Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

ing man the laws of his life, the laws of this universe, the laws of his body, the laws of his mind, the laws of the relationship in which he stands to his fellow-men,- teaching him what these are, and seeking to bring to bear upon

him motives powerful enough to lift him up to the level of the accomplishment of these high things of which it speaks. This is the one thing for which all churches exist. From the lowest fetich worshipper, him who stands awe-struck and afraid before a stick or a curious stone or one of the lowest forms of life, clear up to Jesus, on the highest pinnacle of his grand spiritual thought, telling us of our Father who is in heaven, from the lowest to the highest, all religions seek this one thing, - the teaching of men how to live, how to obey the laws of their life so that they may attain their highest well-being, and realize the greatest possible degree and amount of happiness.

But churches, like political parties, are very apt to forget this one grand object, to lose sight of it all, and become absorbed in the means which they have discovered or invented for their purpose.

You are familiar with this in the history of political parties. It is the commonplace of discussion on this subject. A party becomes formed for some grand purpose. Inspired by devotion to human welfare, it becomes organized : its machinery is arranged and established, its officers are appointed. And, before we are aware of the perversion, we find it engaged simply in seeking to keep its machinery in order, seeking to keep certain officers in control, seeking mainly to perpetuate its own organization ; forgetting the country, forgetting humanity, forgetting the rights of the public, and living simply for the sake of its own machinery. I refer to this not as reflecting on one party or the other,- for none can plead guiltless of the charge, — not with any political purpose, but simply to illustrate the same truth as it runs through the ecclesiastical and religious life of men. Churches, too, come at last to live for the sake of their machinery, — to live for their rituals, to live for their creeds, to live for their rites, their ceremo

nies, their doctrines,- and forget that the one thing for which they stand is the helping of men. And, friends, I speak of this to-day not to reflect in the slightest degree upon the Catholic Church or the Episcopal Church or the Orthodox Church in any of its branches, but to bring the lesson home to ourselves. For bigotry and narrowness, and the sinking of the end in the means, an exclusive devotion to methods, and forgetting the grand things for which we exist, — these things are too common to be confined to any one party. They are not orthodox nor heterodox: they do not belong to our organization nor to any other organization, exclusively. They are human faults to which all men, by their very natures, are liable, and against which we need to be on perpetual guard. My purpose in referring to this, then, to-day is that, as we run over briefly and rapidly a few of the principal ends, methods, and ideas for which we stand, we may see the relation of these ideas or methods to the one grand end which is the only excuse for our existence.

Rejoicing in all the good that all churches are accomplishing,- for all are accomplishing good, — rejoicing in everything which they successfully attain for the welfare of mankind, let us come home to ourselves on this first morning of our new year's work, and ask : What is our watchword? For what idea do we stand ? What sets us apart distinctively and peculiarly, and makes us this church instead of the one on the next street or around the corner? What right have we to our being? Why have we organized ourselves? Why do we continue this organization? Why do we pour into the various channels the means and the money and the thought and the effort which continue and carry on the various labors in which we are engaged? As I said, all churches, fundamentally and at root, exist for one purpose, - the bringing of men to God, the lifting them up to the highest possibilities of their own life. We may believe that this church or that is not rightly adapted to accomplish the best results in this direction. That is our opinion, and that it is which keeps us where we are. And yet, friends, let us remember

accom

- what I sometimes forget, what we all sometimes forget that they equally think the same thing of us, and that they, according to their light, according to their ability, are seeking to do precisely that which we are seeking to do; and, though we may not be able to work together in the same organization, let us learn charity, tolerance, patience, and sympathy, and to rejoice in that which each can plish, though by whatever means.

