless, dissatisfied ultimately with all that is not it.  "The eye is
not filled with sight nor the ear with hearing," for in us there is the
capacity, and therefore, in our best moments, the yearning to see and
hear something which sense can never give.  Greater than all that is
here, in silent moments, when the senses are tired and disappointment
steals over us, the truth of the insignificance of things bursts upon
us.  "Man is but a reed, the feeblest thing in nature," says Pascal in
the _Pensées_, "but he is a thinking reed.  The universe need not mass
its forces to accomplish his destruction.  A breath, a drop of water
may destroy him.  But even though the world should fall and crush him
he would still be more noble than his destroyer because he knows that
he dies, but the advantage which the world possesses over him--of that
the world knows nothing."  And, therefore, the universe is nothing to
him who is conscious that there is that in man which made all worlds
and shall unmake them--the eternal Mind, one and identical throughout
the realm of intelligence.

This is no dreaming, but an interpretation of man and nature
necessitated by the undeniable facts of life.  The finite does not
exhaust man's capacities, it cannot even satisfy them.  He was made for
something vaster.  He is ever seeking the boundless, the infinite.
Hence the most positive, the most scientific of philosophers, Mr.
Herbert Spencer, believes that there is one supreme emotion in man,
utterly indestructible, the emotion of religion; and what is religion
but the yearning I have described for communion, not with the world,
vast and entrancing as it is; not with humanity, admirable, even
worshipful in its highest estate; but with that which transcends them
and all things, the enduring reality which men call Divine?  Spencer
and Emerson are at one.  Nothing but the Infinite will ultimately
satisfy man.

Such are the thoughts awakened by the music of this poet's song, which
haunts one with a sense of the mystery of the illimitable.  I do not
read it as a confession of agnosticism, save in the sense in which all
philosophers are ready to admit that our knowledge of the ultimate
reality of existence is as mere ignorance compared with what we do not,
and cannot, know of it.  I read it rather as a profession of the higher
theism, or, if you will, of the higher pantheism, for it is immaterial
how far we go in maintaining the Divine immanence, provided we
safeguard the sovereign fact of individuality and abstain from all
confusion of the human personality and the Divine.

There is prevalent a most erroneous impression that the Divine
immanence and personality are two irreconcilable conceptions, and that
to assert that the All is a person or an individual is at once to limit
its universality.  Such is not the case, as an analysis of the
conception of personality will show.  The philosophic term "person" is
utterly indifferent to the ideas of limitation or illimitation.  Its
essential significance, its distinguishing note, is that of
self-sufficiency or self-subsistence, prescinding entirely from all
considerations of limits or their absence.  Thus a stone, a plant, a
brick is an individual, because each is self-contained and is
sufficient for the constitution of itself in being, and were they
endowed with intelligence they would be further distinguished by the
honorific title of _person_.  Man is a _person_, because a subsistent,
self-sufficing individual, furthermore endowed with reason.  _A
fortiori_ is the All a person, because if the Supreme is not
self-sufficing, then nothing or nobody is.  Hence we have to point out
in reply to the strictures of the opposite philosophic school that so
far from infinitude being an obstacle to individuality or personality,
the Infinite alone, in the strict sense of the word, can be called a
person, because in the Infinite or the All alone is absolute
self-sufficiency realised.  From the very fact, then, of the
omnipresence of the Divine, because--

  In my flesh his spirit doth flow
  Too near, too far for me to know;

because, to use Emerson's language, "God appears with all his parts in
every moss and every cobweb," or Mr. Spencer's, which comes to
identically the same thing, "All the forces operative in the universe
are modes or manifestations of one Supreme and Infinite
Energy"--because of these momentous facts we ascribe personality to the
Infinite, with no detriment to its immanence, since of no other being
could they by any possibility be true.  Theist or pantheist, it matters
very little by what name men call themselves so long as they do not
imprison themselves within the walls of the false version of the
philosophy of relativity, which binds them over to acknowledge nothing
beyond their five external senses, to identify the unseen with the
unknown, and thereby to stunt and ultimately to atrophy the sublime
powers, transcending the insignificant senses we share with the animal
world, as the sky towers above earth, whereby this noble poem of the
"Unknown God" was given us by William Watson.

And here we may turn our attention to the poem itself, to see, if I do
not misinterpret it, the evidences of that ethic creed, the doctrine of
the sovereignty of the moral law, which we acknowledge as the only
rightful basis of religious idealism.

In the first place, it is only amid the silence of the soul, when the
voice of the senses is still, that we "gain a sense of God" at all.  It
is a vision of the mind--of mind knowing Mind, of soul transcending all
distinctions and recognising itself.  It is the sublime region of the
higher unity into which subject and object are taken up and their
distinction forgotten or lost.  It is at night-fall, in sight of the
awful pathway of the stars which, one would think, should fill man with
a sense of his immeasurable littleness, it is then that he realises
that this boundless splendour is nothing compared to him, for something
more than a million worlds is with him, in the eternal Mind whence all
this majestic vision rose.

  When, overarched by gorgeous night,
  I wave my trivial self away;
  When all I was to all men's sight
  Shares the erasure of the day;
  Then do I cast my cumbering load,
  Then do I gain a sense of God.

But of what God? for there are gods many and lords many.  There is the
known God, of whom the Western world has heard so much now these two
thousand years, the God of the most ancient Hebrew Scriptures,
themselves acclaimed as his unique and authentic revelation, the
embodiment of absolute truth.  That God has not been forgotten yet.
Just now his temple is thronged with worshippers.[1]  Ministers of
religions in America, archbishops in Spain, are eager in their
invocations, and if we may believe our newspapers, the Cardinal of
Madrid guaranteed the harmlessness of American cannon and rifles to
those who will implore his assistance through the intercession of
saints.  It is the war-cry of old: "_The Lord is a Man of War!_"

But the moral sense, the Divinity within, as contrasted with the
Divinity in the skies, tells the poet that this old-world god is an
idol, a glorified image of man in his "violent youth," a "giant shadow
hailed Divine".

  Not him that with fantastic boasts
    A sombre people dreamed they knew;
  The mere barbaric God of Hosts
    That edged their sword and braced their thew:
  A God they pitted 'gainst a swarm
  Of neighbour gods less vast of arm.

He is well known, this "God of Hosts".  Doubtless once he was the
Divinity of the worlds that stream across our sky, subsequently
transformed into the god of battles, who ranged himself on the side of
his favourites, baffled their foes by super-human strategy or even
knavery, the god of carnage and bloodshed, progenitor, in direct line,
of him who afterwards was preached as the god of devil and hell.  What
has taught the poet, what has taught man to disavow such a Divinity?--

  A God like some imperious King,
    Wroth, were his realm not duly awed;
  A God for ever hearkening
    Unto his self-commanded laud;
  A God for ever jealous grown
  Of carven wood and graven stone.

No church, no official religion, no cleric or synod of ministers
appears to have raised a hand to inaugurate the emancipation of the
Western world from its degrading belief in a "God of Hosts".  It is
only now, during the last thirty or forty years, that stragglers here
and there are coming into camp and making their submission to the
"sovereignty of ethics," the supremacy of the moral law, which dooms to
eternal death divinities such as Odin, Jahveh and Zeus.  It is to the
emancipation of the conscience of humanity from the paralysing guidance
of the great ecclesiastical corporations of the past that we owe that
famous band of scholars, who, antecedently convinced on moral grounds
that such conceptions of the Divine were sheer profanities, set about
an exhaustive study of the origins and text of the biblical literature,
together with an equally painstaking research into the history of
kindred religions, which has resulted in the vindication of the root
doctrine of prophetic and ethical religion--the absolute and unlimited
sovereignty of the moral law, and the consequent identification of
morality with religion.  They have made sacerdotal, sacrificial
religion an impossibility to all who are at pains to inform themselves
of the facts: they have banished for ever the presence of that--

  God whose ghost in arch and aisle
    Yet haunts his temple--and his tomb;
  And follows in a little while
    Odin and Zeus to equal doom;
  A God of kindred seed and line;
  Man's giant shadow hailed Divine.

