THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION AS ADAPTED TO THE WANTS OF MAN, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THESE EIGHTEEN HUNDRED YEARS.
After the lapse of eighteen hundred years, in which Christianity has had a fair opportunity, with other religions, to make a trial of what it is, we ought to be able to show that it meets a want in man, and that the manner in which it does this is proof of its divine origin. The argument would be the stronger if it could be shown that other forms of religion have failed to meet this want, and that they, in this respect, leave the race as they find it. The direct argument for the divine origin of Christianity, as derived from this source, would be that God has endowed man with certain wants and necessities as a religious being, and that, in the failure of all other systems, the system which would actually meet those wants must have had its origin in Him who has thus endowed the human soul.
It may be assumed now that the ancient religions of the world did not meet those wants, and that for this reason they have been suffered to die out. The Hebrew religion did not do this; for, although it has remained in the world, and is, in fact, found in almost all nations, it does not so commend itself to mankind as to make them desire to revive it, and to rebuild the Temple ; and, but for some purposes which can be best explained on the supposition that the prophecies in the Bible respecting it are to be fulfilled, it would have died out long ago, and would be now reckoned with the religion of the Egyptians and the Babylonians as among the things that are past.
The religion of the Chaldaeans, of the Egyptians, of the Assyrians, of the Persians, of the Greeks, of the Romans, did not meet the wants of mankind, and have been suffered to die. The religion of the Egyptians was dead, not to be revived again, when Christianity appeared. The same was true of the religion of Babylon and Nineveh. The religion of Zoroaster was dying away. The religion of the Greeks had lost its power, and that of the Romans was following in the same line of decline and extinction. Those religions were becoming effete and obsolete; and whether a new religion should come or not to meet the wants of mankind, there was nothing that could revive them, and restore to them their former ascendency. They have now, in fact, died out, and nothing can revive and restore them. Julian brought all the power of the empire to bear on the expressed purpose of restoring paganism, endeavoring to reanimate it by incorporating into it, in some measure, the spirit of Christianity; for he " beheld with envy," says Mr. Gibbon, " the wise and humane regulations of the Church; and he very frankly confesses his intention to deprive the Christians of the applause, as well as the advantage, which they had acquired by the exclusive practice of charity and beneficence."* He failed, and the attempt was decisive and final. No one of imperial rank has ventured on the experiment since, and the world has shown no disposition to recall to life the ancient religions of Egypt, of Babylon, of Nineveh, of Persia, of Greece, of Rome. Not an idol of the ancient religions has been restored to its place. Not a * Decline and Fall, vol. ii., p. 31.
temple of ancient paganism is occupied as a place of worship. There are no augurs, flamens, priests, or vestal virgins; there are no restored altars and no sacrifices. Those priests are disrobed; those altars are destroyed; those temples, immortal works of art, stand as noble ruins, to tell what the religion was in its palmy days, but no one, denizen or foreigner, visits them now to worship the gods once honored there. The Parthenon is in ruins; the Pantheon is a Christian church, in honor of the Virgin Mary; Minerva is no more adored in the one, and the gods of the nations are no longer set up in the other. These ancient religions did not meet the wants of human nature, and they have been suffered to die away, to be revived no more.
It is a fair question whether Christianity has become, or ever will become, thus antiquated and obsolete, and whether, in the advanced period of the world which we have reached, it shows that it is not adapted to the nature of man, and is to die away, to be superseded or not by some other form of religion; whether the time has come, or will soon come, when, whatever it may have done hitherto, some new system—say the "positive philosophy," shall be substituted in its place. " Christianity, we are told," says Professor Goldwin Smith, "like other phases of the great onward movement of humanity, has its place, and that a great place in history. In its allotted epoch it was progressive in the highest degree, and immense veneration and gratitude are due to it on that account; but, like other phases of the same movement, it had its appointed term. That term it has already exceeded. It has already become stationary or retrograde; it has begun, instead of being the beneficent instrument, to be the arch-enemy of human progress. It cumbers the earth; and the object of all honest, scientific, free-thinking men, who are lovers of their kind, should be to quicken the death-pangs into which it has manifestly fallen, and remove once for all this obstruction to the onward movement of the race. Confusion and distress will probably attend the final abandonment of1 the popular religion;' but it is better at once to encounter them than to keep up any longer an imposture which is disorganizing and demoralizing to society, as well as degrading to the mind of man. Let us at once, by a courageous effort, say farewell to our old faith, and, by a still more courageous effort, find ourselves a new one."*
In illustrating the argument which I propose to submit to you at this time, it will be proper, in the first place, to make some inquiries, and to lay down some principles, in regard to man, considered with reference to religion, or to the necessities of his nature as demanding a religion; and, in the second place, to consider the question whether Christianity satisfies the wants of our nature in this respect; or, in other words, how far in eighteen hundred years it has commended itself to man as meeting those wants, and as thus showing that it is from God.
The entire argument will be stated in view of the fact that there has been a practical trial of Christianity on these points for a period now extending over more than eighteen hundred years.
I . The first point relates to human nature—to man— considered with reference to the necessity of a religion.
It may be assumed that a system of religion claiming to be from God, in order that it may be received by man, must be in accordance with the moral nature of man, and with his innate convictions of what is true * Lectures on the Study of History, p. 118.
and what is right. In other words, a revelation will not contradict what our nature has taught us to believe to be true and right, but such a revelation will be in the line of such convictions, and will add to them, not ignore or deny them.
This is a point to which the infidel may hold us. If the pretended revelation is not of this character, he has an argument against it which we can not well answer; if it has this character, we have an argument for its truth to which he may find it not less difficult to reply.
(1.) The first point to be considered here is, What is the " end" of life ? What is man made for ? What, if the object of his creation were accomplished, or fully carried out, would be secured, so that we could say that the purpose or end of life was fully obtained ? These questions are equivalent to that which, to most of us, was proposed in our early childhood, as being proper not only to our age then as entering on life, but as lying at the foundation of every just system of theology, " What is the chief end of man ?" The framers of our Westminster Catechism felt that that was the first subject on which it was proper to instruct a child; the man of mature or advanced years will feel that that is the great question which is to be before him alike in the middle and at the end of life.
