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´╗┐Title: Creed And Deed - A Series of Discourses
Author: Adler, Felix, 1851-1933
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Creed And Deed - A Series of Discourses" ***

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By Felix Adler



The lectures contained in the following pages are published by request
of the society before which they were delivered. Those on Immortality
and Religion have been considerably abridged and condensed. The
remainder have been allowed to retain their original form without any
serious modification. The First Anniversary Discourse reviews the work
of the year, and gives a brief account of the motives which impelled the
society to organize and of the general animus by which its labors are
directed. The Lecture entitled The Form of the Ideal foreshadows the
constructive purpose of the movement. The articles on The Evolution of
Hebrew Religion and Reformed Judaism from the _Popular Science Monthly
(September_, 1876) and the _North American Review (July-August and
September-October)_ contain in the substance of several of the lectures
of last winter's course, and are reprinted in the appendix with the
kind consent of the editors. Rigid adherrence to the requirements of
systematic exposition is neither possible nor desirable in addresses of
the kind and has not therefore been attempted.

In giving this volume to the public I gladly embrace the opportunity of
expressing my sincere gratitude to those faithful and self-sacrificing
friends whose indefatigable labors have gone so far to win for a
hazardous venture the promise of assured permanence and satisfactory

Felix Adler.

New York, September, 1877.



     "not by the Creed but by the Deed."

The Spciety which I have the privilege of addressing, has been organized
with the above for its motto. Some of my hearers have entirely abandoned
the tenets of the positive religions; others continue to hold them true,
but, are discouraged by the lack of spiritual force, the prominence
given to mere externals, the barren formalism in the churches and
synagogues. We agree in believing that theology is flourishing at
the expense of religion. It seems to us that differences in creed are
constantly increasing, and will continue to multiply with the growth and
differentiation of the human intellect. We perceive that every attempt
to settle problems of faith has thus far signally failed, nor can we
hope for better results in the future. Certainty even with regard to
the essential dogmas appears to us impossible. We do not therefore deny
dogma, but prefer to remit it to the sphere of individual conviction
with which public associations should have no concern. Far from
believing that the doctrines of religion as commonly taught are
essential to the well being of society, we apprehend that the disputes
concerning the "author of the law" have diverted the attention of men
from the law itself, and that the so-called duties toward God too often
interfere with the proper performance of our duties toward one another.
It were better to insist less upon a right belief, and more upou right

In order to find a common basis whereon good men, whether believers or
unbelievers can unite, we look to the moral law itself, whose certainty
rests in the universal experience of civilized Humanity. We shall
hold questions of faith in abeyance, shall endeavor to stimulate the
conscience and to this end shall seek to awaken an interest in the grave
social problems of our day, which need nothing so much as a vigorous
exertion of our moral energies, in order to arrive at a peaceable
solution. To broaden and deepen the ethical sentiment in ourselves, and
to hold up to the sad realities of the times, the mirror of the ideal
life, is the object with which we set out. We do not therefore delude
ourselves with the hope that the ideal will ever be fully realized,
but are convinced that in aspiring to noble ends the soul will take on
something of the grandeur of what it truly admires. Starting with the
assumption that the doctrines of religion are incapable of proof,
it behooves us to show in one or more instances the fallacy of the
arguments upon which they are commonly founded, and we shall begin with
the doctrine of IMMORTALITY.

In approaching our subject we are first confronted by the argument
from the common consent of mankind. Like the belief in God, the hope
of immortality is said to be implanted in every human heart, and the
experience of travellers is cited to show that even the most barbarous
races have given it expression in some form, however crude. Aside from
the fact that the statement, as it stands, is somewhat exaggerated, we
will admit that the belief in a future state is widely current among
savage tribes. But the value of this testimony becomes extremely
doubtful on closer inspection. A brief account of the origin of the
conception of soul among our primitive ancestors, will make this plain.

If we observe a child in its sleep, some half articulate word, some cry
or gesture occasionally reveals to us the vividness of the dreams with
which the little brain is teeming. It is hardly doubtful that the child
mistakes the visions of its dream for actual occurrences, and attaches
the same reality to these miasmas of the stagnant night as to the
clear prospects of daylight reason. Even the adult sometimes finds it
difficult to clear his brain of the fancies which occupied it in the
hours of sleep. And the test of large experience can alone enable him to
distinguish between fact and phantom. I call attention to these facts,
because the phenomena of sleep and dreams seem to offer a satisfactory
clue to the naive theories of the lower races concerning death and the
after life. The savage indeed is the veritable child-man. His ardent
emotions, his crude logic, the eagerness with which he questions the how
and wherefore of nature, and the comparative ease with which his simple
understanding accepts the most fanciful solutions, all combine to place
him on the level of the child.

Aware that the body in sleep is at rest, while at the same time the
sleeper is conscious of acting and suffering, visiting distant regions
perhaps, conversing with friends, engaging in battle with enemies, the
savage reasoned that there must be a man within the man, as it were,--an
airy counterfeit of man which leaves its grosser tenement in the night,
and in the course of its wanderings experiences whatever the fortunes of
the dream may chance to be. Instances are related where the body was
prematurely disturbed, the inner man was prevented from returning to his
envelope, and death resulted. The shadow cast by the human figure, an
attenuated image of man, connected with the body and yet distinct from
it, afforded a curious confirmation of this artless theory. The Basutos*
affirm that a person having on one occasion incautiously approached the
bank of a river, his shadow was seized by a crocodile, and he died in
consequence. The story of shadowless or soulless men has been made
familiar to modern literature by Chamisso's well known tale. The
spectral man who severs his connection with the body during sleep,
remains concealed within it during the hours of waking, and in this
manner, the idea of a human soul as distinct from the body, takes its
rise.** It is easy to see how by extending the analogy, what we call
death must have appeared as only another form of sleep, and how the
theory of dreams gave rise to a belief in the continuance of life beyond
the grave. That sleep and death are twin brothers, was to the primitive
man more than mere metaphor. As in sleep, so in death, the body is at
rest, but as in sleep, so also in death, a shade was supposed to go
forth capable of acting and suffering, and yearning to return to its
former condition. The apparitions of the deceased seen at night by the
friends they had left behind, were taken to be real visitations, and
corroborated the assumption of the continued existence of the departed.
The ghosts of the dead were dreaming phantoms, debarred from permanently
returning to their abandoned bodies.

     * The dream theory seems to be the one generally adopted by
     writers on primitive culture. For an extended account of
     this subject vide the works of Tylor, Lubbock and Bastian,
     from which the illustrations given in the text are taken.

     ** Peter Schlemihl.

     *** The soul was believed to be corporeal in nature, only
     more vague and shadowy than the framework of the body, and
     distinguished by greater swiftness of locomotion.

The view we have taken of the origin of the conception of soul is
greatly strengthened when we consider the thoroughly material character
of the ghost's life after death. The ghost continues to be liable to
hunger, pain, cold, as before. But the living have shut it out from
their communion; in consequence it hates its former companions,
persecutes them where it can, and wreaks its vengeance upon them when
they are least prepared to resist it. In a certain district of Germany
it was believed that the dead person, when troubled by the pangs of
hunger, begins by gnawing its shroud until that is completely devoured,
then rising from the grave, it stalks through the village and in the
shape of a vampire, sits upon the children in their cradles, and sucks
their blood. When sated with the hideous feast, it returns to the
churchyard to renew its visits on the succeeding nights. In order to
hinder them from using their jaws, it was customary to place stones or
coins into the mouths of the dead before burial and the most grotesque
devices were resorted to, to prevent the much dreaded return of the
denizens of the tomb. In the middle ages the corpse was often spiked
down to hinder its rising. Among the Hottentots a hole was broken into
the wall, through which the corpse was carried from the house, and then
carefully covered up, it being the prevailing superstition, that the
dead can only reenter by the same way in which they have previously made
their exit. Among a certain negro tribe of Africa, the path from the
house to the grave was strewn with thorns, in the hope that the ghost
would find the path too painful, and desist. As late as 1861, it
occurred in a village in Gallicia, that the ghost of a dead peasant was
found to pursue the living, and the inhabitants rushing out to the grave
fearfully mutilated the body, to prevent it from committing further

The same conception, from a more charitable point of view, led to the
institution of regular meals for the ghosts at stated intervals. In
North-eastern India, after the body has been consigned to its final
resting-place, a friend of the deceased steps forward, and holding food
and drink in his hand, speaks the following suggestive words, "Take and
eat; heretofore you have eaten and drunk with us, you can do so no more;
you were one of us, you can be so no longer; we come no more to you;
come you not to us." In Eastern Africa, the Wanicas are accustomed to
fill a cocoa-nut shell with rice and tembo, and place it near the grave.
In the Congo district, a channel is dug into the grave leading to the
mouth of the corpse, by which means food and drink are duly conveyed.
The sense of decorum impels certain Turanian tribes to place not only
food, but even napkins, on the graves of their relatives. We cannot
resist the temptation of quoting the following passage from Mr. Tylor's
graphic account of the manner in which the Chinese feast their ghostly
visitors. "Some victuals are left over for any blind or feeble spirit
who may be late, and a pail of gruel is provided for headless souls,
with spoons for them to put it down their throats with. Such proceedings
culminate in the so-called Universal Rescue, now and then celebrated,
when a little house is built for the expected visitors, with separate
accommodations, and bath rooms for male and female ghosts." * In the
Alpach Valley of Tyrol, ghosts released from purgatory on the night
of All Souls, return to the houses of the peasantry. A light is left
burning in the dining room, and a certain cake, prepared for the
occasion, is placed upon the table for their delectation, also a pot of
grease for the poor souls to anoint their wounds with.

     * Tylor, Primitive Culture, ii, p. 34.

Occasionally, to obviate the necessity of continued attendance upon
the dead, a single sumptuous feast is provided immediately after their
demise, and this is believed to cancel their claims once for all. In
this manner arose the custom of funeral banquets. In England, in the
fifteenth century, a noisy revel of three days' duration attended the
obsequies of Sir John Paston. The so-called Irish wake originated in
the same way. After the first outbreaks of grief have subsided, meat and
drink are brought in, chiefly the latter, and what was at first intended
for a parting entertainment to the dead, often ends in the boisterous
excesses of the living.

It is here proper to remark that the savage tribes who believe in an
after existence, do not in many instances claim this privilege for
themselves alone, but share it willingly with the lower animals and even
with inanimate objects. Weapons, utensils, and even victuals--have their
ghostly representatives like men. When a great chief dies, his widow is
often forced by public opinion to follow him to the grave, in order that
the departed brave may not be wifeless in the hereafter. But besides the
widow, his horse, his war-club, his girdle, his favorite trinkets are
buried or burned with him to serve his use or vanity in spectre-land.

From what has preceded, it must be clear that the savage's conception of
a ghost bears but a faint and distant resemblance to the idea of soul,
as it became current in the schools of philosophy; nor can the latter
derive support from the ignorant reasonings, the hasty inductions of
primitive man. On the lower levels of culture the idea of immortality
indeed is quite unknown. If the ghost continues its shadowy existence
after death, it is none the less liable to come to an abrupt end, and
then nothing whatever of its former substance remains; it is a pale,
filmy thing, exposed to the inroads of the hostile elements, surrounded
by numerous dangers, to which it may at any moment succumb. In the Tonga
Islands only the souls of the well-born are supposed to survive at all.
The common people have no souls worth speaking of, and when they die,
are completely extinguished. The ghosts of Guinea negroes are compelled
to approach the bank of the terrible river of death. Some of them are
thereupon wafted across to lead pleasant lives on the opposite side,
others are drowned in the stream, or beaten to atoms with a club. With
the Fijians it is always a matter of doubt whether a soul will succeed
at all in maintaining its feeble existence after it has left its
protecting house of sinew and bone. But they open a peculiarly dismal
prospect to wifeless souls. Nanananga, a fierce demoniac being, watches
for them on the shore as they approach, and dashes them to pieces upon
the rocks. The Greenlanders affirm that after death the soul enters
upon a long, lone journey over a mountain full of precipitous descents,
covered with ice and snow. The storms howl about its path, and every
step is fraught with pain and danger. If any harm happens to the poor
wanderer here, then it dies "the other death" from which there is no

In the theories of a future state, as devised by the lower races, we are
at a loss to detect the germs of any more spiritual longings. Far from
looking forward with pleased anticipation or confidence to the world to
come, the barbarian shuddered as he thought of his approaching end,
and was loath to exchange the white and sunny world for the dreary
companionship of luckless shades. The life that awaited him was not in
the majority of instances a better or a higher life than this; not free
from the limitations of sense; no larger perfecting of what is here
dwarfed and crippled; it was lower, poorer, meaner; it was to the
present, what the pressed flower is to the full-blown rose; the same
in substance, indeed, but with its beauty perished, and its joyous
fragrance evanesced.

The argument from the common consent of mankind in truth deserves no
serious attention.*

     * The doctrine of spiritual immortality is not common to the
     human race.   The material life of the ghost bears no
     analogy to what we mean by the soul's continuance.    The
     continuance of the ghost's existence is not an immortal

The argument cannot be substantiated, it would prove nothing, if it
could. The general concurrence of the whole human race in any form of
error would not make that error less erroneous, and the testimony of
united millions against a solitary thinker might kick the beam when
balanced in the scales of truth.

When we behold an ignorant knave squandering his ill-gotten gains
on superfluities, while honest people are famishing for want of the
necessaries; when we see the unscrupulous politician outstripping the
deserving statesman, in the race for fame and station; when modest merit
shrinks in corners, and the native royalty of talent plays courtier to
the kings of lucre, we are reminded of the complaint of Job, that the
bad prosper, and the righteous are down-trodden, yet that they sleep
together in the dust and the worm covers them alike.

This evident disparity between virtue and happiness has led men to take
refuge in the thought of compensation hereafter, and the necessity of a
future state in which the good shall be rewarded, and the evil punished,
according to the verdict of a just judge, has been deduced even from the
apparent injustice of the present. Thus the very imperfections of our
own life on earth, afford a pretext for the most ambitious conceptions
of human destiny.

The argument from the necessity of reward and punishment is extremely
popular among the uneducated, since it appeals ostensibly to their sense
of justice and assures them that by the aid of Divine omnipotence, a
full correspondence between worthiness and happiness, though vainly
expected here, will be established in another sphere. It behooves us to
enquire whether there is anything in the nature of virtue, that demands
a correspondence of this kind.

The philosopher Epicurus was perhaps the first among the ancients to
take strong ground in favor of the utilitarian view of virtue. Pleasure,
he holds, is the purpose of existence, and virtue is thus reduced
to enlightened self-interest. There are different kinds of pleasure;
pleasures of the senses and of the soul. Epicurus points out that the
former cannot be considered true pleasures, since they defeat their
own end, blunting the capacity of enjoyment in proportion as they are
indulged, and incapable of affording permanent satisfaction. Himself
a man of refined tastes and fastidious habits, he shrank from the very
coarseness of the passions, and counselled moderation, friendship and
benevolence. But he refused to recognize in these virtues any intrinsic
value of their own, and lauded them only because in contrast to the
lower appetites, the enjoyment they afford is lasting and constantly
increases with their exercise. It is easy to perceive that when the
moral law is thus stripped of its authority to command, the choice
between duty and inclination will be governed by fortuitous preferences,
and not by principle. It then remains for each individual to decide what
form of pleasure may be most congenial to his temper and desires. The
philosopher will value the delights of contemplative ease, and of kindly
communion with his fellow-men; the passionate youth may hold that a
single deep draught from the chalice of sensual pleasure is worth more
than a whole lifetime of neutral self-restraint; "eat and drink" will
be his motto; "remote consequences--who knows? To-morrow we may die."
Moreover the doctrine of enlightened self-interest has this fatal
objection to it, that if consistently applied, at least among the
powerful of the earth, it would lead to consequences the very reverse
of moral. It is but too true that honesty is not always the best policy;
that fraud and violence, when perpetrated on a scale of sufficient
magnitude, (instance the division of unfortunate Poland,) are not always
punished as they deserve to be. Far from teaching the tyrant to subdue
his baser instincts, enlightened self-interest might rather lead him to
stifle the accusing voice of conscience, and to root out the scruples
that interfere with his ambition. Unless we concede that the moral law
has a claim upon us which the constitution of our nature does not permit
us to deny with impunity, and that its pleasures differ, not only in
degree, but in kind, from all others, virtue, while a necessity to the
weak, becomes folly in the strong; and Napoleon, that gigantic egotist,
was correct, when he called love a silly infatuation, and sentiment a
thing for women.

The principles of Epicurus not only adulterate the motives of goodness
with the desire of reward, but they make the reward of desire the very
sanction of all virtue, and thus deprive human nature of its best title
to nobility.

Truly disinterestedness is the distinguishing mark of every high
endeavor. The pursuit of the artist is unselfish, the beauty he creates
is his reward. The toil of the scientist in the pursuit of abstract
truth is unselfish, the truth he sees is his reward. Why should we
hesitate to acknowledge in the domain of ethics, what we concede in the
realm of art and science? To say that unselfishness itself is only
the more refined expression of a selfish instinct, is to use the term
selfish with a double meaning, is a mere empty play on words. We have
the innate need of harmony in the moral relations; this is our glory,
and the stamp of the Divine upon our nature. We cannot demonstrate the
existence of disinterested motives, any more than we can demonstrate
that there is joy in the sunlight and freedom in the mountain breeze.
The fact that we _demand unselfishness_ in action alone assures us that
the standard of enlightened self-interest is false.

And indeed if we consult the opinions of men, where they are least
likely to be warped by sophistry, we shall find that disinterestedness
is the universal criterion by which moral worth is measured. If we
suspect the motive we condemn the act. If a person gives largely for
some object of public useful ness or charity, we do not permit the
munificence of the gift to deceive our judgment. Perhaps he is merely
desirous of vaunting his wealth, perhaps it is social standing he aims
at, perhaps he is covetous of fame. If these suspicions prove well
founded, the very men who accept his bounty will in their secret hearts
despise him, and by a certain revulsion of feeling we shall resent his
action all the more, because, not only is he destitute of honorable
purpose, but he has filched the fair front of virtue, and defiled the
laurel even in the wearing of it.

We do not even accord the name of goodness to that easy, amiable
sympathy which leads us to alleviate the sufferings of others, unless it
be guided by wise regard for their permanent welfare.

The tattered clothes, the haggard looks, the piteous pleading voice of
the pauper on the public highway may awaken our pity, but the system of
indiscriminate alms-giving is justly condemned as a weakness rather than
a virtue.

On the other hand obedience to duty, when it involves pain and
self-abnegation, seems to rise in the general estimation. Clearly
because in this instance even the suspicion of interested motives is
removed, since hardship, injury in estate and happiness, and even the
possible loss of life, are among the foreseen consequences of the act.
It is for this reason that the Book of Martyrs has become the golden
book of mankind, and that the story of their lives never fails to fill
us with mingled sorrow, and admiration, and pride. They are monuments
on the field of history, milestones on the path of human progress. We
regard them and gain new courage and confidence in our better selves.
The blazing pyre on the Campo Fiore, whereon Giordano Bruno breathes his
last, becomes a beacon-light for the truth-seeker; the dying Socrates
still pours benignant peace over many a sufferer's couch; the Man of
sorrows, on Calvary, comforts the hearts of the Christian millions.
In the presence of these high examples the inadequacy of the selfish
standard becomes clearly apparent. We recognize what a sublime quality
that is in man which enables him, not only to triumph over torment and
suffering, but to devote his very self to destruction for the sake of
honor and truth. Freely must virtue be wooed, not for the dowry she may
bring; by loyal devotion to her for her own sake only, can she be won!

If thus it appears that not only is there nothing in the nature of
virtue to warrant a claim to reward, but that it is her very nature to
disclaim any reward, it will become plain that the problem, as stated
in the beginning, rests upon an entirely false foundation. That the
unrighteous and unprincipled should enjoy temporal happiness, does not
offend the law of justice. That you, my good sir, honest in all your
dealings, truthful in all your acts, should be unhappy, is greatly to
be deplored. Why evil and unhappiness should have been allowed at all to
enter a world created by an all good and all powerful Being may fairly
be asked. Why those who possess the treasure of a clear conscience
should not also possess the lesser goods of earth, is a question with
which morality is in no wise concerned.

Virtue can have no recompense, save as it is its own recompense, and
vice can receive no real punishment save as it is its own avenger.
The hope of immortality, in so far as it is based upon the supposed
necessity of righting in a future state what is here wrong, is therefore
untenable, for it is based upon the assumption of a wrong which exists
in the imagination merely. _And he who claims a reward because of his
virtue, has thereby forfeited his right to maintain the claim, since
that is not virtue, which looks for reward._


Having endeavored to show that the joys of earth cannot be claimed as
the recompense of a moral life, we must yet admit that the desire of
happiness is altogether too strong and deep-seated in human nature to
be thus summarily dismissed. We seek happiness on its own account quite
apart from any title which virtue may give us to its enjoyment. Were we
created for misery? Does not the poverty and general unsatisfactoriness
of our present condition warrant us in expecting ampler fulfilment,
permanent bliss in an after life? I think we shall derive some
assistance in discussing this question, by attempting to resolve the
conception of happiness into its constituent elements.

Pleasure has been defined to consist in the satisfaction of any of man's
natural wants. The variety of our pleasures corresponds to the diversity
of our wants.

Food to the hungry, rest to the weary, are sources of pleasure. To feel
on some cold wintry day the genial warmth of true hearth fire creeping
into our blood, and the frozen limbs relaxing their stiffness, is
pleasure. All men admire the beautiful and delight in adornment. Even
the rude savage seeks to gratify his aesthetic tastes, so far as the
means which nature places at his command permit. The custom of tattooing
the skin is widely practiced among the lower races, and stars and
circles, trees and plants, and other ingenious devices are impressed
with laborious patience upon the different members of the body. The
chiefs of the Fiji Islanders, a nude and cannibal race, are represented
as wearing an elaborate head-dress of three and even five feet in
dimensions, and were accustomed to spend several hours each day, under
the care of the royal hair-dresser. Among civilized men the desire for
adornment finds vent chiefly in external objects, while every coarse
solicitation of attention to the person is shunned. Tastily decorated
houses, flowers, paintings, music, gratify our sense of symmetry, and
spread an atmosphere of culture and refinement in the vicinity of our
daily occupations. But there are deeper and purer joys in reserve. Man
is eminently a social being; he has the need of sympathy and depends
upon the affections of his fellows. The presence of cherished companions
and friends becomes a necessity to him; in absence he yearns for it,
and the lack of it is one of the most serious afflictions of human life.
"Woe unto him who, far from parents and loved kinsmen, a lonely life
must lead. His present joys devouring grief doth snatch. His thoughts
are ever straying in the distance back to his father's hall, where the
sun of life first rose upon him, and where children of the common
home, playfully, with gentle bonds, close and closer drew their hearts
together."* The tranquil delight which we derive from the enlargement of
intellect, and the exquisite inward satisfaction that results from high
fidelity to duty, may be mentioned as the last to crown the scale of

     * Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris, Act I.

Now, it is evident that all these elements of happiness, these diverse
rays that nowhere melt into the perfect light, are dependent upon the
physical organization of man, such as it is, even for their partial
attainment; of the lower pleasures, this is at once evident. But a
little reflection will show the same to be the case with the higher. If
we consider the aesthetic faculty, we find its gratification conditioned
by a physical basis. What were music without the ear; what the symmetry
of form, without the eye and touch? The intellect, in its turn,
fashions-the rough timber of experience, which an ever flowing stream of
sensation carries into the workshop of the brain. Can the mind feed upon
itself? Can the laws of thought act otherwise than upon the material
afforded by the senses? The same is also true with respect to our moral
qualities, and the exercise of the virtues is inconceivable beyond the
pale of human society. All virtue presupposes a tendency to err;
the failings and limitations of our mortal condition. Justice is the
adjustment of limitations common to all men in such manner that their
stress shall not bear more heavily upon one than upon the other. Love
is the expansion of one limited nature in another and their mutual
enrichment by such union. Charity, fortitude, continence, whatever we
applaud in human conduct, is but an indirect testimony to the natural
imperfections inherent in the human heart, and is accounted admirable
only in so far as it tends to ensure the best interests of the race on
earth. When therefore this body is corrupted, when we depart from out
the fellowship of men, the gratification of the appetites, the enjoyment
of beauty, the exercise of reason, and the practice of virtue become
alike unthinkable.

We desire larger happiness than we can here achieve; but because we
desire a thing, are we therefore at all warranted in believing that
we shall obtain it? Is the course of the world's affairs such as to
encourage so flattering an hypothesis? Is not the fatality that so often
attends our best efforts in this life, an argument against, rather than
in favor of increasing felicity in another? We should assume a wiser
attitude as against fate. There are those who fret under disappointment,
and murmur and rebel as if they had been defrauded of a right; as if
they had entered into a compact with destiny to their advantage, as if
the myriad worlds moved through space for their especial good. This is
an insane spirit. We need something of the vim of stoicism to grapple
with the difficulties of life; we need to cultivate a larger patience;
an humble spirit prepared for every loss, and welcoming every hour
of joy as an unlooked for gain. There are a thousand pleasures too in
little things which we, with the petulance of children, daily spurn,
because we cannot have all we ask for. In every stone there is
instruction, in every varying aspect of the sky there is beauty,
wherever men congregate and commune, lessons of wisdom are revealed to
the observer. The movement of everlasting laws quivers in the meanest
trifles, and the eternities, thinly veiled, look out upon us with their
solemn gaze from every passing mask of time. These let us study; art
will help us; science will open to us a wondrous chain of workings which
the mind cannot exhaust, and active exertions for the common weal will
give a generous glow to our lives, and still the unquiet yearnings which
we may never entirely set at rest. You have seen how the flowers grow,
how that many seeds are scattered and but few take root; how the germ
slowly and with difficulty develops. The rain waters it, the warm
sunbeam fosters it; storms sweeping over the earth, may crush it while
it is still a young and tender shoot. At last, sometimes after years of
preparation, it buds and opens and blooms and becomes a delight and a
glory, a fount of fragrance, a crown of beauty. A few days pass and
it droops; what the long process of time has slowly created, a single
moment may suffice to destroy; and yet though its time was brief, the
flower fulfilled its nature only in that passing bloom; all the previous
stages of its existence had a meaning only as they led up to this, the
final revelation of its purpose.

The bloom of human life is morality; whatever else we may possess,
health, and wealth, power, grace, knowledge, have a value only as they
lead up to this; have a meaning only as they make this possible. Nor
should we complain that the blight of death so quickly withers what the
course of threescore years has scarce sufficed to produce. In the hour
of our destruction, we will lift up our hearts in triumph--we have
blossomed! We have blossomed!

But it will be said, that the flower when it is wilted and withered
here, may be transplanted to fairer regions; that the soul may take
on new organs, when it has abandoned its earthly habitation, and in a
series of transformations of which, it is true, we can form no definite
conception, may enter afresh upon its struggles for worthiness in other
spheres. This is, indeed, the loftiest expression which the hope of
immortality has found. Unlike the arguments previously considered, it
is unalloyed by any selfish motive, is founded upon a really exalted
sentiment, and it is Love and Virtue themselves that here take up the
strain, and sing us their animating song of ceaseless progress toward
the good. The argument in this shape, involves the further question
whether the existence of an independent and indestructible soul is
assured, and upon this point the whole problem of immortality finally

The question whether what we are accustomed to call the soul is a
distinct and indivisible entity, or merely the result of material
processes, has divided mankind for more than two thousand years, and
some of the ablest thinkers have ranged themselves on either side. As
early as the fifth century B. C. the philosopher Democritus propounded
materialistic doctrines among the Greeks. According to him, the soul is
a combination of smooth, round, polished and moving atoms, and to the
motions of these atoms the phenomena of life are to be ascribed.

Among the Romans, Lucretius advanced similar views. He took particular
pains to combat the "vulgar fear of death," protesting that the prospect
of dissolution would lose its terrors, did we not foolishly imagine
ourselves conscious of being dead, forgetting that death implies the
entire cessation of consciousness. The followers of materialistic
opinions among the ancients, were not a few. But during the ascendancy
of the Christian Church, these opinions retired into the background,
until in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they were revived by
such men as Gassendi and La Mettrie, and others. In modern times they
have been widely spread.

The list of names on the opposite side is headed by Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, and embraces the great majority of writers and public
teachers, down to the present day.

It may appear strange that when the belief in immortality had once
become current, men should have been tempted to forego its pleasing
prospects, and even, with a certain vehemence, to urge their sceptical
views upon others. Let us consider for a moment, what it was that
induced the materialists to assume their position. The observed
correspondence between mental and physical phenomena doubtless led them
in the first instance to adopt their peculiar views.

We see in the tiny body of the new born babe, barely more than the faint
stirrings of animal life; months pass by before it is able to form any
clear conception of the persons and things in its vicinity, the simpler
mental processes appearing simultaneously with the growth of the bodily
organs. The intellect reaches its highest development in the age of
manhood and womanhood, when we stand in the maturity of our physical
powers. In that middle age of life lies, with rare exceptions, the best
work we are destined to accomplish. Having entered upon the downward
slope, our faculties gradually lose their vigor, until we sink into the
final stage of drivelling old age, and become feeble in mind, as we
are helpless in body. In this manner the close connection between our
spiritual and material parts, is brought home forcibly, even to
the unreflecting; as the one enlarges so does the other: as the one
diminishes so does the other: together they increase, together they are
weakened; the inference is drawn, shall it not be, that together they
will perish?

The phenomena of sleep and of coma seem to convey the same lesson. A
haze steals over our consciousness; sometimes settling into impenetrable
night; as the body for a time wears the semblance of death, so also
is the mind stupefied or completely paralyzed. Hours pass by; in the
interval, the business of the world has gone on as before, but to us
there has been only a void and utter blank. And thus it is said shall
there be a void and a blank in the tomb; time will pass by, and we shall
not know it; men will move and act and we shall be none the wiser for
it; it will be all like sleep, only that there will be no dreams.

And again when some malignant fever seizes upon the body and corrupts
the currents of the blood, how do the poor disordered thoughts dance
about wildly, driven by the lash of the distemper; how does the use of
stimulants besot the intellect, so that every higher power is deadened;
how in the wild ravings of the diseased brain, do we behold the hideous
mockery of mind.

And does not the grave itself testify loudly that the end is an end
indeed; the body falls to pieces, the dust commingles with the dust, and
nothing remains, nothing at least of which we can ever have experience.
Right or wrong, these facts impress the mind, and their leaden weight
serves to drag down our aspirations.

It is true, the considerations I have enumerated are based upon a mere
surface view of things, but the more accurate methods of science seem,
at first sight, to confirm the general conclusions to which they lead.
On this point, it would be well to dwell for a moment. John Stuart Mill
acknowledges that "the evidence is well-nigh complete that all thought
and feeling has some action of the bodily organism for its immediate
coincident and accompaniment, and that the specific variations, and
especially the different degrees of complication of the nervous and
cerebral organism, correspond to differences in the development of our
mental faculties."

The prodigious difficulties in the way of the study of the brain may
long retard the progress of the investigator, but for the purposes of
our argument we are at liberty to assume whatever is within the limits
of possible achievement. We may suppose that physiology will succeed
so far that the brain will be accurately and completely mapped out, and
that the motions of the atoms upon which the thousand varying modes of
thought and feeling depend, will be known and measured. In anticipating
such results, we have reached the utmost tenable position of

But now to our surprise we discover that all this being allowed, the
ultimate question, what is soul, remains still unsolved and as insoluble
as ever. The unvarying coincidence of certain modes of soul with certain
material processes may be within the range of proof, but what cannot be
proven is, that these material processes explain the psychic phenomena.

If it is urged that the same difficulty presents itself in the
explanation of the most ordinary occurrences, this objection is based
upon a misapprehension of the point at issue.

The scientist cannot show why heat should be convertible into motion,
but how it is thus transformed is easy to demonstrate, and the exact
mechanical equivalent of heat has been calculated. But how certain
motions of atoms in the brain should generate, not heat, but
consciousness, but thought and love, is past all conception. There are
here two different orders of facts, having no common principle to which
they could both be reduced. There is an impassable gulf between them
which can in nowise be bridged over.

Nor would it avail us to endow the atom itself with the promise and
potency of intellect; we should thereby throw back the issue a step
further, and disguise the problem whose existence it were better to
plainly acknowledge. The broad fact of consciousness therefore remains
unexplained and inexplicable as before. Arrived at this limit, science
itself pauses and refuses to pass further.

Some of the leading naturalists of our day have lately expressed
themselves clearly and tersely in this sense. The eminent physiologist
Dubois Rey-mond denies that the connection between certain motions of
certain atoms in the brain, and what he calls, the primal, undefinable
and undeniable facts of consciousness, is at all conceivable.
Professor Tyndall in his address on "The scope and limits of Scientific
Materialism," explains his views with similar precision.

Were our minds so expanded, strengthened and illuminated as to enable
us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of
following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric
discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the
corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be as far as
ever from the solution of the problem. How are these physical processes
connected by and with the facts of consciousness? I do not think the
materialist is entitled to say that his molecular groupings and
his molecular motions explain everything, in reality they explain
nothing.... The problem of body and soul is as insoluble in its modern
form as it was in the pre-scientific ages.

Now since it is impossible to demonstrate that the powers of mind are a
product of matter, the possibility undoubtedly remains that these powers
may continue to exist even after their connection with the physical
organism has been dissolved. If all the arguments that are commonly
adduced in support of the doctrine of a future life fall short of their
object, it is but just to add that every argument to the contrary is
equally devoid of foundation. The doctrine of immortality cannot be
disproved. Of the nature of soul we are in absolute ignorance we know
nothing; what is more, we can know nothing At this point we touch the
utmost boundary of human reason, and must be content to write mystery of

In the state of settled uncertainty to which we are thus reduced, the
shape of our opinions will be determined by the bias of our natures or
the influence of education. The sceptic will remind us of the points
in which we resemble all the perishable forms of nature and hold it
improbable that we alone should escape the universal law of dissolution.
Others will cling to the hope of continued life, even on the brink of
the grave, and the strong instinct of self preservation will give tone
and color to their religious beliefs. Deep philosophical speculations
are possible as to that ultimate source of being, that hidden light of
which both matter and mind are diverse reflections. And here too poetry
assumes its legitimate office. On the mists that cover the infinite
abyss, we may project whatever images, foul or fair, we list. Science
you may be sure will never disturb us. Dogmatic assertion however, on
either side is totally unwarranted: and the question of immortality (I
think we must sooner or later make up our minds to that) will remain an
open one. Certain, only, is the fact of our uncertainty.

If the conclusions to which we have thus been led, seem purely negative
in their bearings, they are none the less capable of certain positive
applications, which deserve our serious attention. The longing for
immortality has been developed into a morbid craving under the influence
of the current religious teachings, and has become a disturbing element
in human society. On more than one occasion it has imperilled the peace
of nations, and the doctrines of salvation became the watchwords of
contending armies. The doubtful chances of eternal felicity or damnation
became the one absorbing topic on which men's minds dwelt, and the wild
horrors of the Christian Hell have cast a gloom over many an innocent
life, and curtailed the scant measure of its earthly happiness. It were
something gained, if by a cool and dispassionate judgment the influence
of these dismal fantasies could be lessened, and men be freed from
their slavish subjection to phantoms born of their own distempered

Furthermore, it follows from what we have said that the belief in
immortality should not be inculcated as a dogma in our schools of
religion, and above all that the dictates of the moral law should in no
wise be made to depend upon it for their sanction. The moral law is
the common ground upon which all religious and in fact all true men may
meet. It is the one basis of union that remains to us amid the clashing
antagonisms of the sects. While dogma is by its nature, open to attack,
and its acceptance at all times a matter of choice, the principles of
morality have a right to demand implicit obedience, and should rest as
everlasting verities in the human heart. Let us reflect well before we
imperil the latter by the undue prominence which we give the former. It
is not needful to impart to a child the whole truth, but what it learns
should be wholly true, and nothing should be taught it as a fundamental
fact which it can ever in after years be led to call in question. How
often has it occurred that when the riper reason of the man has rejected
the tenets of the church in which he was educated, he has been tempted
to cast aside all the religious teachings of his youth, the moral with
the rest, as idle fable and deceit.