And now there comes a stanza of haunting beauty, the ethic creed set to
music, a pathetic pleading, a self-abasement, in the presence of the
Immensities around us, and yet a passionate vindication of man's right
to sit in judgment on an idol-god such as this!

  O streaming worlds, O crowded sky!
    O life, and mine own soul's abyss,
  Myself am scarce so small that I
    Should bow to Deity like this!
  This my Begetter?  This was what
  Man in his violent youth begot.

The lesson of history and comparative religion could not be more
perfectly summarised.  The sovereignty of conscience could not be more
masterfully asserted.  Of old we learned that man was "made in the
image of God," but now we see that the--

  God of our fathers, known of old--
    Lord of our far-flung battle-line--

he to whom we still raise our supplicating cry--

  Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
  Lest we forget--lest we forget!--[2]

we know that he is made in the image of man.  Unless a movement of
retrogression sets in; unless we have to submit to a paralysis of moral
stagnation, the day must inevitably come when the "Lord God of Hosts,"
"the Man of War," "the God of Victories," whom Spanish viceroys and
captains are incessantly invoking in their proclamations, will be swept
into oblivion with the curse of war which gave them birth.  But that
hour of retrogression and decay shall never sound for humanity.  A
nation here, a people there, may drop out of the ranks; the last
remnant of empire may fall from their unworthy hands, but as I have
faith in the eternal order, as I bow before the everlasting Power which
makes for moral progress, I know that war has served its purpose
amongst men, and that the day _must_ come when it will be finally
abolished as unworthy of rational beings.  At any rate, the war-god is
not he in whose image the perfected man was made, for--

          This was what
  Man in his violent youth begot.

This god was made in the image of man.

And as the mist of the phantom deity floats aside, there dawns a fairer
vision of the veritably Divine presence on the reverent soul of the
poet.  No eye of man hath ever beheld him: it is a vision of the
spirit.  And as the language of souls is silent, he can say nothing of
his God, though he is so conscious of his everlasting presence.  If
even his solemn speech, the voice of the poet, "far above music," could
tell of his God, then would he be but the idealised image of himself.
He may think, he does think far more deeply than the most adventurous
theologian, but he may never speak.  The mind must commune with itself.

  The God I know of, I shall ne'er
    Know, though he dwells exceeding nigh.
  _Raise thou the stone and find me there,_
    _Cleave thou the wood and there am I,_
  Yea in my flesh his spirit doth flow,
  Too near, too far for me to know.

I must confess this fills one with an immense reverence, a feeling of
inexpressible awe.  Yet, there is no fear associated with the emotion,
but only a sense of unearthly peace which almost asks that the silence
may be prolonged so that thought may have further scope.  "Raise thou
the stone . . . cleave thou the wood," and we are in the presence of
the Everlasting; soul is face to face with the Soul of the world.

  Yea, in my flesh his spirit doth flow,
  Too near, too far for me to know.

Is this mysticism?  I know not by what name to call it, except that to
me it is a reality transcending any merely sensible experience one ever
enjoys upon this earth.  It is the kingdom of the Unseen; but only the
unseen things are real and eternal, for they are the hidden springs of
existence and life.  Can one resist the melancholy, the sense of tears
in things when we reflect that, like our own bodily frame, the whole
visible world is hastening to dissolution?  From the infinitesimal
insect whose earthly career is rounded off in a few moments, hardly
come before gone, to the longest-lived of living beings, to the oaks
that stand beyond a thousand years, to the hills that seemed so
enduring that the Hebrew poet called them "everlasting," to this earth,
to planets away in the infinite azure, from the grain of sand to the
totality of creations, from first to last, it is true that all is
passing away.

  _Sunt lachrymae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt._

The melancholy Heraclitus, whose philosophy allures while it saddens
us, declares we never traverse the same river twice; the water over
which we once crossed has long since sped away to the eternal seas.
Seneca, centuries ago, noted the same of our own bodies; the process of
dissolution is continuous, until at length the restorative power itself
will desert us and the process will be complete.

But at the heart of this universal impermanence there is a soul of
reality which the poet discerns amid the fleeting atoms of the stone
and the fibre of the growing tree.  It is as though we found ourselves
in a vast hall, filled to repletion with machinery in every condition
of motion, from the slowest and scarcely perceptible movements of the
hour hand of a watch up to the incalculable rapidity of a fly-wheel.
All is flux, change, consumption of energy, wear and tear of the
machinery itself.  We know it must run down sometime, we know one day
it must all be renewed.  But amid all this instability we are well
aware that there is a secret source of power, a centre whence a renewal
of energy ceaselessly arises.  Without its incessant action not one
single movement in that vast hall could be obtained.  It is the one
real thing amidst a world of others which are wearing and wasting away
and therefore in a true sense unreal.  The secret spring whence the
energy is generated may be invisible, but we _know_ it is somewhere,
and if any one denied its existence we should not take the trouble to
answer him.  A faint, halting symbol is this of the eternal and
unchanging reality at the heart of the worlds--a dim light whereby to
illustrate the most solemn of truths, that always and everywhere, in
the lightest as in the greatest movements of nature, in the fragrance
of a flower, the iridescence of a crystal, or the fierce energies which
shoot up mountains of hydrogen flames hundreds of miles high from the
crater of the sun, we have the revelation of "a Power without
beginning, without end," [3] permanent while all is in a condition of
ceaseless flux and change, living while all around are hastening to
their deaths, the one only truly existent Being anywhere, the hidden
source of all existence and life.

So far, we are justified in saying that we stand on the ground of
indisputable fact.  It is no mere hypothesis of science, still less a
figment of the metaphysician's imagination, or an outpouring of a
poet's inspiration, that Permanence is the indispensable postulate of
the commonest facts of material existence.  We have no explanation to
give as to the _method_ of such action as has been described on the
part of the invisible and universal Energy, for we cannot even explain
the _nexus_ between an act of human volitional energy and the raising
of an arm.  There are the facts, demonstrable and undeniable, but the
_how_ of those facts, no man on this earth knoweth or perhaps ever will
know.  Well may Browning profess himself content to endure in patience
the ignorance which is our lot here, if only at length "thy great
creation-thought thou wilt make known to me".  The "great
creation-thought" cannot be known now.  Watson is as sure of it as his
spiritual ancestor:--

  I trust it not this bounded ken.

But though the "creation-thought" cannot be fathomed, though we cannot
_comprehend_ the nature of the ultimate Reality, the fact of the great
existence and omnipresence is clearly _apprehensible_, and therefore
must be acknowledged as a demonstrated fact by every man.

And, if such be the case, in what sense is God "unknown"?  Unknown,
certainly, in the sense that he is unseen, but we now know that the
only real things are those of the invisible world.  God is unknown
because incomprehensible, now and always, here and hereafter, in this
life and in all possible lives.  The Infinite must ever be beyond the
_comprehension_ of the finite.