Can we look into .the nature of man, and find an answer to this question?
Men answer it according to their own philosophy; their propensities; their pleasure. The Epicurean was ready with his answer; the Stoic with his; the Platonist with his. The votary of the world; the child of gayety; the disciple of mammon; the aspirant for fame, each is ready with his. There is something which, being accomplished, would be to them the "end of life;" which would meet, as they suppose, all the aspirations of their nature, and which, being obtained, would be an answer to the question. For what purpose were they made? Why were they endowed with the faculties which have been conferred upon them ? Why have such hopes and aspirations been implanted in their souls ?
To furnish a just answer to the question, let us look at the following things:
(a) There is such an " end" or object contemplated in the creation of man. There are so many aspirations; so many hopes; so many desires—there is, if the expression may be used, so much machinery in the mental construction of man, that we look for an end or object, just as we do in the watch or the steam-engine. There is a stimulus prompting to something, of which the main-spring in the one, and the steam in the other, and the arrangements for distributing and directing the power in both, would be a faint illustration. If there is no such end or object, all the complexity of wheels and springs, so nicely adjusted in the one, and all the arrangements of boilers and valves in the other, would be a mere waste. In our moral nature there is much of this. There is clear proof of design. There is great skill displayed. There is a very nice adjustment of our different mental powers to each other. There is no confusion. The powers of our nature are never displaced. There is more in the variety of those powers than in the most complicated machinery; there is more skill in the adjustment. There has been a vast expenditure of wisdom in our mental constitution. Can we believe that it has been for naught—for no "end" or purpose?
(b) Whatever that " end" may be, considered as characterizing man, it must be common to the race. If the
race is one, we shall find jfr. under all the types of humanity. If the Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, and American varieties constitute one race, we shall find it the same in all; if these different varieties are different races, we shall find some such "end" pertaining to each of those races respectively; if we find that there is some one end common to all these varieties, it will be difficult to set aside the argument from that fact that these varieties are one race, and that the Bible account of the origin of man, as derived from one pair, is true. The inquiry is, What is the " end" of man ?—not of the brute. There is an " end" or purpose in their creation, but we should not be satisfied on being told that the end of our creation is the same as theirs. That is a philosophy not to be recognized in this place as true philosophy which makes no distinction between man and the brute.
(c) Whatever that " end" or purpose may be, it must relate to the future. As far as we have the means of judging, the brute creation, so far as consciousness is concerned, if that term may be applied to a brute, acts only with reference to the present. Brutes make no calculations ; they form no plans ^(Ihey have no " ends" of living which extend into that tghicb. is to come. There is nothing in their nature which, being developed, will find its complement or fulfillment in any thing lying in the future. The arrangement by which the beaver builds its dam, and the bee hoards its stores of honey, and the squirrel gathers nuts and acorns for the winter, and the bird makes its nest, is an arrangement of instinct, not of thought—whatever that instinct may be. However in other respects man may resemble the brute, yet he differs in this—that his plans do pertain to the future, and that those plans are not the result of instinct, but of conscious thought. There is something in the future in which our happiness lies. It is not in the present.
(d) That arrangement looks on to a future state. What I mean is, that there is that in the mental constitution of man which looks to a continuance of being beyond death; which would not be found in man if he were not to exist there; and which can be explained only on the supposition that he is immortal—unless it shall be alleged that the Maker of man has deceived and beguiled him by unfounded hopes and fears: that is, unless a watchmaker had made a watch with no purpose that it should keep time, or a machinist had made a steam-engine with no purpose that it should ever accomplish any end in the cotton factory, on the railroad, or in the steam-boat. This arrangement is in the very nature of man, and it extends to all the results of human conduct. The plans of men relate to the future. The results of their actions strike into the future. Those results are indefinite in regard to the future; and as it is said that the circle of the wave made by the pebble may expand indefinitely over the ocean, or the slightest vibration of the air by speech may affect the whole atmosphere of the globe, or any change on the earth's surface, or in the earth's interior, may affect all the worlds of matter, so it is certain that human conduct, in its results, will extend indefinitely into the eternity of the future. Those results travel over all the changes of this life to meet us when those changes are passed through, and will meet us in the world where there is no change. Nothing interrupts those results. The deeds of youth travel on to meet the old man bending over the grave; the crimes committed in one land travel over continents and oceans to meet him on the other side of the globe; the conduct of yesterday comes over the slumberings of the night, and meets us to-day. Sleep does not interrupt that course; time does not; distance does not; and there is no reason to think that death will, for death is not an interruption to life and consciousness— no, not so much as a night's sleep.
There is, therefore, some " end" for which man was made, and that end relates to the future.
(2.) There is a religious want in man that must be met in a revelation from God. Man is a religious being, and unless a pretended revelation meets and satisfies the wants of man as a religious being, it can not be received as a revelation from God.
This want in man as a religious being exists in two forms: (a) as essential to his nature, and (b) as a fallen being.
(a) As man; as essential to his nature.
This is an original principle of our nature, and is universal. It is not the result of culture; it is not originated as the world advances from barbarism to civilization ; it is not detached from society as a relic of barbarism when the world makes those advances; it does not characterize exclusively any one race of men; it is not among the things which enter into the formation of the different " types" of mankind; it does not serve in any way to distinguish the Caucasian, the Mongolian, the Ethiopian, and the American races; it is not connected with the origin of species, or with the development of species. Every where it exists, from the lowest form of fetichism to the highest forms of devotion in which homage is rendered to the one infinite and independent God.