Now let us, then, rapidly,- that I may reach something which is, to my mind, still more important, — let us rapidly run over two or three of the essential things we represent, and that make us this Church of the Unity instead of any other church. We stand, perhaps, primarily for liberty of thought : not liberty within the limits of a creed ; and a wider liberty than the limits of a book. I say not even a liberty that has for its outer limit any religious name. We stand for utter, absolute liberty of thought in all religious matters, believing that this is God's universe, that it is all his universe ; not simply that which is called Christendom, not simply that which is confined within the limits of a particular church or creed, but that this universe is all God's house. And we believe in pushing our investigation in every direction, flinging wide every door, casting light into every dark corner, believing we can discover nothing anywhere that shall dishonor our Father, nothing anywhere that is not perfectly safe, nothing anywhere which we may not make the means of lifting up our fellow-man and helping on his utter deliverance from ignorance and evil. This, then, we stand for. Is there any need of emphasizing this? I have no purpose to emphasize it this morning, but simply to call attention to it, and say that, so long as men in Scotland, in England, in Germany, in Italy, in France, men in America, men all over the world and in all the creeds, are paying penalties for the freedom they dare to exercise, so long there will be no need of our considering this emphasis we lay upon liberty as outworn and left behind. I have recently looked upon the block, upon the axe, upon the thumb-screw,

upon the instruments of torture which in old times were the price of a thought. Thank God, those barbarities are beneath our feet. But other barbarities remain. Invisible thumb-screws and blocks and axes and instruments of torture still exist, producing quite as exquisite pain. So long as these things are true, then, I say the necessity for our standing for liberty will not be outgrown. And yet, friends,and this is the point, and the only point, as bearing upon the end which I have in mind, running all through, — we do not stand for liberty as a thing. And just as other churches are in danger of making their ritual the end for which they exist, caring for the ceremony above the salvation of men ; just as they are in danger of fixing their attention upon the verbalities of a creed, and thinking of nothing else as being any higher or grander than this, so we equally are in danger of thinking, when we have stood and fought bravely for liberty, we have attained the end we seek. Liberty is nothing except an opportunity. Men have been engaged in blasting and blowing out the rocks that obstructed the harbor of New York. Why? So that ships might lay lazily at the wharf? They have done it to make an easy channel to the sea, and to all the lands of the world. Men at immense cost and labor have constructed the Suez Canal. Why? That they might spend their time in dredging it, and keeping it deep enough for the “Great Eastern ” to pass through? They have done it that there might be a roadway between the East and the West -- that Europe might reach out and take Asia by the hand, and that commerce and civilization might find means for interchange. Liberty, then, is simply opportunity. And if we fight for liberty and harp upon liberty and stand by liberty, emphasizing this all the time, while we forget to use liberty as an opportunity for the accomplishment of those things for which we ought to stand, then we are guilty of the same bigotry and narrowness and ritualism and ceremonialism that we may flatter ourselves we have outgrown.

We stand again for truth-seeking. Truth-seeking where?

Truth-seeking everywhere. And again, as I have said in regard to liberty, truth is not a thing. Truth is an abstraction. It is true thing ; it is true conditions of life; it is true pathways for men to walk in ; it is true methods by which men may live, that we must attain, if our life is to amount to anything. Go to your quarry and hew out your blocks of granite or marble, shaping them into most beautiful forms. But of what value is it, unless they be placed symmetrically, after the plan of some wise architect, one upon another, until walls rise and domes are hung in air, and there are grand and stately buildings for the home or the worship or the education of man? We want to seek truth, then, not for the sake of truth. We want to devote ourselves to truth, not for the sake of that as a thing, but simply that truth may be made the servant of our fellow-men.

Another thing that we stand distinctively for is the use of reason. Reason is the method by which truth may be discovered, by which the laws of life may be unfolded, by which we may find out what God desires us to be, by which we may seek for methods that are efficient in leading and lifting up mankind. But is reason a god to be worshipped, or a shrine before which we must kneel and deposit our offerings ? Reason is simply a method of accomplishing a result. It is a fetich, an idol, and worse than an abstraction, if we simply possess ourselves of reason, and do not make it more efficient than that which others use in seeking to accomplish similar results. We hold to reason, not because it has any divinity in itself, — or I, for one, hold not thus,but because I firmly believe that it is the best, and ultimately the only, way by which we can discover God's footsteps in the universe, by which we can find out his laws, by which we can discover the nature of man and his necessities, by which we can lead him home to his Father. If I believed there was any book, any authority, any church, that was a better guide to these ends than reason, I should certainly seek and accept them. I believe in reason, then, and you,

if

you of this church stand for reason, because ulti

« ElőzőTovább »