  Though saint and sage their powers unite
  To fathom that abyss of light,
  Ah! still that altar stands.[4]

But the Divine is not beyond the _apprehension_ of man's mind, and as
far as I can by diligent reading of Mr. Spencer attain to his innermost
meaning, I do not think he denies this fact, as he most unquestionably
does not deny the validity of religious motion, which, arguing against
the Positivist philosophy, he rightly contends cannot, in its highest
sense, be associated with any being other than the Highest of all
beings.  "What's in a name?" I ask, and whether a man calls himself
theist or agnostic--so that he does admit something greater than man,
and does give us scope and opportunity for the exercise of those powers
and emotions which refuse to be bounded by, or satisfied with, the
merely phenomenal and transitory, but are ever seeking for communion
with the Noumenal and the Eternal--in my judgment matters very little.
There is a higher synthesis in which partial truths are being
constantly taken up and reconciled in some fuller and more luminous
expression, and I have no doubt that that scientific reconciliation of
materialism and spiritualism which is now progressing so rapidly will
eventually be effected between those who now call themselves theists
and agnostics.

To ethical idealists the great question is this: Does your belief make
for reverence; does it subdue your soul with a sense of the wonder and
mystery which are everywhere so conspicuous in nature; does it foster
the growth of your spiritual powers as opposed to the merely animal
instincts of your body; does it make you more moral, fill you with an
increasing enthusiasm for the good life for its own sake?  Or, on the
other hand, does what you profess dishearten you, fill you with
melancholy and foreboding and a sense of the unprofitableness of
things, of the apparent aimlessness of all that is going on or being
done, of the fruitlessness of all human endeavour?  Is the sigh of the
inspired sceptic, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," ever and anon
rising from your heart, and are you losing your faith in yourself and
humanity?  That is the test of a faith--what it does for you, and you
could have no better one.  The fact that he worships an "Unknown God"
means no shrinking of enthusiasm in him who believes that that
everlasting Power, which science no less than philosophy commands him
to believe, is identical with that very Power which is conspicuously
working in the universe for universal aims which also are good.
Outside a handful of men of no consequence amid the thundering assent
of the overwhelming masses of mankind, the course of things here is
upwards.  Instinct suggests it, reason proclaims it, history confirms
it.  But there are no two supreme powers, and therefore that Power I

  The God on whom I ever gaze,
  The God I never once behold--

is also the everlasting "Power which makes for righteousness," that is,
for moral progress, the only progress ultimately worth caring about.

Men crave to see God.  "Behold I show you a mystery."  There are two
incarnations.  There is the incarnation of God in flesh and blood, in
Chrishna in India, in Jesus in Palestine.  Men have, men do worship
these men as gods.  But there is a higher incarnation, a sublimer
theophany.  There is that before which all incarnations, all saviours,
have ever bowed down in lowliest adoration; there is that whose
obedience they would not surrender if "the whole world and the glory
thereof" were given to them.  There is that which is older than man and
his redeemers, higher than the stars, vast as the Immensities, ancient
as the Eternities themselves, and in this incarnation man may see God.
What is it?  It is the moral law, the eternal sanction crowning the
right, inborn in rational man, the very soul of reason within him,
inborn in things--the law which no man ever invented, which never had
beginning, which can know no end, because it is the Divine order
revealed to earth.  It is the necessary nature of the one essential
Being, and we recognise it because "we are his offspring," because like
him we are Divine.

"Unknown God!"  Yes, but not here.  As long as I have the instinct of
ethics, as long as I feel myself constrained to bow down in the dust
before goodness, to deem myself unworthy to tie the latchet of the
shoes of the hero or the saint; so long as I see the course of the
world steadily, undeniably, ascending the sacred hill of progress, so
long must I confess that the Power behind the veil, behind the world,
is a moral Power, that that Power recognises the validity of moral
distinctions as I do, that the ethic law is his law, that when I live
by that law I _see God_--

  The God on whom I ever gaze,
  The God I never once behold,
  Above the cloud, beneath the clod,
  The Unseen God, the Unseen God.

[1] These words were written during the opening days of the late
Spanish-American war.

[2] _Recessional_, Rudyard Kipling.

[3] Herbert Spencer, _First Principles, passim_.

[4] Mrs. Barbauld's fine hymn, "As once upon Athenian ground".



  Our little systems have their day;
  They have their day and cease to be;
  They are but broken lights of Thee,
  And Thou, O Lord, art more than they,
        --TENNYSON, In Memoriam.

The supreme value of the two great poets of the Victorian era is this,
that they have attuned their song to the expression of modern thought
concerning those transcendent realities which must ever possess an
inexhaustible interest for mankind.  Thus we see, in an age which
acknowledges the complete emancipation of the human reason, the
supremacy of conscience, the inviolable rights of private judgment,
Tennyson has sung of an "honest doubt" wherein there "lives more faith"
than "in half the creeds" and councils of ecclesiasticism.  Browning
has faced the riddle of the universe, the bewildering mystery of a
world of pain and sorrow, with unconquerable courage and hope.  His
musician, _Abt Vogler_, believes in eternal harmony, with Plato and

  There shall never be one lost good!  What was, shall live as before;
    The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
  What was good shall be good, with for evil so much good more;
    On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round.

And, being no dreamer or pessimist, seeing reason at the heart of
things, and good the final goal of ill, he

  At least believes in soul, and is very sure of God.

Here are the three imperishable realities--God, Soul, Hereafter.  Of
all the rest is it ultimately true which the weary preacher said:
"Vanity of vanities; all is vanity," or, as the modern Ecclesiastes has
it: _Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse_.

In the words of the opening stanzas of the "In Memoriam," Tennyson is
evidently affected by the spectacle the world exhibits to the
thoughtful man in its multitudinous religious sects and segments, and
the strange contrasts the national, political and ethical unities of
mankind present, with their theological divergencies.  As we have seen,
the etymology of the word "religion" signifies that its intent and
purpose is to bind men together, whereas, as we mournfully confess, it
has hitherto proved a fruitful source of schism and division, national
as well as individual.  It is only since the much-despised and
denounced "world" and its modern civilisation has effectually curtailed
the offensive powers of corporations, synods and inquisitions, that
religion has ceased to outrage the public conscience by repetitions of
the enormities of former times.

As the sweep of his vision ranges over past and present, the poet is
enabled to estimate these fragmentary philosophies aright; he sees them
in their proper perspective, in their relation to the infinite Reality
behind them.  He calls them "little systems," "broken lights": he is
able to forecast their future; "they cease to be".  There is but One
Eternal, "without shadow of change or turning": "And Thou, O Lord, art
more than they".

This is the fact which weighs so heavily with the thoughtful and
discriminating minds of the day--that all the apocalyptic theologies
and religious philosophies which purport to reveal the unspeakable
mystery known to exist, though hidden from our sight, end only in
belittling it.  Doubtless an element of accommodation is discoverable
and essential in the purest thought of the unseen order; our thoughts
of the Soul of souls must be such as our spirits can supply.  Men so
divided in belief as Kant and Newman have both recognised this fact,
the only difference being that, while the former understands the creeds
and their tenets as symbols wherein man, striving to express the
inexpressible, finds relief and rest to his spirit, Newman looks upon
them as so much history, which if a man shall not accept as fact,
"without doubt he shall perish everlastingly".  To him, as to all who
really stand by their order, the New Covenant is a revelation, complete
and final, of all that can or will be known of the transcendental
order.  It claims that "a door was opened in heaven," and those
mysteries made manifest "to little ones" which had been "hidden from
the wise" and far-seeing philosophers of old.  It claims to be "the
tabernacle of God with men," "God manifest in the flesh," or in
sacraments, rites and symbols--nay, it is the "city come out of heaven
from God," it is the cathedral of humanity.