And lastly, friends, as we do not, cannot know, it is presumably wise
that we should not know. The vanity of all our efforts to grasp the
infinite, should teach us that on this island of time whereon we live,
lies our work. In its joys we may freely take delight; for its woes we
should reserve our sympathies, and in laboring to advance the progress
of the good we must find our satisfaction.

Before closing this subject however let us recall vividly to our minds
that the desire for continuance after death is capable of the most
noble expression, and of supplying us with wholesome consolation and
inspiriting motives to action. The individual passes, but the race
lives! There is a law in nature that no force is ever lost. The thousand
varying forms that ebb and flow around us are various only to our feeble
vision. At the core they are one, transmuted, yet the same, changing
yet changeless, perishing to rise anew. The law of the conservation of
energy holds good throughout the entire domain of matter. And such a law
too obtains in our spiritual life. The law of the conservation of moral
energy is no less an abiding truth; we are not dust merely, that returns
to dust; we are not summer flies that bask in the sunshine of the
passing day; we are not bounded in our influence by the narrow tenure
of our years. Say not when the sod has closed above those who have been
dear to you that all is gone. Say not that the grace and loveliness, and
wisdom that once dwelt within the pallid form is breathed away like
a hollow wind. Nor yet stand idly gazing upon the cloud-land of the
future, watching if you can trace perchance their shadowy lineaments
fading into the dimness of untried worlds. The dead are not dead if we
have loved them truly. In our own lives we give them immortality. Let us
arise and take up the work they have left unfinished, and preserve the
treasures they have won, and round out the circuit of their being to the
fullness of an ampler orbit in our own.

All the good that was in them lives in you, the germ and nucleus of
the better that shall be. All the evil that inhered in them shall be
cleansed away in you and your virtues shall be the atonement for their
sins. Thus shall the fathers live in the children, and from generation
to generation the bond that connects the past with the future remains
unbroken. They that have left you are not afar; their presence is near
and real, a silent and august companionship. In the still hours of
meditation; under the starlit night, in the stress of action, in trials
and temptations, you will hear their voices whispering words of cheer or
warning, and your deeds are their deeds and your lives are their lives.

So does the light of other days still shine in the bright hued flowers
that clothe our fields; so do they who are long since gathered into
the silent city of the dead still move about our houses, distributing
kindness and nobleness among our lives. So does the toll of the funeral
bell become an alarum to rouse us to more active effort and to the
nobler service of mankind.


The question, Have we still a religion, propounded by David Friedrich
Strauss some few years ago, will long engage the attention of radical
thinkers. It is clear that to answer it satisfactorily we must
determine, in the first instance, what meaning ought rightly to be
attached to the term religion. In common parlance, it is often used with
reference to mere externals, a religious person being one who conforms
to the rites and usages of some particular church. On the other hand,
every innovation in the sphere of doctrine is branded as irreligious.
Thus Luther was deemed irreligious by the Catholics; St. Boniface by
the heathen Germans, Jesus by the Jews, Elijah by the servants of Baal.
There is not any single form, nor even a single fundamental principle
common to all religions. Religion is not identical with theology. It
is indeed often maintained that the belief in a personal God should
be regarded as the foundation and criterion of religion; but upon this
assumption, two facts remain inexplicable, the existence of religion
before ever the idea of a deity had arisen among men, and the existence
of what may be termed an atheistical religion, in conscious antagonism
to the doctrine of a personal God. Among the lower races we find men
worshipping, sacrificing and uttering their invocations to mountains,
fountains, rivers, rocks and stones: they know not a deity--sometimes
they have not even idols, and yet they certainly have, after a fashion
of their own, a religion. Again, Buddhism, while possessing a subtle
system of philosophy and an admirable code of ethics, starts with the
proposition that there never was a creation, and in consequence, never
a creator, and yet more than four hundred millions of the earth's
inhabitants call it their religion!

The question returns to us, What is religion? It is not creed; it is
not sacrifice; it is not prayer; it is not covered by the dogmas of any
special form of belief; it has acted as a controlling force in all ages,
in every zone, among all manner of men. Are we devoid of it? Of it? Of

The feeling which the presence of the Infinite in the thoughts of man
awakens within him, is called, the feeling of the sublime. _The feeling
of the sublime is the root of the religious sentiment._ It assumes
various phases, and to these correspond the various religions. Let us
endeavor to enumerate some of the most prominent.

The feeling of the sublime is awakened by the mysterious. The indefinite
gives us our earliest presentiment of the infinite; the religion
of mystery is fetishism. The feeling of the sublime is awakened by
exhibitions of superhuman power. The religion of power is paganism. The
feeling of the sublime is evoked by vastness; the religions of vastness
are Brahminism and Buddhism. The loftiest type of sublimity is to be
found in the morally infinite. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have
sought to give it expression.*

     * We do not pretend that the above schedule is at all
     exhaustive. Various elements of the sublime, not mentioned
     in the text, have entered into the composition of each of
     the great religions. We have merely attempted to seize the
     more salient feature of a few leading types.

Let us discuss in the first place the origin of Fetishism. There are
certain natural phenomena that fill us with alarm, without our being
able to attribute the effect to any definite cause. The darkness of
night, the rustling of leaves, the moaning of the wind through the
forest, the wailing cry of certain birds, and the peculiar effects of a
gathering fog, are of this kind. I have had occasion to observe a little
child suddenly starting from its play with every sign of fear depicted
upon its countenance; the spasm passed away as quickly as it had come,
but was repeated at various intervals, until at last the child ran up to
me in uncontrollable alarm, and threw up its arms for protection: it was
a raw wintry day, a gusty wind blew fitfully against the windows; and
the dreary sound of the rattling panes could be distinctly heard in the
stillness of the room; on closer observation I noticed that the signs
of alarm in the child recurred with great regularity, as often as
this sound was repeated. In a similar way we may imagine our earliest
ancestors to have been affected by whatever was vague and mysterious in
nature. The sense of uncertainty occasioned in this manner, gave rise in
the primitive man to the first conceptions of mysterious powers beyond

The invention, or rather the discovery, of fire tended still further in
the same direction. To us it is barely possible to imagine life without
this most useful of the elements. The wild beast flees fire and fears
it, man uses it, and it becomes the chief instrument of civilization.
But if we strive to picture to ourselves the state of the savage's mind
on his first acquaintance with fire and its properties we shall find
him utterly at a loss to account for. How will he regard this nimble,
playful being, so bright and yet so fearful in its ravages. Of the laws
of chemical action he has of course no conception, but he has sometimes
seen the lightning strike into the wood of the tree, and now from the
same wood he evokes the semblance of the lightning. He is twirling two
dry sticks between his hands; of a sudden, a lambent flame shoots forth,
seizes the wood, makes away with it, and leaves nothing but blackened
cinders behind. Whence did it come, whither has it vanished? Here was
a new mystery; a spiritual presence, latent in trees and stones; kindly
and beneficent at times, then again hostile and fiercely destructive.

The mystery of the preparation of fire is celebrated in the ancient
hymns of the Vedah. We there find its birth from the friction of the
double sticks described, and its properties rehearsed in reverent
language. It is invoked like any superior spirit to bless its votaries,
and to protect them from harm. The important role ascribed to fire in
the sacred usages of the ancients, is well-known, and the origin of fire
worship apparent.

The theory of dreams, to which we have referred on a previous occasion,
contributed in like manner, to extend the boundaries of the world of
mystery. Convinced that he bore within himself an airy counterfeit of
self, the savage attributed the same species of possession to things
animate and inanimate alike. Why should not beasts and rivers and stones
have their ghosts like man? Moreover, as to the ghosts of the human
dead, no one could tell where they might take up their abode. They
might be anywhere and everywhere. Their countless legions surrounded
the living in all places. They were heard shouting in the echo among
the hills; they were seen to ride past on the midnight gale. Often
they assumed the shape of birds and reptiles and beasts of prey. Those
creatures were singled out with a preference, whose movements and habits
suggested the idea of mystery. Thus the owl was supposed to harbor an
evil spirit, and the serpent was worshipped because of its stealthy,
gliding motion, its venomous bite, and the fascination in its eye.
Serpent worship existed the world over. Traces of it are preserved in
the literature of the Greeks and Romans, and it was practised even among
the Hebrews, as the Books of Kings attest. Among certain African tribes
it is still customary to keep huge serpents in temples, and priests are
dedicated to their service. Powerful animals also, such as the bear,
the lion and the tiger, were sometimes supposed to contain the ghosts of
departed chieftains, and were revered accordingly.

If we remember the unfriendly relations supposed to subsist between the
living and the dead, we may conceive the state of alarm in which our
primitive ancestors must have passed their lives on beholding themselves
thus beset on every side, with ghosts or demons in disguise. A thousand
fabulous terrors haunted their imagination. Wherever they turned they
suspected lurking foes; spirits were in the earth, in the air, in birds,
in animals, in reptiles, in trees. They could not move a step without
infringing on the boundaries of the spirit realm. Every object the least
extraordinary in size, or shape, or color, appeared to them the token of
some demon's presence, and was worshipped in consequence, not on its own
account, but because of the mystery which it suggested.

In this manner Fetishism arose. The fetish worshipper leaves his hut in
the morning, sees some bright pebble glistening on his path, lifts it
from the ground and says, this shall be my fetish. If he succeeds in the
business of the day, he places the little object in a shrine, gilds it,
brings it food, addresses his prayers to it; if it fails, it is cast
aside. Again, if after a little time the fetish ceases to fulfil his
wishes, he breaks it and drags it in the mire by way of punishment.

Such are a few of the gross and grotesque conceptions to which the
religion of mystery has given birth. It is true, to the educated mind
of the present day they will appear the very reverse of sublime. But
greatness is relative, and our own loftier conceptions of the sublime
are but the slow result of a long process of growth and development.


It has often been said that fear is the beginning of religion; a
statement of this kind however, cannot be accepted, without serious
qualification. There is a sense of kinship with the great, in whatever
form it may appear, of which even the meanest are susceptible. A nation
worships the hero who ruins it; and slaves will take a certain pride in
the superiority of their masters. It is not fear so much as admiration
of might which makes men servants of the mighty. The first tyrants on
earth were, in all likelihood, strong, agile, and brave men, possessing
in an extraordinary degree, the qualities which all others coveted. They
won applause, they were looked up to as natural leaders, and the arm of
force maintained what the esteem of their fellows had accorded in the
first instance. There is a touch of the sublime even in the rudest
adoration of force.

In the second stage of religious development, which we are now
approaching, the theory of possession discussed in the above, was
extended to the heavenly bodies, and the sun, moon and stars were
endowed with the attributes of personal beings. Hence the origin of the
great gods. As the sun is the most conspicuous body in the heavens,
the sun god figures as the central deity in every pantheon. The various
phases through which the luminary passes are represented in distinct
personalities. We find gods of the rising sun and of the setting
sun; gods of the sun of spring, summer and winter, gods also of the
cloud-enshrouded sun, that battles with the storm giants.

Since the hosts of heaven were supposed to be beings allied in nature
to ourselves, the action and interaction of the meteoric phenomena
was ascribed to personal motives, and the ingenuity of the primitive
philosophers was exhausted in finding plausible pretexts to explain
their attractions and repulsions, their seeming friendships and
hostilities. Thus arose the quaint and fanciful myths with which the
traditions of antiquity abound. Those problems which the modern mind
seeks to settle with the help of scientific investigation, the limited
experience of an earlier age was barely competent to attack, and it
covered with some pretty fiction, the difficulties which it could not
solve. The genealogy and biography of the sun-god formed the main theme
of all mythologies.

The daily progress of the sun through the heavens, is described as
follows: Each morning the golden crowned god leaves his golden palace
in the East, deep down below the ocean's waves; he mounts his golden
chariot, drawn by fiery steeds. A rosy fingered maiden opens the purple
gate of day, upward rush the steeds through blinding mist along the
steep ascent of heaven, down they plunge at evening into the cooling
waters of the sea; the naiads await the deity and bear him backward to
his orient home.

Again the fair youth Adonis is said to come out of the forest, where
nymphs had nurtured him. Venus and he hunt in joyous company through
wood and dale. One day Adonis is slain; the blood that trickled from
his wounds has turned the roses red, and the tender anemones have sprung
from the tears that love wept when she beheld his fall. The young god
who comes out of the forest is Spring; for a time he disports joyously
on earth, with love for his companion, but his term of life is quickly
ended. Spring dies, but ever returns anew. Among the Syrian women it
was customary for a long period to observe the festival of the Adoneiah;
with every sign of grief they first bemoaned the god's untimely death;
they beat their breasts, cut off the rich luxuriance of their hair;
showed upon his effigy the marks of the wounds he had received; bound
him with linen bands, anointed him with costly oil and spices, and then
buried him. On the seventh day the cry was heard, Adonis lives, Adonis
is resurrected from the grave. The story of a young god typical of the
Spring who suffers a premature death, and after a time resurrects from
the grave is well known in the mythologies of other nations.

The progress of the sun through the seasons is thus personified. The
rays of the sun are described as the locks of the sun-god's hair. When
the sun's heat waxes, these locks increase in abundance, when it wanes
they diminish, until in mid-winter the head of the sun-god is entirely
bald. At this season the god is supposed to be exceedingly weak, and his
eye, bright in the summer, is now become blind. He is far from his home,
and subject to the power of his enemies, the wintry storms. These traits
recur in the familiar Hebrew myth of Samson. The word Samson means sun;
he is bound with ropes, as is also the sun-god among the Polynesians.
The secret of his strength is in his hair. Shorn of this the giant
becomes feeble as a child, and is blinded by his foes.

But it is the sun in its conflict with the demons of the storm, the sun
as a warrior and a hero, that chiefly attracts the _religious_ reverence
of the heroic age. In nature there is no more striking exhibition of
power than is revealed in the phenomena of the thunder-storm. Even to us
it has not lost its sublimity, and a sense of awe overcomes us whenever
the mighty spectacle is enacted in the heavens. Primitive man had a far
deeper interest in the issue of the tempest than we are now capable of
appreciating. To him the clouds appeared to be ferocious monsters, and
when they crowded about the central luminary, he feared that they might
quench its light in everlasting darkness. The very existence of the
universe seemed to be threatened. The sun-god, the true friend of man,
however arises to wage war against the demons: a terrific uproar follows
and the contending forces meet. Do you hear Thor's far-sounding
hammer, Jove's bolt falling in the thunder clap: do you see Indra's
lightning-spear flashing across the sky, and piercing the sides of the
storm dragon? The light triumphs; the tempest rolls away, but presently
returns to be again defeated. In this way arose the transparent stories
of Jupiter's conflict with Typhon, his precipitate flight, and his final
victory; the story of Indra's warfare against the writhing serpent,
Vritra, and numerous others that might be mentioned. It is the sun-god
who flashes the lightning and hurls the thunder. To him men owe the
maintenance of the order of existence. He is the mightiest of the gods.
Fighting their battles on high, he is invoked by the warriors to aid
them in their earthly-conflicts; he takes precedence of all the other
deities; he the strongest god is raised to the throne of the celestial

Now if we study the history of these deities, their intercourse among
themselves and with men, we find them to be no more than colossal images
of ourselves cast on the mists of the unknown. It is our face and form
that Jupiter wears; the echo of our wishes comes back to us in his
oracles. "If horses and cows could draw their gods," an ancient
philosopher has pointedly said, "as horses and cows would they draw
them." The gods share our passions, the good and the evil, distinguished
only in this, that what we feebly attempt, they can execute on a scale
of gigantic magnitude. They love and bless and shower a thousand gifts
upon their worshippers; but they can hate also; are vain, vindictive,

The gods demand tribute. Like the kings of earth, they received the best
share of the spoils of war and of the chase; and gold and silver also
was deposited in their sanctuaries. Perfumed incense and dainty cakes
were placed upon their altars. The gods are hungry, they must be fed.
The gods are thirsty, and certain strong narcotic beverages were brewed
especially for their benefit. For this among the Hindoos the juice of
the soma plant was mixed with pure milk.

The gods demand blood. The wide prevalence of human sacrifice is the
saddest fact that stains the annals of religious history. Among the
Fijians the new boat of the chieftain was not permitted to venture upon
the waves until it had been washed with human blood, in order to secure
it against shipwreck. Among the Khonds of India, we learn that the body
of a human victim was literally torn in pieces and his blood mixed
with the new turned clod, in order to insure a plentiful harvest. It is
estimated that at least twenty-five hundred human beings were annually
sacrificed in the temples of Mexico. Human sacrifice was known among
the Greeks, and its practice among the Hebrews is recorded in the Hebrew

When the manners of men ameliorated, and gentler customs began to
supplant the barbarous usages of an earlier day, the tyranny of the
gods was still feared, but various modes of substitution were adopted
to appease their jealousy of human happiness. In India we are told, that
the god of light being displeased with the constant effusion of blood,
commanded a buffalo to appear from out the jungle, and a voice was heard
saying, sacrifice the buffalo and liberate the man.

Another mode of substitution was to give a part for the whole. Some one
member of the body was mutilated or curtailed in order to indicate that
the person's life was in reality forfeit to the god. Among certain of
the aboriginal tribes of America, the youth, on reaching the years of
maturity, was forced to place his hand upon a buffalo's skull, and one
or more joints of the finger were then cut off and dedicated to the
great spirit. There were other modes of mutilation of which I dare not
speak, but I will briefly add that the so-called rite of the covenant,
which is practised among the Jews even at the present day, rose in
exactly the same manner. Of course the original signification of the
custom has been forgotten and a purely symbolical mean-ing has been
attached to it. Nevertheless, its continuance is a disgrace to religion.
The grounds of sanity on which it is urged, are not in themselves
tenable, and if they were, religion would have no concern with them. It
is but a fresh instance of the stubborn vitality which seems to inhere
in the hoary superstitions of the past.

Occasionally, when a whole people was threatened with destruction, some
prominent and beloved individual was selected for sacrifice, in order
that by his death he might save the rest. The same feature was also
introduced into the legends of the gods. Philo tells us that the great
God El whom the Hebrews and Phoenicians worshiped, once descended to
earth, and became a king. This El was the supreme deity. He had an only
son whom he loved. One day when great dangers threatened his people,
the god determined to sacrifice his only begotten (--Greek--) son and
to redeem his people: and year by year thereafter a solemn festival was
celebrated in Phoenicia in honor of that great sacrifice.

The religion of force has left its dark traces in the history of
mankind. Even the higher religions accepted, while they spiritualized,
its degrading conceptions into their systems. Slowly only and with the
general spread of intelligence and morality, can we hope that its last
vestiges will be purged from the minds of men.

Vastness is an element of the sublime. In the religious conceptions of
the Hindoos we find it illustrated. It entered alike into the system of
the Brahmin and of the Buddhist, and determined their tone and quality.
A certain fondness for the gigantic, is peculiar to Hindoo character.
Witness the almost boundless periods of their ancient chronology;
the colossal forms with which the remains of their monuments and
architecture abound. A great Aryan nation having advanced from the
waters of the Indus to the shores of the sacred Ganges and having
subdued the natives by the force of superior numbers or bravery,
had learned to forget the active pursuits of war, and yielded to the
lassitude engendered by the climate of their new settlements. Around
them they beheld a rich and luxuriant vegetation; birds of rare and
many colored plumage, stately trees rising from interminable jungles.
Ravishing perfumes lulled their senses as they reposed in the shade of
these fairy-like forests. It was a land suited to dreamy contemplation.
Here the philosophic priests might dwell upon the vastness of the
Universal, and the imagination bewildered by the ever shifting phenomena
of the scene might well seek some principle of unity which could connect
and explain the whole. Brahma was the name they gave to the pervading
Spirit of All things. From Brahma the entire order of existence has
emanated; the elements of material things, plants, birds, beasts and
men. The lower castes came forth first and are nearest the brutes;
the castes of free-born workmen, and of warriors next, the priests and
saints last, in whom the world's soul found its loftiest expression.

To Brahma all things must return. Passing through an endless series of
transformations, and paying in the long and painful interval the penalty
of every crime it has committed, the migrating spirit of man is led back
at last to its primal source, and is resolved in the Brahma whence it
arose. The connection between individual and universal life was thus
kept constantly in view. The soul in the course of its wanderings might
pass through every conceivable mode of existence; might assume the
shape of creeping plants and worms, and wild animals; might rise to the
possession of miraculous powers in the heavens of the Rishis, while its
final destiny was to be reunited with the One and All.

The Buddhist Nirvana resembles the Brahma in being accounted the
ultimate principle of the world. When in the sixth century B. C. the
royal Hermit of the Cakyas revolted against the cruel despotism of the
priesthood, the legend relates that the sight of suffering in the forms
of sickness, old age and death, roused him from a life of indolent
pleasure, and impelled him to seek a remedy for the ills of human life.
His counsels were sweet and kindly; he taught self-control and wise
moderation in the indulgence of the passions, and brotherly help and
sympathy to lessen the evils which foresight cannot avert. He lifted
the degraded masses of the Indian land from out their dull despair; he
warred against the distinctions of caste, he took women and slaves for
his companions, he was a prophet of the people, whom the people loved.
But even to him the ills of this mortal condition seemed little when
compared with the endless possibilities of future ill that awaited
the soul in the course of its ceaseless transmigrations. He yearned to
shorten its weary path to the goal; and the mystic methods by which he
sought to enter Nirvana were a means adapted to this end. Nirvana is
the beginning and the end of things. Nirvana in which there is neither
action nor feeling; in which intelligence and consciousness are
submerged, appeared to this pessimist preacher the last, the only
reality. Life is a delusion, real only in its pains: the entire
cessation of conscious existence, is the solution he offers to human

Nirvana is the universal--its conception is vast and dim; it hovers in
the distance before the pilgrim of the earth; there will he find rest.

Unlike the Western nations, the Hindoos regarded the idea of immortality
with dread and terror, rather than pleased anticipation. The highest
promises of their religion, were intended to assure them that they would
cease to continue as individual beings or cease to continue altogether.
Peace in the tomb when this present toil is over seemed to them the
most desirable of goods, and a dreamless sleep from which no angel trump
should ever wake the sleeper.

"Two things," says Kant, "fill the soul with ever new and increasing
admiration and reverence; the star-lit heavens above me, and the moral
law within me."*

     * Kant's Works (Rosenkranz edition) vol. viii. p. 312.

The Hebrews were the first to lend to the moral ideas a controlling
influence in the sphere of religion. Let me attempt to briefly sketch
the origin of Monotheism amongst them, as numerous considerations
elsewhere recited in detail, have led me to conceive of it. The
religions of the Semitic nations who surrounded ancient Israel were
intensely emotional in character, and their gods were gods of pleasure
and pain. In the temples unbounded license alternated with self
sacrificing asceticism. The lewd rites of the goddess of love must
be regarded as typical of the one; the slaughter of sons in honor of
Moloch, of the other. Now the Hebrews have been distinguished for the
purity of their home life from a very early period of their history. The
high value which they set on male offspring, the jealous vigilance with
which they guarded the virtue of their women are alike illustrated in
the narratives of the Bible. The more gifted and noble minded among
them, beholding their domestic feelings outraged by the prevailing
religions, rebelled against the gross conceptions of idolatry. How could
they offer up their beloved sons for sacrifice, how could they give
over their wives and daughters to shame? The controlling force of their
character determined the doctrines of their creed. Judaism became, so to
speak, a family religion. Jehovah is conceived of as the husband of
the people. Israel shall be his true and loyal spouse, the children
of Israel are His children. The image of Jehovah is that of the ideal
patriarch. Like the patriarch, he is the head of the spiritual family
of man. Like the patriarch in ancient times, he is the lawgiver and
the judge; He is the guardian of domestic purity. The word for false
religion in Hebrew signifies fornication. "Contend against your mother,"
says Jehovah, "for I am not her spouse, nor she my wife." "My people
lust after false gods, for the spirit of impurity has seduced them." And
the day of the triumph of the true religion is thus predicted: "On that
day thou shalt not call me any more my Baal, (paramour) but thou shalt
call me my husband, and I shall wed thee in justice, etc." Thus the idea
of Jehovah sprang from the soil of the family, and the conception of a
divine father in heaven was derived from the analogy of the noblest of
moral institutions on earth. The spiritual God of the Hebrews was the
personification of the moral Ideal.

Like his relations to the chosen people and to mankind in general,
the relations of the Deity to the external world were described in
accordance with the demands of the Ethical Law. Two things morality
insists upon; first, that the natural in its coarser acceptation shall
be subordinate to the moral. Secondly, that in the scale of values
itself shall occupy the highest rank, and that the purpose human life on
earth can only be a moral purpose. As the mechanism of nature is not of
itself calculated to harmonize with the purposes of spirit, it behooves
that the spiritual God shall possess a power over matter adequate to
enforce the claims of the moral ideal, such power as only the creator
can exert over his creatures. Hence the doctrine of the creation. And
again the state of perfection to which the human heart aspires can only
be attained through the instrumentality of supreme wisdom, power and
love, in a millennial age when the scheme of the universe will be
perfected in the reign of absolute justice and peace. Hence the doctrine
of the Messiah. Both doctrines are the typical expression of a moral

In the opening of Genesis we read a description of the making of the
world. All was wild vast chaos, and darkness brooded over the abyss,
when the Spirit of Jehovah breathed on the waters; a single word of
command and light penetrated the gloom, the waters divided, the great
luminaries started forth on their course; the earth clothed herself in
verdure, and the forms of living beings sprang into existence. The words
"God saw everything he had made and behold it was very good," contain
the gist of the narrative. In Zephaniah and Isaiah we read: "On that day
I will turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon
the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent." "No one shall then
do evil, no one hurt in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be
full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea."

These visions are not true in the sense of historical occurrences past
or future. That the world was ever created out of nothing, what human
understanding can conceive of it? That a time will come when society
shall be so transformed that the pure language of love alone shall be
spoken, who that is instructed in the failings of our finite nature can
credit it? They are true in the sense of ideals; true, with the truth
of poetry, bodying forth in concrete shape the universal yearnings of

There is also another element of belief associated with the doctrine of
the Messiah, which still more plainly illustrates the typical value of
religious tenets. In the coming week the churches throughout Christendom
will rehearse the story of the passion and the death of their founder.
Mournful chants and lamentations will recall every circumstance of the
dark drama that closed on Calvary. That tale of harrowing agony still
moves the hearts of millions as though it were a tale of yesterday. It
is the symbol of the suffering and the crucifixion of the whole human
race. "Ah, but our griefs he has borne, our sorrows he has carried, he
was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities."
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the author of these lines
transcribed in them the sad experience of the reformers of his day. He
does not refer to any one Messiah; he speaks of that legacy of sacrifice
which is the heritage of the great and good, the world over. For who can
help us when we are plunged in deepest anguish, when it seems as though
we must sink under the load of trouble, but one who has endured like
trials, endured and triumphed over them? It is the martyrdom of the pure
that has redeemed mankind from guilt and sin? There is this constant
atonement of the strong for the weak, of the good for the evil. As old
Paul Gerhard has it in his seventeenth century hymn:

     "When utmost dread shall seize me,
     That human heart can know,
     Do thou from pain release me,
     By thy great pain and woe."

The teachings of religion then have their source in the aspirations
of the human heart; are the echoes of our wishes and our hopes. Not
valueless on that account, but valuable only in so far as they express
in noble types, noble aspirations of our souls. It were sad indeed if
morality depended upon the certainty of dogma. On the contrary it
is true that all that is best and grandest in dogma, is due to the
inspiration of the moral law in man. The time will come when the tenets
of faith will no longer be narrowly understood as now; and while
their influence will still be great, they will cease to be harmful
and confining. They will be used as rare imagery, to deck the sublime
meanings which they symbolize; not as vessels that contain the absolute
truth, but as choice and beautiful vases, fit to hold the ever fresh and
ever blooming flowers of the ideal.

The dogmatic assertion of religious teachings we hold to be a serious
evil, and dogma as such we cannot accept. Its influence in the past has
been pernicious, and is so at the present day no less. It has inflamed
the hatred of man against his brother man, it has led to the fatal error
of duties toward a personal Creator, distinct from our duties toward our
fellows: it has perverted the moral sense, by giving to the concern of
future salvation, a degree of prominence before which the interests
of the present life sink into comparative insignificance; it does not
afford us a common basis whereon we could unite, for it is by nature
uncertain and calculated to provoke dissensions. On the other hand we
behold in conscience the root of whatever good religion has achieved,
and the law of conscience must suffice to guide and elevate our lives.
To refresh the moral sentiment is the one thing needful in our time, and
indeed presents a task on whose accomplishment the highest interests of
society depend. Time will show that a simple appeal to duty will surely
suffice to lead men to more earnest exertions toward the good. Time will
show that those who know no other mode of salvation than the salvation
which is attained by works of love, will be at least as active in the
pursuit of virtue as those who put their trust in faith.

The gold of morality has been variously coined in the world's religious
systems. Various have been the symbols that were stamped thereon, and
various the images of the King in whose name it was issued, but
their value so far as they had value was in the moral gold that they
contained, and in naught else. Let Liberalism stamp its coin with the
Eagle of Liberty only, in its ethical teachings it will still retain the
substance of all religion.

Dogma we will keep in abeyance,--this is our point of departure, and
the deed superior to the creed. Be it ours to hold high the moral ideal,
whether we clothe it with personality or not. Be it ours to act divine
things, no matter how we regard divine mysteries. Be it ours to help in
lifting up the fallen, to lend free utterance to the complaints of
the oppressed, to brand the social iniquities of our time, to give our
hearts warmth and the labor of our hands to the cause of their redress,
and to push on with whatever power we may, the progress of our race
toward those high and holy goals of which the dreamers dream, the
prophets prophesy.


The old religions and science are at war. With pitiless consistency
science directs its attack upon their vulnerable positions. The
conception of inexorable law subverts the testimony of miracles; the
fond belief in truths divinely revealed fails to withstand the searching
analysis of historical criticism; the battle of science is yet far from
being won, but from our standpoint the issue cannot appear doubtful. It
behooves us therefore to inquire into the moral bearings of the general
result thus far achieved and to review what we have lost and won.
Shall we succeed thereby in allaying the sense of alarm that is wont
to agitate the timid heart when it beholds so much that it confidently
believed a part of the everlasting verities of life, sink back into the
gulf of uncertainty and doubt?

We are standing at the portals of a new age, and new conceptions have
arisen of the purpose which we are here to accomplish and of the means
of help we can command in the attempt to realize our destiny. These
new conceptions we call The New Ideal. It is the purpose of our present
discourse to compare some salient features of the old and new.

The old and new Ideals agree in looking to an Infinite beyond the
borders of experience, for it is in the nature of the ideal to lift us
above the merely real. They differ in the direction in which they
seek their object, and the bias which they consequently give to men's
thoughts and actions. Theology, perceiving the inability of reason to
solve the problems of the beginning and the end, yet unable to
restrain a desire to know what is really unknowable, has impressed the
imagination into its service, and drawn a picture of the transcendental
world, conforming indeed to the analogies of man's terrestrial
existence, but on this account all the more adapted to answer the wishes
of the masses of mankind. Enough for them that they feel the need of
believing the picture true. We of the New School are, if possible,
even more profoundly convinced of the limitations of human reason. We
cheerfully accord to the religious conceptions of the past a poetic
value; they are poetry, often of the sublimest kind; but we cannot
deceive ourselves as to the noble weakness of the heart to which they
owe their origin; we cannot forget that in their case alas the wish
has been father to the thought. To us the mystery is still mystery--the
veiled arcana are not revealed, the riddle is unread. But we are not
therefore filled with terror or dismay. In the moral nature of man we
discover a divine element. In the voice of conscience we hear the voice
of the present divinity within us, and we learn to regard this mortal
state of ours as a channel through which the currents of Eternity ebb
and flow ceaselessly. The divine nature is not far off, nor beyond the
sea; in our own hearts on our own lips!

But let us seek to scrutinize the distinctive features of the old and
new more closely. The old ideal was supernatural in character, it taught
man to regard his life on earth as a brief, temporary transit, himself
an exile from the Kingdom on high. The concerns of the present world
were in consequence deemed of secondary importance, and the eye dwelt
with anxious preference on the dim chances of the hereafter. Where the
hope of immortality has been prominently put forward by any religion,
the effect has thus but too often proved disastrous to the progress and
security of society. It is well-known by what painful penances the monks
of the Middle Ages sought release from the trammels of the flesh,
how they affected to despise the ties of domestic affection, how they
retarded the advancement of knowledge, how the passions which they
sought in vain to suppress often recoiled upon them with fearful
retribution, and gave rise to disorders which seriously undermined
public virtue.

But not only has supernaturalism tended indirectly to weaken the springs
of virtue, it has called into being an order of men whose very existence
is a standing menace to the freedom of intellect and the rights of
conscience. The distance between the Creator and his creatures is so
great, that the intervention of some third party is deemed necessary
to mediate between the finite and the Infinite. The priest steps in to
perform this office, and his influence is great in proportion to the
value of the services which he is supposed to render. Furthermore it
is believed that the personal deity requires the performance of certain
actions in his honor, and what these actions are is again left to the
priest to determine. In this manner the ceremonial part of religion
grows up, and acquires a degree of importance fatal to the moral life.
The duties toward God transcend the duties toward man, and but too often
usurp their place.

The Bible likens the relations of man to God to those of a child to its
father. It is true supernaturalism has often proved a valuable stay to
those already morally strong, and it were absurd to deny that under its
fostering care many of the noblest qualities that distinguish the filial
relation have been developed in the lives of religious men. It is from
no lack of appreciation on our part that we have dwelt on the evils
rather than the blessings it has brought. But in acknowledging that we
have really lost the sense of protection, the childlike trust which lend
such rare beauty to the character of many ancient models of piety, we
deemed it important to point to the shades that darken the picture
of the * supernatural religions, its lights are made the theme of a
thousand discourses week after week, and are hardly in any danger of
being speedily forgotten.

From the back-ground of the old Ideal stands out in bold relief the new.
It is the reverse of supernatural; if it takes pride in anything, it is
in marking a return to nature. Trammels of the flesh, contamination of the
body? There is nothing it tells us in itself contaminating. The body is
not alien to the mind, it is the seed plot from which mind flowers out
in every part. Regard the form of man, observe the quick play of the
features, the expressive smile, the speaking glance, every attitude,
every gesture full of meaning, the whole body irradiated as it were,
with the indwelling intelligence. And so the passions too which we are
wont to associate with our corporeal nature are but the rough material
from which the artist soul behind them fashions its immortal types of
beauty and of holiness. There is a graceless innuendo in the term nature,
as of something hard, gross, material. In truth, nature is the subtlest,
most ethereal presence of which we catch a gleam only at rare intervals,
the reflex of a hidden light that glimmers through the facts and motions
of the world. Take the nature of water for instance. Is it in the
hydrogen, in the oxygen, in the single atom? Not there, yet there!
somewhere hovering, imponderous, elusive. It comes nighest to the senses
when the atoms act and react upon each other, in the flow of mighty
rivers, in the leap of cataracts, in the turmoil of the sea. Or the
nature of the tree; is it in the roots, in the trunk, in the spreading
branches, the leafy crown? Perhaps in the fruit more than elsewhere the
hidden being of the tree comes forth into external reality, and opens
to the eye and touch. In action and fruition the deeper nature appears.
Thus in the outward world, and thus in man. Our soul-life, too, is a
flowing stream, whose power is not in any part but in the ceaseless,
changeful motion of the whole, that forms a strong spiritual current on
which our thoughts and sentiments move like swimmers toward an infinite
sea. And like a tree are we, with the mighty trunk of intellect, the
spreading branches of imagination, the fibrous roots of the lower
instincts, that bind us to the earth. But the moral life is the fruit we
bear; in it our true nature is revealed; in it we see the purpose of
our being fulfilled. So when we speak of a return to nature, it is this
higher nature to which we refer, whose origin we know not, but whose
workings we feel, and know them by the token of the sweet satisfaction
they afford us to be the crown and glory of our lives. The old Ideal
emphasizes the Eternal that is without us; the new the Eternal that is
within ourselves. The old styles us exiles from the kingdom of truth;
the new summons us to be the banner-bearers of truth; the old points to
a heaven beyond the earth, the new tells us that our earth too is a part
of the heaven, a light-world, among endless worlds of light.

