Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/383

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

horrors, killed and devoured children, and gave themselves up to frightful excesses. Scarcely any evils were attributed to the Jews in the middle ages by Christian fanatics which had not been before attributed to the Christians by heathen superstition."

It would be well if our theologians would remember these things when tempted to deal out their maledictions upon scientific men as propagators of atheism. For the history of their own faith attests that religious ideas are a growth, and that they pass from lower states to higher unfoldings through processes of inevitable suffering. It was undoubtedly a great step of progress from polytheism to monotheism; as it was certainly a most painful transition to lose the idea of a social hierarchy of human or superhuman immortals constantly mixed up with human affairs and the working of Nature, and to substitute the idea of a solitary divine personality, related to mankind chiefly through a special theological scheme. But this was neither the final step in the advancement of the human mind toward the highest conception of the Deity, nor the last experience of disquiet and grief at sundering the ties of old religious associations. But if this be a great normal process in the development of the religious feeling and aspiration of humanity, why should the Christians of to-day adopt the bigoted tactics of heathenism, first applied to themselves, to use against those who would still further ennoble and purify the ideal of the Divinity? It cannot be rationally questioned that the world has come to another important stage in this line of its progression. The knowledge of the universe, its action, its harmony, its unity, its boundlessness and grandeur, is comparatively a recent thing; and is it to be for a moment supposed that so vast a revolution as this is to be without effect upon our conceptions of its Divine control? Is it rational to expect that the man of developed intellect, whose life is spent in the all-absorbing study of that mighty and ever-expanding system of truth that is embodied in the method of Nature, will form the same idea of God as the ignorant blockhead who knows and cares nothing for these things, who is incapable of reflection or insight, and who passively accepts the narrow notions upon this subject that other people put into his head? As regards the Divine government of the world, two such contrasted minds can hardly have anything in common. "As a man thinketh, so is he;" and as a man is, so will he think. If he is ignorant and stupid, his contemplation of divine things will reflect his own low limitations. He will cling to a groveling anthropomorphism and conceive of the Deity as a man like himself, only greater and more powerful, and as chiefly interested in the things that he is interested in. If he delights in the pious excitement of "revivals," he will think of the Almighty as the patron of camp-meetings, and as watching from on high with special solicitude the doings of Moody and Sankey in Boston. It is superfluous to say that men who look upon the universe as science has disclosed it cannot much sympathize with this view of the Deity and all that it implies. The profound student of science will rise to a more spiritualized and abstract ideal of the Divine nature, or will be so oppressed with a consciousness of the Infinity as to reverently refrain from all attempts to grasp, and formulate, and limit the nature of that which is "past finding out," which is unspeakable and unthinkable. Religious feeling may be awakened in both those minds; but its inspirations and its accompaniments will be as wide asunder as the poles. Our religious teachers ought in these days to have liberality enough to recognize this serious fact, and remembering that human nature is religiously progressive, as well as progressive in its other capacities, should abstain from copying the