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thoughtful, that it takes opposite sides of this question according to the department of life to which it is applied. If it is the spiritual department, the whole drift of the age is towards in wardness, with denial of, or indifference to, any force or value in environment. Faith and spiritual condition are deemed so wholly interior in their sources and arena of action, that they are hardly allowed a place even in conversation ; much less do they require an environing form and habit. But if the question refers to education, to health, to social habits, to culture, there is a disposition to make much of environment. Strange inconsistency of an age that imagines itself logical! It has taught us the great word and truth of environment; we ask it to be consistent in its application of it.
This word environment has become a sort of keyword in modern thought. It would not have so fastened itself on common speech were there not a fresh and intense sense of some truth for which it stands. It is an old word, as old as the language, but the fact or force that it represents is far larger, or rather is far more plainly recognized, than heretofore. The ancient and also the eternal truth is that man grows from within out. It is from within, — thoughts, principles, beliefs, desires, affections, purposes, — that a man's life takes shape. This is eternal, unchangeable truth; the Christ declared it, the poets and philosophers repeat it, it underlies the great theories of education, it is the first principle of the Christian faith. But all truth is double. Man grows also from without. If the seed
of growth is sown within him, the moisture and light and air that determine the growth are from without.
It has been recognized of late that the environment of men has affected them far more than has been supposed. The immense variety in all animal life is, how far we know not, but to an immense degree, the result of varying external conditions, or change of environment. The favorite scientific thought of the day holds to a certain unity of life at the outset, and that the variety is due to external
This probably is not a universal truth, but it is a truth of immense sweep. Physically, man is molded by climate, by food, by occupation. Mentally he is molded by institutions, by government, by inherited beliefs and tendencies. It is a truth of wide range and significance, and just now rather overshadows the other and greater truth, that man grows from within, and has his shape in a spiritual germ wrapped up in himself.
There is, however, a general inconsistency in its application. In the natural sciences, especially those pertaining to plants and animals, the environment is studied quite as much as the nature of the plant or animal. So the peculiarities of races and nations and communities are explained by their surroundings; there is less talk of blood and more of condition. The social science of the day plays about the external condition of the degraded masses, and wisely so, for the without must be reformed as well as the within. In short, in every department of thought except one, there is a deep sense of the value and power of environment.
The department from which it is excluded is religion ; everywhere else proper external conditions are insisted on; the organization of society must aid and reflect its culture; a city must have public buildings and institutions that correspond to its growth; the value of art in shaping mind and character is thoroughly felt, the influence of good houses, pure air, sweet water, shapely architecture, fine proportion and color is everywhere recognized, and justly. But when we come to religion, we find that the favorite thought of the day has halted.
There is no graver accusation to be brought against the age than this inconsistency, and especially on the part of those who make the most of environment, emphasizing it everywhere until they come to this part of life, where they stop and say:
Religion is a spiritual matter; it is all within ; it is something not to be spoken of; a spirit of reverence is all that is needed go; be humble, but you need not pray ; fear God, but you need not trouble yourself about church or worship; keep children pure, but don't burden their minds with the forms of religion.” We recognize in this a very general and popular habit of thought, especially in two classes, the scientific class, and the vast bulk of the people who have caught its way of thinking. There are two classes yet exempt, — the humble, believing class, and the few who are too intelligent to be deceived by the transient fallacy.
I think those of us who still hold on to the value of the external forms of religion may well ask of
the form may
those who do not, to be consistent. They have taught us the immense truth in that word environment; we ask them, by their own logic, to carry their idea into religion, instead of coming to a dead halt on its threshold. We ask them not to turn their backs on their philosophy by making the spiritual culture of a man an exception to his physical and mental culture. We ask the man who is particular that his children should live under the disciplining influence of fine art, and good society, and beautiful scenery, and healthful surroundings, to act on the same wise principle in training his children in eternal morality. As things are going, the latter is left out; the forms of religion are passing away from the family; there is no daily grace over meat, no household prayer and hymn, no systematic teaching of religious truth and duty; the church is void of children ; young men, for the most part, do not attend church; the act of worship no longer is esteemed of value for the young; the great mass hold it to be of small importance for any. And so the entire matter of environment in religion is dropping away from society more and more. It is a fact of immense significance that young people no longer frequent the churches, -- which means that a generation is coming on that is not trained in worship and religion. What will come of it cannot be accurately foreseen; but it will be a state properly named as atheistic.
The difficult point to contend with in this state of things is a certain conceit and assumption of superiority. It used to be said that the religious
man assumed to be better and wiser than the outsider, but to-day it can be said that the assumption is on the other side. There is a suppressed sneer for those who still go to church, and worship God in any outward way. It is a common and not suppressed boast, especially on the part of young men, that they are “not much of a churchman," for such is the phrase for stating that they have thrown away the whole thing, - outgrown it, they claim. They rather pity you that you also have not outgrown it, and look down upon you from their agnostic heights as very deluded and quite behind the age. There is nothing so difficult to contend with as conceit, unless it be fashion, and, alas ! this practical atheism is supported by these two buttresses. The man who still holds on to the forms and strict observances of religion meets a subtle current of mild, pitying contempt. The young man who goes to church puts himself outside the vast majority, whose jeers are not lacking.
The reason of this inconsistency is that, as yet, there is but little recognition of any environment except a physical one; there is failure to see that our twofold nature implies a twofold environment; that as a material world enfolds the body and plays into it with educating forces, so there is a world of moral and spiritual fact that is the theatre and condition of moral and spiritual culture. I am aware that the reality of this world is questioned. But let us consult the poets, who are the best philosophers. It is in the very essence of poetry that it recognizes this double environment;