The desire of knowledge is universal in man; the desire of society is universal; the desire of happiness is universal; the principle of acting for the future is universal. The existence of will, and imagination, and memory, and reason is universal—in the lowest" types" of humanity, and in the highest; in the Ethiopian, the American, the Mongolian, and the Caucasian races. The mind of the Caucasian does not differ from the mind of the Ethiopian in this respect. In neither case is it the result of culture; in neither case has it sprung from the change from barbarism to civilization; in neither case can "it be classed among the " artificial" wants that have been originated by an advanced state of society; in neither case is it detached by progress in civilization. Nothing has been added in respect to these qualities of mind by civilization; nothing has been dropped as the world has advanced. There never has been a tribe of men found, in the lowest forms of humanity, where these things do not exist; there never has been such an advance made in civilization that any new faculty or power has been added to the human mind. All these are original endowments; all are the work of the Creator.
Just so it is in religion. He who forms a theory of human nature on the supposition that man is not a religious being, and has not a religious want to be supplied, forms just such a theory as he would should he assume that man has not a will, or is not endowed with memory or with reason. He who attempts to meet the wants of the world without recognizing the religious principle, acts just as wisely as he would who should attempt to meet the wants of society on the supposition that man has no desire of knowledge; that he has no social propensities; th^t he has no will to be governed ; that he has no rational nature to guide him; that he has no passions to be restrained.
That religious want must be met and satisfied in a pretended revelation. If this is not done, the race will sooner or later throw the system off— as the old systems of Greek and Roman mythology have been thrown off, as not meeting the wants of man.
(b) There is a religious want in man as a fallen and sinful being. It is in vain to deny that the race is sinful, for all laws proceed on that supposition; all history has recorded the fact. Tribunals of justice, prisons, police arrangements, and the human* consciousness, all proclaim that man is a fallen being.
The remedy for this is somehow to be found in religion. Such is the universal belief of man. The conviction of depravity takes this form, and is illustrated by the religions of the world. There are no religions on earth for perfectly pure and holy beings; there are none which are not founded on the conviction of human depravity; there are none which do not make arrangements, in some form, for deliverance from sin.
All the religions of the world are religions of sinners. With the exception of a few Pharisees, Philosophers, and Deists—Lord Herbert, the first and the best of British Deists, is not, however, one of these, for he made "repentance for sin" one of the ten articles of universal belief as entering into religion — with these exceptions, all the religions of the world are the religions of sinners. They are religions of sacrifice; of penance ; of pilgrimages; of self-inflicted tortures designed to propitiate the gods, and to secure safety and forgiveness. Hecatombs of victims have been offered, and rivers of blood have flowed to make expiation for human guilt.
There is no conviction more nearly universal in our world than that the nature of man is sinful, and that a religion to meet his wants must be a religion that will propose an expiation for sin, and that will give peace to a guilty conscience.
This universal conviction may be regarded as the basis of our argument on this subject, and as final in the case. It is vain to argue against universal convictions of the human mind. It is vain to attempt to set them aside. He never argues safely who argues against those universal convictions; and however specious or plausible a system of philosophy may be, it will ultimately be set aside unless it is founded on those universal convictions.
It may—it must be assumed, therefore, that a religion to meet the wants of men must be a religion adapted to sinners, or must be based on the supposition that there is not only a religious want in man founded in his original nature, but also in the fact that he is a sinner.
(3.) There are some principles pertaining to these facts which the friends and. the enemies of revelation must alike admit to be true. They are such as the following :
(a) There is such a thing as truth. Truth may be regarded as comprising two things: First. Truth as spoken, stated, represented; that is, as exhibited by words, by signs, by pictures, by statuary. In this sense, truth is the representation of things as they are. A painting, in this sense, is true if it is a proper representation of a landscape, of a waterfall, of a historical scene, or of the human countenance. A drama or a novel is true if it correctly represents human nature, or is a just delineation of the passions of man. Astronomical truth is a correct representation of the heavenly bodies; geological truth, a correct representation of the world before the creation of man, as disclosed by rocks and fossils; historical truth, a correct representation of events as they have occiirred in past ages; mathematical truth, a correct representation of facts in regard to number and quantity.
Second. Truth considered as existing in the reality of things, or in the events and facts which are thus represented, or which lies at the basis of such representation. In all truth there is not only a representation, but a basis for the representation, or something on which the representation is founded, and to which it must conform. Thus, if the statement is made that two and two make four, or that all the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, the statement of these facts is truth as represented; but there is truth as the basis, or as the foundation of this statement. These facts or realities remain the same whether there is any representation of them or not; whether they are known or unknown; whether the representation of them by words, or signs, or symbols, is true or false.
(b) There is that in man which responds to truth, or which is a just ground of appeal in regard to truth. The mind is so constituted that an impression is made upon it by truth different from the impression made by error. It is so made that it may be an element of calculation in endeavoring to influence others; that they may be, and will be, affected by truth if it is fairly brought before their minds ; so made that it is fair to assume that there will be a uniform result in regard to the same individual, and in regard to different individuals, by the proper exhibition of truth. Wherever man is found, civilized or savage; whatever language he may speak; under whatever government he may live; whatever laws he may obey, or whatever form of philosophy or religion he may embrace, so far as truth makes any impression, it is always the same impression, for it always finds that in the mind which responds to it in precisely the same way. This fact, not indeed capable of demonstration, we always assume as a maxim, or as an elementary thought in our endeavors to influence others. We have the fullest conviction that to two boys in a school, the proposition that two and two make four conveys to them, as boys, precisely the same idea, and conveys to them now the same idea which it will when they reach middle life or old age. We can not doubt, also, that it conveys to those boys the same idea which it did to Newton in the maturity of his powers, or that, to an American savage, or to a wandering Bedouin, or to a New Zealander, it would convey precisely the same impression. In like manner, also, although we may not be able to demonstrate it, we have the fullest assurance that the impression or image conveyed to the mind by a tree, a landscape, a waterfall, a flower, is the same; the same to the individual mind in all its changes; the same to all minds, whether civilized or savage. And, on the same principle, so far as the minds of men are enlightened to appreciate truth, the same thing occurs in regard to moral truths. That a parent should love his child; that a child should venerate its parent; that ingratitude is base; that treachery is wrong; that to do good to others is right—all these, and similar propositions, we have every reason to suppose, convey exactly the same idea to every mind. We may suppose, indeed, that it might have been otherwise; that, for example, the eyes of men might have been so made that what to one conveys the idea of white might have conveyed to others the idea of red; that men might have been so made that what to one seems to be a triangle would seem to another to be a quadrangle; that what seems now to be virtuous and honorable to one, might have seemed dishonorable and wicked to another; but it is evident that, in that case, the world could not have moved on in harmony at all, any more than it could at the confusion of tongues at Babel. All would have been disorder; language would have been useless ; any communication of ideas from one to another would have been impossible; society would have been impracticable ; speech, schools, writing, printing, painting, statuary, would have been useless, and the world would have a universal, though temporary Babel, for it would soon have come to an end.