If secondly we consider the means of support at our disposal in
the pursuit of the ideal, we find prayer in universal use among the
adherents of the old. Prayer in the sense of supplication, has been
defined as "a request made to the Deity as if he were a man." And truly
the language of prayer often tallies with this description. "Let me
succeed in this undertaking," prays the Indian, "that I may slay my
enemy and bring home the tokens of victory to my dear family, in order
that they may rejoice together. Have pity on me and protect my life,
and I will bring thee an offering." Some such inducement as the last is
frequently coupled with the petition, "Here is an offering for you, O
God! Look kindly towards this family, let it prosper and increase, and
let us all be in good health." "Let me come upon my enemies speedily,
let me find them sleeping and not awake, and let me slay a good many of
them." "I pray for cattle, I pray for corn, I ask also for children, in
order that this village may have a large population, and that your name
may never come to an end, for of old we have lived by your favor, let us
continue to receive it. Remember that the increase of our produce is the
increase of your worship, and that its diminution must be the diminution
of your rites." Among the Hindoos the efficacy ascribed to prayer was
such that the gods themselves were deemed powerless to resist it, and
the mystic invocations of the priests exerted a fateful influence on the
destinies of the world. The ancient and modern literature of the Hebrews
likewise testifies to their faith in prayer, and Christianity has
herein followed if not outstripped their example. In case of drought
the following prayer is offered in many of our churches: "Send us, we
beseech thee, in this our necessity, such moderate rain and showers that
we may receive the fruits of the earth to our comfort and to thy honor."
In case of storms: "We humbly beseech thee to restrain these immoderate
rains, wherewith for our sins thou hast afflicted us, and we pray thee
to send such seasonable weather that the earth may in due time yield her
increase for our benefit." In case of famine, "Increase the fruits of
the earth by thy heavenly benediction, and grant that the scarcity
and dearth which we now most justly suffer for our sins, through thy
goodness may be turned into plenty." In case of sickness, prayers are
offered for the recovery of the sufferer.

Against all these forms of petition the modern view of life emphatically
protests. It starts with the grandest of scientific generalizations,
that of the universality of nature's laws. These laws cannot be broken;
they govern the course of the planets as they revolve through space,
they appear in the slightest eddy of dust that rises on our streets. The
world is a Kosmos; to pray for a change in its arrangements is to pray
for its destruction. The rains come when they must come, and the earth
yields or withholds her crop, as a system of causes determined from
immeasurable aeons of time prescribes. Is the God to whom men pray
so poor a workman that he will change the mechanism of the Universe at
their bidding? If all that is, is his work, why then the drought is
his work, and the famine, and the sickness are his work, and they are,
because he has willed that they should be. "The gods help them that
help themselves." We are placed in a world with which we are but half
acquainted; our business is to know it thoroughly. All the history of
mankind from the beginning has been a series of tentative struggles to
acquire this precious knowledge, and we have made indeed some headway.
We began by defending ourselves against the attacks of wild beasts; we
tilled the soil; we invented tools, we formed communities, we moderated
the friction of social intercourse; we discovered the talisman of
science, and the Aladdin's lamp of art. In the treatment of disease also
a great advance has been made. When the Mayflower reached the American
continent, she found a bleak and barren shore, full only of graves. A
great epidemic had swept over the Indian tribes, and the natives fell
like dead flies before the scourge. They had charms and prayers; these
did not help them. We have accomplished a little; we are bound to aim
at more. Why then call in the supernatural? It will not come, though we
call never so loudly. The vain attempt does but keep us from that which
is more needful, active exertion and strenuous efforts at self-help.
But we are told that our success is poor at best, and that in the vast
majority of cases, all our exertions avail nothing: moreover it is said
that man is too frail and feeble a creature to depend upon himself alone
in times of trial, and that prayer, whether it be answered or not, is
valuable as a means of consolation that soothes and stills the heart. It
is but too true that our achievements fall far short of our desires. Let
those that do not, cannot pray, seek support in the sympathies of
their kind, and where self-help fails, mutual help will offer them an
inexhaustible source of strength and comfort. As for that species of
prayer which is not addressed to a personal God at all, but claims to
be an aspiration, an outpouring of the spirit, we do fail to see how it
deserves the name of prayer in any sense. The use of the vocative,
and of the pronoun thou is certainly calculated to mislead, and the
appearance of inconsistency is hardly avoidable.

Lastly, the old Ideal was stationary, retrospective; it placed its
paradise at the beginning of human history. In the far off past it
beheld our best and loftiest hopes anticipated and realized. Then the
full significance of life had been reached; then the oracles had spoken
loudly and clearly whose faint echoes now float like memories of
half forgotten melodies to our ear; then the imperishable truths were
revealed in those olden, golden days. Not so, says the new Ideal. Rude
and wretched were the beginnings of mankind on earth, poor the mind, and
void the heart. Far from being exemplary, the ideas of right and wrong
entertained by our earliest progenitors were infinitely below our
own. Not indeed, that the substance of the moral sentiment has ever
perceptibly changed. The inherent principle of right remains the same,
but it assumes higher forms and is applied on a wider scale as the race
advances. Thus the commandment not to kill a being like ourselves was
recognized from the first, but in the earliest times, only members of
the same family were esteemed beings like ourselves; to kill a neighbor
was not wrong. The family widened into the clan, the clan into the
people, and all the nations are now embraced in the common bond of
humanity. Thus step by step the life of the clansman, the fellow citizen
and at last of every human being came to be regarded as sacred. From a
common centre morality has developed _outward in concentric circles_.
In different ages also different virtues predominated. Patriotism was
esteemed highest in the Roman world; self-sacrifice and chastity in the
first Christian communities. But whatever had thus been gained was not
thereafter lost. Each age added its own to the stock of virtue; each
contributed its share to swell the treasure of mankind. The struggle for
existence that raged fiercely on the lower levels of culture, loses its
harsher aspects as we advance upon the path of civilization. The methods
of force by which the unfit were eliminated are gradually falling into
disrepute, if not into disuse. At last the good will survive because
of its own persuasive excellency. The conflict will become one of ideas
merely, an emulous peaceful contest for the prize of truth.

That the manners of the modern world have indeed become ameliorated, our
own brief experience as a society serves to illustrate. A few centuries
ago, such an enterprise as ours would never have been attempted, or if
undertaken, would have been speedily crushed by the arm of authority or
the weight of prejudice. We will not say that bigotry is dead; the fires
of persecution still slumber beneath their ashes, and now and then start
up into pretty bonfires to amuse the idle crowd; but the time has
gone by when they could mount on funeral pyres--they can kindle
conflagrations no more.

The new Ideal is progressive. Whatever we have achieved, it tells us
there are larger achievements yet beyond. As we rise in the scale of
moral worth, the eye becomes clearer and wider of vision. We see in
remote ages a race of men freer and stronger because of our toils, and
that is our dearest hope and our sweetest recompense that they shall
reap what we have sown.

The old and the new Ideals will struggle for the mastery; that which is
stronger will conquer as of old, in the struggle for existence. But the
new hope fills us with trust and gladness that that which is true will
be strong.


It is with good reason, that the very name of the priesthood, has become
odious to the modern mind. How has their fanaticism drenched the earth
with blood, how has their unbridled ambition sown seeds of discord
among the nations; how lamentable a commentary is the record of their
frailties upon the assumption of superior sanctity and God-given
authority. Yet it is not the priestly office, but its abuse, which has
proved of evil, nor has the time yet come, when the ministry of priests
can be safely dispensed with. There shall come a new Ideal to attract
men's reverence and a new service of the Infinite and a new priesthood
also to do its ministry. It is of this modern priesthood, I would speak.

Fear not that I am about to advocate a return to that system of
spiritual bondage, from which we have but just escaped. The priests to
whom we allude shall not be known by cassock or surplice. It is not
at the altar they shall serve, least of all shall they have dogmas to
communicate. They shall not be more than human, only if possible more
human. Priests have we of science, we name them so; men whose whole soul
is wrapped up in the pursuit of knowledge: priests of art, who dedicate
their lives to the service of the Beautiful, priests also of the Moral,
artists of the Good, sages in the science of Virtue, teachers of the

Let us consider for a moment, in order to illustrate our meaning, the
life of one such priest, whose fame has come down to us undimmed by the
corroding influence of time--the life of Socrates. He held no office, he
ministered at no shrine, yet he was in the true sense a priest. A plain
unpretentious man, content to live on coarse fare, inured to want,
homely in appearance, using homely language; nothing had he in
appearance to attract; yet the gay youths left their feasts and frolics
when he approached, and the busy market-place was hushed to listen
to the strange wisdom of his sayings; there was indeed a singular and
potent charm in this man's soul. He had a great need of righteousness,
wonderful, how he awakened the same need in the hearts of the Athenian
burghers of his day. He was the reverse of dogmatic. In comparison with
the vastness of the unknown, he was wont to say, all human knowledge
is little even to nothingness, he did not assume to know the truth, but
strove to assist men in finding truths for themselves. He had his own
enlightened views on questions of theology. But far from desiring to
convert others to his convictions, he rather sought to divert their
attention from those mysterious problems, in which men can never be
wise, problems that are no nearer their solution today, than they were
two thousand years ago. To those who questioned him concerning religion
he replied: Are ye then masters of the humanities, that ye seek to pry
into divine secrets? His father had been a fashioner of statues before
him, he was a fashioner of souls! This Socrates was condemned to suffer
death on the charge of atheism, and met his fate with the calmness of
the philosophic mind. If death, he said, is progress to untried spheres,
then welcome death! If it is sleep only, then also welcome death and its
deep repose. All the tokens of the priest were fulfilled in him. He was
true to himself and unbared to others the veiled truths of their own
higher nature. He was a loftier presence on earth, a living flame fed
from its own central being, a sun to which the world turned and was
thereby enlightened. We perceive then, that what we desire is not a new
thing. There has been this service of the Ideal from the earliest times.
Only a new plea would we urge for larger fidelity to that which the best
have striven for, and which under new conditions it will be the glory of
our age to approach more nearly.

The priest shall be a teacher of the "Ideal," but what is the Ideal and
how distinguish it from the Real. Regard the trees, behold their number,
the wondrous plenitude of their kinds.. There is the lithe and slender
pine, the mighty oak, the stately palm, the tender willow. Alike
yet most unlike. And who has ever seen the perfect tree! Observe the
expressive features of the human face. How many thousands of such faces
are born into the world each year and yet no two alike. By what fine
shades, what scarce perceptible curves, what delicate touches has
nature's chisel marked them each apart. Graceful forms and lovely faces
there are, yet perfect none. Now the Ideal is the perfection of the
Real. To find it we must go beyond the Realities. We study the nature of
the tree, of man. We note the suggestions of the various parts, complete
and produce them in utmost harmony, each perfect in itself, each serving
by its own perfection, the rounded symmetry of the whole. In the image
thus created we grasp the ideal form. Art with its genial enchantments,
creates such images and gives them permanence in pure types of immortal
significance. Art is idealism of form.

The intellect also, which looks out from behind the features, the
indwelling man, exhibits the same twofold aspect of the Real and Ideal.
Our real thoughts are incomplete and inadequate. We are led astray a
thousand times by false analogies, we are decoyed into the labyrinths
of fancy, we become the victims of impression, the toys of circumstance.
But deep down in the basic structure of the mind are true laws, unerring
guides. Logic expresses them, logic is the idealism of intellect.

And lastly we recognize the same distinction in the realm of feeling.
To the untutored caprice, the overmastering impulse, in brief to the
realism of the passions is opposed the law of right feeling, which
ethics expresses. Ethics is the idealism of character. We call this last
the capital revelation of man's nature. The moral law is not derivative,
it can not be proven, it can not be denied. It is the root from which
springs every virtue, every grace, all wisdom and all achievement. An
attempt has indeed been made to base morality upon a certain commonplace
utility, but true morality scorns your sad utilities. That is useful,
which serves an object besides itself, while morality is itself an end,
and needs and admits no sanction save its own excellency. As it delights
the man of science to expand his judgment in ever wider and wider
generalizations, as the larger thought is ever the truer thought, so is
there an exquisite pleasure and an unspeakable reward in expanding the
narrow consciousness of self in the unselfish, and the larger emotion
is ever the nobler emotion. We speak of the moral Ideal, as The IDEAL,
because it expresses the central idea of human life,# the purpose of our
existence on earth. To expound and illustrate its bearings on our daily
duties, our joys, our griefs and our aspirations, is the scope and limit
of the priestly office.

The moral ideal would embrace the whole of life. Before it nothing is
petty or indifferent, it touches the veriest trifles and turns them into
shining gold. We are royal by virtue of it, and like the kings in the
fairy tale, we may never lay aside our crowns. It tells us, that nothing
shall be for its uses only, but all things shall take their tone and
quality from the central idea.

When we build a house, it shall not be for its uses only. We shall have
kitchens and drawing rooms and libraries and pictures and flowers, if
possible. But the house, with all its comforts and luxuries, is mere
framework, and our words and doings construct the true, the spiritual
home. When we sit down to table, it shall not be for the use of the
food and the flavor of the wine only, but morality should preside at the
feast and lend it grace and dignity. Morality does not mope in corners,
is not sour nor gloomy. It loves genial fellowship, loves to convert
our meanest wants into golden occasions for joy and sympathy and happy
communion. Manners too are the offspring of character. We do not rate
highly the dry and cheerless conventionalisms of etiquette, but in
their origin, they were the fruit of truth, and love. The rules of good
breeding may be reduced to two; self-possession and deference. As when
a public speaker loses his self-control, his own uncertainty is quickly
communicated to his audience, and he forfeits his influence over his
hearers; so the same cause produces the same effect in every lesser
audience that gathers in our parlors. Society says to you: If I shall
trust you, you must begin by trusting yourself. The man of the world
will enter the palace of the prince and the cottage of the peasant with
the same equipoise of manner. If he respects himself, there is no
reason why he should stand abashed. Self-possession is essentially
self-respect. Deference, too, is a primary condition of all courtesy.
It teaches us to concede to others whatever we claim for ourselves; it
leads us instinctively to avoid loudness, and self-complacency. It is
expressed not only in the polished phrase, but in mien, attitude, every
movement. Self-possession and deference of manner are both the outgrowth
of moral qualities, the one depending on the consciousness of personal
worth, the other inspired by an unselfish regard for the well-being of
others. From these two it were possible to deduce the rules of a
new 'Chesterfield,' which should be free from all the conceit and
affectation of the old. Unfortunately, manners are no longer the natural
outpouring of heart-goodness. Men attire themselves in politeness as
they do in rich apparel; they may be as rude as they please, the year
round, they know they can be fine on occasion. Moreover in the home
circle, where the forms of courtesy are quite indispensable to prevent
undue friction; to send the light of grace and poetry into a world of
little cares; to fill the atmosphere of our daily surroundings as
with the fragrance of a pervading perfume; they are yet most commonly
neglected. The word manners has the same meaning as morals. When we
shall have better morals, we shall have truer and sweeter manners.

The Ideal which thus seeks to interpenetrate the most ordinary affairs
of private life, stands out also in the market place, in the forum, in
the halls of legislation, and setting aside the merely useful, exhorts
men to return to permanent values. That is the ideal view of politics
which teaches us to hold the idea of country superior to the utilities
of party, to exact worthiness of the public servants, to place the
common good above sectional animosities and jealousies. That is the
ideal view of commerce, which impels the merchant, while seeking
prosperity by legitimate means, to put conscience into his wares and
dealings and to keep ever in sight the larger purposes of human
life. That is the ideal view of the professions, which leads their
representatives to subordinate the claims of ambition and material gain
to the enduring interests of science, justice, and of all the great
trusts that are confided to their keeping. And he therefore shall be
called a priest of the Ideal, who by precept and example will divert us
from the absorbing pursuit of the realities and make plain to us that
the real is transitory, while in the pursuit of the Ideal alone we can
find lasting happiness. For the realities are constantly disconcerting
us in our search for the better. They are so powerful, so insistent; we
think them every thing until we have proved their attractions and find
them nothing. We have that only which we are. But the common judgment
holds to the reverse; we are only what we have. And so the turbulent
crowd plunges madly into the race--for acres, for equipage, for
well-stocked larders, for office, for fame. Good things are these, as
scales on the ladder of life, but life is somewhat more than acres and
equipage and office and fame. Seldom indeed do we truly live. Often are
we but shadows of other lives. We affect the fashions not only in dress
but also in thought and opinion. We are good or bad, as public opinion
bids us. The state is ruined, the church is corrupted, and the world's
giddy masquerade rushes heedlessly on. Give me one who will think Having
and Seeming less than Being; who will be content to be himself and a
law unto himself and in him I will revere the ideal man. Before him the
shams and mockeries of existence shall sink away. He will look into his
own soul and tell you the oracles he has read there, and you will hear
and behold your own heart. He will plant the sign of the Eternal on a
high standard and call unto a people that strays in the wilderness to
look up to that and be saved. The old and the young will he instruct,
and they shall love him, for his words will be an articulate cry to the
dumb voices in their own breasts. This is the be-all and end-all of his
mission,--to make them acquainted with themselves. Do you know he will
say, what a power is in you, what a light is hidden in the deep recesses
of your nature. Artists are ye all to whom your own soul is given to
mold it into beauty. Happy, happy indeed if you seek no other reward
but the artist's joy in his work and know that to be your glory and your

It is well, that there should be priests appointed to bear such messages
to us from time to time as we rest from our toil; to bring us face
to face with the inner life. But there are special occasions in these
passing years of ours, when the ideal bearings of life come home to us
with peculiar force and when we require the priest to be their proper

Marriage is one of them. We often hear it said that marriage is a mere
legal compact. The state, it is true, has a vital interest in protecting
the purity of the conjugal relation and may prescribe certain forms to
which its citizens are bound to conform. But has the meaning of the new
bond been indeed fully expressed, when the magistrate in the court room
has pronounced the young man and the maiden to be now husband and wife?
Among the ancient Hebrews youths and young girls were wont to meet
on the Day of Atonement, the most solemn day of the year, the day of
purification from sin, to cement their affections and plight their
troth. For marriage itself was esteemed an act of purification. Marriage
is the foundation of all morality. Its celebration does not end with the
wedding day: it is a constant celebration, a perpetual intermarrying of
two souls while life lasts.

Not the state only, but humanity also, that ideal state of which we are
all citizens, has an interest in the contract. A new sanctuary is to be
reared sacred to the ineffable mysteries of the home-life; in the home
with all the tender and holy associations that cluster about it let it
be dedicated. The supreme festival of humanity is marriage. There shall
be music and joy and a white-robed bride with myrtle wreath; and solemn
words to express the solemn meanings of the act.

At the grave also is the office of the priest, When some dear friend has
been taken from us, when the whole earth seems empty for the loss
of one and the pillars of existence seem broken, he shall say to the
grieving heart: Arise, be strong. He shall bid your brooding sorrow
pause. He shall speak of larger duties, which they you mourn have left
you, as their legacy. Larger duties: this is his medicine. You are not
free, you poor and sadly stricken friends to stand aside in idle woe,
but you shall make for the departed a memorial in your lives and assume
their half completed tasks. So the loss, though loss it be, will purify
you, and vim and vigor be found in the consolations of the Ideal. We
trust that we have used the term priest in no narrow restricted sense.
It is not the hierarchies of the past or the present of whom we have
spoken. The priest is not superior to his fellow men, nor has he access
to those transcendental regions which are closed to others. His power
is in this, that he speaks what all feel. And he shall be counted an
acceptable teacher, then only, when the slumbering echoes within you
waken to the music that moves and masters him.

There have been those, whose lives were molded on such a pattern among
the clergy at all times, and it is this circumstance, that has attracted
the reverence of mankind to the priestly office.

Noble men were they whose love burst through the cramping fetters of
their creeds, apostles of liberty, missionaries of humanity.

But there is one other trait necessary to complete the picture. The
priest of the Ideal must have the gift of tongues and kingly words to
utter kingly thoughts. In the philosophy of Alexandria it was held, that
before the world was, the word was, and the word created a universe out
of chaos and the word was divine. With that heaven-born energy must he
be filled, and with a breath of that creative speech must he inspire.
No tawdry eloquence be his, no glittering gift of phrase or fantasy, but
words of the soul's own language, words of the pith and core of truth.

The image of the Ideal priest which I have attempted to draw is itself
an ideal image, nowhere realized, never to be fully attained. But it
is to it that the priests of the new age will strive to come near and
nearer, and that will be their pride and their happiness, if they can
become in this sense friends and helpers of their kind.

In the eyes of the dogmatist they are strangers out of a strange land of
thought. If you ask them for their pass word, it is freedom, if you ask
for their creed, it is boundless. The multitude seeking to compress
the infinite within the narrow limits of the senses, must needs have
tangible shapes to lay hands on, names if nothing better. But the Ideal
in the highest is void of form and its name unutterable. We will ascend
on the wings of the morning, we will let ourselves down to the uttermost
depths of the sea, and know it there. But chiefly within ourselves shall
we seek it, in ourselves is its shrine. The time will come when single
men shall no more be needed to do its ministry, when in the brotherhood
and sisterhood of mankind all shall be priests and priestesses one to
another, for all their life shall be a song of praise to the highest,
and their whole being shall be consecrated and glorified in the immortal
service of deathless Ideals.



I AM aware that there exists a deep seated prejudice in the minds of
many of my hearers against what are called the forms of religion. We
have too long experienced their limitations and restraints, not to be
jealous now of our hard won liberties. But let us ask ourselves what
it is that alienates our sympathies from the ritual and ceremonial
observances of the dominant creeds? Is it the forms as such? Is it not
rather the fact that to us they have become dead forms: that they no
longer appeal to our sentiments, that they fail to stir, to invigorate,
to ennoble us? We have not cast them aside lightly. Often have we
entered the house of worship, prepared to be drawn back into the
influence of its once familiar surroundings: we beheld again the great
assembly, we heard the solemn music, we listened to the preacher as he
strove to impress upon a silent multitude, the lessons of the higher
life. But in the prayers we could not join, and the words to which
the music moved we could not sing, and the maxims of the preacher were
couched in language, and enforced with doctrinal arguments that touched
no chord in our hearts. We left disappointed, we had received no help:
if this were religion, we felt ourselves more distant from religion than
ever before.

On the banks of the Euphrates there flourished of old an extensive
colony of Jews. A "Prince of the Captivity" revived the memory of the
vanished glory of King David's house. High schools were erected that
afforded a common centre to the scattered members of the Jewish Faith.
In these the people beheld at once their bond of connection with the
past, and the pledge of future restoration to their patrimony. In the
early part of the middle ages, a prayer for the health and prosperity of
the presidents of the high schools was inserted into the liturgy. Well
nigh eight hundred years have elapsed since these dignitaries, and
the schools themselves, have ceased to exist, yet the prayer is still
retained, and may be heard repeated on any Sabbath in the synagogues of
the orthodox--a prayer for the health of the Prince and the high schools
on the Euphrates that vanished from the face of the earth eight hundred
years ago. Thus do religious forms continue to maintain themselves long
after their vitality is perished and their very meaning is forgotten.
But if the prevalent forms have ceased to satisfy us, can we therefore
dispense with form altogether? If the house that has given us shelter is
in ruins, shall we therefore live in the woods and fields, or shall we
not rather erect a new mansion on a broader foundation, and with firmer
walls? It has been the bane of liberalism, that it was simply critical
and not constructive. Your thought must have not wings only, but hands
and feet to walk and work, to form and reform. Liberalism must have its
organs, must enter the race with its rivals; must not criticise only,
but do better. Liberalism must pass the stage of individualism, must
become the soul of great combinations. What then shall be the form
adequate to express the new Ideal?

The form of any religion is the image of its ideal. To illustrate what
this means, let us consider for a moment the origin of the synagogue and
the church.

The orthodox opinion that Judaism was revealed to Moses fourteen hundred
years B. C. is condemned by modern critics of the Bible. The following
are some of the considerations that have influenced their verdict.
First, we read in scripture that so late as the reign of David, idolatry
was still rampant among the Hebrews, and the attempt to explain this
fact upon the theory of a relapse, is contrary to the testimony of the
Bible itself.

Secondly: The name of Moses is unknown to the prophets, his ostensible
successors, a circumstance which would remain inexplicable if Moses had
indeed been the founder of monotheism.

Thirdly: Large portions of the Pentateuch were probably not composed
before the sixth or fifth century B. C, that is to say about a thousand
years after the time of Moses. The account they give of the early
history of the people is therefore open to serious and just doubt. The
prophets were the real authors of monotheism. The priestly code of the
Pentateuch does not represent the form of Judaism which they taught.
They are not chargeable with the technicalities and dry formalism of the
"Books of Moses." They were the avowed enemies of the priesthood and for
a long time engaged in fierce struggles with the ruling hierarchy. Their
doctrines were in the essence these: That there is a Creator, that he
is just and merciful, that the same qualities in man are the most
acceptable species of divine service, that God directs all events,
whether great or small; and that it is the duty of man to accept the
guidance of the Deity, and to follow with tireless diligence the clews
of the Divine Will. Jehovah is to be reverenced not only as a spiritual,
but also as a temporal sovereign, and the prophets are his ministers
commissioned to transmit his decrees to men. Thus Monotheism found
expression in the form of Theocratic government. It is true the heathen
world was not yet prepared to enter into so near a relationship with the
Creator. On this account the Jews were selected to be a typical people,
and the Kingdom of God was for the time being confined to them. It
is evident from the above that the order of the prophets was the very
mainstay of the Theocratic fabric. When these inspired messengers
ceased to appear, the conclusion was drawn that the Will of God had been
fully revealed. The writings of the prophets were then collected into
sacred books, and were regarded as the constitution of the divine
empire. When Jerusalem was destroyed, the sacrifices were discontinued
and Judaism was purged of many heathenish elements which had been
allowed to mar the simplicity of the prophetic religion. The synagogue
took the place of the Temple, and an intricate code of ceremonies was
gradually elaborated, intended to remind the pious Jew at all hours and
seasons of his duties toward God, and the peculiar mission accorded to
his people. The synagogue was a single prominent peak in the range
of the religious life, a rallying point for the members of the Jewish
community, a meeting house where they assembled to confirm their
allegiance to their heavenly King.

Now the cardinal point of difference between primitive Christianity and
Judaism related to the alleged abrogation of the ancient constitution
set forth in the old Testament. Christianity said: The Messiah has come;
the law of Moses is fulfilled; the King has issued a new constitution,
and sent his own Son to put it in force. The time has arrived when the
Kingdom of God need no longer be restricted to a single people. Jesus
who perished on the cross will presently return, and the universal
theocracy will then be proclaimed. But Jesus did not return, his
followers waited long and patiently, but they waited in vain. As time
rolled on, they learned to dwell less upon the expected Millennium on
earth, and to defer the fulfilment of their hopes to the life beyond the
grave. In the interval they perfected the organization of the church.
The Christian Ideal of the Kingdom of Heaven is that of a communion of
all saints under the sovereignty of God through Christ. The Christian
Church is designed to be an image of this Ideal, a communion of saintly
men on earth, accepting Christ as their Master. Christianity aspired to
be the universal religion; there should be no barriers any more between
man and man; the exclusiveness of ancient Judaism should be broken down;
yet withal the barriers of a new creed soon arose in place of the old;
the portals of the Kingdom of Heaven were rigidly closed against all who
refused to bow to the despotism of dogma; and the virtues of pagans were
declared to be shining vices. The moral teachings of Christ are gentle
and kindly, but in the doctrinal contentions of the Christians the
spirit of the Master was forgotten, and the earth was deluged with
blood. And now the new Ideal differs from Christianity in this, that it
seeks to approach the goal of a Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, not by the
miraculous interference of the Deity, but by the laborious exertions
of men, and the slow but certain progress of successive generations. We
have named the form of religion an image of the Ideal, yet an image poor
and incomplete at best, rather a symbol, a suggestion of what can never
be realized. In the realm of art we do not find the soul of beauty in
the colored canvas or the marble statue; these are helpful hieroglyphics
only, teaching those that can read their mute language to create anew
the ideal as it lived in the artist's soul, in the divine hour of
conception. Thus all form has its value only in what it suggests. Our
Ideal is that of the fellowship of humanity in highest wisdom, highest
truth and highest love. The form of this ideal therefore can be none
other than a new fellowship united by the higher truths and purer love
that make its bond to be a symbol of the highest! We are weary of the
unreal and untrue existence we are forced to lead; we are weary of the
emptiness of routine, weary of the false coin of reputation that passes
current in the market of vanity fair; we are weary of the low standards
by which actions are judged, and to which, to our dismay, we perceive
our actions insensibly conform. But the pressure of social influences
about us is enormous, and no single arm can resist it. We must needs
band together then, if we would achieve a higher life; we must create
for ourselves a purer atmosphere, if any rarer virtues are to flourish
in our midst; we must make our own public opinion, to buoy us up in
every loftier aspiration. Unions we want that will hold, not religion
as a duty, but duty as a religion; union to achieve a larger morality.
Three things morality demands of us as interpreted in the light of our
present social conditions: greater simplicity in manners, greater purity
in the passions, greater charity. The habit of luxurious living
is eating into the vitals of society, is defiling the family, and
corrupting the state. Let me not be falsely understood. All that is
luxury which political economists are wont to class as unproductive
consumption. In this sense, books, music and pictures are luxuries, and
who would be willing to forego them. It becomes us to the utmost of our
powers to satisfy the thirst for knowledge, and to educate the sense of
harmony: it is wise to expend generously upon every means of culture and
refinement. But this we must bear in mind, that there should be a rank
and a proper subordination among our tastes and desires. Now that is
luxury in the evil, in the debasing sense of the term, that we subvert
the natural order of our tastes, that we make the mere gratification of
the animal passions, the mere pursuit of wealth, the mere adornment of
our clay, main objects, while the graces of intellect perish, and the
adornment of the soul is neglected. Say not, we will do the one, and not
leave undone the other; for the inordinate degree to which the meaner
passions are developed, dulls our sense of loftier needs. We cannot
serve these two masters. Frivolous in prosperity, we become helpless in
adversity and perish inwardly, our growth stunted, our nobler sympathies
blunted, long before we are bedded in our graves. What single effort can
achieve a change? Fellowship, friends are needed, and a public opinion
on behalf of simplicity.

And purity in the passions is needed. An ugly sore is here concealed,
a skeleton in the closet of which men speak with bated breath. Is there
not such a thing as sanctity of the person! Did you not rebel against
human slavery because you said it was wrong that any being born in
the image of man should be the tool of another? And no arguments could
deceive you--not if the slave offered himself willingly to the yoke, and
rejoiced in his bondage. You dared not so sin against human nature, and
accept that offer. And yet New York has its slaves, Boston its slaves,
and every large town on the face of the wide earth has this sinful,
outcast army of slaves--tools, whom we have robbed of that which no
human being has a right to barter, the right to virtue at least, if not
to happiness. Call not that a law of nature, which is the lawlessness of
nature! Say not, it has ever been thus, and ever shall be! From depths
of vice which the imagination dare not recall, humanity has slowly risen
to its present level, and higher and higher will it take its course when
the conscience is quickened and true love expands. Fellowship is needed
to support this difficult virtue and a public opinion on behalf of

And charity, friends; not that which we commonly called charity; but
charity that prevents rather than cures. You pass through the lower
quarters of our city, you see the misery, the filth, the gaunt, grim
poverty, the careworn faces, the candidates for starvation. Starvation!
whoever hears of it? The newspapers rarely speak of it; here or there an
exceptional case. Nay truly, these people do not starve; they die of a
cold perhaps; the small-pox came and carried them off: diphtheria
makes its ravage among them. Ah, but was it not want that sapped their
strength, and made them powerless to resist disease? Was it not their
life of pinched pauperism that ripened them for the reaper's scythe?
Then pass from these sorrowful sights to our stately Avenue. Behold
the gay world of fashion, its painted pomp, its gilded sinfulness, its
heartless extravagance. Is not this an intolerable contrast? Shall we
rest quiet under the talk of irremediable evils? Is it not true
that something must be done, and can be done because it must? The
distribution of wealth they say, is governed by economic laws, and
sentiment has no right to be considered in affairs of business. But
where I pray you is the sentiment of brotherly love considered as it
should be? Educate the masses! But do we educate them? Stimulate their
self-respect and teach them self-help! But what large or effective
measures are we taking to this most desirable end? You cannot help,
good friend, nor I. But a dozen might aid somewhat, and a thousand brave
unselfish hearts knit together for such a purpose, who shall say what
mighty changes they could work. Surely fellowship is needed here, and a
public opinion on behalf of charity.

The "fine phrase," humanity has pregnant meanings. They stand for the
grandest, the sternest realities of the times. Purity, charity and
simplicity, these shall be the watchwords of a new fellowship, which
shall practice the teachings of humanity, that are vain as the empty
wind, if heard only and approved, but not made actual in our deeds.

And yet some will smile incredulously and ask, where are the men and
women prepared to undertake such a task? It is true, we must begin at
the beginning. From earliest childhood the young must be trained on
a nobler method, and in the ethical school lies the main work of
preparation. There every step in the course of development must be
carefully considered, vigilantly watched and wisely directed, to the
one crowning purpose of ripening the young minds and hearts for that
fellowship of love and hope.

A new fellowship, a new order, I say boldly, whose members shall not be
bound by any vows, which shall have no convents, no mysteries, but shall
make itself an exemplar of the virtues it preaches, a form of the ideal.
The perils that attend such organizations are great; we will not attempt
to underrate their gravity, but we believe they can be overcome. The
spirit of co-operation lends mighty momentum to every cause; it depends
upon the cause itself whether the influence exerted shall be for good or
evil. And there has been in history a single order at least of the kind
which I describe: "The brotherhood of the common life," it was called;
an order composed of earnest, studious men, to whom the upheaval of
Europe in the sixteenth century was largely due; a noble brotherhood
that prepared the way for the great Reformation. The Catholic orders are
dedicated to the world to come; the order of the Ideal will be dedicated
to the world of the living: to deepen and broaden the conscience of men
will be its mission.

The propaganda of Liberalism in the past has been weak and barren of
great results. Strong personalities it has brought forth; around these
societies have clustered and fallen asunder when the personal magnet was
withdrawn. What we need is institutions of which persons shall be merely
the exponents; institutions that must be grounded on the needs of the
present, and that shall last by their own vitality, to future ages and
to the increase of future good.

It is the opening of the spring.* After its long winter sleep, the earth
reawakens, and amid the fierce storms of the Equinox nature ushers in
the season of flowers and of summer's golden plenty. It is the day of
Easter. Loudly the bells are pealing and joyous songs celebrate in the
legend of "Christ risen from the grave," the marvel of the Resurrection.
What we cannot credit of an individual, is true of the nations. After
long periods of seeming torpor and death, humanity ever arises anew from
the dust, shakes off its slumbers, and clothes itself with fresher vigor
and diviner powers.

     * The above discourse was delivered on Easter Sunday, April

Let the hope of the season animate us. Let it fill our souls with
confidence in our greater destinies; let it teach us to trust in them
and to labor for them, that a new Ideal may vivify the palsied hearts
and a new spring tide come, and a new Easter dawn arise over all


No thoughtful person can fail to appreciate the enormous influence which
women are constantly exercising for good and evil upon the destinies
of the world. The charms and graces of existence, whatever ennobles and
embellishes life, we owe mainly to them. They are the natural guardians
of morality, and from age to age the mothers of households have
preserved the sacred fire on the domestic hearth, whereat every virtue
is kindled. But they have also been the most formidable enemies of
progress. Their conservatism is usually of the most unreasoning kind,
and the tenacity with which they cling to favorite prejudices is
rarely overcome either by argument or appeal. They have been from
time immemorial the dupes, the tools, and the most effective allies of
priestcraft. Their hostility to the cause of Reform has been so fatal,
not only because of the direct influence of their actions, but because
of that subtle power which they exert so skilfully over the minds of
husbands, brothers and friends, by the arts of remonstrance, entreaty
and the contagion of their feeble alarms. The question whether their
hostility can be turned into friendship, is one of momentous importance
for the leaders of the Liberal movement to consider.

