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will of people — no, indeed, but the incapacity for confirming themselves there.
The church is not large enough for the man, it cannot inspire the enthusiasm which is the parent of everything good in history, which makes the romance of history. For that enthusiasm you must have something greater than yourselves, and not less.
The child, the young student, finds scope in his mathematics and chemistry, or natural history, because he finds a truth larger than he is; finds himself continually instructed. But, in churches, every healthy and thoughtful mind finds itself in something less; it is checked, cribbed, confined. And the statistics of the American, the English, and the German cities, indicate the necessity, which should have been foreseen, that the church should always be new and extemporized, because it is eternal, and springs from the sentiment of men, or it does not exist. One wonders sometimes that the churches still retain so many votaries, when he reads the histories of the church. There is an element of childish infatuation in them which does not exalt our respect for man. Read in Michelet, that in Europe, for twelve or fourteen centuries, God the Father had no temple and no altar. The Holy Ghost and the son of Mary were worshipped, and in the thirteenth century the First Person began to appear at the side of his son in pictures, and in sculpture, for worship, but only through favor of his son. The mortifying puerilities abound in religious history. But as soon as every man is apprised of the Divine presence within his own mind, is apprised that the perfect law of duty corresponds with the laws of chemistry, of vegetation, of astronomy, as face to face in a glass; that the basis of duty, the order of society, the power of character, the wealth of culture, the perfection of taste, all draw their es
sence from this moral sentiment, then we have a religion that exalts; that commands all the social and all the private action.
What strikes me is the sudden movement which brings together to-day so many separated friends, separated but sympathetic, — and what I expected to find here was, some practical suggestions by which we were to reanimate and reorganize for ourselves the true church, the pure worship. Pure doctrine always bears fruit in pure benefits. It is only by good works, it is only on the basis of active duty, that worship finds expression. What is best in the ancient religions was the sacred friendships between heroes, " the sacred bands, and the relations of the Pythagorean disciples. Our masonic institutions probably grew from the like origin.
The close association which bound the first disciples of Jesus is another example; and it were easy to find more. The soul of our late war, which will always be remembered as dignifying it, was first, the desire to abolish slavery in the country, and secondly, to abolish the mischief of the war itself, by healing and saving the sick and wounded soldiers, — and this by the sacred bands of the Sanitary Commission. I wish that the various beneficent institutions which are springing up, like joyful plants of wholesomeness, all over this country, should all be remembered as within the sphere of this committee, — almost all of them are represented here, —and that within this little band that has gathered to-day, should grow friendship. The interests that grow out of a meeting like this, should bind us with new strength to the old eternal duties. I will not detain you a moment longer.
REMARKS AT THE SECOND ANNUAL MEETING OF THE
FREE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION, AT TREMONT TEMPLE, FRIDAY, MAY 28, 1869
I THINK we have disputed long enough. I think we might now relinquish our theological controversies to communities more idle and ignorant than we. I am glad that a more realistic church is coming to be the tendency of society, and that we are likely one day to forget our obstinate polemics in the ambition to excel each other in good works. I have no wish to proselyte any reluctant mind, nor, I think, have I any curiosity or impulse to intrude on those whose ways of thinking differ from mine. But as my friend, your presiding officer, has asked me to take at least some small part in this day's conversation, I am ready to give, as often before, the first simple foundations of
- that the Author of Nature has not left himself without a witness in any sane mind; that the moral sentiment speaks to every man the law after which the universe was made; that we find parity, identity of design, through nature, and benefit, to be the uniform aim; that there is a force always at work to make the best better and the worst good. We have had, not long since, presented to us by Max Müller, a valuable paragraph from St. Augustine, not at all extraordinary in itself, but only as coming from that eminent Father in the Church, and at that age in which St. Augustine writes: “ That which is now called the Christian religion existed among the
ancients, and never did not exist from the planting of the human race until Christ came in the flesh, at which time the true religion, which already subsisted,
ti began to be called Christianity.” I believe that not only Christianity is as old as the Creation, - not only every sentiment and precept of Christianity can be paralleled in other religious writings, — but more, that a man of religious susceptibility, and one at the same time conversant with many men, — say a much
ld travelled man, — can find the same idea in numberless conversations. The religious find religion wherever they associate. When I find in people narrow religion, I find also in them narrow reading. Nothing really is so self-publishing, so divulgatory, as thought. It cannot be confined or hid. It is easily carried; it takes no room; the knowledge of Europe looks out into Persia and India, and to the very Caffirs. Every proverb, every fine text, every pregnant jest, travels across the line; and you will find it at Cape Town, or among the Tartars. We are all believers in natural religion; we all agree that the health and integrity of man is self-respect, self-subsistency, a regard to natural conscience. All education is to accustom him to trust himself, discriminate between his higher and lower thoughts, exert the timid faculties until they are robust, and thus train him to selfhelp, until he ceases to be an underling, a tool, and becomes a benefactor. I think wise men wish their religion to be all of this kind, teaching the agent to go alone, not to hang on the world as a pensioner, a permitted person, but an adult, self-searching soul, brave to assist or resist a world: only humble and docile before the source of the wisdom he has discovered within him.
As it is, every believer holds a different creed; that is, all the churches are churches of one member. All
our sects have refined the point of difference between them. The point of difference that still remains between churches, or between classes, is in the addition to the moral code, that is, to natural religion, of somewhat positive and historical. I think that to be the one difference remaining. I object, of course, to the claim of miraculous dispensation, - certainly not to the doctrine of Christianity. This claim impairs, to my mind, the soundness of him who makes it, and indisposes us to his communion. This comes the wrong way; it comes from without, not within. This positive, historical, authoritative scheme is not consistent with our experience or our expectations. It is something not in nature: it is contrary to that law of nature which all wise men recognize; namely, never to require a larger cause than is necessary to the effect. George Fox, the Quaker, said that, though he read of Christ and God, he knew them only from the like spirit in his own soul. We want all the aids to our moral training. We cannot spare the vision nor the virtue of the saints; but let it be by pure sympathy, not with any personal or official claim. If you are childish and exhibit your saint as a worker of wonders, a thaumaturgist, I am repelled. That claim takes his teachings out of logic and out of nature, and permits official and arbitrary senses to be grafted on the teachings. It is the praise of our New Testament that its teachings go to the honor and benefit of humanity, — that no better lesson has been taught or incarnated. Let it stand, beautiful and wholesome, with whatever is most like it in the teaching and practice of men; but do not attempt to elevate it out of humanity by saying, “ This was not a man,” for then you confound it with the fables of every popular religion; and my distrust of the story makes me distrust the doctrine as soon as it differs from my own