(c) Truth depends, for its reception by the mind, on its being perceived as truth.
The mind sees or perceives it to be true. When the truth referred to is an axiom, it is perceived at once without any medium; when it is the result of a demonstration, the process of the demonstration merely puts the mind, in reference to the truth demonstrated, in the same state in which it is, without any such process— as it is in reference to an axiom or self-evident truth.
In illustration of this, it may be remarked that it is possible to conceive that the power of perceiving truth as intuitive, or without the aid of reasoning, might exist to almost any extent in created beings, as it exists in an absolutely unlimited extent in God. We may suppose that there might be, and that there actually may be now, created intelligences to whom all that is now perceived by the highest intellects on earth as the result of the profoundest analysis may be seen to be true at a glance, and may be, in fact, to their minds, maxims or self-evident truths, lying, in their investigations, at the foundation of a vastly higher method of reasoning than is yet possible to man, and bearing the same relation to a system of truth which is not now conceivable by us, which the maxims of geometry do to the highest forms of mathematical reasoning known among men. It is said of Newton that he read the propositions of Euclid as if they were maxims or selfevident truths, as being too plain and obvious to need demonstration. Even the celebrated forty-seventh proposition of the first book he did not pause to demonstrate, for he saw at a glance the truth of the proposition, and it can not be doubted that there may be minds to whom the highest discoveries, even of Newton, would be perceived at once to be axioms or self-evident truths, from which they would start off on a higher career of reasoning than would be possible for any intellect known to us. Then there is the mind of God, high above all, to whom all truth is self-evident—the mind of One who sees all truth as we perceive the simplest maxims of geometry; who never reasons, but sees and states things at once as they are.
(d) There is a distinction between right and wrong, and this distinction is founded in the nature of things.
A thing can not be both right and wrong at the same time; or now right and now wrong, as the result of appointment ; or made right or wrong by mere will. An object can not be black and white at the same time; or now white and now black, as the result of appointment; or made white or black by mere will. That can not be made right to-day which in precisely the same circumstances was wrong yesterday, and that can not be right for one class or order of beings which in precisely the same circumstances would be wrong in another, A lie can not be truth, nor can truth be falsehood; honesty can not be fraud, nor fraud honesty; love can not be hatred, nor hatred love; and as these can not be transmuted into one another, so by no authority can they, in precisely the same circumstances, be made obligatory in one case and be prohibited in another. No one can believe that justice in God or man depends on mere will, or that it would be proper for either to perform any act which he chose, and call it justice. In like manner, no one can believe that truth in God or man depends on mere will, and that it would be proper for either to make any statement which he chose and to 'call it truth, or that it would be right to call one utterance to-day truth, and to call it to-morrow falsehood. Every man is somehow so made that he can not believe that the contrary of this would be true, or that, under any circumstances, it would be proper for even God to reverse things in such a way that it would be right for Sim to do what he now denounces and condemns as evil, false, and wrong, or that the mere act of his doing it would make it right. Every conception which we can form of the Supreme Being implies that, by His own eternal nature, he is just, and holy, and true, and good; not that he has made himself to be so by an arbitrary act, or that the contrary would be just, and holy, and true, and good, if found in Him. Account for it as we may, we are so constituted that we must believe this, and can not believe the contrary; and this fact demonstrates that it was designed by our Maker that it should be so.
(e) There is that in man which responds to the distinction of right and wrong.
This proposition is almost too plain to admit of illustration. All men instinctively act on it in their treatment of others; all legislators assume it to be true; all parents regard it as indisputable in their treatment of their children; all authors who write on the subject of morals take it for granted; and all preachers of the Gospel make it the ground of their most solemn appeals and most earnest exhortations. To Jews and Gentiles alike—barbarians, Scythians, bond and free, . the apostle Paul could say of his preaching, " by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor., iv., 2), nor could we preach at all if we did not assume that this could be done.
(/) A revelation from God will not contradict any truth, on any subject, however that truth may be made known.
This, too, may be assumed as an axiom, and is too plain to admit of argument. "All truth is from the sempiternal source of light divine." One truth can not contradict another, and God can not contradict in his word what he has declared in any other way to be truth.
A revelation will not contradict its own teachings— that is, it will not deny in one place what it affirms in another; a revelation will not contradict scientific truth —that is, God will not, in his word, contradict what he has revealed to men through their own reason or by his own works; a revelation will not contradict historical truth—that is, God, in his word, will not contradict what has actually occurred and has been properly recorded ; a revelation will not contradict moral truth— that is, the word of God will not contradict what has been clearly made known as right or wrong by the constitution of the mind as he has made it. These points are mere illustrations of what is said in the Bible of God: " He can not deny himself" (2 Tim., ii., 13). The infidel has a right to hold us to this proposition when we urge the claims of a revelation; the defender of such a revelation is bound to show that the Bible does not contradict itself, and that it does not contradict any truth, from any other source, communicated to man.
(g) A pretended revelation which should contradict established truth could not be received by mankind.