In the following we shall endeavor to make plain that the subordinate
position hitherto assigned to women, is the principal cause that has
impelled them to take sides against religious progress.

Among the primitive races woman was reduced to a condition of abject
slavery. Affection of the deeper kind was unknown. The wife was robbed
or purchased from her relations; was treated as a menial by her husband,
and often exposed to the most brutal abuse. As civilization advanced,
the marriage bond became more firm, and common interest in the offspring
of the union served to create common sympathies. Among the Greeks, the
ideal of domestic life was pure and elevated. The tales of Andromache,
Penelope and Alcestes illustrate the strength of conjugal fidelity and
the touching pathos of love that outlasts death. The Grecian home was
fenced about with scrupulous care and strictest privacy protected its
inmates from temptation. It was the duty of the wife to superintend
the internal economy of the household, to spin and weave, to direct the
slaves in their various occupations, to nurse them when sick, to
watch over the young children, and chiefly to insure the comfort and
satisfaction of her lord. His cares and ambitions indeed she hardly
shared. She never aspired to be his equal, and simple obedience to
his wishes was the supreme virtue impressed upon her by education, and
enforced by habit. Among the Romans, the character of the matron is
described in the most laudatory and reverential terms. Still the laws
of the Republic made woman practically the bondswoman of man. It is
well-known that our English word family is derived from the Latin
where it originally means the household of slaves. The matron too, was
counted, at least theoretically, among these slaves, and the right of
deciding her fate literally for life or death, belonged exclusively to
her husband. It is true in the cordial intimacy of the monogamic bond,
the austerity of usage, and the harshness of the laws are often tempered
by affection and mutual respect; yet we are aptly reminded by a modern
writer on this subject, that the law which remains a dead letter to
the refined and cultivated becomes the instrument of the most heartless
oppression in the hands of the vulgar and the passionate.

Among the Hebrews, a position of great dignity and consequence was
sometimes accorded to their women. The wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
played an important part in directing the affairs of the Patriarchal
households. A woman performed the functions of judge and leader of
armies, women sat upon the throne, prophetesses were consulted in grave
matters of the State and of religion; in the absence of sons, the
Mosaic law guarantees to daughters the right of succession to the family
estate. The later writings of the Jews are likewise replete with noble
sentiments touching the sanctity of the conjugal tie. Many of the
ordinances of the Talmud depend upon women for their execution, and this
circumstance alone must have contributed to raise them in the popular
estimation. In every marriage contract a certain sum was set apart for
the wife, in case of her husband's death or of divorce. Still the right
of dissolving the matrimonial connection belonged exclusively to the
husband, although under certain conditions he could be forced by the
court to issue the "writ of separation." However the wife might be
honored and loved, she was ever regarded as man's inferior.

The influence of Christianity upon the position of women, was twofold,
and in opposite directions. On the one hand women had been among
the first and most devoted followers of Jesus; women were largely
instrumental in effecting the conversion of the Roman Empire, and in the
list of martyrs, their names shine preeminent. On the other hand, the
church in the early centuries cast an unpardonable slur on the
marriage relation. We read of young maidens fleeing the society of dear
companions and friends, to escape the temptation of the affections, of
faithful wives, filled with inexpressible loathing at a connection which
they deemed contrary to the dictates of religion, and deserting husbands
and children. The desire of love was poisoned with a sense of guilt. The
celibacy of the clergy, finally enforced by Pope Hildebrand, gave rise
to the most shocking irregularities. All this tended to degrade the
female sex.

At the time of the crusades a partial revulsion of feeling took place.
The spirit of chivalry entered the church, the character of woman was
transfigured, and the worship of the Virgin Mary spread in consequence
throughout Europe. A change in the education of girls was one of the
results of the rise of Chivalry. Music and poetry became its chief
elements; women were fed on intellectual sweetmeats, but strong and
healthy nourishment was still denied them.

In all the different stages of progress which we have thus rapidly
scanned, the assumption of man's superiority to woman was held as an
incontestible article of belief, and even the chivalric ideal is only a
more amiable and disguised expression of the same view.

What effect the disabilities under which they labored must have had upon
the religious life of women will readily be perceived. There are two
attitudes of mind peculiarly favorable to orthodoxy; the one a tendency
to lean on authority, the other a disposition to give free sway to the
feelings without submitting them to the checks of reason. Now it is
plain that the condition of dependence to which society has condemned
woman is calculated to develop these very qualities to an abnormal
degree. From early childhood she receives commands and is taught to
distrust her own judgment. When she enters the bonds of matrimony she
becomes dependent on her husband for support, and in the vast majority
of cases, his riper judgment shames her inexperience. In all graver
matters she must perforce defer to his decision. Accustomed to rely on
authority, is it surprising that in matters of religion, where even
men confess their ignorance, she should rejoice in the authority of the
priest, whose directions relieve her of doubt and supply a ready channel
for her thoughts and acts. Again the feelings are her natural weapons,
shall she not trust them! The stability and security of society are the
conditions on which her dearest hopes depend for their realization. Can
she welcome the struggles of innovation. All her feelings cluster about
the religious traditions of the past; all a woman's heart pleads for
their maintenance.

Now to confine the feelings of woman within their proper bounds, it is
necessary to give wider scope, and a more generous cultivation to her
intellect; in brief to allow her the same freedom of development as is
universally accorded to man. Freedom makes strong, and the confidence of
others generates an independent and self-reliant spirit in ourselves. It
is indeed often urged that woman is by nature the inferior of man. But
the appeal to physiology seems to be at least premature; the relation of
the size of the brain to intellectual capacity being by no means clearly
determined; while the appeal to history is, if possible, even more
treacherous, because it cites the evils engendered by an ancient and
long continued system of oppression in favor of the system itself.
Counting all the disadvantages against which woman has been forced
to contend, and which have hampered her every effort to elevate her
condition, it is truly marvelous, not that she has done so little, but
that she has accomplished that which she has. Even in the difficult art
of government she has earned well merited distinction, and women are
named among the wisest and most beneficent rulers of ancient and modern
times.* What the possibilities of woman's nature may be, no one can
tell; least of all she herself. As it is she is credited with a superior
power of intuition, a readier insight into character, a more complete
mastery of details. What larger powers now latent a broader culture will
bring to light, remains for the future to show.

     * J. S. Mill, The Subjection of Women, p. 100.

But we are told that the sphere of woman's work is in the home, and that
properly to perform her vocation there, she does not need the vigorous
training required for men. That woman's mission ought to be and happily
is in the majority of cases in the home, no one will gainsay. At the
same time, we should not close our eyes to patent facts, facts such as
these; that the number of women whose mission actually does not lie in
the home, is exceedingly great; that according to the last census of the
United States, for instance, the female population of the State of New
York, is fifty-six thousand in excess of the male; that well nigh two
millions of women in this country are engaged in working for their
livelihood. Is it not cruel mockery to say to these women that their
business is in the household? If the condition of things is such that
they must seek outside labor; if we permit them to toil by hundreds of
thousands in the fields and factories, on what plea of right or reason
can we deny them admission to the higher grades of service? Is it not
simple justice to admit them to all the professions, and to allow them
the same advantages in colleges and professional schools as are enjoyed
by men?

We need not fear that the privilege will be abused. If women undertake
to engage in pursuits for which they are physically or mentally unfit,
the effect of competition will quickly discourage them, and here as
elsewhere, only the fittest will survive.

But aside from those who are destined to remain single, and considering
the seven millions of women, or more, who will become wives and mothers
of families; is not the demand for higher education equally imperative
in their case? Young girls are but too often educated to be the
agreeable companions, rather than the partners of their future husbands.
They receive sufficient instruction to give them a general acquaintance
with the surface of things, but not sufficient to develop what ought to
be the chief end of every scheme of education--a permanent intellectual
interest in any one direction. Much time is wasted on minor
accomplishments. At an age when the young girl is still totally
immature, she is often withdrawn from the influence of her preceptors,
and hurried from dissipation to dissipation, to tread the round of
society's gayeties, and to inhale the poisonous atmosphere of flattery
and conventional falsehoods. She enters a new world. The contrast
between the restraints of school life, and her novel sense of
consequence intoxicates her; the desire for pleasure becomes a passion;
the books of useful information, that never possessed a real charm for
her, are cast aside, and the literature of the sentiments alone retains
its attractions during the remainder of life. It is not astonishing
that those whose minds are thus left barren, should employ their leisure
hours in frivolous or vicious occupations; that an exorbitant luxury,
the sign at all times, of deficient culture, should have infected the
community. It is not wonderful that when the trials of life approach,
these women grasp wildly at the nearest superstition, and prostrate
themselves before any idol of the vulgar, in their blind ignorance and

I have said that higher education can alone make marriage what it ought
to be, for it is not fancy or the glow of passion that can bind the
hearts together in lasting wedlock. The marriage bond has deeper
meanings. Two souls are united, each to be all in all to each. Here
shall be the very consummation of love; love, that precious boon that
assuages every pang, and stills every grief, and triumphs over sickness,
sorrow, and the tomb. All nature's symbols fail to express its fulness;
it has the hope of the dawning day; it has the tender pathos of the
light of the moon; it has the melody of birds, the mystic stillness
of the forest, the infinity of the fathomless sea! Bounteous love,
how inexhaustible are its treasures! The fires of the passions kindle
affection, but cannot secure it. If there be only the stubble of desire
in the heart, that will quickly be consumed; if there be veins of true
gold there, that will be melted and refined. Years pass, youth fades,
the attendant train of the graces vanishes, loveliness falls like a
mask, but the union only becomes firmer and trustier, because it is a
union, not of the sentiments merely, but of the souls. The wife becomes
the true sharer of her husband's thoughts; mutual confidence reigns
between them; they grow by mutual furtherance; each sees in each the
mirror of his nobler self; they are the true complement one to the
other. Who does not know that such unions are rare! Common sympathies,
common duties do indeed create a tolerable understanding in most
households; but that is not wedlock that men and women should jog on
tolerably well together for the better part of a lifetime.

The modern mind is constantly broadening; new facts, new discoveries are
constantly coming to light, and loftier problems engage the attention
of thinkers. If woman would not be utterly left behind in the race, then
must she make an effort to acquire more solid knowledge, and educational
reform is the first step in the cause of woman's emancipation. The
electoral franchise, and whatever other measures may be included in
the popular phrase of "Woman's rights" should be reserved for future
discussion. If practicable at all, they are assuredly for the present of
secondary importance.

Permit me to close by briefly formulating a few points that seem to me
to deserve special consideration in this connection.

Woman, like man, should comprehend the age in which she lives and the
great questions by which it is agitated. To this end a knowledge of
history, and chiefly the history of her own nation, is requisite. She
should learn to understand the principles of the language she speaks,
and the literature in which it is preserved, not from dry text-books,
but from the living works of the authors themselves. She should be able
to pass an intelligent judgment upon the political issues of the day,
that take up so large a share of men's conversation, and to this end
the rudiments of political science might profitably be taught her.
She should possess sufficient familiarity with the natural sciences to
comprehend at least the main results of scientific investigations, and
a training of this kind would have the further advantage of accustoming
her mind to the methods of accurate thinking. She should gain some
knowledge of the human body and of the laws upon which its health
depends. Is it not strange that this important branch of knowledge is
so generally neglected in the training of those who are to be mothers of
the future generation? How often would proper attention to a few simple
rules of hygiene prevent sickness; how often would more efficient
nursing avert death, where it is now freely allowed to enter. Then too
the outlines of pedagogy should be included in a course of advanced
instruction for women. Mothers are the educators of the children, but
the educators themselves require to be educated.

If the intellect of girls were braced and stimulated in this manner,
they would exhibit greater self-possession and self-reliance in their
later lives; they would be less apt to be deluded by false appeals to
the feelings: "the woman's view" would be no longer proverbial for the
weaker view; the whole of society would feel the beneficent change, and
the problem which we set out to discuss in the beginning would in due
time solve itself.

We do not for a moment apprehend that the increased cultivation of
the intellect would entail any loss of sweetness or of those gracious
qualities that make the charm of womanhood. Wherever such a result has
been apparently observed, it is safe to ascribe it to other causes.
Truth and beauty are far too closely akin in their inmost nature to
exclude each other. Nor do we fear that the intensity of moral feeling,
for which women are distinguished, would suffer under the restraining
influence of reason's guidance. The moral feelings would indeed be
purified, elevated and directed to their proper objects by the judicious
use of reason; they would not therefore be enfeebled. In the past,
the conservatism of women has been a mighty obstacle in the path
of progress. It is but just to add that at the dawn of every great
religious movement which promised the moral advancement of the race,
gifted women, rising above the weakness of their sisters, have been
among the earliest to welcome the new hope for humanity; have been among
the most ardent, the most self-sacrificing of its disciples. The Liberal
movement of our day also is essentially a movement for larger morality,
and more and more as this feature will be clearly developed, may it hope
to gain the sympathies of brave and good women to its side. In their
support it will behold at once the criterion of its worthiness, and the
surest pledge of its ultimate triumph.


     {A discourse delivered on Sunday, April 29, 1877.}

We go out in these balmy days of spring into the reviving fields, and
the eye drinks in with delight the fresh and succulent green of the
meadows; the willows begin to put forth their verdant foliage, the
brooks purl and babble of the new life that has waked in the forest:
be glad, all nature cries, summer is coming. And the freshness of the
season enters into our own hearts, our pulses beat more quickly, our
step is more buoyant. We remember all that is joyful in existence; the
arts that embellish, the aspirations that ennoble, the affections that
endear it. Golden the future lies before us; our very cares lose their
sombre hues; like the golden islands of cloud that glow in the glory of
sunset skies.

But beneath the fair semblance of nature that for a time deludes our
senses, a dark and terrible reality is concealed. Observe how pitilessly
the destructive elements pursue their path, the earthquake the tornado,
the epidemic. A few months ago a rise of the sea swept away two hundred
thousand human lives in the course of a few hours. Myriads of sentient
beings are daily cast up in the summer to perish with the first breath
of cold. In the animal world, the strong feed upon the weak, and the
remorseless struggle for existence extends even into the sphere of human
activity. At this very moment the whole of Europe is filled with
anxious alarm in view of an impending war of conquest. While industry
is paralyzed, while trade is at a stand-still, while a virulent disease
generated by starvation has broken out in Silesia, and the workmen
of Lyons have become dependent on the public charity of France, the
resources of nations, already well nigh exhausted, are drained to
prepare for the emergencies of conflict. With a secret thrill of terror
we read that beds for the wounded and millions of roubles for hospital
appliances are being voted by the municipalities of Russia. Readily the
imagination can picture to itself what these ghastly preparations mean.
It is true, so long as all is well with us, the larger evils of the
world do not greatly disturb our equanimity. Man has the happy faculty
of abstracting his attention from things remote. The accumulated woes of
a continent affect us less than some trifling accident in our immediate
vicinity. But when the messengers of evil have cast their shadows across
our threshold, when calamity has laid its heavy hand upon our shoulder,
it is then that the general unsatisfactoriness of life recurs to us with
added force in view of our own experience; the splendor fades from the
surrounding scene; every dark stain takes on a deeper blackness, and the
gloom that comes from within fills and obscures the entire field of our
vision. We have sustained financial loss, perhaps we are harrowed by
domestic discord, we are suddenly stricken in the midst of health, and
drag on long years as hopeless invalids, or worse still, we stand at the
bedside of some dear friend or kinsman, see him stretched upon the rack
of pain, and can do nothing to alleviate his sufferings; we see the end
slowly nearing; but oh, the weary waiting, the patient's agonizing cry
for death, the cruel struggle that must still intervene. And when at
last, it is over, and we have laid him away under the sod, and returned
to our desolate homes, what hope remains! Whither now, we ask, shall we
turn for consolation? Is there no outlook from this night of trouble? Is
there no winged thought, that will bear us upward from out the depths;
is there no solace to assuage our pangs?

Among the means of consolation commonly recommended the doctrine of
Immortality seems to be regarded as the most appropriate and effective.
It is needless to lament; the deceased has entered a better life. Yet a
little and you will join him to be no more parted. Nor can we deny that
to those who cordially entertain it, the belief in the soul's
immortal continuance becomes a source of pure and inexpressibly tender
satisfaction. But with a certain class of minds--and their number, I
believe, is on the increase--the consoling influence of this doctrine is
marred by the fatal uncertainty in which the whole question is involved,
and which no efforts of man have ever yet, nor ever will, avail to
remove. Christianity indeed claims to have settled the point. The Deity
himself, it avers, intervened by direct revelation from on high, to set
our doubts at rest, and Jesus when he arose on the third day forever
deprived the grave of its sting and took away our fears of the tomb. But
to those who read the books of revelations with unbiased mind, the fact
of their human authorship becomes sadly apparent, and the resurrection
itself is as difficult to prove as the doctrine which it is designed to

In modern times spiritualism has likewise endeavored to demonstrate to
the senses the existence of a world of souls beyond our own. But
the phenomena on which it lies are in part disputed, in part the
interpretation put upon them, must, to say the least, be regarded as

Moreover we should remember that even if by some unknown means the fact
of immortality could be established, the question of our re-union with
friends in the hereafter, in which alone the heart of the mourner is
interested, would still remain an open one and might be answered in the
negative. The belief in immortality has been held in this way by some of
the greatest intellects of the human race, Spinoza among the rest. If we
knew that we shall continue to live, we should not therefore know how
we shall continue to live. Perhaps it might prove that all our previous
connections would be severed; and who can tell what new phases of
existence, what endless metamorphoses might await us among the infinite
possibilities of Eternity.

So deep seated is the sense of uncertainty concerning our fate beyond
the tomb, that no religion, however great the control which it exerted
over men, has ever been able to banish it entirely from their hearts.
The most ardent Christian is hardly less anxious than the infidel to
retain those who are dear to him in life. He prays as fervently for
their health as though their present state were the sum total of their
existence. And yet he should rather hail the day of death as a day of
thanksgiving, and rejoice that those whom he loves have been translated
to a sphere every way so much more desirable than our own. No, the
natural feeling cannot be suppressed, loss is felt to be loss, and death
remains death. No hope of a happier condition in the world to come, no
confidence in the promises and prophesies of faith, can efface the sense
of present bereavement, and as we all alike feel it, so are we all,
believers and unbelievers, interested in seeking the means of its
present relief.

Some of the most fervid, religious natures of the past endeavored to
escape the sorrows of the world by having recourse to the cruel remedy
of asceticism. The ascetic ponders the origin of suffering; he sees
that the desire for pleasure is the cause of pain. Were we not eager to
possess we should not regret to lose. He cuts the gordian knot saying,
abjure desire! When you cease to want, you shall no longer be bruised.
There are certain wants inherent in the body--the want of food,
drink, sleep; the heart has its needs--friendship, sympathy; the
mind--knowledge, culture. All these should be subdued. We should eat
and drink the coarsest in quality and the least possible in quantity; we
should avoid the attachments of love; we should be poor in spirit, and
despise wisdom. The ascetic ideal took firm root in Christianity at an
early period of its history. The extravagance of the Egyptian anchorites
is well known. The "pillar saint," St. Simeon, who is said to have
passed some thirty years of his life on the summit of a column twenty
yards in height, taking only the scantiest nourishment, eschewing
ablutions, covered with filth and sores, was worshipped as a holy man by
the multitude and his example was followed by others, though with less
rigor, during a period of nearly a thousand years. Among the Hindoos,
too, the ascetic ideal acquired a baneful ascendency. We can hardly
credit the tales that have come to us concerning the insane fanaticism
which raged amongst this people. To what tortures of body and soul did
they subject themselves, what cruel ordeals did they invent in order to
steel themselves against the inevitable sufferings of life. It was their
beau-ideal to achieve a state bordering upon absolute unconsciousness,
in which the power of sensation might be entirely blunted, and even the
existence of the physical man be forgotten.

This, indeed, is a capital remedy, a species of heroic treatment that
attains its end. Man becomes passive in pain, incapable of sorrow,
unmoved by any loss. But with the pains, the joys of existence have
likewise fled. The human being walks as a shadow among shadows, a
soulless substance, the wretched semblance of his former self. Who would
not rather bear the heaviest ills that flesh is heir to, than purchase
his release at such a cost.

And now in setting forth our own view of this mighty problem of human
sorrow, let us bear in mind that our private hardships and those general
evils which we see enacted on a scale of such appalling magnitude in
the world around us, must be considered together, for the same cause
constantly gives rise to both. It is of the utmost importance that
we should weigh well what we have a right to expect, and ponder the
conditions on which humanity holds the tenure of its existence. Perhaps
our deepest disappointments are often due to the fact that we ask more
than we have any legitimate title to receive, and judge the scheme of
the Universe according to false analogies and preconceived notions which
the constitution of things does not bear out. We are subject to two
laws, the one the law of nature, the other that of morality: the two
clash and collide, and a conflict ensues. Theology labors to show that
this conflict is apparent rather than real, to admit it would seem to
impugn the justice of the Deity. Thus we read in the Old Testament that
when the sufferer Job protested his innocence, his friends assailed his
veracity, and persisted in holding the bare fact of his misfortune as
unimpeachable evidence of his sinfulness. And thus the Psalmist assures
us, that he has grown old and never seen the righteous man in want. The
experience of the Psalmist must have been limited indeed! The conflict
exists, however it may be denied. Nature is indifferent to morality,
goes on regardless. The great laws that rule the Kosmos, act upon this
planet of ours, nor heed our presence. If we chance to stand in the way,
they grind us to pieces with grim unconcern: the earth opens, the
volcano sends forth its smoldering fires, populous cities are
overwhelmed, locusts devastate the country; they do not pause before the
field of the righteous; they have no moral preference. The seeds of
disease also are scattered broadcast over the land, and the best, often
those whom we can least afford to lose, are taken. These are the hostile
forces, and against these man must contend. To them he opposes his
intellect, his moral energy; he seeks to adapt himself to his place in
the universe. He discovers that these foes are blind, not necessarily
his enemies, if he can trace their path. If he can read the secret of
their working, they cease to threaten him; he holds them with the reins
of intellect, and binds them to his chariot, and behold like swift
steeds they carry him whithersoever it pleases him, and on, on, they
draw his car of progress. In this manner the sway of man's genius is
extended on earth. Already life is far easier than it was among our
ancestors ten thousand years ago; the epidemic is checked by wise
sanitary regulations, greater justice prevails in government, and the
means of happiness are extended over wider areas of the population. What
we thus behold realized on a partial scale, we conceive in our visions
of the future to be indefinitely prolonged, the course of development
leading to higher and higher planes, healthier conditions, wiser laws,
nobler manners. The moral order will thus increase on earth. The moral
order never is, but is ever becoming. It grows with our growth, and to
bring on the triumph of intellect over mechanism, of responsible
morality over irresponsible force, is our mission. The purpose of man's
life is not happiness, but worthiness. Happiness may come as an
accessory, we dare never make it an end. There is that striving for the
perfect within us: in it we live, by it we are exalted above the clod;
it is the one and only solace that never fails us, and the experience of
progress in the past, the hope of greater progress in the future, is the
redeeming feature of life. But the condition of all progress is
experience; we must go wrong a thousand times before we find the right.
We struggle, and grope and injure ourselves until we learn the uses of
things. Pain therefore becomes a necessity, but it acquires in this view
a new and nobler meaning, for it is the price humanity pays for an
invaluable good. Every painful sickness, every premature death, becomes
the means of averting sickness and death hereafter. Every form of
violence, every social wrong, every inmost tribulation, is the result of
general causes and becomes a goad in the sides of mankind, pressing them
on to correct the hoary abuses it has tolerated, the vicious principles
of government, education and economy to which it has conformed. Wide as
the earth is the martyrdom of man, but the cry of the martyr is the
creaking of the wheel which warns us that the great car of human
progress is in motion.

If we keep duly in mind the position which the human race occupies over
against nature, we shall not accuse fate. Fate is our adversary; we
must wrestle with it, we are here to establish the law of our own higher
nature in defiance of fate. And this is the prerogative of man, that he
need not blindly follow the law of his being, but that he is himself the
author of the moral law, and creates it even in acting it out. We are
all soldiers in the great army of mankind, battling in the cause of
moral freedom; some to fight as captains, others to do valiant service
in the ranks; some to shout the paean of victory, others to fall on the
battle field or to retire wounded or crippled to the rear. But as in
every battle so too in this, the fallen and the wounded have a share
in the victory; by their sufferings have they helped, and the greenest
wreath belongs to them.

It is strictly in accordance with the view we have taken, that we behold
in the performance of duty the solace of affliction. All of us have
felt, after some great bereavement, the beneficent influence of mere
labor: even the mechanical part of duty affords us some relief. The
knowledge that something must be done calls us away from brooding over
our griefs, and forces us back into the active currents of life. The
cultivation of the intellect also is a part of man's duty, and stands us
in great stead in times of trouble. We should seek to accustom the mind
to the aspect of large interests. In the pursuit of knowledge there is
nothing of the personal: into the calm and silent realm of thought the
feelings can gain no entrance. There, after the first spasms of emotion
have subsided, we may find at least a temporary relief,--there for hours
we drink in a happy oblivion. But more is needed, and the discharge of
the duties of the heart alone can really console the heart. There is
this secret in the affections, that they constantly add to our strength.
Constant communion between allied natures leads to their mutual
enrichment by all that is best in either. But when the rude hand of
death interferes, we are as a stream whose outlet is barred, as a
creeper whose stay is broken. A larger channel is needed then into which
the waters of our love may flow, a firm support, to which the tattered
tendrils of affection may cling anew. True, the close and intimate bond
that unites friend to friend can have no substitute, but the warm love
that obtains in the personal relations may be expanded into a wider
and impersonal love, which, if less intense, is broader, which, if less
fond, is even more ennobling. The love you can no longer lavish on one,
the many call for it. The cherishing care you can no longer bestow
upon your child, the neglected children of the poor appeal for it; the
sympathy you can no longer give your friend, the friendless cry for it.
In alleviating the misery of others, your own misery will be alleviated,
and in healing you will find that there is cure.

This remedy is suggested in an ancient legend related of the Buddha, the
great Hindoo reformer, who was so deeply affected by the ills of human
life.* There came to him one day a woman who had lost her only child.
She was wild with grief, and with disconsolate sobs and cries called
frantically on the prophet to give back her little one to life. The
Buddha gazed on her long and with that tender sympathy which drew all
hearts to him, said, "Go my daughter, get me a mustard seed from a house
into which death has never entered, and I will do as thou hast bidden
me." And the woman took up the dead child, and began her search. From
house to house she went saying, "Give me a mustard seed, kind folk, a
mustard seed for the prophet to revive my child." And they gave her
what she asked, and when she had taken it, she inquired whether all were
gathered about the hearth, father and mother and the children; but the
people would shake their heads and sigh, and she would turn on her way
sadder than before. And far as she wandered, in town and village, in
the crowded thoroughfare, and by the lonely road side, she found not the
house into which death had never entered. Then gradually as she went on,
the meaning of the Buddha's words dawned upon her mind; gradually as she
learned to know the great sorrow of the race every where around her,
her heart went out in great yearning sympathy to the companions of her
sorrow; the tears of her pity fell free and fast, and the passion of
her grief was merged in compassion. She had learned the great lesson of
renunciation; had learned to sink self in the unselfish.

     * We have ventured to offer this interpretation of the
     legend in an article published in the Atlantic Monthly for
     June, 1875, from which the account in the text is taken.

From the depths of the heart the stream of grief rises resistless, the
dams and dykes of reason are impotent to stay its course. Prepare a
channel therefore to lead out its swelling tide away to the great ocean
of mankind's sorrow, where in commingling it shall be absorbed.

The consolations of the Ideal are vigorous: they do not encourage idle
sentiment: they recommend to the sufferer, action. The loss indeed as we
set out by saying, remains a loss, and no preaching or teaching can ever
make it otherwise. The question is, whether it shall weaken and embitter
us, or become the very purification of our souls, and lead us to grander
and diviner deeds, lead us to raise unto the dead we mourn, a monument
in our lives that shall be better than tiny pillared chapel or storied
marble tomb.

Thus from whatever point we start, we arrive at the same conclusion
still: "not in the creed but in the deed!" In the deed is the pledge of
the sacredness of life; in the deed is the reward of our activities in
health; in the deed our solace, and our salvation even in the abysmal
gulfs of woe. In hours of great sorrow we turn in vain to nature for an
inspiring thought. We question the sleepless stars; they are cold
and distant: the winds blow, the rivers run their course, the seasons
change; they are careless of man. In the world of men alone do we find
an answering echo to the heart's needs. Let us grasp hands cordially and
look into each other's eyes for sympathy, while we travel together on
our road toward the unknown goal. To help one another is our wisdom, and
our renown, and our sweet consolation.


Two centuries have elapsed since Spinoza passed from the world of the
living, and to-day that high and tranquil spirit walks the earth once
more and men make wide their hearts to receive his memory and his name.
The great men whom the past has wronged, receive at last time's tardy

On the day that Columbus set sail for America, the Jews left Spain in
exile. Many of their number, however, who could not find it in their
hearts to bid adieu to their native land, remained and simulated the
practice of devout Catholics while in secret they preserved their
allegiance to their ancestral religion. They occupied high places in the
church and state, and monks, prelates and bishops were counted in their
ranks. Ere long the suspicions of the Inquisition were alarmed against
these covert heretics, and their position became daily more perilous and
insecure. Some were condemned to the stake, others pined for years in
dungeons; those that could find the means, escaped and sought in distant
lands security and repose from persecution. It was especially the Free
States of Holland whose enlightened policy offered an asylum to the
fugitives, and thither accordingly in great numbers they directed their
steps. Their frugality, their thrift and enterprise, contributed not a
little to build up the prosperity of the Dutch metropolis.

In the opening of the seventeenth century a considerable congregation of
the Jews had collected in the city of Amsterdam. There in the year
1632, the child of Spanish emigrants, Benedict Spinoza was born. Of
his childhood we know little. At an early age he was initiated into
the mysteries of Hebrew lore, was instructed in the Hebrew grammar, and
learned to read and translate the various writings of the Old Testament.
He was taught to thread his way through the mazes of the Talmud, and its
subtle discussions proved an admirable discipline in preparing him for
the favorite pursuits of his after years. Lastly he was introduced to
the study of the Jewish philosophers, among whom Maimonides and Ibn Ezra
engaged his especial attention. Maimonides, one of the most profound
thinkers of the middle ages, strove to harmonize the teachings of
Aristotle with the doctrines of the Bible. Ibn Ezra on the other hand,
was a confirmed sceptic. In his biblical commentaries he anticipates
many noteworthy discoveries of modern criticism, and his orthodoxy in
other respects also is more than doubtful.

In all these different branches of theology the young Spinoza made rapid
progress and soon gained astonishing proficiency. He was the favorite
of his instructors, and they predicted that he would one day become a
shining light of the synagogue. Not content, however, with this course
of study, Spinoza addressed himself to the study of Roman literature,
and with the assistance of a certain Dr. Van den Ende, who had at that
time gained considerable repute as a teacher of liberal learning, he
soon became an accomplished Latin scholar. He also took up the study of
Geometry and of Physics, and acquired considerable skill in the art of
sketching. His mind being thus stored with various knowledge, he was
prepared to enter the vast realm of metaphysical speculation and
here the works of Rene Descartes, preeminently engaged his attention.
Descartes, whose motto, _De omnibus dubitandum est_, sufficiently
indicates the revolutionary character of his teachings, was the leader
of the new school of thought on the continent. His influence proved
decisive in shaping the career of Spinoza. Bruno also deserves mention
among those who determined the bias of Spinoza's mind. I mean that Bruno
was among the first followers of Copernicus, proclaimed the doctrine of
the infinity of worlds and who himself inculcated a species of pantheism
for which he paid the last penalty at Rome in the year 1600, thirty-two
years before Spinoza was born. By all these influences the mind of the
young philosopher was widened beyond the sphere of his early education.
In the pursuit of truth he sought the society of congenial minds, and
found among the cultivated Christians of his day that intellectual
sympathy of which he stood in need. From the high plane of thought
which he had now reached, the rites and practices of external religion
dwindled in importance, and the questions of creed for which the mass
of men contend appeared little and insignificant. His absence from the
worship of the synagogue now began to be remarked; it was rumored
that he neglected the prescribed fasts and he was openly charged
with partaking of forbidden food. At first he was treated with great
leniency. So high was his credit with the Rabbis, so impressed were they
with his singular abilities, that they strove by every gentle means to
win him back to his allegiance. They admonished him, held out prospects
of honor and emolument; it is even stated that at last in despair of
reclaiming him they offered an annual pension of a thousand florins to
purchase his silence. Spinoza himself was keenly alive to the gravity
of his position. It had been fondly hoped that he would shed new lustre
upon the religion of Israel. He would be accused of vile ingratitude for
deserting his people. He foresaw the inevitable rupture that would cut
him off forever from friends and kinsmen, from the opportunities of
wealth and honorable position, and deliver him over to privation and
poverty. He himself tells us in the introduction of a work which had
long been forgotten and has been only recently rescued from oblivion,
that he saw riches and honor and all those goods for which men strive,
placed before him on the one hand, and a sincere life serenely true
to itself on the other; but that the former seemed veritable shams and
evils compared with that one great good. Nay, he said, though he might
never reach the absolute truth, he felt as one sick unto death, who
knows but one balm that can help him and who must needs search for that
balm whereby perchance he may be healed.

Great was the commotion stirred up against him in the Jewish community
of Amsterdam. One evening a fanatic assaulted him on the street and
attempted his life. The stroke of the assassin's dagger was successfully
parried. But Spinoza felt that the city was now no longer safe for him
to dwell in. He fled and for some time frequently changed his place of
residence, until at last he settled at the Hague where he remained until
his death. In the mean time the lenient spirit of the Jewish leaders had
changed into stern, uncompromising rigor. Observe now how persecution
breeds persecution. It had been the pride of Judaism from of old that
within its pale the practice of religion was deemed more essential
than the theory; that it permitted the widest divergence in matters of
belief, and granted ample tolerance to all. But these Jews of Amsterdam,
fresh from the dungeons and the torture chambers of the Inquisition, had
themselves imbibed the dark spirit of their oppressors. Uriel d'Acosta
they had driven to the verge of insanity and to a tragic death by their
cruel bigotry. And now the same methods were employed against a wiser
and greater and purer man, far than he.

On the 27th of July, 1656, in the synagogue of Amsterdam, the sacred
ark, containing the scrolls of the law, being kept open during the
ceremony, the edict of excommunication was solemnly promulgated. It
reads somewhat as follows:

"By the decree of the angels and the verdict of the saints we separate,
curse and imprecate Baruch de Spinoza with the consent of the blessed
God and of this holy congregation, before the holy books of the Law with
the commandments that are inscribed therein, with the ban with which
Joshua banned Jericho, with the curse with which Elias cursed the
youths, and with all the imprecations that are written in the Law.
Cursed be he by day and cursed by night; cursed when he lies down,
and cursed when he rises; cursed in his going forth, and cursed in his
coming in. May the Lord God refuse to pardon him; may his wrath and
anger be kindled against this man, and on him rest all the curses that
are written in this book of the Law. May the Lord wipe out his name
from under the heavens, and separate him for evil from all the tribes
of Israel, with all the curses of the firmament that are written in the
book of the Law. And ye that hold fast to the Lord God are all living
this day! we warn you that none shall communicate with him either by
word of mouth or letter, nor show him any favor, nor rest under the same
roof with him, nor approach his person within four yards, nor read any
writing that he has written."

When Spinoza heard of this anathema he calmly replied: "They compel me
to do nothing which I was not previously resolved upon." He retired
from the commerce of the world. He coveted solitude. Within his silent
chamber he moved in a world of his own. There in twenty years of patient
passionless toil he built up the mighty edifice of his system. It rises
before us as if hewn of granite rock. Its simplicity, its grandeur,
its structural power have been the wonder of men. I can offer only the
barest outline of its design.

Man's questioning spirit seeks to penetrate to the heart of Nature,
would grasp the origin of things. There is this mighty riddle: who will
solve it? Various attempts have been made. Pantheism is one. Spinoza was
the great philosopher of Pantheism.

