The progress of thought in the Church is forcibly shown to be a result of the progress of science outside the Church. The distinction between religion and theology is not new, but Mr. Beecher shows that it is wide and deep, and that religion must unload theology or sink with it. The doctrine of evolution is not only broadly accepted, but its coming is hailed as the greatest event of modern religions progress. It is destined to do what nothing else could so effectually do to sweep out of the way and into oblivion the great body of old orthodox theological dogma, by which the human mind has been perverted and enslaved for ages. We quote two or three passages, which will illustrate the positions taken by Mr. Beecher. After a brief but vivid statement of the working of the law of evolution upward through the various spheres of natural phenomena, until man and his higher development are reached, Mr. Beecher says:
The dread of Darwinian views is sincere; yet a secret fear prevails that they may be true. But have men considered what a relief they will be from some of the most disgraceful tenets of theology? Are they content to guard and defend a terrific scheme which sullies the honor, the justice, and the love of God against a movement that will cleanse the abomination and vindicate the ways of God to man? Even if the great truth of evolution led to unbelief, it could not be so bad as that impious and malignant representation of God and his government which underlies all mediæval and most of modern theology. We shall quote from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith the account given by the Church of the origin of man and of his moral government, in the light of which the scientific account of the origin of man and the nature of sin is as health to sickness, as life to death. Instead of dreading the prevalence of the scientific doctrine. Christian men should rush toward it with open arms and exultation as a release from the hideous nightmare of ages.
The tendency of recent scientific researches and disclosures respecting the mind of man and his origin and nature will be liar more pronounced upon the theories of theology than upon the institutions of religion. Christian churches are legitimate organizations for the development of religious emotion and for the application of truth to our daily life. Those churches which are organized for devotion will be less disturbed than academical churches which have hitherto aimed only to expound and defend a creed. But churches whose genius it is to develop religious thought, as distinguished from religious emotion, will gradually change, and the devotional element will take the place largely of the theologic, and the ethical the place of the philosophical.When the creeds of the past era have passed away, we shall enter upon the creeds of a new era. These will differ not alone in their contents from former doctrinal standards, but they will differ in the very genius and method of construction. Our reigning creeds begin with God, with moral government, with the scheme of the universe, with the great, invisible realm beyond. These are the weakest places in a creed, because the matters they contain are least within the