This, also, is so plain as not to admit of demonstration. Two opposite statements could not both be received as true. No conceivable evidence in favor of a revelation could be stronger than the conviction that two and two make four, or that all the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. The mind must believe these things. That mind is not in a sound state which does not believe them.
In the application of this rule it is implied (1) that, if faith in a professed revelation be demanded, it is right to require that all its statements shall be fairly consistent with the ascertained facts of science; and (2) it is equally implied that it is proper to demand, on the other hand, that if there is any alleged conflict between the statements of the book and the truths of science, the facts of science shall be clearly established. It is right for the friends of revelation, for example, to insist, if it is alleged that man has been longer on the earth than the statements in the Bible shall warrant, that the fact that he has been thus long on the earth shall be established as a fact, and that it shall not be mere theory or conjecture; that if it be alleged that the Mosaic statement that all the races of men on the earth are descended from one pair is inconsistent with the doctrine of the separate origin of the races, the fact of such a separate origin shall be clearly demonstrated; that if it is alleged that the disclosures of geology are inconsistent with the statements in the book professing to be a revelation, the facts of geology shall be clearly established. The alleged truths of science must be demonstrated; the facts must be ascertained; the contradiction must be palpable; the discrepancy must be so great that the statements can not, by any fair rules of interpretation, be reconciled.
(h) A revelation on the same line of subjects will, so far as coincident, carry forward the truth already known, not contradict it.
The meaning of this rule is this—that a revelation may make disclosures in regard to truth in advance of what is known from other sources, or may state what will be seen to be true when the discoveries of science come up to it, if they ever do; in other words, that the disclosures of revelation will be in advance of, and not contradictory to, the truths otherwise ascertained. Between the two there will be no more discrepancy than between the actual though imperfect knowledge of a child and the more matured and perfect knowledge of the same child when he becomes a man; than between the lowest truths of geometry, as comprehended by the school-boy, and the highest astronomical disclosures of Newton or Laplace.
An illustration of this point may be derived from the disclosures of the telescope. Vast as are the revelations made by that instrument; far as it penetrates into distant worlds; and much as it has enlarged the boundaries of human knowledge, all its disclosures are in entire harmony with those of the naked eye, and only carry forward, on the same line, what was seen by the unaided process of vision. The telescope never penetrates regions where the laws of light are different from those which affect the naked eye. It never discloses facts in regard to other worlds which are inconsistent with the doctrine of universal gravitation. It never penetrates into the empire of another God; and could the eye itself, now so comparatively limited in its range of observation, and to which so much which the telescope reveals is unknown, be so enlarged in its powers as to take in all that the telescope reveals, it would see things just as it does now by its aid.*
These seem to me to be just principles in regard to a revelation; principles on which the friends and the enemies of the Bible may agree.
(4.) I proceed, then, to observe that a revelation from God—a religion which he reveals—will, in accordance with these principles, meet the wants of man; alike his religious wants as a creature, and his wants as a sinner. It may be demanded that satisfactory provision shall be made for both. If provision is not made for them, it may be at once rejected; it will, sooner or later, be dropped, as the religions of Egypt, of Babylon, and of Greece have been. Such a revelation must meet and satisfy the essential religious want in the nature of man, and it must, at the same time, meet and satisfy his wants as a sinful and fallen being, and in both commend itself to him as true. These are by no means the same thing, as the provision to be made for th% wants of a sick person and a person in health are by no means the same.
For the former of these there is the demand for a God to be worshiped ; there is the want of that which will answer the question " What is the end of life ?" or
. * These points seem to me to deserve a more extended illustration than would have been possible in a single Lecture, and I may be permitted, therefore, to refer to a work entitled "Inquiries and Suggestions in Regard to the Foundation of Faith in the Word of God," published by Parry & McMillan, 1859, from which these remarks have been abridged, p. 5-36.
why man was made—some object worthy of the powers which have been called into being ; there is the necessity of some statement or promise which will meet the desire of immortality; there is the need of an affirmation that there will be a world beyond the grave, where the soul may forever expand in power and in knowledge; there is the need that there shall be a range of truths and objects that shall correspond with the greatness of the human soul.
For the latter of these the demand would be for a revelation of some system that would in its arrangements contemplate man as a fellow-being, and meet and satisfy his wants as such. Thus, in studying the works of nature with reference to the question whether the world has been fitted up so as to meet the wants of man, there are two distinct questions: the one, Whether there are arrangements to meet his wants as a creature of God, considered without reference to the question whether he is liable to disease ? and the other is, Whether there are arrangements to meet his wants considered as liable to disease and as a sufferer? These are by no means the same questions. The arrangements might have been complete in regard to the one, while no provision should have been made for the other. The one is the inquiry which would have occurred to man when in the Garden of Eden, and when a stranger to disease; the other is an inquiry which could not but occur to him when rejected from Eden, when driven forth to encounter disease, and when death was in prospect. The former inquiry might have been easily answered. The first Paradise, in its arrangement, presented an answer at once. But what would the man have discerned there which would have contemplated the latter ? Even if there were such things there, until he had become a fallen being, and was brought into circumstances when he needed them, they must have passed for things whose use was unknown.
As a matter of fact, however, there is in nature just such an arrangement; an arrangement made in the beginning of the creation, and in anticipation of the fact that man would be subject to disease. It is to be remarked, also, that, so far as appears, the one is entirely independent of the other; the one is in no manner necessary to the other. The world, as a world, might have been complete without attaching healing properties to plants and minerals; certainly without creating things whose only properties of value are healing properties. If mercury could not have been so made as to have been of value in the arts without also the appendage that it might be a medicine, yet certainly there was no necessity for creating the Peruvian tree whose only value is the bark, and the only value of whose bark is the cure of fevers.