Beneath all diversity there is unity. In all of Nature's myriad forms
and changes, there is a substance unchangeable. It is uncreated,
undivided, uncaused, the Absolute, Infinite, God. Thought and extension
are its attributes; it is the One in All, the All in One. God is not
matter, is not mind; is that deeper unity in which matter and mind are
one; God or Nature, Spinoza says. This is not the God of theology. God
is in the tree, in the stone, in the stars, in man. God does not live,
nor labor for any purpose, but produces from the necessity of his Being
in endless variety, in ceaseless activity. He is the inner cause of all
things, the ultimate Reality, and all things are as in their nature they
partake of him.

Man also is of God. The essence of man is in the mind. Man is a logical
being. God alone owns truth; in so far as man thinks truly and clearly,
he is a part of the infinite God. Logic is the basis of ethics. Spinoza
ignores sentiment, ignores art. Good and evil are but other names for
useful and not useful. But that alone is useful that we follow the
necessary and universal laws, seeking by the depth and reach of
intellect to know and understand.

Virtue is the pursuit of knowledge. There are three kinds of knowledge:
the blurred perceptions of the senses, the light of the understanding,
the intuition of intellect. The last is the highest.

Virtue is the sense of being; whatever heightens the joyous
consciousness of our active faculties is therefore good. The wise man
delights in the moderate enjoyment of pleasant food and drink, in the
color and loveliness of green shrubs, in the adornment of garments, in
music's sweetness. But our true being is to be found only in intellect;
hence, virtue the joy of being, is the joy of thought; hence, the bold
assertion--that is moral which helps, and that immoral which hinders

Man is a social being. As a drop is raised upward in the great ocean
by the onflowing of the wave, so the individual mind is exalted by the
presence and communion of congenial minds moving in the same current.

'Tis thus that Spinoza deduces the social virtues. Hate is evil at all
times, for hate implies the isolation and the weakness of the powers of
reason. We should reward hatred with love and restore the broken accord
of intellect. Love is the sense of kinship in the common search for
reason's goal--wisdom. That all men should so live and act together that
they may form, as it were, one body and one mind, is the ideal of life.
Friendship therefore he prizes as the dearest of earth's possessions,
and wedlock he esteems holy because in it is cemented the union of two
souls for the common search of truth. We should be serene at all times
and shun fear, which is weakness, and hope also which is the child of
desire, and haughtiness and humbleness and remorse and pity should we
avoid. But in stillness and with collected power shall we possess our
souls obedient to the laws of mind that make our being and helping when
we help for reason's sake. The passions bind us to passing phenomena.
When they become transparent to our reason, when we know their causes
then our nature conquers outward nature and we are masters, we are free.

Thus the emotional life is extinguished. The feelings lose their color
and vitality, become blank "as lines and surfaces," and man, freed from
the constraints of passion, dwells in the pure realm of intellect, and
in constant intercourse with the mind of God, fulfills the purpose of
his existence--to know and understand.

Against the blows of misfortune also reason steels us. Sorrow is but the
lurking suspicion that all might have been otherwise. When we come to
know that all things are by necessity, we shall find tranquillity in
yielding to the inevitable. For so God works by necessity. For all
things are in his hands as clay in the hand of the potter, which the
potter taketh and fashioneth therefrom vessels of diverse value, some
to honor and some to disgrace. And none shall rebuke him, for all is by

When the body passes away the mind does not wholly perish, but something
remains that is infinite, an eternal modus dwelling in the depths of
the eternal mind. But though we knew not that something of the mind
remained, yet were goodness and strength of soul to be sought for above
all else. For who, foreseeing that he cannot always feed on healthy
nourishment, would therefore sate himself with deadly poison? or who,
though he knew that the mind is not immortal, would therefore lead an
empty life, devoid of reason's good and guidance? The wisdom of the wise
and the freedom of the free is not in the aspect of death but of life.
Religion and piety lead us to follow the laws of necessity in the world
where they are manifest, to dwell on the intellect of God, of God their
fount and origin.

But I forbear to enter farther into this wonderful system. We see a
giant wrestling with nature, seeking to wrest from her her secret.
Mysterious nature baffles him and the riddle is still unread. That
substance of which he speaks is no more than an abstraction of the mind
whose reality in the outward world he has failed to prove. He has also
erred in turning aside from the rich and manifold life of the emotions,
for the emotions are not in themselves evil, they are the seminal
principle of all virtue.

On pillars of intellect, Spinoza reared his system. Still, solemn,
sublime like high mountains it towers upward, but is devoid of color and
warmth, and even the momentary glow that now and then starts up in his
writings, passes quickly away like the flush of evening that reddens the
snowy summits of Alpine ranges.

Spinoza's name marks a lofty peak in human history. He was a true man;
no man more fully lived his teachings. If he describes the pursuit
of knowledge as the highest virtue, he was himself a noble example of
tireless devotion in that pursuit. He was well versed in the natural
sciences, skillful in the use of the microscope, and his contributions
to the study of the inner life of man have earned him lasting
recognition. Johannes Mueller, the distinguished physiologist, has
included the third division of Spinoza's _Ethics_ in his well known work
on physiology.

Religion, however, was Spinoza's favorite theme, that religion which is
free from all passionate longings and averse to superstition of whatever
kind. He was among the first to hurl his mighty arguments against
the infallible authority of the Bible, arguments that still command
attention though two hundred years have since passed by. Miracles, he
said, are past belief, the beauty of Cosmos is far more deserving
of admiration than any so called miracle could possibly be. He
demanded--this was a great and novel claim--that the methods of natural
science be applied to the study of scripture, that the character of the
age and local surroundings be considered in determining the meaning of
each scriptural author. In brief that a natural history of the bible,
so to speak, should be attempted. He claimed that the priesthood had
falsified the very book which they professed to regard most holy.
He denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and set forth in
singularly clear and lucid language the discrepancies in which that work
abounds. He closed the treatise in which these views are laid down--the
Theologico-political Tract--with a magnificent plea for liberty of
conscience and of speech. That state alone, he says, can be free and
happy which rests on the freedom of the Individual citizen. Where the
right of free utterance is curtailed, hypocrisy and shameful conformance
flourish, and public contumely and disgrace which ought to serve as a
mete punishment for the vicious, become a halo about the head of the
most noble of men. Religion and piety, he concludes, the state has a
right to demand, but nothing hereafter shall be known as religion and
piety save the practice of equity and of a wise and helpful love.

It was a bold awakening note which thus rang out into the seventeenth
century, and theologians were bitter in their replies. The book was
confiscated and Christian curses were added to Jewish anathemas. But
they failed to affect Spinoza.

Few men have suffered as he did. Few have preserved the same equanimity
of soul in the face of adverse fortune. Twenty years he dwelt alone. For
days he did not leave his student's closet, drawing his mighty circles,
intent on those high thoughts that formed the companionship he loved.
Those that knew him well revered him. De Witt the noble statesman, De
Witt who ended his days so miserably, torn to pieces by a maddened mob,
sought his counsel. Young ardent disciples from a distance sent him
words of cheer into his solitude. His soul was pure as sunlight, his
character crystal clear. He was frugal in the extreme: a few pence a day
sufficed to sustain him. Not that he affected austere views in general,
but the deep meditations that occupied his mind left him little time
or inclination for the grosser pleasures. His sense of honor was
scrupulously nice. Again and again did he reject the munificent pensions
which his friends pressed upon him; he would be free and self-sustained
in all things. In his leisure hours he busied himself with the grinding
and polishing of optical lenses, an exercise that offered him at once
the means of support and a welcome relaxation from the severe strain
of mental effort. His temper was rarely ruffled; he was placid, genial,
childlike. When wearied with his labors he would descend to the family
of his landlord, the painter Van der Speke, and entering into the
affairs of these simple people, he found, in their unaffected converse,
the relief he sought.

He valued the peace of mind which he had purchased so dearly. When the
Elector of the Palatinate offered him the chair of philosophy at the
University of Heidelberg on condition that he would so expound his
philosophy as not to interfere with the established religion, he
declined, replying that he could teach the truth only as he saw it, and
that evil and designing men would doubtless add point and poison to his
words. Yet he was fearless. When toward the close of his career,
his life was again imperiled, the grave tranquillity of his demeanor
inspired his agitated friends with calmness and confidence.

He had gained his forty-fourth year. For half a life time he had been
fighting a treacherous disease, that preyed in secret upon his health.
His life was slowly ebbing away amidst constant suffering, yet no
complaint crossed his lips and his nearest companions were hardly
aware of what he endured. In the early part of the year 1677 one day
in February, while the family of the painter were at church the end
approached. Only a single friend was with him. Calmly as he had lived,
in the stillness of the Sunday afternoon, Spinoza passed away.

He has left a name in history that will not fade. His people cast him
out, Christianity rejected him, but he has found a wider fellowship, he
belongs to all mankind. Great hearts have throbbed responsive to his
teachings and many a sorrowful soul has owned the restful influence of
his words. He was a helper of mankind. Not surely because he solved the
ultimate problems of existence--what mortal ever will--but because he
was wise in the secret of the heart, because he taught men to appease
their fretful passions in the aspect of the infinite laws in which we
live and are.

Sacred is the hour in which we read his Ethics. From the heat and glare
of life we enter into its precincts as into the cool interior of some
hallowed temple of religion. But no idol stands there; the spirit of
truth alone presides and sanctifies the place and us. The great men
of the past we will reverence. They are mile-stones on the highway of
humanity, types of the Infinite, that has dawned in human breasts. Such
an one was he of whom I have spoken. And more and more as the light
increases among men will all that was good and great in him shine forth
to irradiate their path. And as we stand here to-day on this day of
remembrance to recall his teachings and his example, so when other
centuries shall have elapsed, the memory of Spinoza will still live,
posterity will still own him, and distant generations will name him
anew: Benedictus--Blessed!


     {A discourse delivered on Sunday, December 31, 1876.}

"I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil, for verily I say unto you till
heaven and earth pass away one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass
from the law till all be fulfilled." "Resist not evil, * * * bless them
that curse you, do good to them that hate you."

In these sayings of Jesus the key note of early Christianity is struck.
It was not a revolt against Judaism, it was but a reiterated assertion
of what other and older Prophets of the Hebrews had so often and so
fervently preached. The law was to remain intact, but the spiritual
law was meant, the deeper law of conscience that underlies the forms of
legislation and the symbols of external worship.

There is a rare and gracious quality in the personality of Jesus as
described in the Gospels, which has exercised its charm upon the most
heterogeneous nations and periods of history wide apart in the order of
time and of culture.

To grasp the subtle essence of that charm, and thereby to understand
what it was that has given Christianity so powerful a hold upon
the affections of mankind, were a task well worthy the attention of
thoughtful minds. We desire to approach our subject in the spirit of
reverence that befits a theme with which the tenderest fibres of faith
are so intimately interwoven; at the same time we shall pay no regard
to the dogmatic character with which his later followers have invested
Jesus, for we behold his true grandeur in the pure and noble humanity
which he illustrated in his life and teachings.

The New Testament presents but scant material for the biography of
Jesus, and the authenticity, even of the little that remains to us, has
been rendered extremely uncertain by the labors of modern critics. A few
leading narratives, however, are doubtless trustworthy, and these will
suffice for our purpose. A brief introduction on the character of the
people among whom the new prophet arose, the characteristics of the
age in which he lived, and the beliefs that obtained in his immediate
surroundings, will assist us in our task.

The expectation of the Messiah had long been rife among the Jews.
Holding themselves to be the elect people of God, they believed the
triumph of monotheism to be dependent upon themselves. The prophets of
Jehovah had repeatedly assured them that their supremacy would finally
be acknowledged. Events however had turned out differently. Instead of
success they met with constant defeat and disaster; Persia, Egypt, Syria
had successively held their land in subjection; the very existence of
their religion was threatened, and the heathen world, far from showing
signs of approaching conversion, insisted upon its errors with increased
obstinacy and assurance. And yet Jehovah had distinctly promised that he
would raise up in his own good time, a new ruler from the ancient
line of Israel's Kings, a son of David, who should lead the people to
Victory. To his sceptre all the nations would bow, and in his reign the
faith of the Hebrews would be acknowledged as the universal religion.
Every natural means for the fulfilment of these predictions seemed now
cut off, nothing remained but to take refuge in the supernatural; it was
said that the old order of things must entirely pass away; a new heaven
and a new earth be created and what was called the Kingdom of Heaven
might then be expected. The "Kingdom of Heaven," a phrase that
frequently recurs in the literature of the Jews, is used, not to
describe a locality, but to denote a state of affairs on earth, in
which the will of heaven would be generally obeyed without the further
intervention of human laws and government. The agency of the Messiah was
looked to, for the consummation of these happy hopes. To reward those
who had perished before his coming, many moreover of those that slept
in the dust would awaken, and the general resurrection of the dead would
signalize the approach of the millennium.

At the end of the first century B. C. these expectations had created
a wild ferment among the population of Palestine. Now if ever, it was
fondly urged, they must be fulfilled. The need was at its highest, help
then must be nighest. For matters had indeed grown from bad to worse,
the political situation was intolerable, after the brief spell of
independence in the days of the Maccabees, the Roman yoke had been
fastened upon the necks of the people, and the weight of oppression
became tenfold more difficult to support from the sweet taste of liberty
that had preceded it. The rapacity of the Roman Governors knew no
bounds. A land impoverished by incessant wars and the frequent failure
of the crops, was drained of its last resources to satisfy the
enormous exactions of a foreign despot, while to all this was added the
humiliating consciousness that it was a nation of idolators which was
thus permitted to grind the chosen people.

Nor was the condition of religion at all more satisfactory. It is true
the splendid rites of the public worship were still maintained at the
Temple, and Herod was even then re-building the Sanctuary on a scale of
unparalleled magnificence. Bright was the sheen and glitter of gold upon
its portals, solemn the ceremonies enacted in its halls, and grand and
impressive the voices of the Levitic choirs as they sang to the tuneful
melody of cymbals and of harps. But the lessons of history teach us
that the times in which lavish sums are expended on externals, are not
usually those in which religion possesses true vitality and power and
depth. Here was a brand flickering near extinction; here was a builder
who built for destruction; the Temple had ceased to satisfy the needs of
the people.

In the cities an attempt to supply the deficiency was made by the party
of the Pharisees. They sought to broaden and to spiritualize the meaning
of scripture--they laid down new forms of religious observance by means
of which every educated man became, so to speak, his own priest. The
religion of the Pharisees however assumed a not inconsiderable degree of
intellectual ability on the part of its followers. So far as it went it
answered very well for the intelligent middle classes. But out in the
country districts it did not answer at all; not for the herdsmen, not
for the poor peasants, not for those who had not even the rudiments of
learning and who could do nothing with a learned religion. And yet these
very men before all others needed something to support them, something
to cling to, even because they were so miserably poor and illiterate.
They did not get what they wanted--they felt very strongly that the
burdens upon them were exceedingly grievous; that while they suffered
and starved, religion dwelt in palaces, and had no heart for their
misfortunes. They felt that something was wrong and rotten in the then
state of affairs, and that a new state must come, and a heaven-sent
king, who would lend a voice to their needs, and lift them with strong
arms from out their despair and degradation. Nowhere was this feeling
more marked than in the district of Galilee. A beautiful land with
green, grassy valleys, groves of sycamores, broad blue lakes, and
villages nestling picturesquely on the mountain slopes, it nourished
an ardent and impulsive population. Their impatience with the existing
order of things had already found vent in furious revolt. Judah, their
famous leader, had perished; his two sons, James and Simon, had been
nailed to the cross; the Messiah was daily and hourly expected; various
impostors successively arose and quickly disappeared; when would the
hour of deliverance come; when would the true Messiah appear at last?

It was at such a time and among such a people, that there arose Jesus
of Nazareth in Galilee. What was the startling truth he taught? What was
the new revelation he preached to the sons of men? An old truth, and an
old sermon--Righteousness; no more, meaning nothing at all, a mere trite
common-place, on the lips of the time-server and the plausible vendor of
moral phrases. Meaning mighty changes for the better, when invoked with
a profounder sense of its sanctity, and a new sacredness in life, and
larger impulses for ever and for ever. Righteousness he taught, and
the change that was to come by righteousness. Yes, so deep was his
conviction, so profoundly had the current conceptions of the day
affected him, that he believed the change to be near at hand, that he
himself might be its author, himself Messiah.

The novelty of Jesus' work has been sought in various directions. It has
been said, for instance, to consist in the overthrow of phariseeism; and
it is true that he rebukes the pharisees in the most severe terms; these
reproaches, however, were not directed against the party as a whole, but
only against its more extravagant and unworthy members. The pharisees
were certainly not a "race of hypocrites, and a generation of vipers."
Let us remember that Jesus himself, in the main, adhered to their
principles; that his words often tally strictly with theirs; that even
the golden sayings which are collected in the sermon on the mount, may
be found in the contemporaneous Hebrew writings, whose authors were
pharisees. Thirty years before his time, Hillel arose among the
pharisees, renowned for his marvellous erudition, beloved and revered
because of the gentleness and kindliness of his bearing, the meekness
with which he endured persecution, the loving patience with which he
overcame malice and hate. When asked to express in brief terms the
essence of the law, he to the pharisee replied, "Do not unto others what
thou wouldst not that others do unto thee;" this is the essence, all the
rest is commentary,--"go and learn." Jesus fully admits the authority
of the pharisees. "The pharisees," he says, "sit in Moses' seat; all
therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do." If we
read the gospel of Matthew, we find that he does not attempt to abrogate
the pharisaic commandments, but only insists upon the greater importance
of the commandments of the heart. "Woe," he cries, "or ye pay tithe of
mint, of anise and cumin, but ye have omitted the weightier matters of
the law, judgment, mercy and faith, these ought ye to have done, _and
not to leave the other undone_,"--and again, "If thou bring thy gift
to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against
thee, leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be
reconciled to thy brother, and then _come and offer thy gift_." The
leper also whom he cured of his disease, he advises to bring the gift
prescribed by the Jewish ritual. We cannot fully understand the conduct
of Jesus in this respect, unless we bear in mind that he believed the
millenial time to be near at hand. At that time it was supposed
the ancient ceremonial of Judaism would come to an end by its own
limitation; until that time arrived, it should be respected. He does
not wage war against the religious tenets and practices of his age; only
when they interfere with the superior claims of moral rectitude does
he bitterly denounce them, and ever insists that righteousness be
recognized as the one thing above all others needful.

Nor is the novelty of Jesus' work to be found in the extension of the
gospel to the heathen world. It seems, on the contrary, highly probable
that he conceived his mission to lie within the sphere of his own
people, and devoted his chief care and solicitude to their welfare. "I
am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel," he says;
and thus he charges his apostles, "Go ye not into the way of the
Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. Go rather to
the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as ye go, preach, saying the
kingdom of heaven is at hand." And yet his exclusive devotion to
the interest of the Jews is not at variance with the world-embracing
influence attributed to the Messianic character. In common with all
his people, he believed that upon the approach of the millennium, the
nations of the earth would come of their own accord, to the holy mount
of Israel, accept Israel's religion, and thenceforth live obedient to
the Messianic King. The millennium was now believed to be actually in
sight. "Verily I say unto you there be some standing here who shall not
taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his Kingdom."
From the Jewish standpoint, therefore, which was the one taken by Jesus
and the earliest Christians, the mission to the heathen was unnecessary.

And again it has been said that the evangel of Jesus was new, in that
it substituted for the stern law of retribution the methods of charity
and the law of love; that while the elder prophets had taught the people
to consider themselves servants of a task-master, he taught them freedom
and brotherhood. But is this true? Will any one who has read the Hebrew
Prophets with attention, venture to assert that they instil a slavish
fear into the hearts of men; they whose every line speaks aspiration,
whose every word breathes liberty? It is true their language is often
stern when they dwell on duty. And it is right that it should be so, for
so also is duty stern and in matters of conscience sentimental ism is
out of place, harmful. Simple obedience to the dictates of the moral law
is required, imperatively, unconditionally, not for pity's sake, nor for
love's sake, but for the right's sake, simply and solely because it
is right. But the emotions that are never the sufficient sanctions of
conduct may ennoble and glorify right conduct. And how tenderly do the
ancient prophets also attune their monitions to the promptings of the
richest and purest of human sympathies. "Thy neighbor thou shalt love as
thyself," was written by them, and "Have we not all one Father, has not
one God created us all." Thy poor brother too is thy brother, and in
secret shalt thou give charity. In the dusk of the evening the poor are
to come into the cornfields and gather there, and no man shall know who
has given and who has received. The ancient prophets were idealists,
preachers of the Spirit as opposed to the form that cramps and
belittles. In Jesus we behold a renewal of their order, a living protest
against the formalism that had in the interval become encrusted about
their teachings, only differing from his predecessors in this, that the
hopes which they held out for a distant future, seemed to him nigh their
fulfilment, and that he believed himself destined to fulfil them.

If we can discover nothing that had not been previously stated in the
substance of Jesus' teachings, there is that in the method he pursued,
which calls for genuine admiration and reverence, the method of rousing
against the offender the better nature in himself: of seeming yielding
to offence based on an implicit trust in the resilient energy of the
good; of conquering others, by the strength of meekness and the might of
love. Hillel too was endowed with this strength of meekness, and Buddha
had said, long before the days of Jesus: "Hatred is not conquered by
hatred at any time, hatred is conquered by love; this is an old rule."
But in the story of no other life has this method been applied with such
singular sweetness, with such consistent harmony from the beginning to
the end. Whether we find him in the intimate circle of his disciples,
whether he is instructing the multitude along the sunny shores of Lake
Gennesareth, whether he stands before the tribunal of his judges, or in
the last dire agonies of death--he is ever the patient man, the loving
teacher, the man of sorrows, who looks beyond men and their crimes to
an ideal humanity, and confides in that; who gives largely, and forgives
even because he gives so much.

But we shall not touch the true secret of his power until we recall
his sympathy with the neglected classes of society; that quality of his
nature which caused the poor of Galilee to hail him as their deliverer,
which produced so lasting an impression upon his contemporaries, and
made the development of his doctrines into a great religion possible.
His gospel was preeminently the gospel for the poor: he sat down with
despised publicans, he did not shun the contamination of lepers, nay nor
of the moral leprosy of sin--he visited the hovels of paupers and
taught his disciples to prefer them to the mansions of the fortunate; he
applied himself with peculiar fervor to those dumb illiterate masses of
Galilee, who knew not whither they might turn, to what they might cling.
He gave them hope, he brought them help. And so it came about that in
the early Christian communities which were still fresh from the presence
of the master, the appeal to conscience he had made so powerfully,
resulted in solid helpfulness; so it came about that in those pristine
days, the Church was a real instrument of practical good, with few
forms, and little parade, but with love feasts and the communion table
spread with repasts for the needy. "Come unto me all ye that labor and
are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and
learn of me, * * * for my yoke is easy and my burden is light." It is
from such particulars that there was drawn that fascinating image which
has captivated the fancy and attracted the worship of mankind. The
image of the pale man with the deep, earnest eyes, who roused men to new
exertions for the good, who lifted up the down-trodden, who loved little
children and taught the older children in riddles and parables that they
might understand, and the brief career of whose life was hallowed all
the more in memory, because of the mournful tragedy in which it closed.
All the noblest qualities of humanity were put into this picture and
made it lovely. It was the humanity, not the dogma of Jesus, by which
Christianity triumphed. Like a refreshing shower in the perfumed spring,
his glad tidings of a new enthusiasm for the good came upon the
arid Roman world, sickening with the dry rot of self-indulgence, and
thirsting for some principle to give a purpose to the empty weariness
of existence. Like a message from a sphere of light it spread to the
Germanic tribes, tempered the harshness of their manners, taught them
a higher law than that of force, and conquered their grim strength with
the mild pleadings of the Master of meekness in far-off Galilee.

It is the moral element contained in it that alone gives value and
dignity to any religion, and only then when its teachings serve to
stimulate and purify our aspirations toward the good, does it deserve to
retain its ascendancy over mankind. Claiming to be of celestial origin,
the religions have drawn their secret spell from the human heart itself.
There is a principle of reverence inborn in every child of man,--this he
would utter. He sees the firmament above him, with its untold hosts;
he stands in the midst of mighty workings, he is filled with awe; he
stretches forth his arms to grasp the Infinite which his soul seeketh,
he makes unto himself signs and symbols, saying, let these be tokens of
what no words can convey. But a little time elapses, and these symbols
themselves seem more than human, they point no more beyond themselves,
and man becomes an idolator, not of stone and wood merely. Then it is
needful that he remember the divine power with which his soul has been
clothed from the beginning, that by the force of some moral impulse he
may break through the fetters of the creeds, and cast aside the weight
of doctrines that express his best ideals no more. And so we find in
history that every great religious reformation has been indebted for its
triumphs, not to the doctrines that swam upon the surface, but to the
swelling currents of moral energy that stirred it from below; not to the
doctrine of the Logos in Jesus' day, but to the tidings of release
which he brought to the oppressed, not to "justification by faith,"
in Luther's time, but to the mighty reaction to which his thunderous
protest lent a voice, against the lewdness and the license of a corrupt
and cankerous priesthood. The appeal to conscience has ever been the
lever that raised mankind to a higher plane of religion.

Conscience, righteousness, what is there new in these--their maxims
are as old as the hills? Truly, and as barren often as the rocks. The
novelty of righteousness is not in itself, but in its novel application
to the particular unrighteousness of a particular age. It was thus that
Jesus applied to the sins and mock sanctities of his day, the ancient
truths known to the prophets and to others long before him. It is
thus that every new reformer will seek to bring home to the men of his
generation what it is that the ancient standard of right and justice now
requires at their hands. That all men are brothers, who did not concede
it? But that the enslaved man too is our brother, what a convulsion did
that not cause, what vast expenditure of blood and treasure until that
was made plain. That we should relieve the necessities of the poor, who
will deny it? But that a social system which year by year witnesses the
increase of the pauper class, and the increase of their miseries, stands
condemned before the tribunal of Religion, of justice, how long will
it take before that is understood and taken to heart? The facts of
righteousness are few and simple, but to apply them how mighty, how
difficult a task. The time is approaching when this stupendous work
must be attempted anew, and we, a small phalanx in the army of progress,
would aid, with what power in us resides. Let this inspire us that we
have the loftiest cause of the age for our own, that we are helping
to pave the way for a stronger and freer and happier race. For by so
laboring, alone can we feel that our life has a meaning under the sky
and the sacred stars.

The year in which we have entered upon our journey is passing away.
To-night when the midnight bells send forth their clamorous voices, we
shall greet the new year, and the work it brings. No peaceful task dare
we expect, but something of good accomplished may it see.

     "Ring out wild bells to the wild sky,
     The flying cloud, the frosty light,
     The year is dying in the night,
     Ring out wild bells and let him die.

     "Ring out the old, ring in the new,
     Ring happy bells across the snow,
     The year is going, let him go,
     Ring out the false, ring in the true."


It is May, the gladdest season of the year. Life is in the breezes, life
in the vernal glory of the fields, life in the earth and in the skies.
Of old, men were wont to go forth at this time into the forest, to
wreath the fountains with garlands, to cover their houses with green
branches, with songs and dances to celebrate the triumph of the Spring.
Happy festivals, happy omens.

A year has now passed since we began our work, and for many months we
have met in this hall week after week. We have reached the first resting
place upon our journey, and it behooves us to look back once more upon
the path we have travelled, and forward into the yet untried future that
awaits us.

What was it that induced us to enter upon so perilous and for many
reasons so uncertain an enterprise?

We felt a great need. Religion which ought to stand for the highest
truth, had ceased to be true to us. We saw it at war with the highest
intelligence of the day; religion and conscience also seemed no longer
inseparably connected, as they should be. We saw that millions are
annually lavished upon the mere luxuries of religion, gorgeous temples,
churches and on the elaborate apparatus of salvation; we could not but
reflect that if one tithe of the sums thus set apart were judiciously
expended upon the wants of the many who are famishing, distress might
often be relieved, sickness averted, and crime confined within more
narrow boundaries. We saw around us many who had lapsed from their
ancient faith but still preserved the outward show of conformance,
encouraged in so equivocal a course, by the advice and example of noted
leaders in the churches themselves. We saw that the great tides of being
are everywhere sweeping mankind on to larger achievements than were
known to the past; only within the churches all is still and motionless;
only within the churches the obsolete forms of centuries ago are
retained, or if concessions to the present are made, they are tardy,
ungracious and insufficient. We beheld that the essentials of religion
are neglected, even while its accessories are observed with greater
punctiliousness than ever.

We were passing moreover through a period of momentous import in our
country's history. The nation had just entered upon the second century
of its existence, and the great recollections of what the fathers had
done and designed for the republic, were fresh in our minds. We recalled
the memorable words of Washington in his first inaugural address: "That
the national policy would be laid in the pure and immutable principles
of private morality." But we were startled to observe how greatly recent
events had falsified these hopes and felt it our duty, within our own
limited sphere, to restore something of that noble simplicity, something
of that high fidelity to righteousness which it is said adorned the
earlier days, and on which alone the fortunes of the state can rest
securely hereafter.

Then also the question, how best to educate the children to a worthy
life, confronted us. The doctrines of religion as commonly interpreted,
we could no longer impart to them; did we attempt to do so, they would
be likely to discard them in later years, and would in the mean time be
seriously injured in their moral estate by the struggle and its probable
issue. On the other hand we were aware that the temptations which
surround the young in this complex and highly wrought civilization of
ours, are peculiarly dangerous and alluring, and by all the holiest
instincts of humanity, we conceived ourselves bound to provide more
effectively for their moral welfare. A few of us therefore took counsel
how these objects might be attained, and we determined to take a step in
a new direction. We did not conceal from ourselves the difficulties that
would attend what we were about to undertake. We might expect honest
opposition. There would be no need to shrink from that. We might expect
misconstruction, unintentioned or with malice aforethought; we might
expect also cold comfort from those illiberal liberals, who are eager
enough to assert the principles of freedom for themselves, but relax
alike their principles and their tempers when the limits are transcended
which they have themselves reached, and which, on this account, they
arbitrarily set up as the barriers of future progress. There were other
obstacles inherent in the nature of the work itself. But all these
weighed lightly in the scales, when opposed to the stern conviction,
that there are certain hideous shams allowed to flourish in our public
life; that there are certain great truths which ought to be brought home
with new energy to the conscience of the people.

Upon what platform could we unite. To formulate a new creed was out of
the question. However comprehensive in its statements it might be, nay
though it had been the creed of absolute negation, from which indeed we
are far removed, it would never have combined our efforts in permanent
union. And yet it was plain that to be strong and to exert influence,
we must effect a firm, cordial, enthusiastic agreement upon some great
principle. The weakness of the Liberal Party had hitherto been, as we
knew, its dread of organization. It ensured thereby for its members a
greater measure of freedom than is elsewhere known, but it purchased
this advantage at an immense expense of practical influence and
coherency. Its forces are scattered, and in every emergency, it finds
itself paralyzed for want of unity in its own ranks. The Catholic Church
has pursued the opposite policy, and presents the most notable instance
of its successful prosecution. It is so formidable, mainly because of
its splendid scheme of organization, and the high executive ability
of its leaders. But its power is maintained at a complete sacrifice of
freedom. Could we not secure both? Could we not be free and strong? This
was the problem before us, and it seemed to us we could.

What the exigencies of the modern age demand, more than aught else, is a
new movement for the moral elevation of the race. Now the basic facts of
man's moral nature, though insufficiently illustrated in practice, are
universally admitted among civilized human beings. Concerning them there
is and can be no dispute. Here then appeared the solid principle of our
union. The moral ideal would point the way of safety, the moral ideal
would permit us to preserve the sacred right of individual differences
intact, and yet to combine with our fellow-men for the loftiest and
purest ends. Taking the term creed therefore in its widest application,
we started out with the watchword, Diversity in the Creed, Unanimity in
the Deed. This feature, if any at all, lends character to our movement,
and by it would we be judged. We claim to be thereby distinguished, as
well from those religious corporations that base their organization upon
definite theological dogmas, as also from the great majority of Liberals
who meet for purposes of contemplation and poetical aspiration, in that
we put the moral element prominently forward and behold in it the bond
of our union, the pledge of our vitality.

But at the very threshold of our enterprise, we were met by the
objection that our main premise is false; that morality is impossible
without dogma, and that in neglecting the one we were virtually
neutralizing our efforts toward the other. It became our first and most
serious task therefore to show the futility of this objection, and to
make clear by an appeal to philosophy and history that the claims of
dogma are conditional, while the dictates of morality are imperative.
Then, having established the priority and supremacy of the moral law,
to examine what manner of substitute the ethical ideal can offer us to
replace the offices of the doctrinal religions; what are the hopes it
holds out, what its consolations, what it can give us for the priesthood
and the church. With this task we have been occupied during the year
that has gone by, and now, at the close, we propose to review once more,
the chief steps which we have taken in the course of our enquiry.

We discussed in the first place the doctrine of immortality, and some of
the main arguments upon which it is commonly founded.

We next proceeded to take up the study of the Hebrew Bible; for it is
evident that so long as this book is clothed with infallible authority,
arguments based on fact and logic avail nothing, and reason is helpless
before any random scriptural quotation. We examined the composition of
the work: we learned that many of those portions that are esteemed most
ancient, are of comparatively recent origin; that the text is studded
with discrepancies, and that the marks of savage and cruel customs such
as the offering of human sacrifices to the Deity, are still clearly
indented on the sacred volume. The conclusion followed that a book
so full of contradiction, so deeply tinged with the evidence of human
fallibility, could not have been the work of a divine author. The
inspiration theory being thus divested of its support, we considered how
baneful *had been its influence on the course of human history; how it
had retarded the progress of the Jews among whom it arose; how it had
checked the intellectual development of Europe, how it had hampered
the advancement of science; how it had offered a specious plea for the
despotism of kings, and of the holy Inquisition; how in our own days it
had become in the hands of the Southern slaveholders a most formidable
means of perpetuating their infamous scheme of oppression. We concluded
that whatever is false and worthless in the book we should feel at
liberty to reject, while what is great and holy would not therefore
become less great or less holy to us, because it was proven to be man's
work, man's testimony to the divine possibilities inherent in the human

We went on striving to penetrate more deeply the origin of that
mysterious power which we call religion. To us it appeared that the
feeling of the sublime is the root of the religious sentiment in man.
That the Vedahs, Avesta, Koran, Bible are the songs of the nations on
the theme of the infinite; and that the moral ideal, whether we endow
it with personality or not, presents to us the highest type of sublimity
and is the sole object worthy of religious reverence.

     "Who dare express him And who profess him
     Saying, 'I believe in him?'
     Who feeling, seeing, deny his being
     Saying I believe him not?

     "Call it then what thou wilt
     Call it bliss, heart, love,
     God; I have no name to give it.
     Feeling is all in all,
     The name is sound and smoke."

We maintained lastly, that the entrance of the moral into the sphere
of religion has endowed the latter with whatever excellence it now

We showed in another course of lectures, that every great religious
movement has been in the essence, a protest against the formalism and
mock holiness of its time, and derived its vital impulses from the
moral elements with which it was suffused. We instanced the case of
monotheism, which, as we believe, arose in the struggle of the prophets
against the immoral rites of Baal: We mentioned Buddha, the reformer of
the Hindoos, whose sermon of unselfishness won for him the affections
of the people. We referred on frequent occasions to the fact that
Christianity likewise triumphed because of the humanity of Jesus:
because he was the Master of meekness; because his gospel was a gospel
for the poor. The result of all which was to confirm the priority
of morality, and to show that it is indeed the source of whatever is
durable and valuable in the Creeds.

Toward the end of February the two hundredth anniversary of the death
of Benedict Spinoza, afforded us a welcome opportunity to dwell upon the
life and philosophy of that illustrious thinker.

Later on, we endeavored to comprehend the causes which have produced
that remarkable change the religious opinions of modern men, that is
daily becoming more widely apparent. We found them to be the critical
investigation of the Bible, the progress of the natural sciences, and
indirectly, the influence of commerce and of industry. We attempted
to set forth how the introduction of machinery became the means of
fostering the growth of scepticism even among those classes to whom the
arguments of scholars and men of science do not appeal. We spoke of the
enlightenment of the masses, and considered the theory of those who
hold that a religion, even when it is found to be false, should still
be maintained as a salutary curb upon the passions of the multitude. We
insisted that this view of religion is as unsound as it is degrading;
that while all men may not be capable of the highest order of
intellectual action, all men are capable of heart goodness, and goodness
is the better part of religion; that a generous confidence is the
highest principle of education, and that to trust men is the surest
means of leading them to respond to our confidence; that we should cease
therefore to preach the depravity of human nature and preach rather the
grandeur which is possible to human nature; that in freedom alone can we
become worthy of being free.