This was believed profoundly, almost universally, in the days before
the flood--the flood of knowledge let loose upon mankind, beginning
with the days of the Renascimento and continuing down to our own.  But
the philosopher-poet of the nineteenth century sees nothing of it in
the altar and system set up in this Western world.  Like the rest, it
is, to him, a "little system," which ultimately ceases to be.  The
heavenly city fades into an earthly chamber, the vast cathedral of
humanity dwindles to a spot on the horizon, it shrinks to the
dimensions of "a chapel in the infinite".

The first great shock to the pretentious dogmatism of the Western world
came with the discovery of Copernicus and Galileo that the current
astronomy was fundamentally wrong.  No sun-star or swarm of worlds in
the infinite azure could be so precious in God's sight as this earth of
ours, it was believed, for had it not been chosen as the scene and
stage of that transcendent act whereby the Deity had consecrated
humanity for ever to himself?  Now it turns out that the physical
origin of this world of ours is precisely that of others, while, so far
from being the centre of the universe, it is but a speck in infinity,
positively invisible from any of the million suns that light the
eternal way from our own central orb to the infinities that range
beyond.  The ecclesiastical mind of those days astutely fastened on the
charge of impugning the sacred record of Moses--itself a phenomenal
instance of incompetent infallibility--but the real explanation of
Galileo's persecution lies in the fact that, with this earth in a
dependent position and in ceaseless motion, the whole system of
theology suffered a serious shock.  Where were heaven and hell in the
new version astronomy gave of things?  Where did Jesus' spirit go on
his death?  Where is limbo, and where is purgatory?  Whither did he go
when he ascended bodily into the air?  Since this earth is uncounted
myriads of miles from the spot in space which it occupied this morning
when we awoke, what became of the inspired geography of the _terra
incognita_, according to which the several receptacles of spirits were
mapped out with such unfaltering precision?

With the vanishing of the pre-eminent claims advanced by a rudimentary
science on behalf of this earth, and supported by the unsuspecting
theology of the childhood of the world, the earth-born philosophy of
things wrapped up in its fate must also disappear.  While the earth
dwindles into a spot in endless space, its "little systems" share its
fate, and our Western cathedral shrinks to the dimensions of "a chapel
in the infinite".

Or, look at the matter numerically.  Jesus, who avowedly confined his
missionary efforts to his own race, "for to them only am I sent," is
made by the writer of Matthew's Gospel to give a world-wide commission
to his disciples on the very eve of his mysterious disappearance from
earth: "Go ye and teach all nations," he is reported to have enjoined
upon them.  Peter, doubtless, was present upon this occasion, or, at
any rate, we cannot conceive him ignorant of the commission; and yet we
find him refusing point-blank to admit Cornelius the centurion--the
first candidate who offered himself--into the Church, and, according to
the Acts, a sheet full of animals had to be let through the roof of his
house before he could be turned from his purpose of confining the new
religion exclusively to Jews.  The explanation, of course, of such
universality as Christianity has attained is mainly due to the
influence of the cosmopolitan Saul of Tarsus, though the idea of an
Oecumenical Society was by no means his original thought.  The Stoics
were full of the ideal, and the Cynics before them, while Socrates
refused to describe himself as a citizen of Athens, but claimed the
whole world as his fatherland, and the outer barbarians, as the
exclusive Greeks styled them, he called his brethren.

And, now, how many of the human family are enrolled as "citizens of the
holy places"; what numbers assemble for worship in the great cathedral?
Statistics are unnecessary, but we cannot but remember the temples to
God raised in other ages and other lands, which endure to this hour,
imperishable witnesses to a truth which is "the light of life".  What
that truth is, we shall see later.  But when we remember the great
pre-Christian systems of the East and of Egypt, and the very stones dug
out of the earth cry aloud in witness to the eternal truths, God, Soul,
Hereafter; when we realise the devotion of martyred Israel to the faith
of their fathers, and the great Mohammedan revolt against the
dogmatical puerilities of the sixth century; when, I say, we remember
that one and all endure to this hour, and in unimpaired vigour, and
still more, when that absorbingly interesting study known as the
science of Comparative Religion has shown us that of orthodoxy is true
what is true of all religious systems--that it enjoys a monopoly of
nothing save of errors peculiar to itself, and that of its doctrines,
all that is true is not new, and all that is new is not true--we are in
a fairer position to estimate its precise place and influence in the
world and the sources from which it has drawn its inspiration.

Even of the comparatively few in the vast family of humanity who own
its supremacy, how many can repeat its shibboleths in common?  And if
disunion, the true mark of error, be at work among them, can we believe
that the future is reserved for it?  It is unquestionable that the
cultivated intellect of the Continent is profoundly estranged from the
version prevalent there, while it is only the spirit of compromise, so
characteristic of the race, carried into the domain of dogmatism which
prevents a similar insurrection in England.  If the sacerdotal lion can
lie down side by side with the Broad Church lambs, it is only because
the wicked world, symbolised for the moment by the strong arm of the
law and the public sense of decency, curbs the ferocity of heresy
hunters and bids them look to their manners lest some worse thing
befall them.  It is felt instinctively that the popular phylacteries,
the peculiar trappings in which Divine truth has been set forth in
England, are not worth discussion among serious men.

And this will help us to estimate at its true value the argument which
lost John Henry Newman to rational religion and won him for Roman
Catholicism.  What finally decided him that the Ultramontane version of
religion was the true one, was the famous _Securus judicat orbis
terrarum_ of Augustine.  The verdict of the world is against you, he
had urged against the Donatists, and what was conclusive against them
appeared to be conclusive against Anglicans, who could only appeal for
support to their own kith and kindred.  However that may be, what
answer is forthcoming to the retort which the phenomena of to-day
unmistakably suggest?  If the universal consent of the fourth century,
semi-barbarous, uneducated, profoundly credulous, and avowedly
uncritical, serves to prove the truth of that form of Gnosticism known
as orthodoxy, what are we to say of the uniform rejection of it, as
such, by the decidedly cultivated intellect of the nineteenth century?
If the prior unanimity was adequate to prove its dogmatic truth, why
should not the spectacle offered by educated Europe and America be
sufficient to show its groundlessness?  Whatever it may be to "babes"
and "little ones" to whom it loves to appeal from the "undue exaltation
of intellect" which can see no basis whatsoever on which to rest the
_historical_ Christianity of the Churches, certain it is to those who
know, it is among those things which "have their day and cease to be".
It cannot be a cathedral vast as the race, it can never be more than a
system among systems, a chapel isolated in the infinite.