In fact, the arrangement for healing is an entirely independent system, and yet as essential to man as the arrangements for the supply of his wants in health. The wonderful process by which a broken bone knits itself together was in no wise necessary for the making of a bone; the process by which a severed vein or artery will plow for itself a new groove, and lay down a new artery or vein for the blood, was in no wise necessary for the making of a vein or artery originally, nor for the original and healthful purposes of either—for arteries and veins for conducting the blood from and to the heart would have been perfect without this arrangement ; the creation of the materials of the materia medica of the healing art was in no wise necessary for the production of food for man. It is a separate arrangement. The one is not necessary to the other. The one does not explain the other. The one is of importance to man every where; the other is the foundation of a distinct profession—the medical profession.
But the world as it is would not have been complete without both, any more than a system of religion for man would have been complete for man alike as a creature adapted to worship, and as a sinner to be redeemed and saved, without both. A system of arrangements for man in health would not have met the wants of man in sickness, and a system which did not contemplate the latter, and which did not make provision for it, would not have been adapted to our world as it is. Hence it was, that in the very structure of the creation, there was an underlying system in anticipation of the fact that man would be a sufferer—a system doubtless existing in paradise, and a system certainly now extending all over the world—for the arrangements for healing diseases are found on all the continents and in all the islands, and in every land there are men endowed with peculiar faculties to study nature with this view, and to apply these remedies to the ever-varying forms of disease.
Precisely of the same nature, though on a higher scale, is it true that there was need of an arrangement which would contemplate man as a sinner, and which would make provision for his wants as such; and as the world of nature could not be regarded as adapted to the wants of man as he is without the arrangements to alleviate pain and to cure diseases, so the arrangements for religion would not have been complete without a remedial system for sinners.
II. We come, then, to what must be the main inquiry on this subject, the question whether Christianity is a religion which thus meets and satisfies the wants of man; or, in other words, how far in eighteen hundred years it has commended itself to man as meeting those wants, and as thus showing that it is from God.
(1.) Considered as a religion, it meets the essential wants of man. We have seen what those wants are as every where indicated in our world—as essential; as deep-laid in our nature; as characterizing man. Man wants a religion. He wants a God. He wants an object of worship. He wants the hope of another life. He wants the assurance that the soul is immortal.
Certainly all these are found in Christianity. It is a "religion." It is nothing else. That is its essential idea. It is not philosophy; it is not science; it is not a political theory; it is a religion, and meets the wants of the soul only in regard to religion. It reveals a God, an object of worship. In the God of the Bible there is all that can enter into the mind in the conception of a God. He is infinite; he is uncreated; he is almighty; he is the maker of all things; he is a Being whose agency is every where; he is the Ruler of the universe; he is holy, just, pure, merciful. All that the soul can demand in the idea of worship surely — of adoration, homage, reverence — is to. be found in the God of the Bible.—Man wants some just view of what is the proper " end" of life. Christianity declares it. It reveals an " end" of living worthy of the powers with which he is endowed, for it brings before him, as the main object of life, the idea of living for eternity.—Man wants the hope of another life. Christianity reveals such a hope, and sets it before him as that which is in advance of all others, and which is to crown all.—Man wants the assurance that the soul is immortal. What he can not find in the argument of Plato; what he can not find in any other religion, he finds here, laid at the foundation of the whole system, that the-soul is to live forever.
(2.) It meets the wants of man as a sinner—as a fallen being. We could not regard it as of value; we could not receive it as a religion, if it did not. It meets that want. (a) It is the main idea in Christianity, running through the entire system, and, more than any other feature, constituting its peculiarity. (b) It is a special and distinct arrangement, as much so as the arrangement for healing disease is in the departments of nature. There are things in Christianity, entering into its very -nature, which would not have been there, or which would have had no place, if it had not been supposed that man was a sinner, just as there are arrangements in nature which would not have been there, or which would have had no place, if it had not been supposed that man would be a sufferer, and the one without such a supposition would be as inexplicable as the other. (c) The system makes ample provision for pardon. It bears on its face the assm-ance that the arrangement is such that any and all may be forgiven. It excludes no one by the idea that its power can not reach the case, or that it was not intended for such a sinner, or that it is exhausted, as no one, under any form of disease, is shut out from the hope of a cure by the idea that no medicinal remedies were provided in the secrets of nature for such a case, or that the medicines of the world are exhausted. It excludes no one by the idea that the sin is so great that it can not be forgiven, and in the proclamation of amnesty it makes no exceptions. Human governments often do. In the times of the American Revolution, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were excepted by name in the royal proclamation of amnesty; in our own great rebellion large numbers were excepted by proclamation from the offer of pardon. (d) It contains provisions for pardon that are honorable to God and honorable to man. Man, even guilty man, could not accept it if it were not so. A child offending could not wish to be forgiven if the pardon could not be extended to him without disgracing his parent; an offender against human law must demand that the pardon in his own case should not be dishonorable to the government and to his country. So man, even a sinner, could not receive a religion as coming from God if it were essential to the idea of the religion that God was regardless of truth, of justice, and of law; that he had no concern about his own character; that his veracity was of no consequence ; that his law could be set aside at will; that it was his nature to treat virtue and vice, truth and falsehood, rebellion and allegiance, both alike. Who could put confidence in such a God? Who could embrace a religion founded on such assumptions ? Now something like this does occur, and always occurs in pardon as extended to the guilty under a human government. The pardon of an offender, justly convicted—and there is no other proper idea of pardon—is always a proclamation that in some cases crime may be committed with impunity ; that in some cases the law is to be disregarded, and the decrees of justice to be set aside; that guilty men may go at large for whose crimes justice has received no atonement—no satisfaction. Pardon in such a case always does just so much to weaken the strong arm of the law; is just so far a proclamation that crime may be committed with impunity. There is not a government in the world that could safely make the proclamation of universal forgiveness as it is made in the Gospel; that could throw open the doors of all prisons; that could invite all convicts—burglars, counterfeiters, thieves, and murderers, to come out and roam at large over the land. Who would feel that his house or his life was safe ? (e) Again: The system of pardon proposed in Christianity is honorable to man—to those who have offended. It requires no needless humiliation; no mortifying concessions or confessions; no conformity to rites and ceremonies that would tend only to debase and degrade. It might have been otherwise; and we could not have rejected it with safety if it had been so. If it had required men to gird themselves with sackcloth ; to cast dust on their heads; to sit down in ashes; to clothe themselves in habiliments of squalid poverty; to put on robes such as they wore who were condemned by the Inquisition—with tongues of fire and pictured demons; to go in solemn procession with some symbol of eternal death as deserved by sin; to pass thus through life humbled and degraded, man could not have proved that this would be wrong; he could not have shown that it would not be wise and well to accept of pardon and life even on these conditions. In the reign of Edward HL of England (1347), when Calais was besieged, Edward required as a condition in surrendering the city when it could hold out no longer, that " six of the most considerable citizens should be sent to him, to be disposed of as he should think proper; that they should come to his camp carrying the keys of the city in their hands, bareheaded and barefooted, with ropes about their necks, and on these conditions he promised to spare the lives of the remainder."* So, at least for the sake of illustration, we may conceive that God might have required all men to appear before him in some similar manner as a sign of submission and re
* Hume's History of England, vol. i., p. 577.