And again in a distinct group of lectures we sought to unfold our
conception of the New Ideal, and to point out that which distinguishes
it from what has gone before. We spoke of its appeal to the higher
nature, of its teachings concerning the Infinite within ourselves. We
spoke of the priests that shall do its service; of the solace it affords
us by its summons to larger duties; of the ethical schools that shall be
erected for its culture; of the manner in which women may be prepared
to aid in its propaganda; lastly of the form which it may assume in the
future, in our discourse on the Order of the Ideal. Thus far have we
proceeded. We issued our appeal, at first, as men uncertain what the
fortunes of their enterprise might be. But while we avowed it to be an
experiment, we were deeply convinced that it was an experiment which
deserved to be tried. And more and more as week followed week, the
response from your side came back full and cordial; and more and more
as the scope and the ultimate tendencies of our work were developed, new
friends came to us whom we had not known, and it became apparent that
there is a deep, downright purpose in your midst which will form a bond
of union for us that shall not easily be snapped asunder. Until at
last after a period had gone by, you thought it time to exchange your
temporary organization for one more stable, and you declared to all who
might be interested in learning it, that it is your intention and your
hope to become a permanent institution in this community.

We have made a beginning only. If we look ahead, dangers and
difficulties still lie thickly on our path. The larger work is still
before us. But we will confide in the goodness of our cause, and believe
that if it be good indeed, in the end it must succeed.

The country in which we live is most favorable for such experiments as
ours. There are lands of older culture, and men' there of wider vision
and maturer wisdom, but nowhere, as in America, is a truth once seen,
so readily applied, nowhere do even the common order of men so feel
the responsibility for what transpires, and the impulse to see the best
accomplished. Here no heavy hand of rulers crushes the incipient good.
When the Pilgrims set out on their voyage across the unknown Atlantic,
Robinson, their pastor, their leader, addressed them once more before
they embarked, and in that solemn hour of parting, warned them against
the self-sufficiency of a false conservatism, and dedicated them and the
new states they might found, to the increase and the service of larger
truths. To larger truths America is dedicated.

O, if it were thine, America, America that hast given political liberty
to the world, to give that spiritual liberty for which we pant, to break
also those spiritual fetters that load thy sons and daughters! All over
this land thousands are searching and struggling for the better, they
know not what. Oh that we might aid them in the struggle, and they us;
and the hearts of many be knit together once more in a common purpose
that would lift them above their sordid, weary cares, and ennoble their
lives and make them glorious! The crops are waiting; may the reapers



     "Dans l'opinion du peuple pour qui ces liyres ont ete ecrits
     le point capital et essentiel n'est certes pas la narration
     historiquc, mais bien la legislation et l'idification

In 1795, Frederick Augustus Wolf published a modest octavo volume
entitled "Prolegomena to Homer," from whose appearance is dated the
beginning of a new era of historic criticism. The composition of the
poems of Homer formed its subject. For wellnigh twenty years the author
had collected evidence, weighed arguments, and patiently tested his
results by constant revision. His own wishes were engaged on the side of
the unity of the great Grecian epic. But the results of his researches
continued to point in the opposite direction, and at last his earnest
devotion to truth compelled him to adopt a theory the soundness of whose
construction seemed to be no longer questionable. He was thus worthy
to become the "founder of the science of philology in its present
significance." ** The influence of Wolfs discovery was not confined to
the study of classic literature only.

     * "In the estimation of the people for whom these books were
     written, the capital, essential point surely was, not the
     historic narrative, but rather legislation and religious
     edification." (Noldeke, 'Histoire Litte'raire de l'Ancien
     Testament,' p. 19.)

     ** Bonitz, "Ueber den Ursprung der Homerischen Gedichte."

It quickly radiated through every department of history. "In every
singing age," he said, "a single saeculum is almost like a single man.
It is all one mind, one soul."* This conception involved a new social
law, and radically altered the current opinions concerning the relation
of individual effort to the larger forces that affect the development
of nations. The creative energy of remarkable minds was not, indeed,
lessened in importance, but spontaneity, in this connection, acquired
a new meaning; and for the _Deus ex machina_ of the olden time
was substituted the cumulative force of centuries of progressive
advancement, culminating, it is true, at last in the triumphant
synthesis of genius. The commotion which the Wolfian theory has stirred
up in the literary world is largely due to the wide range of ideas
which it affected. Yet it was itself but a part of that general movement
which, toward the close of the last century, became conspicuous in its
effects on every field of human inquiry. Everywhere the shackles of
authority were thrown off, and, in place of blindly accepting the
testimony of the past, men turned to investigate for themselves. A new
principle of research was everywhere acknowledged, a new method
was created, and science, natural and historical, entered upon that
astonishing career of discovery whose rich promise for the future we
have but begun to anticipate.**

     * In a letter given in Kttrte's "Leben und Studien F. A
     Wolf s." i., p. 307.

     ** Scientific pursuits are distinguished from others, not by
     the material, but by the method of knowledge. The mere
     collection of data, however multiplied in detail, however
     abstruse the subjects to which they may refer, does not of
     itself deserve the name of science. The term properly
     applies only when phenomena are placed in causal relation,
     and the laws which govern their development are traced.
     Measured by this standard, every attempt to explain the
     growth of human thought and institutions, and to elucidate
     the laws which have acted in the process of their evolution,
     has a just claim to be classed under the head of scientific

To the impetus given by Wolf, and to the new-born spirit of science
which he carried into the sphere of philology, we owe among other
valuable results the beginnings of a more critical inquiry into the
records of the ancient Hebrew religion. Indeed, the author of the
"Prolegomena" himself clearly foresaw the influence which his book was
destined to exert on Hebrew studies. In a letter, from which we have
already quoted above, he says: "The demonstration that the Pentateuch is
made up of unequal portions, that these are the products of different
centuries, and that they were put together shortly after the time of
Solomon, may, ere long, be confidently expected. I should myself be
willing to undertake such an argument without fear, for nowhere do we
find any ancient witness to guarantee the authorship of the Pentateuch
to Moses himself."*

     * Letter in Korte's "Leben und Studien F. A. Wolf," i., p.

The prediction embodied in these words soon came true. A host of
competent scholars took up the study of the Hebrew Bible, and, profiting
by Wolf's example and suggestions, applied to its elucidation the same
careful methods, the same scrupulous honesty of interpretation, that had
proved so successful in the realm of classical philology. Theologians
by profession, they set aside their predilections, and placed the
ascertainment of the truth above all other interests. They believed in
the indestructible vitality of religion, and were willing to admit the
full light of criticism upon the scriptural page, confident that any
loss would be temporary only, the gain permanent. In the course of
their researches they arrived, among others, at the following important

That the editor of the Pentateuch had admitted into his volume several
accounts touching the main facts of early Hebrew history; that these
accounts are often mutually at variance; that minute analysis and
careful comparison alone can lead to an approximately true estimate
of their comparative value; and, lastly, that the transmission of
historical information had in no wise been the object of the Hebrew
writers. The history of their people served, it is true, to illustrate
certain of their doctrines concerning the divine government of the
world, and especially the peculiar relations of the Deity to the chosen
race; but it was employed much in the sense of a moral tale, being
designed, not to convey facts, but to enforce lessons. Had the
acceptance of any particular scheme of Hebrew history been deemed
essential to the integrity of religious belief, the Bible, they argued,
would certainly not have included discrepant accounts of that history in
its pages. In the light of this new insight, it seemed advisable to draw
a distinction between the biblical narrative proper and the doctrines
which it was designed to illustrate. The latter belong to the province
of faith, and their treatment may be left to the expounders of faith.
The former is a department of general history, and in dealing with it
we are at liberty to apply the same canons of criticism that obtain in
every other department, without fearing to trespass upon sacred ground.
It is our purpose in the following pages to present some of the
more interesting results that have been reached in the study of the
Pentateuch, so far as they illustrate the evolution of religious ideas
among the Hebrews. We shall begin by summarizing a few instances of
discrepant testimony to introduce our subject, and, in particular, to
show how little the ordinary purposes of history have been considered
in the composition of the biblical writings; how little the bare
transmission of facts was an object with the sacred authors.*

The Scriptures open with two divergent accounts of the creation. In
Genesis i., the work of creation proceeds in two grand movements,
including the formation of inanimate and animate Nature respectively.**
On the first day a diffused light is spread out over chaos. Then are
made the firmament, the dry earth, the green herbs, and fruit-bearing
trees; on the fourth day the great luminaries are called into being; on
the fifth, the fishes and birds of the air; on the sixth, the beasts of
the field; and, lastly, crowning all, man, his Maker's masterpiece. The
human species enters at once upon its existence _as a pair_. "Male and
female did he create them." In the second chapter the same methodical
arrangement, the same deliberate progress from the lower to the
higher forms of being, is not observed. Man, his interests and
responsibilities, stand in the foreground of the picture. The trees of
the field are not made until after Adam; and, subsequently to them,
the cattle and beasts. Moreover, man is a solitary being. A comparison
between his lonely condition and the dual existence of the remainder
of the animal world leads the Deity to determine upon the creation of
woman. A profound slumber then falls upon Adam, a rib is taken from
his side, and from it Eve is fashioned.* We may observe that the
name Jehovah, as appertaining to the Deity, is employed in the second
chapter, while it is scrupulously avoided in the first. The recognition
of this distinction has led to further discoveries of far-reaching
importance, but too complicated in their nature to be here detailed.
The conflicting statements of the two accounts, which we have just
indicated, have induced scholars to regard them as the work of different
writers. In Genesis iv. we learn that in the days of Enoch, Adam's
grandson, men began to call on the name of Jehovah; in Exodus vi, on
the contrary, that the name Jehovah was first revealed to Moses, being
unknown even to the patriarchs.

     * Many of the following examples are familiarly known. A
     few, however, are drawn from recent investigations. Compare,
     especially, Kuenen, "The Religion of Israel."

     ** Tuch's "Genesis," p. 3, second edition, Halle, 1871.

Gen. xvi., Hagar is driven from her home by the jealousy of her
mistress; escapes into the desert; beholds a vision of God at a well in
a wilderness. Gen. xxi., the flight of Hagar is related a second time.
The general scheme of the narrative is the same as above; but there
are important divergencies of detail. As narrated in chapter xvi., the
escape took place immediately before the birth of Ishmael. Fifteen years
elapsed,** and Ishmael, now approaching the years of maturity, is once
more driven forth from the house of Abraham. But, to our surprise, in
chapter xxi. the lad is described as a mere infant; he is carried on
his mother's shoulders, and laid away, like a helpless babe, under some
bushes by the wayside. It appears that we have before us two accounts
touching the same event, agreeing in the main incidents of the escape,
but showing a disagreement of fifteen years as to the date of its
occurrence. The narratives are distinguished as above by the employment
of different names of the Deity: Jehovah in the one instance, Elohim in
the other.

     * For an account of the close analogy between the biblical
     narration and the Persian story of Meshja and Meshjane,
     their temptation and fall, vide ibid. p. 40. It is of
     special importance to note that reference to the account of
     Genesis ii. is made only in the later literature of the
     Hebrews, ibid., p. 42.

     ** Gen. xvii. 25. In quoting from the Old Testament, we
     follow the order of the Hebrew text.

Gen. xxxii., Jacob at the fords of Jabbok, after wrestling during the
night with a divine being, receives the name of Israel. Gen. xxxv.,
without reference to the previous account, the name Israel is conferred
upon Jacob at a different place and under different circumstances.

Gen. xlix., the dispersion of the Levites among the tribes is
characterized as a punishment and a curse. They are to be forever
homeless and fugitive. Deuteronomy xxxiii. and elsewhere, it is
described as a blessing. The Levites have been scattered as good seed
over the land. They are apostles, commissioned to propagate Jehovah's

Passing on to the second book of the Pentateuch, we pause before the
account of the Revelation on Mount Sinai, beyond a doubt the most
important event of Israel's ancient history. Exodus xxiv. 2, Moses alone
is to approach the divine presence. Exod. xix. 24, Aaron is to accompany
him. Exod. xxiv. 13, Aaron is to remain below and Joshua is to go in
his stead. Again, Exod. xxxiii. 20, instant death will overtake him
who beholds God. Exod. xxiv. 9-11, Moses, Aaron, two of his sons, and
seventy elders of Israel "ascended, and they saw the God of Israel....
Also, they saw God, and did eat and drink." Once more, Exod. xxiv. 4-7,
Moses himself writes down the words of revelation in a book of covenant.
Exod. xxiv. 12, not Moses but God writes them; and, elsewhere, "Two
tables of stone inscribed by the finger of God."

Exod. xx. enjoins the observance of the sabbath-day as a memorial of
the repose of the Maker of heaven and earth on the sabbath of creation.
Deut. v., the fourth commandment is enjoined because of the redemption
of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Exod. xxxiv., a new version of the
decalogue, differing in most respects from the one commonly received,
is promulgated.* The first commandment is to worship no strange god;
the second, to make no graven images; the third, to observe the feast
of unleavened bread; the fourth, to deliver the first-born unto Jehovah;
the fifth, to observe the sabbath, etc.

     * Compare De Wette's "Einleitung in das alte Testament"
     (Schrader's edition), p. 286, note 53.

In Exod. xx. we read that the guilt of the fathers will be avenged upon
the children down even to the third and fourth generation; in Deut.
xxiv., the children shall not die for their fathers. Every one for his
own sin shall die.

In Deut. xxv. the marrying of a deceased brother's wife is under certain
conditions enjoined as a duty. In Levit. xviii. it is unconditionally
prohibited as a crime.

Exod. xxxiii., Moses removes the tabernacle beyond the camp. Num. ii.,
the tabernacle rests in the very heart of the camp, with all the tribes
of Israel grouped round about it, according to their standards and

Num. xvi., the sons of Korah, the leader of the great Leviti-cal
sedition, perish with their father. Num. xxvi., the sons of Korah do not

Of the forty years which the Israelites are said to have dwelt in the
desert, not more than two are covered by the events of the narrative.
The remainder are wrapped in dense obscurity. There is, however, a
significant fact which deserves mention in this connection. The death
of Aaron marks, as it were, the close of Israel's journey. Now, while in
Num. xxxiii. the death of the high-priest is described as occurring in
the fortieth year, in Deut. x. it is actually referred to the second
year of the Exodus.**

     * Num. xxvi. 11. Indeed, had the sons of Korah and every
     human being related to him perished, as Num. xvi. avers, how
     could we account for the fact that Korah's descendants
     filled high offices in the Temple at Jerusalem later on?
     The celebrated singer, Heman, himself was a lineal
     descendant of Korah. To the descendants of Korah also are
     ascribed the following Psalms: Ps. xlii., xliv.-xlix.,
     lxxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxvii., lxxxviii.

     ** In connection with this subject it is of interest to
     compare Goethe's argument in the "Westoslicher Divan" on the
     duration of the desert journey. Here, as in so many other
     instances, the intuitive perception of the great poet
     anticipated the tardy results of subsequent investigation.

A brief digression beyond the borders of the Pentateuch will show that
the conflict of testimony which we have thus far noticed, affecting as
it does some of the leading events of ancient Hebrew history, does not
diminish as we proceed in the narrative. In I Samuel vii. it is said
that the Philistines ceased to harass the land of Israel all the days of
Samuel. Immediately thereupon we read of new Philistine incursions more
direful than ever in their consequences.* The popular proverb, "Is Saul
among the prophets?" is variously explained, I Sam. x. and xix. Two
discrepant accounts are given of Saul's rejection from the kingdom, I
Sam. xiii. and xv.; of David's introduction to Saul, i Sam. xvi. and
xvii. The charming story of David's encounter with the giant Goliath
told in I Sam. xvii. is contradicted in 2 Sam. xxi. 19, where, not
David, but some person otherwise unknown to fame, is reported to
have slain the giant Goliath, and also the time, place, and attendant
circumstances, are differently related.**

     * Compare 1 Sam. vii. 13, and 1 Sam. xiii. 19.

     ** In 1 Chron. xx. 5, we read, "the brother of Goliath." The
     purpose of the change is clear, and accords well with the
     apologetical tendencies of the author of Chronicles. Vide De
     Wette, "Einleitung," etc., p. 370.    Geiger, "Urschrift."

It thus appears that the compiler of the Pentateuch has admitted a
variety of views, not only on the ancient history of his people, but
also on the general subject of religion and morals, into his work; and
that the discordant opinions of diverse authors and of diverse stages of
human progress are reflected in its pages. It is the monument of a grand
religious movement extending over many centuries of gradual development.
It is the image of a nation's struggles and growth. As contained in the
books of the Pentateuch, the Mosaic religion is a religious mosaic.

In the foregoing sketch we have observed how deep a mist of uncertainty
hangs over the earliest period, the golden age of the history of the
Hebrews. All is in a state of flux, and what appeared compact and
coherent at a distance yields to our touch upon closer contact. To gain
_terra firma_ let us turn to the period which immediately succeeded the
settlement of the Israelites in Palestine; a period in which the outline
of historical events begins to assume a more definite and tangible

It was a dismal and sorrowful age. The bonds of social order were
loosened; the current conceptions of the Deity and the rites of his
worship were gross and often degrading. Mutual jealousies kindled the
firebrand of war among the contending clans. Almost the whole tribe of
Benjamin was extirpated. Abimelech slew seventy princes upon one stone.
Lust and treachery ran riot. A wilder deed has never been chronicled in
the annals of mankind than that related in chapter xix. of Judges,
nor ever has a terrible deed been more terribly avenged. Now, looking
backward, we ask, Is it to be believed that in the fourteenth century B.
C. not only the leader of Israel, but also their elders, their priests,
nay, large numbers of the very populace, shared in the most exalted,
the most spiritual conceptions of God, and nourished the most refined
sentiments in regard to human relationships, while immediately
thereupon, and centuries thereafter, violence and bloodshed, and
idolatry, do not cease from the records? It has been argued, indeed,
that the worship of idols was but a _relapse_ from the purity of a
preceding age; and that, though the tradition of the Mosaic time may
have been lost in the succeeding period among the people at large, it
was still preserved in the circle of a select few, the judges, King
David, and others. These, it is believed, continued to remain faithful
disciples of the great lawgiver. But these very men, the judges--King
David himself--all fall immeasurably below the standard that is set up
in the Pentateuch. If they were esteemed the true representatives of
the national religion in their day, if the very points in which they
transgressed the provisions of the Mosaic code are distinguished by
the approval of God and man, we are forced to conclude that that
standard--by which they stand condemned--did not yet exist; that, in
the days of David, the laws of Moses, as we now have them; were as yet
unwritten and unknown. Let us illustrate this important point by a few
examples taken from the records. Gideon no sooner returns from victory
than he makes a golden idol and sets it up for worship. Jephthah
slays his daughter as an offering of thanksgiving to Jehovah. In
the Pentateuch the adoration of images is branded as the gravest of
offences. David keeps household gods in his own home (Sam. xix). In the
Pentateuch, on its opening page, God is proclaimed as a pure spirit,
maker of heaven and earth. In the eyes of David (1 Sam, xxvi. 19), the
sway of Jehovah does not extend beyond the borders of Palestine.* In the
Pentateuch the ark of the covenant is described as the treasury of all
that is brightest and best in the worship of the one God. None but
the consecrated priest dare approach it, and even he only under
circumstances calculated to inspire peculiar veneration and awe. In 2
Sam. vi., David abandons the ark to the keeping of a heathen Philistine.
In an early age of culture, when fear and terror in the presence of
superior force entered largely into the religious conceptions of
the Hebrews, the taking of the census was deemed an act of grave
transgression. It appeared a vaunting of one's strength; it seemed to
indicate a defiant attitude toward the loftier power of the Deity, which
he would certainly visit with condign punishment. At a later period the
priesthood found it in their interest to override these scruples, and
the taking of the census became an affair of habitual occurrence. In
the last chapter of Samuel the more primitive view still predominated.
Seventy thousand Israelites are miserably slain to atone for King
David's presumption in commanding a census of the people. In the fourth
book of Moses, on the other hand, the numbering of the people not only
proceeds without the slightest evil resulting therefrom, but at the
express command of God himself.

In the book of Deuteronomy the service of Jehovah is said to consist
mainly in the practice of righteousness, in works of kindness toward our
fellows, in sincere and holy love toward the Deity, who is represented
as the merciful father of all his human children. Second Sam. xxi., a
famine comes upon the land of Israel. The anger of Jehovah is kindled
against the people. To appease him, David offers sacrifice--human
sacrifice. The seven sons of Saul are slain, and their bodies kept
exposed on the hill, "in sight of Jehovah," and the horrid offering _is
accepted_, and the divine wrath is thereby pacified.** Truly, in the age
of in the beginning of the barley-harvest. This circumstance seems to
throw light on the primitive mode of celebrating the Passover. That the
rite of human sacrifice was originally connected with this festival is
generally acknowledged. Vide, e. g., Exod. xiii., 2. By such offerings
it was intended, no doubt, to secure the favor of the god during the
continuance of the harvest.

     * Banishment being described as a transfer of allegiance to
     strange gods.

     ** It is important to note that the seven sons of Saul were

David, the Hebrews were far, far removed from the high state of culture
in which the ideal conception of religion that pervades Deuteronomy
became possible. And long after, when centuries had gone by and the
kingdom of Judah was already approaching its dissolution, the direful
practices of David's reign still survived, and the root of idolatry had
not been plucked from the heart of the people. Still do we hear of human
sacrifice perpetrated in the midst of Jerusalem, and steeds and chariots
dedicated to the sun-god, and images of the Phallus, and all the
abominations of sensual worship, filled the very Temple of Jehovah.

But in the meantime a new force had entered the current of Hebrew
history. The conviction that one God, and he an all-just, almighty
being, ruled the destinies of Israel, began to take root. In the eighth
century B. C. authentic records prove that monotheism, as a form of
religious belief, obtained, at least among the more illustrious members
of the prophetic order. We have elsewhere attempted to trace the causes
which led to the rise of monotheism at this particular epoch, and can do
no more than briefly allude to them here.

When the mountaineers of Southern Palestine, after centuries of
protracted struggles, had secured the safe possession of individual
homes, the endearments of domestic life were invested with a sanctity in
their eyes never before known. The attachment of the Hebrew toward his
offspring was intensified; his devotion to the wife of his bosom became
purer and more enduring. Now, the prevailing forms of Semitic religion
outraged these feelings at every point. The gods of the surrounding
nations were gods of pleasure and of pain; and in their worship the
stern practices of fanatic asceticism alternated with the wildest orgies
of sensual enjoyment. The worship of Baal Moloch demanded the sacrifice
of children; that of the lascivious Baaltis insulted the modesty of
woman. The nobler spirits among the Hebrews rebelled against both these
demands. And, as the latter were put forth in the name of the dominant
religion, the inevitable conclusion followed that that religion itself
must be radically wrong. The spirit of opposition thus awakened was
aroused into powerful activity when, in the days of Ahab, the queen,
supported by an influential priesthood, determined to introduce the
forms of Phoenician religion in Israel by measures of force. The
royal edicts were resisted, but for a while the rule of the stronger
prevailed. The leaders of the opposition were compelled to flee, and,
avoiding the habitations of men, to take refuge in wild and solitary
places. Thus the rupture was widened into schism, and persecution
inflamed the zeal and kindled the energies of that new order of men of
whom Elijah is the well-known type.

Through their agency the emotional nature of the Semitic race now found
expression in a form of religious worship loftier by far than any
that had ever arisen among men. If Baal was the embodiment of Semitic
asceticism and Baaltis the type of sensual orgiastic passion, the
national God of Israel now became the type of a nobler emotion, the
guardian of domestic purity, the source of sanctity, the ideal Father.
It is indeed the image of a just patriarch that fills the mind and
wings the fancy of the eldest prophets, when they describe the nature of
Jehovah, their God. Jehovah is the husband of the people. Israel shall
be his true and loyal spouse. The children of Israel are his children.
Unchastity and irreligion are synonymous terms. And thus, if we err not,
the peculiar feature of Hebrew character, their faithful attachment
to kith and kin, the strength and purity of their domestic affections,
serves to explain the peculiar character, the origin and development
of the Hebrew religion. And because the essential elements of the new
religion were moral elements it could not tolerate the Nature-worship of
the heathens: and the way was prepared for the gradual ascendency of
the purely spiritual in religion, which after ages of gradual progress
constituted the last, the lasting triumph of prophecy.

After ages of development! For we are not to suppose that, in the
centuries succeeding Hosea, the doctrines of the prophetic schools had
become in any sense the property of the people at large. "The powers
that be" were arrayed against them, and the annals of the kings are
replete with evidence of their sufferings. It was in the late reign
of Josiah that they at last received not only the countenance of the
reigning monarch, but also a decisive influence upon the direction of
affairs. In that reign a scroll was found in the temple imbued with the
doctrine of the unity of God, and breathing the vigorous spirit of the
prophets. In it was emphasized the heart's religion in preference to the
empty ceremonial of priestly worship. The allegiance of the people was
directed toward the God who had elected them from among the nations of
the earth, and dire disaster was predicted in case of disobedience.
When brought to the king and read in his presence, he was powerfully
affected, and determined, if possible, to stem the tide of impending
ruin by such salutary measures of reform as the injunctions of the
newly-found Scripture seemed most urgently to call for. The concurrence
of many critics has identified this scroll, written and published at or
about the time when the youthful Josiah succeeded to the throne of his
ancestors, with Deuteronomy, the fifth of the books of Moses. It differs
materially from the more recent writings of the Pentateuch. The family
of Aaron are not yet exclusively endowed with the priesthood. The
priests are all Levites, the Levites all priests. There are, moreover,
other vital differences, into which the limits of this article do not
permit us to enter.* The date of the composition of Deuteronomy is thus
referred to the closing decades of the seventh century B. C.**

     * E. G., the rebellion of Korah is unknown to the author of

     ** The language of Deuteronomy attests its late origin.
     Sixty-six phrases of Deuteronomy recur in the writings of
     Jeremiah. Vide Zunz, Zeitschrift der Deutschen
     Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft, xxviii., p. 670.

The princes who succeeded Josiah fell back into the old course, and
quite undid the work which had begun with such fair promise. Indeed,
little permanent good was to be hoped for in so disordered a condition
of political affairs, and from the degenerate rulers who then swayed
the helm of state. The fortunes of the kingdom of Judah were swiftly
declining, and not fully a quarter of a century after the pious Josiah
had breathed his last, Nebuchadnezzar burned the Temple of Jerusalem,
and carried its inhabitants captive to Babylon.

Heretofore, with but a brief, brilliant interlude, idolatry had been
the court religion of Judah. Early training, long usage, the example of
revered ancestors, had endeared its forms and symbols to the affections
of the people. Resistance to the innovating prophets was natural; men
being then, as ever, loath to abandon the sacred usages which had come
down to them from the distant generations of the past. But, in the long
years of the captivity, a profound change came over the spirit of
the Hebrew people; "by Babel's streams they sat and wept;" by Babel's
streams they recalled the memories of their native land, that land which
they had lost. It was then that the voices of Jehovah's messengers,
which had so earnestly warned them of the approaching doom, recurred to
their startled recollection. They remembered the message; they beheld
its fulfillment; the testimony of the prophets had been confirmed by
events; the one God to whom they testified had revealed his omnipotence
in history; and with ready assent the exiles promised allegiance to his
commandments in the future. The love of country, the dread of further
chastisement, the dear hope of restoration, combined to win them to
the purer worship of their God, and, in the crucible of Babylon, the
national religion was purged of the last dregs of heathendom.

With the permission of Cyrus, the Jews returned to Palestine and the
Temple at Jerusalem was rebuilt. The question now arose in what
forms the ceremonial of the new sanctuary should be conducted. The
time-honored festivals, the solemn and joyful convocations, the
sacrifices and purifications of the olden time, were all more or
less infected with the taint of paganism. Prophecy would have none of
them--prophecy, free child of genius, contemned sacrifice, denounced the
priesthood, even the temple and its ritual;* proclaimed humbleness and
loving-kindness as the true service in which Jehovah takes delight.
There was formalism on the one hand, idealism on the other. As is
usual in such cases, when the time had arrived for turning theory into
practice, it was found necessary to effect a compromise.

     * Jeremiah vii. 4; Isaiah lxvi. 1; Micah vi. 6.

As Christianity in later days adopted the yule-tree into its system, and
lit the lamps of the heathen festival of the 25th of December in honor
of the nativity of its founder, so the leaders of the Jews, in the fifth
century before our era, adopted the feasts and usages of an ancient
Nature-worship, breathed into them a new spirit informed them with a
loftier meaning, and made them tokens, symbols of the eternal God. The
old foes were thus reconciled; priesthood and prophecy joined hands, and
were thenceforth united. As an offspring of this union, we behold a new
code of laws and prescriptions, whose marked and inharmonious features
at once betray the dual nature of its progenitors. "A rough preliminary
draft, as it were," of this code, is preserved in the book of Ezekiel,
composed probably about the middle of the fifth century. In its finished
and final shape, it forms the bulk of a still later work--of Leviticus,
namely the third of the books of the Pentateuch: of all the discoveries
of criticism none more noteworthy, none we are permitted to consider
more assured. What lends additional certainty to the result is the
circumstance that it was reached independently by two of the most
esteemed scholars of our day, the one a Professor of Theology in the
University of Leyden,* the other a veteran of thought, whose brow is
wreathed by the ripe honors of more than fourscore years.** Let us
briefly advert to the line of argument by which this astonishing
conclusion was reached:

     * Prof. A. Kuenen.

     ** The venerable Dr. Zunz, of Berlin.

The author of the book of Ezekiel was a priest, and one confessedly
loyal to the sanctuary of Jerusalem. Now, had the laws of the Levitical
code, which minutely describe the ritual of that sanctuary, existed, or
been regarded as authoritative in his day, he could not, would not have
disregarded, much less contradicted, their provisions. He does this,
and, be it remarked, in points of capital importance. In chapter xlv.
of Ezekiel are mentioned the great festivals, with the sacrifices
appropriate to each; but the feast of Pentecost, commanded in Leviticus,
is entirely omitted; also that of the eighth day of tabernacles. The
second of the daily burnt-offerings, upon which the legislator of the
fourth book of Moses dwells with such marked emphasis, is not commanded.
The order of sacrifices appointed in Ezekiel is at variance with that in
the more recent code. Ezekiel nowhere mentions the ark of the covenant.
According to him, the new year begins on the tenth of the seventh month,
while the festival of the trumpets, ordained in Leviticus for the first
of that month (the present new year of the Jews), is nowhere referred
to. We are not to suppose, however, that the festivals, the ark, etc.,
did not yet exist in the time of Ezekiel. They existed, no doubt,
but were still too intimately associated with pagan customs and
superstitions to receive or merit the countenance of a prophetic writer.
In Leviticus the process of assimilation above described had reached its
climax. The new meaning had been successfully engrafted upon the
rites and symbols of the olden time; and they were thenceforth freely
employed. The legislation of the Levitical code exhibits the familiar
features which in every instance mark the ascendency or consolidation of
the hierarchical order. The lines of gradation and distinction between
the members of the order among themselves are precisely drawn and
strictly adhered to. The prerogatives of the whole order as against the
people are fenced about with stringent laws. The revenues of the order
are largely increased. In the older code of Deuteronomy, the annual
tithes were set apart for a festival occasion, and given over to the
enjoyment of the people. In the new code, the hierarchy claims the
tithes for its own use. New taxes are invented. The best portions of
the sacrificial animal are reserved for the banquets of the Temple.
The first-born of men and cattle belong to the priesthood, and must be
ransomed by the payment of a sum of money. In no period prior to the
fifth century B. C. was the hierarchy powerful enough to design such
laws. At that time, however, when in the absence of a temporal sovereign
they, with the high-priest at their head, were the acknowledged rulers
of the state, they were both prepared to conceive and able to carry
them into effect. The language of Leviticus contributes not a little to
betray its late origin.* The period in the history of the Jews, when
the fear of taking the name of the Lord in vain induced men to avoid,
if possible, mentioning it at all. We find ha Shem in the above sense in
Lev. xxiv. 11. authorship of Moses attributed to the Levitical code is
symbolical. The name of Moses is utterly unknown to the elder prophets.

     * To mention only a single instance, ha Shem (meaning the
     name, i. e. the ineffable name of God) was not employed
     until very late.

In all their manifold writings it does not occur a single time, though
they make frequent reference to the past. There can now be little doubt
that the composition of the bulk of Leviticus, and of considerable
portions of the books of Numbers, Exodus, and even parts of Genesis,
belongs to the epoch of the second Temple, and that the date of these
writings may be approximately fixed at about one thousand years after
the time of Moses. As to the story of Israel's desert wanderings, it
rests upon ancient traditions whose character it is not our present
business to investigate. It was successively worked up in various
schools of priests and prophets, and this accounts for the host of
discrepancies it contains, some of which have been noticed in the
beginning of this essay. It was finally amplified by the inventive
genius of the second-Temple priesthood, who succeeded in heightening the
sanctity of their own institutions by tracing them back to a revered,
heroic person, who had lived in the dim days of remote antiquity.

In the preceding pages we have indicated the more important phases of
that conflict which ended in the establishment of monotheism, a conflict
whose traces, though sometimes barely legible, are still preserved
in our records. We saw in the first instance that the Mosaic age is
shrouded in uncertainty. We pointed out that pure monotheism was unknown
in the time of the early kings. We briefly referred to the rise of
monotheism. Finally, we endeavored to show how the prophetic idea had
been successively expressed in various codes, each corresponding to a
certain stage in the great process of evolution. From what we have said,
it follows that the prophetic ideal of religion is the root and core
of all that is valuable in the Hebrew Bible. The laws, rites, and
observances, in which it found a temporary and changeful expression,
may lose their vitality; it will always continue to exert its high
influence. It was not the work of one man, nor of a single age, but was
reached in the long course of generations on generations, evolved amid
error and vice, slowly, and against all the odds of time. It has been
said that the Bible is opposed to the theory of evolution. The Bible
itself is a prominent example of evolution in history. It is not
homogeneous in all its parts. There are portions filled with tales of
human error and fallibility. These are the incipient stages of an early
age--the dark and dread beginnings. There are others thrilling with
noblest emotion, freighted with eternal truths, breathing celestial
music. These are the triumph and the fruition of a later day. It is
thus by discriminating between what is essentially excellent and what
is comparatively valueless that we shall best reconcile the discordant
claims of reason and of faith. The Bible was never designed to convey
scientific information, nor was it intended to serve as a text-book of
history. In its ethical teachings lies its true significance. On them it
may fairly rest its claims to the immortal reverence of mankind.

There was a time in the olden days of Greece when it was demanded that
the poems of Homer should be removed from the schools, lest the minds of
the young might be poisoned by the weeds of superstitious belief. Plato,
the poet-philosopher, it was who urged this demand. That time is past.
The tales of the gods and heroes have long since ceased to entice our
credulity. The story of Achilles's wrath and the wanderings of the sage
Ulysses are not believed as history, but the beauty and freshness and
the golden poetry of the Homeric epic have a reality all their own, and
are a delight and a glory now, as they have ever been before. The Bible
also is a classical book. It is the classical book of noble ethical
sentiment. In it the mortal fear, the overflowing hope, the quivering
longings of the human soul toward the better and the best, have found
their first, their freshest, their fittest utterance. In this respect it
can never be superseded.