The truth of this will be more clearly seen if we reflect on the nature
of the claim of the Churches to be in exclusive possession of Divine
knowledge, the sole revealer of God to man.  Ever since the words of
the Gnostic gospeller, "He shall lead you unto all truth," were
written, it has been claimed that the authentic medium of Divine
communications has been a corporation or a book, one or the other being
affirmed to be an exhaustive and infallible philosophy of God and man.
Solomon is said to have had grievous misgivings as to the Lord of
heaven and earth being enclosed within the temple he had built, but no
such anxieties beset the framers of the Nicene or Athanasian Creeds, or
their imitators in subsequent ages.  What a spectacle for gods and men!
"All truth" summed up in Thirty-nine Articles, or a score of
Oecumenical Councils!  It is the profanity, I had almost said the
sacrilege, of it, which is so shocking to the instinctive reverence of
our minds.  And what truths, too, are commended to our keeping in these
canons and articles!  Beginning with the natural depravity of human
affections, purposely inflicted upon us because of another's
transgression, we are taught, as a direct corollary from this, that the
Deity is no more moral in his emotions than ourselves; for, in order to
right the first wrong, he is made to perpetrate another which no one
would hesitate to pronounce immoral in us, _viz._, the chastisement of
the innocent in the place of the guilty.  We need say nothing of the
lie direct and overwhelming which the unanswerable facts of science, in
many of its departments, give to the whole story of "the fall" of a
first man, and the consequent superstructure which the perverse
ingenuity of man has erected upon it.  We need only confine ourselves
to the plain fact that the so-called scheme is an outrage upon the
ethical nature of man, and therefore that it can never have emanated
from God.  In the latest explanations of "the Atonement," the Anglican
theologians explain it away, "the redemption" of Jesus being no more
than the example of his saintly life and his uncomplaining submission
to death.  The angry God, who will not relax his frown save at the
sight of blood, is conveniently forgotten in the more refined circles
of ecclesiasticism, and is now left to the meditations of Little Bethel
or Breton peasants.

And this is a Divine revelation, a heavenly system of truth so far
beyond human reason, and so intrinsically unrelated to any of our
faculties, that it could never have been discovered by man's
intelligence, but only preternaturally communicated from without!  To
Paul, who is alone responsible for the famous scheme, this is the
"wisdom hidden from the ages, which none of the princes of this world
ever knew"--his peculiar way of describing the superiority of his
teaching to that of the Greek masters like Plato and Aristotle.  But
the civilised world--the _orbis terrarum_ of the nineteenth
century--holds with Socrates that the moral law is supreme over gods
and men, and believes that Mill and Carlyle are safer guides when they
teach, that no less than the best moral emotion discoverable in man may
be ascribed to the God of men.  "Depend upon it," says the great man of
his hero, Frederick the Great, "it is flatly inconceivable that moral
emotion could have been put into him by an entity which had none of its

Meanwhile, if the universe be good at heart, if reason be indeed its
soul, the tendencies of modern thought must be leading mankind to some
predestined end.  The movements known to history as the Renaissance,
Reformation and Revolution, accomplished results which must endure to
all time; they marked the great stages in humanity's onward march.
To-day, when systems and schemes of religion are going to pieces like
the dust of the dead, when mystery and miracle are becoming unthinkable
things in a world where all is law; when the most imposing pretensions
are subjected to so minute and pitiless an analysis; when every dogma
of council or creed can be tracked and traced with an unerring
precision to root ideas which govern the human mind in its undeveloped
stages; to-day, when, in spite of the destructive work being done, a
reverence and a true zeal for truth reigns as it never did before in
this world's history, when the sense of the responsibility and
solemnity of life weighs upon men so profoundly, there must, I say, be
some goal towards which humanity is moving, there must be some
synthesis which shall reconcile for them their aspirations and their
knowledge, some harmony which shall resolve the discordant notes of
life--in a word, there must be some

        Far-off, Divine event
  Towards which the whole creation moves.

What is that event?  Unless a man is prepared to say that the present
chaotic condition of religious thought is to perpetuate itself, or that
we are to revert to the ideal of mediaevalism--a world iron-bound by
the dogmatism of self-appointed representatives of "all truth,"--or
unless we are to expect a mental paralysis consequent upon a universal
scepticism, there must be some definite bourne for which the forces now
at work in humanity are making.  We are not able to believe in the
perpetuity of an unstable equilibrium in the world of mind any more
than in the universe of matter, nor does history show any warrant for
the expectation that the world will return to the discarded ideal of a
mediaeval theocracy, nor does the language of modern agnosticism, with
its hesitations and falterings, encourage one to believe that therein
is a solution, complete and final, of those obstinate questionings
which beset us.  No; we believe with Kant in the indestructibility of
the religious sentiment.  We hold that if the soul of man have not
whereon to feed, it will feed upon itself to its own destruction.  We
are persuaded that the Infinite which is necessary to _explain_ the
finite, is alone adequate to satisfy its desires.  Our faith is in a
"religion within the boundaries of mere reason".

In the first place, its beliefs are the one element of truth in all the
"little systems" of this and of all time.  It is here they touch the
confines of the eternal.  It is in this centre of changeless truth that
all their wandering, broken lights do meet.  This is the one reality
behind the phantoms and phenomena wherewith they have been perplexing
and confusing man's thoughts; it is at the same time the great ideal,
the passion for which is the star of life.

What a majestic source of unity is there here!  The soul positively
thrills at the thought of the boundless possibilities of good which
centre in this conception of religion.  That which the faiths of the
world aspired to do, might hope to become an accomplished fact did
their votaries believe with Shelley that only

  The One remains, the many change and pass;

did they obey the ancient prophet's command, "Depart from your idols".
For what are all the current creeds and orthodoxies of every age and
land but so many "idols of the market place," veritable _simulacra_ or
images of something ineffable, beyond the power of man's mind to
completely conceive, or of his stammering tongue to utter?  They served
their purpose in the childhood of humanity, they were schoolmasters to
train it to higher things, tabernacles of skins wherein to enshrine the
Holy of Holies in rude and uncultured times.  But now that humanity is
reaching the full stature of its manhood, is it not time to preach from
the house-tops what philosophers have been thinking ever since the
emancipation of European intellect, aye and before it too, in the great
Moorish schools, which sprung up before the scholasticism of the middle
ages?  Is it not time that intelligent clergymen of every school in
Christendom should openly declare in their pulpits what they think,
believe and discuss in the privacies of their studies?

If truth is the one thing which never yet did men any harm, tell them
that the universe is not built upon the narrow plan they had been
taught of old; that its age is immeasurable; that man has been an
inhabitant of this fragment of it for a hundred thousand years at
least; that there never was any such being as a first man, some seven
thousand years old; that his existence, his history, is a myth, traced
upon the cylinders of Babylon; that man never fell except to himself
and his own conscience; that the "redemption" scheme is an idiosyncrasy
of Paul; that a priesthood is avowedly a pagan conception, and
sacrifice a relic of barbarism.  Tell them this, for you know it is
true, and that your creeds and confessions are false.  Speak out as
your conscience bids you speak, that yours is no temple of truth, no
cathedral vast enough to hold the race, nothing but the dim shadow of a
great reality, one of "the many which change and pass," a spot in
boundless space, "a chapel in the infinite".

For the truth of rational religion is that into which all that is true
in lesser faiths resolves itself.  Where they agree with it they are in
agreement amongst themselves.  Where they depart from it, there begins
discord--sure sign of error--the confusion and strife of tongues, the
jangling contradictions of men.  Are we then dangerously out of the way
in believing that that wherein all the sons of men unite is the
veritable goal towards which they are consciously or unconsciously

  _Tendentes manus ripae ulterioris amore?_

And there is one other unmistakable evidence that the stream of
tendency is in our direction.  I allude to the predominant influence in
our age of science, not merely physical, but science in all its
departments.  It is welcome to us as the very handwriting of the
Eternal, as a revelation of the workings of the Infinite Mind.  Every
new discovery is welcomed by us as a further revelation of the Being
who "is for ever reason".