pentance, and as a condition of pardon. But he has done no such thing. There are no degrading and debasing rites in the Christian religion; there are no humiliations required for the mere sake of humiliation; there are no arrangements merely to mortify men. There are no mummeries; there are no painful postures or processions; there are no requirements like those of letting the nails grow in the clenched hand till they cut into the flesh; fixing the arm in one position till it becomes rigid; swinging on hooks fastened in the muscles ; standing on lofty columns in heat, and cold, and storm; or withdrawing to caves and solitudes far from the haunts of men. All these are the inventions of men themselves; they show, perhaps, what men would willingly have submitted to if such degradations had been required; they show what men regard as the proper representations and symbols of the evil and degradation of sin. But in the Gospel there are no degrading, no dishonorable acts required. Let us suppose, for the sake of illustration, that there had been. The son of an honorable father is guilty of a crime. He is told that he may be pardoned if he will perform some dishonorable act. He is to betray his father, and deliver him up to death. ' No,' says he, with generous indignation, ' I do no such thing. I can not purchase life on any such condition. I am indisputably guilty; but I can not add to that guilt a baser crime that I may live. I will not add meanness, and ingratitude, and filial impiety to my crime for the sake of saving my life. Welcome the rack; welcome the thumb-screw; welcome the gibbet, rather than that I should be guilty of such a crime !' God requires nothing of this. He asks no selfinflicted tortures; no painful pilgrimages; no renunciation of the dignity that belongs to a man, that he may be saved. He asks that he shall repent of sin and forsake it—for it is that which debases and degrades; he asks that he shall accept of the offer of mercy on the terms which he proposes—for that is the way in which we receive all the blessings which come from his hand; he asks that he shall lead a pure life, and hereafter keep his Maker's law.
(3.) The religion is on a line with all that exalts and adorns the race; with the solution of the problems which men are endeavoring to work out in regard to law, to liberty, to happiness. It attaches itself, by a natural affinity, to all that ameliorates and civilizes society ; to all that is stricken out in the progress of the world that raises men to a higher elevation. There are religions which hold men as they are; there are religions which are obstructions to the advancement of the race; there are religions which are to be removed if the race shall make progress; there are religions which foster vice; there are religions which debase and degrade mankind. There was much in the religion of Greece that tended to encourage vice—for " it was not for every man to go to Corinth"*—refined, in many respects, as Corinth was; there is every thing in the Buddhist religion to fix society where it is, and to prevent progress; there is much in the Hindoo religion which must be removed if true science makes advances, for its religion and its science are identical—disclosed in the same books, and sanctioned by the same authority ; there is every thing in the monastic system to hold men in degradation; there is much in the Roman Catholic system generally that has tended to retard the progress of mankind. It was not by an accident that Galileo was imprisoned; it is not by an accident that
* 6v iravrds avSpoc tic fedpivSov ioiv o 7rXovf.
the Bible, under that system, is not spread abroad in vulgar tongues.
I am not ignorant that it has been affirmed that Christianity has retarded the progress of mankind, nor are you or I ignorant of the arguments which have been referred to on this subject.
It is not for me now, and in this place, to attempt to prove that Christianity has been connected with the progress of the race. In the fullest blaze of Christianity, and at the same time surrounded with the highest developments of society in intelligence, in literature, in the sciences, and in the ornamental and useful arts; in an age and a country where, under the influence of Christianity, the comforts of life have been carried to the highest point hitherto reached; in a land of freedom, made free under the best developments of the Christian religion, it would not become me to pause, even were there time, to attempt to prove that Christianity is not inimical to the highest development of society ; that it is on the line of all that adorns and exalts the race.
There have been, indeed, other civilizations; there has been progress in other lands than those where Christianity has prevailed.
But it is to be remarked that there has been no " sustained historical progress" except that which has been ■ confined to Christian nations. "Where," it may be asked, "is the brilliant monarchy of Haroun Alraschid? How ephemeral was it as compared even with that old Byzantine empire into whose frame Christianity had infused a new life under the very ribs of death; a life which the fatal bequest of Roman despotism, extending itself to the Church as well as to the state, could scarcely quench, and which, through ages of Mohammedan oppression, has smouldered on beneath the ashes, to burst out again in reviving Greece. Even in the Moorish communities of Spain, the flower, as they were, of Mohammedan civilization, internal corruption had prepared the way for the conquering arms of Ferdinand and Isabella. Mohammedanism, however, whatever the degree of progressive energy displayed by it may have been, was not a separate and independent religion, but a debased offspring of Judaism and Chris- . tianity. Turning to the remoter East, we find that its history has not been a history of progress, but of the successive descents of conquering races from the more bracing climate of the North, subjugating the languid inhabitants of the plains, and founding a succession of empires, sometimes mighty and gorgeous, but always barren of nobler fruits, which, when the physical energy of the conquering race was spent in its turn, at once fell into decay. China advanced at an early period to a certain point of material civilization, but, having reached that point, she became a by-word of immobility, as Egypt, the ancient China, was in a former day. The civilization of Mexico is deplored by certain philosophers, who seem to think that, had its career not been cut short by Spanish conquest, it might have attained to a great height, and confirmed their views of history. ! But what reason is there to think that Mexico would ever have advanced beyond great buildings created by slave labor, human sacrifices, and abominable vices ?"* But need I attempt to prove that Christianity is connected with the progress of the race; that it originates much that is connected with that progress; that it attaches itself to all that is connected with progress ? Look at the press. If Christianity did not originate the * Lectures on the Study of History, by Goldwin Smith, p. 121, 123.