To Greek philosophy we owe the evolution of the logical categories; to
Hebrew prophecy, the pure canon of moral principle and action. That
this result was the outcome of a long process of suffering and struggle
cannot diminish its value in our estimation. When we compare the
degrading offices of the Hebrew religion in the days of the judges with
the lofty aspirations of the second Isaiah, when we remember the utter
abyss of moral abasement from which the nobler spirits of the Hebrews
rose to the free heights of prophecy, our confidence in the divine
possibilities of the human soul is reinvigorated, our emulation is
kindled, and from the great things already accomplished we gather the
cheering promise of the greater things that are yet to come. It is in
this moral incentive that the practical value of the evolutionary theory
chiefly lies.*

     * Most aptly has this thought been expressed in the lines
     with which Goethe welcomed the appearance of F. A. Wolfs

     "Erst die Gesundheit des Mannes, der, endhch vom Namen
     Homeros Kuhn uns befreiend, uns auch flihrt in die vollere
     Bahn. Denn wer wagte mit Gettern den Kampf? und wer mit dem
     Einen?--Doch Homeride zu seyn, auch nur als letzter, ist

     The Elegy of Hermann und Dorothea


The Jews are justly called a peculiar people. During the past three
thousand years they have lived apart from their fellow-men, in a state
of voluntary or enforced isolation. The laws of the Pentateuch directed
them to avoid contact with heathens. Christianity in turn shunned
and execrated them. Proud and sensitive by nature, subjected to every
species of humiliation and contempt, they retired upon themselves, and
continued to be what the seer from Aram had described them in the olden
time, "A people that dwells in solitude."* It followed that, in the
progress of time, idiosyncrasies of character were developed, and
habits of thinking and feeling grew up amongst them, which could not but
contribute to alienate them still more from the surrounding world. They
felt that they were not understood. They were too shy to open their
confidence to their oppressors. They remained an enigma. At wide
intervals books appeared purporting to give an account of the Jews and
their sacred customs. But these attempts were, in the main, dictated by
no just or generous motive. Their authors, narrow bigots or renegades
from Judaism, ransacked the vast literature of the Hebrew people for
such scattered fragments as might be used to their discredit, and
exhibited these as samples of Jewish manners and Jewish religion.
The image thus presented, it is needless to say, was extremely
untrustworthy. And yet the writings of these partial judges have
remained almost the only sources from which even many modern writers are
accustomed to draw their information. The historian is yet to come who
will dispel the dense mists of prejudice that have gathered about Jewish
history, and reveal the inward life of this wonderful people, whose
perennial freshness has been preserved through so many centuries of
the most severe trials and persecution. In one respect, indeed, let us
hasten to add, the popular judgment concerning the Jews has never been

     * Numbers xxiii. 9.

The intense conservatism in religion for which they have become
proverbial is fully confirmed by facts. There exists no other race of
men that has approved its fidelity to religious conviction for an equal
period, under equal difficulties, and amid equal temptations. Antiochus,
Titus, Firuz, Reccared, Edward I. of England, Philip Augustus of France,
Ferdinand of Spain, exhausted the resources of tyranny in vain to shake
their constancy. Their power of resistance rose with the occasion that
called it forth; and their fervid loyalty to the faith transmitted to
them by the fathers never appeared to greater, advantage than when it
cost them their peace, their happiness, and their life to maintain
it. Since the close of the last century, however, a great change has
apparently come over the Jewish people. Not only have they abandoned
their former attitude of reserve and mingled freely with their
fellow-citizens of whatever creed, not only have they taken a leading
part in the great political revolutions that swept over Europe, but the
passion for change, so characteristic of the age in which we live, has
extended even to their time-honored religion; and a movement aiming at
nothing less than the complete reformation of Judaism has arisen, and
rapidly acquired the largest dimensions. The very fact that such a
movement should exist among such a people is rightly interpreted as a
sign of the times deserving of careful and candid consideration; and
great interest has accordingly been manifested of late on the subject
of Jewish Reform. In a series of articles we shall undertake to give
a brief sketch of the origin and bearings of the movement. But before
addressing ourselves to this task it will be necessary to review a few
of the main causes that have enabled the Jews to perdure in history, and
to consider the motives that impelled them to resist change so long, if
we would properly appreciate the process of transformation that is even
now taking place among them. Among the efficient forces that conduced to
the preservation of the Jewish people we rank highest:


The sacredness of the family tie is the condition both of the physical
soundness and the moral vigor of nations. The family is the miniature
commonwealth, upon whose integrity the safety of the larger commonwealth
depends. It is the seedplot of all morality. In the child's intercourse
with its parents the sentiment of reverence is instilled--the essence
of all piety, all idealism; also the habit of obedience to rightful
authority, which forms so invaluable a feature in the character of the
loyal citizen. In the companionship of brothers deference to the rights
of equals is practically inculcated, without which no community could
exist. The relations between brother and sister give birth to the
sentiment of chivalry,--regard for the rights of the weaker,--and this
forms the basis of magnanimity, and every generous and tender quality
that graces humanity. Reverence for superiors, respect for equals,
regard for inferiors,--these form the supreme trinity of the virtues.
Whatever is great and good in the institutions and usages of mankind
is an application of sentiments that have drawn their first nourishment
from the soil of the family. The family is the school of duties. But
it has this distinguishing excellency, that among those who are linked
together by the strong ties of affection duty is founded on love. On
this account it becomes typical of the perfect morality in all the
relations of life, and we express the noblest longings of the human
heart when we speak of a time to come in which all mankind will be
united "as one family." Now the preeminence of the Jews in point of
domestic purity will hardly be disputed. "In this respect they stand
out like a bold promontory in the history of the past, singular and
unapproached," said the philosopher Trendelenburg.* According to the
provisions of the Mosaic Code, the crime of adultery is punished with
death. The most minute directions are given touching the dress of the
priests and the common people, in order to check the pruriency of fancy.
The scale of forbidden marriages is widely extended with the same end in

     * Vide the essay on the Origin of Monotheism in Jahrbuch des
     Vereins fur Wissenschaftliche Padagogik, Vol IX. 1877, by
     the author of this article.

Almost the entire tribe of Benjamin is extirpated to atone for an
outrage upon feminine virtue committed within its borders. The undutiful
son is stoned to death in the presence of the whole people. That husband
and wife shall become "as one flesh," is a conception which we find only
among the Jews. Among them the picture of the true housewife which is
unrolled to us in Proverbs had its original,--the picture of her who
unites all womanly grace and gentleness, in whose environment dwell
comfort and beauty, "whose husband and sons rise up to praise her." The
marriage tie was held so sacred that it was freely used by the prophets
to describe the relations between the Deity and the chosen people.
Jehovah is called the husband of the people. Israel shall be his true
and loyal spouse. The children of Israel are his children. The worship
of false gods was designated by the Hebrew word that signifies conjugal
infidelity. This feature of Jewish life remained equally prominent in
later times. In the age of the Talmud marriage was called Hillula,--a
song of praise! The most holy day of the year, the tenth of the seventh
month, a day of fasting and the atonement of sins, was deemed a proper
occasion to collect the young people for the purpose of choosing
husbands and wives. On that day the maidens of Jerusalem, arrayed in
pure white, went out into the vineyards that covered the slopes of the
neighboring hills, dancing as they went, and singing as the bands of
youth came up to meet them from the valleys. "Youth, raise now thine
eyes," sang the beautiful among them, "and regard her whom thou
choosest." "Look not to beauty," sang the well-born, "but rather to
ancient lineage and high descent." Lastly, those who were neither
beautiful nor well born took up the strain, and thus they sang:
"Treacherous is grace, and beauty deceitful; the woman that fears God
alone shall be praised." The appropriateness of such proceedings on the
Atonement day was justified by the remark that marriage is itself an act
of spiritual purification. The high value attached to the institution of
the family is further illustrated by many tender legends of the Talmud
which we cannot here stop to recount. A separate gate, it is said, was
reserved in Solomon's Temple for the use of bridegrooms, before which
they received the felicitations of the assembled people. The marriage
celebration was essentially a festival of religion. Seven days it
lasted. The Talmudic law, usually so unbending in its exactions, relaxed
its austerity in favor of these auspicious occasions, and recommended to
all to rejoice with the joyful. On the Sabbath of the marriage-week, the
young husband was received with peculiar honors in the synagogue, and
the liturgy of the mediaeval Jews is crowded with hymns composed in
honor of these solemn receptions. If a whole congregation thus united
to magnify and sanctify the erection of a new home, the continued
preservation of its sanctity might safely be left to the jealous
watchfulness of its inmates. Cases of sensual excess or of unfilial
conduct have been extremely infrequent among the Jews, down to modern
times. However mean the outward appearance of their homes might be,
the moral atmosphere that pervaded them was rarely contaminated. If
the question be asked, how it came about that so feeble a people could
resist the malevolence of its foes; that a nation, deprived of any
visible rallying-point, with no political or religious centre to cement
their union, had not long since been wiped out from the earth's surface,
we answer that the hearth was their rallying-point and the centre of
their union. There the scattered atoms gained consistency sufficient to
withstand the pressure of the world. Thither they could come to recreate
their torn and lacerated spirits. There was the well-spring of their


If the Jewish people were preserved in moral vigor by the influence
of their domestic life, the care they bestowed on the education of the
young kept them intellectually fresh. Schools were erected in every town
and country district. It was forbidden a Jew to reside in cities where
no provision had been made for the instruction of children. Teachers
were called the guardians of cities. The destruction of Jerusalem was
attributed to the fact that the schools had been suffered to fall into
neglect. Synagogues were often used for purposes of primary instruction.
"A sage is greater than a prophet," said the proverb. To increase in
knowledge, at least in a certain kind of knowledge, was a part of the
Jew's religion. According to the theory of the Rabbies the revelation
of God to man is fully embodied in the books of the Old Testament,
especially in the books of the Pentateuch, commonly called the
Tora,--the Law. They contain, either by direct statement or by
implication, whatever it is necessary for men to know. They anticipate
all future legislation. Though apparently scanty in substance, they
are replete with suggestions of profound and inexhaustible wisdom. To
penetrate the hidden meanings of "the Law" became, on this account, the
primary obligation of the devout; and ignorance was not only despised
on its own account, but was, in addition, branded as a sign of deficient
piety. The ordinances of the Jewish sages are all ostensibly deduced
from the words of the Sacred Law. Without such sanction no enactment of
any later lawgiver, however salutary in itself, could aspire to general
recognition. The civil and criminal law, the principles of science,
sanitary and police regulations, even the rules of courtesy and decorum,
are alike rested on scriptural authority. The entire Talmud may be
roughly described as an extended commentary on the Mosaic Law.* The
authors of the Talmud led a studious life, and relied in great measure
upon the habit of study to preserve the vitality of their faith. Among
the sayings of the sages** we read such as these. Jose ben Joeser says:
"Let thy house be the resort of the wise, and let the dust of their feet
cover thee, and drink in thirstily their words." Joshua ben Perachia
says: "Get thee an instructor, gain a companion [for thy studies], and
judge all men upon the presumption of their innocence." Hillel says:
"Who gains not in knowledge loses.... Say not, 'When I am at leisure
I will study'; 't is likely thou wilt never be at leisure.... He who
increases flesh increases corruption; he who increases worldly goods
increases care; he who increases servants increases theft; but he who
increases in the knowledge of the Law increases life." Jochanan ben
Sakkai says: "If thou art wise in the knowledge of the Law, take not
credit to thyself, for to this end wast thou created."

     * For a concise but comprehensive account of the origin of
     the Talmud, vide the art. Talmud in Johnson's Encyclopaedia.

     ** Collected in the Tract Aboth (Fathers).

After the destruction of the Temple by Titus, academies sacred to the
study of the Law were erected in different cities of Palestine, and
similar institutions flourished on the banks of the Euphrates. In the
eleventh century the chief seats of Jewish learning were transplanted
to the West; and since that time the European Jews have excelled their
brethren of the East in all the elements of mental culture. In the
course of their manifold wanderings the Jews carried their libraries
everywhere with them. Wherever a synagogue arose, a school for young
children and a high school for youths were connected with it. In the
dark night of the ghetto the flame of knowledge was never quenched.
While the nations of Europe were still sunk in barbarism the Jews
zealously devoted themselves to the pursuit of medicine, mathematics,
and dialectics, and the love of learning became an hereditary quality
in their midst. The efforts of many generations have contributed to keep
their intellectual faculties bright; and, unlike most oppressed races,
they have emerged from a long epoch of systematic persecution well
fitted to attack the problems of the present with fresh interest and
undiminished capacity.


The spirit of monotheism is essentially democratic both in politics
and religion. There is to be but one king, and he the spiritual Lord
in heaven. All the people are equal before him. When the Hebrews
clamorously demanded a king the prophet charged them with treason
against their proper ruler. The prophet and priest were hostile powers;
and their antagonism was clearly felt, and sometimes energetically
expressed. The Lord takes no delight in the slaughter of animals. The
bloody sacrifices are an offence to Him. What He requires is purity of
heart, righteous judgment, and care for the widow and the fatherless.
The idea of priestly mediation--of mediation in any shape--was repugnant
to the Jews. "The whole people are priests," it was said. When the
sanctuary at Jerusalem had been laid in ashes, anything resembling a
hierarchical caste was no longer tolerated among them. The Law and
the Science of the Law were open to all; and each one was expected,
according to the measure of his capacity, to draw directly from the
fountain-head of faith. The autonomy of the congregations was strictly
guarded. Entire uniformity in the ritual was never achieved.* The public
lector of prayers was called "the delegate of the congregation." The
Rabbies (the word means Masters, in the sense of teachers) were men
distinguished for superior erudition and the blamelessness of their
lives, and these qualities formed their only title to distinction.**
Their duties differed radically from those of the Catholic priest or the
Protestant clergyman. They never took upon themselves the care of souls.
Their office was to instruct the young, and in general to regulate the
practice of religion according to the principles and precedents laid
down in the sacred traditions of their people. The several congregations
were independent of each other. There were no general synods or
councils, no graded hierarchy culminating in a spiritual head, no
oligarchy of ministers and elders; but rather a federation of small
communities, each being a sovereign unit, and connected with the others
solely by the ties of a common faith, common sympathies, and common
sufferings. Any ten men were competent to form themselves into a
congregation, and to discharge all the duties of religion. The fact that
this was so proved of the utmost consequence in preserving the integrity
of Judaism. The Jews were parcelled out over the whole earth. The body
of the people was again and again divided. But in every case the
barest handful that remained sufficed to become the nucleus of new
organizations. Had the system of Judaism required any one central organ,
a blow aimed against this would doubtless have proved fatal to the
whole. But by the wise provisions of the federative system the vital
power seems to have been equally disseminated over the entire community.
Like the worm that is trodden under foot, to which Israel so often
likens itself in the Hebrew prayers, the divided members lived a new
life of their own, and though apparently crushed beneath the heel of
their oppressors, they ever rose again in indestructible vitality.

     * Vide Zunz Die Ritus.

     ** Many of them supported themselves by following some
     humble calling, refusing to receive remuneration for their
     teachings, on the principle that the Law "should not be made
     a spade to dig with."


In surveying the history of the Jewish people we find a strange blending
of nationalism and cosmopolitism illustrated in their actions and
beliefs. They proudly styled themselves the elect people of God, they
looked down with a certain contempt upon the Gentile nations, yet they
conceived themselves chosen, not on their own account, but for the
world's sake, in order to spread the knowledge of the true God among
men. They repudiated heathenism, and regarded Trinitarianism as an
aberration. In contradistinction to these their mission was to protect
the purity of the monotheistic religion until in the millennial age all
nations would gather about their "holy Mount." They considered their
own continued existence as a people foreordained in the Divine scheme,*
because they believed themselves divinely commissioned to bring about
the eternal happiness of the human race. The centripetal and centrifugal
forces of character were thus evenly balanced, and this circumstance
contributed not a little to enliven their courage in the face of
long-continued adversity. When the independence of Greece was lost, the
Greeks ceased to exist as a nation. But the loss of the Temple and
the fatherland gave barely more than a passing shock to the national
consciousness of the Jews. Easily they acclimatized themselves in
every quarter of the globe. The fact of their dispersion was cited
by Christianity as a sign of their rejection by God. They themselves
regarded it as a part of their mission to be scattered as seed over
the whole earth. That they should suffer was necessary, they being the
Messianic people! Their prayers were filled with lamentations and the
recital of their cruel woes. But they invariably ended with words of
promise and confidence in the ultimate fulfillment of Israel's hope.
Thus in the very depths of their degradation they were supported by a
sense of the grandeur of their destinies, and by the proud consciousness
that their sufferings were the price paid for the world's spiritual

     * "Let it not seem strange to you that we should regain our
     former condition, even though only a single one of us were
     left, as it is written, 'Fear not, thou worm, Jacob!'"--Juda
     HA-Levi, in the book Cusari (twelfth century), iii. ii.

In the earlier half of the Middle Ages the Jews were still permitted to
enjoy a certain measure of liberty. In Spain, France and Germany they
lived on amicable terms with their neighbors, they engaged in trade and
manufacture, and were allowed to possess landed property. In the tenth
and eleventh centuries a great part of the city of Paris was owned by
Jews. But at the time of the Crusades a terrible change in the aspect of
their affairs took place. The principles embodied in the canonical law
had by this time entered into the practice of the European nations.
Fanaticism was rampant. The banks of the Rhine and the Moselle became
the theatre of the most pitiless persecution. Among the Crusaders the
cry was raised, "We go to Palestine to slay the unbelievers; why not
begin with the infidel Jews in our own midst?" Worms, Spires, Mayence,
Strassburg, Basle, Regens-burg, Breslau, witnessed the slaughter of
their Jewish inhabitants. Toward the close of the thirteenth century
one hundred thousand Jews perished at the hands of Rindfleisch, and the
murderous hordes of whom he was the leader. To add fuel to the passions
of the populace the most absurd accusations were brought forward against
them, and their religion was made odious by connecting it with charges
of grave moral obliquity. Jewish physicians being in great request,
especially at the court of kings, it was given out that with fiendish
malice they were wont to procure the death of their Christian patients.*
They were accused of killing Christian children, and using the blood
of Christians in celebrating the Passover festival, and this monstrous
falsehood was repeated until no one doubted its substantial truth.
Let it be remembered that this charge was originally preferred, in a
somewhat different shape, against the Christians themselves. It floated
down, as such rumors will, from age to age, until, its authorship being
forgotten, it was finally used as a convenient handle against the hated
Jews. In this manner the Easter-tide which was to announce the triumph
of a religion of love became to the Jews a season of terror and mortal
agony, and the Easter dawn was often reddened with the flames that rose
from Jewish homes.

     * Thus in the case of Charles the Bald, and others.

It is impossible to calculate the number of lives that have been lost
in consequence of this single accusation. It has lived on even into the
present century.* In the fourteenth century the Black Death devastated
the Continent of Europe. Soon the opinion gained ground that the Jews
were responsible for the ravages of the plague. It was claimed that the
Rabbi of Toledo had sent out a venomous mixture concocted of consecrated
wafers and the blood of Christian hearts to the various congregations,
with orders to poison the wells. The Pope himself undertook to plead for
their innocency, but even papal bulls were powerless to stay the popular
madness. In Dekkendorf a church was built in honor of the massacre of
the Jews of that town, and the spot thus consecrated has remained a
favorite resort of pilgrims down to modern times. The preaching friars
of the Franciscan and Dominican orders were particularly active in
fanning the embers of bigotry whenever they threatened to die down. In
England, France and Spain the horrors enacted in Germany were repeated
on a scale of similar magnitude. The tragic fate of the Jews of York,
the fury of the Pastoureaux, the miserable scenes that accompanied the
exodus of the Jews from Spain are familiar facts of history. In Poland,
in the seventeenth century, the uprising of the Cossacks under the
chieftainship of Chmielnicki became once more the signal of destruction.
It is estimated that in ten years (1648-1658) upwards of two hundred
and fifty thousand Jews perished.** Even when the lives of the Jews were
spared, their condition was so extremely wretched that death might often
have seemed the preferable alternative.

     *  In the year 1840 it was simultaneously renewed in Rhenish
     Prussia, on the Isle of Rhodos, and in the city of Damascus.
     In that city the most respected members of the Jewish
     community were arrested, with the assistance of the French
     Consul, Ratti Menton, and underwent cruel torture. The
     intense excitement caused throughout Europe at the time is,
     doubtless, still fresh in the memory of many who will read
     these pages. The utter falsity of the charge was at last
     exposed, thanks to the efforts of the Austrian Consul
     Merlato and the energetic action of Lord Palmerston.

     **  Graetz, Gesch. der Juden, X. p. 78.

The theory propounded by the Church and acted out by the temporal rulers
of the Middle Ages is expressed in the words of Innocent III.,
"Quos propria culpa submisit perpetuae servituti, quum Dominum
crucifixerint--pietas Christiana receptet et sus-tineat cohabitationem

By the crucifixion of Jesus the Jews had forfeited for themselves and
their posterity the right to exist in Christian states. They lived on
sufferance merely. In the feudal system there was no room for them. They
were aliens, were regarded as the property of the Emperor, and he was
free to deal with them as suited his convenience. Hence the name _servi
camera_--servants of the imperial chamber--was applied to them. They
could be sold, purchased, given away at pleasure. Charles IV. presented
"the persons and property of his Jews" to the city of Worms. In a
schedule of toll-dues dating from the year 1398 we read: "a horse pays
two shillings, a Jew six shillings, an ox two heller."** They were
compelled to wear a badge of shame upon their garments;*** were confined
to narrow and filthy quarters,---_ghetto, juderia_,--debarred from all
honorable employments. The schools and universities were closed against
them. The guilds shut them out from the various trades. To gain the
means of subsistence nothing remained for them but to engage in the
petty traffic of the peddler or the disreputable business of the
money-lender. They had absolutely no choice in the matter. The laws of
Moses certainly discountenance the lending of money at interest. The
authorities of the Talmud severely condemn the practice of usury, and
refuse to admit the testimony of usurers in courts of law.****

     *  Cassel, art. Juden, p. 83, in Ersch und Gruber; vide also
     p. 85, "ad perpetuam Judaici sceleris ultionem eisdem
     Judaeis induxerit perpetuam servitutem."

     ** Ibid, p. 91

     *** The _signum circulate_ was borrowed from Islam. It has
     been ingeniously conjectured that the circular form was
     selected in contradistinction to the sign of the crescent.
     Ibid, p. 75.

     **** Mishna Sanhedrin, III. 3.

But all scruples on the part of the Jews had now to be set aside. Gold
they must have, and in abundance. It was the only means of buying their
peace. The taxes levied by the imperial chamber were enormous.* The
cities, the baronial lords, in whose territory they took refuge,
constantly imposed new burdens as the price of toleration. The Jews
have often been held up to contempt for their avarice and rapacity.
The reproach is unjust. It reminds one of the ancient Philistines, who,
having shorn the Hebrew of his strength and blinded him, called him with
jeers from his prison-house to exhibit him to the popular gaze and to
make sport of his infirmity.

Under these circumstances the conservatism of the Jews in matters of
religion can no longer astonish us. Rejected by the world, they lived
in a world of their own. They had inherited from their ancestors an
extended code of ceremonial observances, dietary laws, and minute and
manifold directions for the conduct of life. In these they beheld the
bulwark of their religion, the common bond that united the scattered
members of their race. The Jew of Persia or Palestine could come among
his German brethren, and hear the same prayers expressed in the same
language, and recognize the same customs as were current among his
co-religionists in the East. The passwords of the faith were everywhere
understood. To preserve complete unanimity with respect to
religious usage was a measure dictated by the commanding instinct of
self-preservation. The Jews of all countries were furthermore united by
the common yearnings with which they looked back to the past, and their
common hope of ultimate restoration to the heritage of the promised

     * A general tax paid in recognition of the Emperor's
     protection; the Temple tax claimed by the Holy Roman
     Emperor in his capacity as the successor of Vespasian; the
     so-called _aurum coronarium_, or coronation tax, by virtue
     of which every new emperor, upon his accession to the
     throne, could confiscate the third part of the property of
     the Jews.    Besides these, extraordinary levies were

     ** On the eve of the 9th of the fifth month it was customary
     at Jerusalem to announce the number of years that had
     elapsed since the fall of the Temple.   Zunz, Die Ritus, p.

However prolonged their abode in the land of the stranger might be, they
never regarded it otherwise than in the light of a temporary sojourn,
and Palestine remained their true fatherland, "If I forget thee,
Jerusalem, wither my right hand," was sung as plaintively on the banks
of the Danube and the Rhine as it had resounded of old by Babel's
streams. The Jewish people walked through history as in a dream, their
eyes fixed on Zion's vanished glories. Empires fell; wars devastated the
earth; new manners, new modes of life, arose around them. What was all
this toil and turmoil of the nations to them! They were not admitted
to the fellowship of mankind, they preserved their iron stability, they
alone remained changeless. So long as the world maintained its hostile
attitude toward them, there was little likelihood that they would
abandon their time-honored traditions. But toward the close of the
last century the first tokens of political, social, and spiritual
regeneration began to appear among the despondent people of the Hebrews.
The spirit of the Reformation, which had slumbered so long, awoke to
new vitality. The voice of love rebuked the selfishness of creeds;
Philosophy in the person of Kant emphasized the duties of man to man;
Poetry sent its warm breath through the German land, and with its sweet
strains instilled broad, humanitarian doctrine into the hearts of men.
Lessing celebrated the virtues of his friend, Moses Mendelssohn, in
"Nathan the Wise," and in the parable of the rings showed how the
true religion is to be sought and found. The Royal Academy at Berlin
nominated the same Mendelssohn for membership in its body. Jewish
scholars were received with distinction in the Austrian and Prussian
capitals. Eminent statesmen and writers began to exert themselves
to remove the foul blot that had so long stained the conduct of the
Christian states in their dealings with the Jews. In France the
great Revolution was rapidly sweeping away the accumulated wrongs of
centuries. When the emancipation of the Jews came up for discussion
in the Convention, the ablest speakers rose in their behalf. The Abbe
Gregoire exclaimed: "A new century is about to open. May its portals be
wreathed with the palm of humanity!" Mirabeau lent his mighty eloquence
to their cause. "I will not speak of tolerance," he said; "the freedom
of conscience is a right so sacred that even the name of tolerance
involves a species of tyranny."*

     *Vide the account of the debates in the official Moniteur.

On the 28th September, 1791, the National Convention decreed
the equality of the Israelites of France with their Christian
fellow-citizens. The waves of the Revolution, however, overflowed
the borders of France, and the agitation they caused was quickly
communicated to all Germany. Wherever the armies of the Republic
penetrated, the gates of the ghettos were thrown open, and in the name
of Fraternity, Liberty and Equality were announced to their inhabitants.
When Napoleonic misrule at last exasperated Germany into resistance, the
seeds which French influence had sown had already taken firm root in the
German soil. On the 11th March, 1812, Frederick William III. issued his
famous edict, removing the main disabilities from which the Jews of his
dominions had suffered, granting them the rights and imposing upon them
the honorable duties of citizenship. They were no longer to be classed
as foreigners. The state claimed them as its children, and exacted of
them the same sacrifices as all its sons were called upon to bring in
the troublous times that soon followed. With what eager alacrity the
Jews responded to the king's call the records of the German wars for
independence amply testify. On the battlefields of Leipzig and Waterloo
they stood side by side with their Christian brethren. Many sons and
fathers of Jewish households yielded their lives in the country's
defence. In the blood of the fallen the new covenant of equal justice
was sealed for all time to come. However prejudice might still dog their
footsteps, however shamefully the government might violate its solemn
pledges to the Jewish soldiers on their return from the wars, the Jews
of Germany had now gained what they could no more lose. They felt that
the land for which they had adventured their all, in whose behalf they
had lost so much, was indeed their fatherland. For the first time, after
many, many centuries, the fugitives had gained a home, a country. They
awoke as from a long sleep. They found the world greatly changed around
them; vast problems engaging the attention of thinkers, science and
philosophy everywhere shedding new light upon the path of mankind. They
were eager to approve themselves worthy and loyal citizens, eager to
join in the general work of progress. They dwelt no more with anxious
preference on the past. The present and the future demanded their
exertions, and the motives that had so long compelled their exclusion
from the fellowship of the Gentiles were gradually disappearing. As
their religion was mainly retrospective in character and exclusive in
tendency, great changes were needed to bring it into harmony with the
altered condition of affairs. These changes were accordingly attempted,
and their history is the history of Jewish Reform.


Reformed Judaism originated in Germany; its leading representatives
have invariably been Germans. The history of Germany during the past one
hundred years is the background upon which our account of the movement
must be projected.

The Jews of Germany had waited long and patiently for deliverance. At
last, toward the close of the eighteenth century it came, and one whom
they delight to call their "Second Moses" arose to lead them into the
promised land of freedom. This was Moses Mendelssohn. His distinguished
merits as a writer on philosophy and aesthetics we need not here
pause to dilate upon, but shall proceed at once to consider him in his
relations to the political, social, and religious emancipation of his
people. In each of these different directions his example and influence
upon others served to initiate a series of salutary changes, and he may
thus appropriately be termed the father of the Reform movement in its
widest acceptation. It was Mendelssohn who, in 1781, inspired Christian
Wilhelm Dohm to publish his book "On the Civil Amelioration of the
Jews," a work in which an earnest plea for their enfranchisement was for
the first time put forth. The author points to the thrift and frugality
that mark the Jewish race, their temperate habits and love of peace,
and exposes the folly of debarring so valuable a class of the population
from the rights of the citizen. He appeals to the wisdom of the
government to redeem the errors and injustice of the past; he defends
the Jews against the absurd charges which were still repeated to their
discredit, and strenuously insists that liberty and humane treatment
would not only accrue to their own advantage, but would ultimately
redound to the honor and lasting welfare of the state. Dohm's book
created a profound impression, and though it failed to produce immediate
results, materially aided the cause of emancipation at a later period.

Again Mendelssohn was the first to break through the social restraints
that obstructed the intercourse of Jews and Christians, and thus
triumphed over a form of prejudice which is commonly the last to yield.
His fame as a writer greatly assisted him in this respect. The grace
and freshness of his style, the apparent ease with which he divested the
stern problems of philosophy of their harsher aspects, had won him many
and sincere admirers. His "Phaedon" was eagerly read by thousands, whom
the writings of Leibnitz and Kant had repelled. On the afternoon of the
Jewish Sabbath he was accustomed to assemble many of the choice spirits
of the Prussian capital, among whom we may mention Lessing, Nikolai,
and Gleim, in his home. The conversation turned upon the gravest
and loftiest topics that can occupy the human soul. The host himself
skilfully guided the stream of discussion, and the waves of thought
flowed easily along in that placid, restful motion which is adapted to
speculative themes. The spirit that of old had hallowed the shades of
Academe presided over these gatherings. Mendelssohn emulated the plastic
idealism of Plato and the divine hilarity of Socrates. The singular
modesty, the truthfulness and quiet dignity that adorned his character
were reflected upon the people from whom he had sprung, and produced a
salutary change in their favor in the sentiments of the better classes.

But it is as the author of a profound revolution in the Jewish religion,
that Mendelssohn attracts our especial interest. Not, indeed, that he
himself ever assumed the character of a religious reformer. He was, on
the contrary, sincerely devoted to the orthodox form of Judaism, and
even had a change appeared to him feasible or desirable, he would in all
probability have declined the responsibility of publicly advocating it.
His was the contemplative spirit which instinctively shrinks from the
rude contact of reality. He had neither the aggressive temper nor the
bold self-confidence that stamp the leader of parties. And yet,
without intending it, he gave the first impulse to Jewish Reform, whose
subsequent progress, could he have foreseen it, he would assuredly have
been the first to deprecate.


The condition of the Jews at the close of the last century was in many
respects unlike that of any other race that has ever been led from a
state of subjection to one of acknowledged equality. Long oppression
had not, on the whole, either blunted their intellects or debased their
morals. If they were ignorant in modern science and literature, they
were deeply versed in their own ancient literature, and this species
of learning was not the privilege of a single class, but the common
property of the whole people. What they lacked was system. In the
rambling debates of the Talmud the true principles of logical sequence
are but too often slighted, and the student is encouraged to value the
subtle play of dialectics on its own account, without regard to any
ultimate gain in positive and useful knowledge. Impatience of orderly
arrangement being allowed to develop into a habit, became contagious. It
impressed itself equally on the thought, the manners, the language*
of the Jews, and contributed not a little to alienate from them the
sympathies of the refined. Such, however, was the preponderating
influence of the Talmud that it not only engrossed the attention of the
Jewish youth to the exclusion of secular knowledge, but even perverted
the exegesis of the Bible and caused the study of Scripture to be
comparatively neglected.

     * The German Jews spoke a mixed dialect of German and
     Hebrew, which has been likened to the so-called Pennsylvania

To weaken the controlling influence of the Talmud became the first
needful measure of Reform, and to accomplish this it was necessary to
give back to the Bible its proper place in the education of the young.
It was an event, therefore, of no mean significance when Mendelssohn,
in conjunction with a few friends, determined to prepare a German
translation of the Pentateuch, and thus, by presenting the teachings of
Scripture in the garb of a modern tongue, to render their true meaning
apparent to every reflecting mind. The work was finished in 1783.
It holds a like relation to the Jewish Reform movement that Luther's
translation held to the great Protestant movement of the sixteenth
century. It was greeted with a storm of abuse upon its appearance, and
was loudly execrated by the orthodox as the beginning of larger and
far-reaching innovations. Its author might sincerely protest his entire
innocency of the radical designs imputed to him, but subsequent events
have proved the keener insight of his opponents. The influence of the
new translation was twofold. In the first place it facilitated a more
correct understanding of the doctrine, the literature and language of
Scripture; secondly,--and this is worthy of special remark,--it served
the purpose of a text-book of the German for the great mass of the Jews,
who were at that time unable to read a book written in the vernacular,
and thus became the means of opening to them the treasure-house of
modern thought.*

     * The  German  of  Mendelssohn's   translation was   written
     in Hebrew letters.

In the very year in which Mendelssohn's work appeared we notice among
the younger generation a general revival of interest in the Hebrew,
the mother-tongue of their race. Two students of the University of
Konigsberg began the issue of a periodical devoted to the culture of
the Hebrew, which was widely read and attracted great attention. Poems,
original essays, Hebrew versions of modern writings, appeared in its
columns; the style of the Prophets and of the Psalmists was emulated,
the works of the ancient masters of the language served as models, and
in the aspect of the noble forms employed in the diction of the biblical
authors the aesthetic sense of the modern Jews revived. We are inclined
to doubt whether the Hebrew Bible, considered merely with a view to
its aesthetic value, is even yet fully appreciated. The extravagance
of religious credulity and the violent extreme of scepticism have alike
tended to obscure its proper merits. The one accustomed to behold in the
"holy book" a message from the Creator to his creatures shrinks, as a
rule, from applying to the work of a Divine author the critical standard
of human composition. The sceptics on the other hand, impatient of the
exorbitant claims which are urged for the sacred writings of the Jews,
and resenting the sway which they still exercise over the human reason,
are hardly in a proper frame of mind to estimate justly its intrinsic
and imperishable excellences. And yet, setting aside all questions of
the supernatural origin of the Bible, and regarding only the style in
which its thoughts are conveyed, how incomparably valuable does it still
remain! It would be difficult to calculate the extent to which many of
our standard authors are indebted for the grandest passages of their
works to their early familiarity with the biblical style. Those who
are able to read the text in the original become aware of even subtler
beauties that escape in the process of translation. Purity of diction,
power of striking antithesis, simple and yet sublime imagery, a
marvellous facility in the expression of complex states of feeling, and
those the deepest of which the human soul is capable, are but a few
of the obvious features that distinguish the golden age of Hebrew
literature. Never perhaps has the symbolism of nature been used with
such supreme effect to express the unspeakable emotions that are deep
down in the heart of man. Such music as that which swells through the
pages of Isaiah's prophecies cannot be forgotten; such ringing, rhythmic
periods, in which the eloquence of conviction bursts forth into the
rounded fulness of perfect oratory, can never fail to touch and to
inspire. We know of no nobler pattern on which the modern orator could
mould his style. And thus, too, the exquisite poetry of the Song of
Songs, the idyl of the Book of Ruth, the weird pathos of Jeremiah's
lament, the grand descriptions of Job, will ever be counted among the
masterpieces of human genius. Whatever we may think of the doctrines of
the Bible, it is safe to predict that the book will live long after the
myths that surround its origin shall have been dispelled; nay, all
the more, when it shall cease to be worshipped as a fetish will men
appreciate its abiding claims to their reverence, and it will continue
to hold its honored place in the libraries of the nations. The refining
influence of the study of the Bible soon became evident among the
contemporaries of Mendelssohn. But in another way also his translation
tended to their improvement. We have said that it became the means
of acquainting them with the language of the land. A wide field of
knowledge, embracing the rich results of modern science, philosophy,
and art, was thus laid open to their industry. Eagerly they availed
themselves of the proffered opportunity; schools were erected, in which
the elements of liberal culture were imparted to the young, and ere long
we find a new generation of the Jews engaging in honorable competition
with their Christian brethren for the prize of learning and the rewards
of literary distinction. It was at this time that Kant's "Critique of
Pure Reason" appeared, a work which marks a new epoch in the world's
thought. Its profound reasoning and technical style made it difficult of
comprehension to all but the initiated. Three Jewish scholars--Dr. Herz,
Salomon Maimon, and Ben-David--undertook the task of popularizing
its main results, and were among the first to call attention to the
transcendent importance of the new system. Plainly new vital energy was
coursing through the veins of the Jewish people.