But to the "little systems" science can only be welcome in so far as it
fits in with the petty scale upon which their theologies and
theosophies have constructed the universe.  At first, everything is
passionately denied, a cry of horror goes up in the land that science
is engaged in an attempt to dethrone the God of their theology.  And
then a few years elapse, and for very shame's sake they set about
explaining how that the "God of knowledge" [1] has much in common with
their theosophical Deity, and that by a dexterous manipulation of
infallible texts and articles of religion, a _modus vivendi_ may be
arranged between the two.  This is the kind of dialectic that goes on
at every Church Congress--men who know in their hearts that the
"inspired" anthropology of the Bible is contradicted, fully, flatly,
irreconcilably, by the undeniable facts discovered by science, continue
to mystify themselves and their hearers alike by all the pleadings,
glosses, evasions and refinements at their command, with a view to what
they call a "reconciliation between science and religion".

Science and religion, we protest, need no reconciliation, for they
never were at war.  Not religion, but pseudo-philosophy and so-called
theology--this it is to which science is an implacable and
irreconcilable foe.  And she will never cease from her determined
opposition until the ecclesiastical idol vacates the very last niche it
occupies in its "chapel," clothes itself with the white robe of
contrition, and sits humbly upon the stool of repentance awaiting a
scientific absolution.

For us, such reconciliation is an unmeaning phrase.  We never professed
to follow aught but reason's kindly light, for that we _know_ to be the
Divine Light in us.  And, therefore, all that comes to us in reason's
name, comes accredited, as though from the innermost court of the Great
Presence itself.  We discard nothing but what offends reason and its
ascertained laws; we bring everything before its bar.  Science is to us
a Divine revelation, its teachings are among our inspired literature.
No need therefore of reconciliation between religion and science when
we resolve both, as in a final synthesis, into the root fact of all
this wondrous universe--eternal reason.  And because of this, a faith
such as ours is part of the order of imperishable realities, for the
kingdom of reason, like the throne of the Eternal, is for ever and ever.

[1] _Deus Scientiarum Dominus._



The most serious errors in the philosophical and religious domains are
generally found to be nothing but the exaggeration, or the minimising,
of a truth, very much as evil, physical and moral, is often the
privation of a corresponding good, the absence of something which ought
to be present.  Year by year the vast majority of religionists in this
Western world are seriously engaged in the commemoration of a
transcendent mystery, the humanisation, or incarnation, of the Deity in
the person of the Prophet of Nazara.  As might be expected, the
upholders of this belief are by no means all agreed as to the manner in
which this momentous event came about, and, while there are many
prepared to speak of "Our Lord Jesus Christ"--and we certainly feel no
difficulty in so speaking of an elevated and saintly spirit such as
he--all are not prepared to subscribe to the precise formulation of the
mystery as given in an Athanasian creed, or a homily of a fourth
century father.  Beyond admitting in a general and rather vague way
that Jesus is "Divine," many people are not prepared to go.  They would
shrink from saying that he was the Infinite and Eternal, from whom all
things derive their being; they see no necessity for believing in the
story of his miracles, or the legendary account of his appearance in
this world; above all, his virginal conception and birth they often
repudiate in terms.  They are coming to see--these open-minded men and
women of the Anglican body--that the pre-eminence of Jesus must rest,
not upon miracles, but on morals; that it is not his mystic offices,
but his moral grandeur, which makes him to be so great a figure in
history.  In a word, that it is not his miracles which prove his
teaching, but his teaching must authenticate his miracles.

Now, all this is, of course, very hopeful, and makes directly for that
reconstruction of religion on an ethical basis which we conceive it our
duty to press upon the attention of our age.  Venerable to us is the
memory and teaching of the last of the noble line of Jewish seers.  Not
one of the masters of the Church ethical, whom we obediently follow,
but has exhausted, one might say, the possibilities of speech in their
reverence and admiration for the great spirit of Jesus.  When Immanuel
Kant published the _Critique of the Practical Reason_, old men and
thinkers of the Fatherland were moved to tears at the thought that the
great deliverance had come at last, that a man had at length arisen who
had penetrated to the core the significance of the great prophet's
teaching.  The only true commentator on Jesus and his religion is
Immanuel Kant.  Heretofore, men have followed Paul, Athanasius and
Augustine; it is high time the ethics of Kant were substituted in
colleges and seminaries of the clergy, and our ministers of religion
taught to interpret the Gospel from the standpoint of the moral law
instead of the imaginary dogmatics of Paul, and the dialectics of
Athanasius and Augustine.

But the doctrine of incarnation unquestionably embodies a great element
of truth, which it were our very serious loss to overlook.  It supplies
us with an admirable illustration of what was asserted in the
beginning, namely, that an error is but a truth misstated, either by
excess or defect.  The Christian, or rather the ancient, orthodox
presentation of the dogma errs in both ways.  By excess, because it
proclaims a man to be the personal Deity, that the flesh and blood of a
mortal being is adorable, as is the highest Being, with the supreme
offices of religion.  It proclaims that Jesus was not a human
individual or person at all, but a Divine being energising in two
natures, the Divine and the human, so that when he used the pronoun
"I," it was the Deity himself, not a man, who spoke.  I say this is a
gross misstatement by exaggeration, unknown to the prophet himself,
unknown to his followers and biographers, and unknown to many Christian
writers before the fatal epoch of Athanasius, who emphatically assert
that Jesus is not to be worshipped as the Father.[1]  The doctrine errs
also by defect, because it fails to recognise the divinity of all the
sons of the Supreme.  Jesus is made to be exclusively Divine, the sole
possessor of Divine sonship, and only through him are others put in the
way of attaining to the same privilege.  "But as many as received him,"
says the Alexandrian rhapsodist who wrote the prologue to the fourth
gospel, "he gave them the power or the faculty to be made the sons of
God, as many as believe in his name."

This account of the matter we conceive to be immeasurably below the
truth.  No mediator is needed between the soul and the Soul of our
souls; no intercessor or redeemer.  This perverse conception originated
in the supposition that man was, and is, a fallen and a falling being,
owing to the fatal legacy bequeathed by our presumptive parent, Adam;
but Genesis being wholly and avowedly mythical in its opening chapters,
the Pauline dialectic in the fifth chapter of the Romans falls to the
ground, and with it the laborious argumentations of the epistle to the
Hebrews, which essays to prove that the most sternly anti-sacerdotal
prophet who ever lived was a full-fledged priest; the man who never
conducted a ritualistic service in his life set forth as "a high priest
for ever according to the order of Melchisedech," the only and eternal
redeemer of humanity from the consequences of the misdeeds of an
aboriginal parent who had no existence.  No; before Agamemnon men were
brave, before Aristides they were just, before Jesus they were in their
innermost selves divine, and this in essence is the doctrine of the
"Over-soul," associated, as far as this expression goes, with the name
of the latest of the prophets of ethics, Emerson.

We are all incarnations, flesh-takings, of the infinite.  Not only so,
but the very unconscious universe, the silent, but ever-living nature
is but the garment which clothes the Invisible, and in clothing reveals
him; the beauty of nature is the veil, growing slenderer with every
fresh access of knowledge, which scarce conceals the Great Presence.
Vanini was thrust into the dungeons of the Inquisition at Naples on a
charge of atheism.  "Atheism!" contemptuously retorted the wretched
captive, "I could prove God from that straw," picking up with his feet
a fragment of the bed on which he lay in fetters.  For the universal
Life was in the straw.  The life in that slender ear is one with the
mighty pulsations of the ocean, the growth of the forest, and of the
world of men, and the illimitable stars beyond.  The being is one, the
life is one, and above all, the mind, the exclusive endowment of man,
is one too--one in us, one in the Supreme; we share it, for "we also
are his offspring".  There is only one Soul--the Divine, and the souls
of the sons of men are, not so much images of that, made in its
likeness, as it itself, in essence one, yet, participately, in every
human being.  "I have said, ye are gods, and sons of the Most High,
every one," quoted Jesus with approval.  So says Emerson, and this is
his doctrine of the "Over-soul".