discovery of the art of printing; yet that discovery was not made in China, where it might have been supposed it would have been; where, from time immemorial, they had the art of printing solid pages from solid blocks of wood, and where all that was necessary to complete the art was to saw their blocks into separate letters—and yet Chinese genius was exhausted when it had invented the block; Chinese stolidity arrested the progress there, and left the invention to be stricken out, as God intended it should be, in connection with the Christian religion. If, too, the Bible was not the first book that was printed, it was one of the first; and it has been, and is even now, the book most frequently printed since. Look at a missionary ship. The missionary himself goes as among the best representatives of Christian lands, and of the highest form of Christian civilization—trained in Christian civilization, educated in the best schools, imbued with the best forms of learning, instructed in science and the arts. We know what he will take with him to the benighted lands to which he goes—the press, the telescope, the quadrant, the compass. We know what he will do when he gets there. He will set up the press; he will create a written language if there be not one existing; he will open a school; he will found a college; he will introduce the arts of life; he will preach the Gospel—the source of all that which has transformed Huns, and Vandals, and Goths, and Saxons, and Celts into the civilized nations of Europe, and which has made Germany, and France, and Holland, and England, and Scotland, and our own land, what they are.*
* For a farther and a more full illustration of the subject, going into details which the time would not permit in this Lecture, I may refer to the Lectures on the Study of History, by Goldwin Smith, p. 146
I have not exhausted this subject. I have scarcely entered on it.
I might dwell on the argument derived from the fact that the Gospel does not, like other religions, become effete, obsolete, and die out; that it imparts peace and comfort to the sorrowing and the sad-^an arrangement in its very nature based on the idea that man is a sufferer; that it gives peace to the troubled conscience— an arrangement also in its very nature based on the idea that man is a sinner, and that the consciousness of sin gives a peculiar form of distress to the soul; and that it gives peace in the hour of death—an arrangement also in its very nature based on the idea that man must die—lighting up the dark valley, and takirfg away its " sting" from death, and its " victory" from the grave.
But there is one point involving the necessity of so much illustration that it can not be entered on now, and yet which is so essential to the argument that it could not be made complete without it. It is the relation of Christianity to the present stage of the world's progress in science, civilization, and the arts. That point will be reserved for the next, the closing Lecture.
Meantime, the inference which I would wish to draw from the argument presented this evening is, that such a religion must be from God.
This is an argument which we may use now, but which the apostles could not have used, and which could not have been employed by the early " apologists" for Christianity as it can be now. The experiment as to the actual adaptation of the scheme to the wants of man had not then been made. With them it was mainly theory, and there was as yet no experience to which
156. I may also refer, for general illustrations of the whole subject, to Lecky on the History of Rationalism in Europe, vol. ii., p. 222- 357.
they could appeal. With all that could be alleged from miracles, and prophecy, and the character of the Founder of the system, and the evidence of his resurrection from the dead and of his ascension to heaven, still it might be said that its adaptation to the real wants of man as a creature and a sinner had not then been tried. Who could tell whether, in the more advanced periods of the world's history; in the changes which would be made in human affairs; in the development | of the powers of man in the future; in the progress in j science and in the arts which the world would make in future ages, this religion, with all that seemed to , them to be fitted to the wants of man, might not show itself insufficient to meet those wants, and pass into forgetfulness, as many systems of philosophy had then done, and as most of the religions of the world were then doing ? Who, without the gift of prophecy, could then tell whether this religion would be found to be so adapted to the nature of man as to meet him with what would be needful in these new situations, and still maintain its position in advance of all that philosophy, science, and art could do for him ?
We now are in a situation to answer these questions. Eighteen hundred years have passed away, and they have been such in the changes occurring in society; in the progress of the race; in the developments of the human powers, that it may be assumed that if the religion has been found to be adapted to the wants of man in those eighteen centuries, it will in all the centuries to come.
The sum of what I have said in this argument is this: That the system of Christianity is based on a profounderview of human nature, and of the wants of man, than has been taken in any other system of religion, or than in any system of philosophy; that the arrangements which have been disclosed in the system are such as man would make if he had the wisdom and the power to make them himself—such as he has been struggling for and panting for in all ages, and all over the world; that these arrangements are, for the most part, wholly beyond the reach of the native powers of man—involving the necessity of an atonement for sin which man could not make; anticipating the wants of our nature in every new age of the world, and in every new phase of society ; keeping up with the world in its progress, and still in advance of it—in the fact that unnumbered millions of the race, in all situations and ranks, have found in it an answer to the questions which men so naturally and properly ask about God and eternal i things; in the fact that it has given peace in hundreds of millions of instances to consciences troubled by sin; in its influence on society—on woman, on slavery, on domestic comfort, on the arts of life, on liberty, on governments and laws, on habits, manners, and customs; in the fact that it has, from numberless eyes, wiped away the tears of sorrow, and that it has given support, peace, triumph in hundreds of millions of cases on the bed pf death. Perhaps I might have made the argument much shorter. I might have staked all on this one point—as I do now—A Religion That Will PrePare A Sinful Man To Die, And That Will Give Peace
ON A DYING BED, MUST BE FROM GOD.