Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/627

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"NATURAL RELIGION."

ily, and all the pity that they have accumulated and, as it were, capitalized in institutions, political, social, and ecclesiastical, through countless generations" (pp. 65, 06).

The writer thus looks upon natural theology as the "true deduction of the laws that govern the universe," as the "science of the relation of the universe to human ideals," and the following are some of the questions that it has to answer: "Is there a reward for virtue? Is there a condensation for undeserved misery? Is there a sure retribution for crime?. . . In one word, is life worth having, and the Universe a habitable place for one in whom the sense of duty has been awakened?" (p. 61). On the other hand, natural religion is "worship of whatever in the known Universe appears worthy of worship," it "is no mere dull morality, for in the first place it is far wider than any morality, being as wide as modern culture, and in the second place, so far as it is moral and bears fruit in morality, even here it is no mere morality, but an historic religion of humanity" (p. 172). It is "the principle by which alone life is redeemed from secularity and animalism." "Thus, instead of saying that the substance of religion is morality, and the effect of it moral goodness, we lay it down that the substance of religion is culture, and the fruit of it the higher life" (p. 138).

The strong point of such a system as this lies in its fully recognizing the facts of spiritual development that the review of the past thirty years reveals, viz.: that the religion of the churches is but one among other religions of the present day; that the work, heretofore done by religion, in raising the general tone of life, is now really being accomplished by the separate influences that are summed up in what we call modern civilization. But along with religion in the old sense went something more. Part of its charm lay in the light it threw on the darkness which encompassed men's lives. "So seems the life of man," said one of the early English converts to Christianity, "as a sparrow's flight through the hall when you are sitting at meat in winter-tide, with the warm fire lighted on the hearth, but the icy rainstorm without. The sparrow flies in at one door, and tarries for a moment in the light and heat of the hearth-fire, and then flying forth from the other vanishes into the wintry dankness whence it came. So tarries for a moment the life of man in our sight, but what is before it, what after it, we know not. If this new teaching tells us aught certainly of these, let us follow it." Thus religion acquired part of its hold on the minds of men by ministering to their growing desire for knowledge. But the completion of knowledge only leads to the realization of our own ignorance, and the gospel of science with regard to the Unknowable is but the echo of the words of Hooker, that "our soundest knowledge is to know that we know him not as indeed he is, neither can know him, and our safest eloquence concerning him is our silence."