After thus indicating in general outline the essential features of this
culminating teaching of ethical religion, it may be well to trace its
historical development.  It will be found to be, not an original
speculation of our own teacher, but a precious belief held by elect
souls in all ages to embody the truth of the relations between what is
_called_ the Divine and the human.  I say "called" because this
doctrine annihilates the distinction.  As the electricity in the
atmosphere may annihilate space by enabling us to flash a thought
instantaneously even to a world whose distance is measured in millions
of miles, so does this sublime conception of the great Oneness shatter
the foundations on which all _outside_ redemptions, priests,
sacrifices, formalisms, rituals, sacraments, devilry, hell fire, and
the rest repose, by showing every man that he is his own priest and
sacrificer.  No anointing or ordering can make him more than he is in
himself (not through Christ or any man), the true-born son of God, one
in nature with whatsoever is Highest in existence.  Boldly does Emerson
fling out his challenge--

  Draw it thou canst the mystic line,
  Rightly severing his from thine,
  Which is human, which Divine.

We cannot.  In our innermost selves we are Divine.  We may say with
Emerson, on the heights of the holy mount, when we have by long thought
realised the truth, and by living the life which is alone worthy of
such a conception, "I the imperfect adore my own Perfect".  We seek to
pray, we would fain worship.  Then look no more into the skies; there
is nought but vapour there and the silent worlds that shine eternally.
Look not in the churches and the temples, for they are made by men's
hands, empty of the Divine Presence as a mausoleum is of life.  Let us
look into ourselves for the true Shekinah, the true manifestation of
the Divine, nay, the truly Divine is there.  The Good in man, that is
God; that alone is worthy of our adoration and our love.

I do not think it can be questioned that this is a noble conception of
man and God and their mutual relations, and as far as one can judge of
the trend of modern thought, it would appear that only on some such
grounds is the intelligence of the age prepared to recognise theism as
a possible belief.  The conception of the Deity as a Being anterior to
creation in existence, eternally dissevered from it in being, an
external object, so to speak, of admiration, reverence and fear, seems
incomprehensible to the modern mind.  It certainly did to the whole
idealist school of Germany, to such thinkers as Hegel, Schelling and
Fichte, to deeply religious spirits like Coleridge and Wordsworth, to
Emerson in America, and Carlyle in England.  The "immeasurable
clergyman" [2] view of the Deity, seated somewhere in the skies, and
listening all day and night to the Hallelujah Chorus, is now wholly and
absolutely impossible outside little Bethel and Bibliolatry.

But the truth must be confessed that in refusing to acknowledge what
one may call an outside deity, an "absentee god," who pays periodical
visits to his creation and acts only at the instant request of prayer,
we are reverting to religious ideals that had their home in the land of
the Indus and the Ganges, a thousand years before Christianity was
heard of.  It is the knowledge of this fact that fills one with
stupefaction when we think of Exeter Hall and the type of Christian
missioner who goes out to assail the venerable beliefs of Hindooism,
when our cultivated men, our Emersons, Coleridges, Carlyles and
Wordsworths, are positively reverting to the ideals of ancient India.
The doctrine of the Over-soul, essentially shared in by all men; the
belief that man is not in name, but in reality, not through the
vicarious intercessions of another, but by his own nature, a Divine
son, is in essence a form of Hindoo thought, and the recent
translations of their sacred books enable us to read that truth there.

The Jewish conception of the Deity was utterly opposed to this.  In
that theology the Supreme Being was ever transcendent, and probably
Jesus, a son of Israel, was not greatly removed from this belief.
"Salvation is of the Jews," he proclaimed.  Certainly there are no
indications in the three earlier gospels of any such teaching as that
of Emerson, though it is found, in suggestion at least, in the fourth
gospel.  Christ is made to say in one of those lengthy speeches at the
close of the book, "If any man will keep my words, I will come to him
and my Father will come to him, and we will take up our abode with
him;" and again, "I and the Father are one".  Here is a suggestion,
faint enough, of the teaching that the Divine is present in the hearts
of the just, of the ethically good, but there is a world of difference
between that and the essential Divinity of every human soul, because
part of the Over-soul, which is one in all men.  No; Jesus was a son of
Israel, and his ideals were those of his race.  The few words quoted
from the fourth gospel are in the spirit of the larger belief, but they
are Neo-Platonic in their origin, as is the whole Johannine gospel, and
cannot be taken as fairly representing the mind of the greatest of the
Jewish seers.  If we would see the Eastern teaching in the West, we
must search, not the Old or New Testament, but the pages of the
Alexandrian School, of Philo, and above all, of Plotinus, who believed
that the supreme truths were learnt, not by study, nor by revelation
from without, but in an ecstasy of the soul, losing itself in the
contemplation of the Divine--in the "flight of the alone to the Alone".

Now, that which Plotinus considered an extraordinary occurrence, an
experience perhaps only possible to elect spirits, men at length began
to look upon as the truth of the normal relations between their Maker
and themselves.  Of course, so stupendous a change took centuries in
evolution, and, naturally, the Christian Church and its clergymen gave
it no sort of encouragement.  It would never do to preach abroad that
every man was his own priest, and so we wade through the whole of
mediaevalism without finding any recognition of the great teaching.  It
is only when we are in the comparatively modern epoch of the fourteenth
century that we find it in Eckhart, the German mystic.  "There is," he
writes, "something in the soul which is above the soul. . . .  It is
absolute and free from all names and forms, as God is free and absolute
in himself.  It is higher than knowledge, higher than love, for in
these there is distinction. . . .  I have called it a power, sometimes
a light. . . .  This light is satisfied only with the super-essential
essence."  It is ever entering "into that unity where no man dwelleth,"
where there are no distinctions, "neither Father, Son, nor Holy Ghost".
It is the plain of the Great Silence, the centre of the immovable
peace, an Inner Sea whose still waters are nevertheless bounded by no
shores.  It is the sense, rather it is the reality, of the Infinite in
man, that of which all seers have dreamed under many diverse forms.  I
take it to be the Nirvana of Buddha, the eternal silence that follows
when the last of the avenues of sense has been passed, and the soul
enters at length into the possession of itself, that is, into the
recognition of its infinitude.  It is what Jesus means when he speaks
of the faithful ones--they who have endured even to the end--entering
"into the joy of their Lord".  It is the apostle's unspeakable peace,
"the peace of God, which passeth all understanding".

Another of the school of Eckhart, Tauler, gives his own experience, and
it is not dissimilar.  He finds his soul "so grounded in God that it is
dissolved in the inmost of the Divine nature".  No man, he says, can
distinguish between the sunshine and the air.  How much less the light
of the created and the uncreated Spirit!  We are lost in the abyss
which is our source.  "From the place whence the rivers of waters go
forth, thither do they return." [3]  Those words always haunt one with
a sense of the mysterious.  They seem to say that the beginning and the
end of all are the same--the abyss of the Infinite.  Emerson believes
that man came forth thence, is there now, and abides there for ever.
And surely Tennyson's lines must occur to the memory of every one:--

  When that which drew from out the boundless deep,
  Turns again home.

