Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/629

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"NATURAL RELIGION"

We may pass over the first objection to natural religion, viz., that it is not natural, because the argument appears a mere play upon words. Natural religion is called so because it differs from supernatural religion; because it is the religion that is deducible solely from the course of Nature, from the observance of the laws that govern the world in which we live. But it is also objected that the religion inculcated by civilization without supernaturalism is one that is not binding, one which ice can in our hearts defy.

But are virtue, truth, and love less realities in life because we have dissociated from them the mythology in which they were originally bodied forth to the primitive mind—the clothes which were originally wrapped around them? Listen to the eloquent words of a recent writer: "We must suffer with Christ whether we believe in Him or not. We must suffer for the sin of others as for our own, and in this suffering we find a healing and purifying power and element. This is what gives to Christianity, in its simplest and most unlettered form, its force and life. Sin and suffering for sin; a sacrifice, itself mysterious, offered mysteriously to the Divine Nemesis, or Law of Sin—dread, undefined, unknown, yet sure and irresistible, with the iron necessity of law. . . . Virtue, truth, love, are not mere names; they stand for actual qualities which are well known and recognized among men. These qualities are the elements of an ideal life, of that absolute and perfect life of which our highest culture can catch but a glimpse. As Mr. Hobbes has traced the individual man up to the perfect state, or Civitas, let us work still lower, and trace the individual man from small origins to the position he at present fills. We shall find that he has attained any position of vantage he may occupy by following the laws which our instinct and conscience tell us are Divine."[1]

Yes! these laws are divine—not because we can see the legislator, not because they were supported in the past by supernaturalism; but because they rest upon our subjective consciousness, supported by science, by poetry, and the history of the life of man upon the earth; because they are vouched for by voices, of the wise in all ages, and because they have become part of ourselves. And we have to obey these laws, not because we fear punishment in another would, but because the violation of them is followed by remorse and disaster in this; we have to do right, because it is right, because we can only attain the full perfection of our natures by doing so, because humanity will have it so. Mr. Mallock pointed out that, while science has reduced the earth to insignificance, has robbed it of its glory as the center of the universe, and man of his boasted eminence as the special pet of the Creator, still an intense self-consciousness has been developed in the modern world. "During the last few generations man has been curiously changing. Much of his old spontaneity of action has gone from him. He has become a creature looking before and

  1. "John Inglesant," chapters xxiii, xxxix.