But at this very time, while they were rapidly assimilating the best
results of modern culture and winning the respect and confidence of the
learned, the Jews of Germany were still laboring under an odious system
of special laws, and beheld themselves excluded from the common rights
of citizenship. The manly effort of Dohm in their behalf had as yet
availed nothing; the voice of bigotry was still supreme in the councils
of the sovereign. And yet they felt themselves to be the equals of those
whom the law unjustly ranked their superiors, and longed to see the
barriers done away that still divided them from their fellow-men. Many
of their number had amassed fortunes, and expended their wealth with
commendable prudence and generosity. They supported needy students,
founded libraries, extended their knowledge, and refined their tastes.
Even the Jewish maidens followed the general impulse toward self-culture
that was setting with such force in the Jewish community. In particular
the works of Schiller and Goethe, as they successively appeared at this
period, inflamed their enthusiasm, and none were more zealous than
they in spreading the fame and influence of the new school of German
literature. Still they were taught to consider themselves an inferior
class, and were despised as such. The position of equality which the
narrowness of the laws denied them they were resolved to achieve by the
weight ol character and the force of spiritual attractions. Henrietta de
Lemos, a young girl of singular beauty and attainments, had at this time
become the wife of Dr. Herz, of whom we have casually spoken above in
his connection with Kant. She is described as tall, graceful, possessing
a face in which the features of Hellenic and Oriental beauty were
blended in exquisite harmony; while the sobriquet of the "Tragic
Muse," by which she became known, denoted the majestic nobleness of
her presence. Under the guidance of competent masters she had acquired
considerable proficiency in many of the modern and ancient languages,
and to a mind stored with various knowledge was added the mellow charm
of a most sweet and loving disposition. Attracted by her fame and
captivated by her genius, the most eminent men of the day sought the
privilege of her society. The art of conversation, which had till then
received but little attention in the Prussian capital, was for the first
time cultivated in the _salon_ of Henrietta Herz. Sparkling wit and
profound philosophy were alike encouraged. Statesmen high in the service
of their country sought the amenities of these delightful gatherings.
Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, Gentz, Schleier-macher, Friedrich
von Schlegel, Mirabeau, Dorothea, the daughter of Mendelssohn, Rahel,
afterwards wife of Varnhagen von Ense, were among the intimates of her
circle. Christians and Jews met here on terms of mutual deference, and
forgot for a while the paltry distinctions which still kept them
asunder in the world without. And yet these distinctions, senseless in
themselves, were full of ominous meaning to those who felt their
burden. Young men eager for advancement in life found their religion
an insuperable obstacle in their way. The professions, the army, the
offices of the government, were closed against them. On the threshold of
every higher career they were rudely repulsed, unless they embraced
the base alternative of changing their creed to satisfy their ambition.
Under these circumstances that fidelity to the faith of the fathers
which had so long marked the conduct of the Jews began seriously
to waver, and in many instances gave way. Not, indeed, that the new
converts became true and loyal Christians. On the contrary, they
considered the rite of baptism a mere hollow form, and left it to the
state, which had insisted upon their conformance, to justify the deep
disgrace that was thus brought upon the Christian sacraments. Moreover,
a certain laxity in the interpretation of dogma had at this time
become widely prevalent, which greatly assisted them in setting their
conscience at ease. Rationalism had stripped the positive religions
of much of their substance and individuality. To none of them was an
absolute value allowed. They were regarded as forms in which a principle
higher than all forms had found an imperfect and temporary expression.
Even the influence of Schleiermacher tended rather to obliterate than to
define the outlines of the contending creeds. Schleiermacher, the author
of a Protestant revival in Germany, spoke the language of Pantheism,
and his opinions are deeply suffused with the spirit of Pantheistic
teachings. He defines religion to be the sense of dependence on the
Infinite, the Universal. To the fact that different men in different
ages have been variously affected by the conception of the Infinite
he ascribes the origin of the different creeds. Theological dogmas,
according to him, cannot claim to be true in the sense of scientific or
philosophical propositions. They approach the truth only in so far as
they typically express certain emotional processes of our soul, and
those dogmas are nearest the truth which typify emotions of the most
noble and exalted character. Allowing Christianity to be what its
learned expounders had defined it, intelligent Jews could hardly find
it difficult to assume the Christian name. It is estimated that in the
course of three decades full one half of the Jewish community of Berlin
were nominally Christianized.

How thoroughly conventional, at the same time, the use of the term
Christian had become may be judged from a letter addressed by David
Friedlander, a friend of Mendelssohn's, to Councillor Teller of
the Consistory, in which he offered, on behalf of himself and some
co-religionists, to accept Christianity in case they might be permitted
to omit the observance of the Christian festivals, to reject the
doctrine of the Trinity, of the divinity of Jesus, and, in fact,
whatever is commonly regarded as essentially and specifically Christian.
It is true the reply of the Councillor was not encouraging.


While the very existence of Judaism was thus threatened in Germany, it
seemed about to regain its pristine vigor in France. More than seventeen
centuries had elapsed since the Sanhedrin, the High Court of Jerusalem,
had passed out of existence. Quite unexpectedly it was recalled to
momentary life by the caprice of the great Corsican, who then ruled the
destinies of the world. In the year 1806 Napoleon convened a parliament
of Jewish Notables at Paris in order to definitely settle the relations
of French Israelites to the state. Soon after an imperial decree
convoked the grand Sanhedrin for the purpose of ratifying the decisions
of the Notables. The glories of Jerusalem were to be renewed in "modern
Babylon" on the Seine. On February 9, 1807, the Sanhedrin met in
the Hotel de Ville. Care was taken to invest its sittings with due
solemnity; the seats of the members were arranged in crescent shape
about the platform of the presiding officers, as had been customary at
Jerusalem; the president was saluted with the title of Nassi (Prince),
as in the olden time; the ancient titles and forms were copied with
scrupulous exactness. Two-thirds of the members were Rabbis, the
remainder laymen. The opening of the Sanhedrin attracted universal
attention, but its proceedings were void of interest. In fact, its sole
task was to lend the authority of an ancient tribunal to the action of
the Notables, and this having been accomplished it was adjourned after
a brief session. In connection with these conventions of the years 1806
and 1807 it behooves us to mention the creation of a new constitution
for the French synagogue elaborated by the joint efforts of the imperial
Commissioners and the Notables. The form of government adopted was
moulded on the pattern of the secular power. A system of consistories
was organized throughout France, culminating in a central consistory at
Paris with a Grand-Rabbin at its head. The officers of the consistories
were treated as officers of the state, the charge of their maintenance
was in part defrayed at the public expense, and, in the course of time,
they were placed on a footing of almost complete equality with the
dignitaries of the Christian churches. The union of the teachers of
Judaism in a species of graded hierarchy, dependent upon temporal rulers
for their support, was as have have been expected, fruitful of evil
results. If it is true that the supremacy of the church over the state
disturbs the peace of nations and endangers the very existence of
governments, it is equally certain that no religion can long continue
to maintain its purity when the church becomes the subservient vassal
of the state. Whatever the apparent gain in stability may be, it is more
than counterbalanced by the loss of spontaneity and sincerity. Hypocrisy
flourishes, the liberty of conscience is abridged, and a spirit of base
time-serving eventually prepares the downfall of institutions whose
perfect safety is consistent only with perfect freedom.

The French Synagogue, as we have indicated, presents a case in point.
During the past seventy years it has stagnated. No single luminous
thought lights up its dreary record, no single whole-souled effort to
appropriate the larger truths of our time dignifies its annals. In the
history of the Reform movement it merits no further mention.


Returning to Germany we behold the leading Jews at last awakened to the
necessity of energetic measures to check the wide-spread disaffection
that was thinning out their ranks. Hitherto the liturgy of the synagogue
had not been affected by the growing tendency to change. An attempt in
this direction was initiated by Israel Jacobsohn, the financial agent
of the Duke of Brunswick, a man of wealth, culture, and generous
disposition. He was shocked by the scenes of disorder, the utter lack of
decorum, that disgraced the public worship; he was resolved as far as
in his power lay to correct the abuses which had been allowed to grow up
unrestrained in the gloomy period of mediaeval persecution, and to
win back to the faith those whose affections had been estranged by
the barbarous form in which it appeared to view. He erected at his own
expense, and dedicated on July 17, 1810, in the town of Seesen, a new
temple,* at the same time introducing certain radical modifications into
the service which we shall presently take occasion to consider.

     * The term Temple has since been used by the Reformers in
     contradistinction to the orthodox Synagogue.

Being appointed to the Presidency of the Consistory of Cassel, during
the reign of Jerome Bonaparte, he took advantage of his official
position to urge his innovations upon the congregations under his
charge. In 1815 he transplanted the "new fashion in religion" to Berlin,
and in 1818 assisted in founding the temple at Hamburg, which soon
became one of the leading strongholds of Reform. A provisional service
on the same plan was likewise instituted at Leipsic,* during the
period of the annual fair, and tidings of the reform were thus rapidly
transmitted to distant parts of Germany. The main changes introduced by
Jacobsohn, and copied by others, may be briefly summed up as follows:
The introduction of regular weekly sermons, which had not previously
been customary; of prayers in the vernacular by the side of the Hebrew;
of choir singing with organ accompaniment, and the confirmation of young
children. These innovations implied a revolution in the character of the
public worship.

     * Dr. Zunz was appointed preacher, and the composer
     Meyerbeer directed the musical services.

The Jewish people had been wont to regard themselves individually and
collectively, as soldiers in the army of their God, commissioned to wage
warfare against every species of false religion. A spirit of martial
discipline, as it were, pervaded their ranks. The repetition of prayers
and benedictions by day and night in the privacy of domestic life, on
the public square and by the roadside, was a species of drill intended
to keep alive in them the consciousness of their mission, and to prepare
them for the emergencies of actual conflict. Thrice a day they mustered
in their synagogues, and renewed their oath of allegiance in the
presence of their spiritual king. The term Jewish Church, though in
frequent use, is a misnomer based upon false analogy. The difference
between the synagogue and the church is as clearly marked as that
between Judaism and Christianity themselves. The sentimental element,
using the word in its nobler signification, which is distinctive of the
latter, is almost entirely lacking in the former. Both make it their
aim to elevate the moral life in man, but while Judaism acts through
the will upon the affections, Christianity places the affections in the
foreground and seeks by their means to persuade and captivate the will.

It cannot be denied that the Reformers had in some measure modified the
traditional character of Jewish worship. The purely emotional element
acquired a prominence which it had never had before, the very word
employed to designate the purpose of the temple service--"Erbauung,"
edification--was foreign to the ancient vocabulary of Judaism. In
another direction, too, they transgressed the limits prescribed
by time-honored usage. We have referred above to the ceremony of
confirmation, which has since been generally adopted by congregations
of the Reform school. On some festival or Sabbath--the Feast of Weeks,
celebrated about Whitsuntide, being commonly preferred--boys and girls
of thirteen or fourteen are assembled in the temple, where, after having
undergone an examination in the chief tenets of their religion, they
are required to repeat aloud a confession of faith. The ceremony usually
attracts a large congregation, and is one of the few institutions
introduced by the Reformers that have strongly seized upon the popular

The natural concern of parents for the welfare of their offspring lends
a solemn interest to the occasion. At an age when the child's character
begins to assume definite outlines, when the reason unfolds, and the
perils and temptations that attend every pilgrim on the valley road of
life, approach near, an instinctive prompting of the human heart leads
us to forecast the future of sons and daughters, and to embrace with
joy whatever means are placed at our disposal to guard them against
aberration and misfortune. To utilize the impressiveness of a great
public gathering, the sympathetic presence of parents and friends, the
earnest monitions of a wise and revered teacher, in order to confirm
them in every virtuous endeavor and high resolve, is therefore fit and

     * It deserves to be noted that the ceremony of confirmation
     among the Jews took its origin in the schools of Seesen,
     Frankfort-on-the-Main, etc. Indeed, the first Reformed
     congregations were formed by natural accretion about these
     schools. The influence of schools in giving character and
     stability to new religious movements is a subject of
     sufficient importance to deserve separate treatment.

The propriety of exacting a formal confession of faith, however, has
been hotly disputed both by the orthodox and the more advanced liberals.
It is urged that Judaism is a practical, rather than a dogmatical
religion. Even the existence of a God is rather presupposed as a fact
than asserted as a matter of belief. Apart from this it is claimed that
a child at thirteen can hardly be prepared to comprehend the fundamental
questions of religion, much less to express convictions on problems so
grave and difficult. The age of reflection and consequently of doubt is
yet to come, nor can any child on the day of its confirmation answer for
its convictions ten years thereafter.

The progress of the Reform movement was thus of a character to awaken
distrust and fierce contention at every step. The conservative party
were enraged at what they considered unwarrantable encroachments upon
the traditions of an immemorial past. The radicals were dissatisfied
with the lack of substance and vitality in the teachings of the
Reformers, the shallow moralizing tone of their preachers, the
superficial views of Judaism which they scattered among the multitude.

It may indeed be asked how could better things have been expected at
that time. The great facts of Jewish history were not yet clearly known,
the philosophy of Judaism was proportionately vague and uncertain. No
Jewish author had ever undertaken to write out the annals of his people;
chaotic confusion reigned in their chronicles. To know what Judaism
might be it seemed necessary to ascertain in the first instance what it
had been; the past would prove the index of the future. Untoward events
that happened at this period gave a powerful impulse to historical
research, and led to fruitful investigations in the domain of Judaism.


The great battles of 1813 and 1815, in which the German people regained
their independence, effected a marvellous change in the spirits and
sentiments of the nation.

Accustomed for a long time to endure in silence the insults and
arrogance of a foreign despot, they had learned to despair of
themselves; a deadly lethargy held their energies in bondage and in
the fairy visions of poetry and the daring dreams of metaphysical
speculation they sought consolation for the pains and burdens of
reality. The victories of Leipsic and Waterloo completely altered the
tone of their feelings. It is a not uncommon fact that individuals
usually the reverse of self-asserting exhibit, on occasions, an
overweening self-consciousness, which is all the more pointed and
aggressive because of their secret and habitual self-distrust. We note
with curious interest the recurrence of the same obnoxious trait in the
life of a great nation. The novel sense of power intoxicated them, the
German mind for the moment lost its poise; Romanticism flourished, the
violence of the Middle Ages was mistaken for manhood, and held up to the
emulation of the present generation. Whatever was German was therefore
esteemed good; whatever was foreign was therefore despised, or at best

The Jews were made to feel the sharp sting of this feverish vanity;
their Asiatic origin was cast up against them, though it might have been
supposed that a residence of fifteen centuries had given them some claim
to dwell at peace with the children of the soil. In the year 1819 the
assassination of Kotzebue added fresh fuel to the fervor of Teutonic
passion. In August of that year a professor of Wurzburg, who had written
in defence of the Jews, was publicly insulted by the students. A tumult
ensued, the cry "Hep-Hep"* arose on every side, and "Death to the Jews"
was the watchword. On the next day the magistrate ordered them to leave
Wurzburg, and four hundred in number they were driven beyond the city's
limits. Similar excesses occurred in Frankfort-on-the-Main, Meiningen,
Carlsruhe, and elsewhere. Inflammatory pamphlets contributed to
increase the excitement.

     * "Hep-Hep" has been explained as an abbreviation of the
     words "Hierosolyma est perdita" (Jerusalem is perished).
     Probably it is no more than one of those meaningless
     exclamations which are not infrequent in college jargon.

Grattenauer, Runs, Fries, had written to good effect. All the old
falsehoods were revived, the fable of the use of Christian blood at
Passover among the rest. It seemed as though the genius of chivalry
which the Romantic school had invoked had returned with its grim
attendant train to renew the orgies of mediaeval persecution in the
full light of the nineteenth century. In November appeared the
"Judenspiegel," by Hundt-Radowsky. In this the author argues that
the murder of a Jew is neither criminal nor sinful. In order to avoid
unnecessary bloodshed however, he proposes a more peaceful means of
ridding the German people of "these vermin." His propositions, couched
in plain language and delivered in sober earnest, are simply these:
the men to be castrated, and sold as slaves to the East Indies; the
women--but the pen refuses to record the fiendish suggestion. It
is mortifying to reflect that this infamous publication was widely
circulated and eagerly read.*


The sole reply which these occurrences elicited from the intelligent
members of the Jewish community was a more strenuous effort on their
part to complete the work of inward purification, and renewed zeal
in the study of their historic past. They trusted that the image of
Judaism, if presented in its proper light, would remove the odium which
rested upon their people, and would furthermore become their sure guide
in the work of reconstructing the religion of their ancestors.

Late in the year 1819 a "Society for the Culture and Science* of the
Jews" was founded at Berlin. Its object was twofold: first to promote
a more effective prosecution of the "Science of Judaism"; secondly, to
elevate the moral tone of the people, to counteract their prevailing
bias toward commerce, and to encourage them in the pursuits of
agriculture, the trades, and such of the professions as they had access

     * Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, X. p. 361.

     ** Throughout this article we use the word "science" in the
     sense of the German Wissenschaft.

The science of Judaism embraces the departments of history, philosophy,
and philology, the last being of special importance, since it presents
the key to the correct understanding of the two former. The means
adopted to secure these objects were chiefly three,--a scientific
institute, a journal whose columns were enriched by many contributions
of enduring value, and a school in which instruction was imparted gratis
to poor students and Partisans. Among the members of the society
we mention Edward Gans, the President, afterwards Professor of
Jurisprudence at the University of Berlin; the eminent critic, Dr. Zunz;
the poet, Heinrich Heine;* Moser; the noble Wholwill; and others.

     * Heine was for some time an instructor in the society's
     school. For an account of the Cultur-Verein, and of the
     poet's cordial interest in its success, vide Strodtmann,
     "Heine's Leben und Werke," p. 237.

Unfortunately, the public mind was not yet prepared to appreciate the
labors of these men; the society languished for want of support, and
after a few years its formal organization was dissolved. But in the
brief term of its existence it had accomplished its main object; the
science of Judaism was securely established, and it could safely be left
to the industry of a few gifted individuals to cultivate and propagate
it. The ten years following the "Hep-Hep" excitement witnessed a series
of literary achievements whose importance it would be difficult
to overrate. Zunz and Rappoport, the pioneers of the new science,
discovered the thread by which they were enabled to push their way
through the labyrinth of Jewish literature. Profound erudition,
critical acumen, and a subtle insight amounting almost to intuition, are
displayed in their writings. A band of worthy disciples followed their
lead. The chain of tradition, which had seemed hopelessly tangled, was
unravelled; many of its missing links were ingeniously supplied, and the
sequence of events, on the whole, satisfactorily determined. The dimness
and vagueness that had hung over the history of the Jews was giving way,
and the leading figures in the procession of past generations assumed
clear and distinct outlines. At this time Jost was employed in writing
the first connected history of his people which had ever emanated from
Jewish sources.


While scholars were thus busy preparing the way for a new theory of
Judaism based on the facts of its history, no efforts were made to press
the needful work of practical reform. Indeed, the hostile attitude of
the temporal rulers discouraged any such undertaking. The influence
of Metternich swayed the councils of the German princes. The King of
Prussia had broken the promise of constitutional government which he
had given to his people in the hour of need. The power of the Triple
Alliance was prepared to crush out the faintest stirrings of political
or religious liberty wherever they appeared.

In 1830, however, the revolution in France swept away a second time the
throne of the Bourbons, and changed the face of affairs. The courage
of the liberal party revived everywhere; the bonds of despotism were
relaxed; a spirit of resistance to oppression arose, and grew in
intensity from year to year, until it at last found vent in the
convulsions of 1848. The Jews felt the prophetic promise of a better
order of things, and roused themselves to renewed exertions.

We have indicated in a previous article that the cause of political and
of religious emancipation, so far at least as Germany was concerned,
advanced in parallel lines. In 1831 Gabriel Riesser addressed a
manifesto to the German people on the position of the Jews among them.*
It was a clear and forcible presentment of the case. The style is
dignified, free from the taint of undue self-assertion, and equally free
from misplaced modesty. He did not petition for a favor; he demanded a
right. He disdained all measures of compromise; he dared to treat the
question as one of national importance; he asked for simple justice,
and would be content with nothing less. The German people rewarded his
manliness with their confidence,** and under his able leadership the
struggle for emancipation was finally brought to a triumphant close.

     * Ueber die Stellung der Bekenner des Mosaischen Glaubens an
     die Deutschen aller Confessionen.    Riesser's Works, II.

     ** He was elected Vice-President of the first German
     Parliament that met in the Pauls-Kirche in Frankfort.

In 1835 Abraham Geiger, then Rabbi of Wiesbaden, began the publication
of a "Scientific Journal for Jewish Theology," and with the appearance
of this periodical the Reform movement entered into its present phase.
It was the purpose of Geiger and his coadjutors to prosecute the work of
religious renovation on the basis of the science of Judaism. This is
the distinguishing feature of the modern school of Jewish Reform.
But, before we proceed to sketch the principles of these "scientific
theologians," let us rapidly advert to the brief series of events that
mark the outward development of the new school.

Around the standard which Geiger had unfurled a body of earnest men
soon collected, who agreed with him in the main in desiring to reconcile
science and life (_Wissenschaft und Leben_). They were mostly young men,
fresh from the universities, profoundly versed in Hebrew and rabbinic
lore, zealous lovers of their religion, equipped with the elements of
ancient and modern culture, and anxious to harmonize the conflicting
claims of both in their private lives and public station. Many of them
underwent severe privations for their convictions' sake. They were
distrusted by the various governments, without whose sanction no Jewish
clergyman could enter upon his functions, and were made to feel, in
common with other Liberals, the displeasure which their measures,
moderate though they were, had provoked in high quarters. They were
subjected to numberless petty annoyances, and even downright force
was employed to check their growing popularity. With the accession of
Frederick William IV., the Ultramontanes and the party of retrogression
in the Protestant Church completely gained the ascendant. Covered by
the shield of royal favor they offered the most audacious insults to the
conscience and common-sense of the people, the right of free speech was
impaired, the press was shackled, while the most abject superstitions
were openly encouraged. The holy coat of Jesus, exhibited at the
cathedral of Treves, attracted hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, and
the fame of the miraculous cures it had effected was diligently spread.
But the very violence of the extremists provoked a determined opposition
among the intelligent classes. National unity and individual liberty
were loudly demanded, a German Catholic party was formed with the avowed
object of reorganizing Catholicism on the basis of the modern State.
Free religious congregations began to crop up here and there, which,
though feeble as yet in their organization, were properly regarded as
significant of the spirit of the times. On the waves of the turning tide
the young Rabbis were carried along. They were ardent patriots;
they too, were eager to see their religion wedded to the progressive
tendencies of the age. The sympathies of the most enlightened of their
brethren were cheerfully extended to them, and high hopes were founded
on their success.

In 1844 they were sufficiently strong to meet in convention. Disclaiming
the functions of a religious synod, they assumed the character of a
scientific body, assembled to promote the objects of truth in their
special department. The discussions were indeed intended to secure
harmony of sentiment and action, but the resolutions adopted were
binding neither upon the members themselves nor upon the congregations
they represented. Three times these conventions were repeated at
Brunswick, Frankfort, and Breslau.

In 1845 a new congregation was formed, called "The Reform Association of
Berlin," which was recruited from the extreme left wing of the liberal
Jewish party. This congregation became noted for the introduction of a
Sunday service, a measure which eventually compelled them to entirely
abandon the Jewish Sabbath. Samuel Holdheim, the ablest exponent of
radical Judaism, was selected to be their preacher.

Thus far had the Reform movement proceeded, when, in 1848, the
incidents of a great political revolution crowded every other issue into
comparative insignificance. The fall of Metter-nich before the intrigues
of the camarilla and the fury of a popular uprising, the humiliation
of the king of Prussia, the convocation of the national parliament, the
Baden insurrection,--these were the events that absorbed the interest
of the public. Political incompetency on the part of the leaders
precipitated the catastrophe of the revolution, and the hopes of the
German people were again doomed to disappointment. Soon the reaction
set in, a dreary period of stagnation followed, and the efforts of the
friends of freedom were paralyzed.

The Jewish Reformers were stricken down by the general reverse that had
overtaken the liberal party, nor have they since been able to recover
from its stunning effects. Two revolutions, those of 1830 and 1848,
mark the growth and the decline of "scientific reform." Within the past
thirty years a number of prominent reformers have been called to this
country, and to them is due the spread of the movement in the United

The difficulties which confronted them here were of the most formidable
kind. The great bulk of the Jewish emigration to the United States were
originally drawn from the village congregations of the Fatherland, and
were by no means fair specimens of the intelligence and culture of the
Jewish race. While they displayed the qualities of energy, perseverance,
and thrift, and soon acquired wealth and influence in the commercial
world, few only were fitted to appreciate a movement so thoroughly
intellectual in its bearings as that which the reformers came to
propagate amongst them. The mere externals of reform were readily
adopted, but its spiritual essence escaped them. Accordingly, the
development of Reformed Judaism on American soil presents no novel or
striking features for our consideration, and it may appropriately be
treated as a mere offshoot of the German stock.


Ever since the appearance of Geiger's "Scientific Journal," Jewish
philology and Jewish theology have been inseparably connected. To
attempt a detailed account of the latter would involve the necessity
of frequent reference to the former, an attempt in which we can hardly
assume the reader's interest would bear us out. Unwilling to test his
patience by such a course, we shall content ourselves with stating
the main principles of Reformed Judaism, and briefly indicating the
successive steps by which it advanced to its present positions.

The one great fact which the Science of Judaism has indisputably
established was the fact of evolution in the sphere of the Jewish
religion. Each generation had legislated for itself. The authorities of
the Middle Ages had introduced changes in the ritual; the Talmud itself,
that corner-stone of orthodoxy, was a stupendous innovation on the
simplicity of Bible religion.* Applying the theory of evolution to their
own case, the modern Rabbis assumed on their part the right to institute
whatever changes the exigencies of the age had rendered imperative.

     * The theory of an Oral Law, delivered to Moses on Sinai and
     handed down from generation to generation, until it was
     finally embodied in the ordinance of the Talmudical
     academies, is a palpable fiction, invented by the Talmudists
     in order to lend to their own decisions the sanction of
     Divine authorship.

The very fact of change, it is true, presupposes the existence of a
substratum that remains unchangeable. What that substratum in the case
of Judaism is claimed to be, we shall presently discover. The measures
of the Reformers were in the main dictated by the sentiment of
patriotism and the desire to remove the barriers that interposed between
them and their fellow-men. They would cease to be a "state within-the
state," cease to separate themselves from the fellowship of the
Gentiles. Hence the leading proposition upon which Reformed Judaism is
founded. _The Jewish people have ceased to be a national unit, and will
exist hereafter as a confederation of religious societies._

If the Jews have ceased to be a nation, then the Reformers must abandon
the idea of a national restoration. They did so. If they have ceased to
be a nation, they must give up the hope of a personal Messiah who should
lead them back to the promised land. They did so> If they desired no
longer to dwell in seclusion they must abolish the dietary laws, which
forbid them to taste of the food of Christians, though commanded by the
Talmud and founded apparently on the authority of Moses. This, too,
they were willing to do. Other changes were inspired by the philosophic
teachings of the day, and were undertaken with equal readiness. Thus
the doctrine of resurrection in the flesh was set aside. The fabric
of ceremonial observances had been rudely shaken, and soon gave way
altogether. Changes in the ritual followed. The prayer-book reflected
the gloomy spirit of a people whose life was embittered by constant
trials and dangers. Naturally they had turned to the past and the
glories of Zion; the pomp of the sacrifices, the advent of the Messiah,
the future restoration of the kingdom of David, were the themes on which
they loved to dwell. All this was no longer suited to the temper of
the modern Jews, and radical alterations became necessary. Many of the
festivals and fast-days also were struck from the calendar. One of the
most distinctive customs of the Jews, the so-called rite of Abraham's
Covenant, was boldly attacked, and though the abolition of this ancient
practice is still strenuously resisted, there is little doubt that
it will ultimately go with the rest. Samuel Holdheim advocated the
propriety of intermarriage between Jews and Christians.

The manner in which these conclusions were reached may be described
as follows. At first an attempt was made to found each new measure of
Reform on the authority of the Talmud. The Talmud was attacked with
its own weapons. The fallacy of such a method becoming apparent, the
authority of the Talmud was entirely set aside. A return to the Bible
was next in order. But even the laws of the Bible proved to be no longer
capable of fulfilment in their totality. A distinction was therefore
drawn between the letter and the spirit of the Bible. The letter is
man's handiwork, the spirit alone ought to be regarded as the Divine
rule of faith. The "spirit of the Bible" is the essence of Judaism,
which cannot change. In the process of evolution it constantly assumes
new forms, but remains substantially the same. Nor could any motives of
expediency, nor could even the ardent desire of political emancipation
have induced the Reformers to pursue the course they did, had they for
one moment believed it contrary to the substantial teachings of
the Bible. The spirit of the Bible is expressed in two fundamental
propositions: the existence of one God, the author and governor of the
universe; and the Messianic mission of the people of Israel. The
former is no longer the exclusive property of Judaism, the latter is
distinctively its own; both together express the simple creed of the


If now we cast a glance upon the present aspect of Reformed Judaism we
are confronted by a state of affairs that by no means corresponds to
the great anticipations which were connected with the movement in its
earlier stages. The ancient institutions have been cleared away,--that
was unavoidable; they had long been tottering to their ruin,--but
an adequate substitute for what was taken has not been provided. The
leaders have penetrated to the foundations of their religion, but
upon these bare foundations they have erected what is at best a mere
temporary structure incapable of affording them permanent shelter and
protection. The temper of the Reform school has been critical.
Its members were admirably fitted to analyze and to dissect; their
scholarship is unquestionably great; the stainless purity of their lives
has elevated the character of their people and entitled them to sincere
respect But they lacked the constructive genius needed for the creation
of new institutions. In the year 1822 Wholwill declared that "the Jews
must raise themselves and their principle to the level of science.
Science is the one bond that alone can unite the whole human race." The
emphasis thus placed on science has continued to distinguish the Reform
movement down to the present day. In the sphere of religion, however, it
is not sufficient to apprehend the abstract truth of ideas with the
help of intellect, but it is necessary to array these ideas in concrete
forms, in order that they may warm the heart and stimulate the will.

We hold it erroneous to believe that the age of symbolism is passed. The
province of religion is to bring the human soul into communion with
the Infinite. In the lower religions the conception of the Infinite was
meagre and insufficient and the symbols in use proportionately gross.
At the present day it is the ideal of moral perfection that alone is
capable of exciting our devotion and kindling our enthusiasm. Now it is
true that the material symbolism of the churches and the synagogues, the
venerable, the bread and wine, the scrolls of the Pentateuch tricked
out in fanciful vestments, fail to appeal to the sympathies of many
educated men and women of our time; not, however, because they are
symbols, but because they are inadequate symbols, because of an almost
painful disparity between their earthy origin and the vastness of the
spiritual ideas which they are intended to suggest. There is, on the
other hand, a species of symbolism peculiarly adapted to the needs of
the present generation, and which, if properly understood, might be
employed to incalculable advantage in the interest of a revival of the
religious sentiment. We allude to the symbolism of association.

The tendency to associate the efforts of individuals in corporate action
has never been more markedly displayed than in our own day. So long as
such associations confine themselves to certain finite objects, they are
mere social engines organized with a view to utility and power, and
with such we are not concerned. The characteristic of symbols is their
suggestiveness. They have a meaning in themselves, but they suggest
illimitable meanings beyond their scope. Now a form of organization is
not only conceivable, but has actually been attempted, that fully meets
the requirements of the symbolic character. The Christian Church is
designed to be such an organization. Not only does it propose to unite
its members and to satisfy their spiritual needs during the term of
their sojourn on earth, but it aspires to typify the union of all saints
under the sovereignty of Jesus, and thus to give to the believer a
presentiment of the felicity and perfection of the higher world. In
like manner the Hebrews have been acquainted with the symbolism of
association from a very early period of their history. If they delight
to style themselves the chosen people, the meaning of that phrase, so
often misunderstood, is purely symbolical.

Recognizing the fact that the majority of mankind are at no time
prepared to entertain the ideals of the few, they undertook to work out
among themselves a nobler conception of religion and a loftier morality,
trusting that the force of their example would in the end bring about
the universal adoption of their faith and ethical code. In this sense
the choice of Israel was interpreted by the Prophets. They believed that
their selection by the Deity imposed upon them heavier responsibilities,
and regarded it in the light of an obligation rather than a privilege.
What the statue is to the ideal of beauty, a whole people resolved to
be in relation to the ideal of the good. The same conception still
dominates the thoughts of the Reformers, and is expressed by them in
their doctrine of Israel's messianic mission. They claim that the
Jews have been for the past three thousand years the "Swiss guard of
monotheism." They still believe themselves to be the typical people,
and their firm persuasion on this head is the one strong feature of
the Reformers' creed. If they will use their world-wide association to
illustrate anew the virtues for which their race became renowned in the
past,--and we refer especially to the purity of the sexual relations
among them, their pious reverence for domestic ties,--they may still
become, as they aspire to do, exemplars of purity to be joyfully
imitated by others. If they will use it in the spirit of their ancient
lawgiver to tone down the harsh distinctions of wealth and poverty, to
establish juster relations between the strong and weak, in brief, to
harmonize the social antagonisms of modern life, they may confer an
inestimable benefit upon mankind. But the manner in which the symbolism
of association might be applied to invigorate the religious sentiment,
and to expel the coldness of the times by the fervor of a new
enthusiasm, is a subject of too vast dimensions to be thus summarily
despatched, and we shall hope to recur to it on some future occasion.*

     * In an article on the religious aspects of the social

The present condition of liberal Judaism is strongly akin to that of
liberal Christianity. The old is dead, the new has not been born. It
is hardly safe to predict what possible developments the future may yet
have in store. As regards the Jews, however, it is right to add that
such changes as have taken place in the constitution of their religion
have not brought them in any sense nearer to Christianity. On the
contrary, since the belief in a personal Messiah has been dropped, the
hope of their conversion has become more vague and visionary than
ever. Those whom the worship of the synagogue and the temple no longer
attracts either become wholly sceptical and indifferent, or, as is often
the case, transfer their allegiance to the new humanitarian doctrine
which is fast assuming the character of a religion in the ardor it
inspires and the strong spiritual union it cements. For the great body
of the Jews, however, the central doctrine of Judaism remains unshaken,
and doubtless, so long as Christianity exists, Judaism as a distinct
creed will coexist with it. The modern Jews, like their ancestors,
believe that their mission is not yet ended, and they await with
patience the rising of some new man of genius amongst them, who will
combine the qualities of the popular leader with.'the attributes of
the scholar, and will give body and form to the ideas elaborated by the
Reformers. As a religious society they desire to remain distinct. But
as citizens, they are eager to remove whatever distinctions still hamper
their intercourse with their neighbors of other creeds. Never has the
desire to return to Palestine and retrieve their lost nationality been
more foreign to their sentiments than at the present day, though recent
speculations have misled many to believe otherwise. They know they can
no more return thither. They would not if they could. They love the land
of their birth; they wish to join their labors with those of others in
promoting the progress of the entire human race. They have ceased to
regret the past, and desire nothing more earnestly than to live in the
present and for the future.


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