To begin to think at all, is to be brought, at length, to thoughts such
as these--the thought of the Inner Sea, on whose still and boundless
waters all is silence, peace, God.

After two centuries the teaching reappears, not in the pages of
professional divines, or the denizens of the cloister, but in the
philosophy of modern Germany.  Schelling carries it still farther by
pronouncing that there is but one reason, one mind, the human and the
Divine being identical.  The lines of Paracelsus are inevitably

  O God, Thou art Mind!
  Crush not my mind, O God!

Fichte, in his _Characteristics of the Present Age_, pronounces the
individual to be but "a single ray of the one universal and necessary
thought".  "There is but One Life, one animating power, one Living
Reason . . . of which all that seems to us to exist and live is but a
modification, definition, variety and form."  And, finally, he goes so
far as to say that it is only _by_, and _to_, mere earthly and finite
perception, that this one and homogeneous life of reason is broken up
and divided into separate individual persons.  What a piercing thought!
Surely it is almost past believing that the eternal Life is itself in
us, nay, that it is we; that in very literal truth we may say, "I and
the Infinite are One".  Only one who could speak in tongues of men and
angels is fit to hold discourse on thoughts so sublime, but it is
difficult to discern a flaw in the arguments of these prophetic souls
who have dared to believe and to preach to men, "Ye are gods, and sons
of the Most High, every one".

It is a doctrine we learn only from the new masters.  Nothing half so
fair, so radiant, did we hear in days of old, so rich in promise, so
full of inspiration and helpfulness.  "You are an adopted son of God,"
it was said.  There is but one natural son, the Messiah and Logos,
Jesus Christ.  Through him alone we have access to the Divine, apart
from him we are children of wrath; only in him are we "light in the
Lord".  "He that believeth not the Son hath not life, but the wrath of
God abideth with him."  To this hour do they say these things, but we
who have been privileged to hear wiser words, diviner voices, know that
nothing can come between our lonely spirits and the Great Alone--no
Church, no Book, no Messiah, or Saviour.  We are greater than all that,
for the eternal soul of man is within us, heir-at-law divine of the
promises, and in its _own_ right a natural son of God.

But to continue.  The scattered rays of this wonderful gospel are
focussed in the transcendental teaching of the last of the ethical
prophets, Waldo Emerson.  In him the truth shines forth as the sun.  We
have seen the germ of the doctrine in the fourteenth and fifteenth
century mystics, its resurrection in the noble school of German
idealism which grew out of the teaching of the great master himself,
Immanuel Kant.  The man who introduced it to England, the link, so to
speak, between Fichte, Hegel, Schelling and Emerson, was Coleridge, for
whom there is but one reason, shared in by all intelligent beings,
which is in itself the universal soul.  To this profoundly reverent
thinker reason is not a faculty, much less a property of the human
mind.  Man cannot be said so much to possess reason as to partake of
it.  He in whom reason dwells can as little appropriate it as his own
possession, as he can claim ownership in the breathing air or take in
the canopy of heaven.

Now, this is essentially what Emerson means by the Over-soul.  It is
the universal mind, the light which lighteth every man that cometh into
the world.  It is one and identical in all men, even as the sun in the
high heavens is one and the same for every dweller in the solar system.
Yea, more than this, we cannot shrink from the consequences of our
affirmation, the mind in man is not conceivably other than the Mind
which is self-subsistent and infinite.  After what manner shall we
conceive of the intelligence which laid down the foundations of the
world, traced the pathway of the stars, fixed the laws which nature has
immutably obeyed from the eternal past even to this hour, if we
conceive it not after the manner of the mind in us which has at length
discovered these laws?  How can we hold one intelligence to know and
another to originate them?  As truth is one and identical for all
minds, so must be the intelligences which know and originate that
truth.  Hence, you will see that for thinkers[4] such as these
agnosticism is the plainest of paradoxes--a bald contradiction in
terms.  It affects to be unable to discern Mind in the cosmos when it
is exercising that very mind in formulating its doubts.  It is as
though a man should go hunting his house for a light with a candle
burning in his hand.  What on earth can we be searching for when the
"candle of the Lord," as Locke called it, is the very illuminant we
must employ in our search?  "Tell me," Emerson would ask, "the truths
your sciences establish, the principle of your philosophies, are they
valid for all intelligences or only some?"  Surely, for all
intelligences, you will reply.  "Then, I will urge, these truths must
be one and identical if all intelligences admit them."  Certainly.
"How, then, can there be any doubt but that intelligence itself, mind
itself, is one and identic in all men, since all think alike of the
cosmos, and one and identic also in that everlasting Cause of the
cosmos whence, you yourselves admit, all things derive their being?"

Are we asked for the supreme object of religion?  Here it is, unveiled
so far as mind and speech of man may discover the great reality.  It is
the God, not "who dwelleth in inaccessible light, who is enthroned on
the floors of the heavens," or "walks on the wings of the winds"; it is
the God who is "not very far from any one of us," for he is in us, in
very deed and truth; he is the mind, the intelligence; he is the soul
of man, and yet the "Over-soul," the soul of all souls, and we are not
so much made in his image, as it was taught of old, _but we are he_, we
are the Divine, there is no line of division 'twixt us and him; the
light in man, the good in man is God.

Pray no more, then, we urge, to the skies, nor in a holy city or
consecrated shrine, a temple, though it were of gold.  Like the angels
that stood by the open, empty grave of the Christ and said, "he is not
here," your souls cry aloud that therein alone is the infinite Soul
whose truth and being alone can satisfy your own.  This is the temple
not made with hands of man, in which alone the Supreme can be enshrined
and worshipped, "Foolish doctor, foolish doctor," says Carlyle of
Johnson, who went tapping for ghosts in Cock Lane, "thou thyself art a
ghost!"  Foolish and superstitious beyond bounds, we may say, is the
man that thinketh to find the light of life in a church when it cannot
be found within himself.

He who has steeped his soul in this teaching will need no more to
commune with an imagination in the heavens, an anthropomorphic deity in
the skies--it is a merciful thing we see no more of these painful
profanities upon the canvases of our artists--nor will he need that his
soul should rise on wings of fasting and prayer "to pierce the clouds"
with his importunings and entreaties.  No, his communings will be with
himself, his worship of the silent sort, for he knows now _that there
is no God anywhere who is not within him_.  He will need no Chrishna,
Buddha or Christ to "make intercession with the Father" for him, no
god-babe in a manger or deity walking the earth in sorrow or expiring
in shame, for lo! the Divinity is also every son of God, and suffering
humanity is ever with us, the repression of the flesh is an unceasing
sacrifice which we offer up in the temple of our bodies out of
reverence for the Divinity within them.

NOTE.--The best account of Emerson's ethical and speculative teaching
is to be found in Cooke's _Life of Emerson_, obtainable through Green &
Co., Essex Hall, Strand.  I am indebted to it for much of the
expository portion of this chapter.

[1] The fact that Petavius, a Jesuit theologian, felt it his duty to
condemn several ante-Nicene writers as heretical, though honest,
offenders against orthodoxy, is evidence enough that Athanasianism is a
spurious development unknown to the earlier ages.

[2] Tennyson's description of the "average Englishman's" theology.

[3] Ecclesiastes i. 7.

[4] And, we add, for ninety-nine out of every hundred philosophers of

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