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popular ministry will not answer one of the awful questions that gnaw at the root of religion. America is not waiting for your fervor, volubility, or denominational activity. Her most dangerous and subtle intelligence, grown sick of that, has left the pews to those for whom texts are authorities. She waits to hear and to confess the retort of a faith that is as great as her intelligence; to have you proclaim an atonement that washes the head in the blood of the heart, and obliterates the whole discrepancy. Will you thus bring strong men to God? Then you must seek out a more excellent way than any of the sects can furnish.
The pulpit has done its best to create an impression that science and religion occupy different domains, which are liostile to each other. Nature is said to be the source of one; revelation, of the other. As soon as the attempt failed to harmonize the two by accommodation of old texts to novel facts, the ban was pronounced more distinctly than ever by removing religion into a class of enotions, a mystical inward condition, and a practical ethical behavior. Science was an intellectual reconstruction of nature. Religion was Scriptural authority conspiring with intuitive feeling. The next step taken by the representatives of religion has been the fatal one; to drive science into indifference or zealous atheism, and religion into hatred of the logical sequence of nature. The step was to declare that the logical sequence was incapable of confirming the human sense of dependence and the divine existence, and was at least neutral on the point of the independence and immortality of persons. Now religion need not wait for science to make the necessary advances towards a unity of all real tendencies. Let her take the next step. Let her appropriate the subsidies of science. They are as religious as our finest emotion, because they show the divine method and purpose by means of all animate and inanimate things. If they show this, there appears a divine unity which is expressed by means of the whole of human nature: not by one part alone, whether called intellect or spirit, head or heart; but by the whole human personality directly interpreting the whole of the divine agency, in an expression which cannot be raveled up. The whole seamless web of a
human soul is the whole divine word, without syllables even, of which one might be science, and one religion, but one solid breath, flying through all atoms and functions at one moment, to animate and retain them.
There is only an apparent discrepancy because the men of science find the facts so absorbing. They exact the whole intellectual patience and integrity: they crowd upon the observer from all quarters with a pertinacity that has not been known before. A scientific man is obliged to renounce all other problems, and to be willing to appear irreligious while he really is collecting the refutation of his own apparent materialism. When this devotion is graced by modesty, as it is so often, and the student of nature sets to every other profession a rare example of diligence and zeal, which nothing seems minute enough to baffle, or grand enough to daunt, then we feel that his reticence upon religious questions is only a graceful surrender of a task that does not belong to him. When religious men blame his neutrality, or excessive surrender to his analysis, they ought to be reminded that the apparent discrepancy between science and religion is almost made a real one by their own unbalanced mysticism, and abject submission to the superstitiousness of sentiment.
But it cannot be a real one. The human mind is a unit because it has all the laws that all the facts require. God has made of one blood the head and the heart. They are both floating abreast upon it, exchanging signals. The capacity of the mind to classify and interpret all the facts is the finite side of the divine unity. And its effort to do this classifies religion also, strips her of many superstitious phrases, and makes her companionable to the lowest facts in the gradations of growth or the succession of animals. This is the reason why the religious man must borrow from science its mental method, in order that he may be in a condition to furnish to science his own primitive truths of religion. He will not care what previous conceptions he must modify about providence, the nature of evil, the position of man in creation, or the reality of spiritual experiences. He will be amply recompensed for the loss of every superfluous notion, and every word of devotional rhetoric, by the richness of the material which science brings to his proofs and illustrations of the Person God,
the individual man, the law of his freedom, and the continuance of his life.
You cannot become men of science, but you may learn its method, its laws of continuous development, its physical and social certainties; and you may enrich your appeals for a pure and ideal life in man and society, and for a childlike trust in a divine paternity, by spoil from every province of the earth, sea, and sky. If science has not yet exhausted God, she has not gone too far for you to follow, that you may learn his ways, and show them unto men.
For there is in man this necessity to observe, followed, step by step, and watched, by this necessity to interpret. The earth started with it in the first man; with this twofold unity of seeing the visible, and implying the invisible; of noting objects, and fitting to them a creative presence. Through all the gradations of intelligence, from the lowest barbarous condition, mankind has furnished a God to every phenomenon, a moral law to every conscience, a soul to every body. The phrasing of these primitive truths grows clearer with every accession of knowledge. Museums and explorations cannot make them obsolete. The more of God you collect, the more consistent and sublime becomes your faith. It would be very strange if the acquisition of created things should reach a point where the Creator might disappear, carrying off the legitimate hopes and laws of the soul.
The fine-grained old truths of religion have been deposited by the world's best life. Its age is theirs: but, although so many epochs and races went to make them, we use them now without a thought of their age or of the gravity of getting them well grown; like the beautiful ivory mammoth tusk, sticking six or seven feet out of the frozen ground in Alaska, which the Indians have used for generations as a hitching-post. Tribes come and go, and generations succeed each other; but we all hitch up to the solid truths which offer their convenience, embedded in
This unity of science and religion is declared emphatically by the anxiety and suspicion which have been engendered in millions of minds by the discovery that laws are invariable, and that nature, instead of being exorable,
is simply consistent, always, through every part of a man. How do you account for this deep dissatisfaction and unrest, if men are merely adjusted to perform sets of automatic actions, and can be put into a table of possibilities? Would a machine be disturbed if it had sense enough to discover its own inevitable operations? But men are now oppressed because the facts have gathered faster than the explanations; and when they turn for relief to religion, expecting that the counter-spell will be spoken, from her ideal world, they are met by idle assumptions of doctrine, are referred to texts, and threatened with the retributions of unbelief.
At the very moment when religion's opportunity first occurs to make the finite prove the infinite which she presumes, she continues the old prescription of church-extension, Bibleworship, claims of miracles, and conventional parish-life. Men everywhere testify to the identity of science and religion by their dread lest a diversity become established. They are sick with the deferred hope of union. Their sickness is a proclamation of the health of all the facts that are pretending to unsettle them. To convince them of this by boldly taking all genuine facts out of the hands of sciolism and newspaper knowledge, and putting them to the service of ideal truth, is the task of religion.
You will find that a proper mental method is a strong ally, into whatever province of reformation and philanthropy you choose to take your truths. It is the instrument of your enthusiasm. If you love men, and long, with all of God you can contain, to liberate them from vicious indulgences, and find them moral opportunities, you must work side by side with the men who discover the conditions of health, sanity, purity, and moral accountability. Their facts and estimates will serve you better than vague pulpit homilies that turn upon the difference between vice and virtue. Social science has for its object to acquire and maintain the personal health which develops the highest amount of personal volition, and liberates it from bad births, bad education, and bad neighborhoods. Religion should rejoice to have this practical companion for her love.
How religious the whole creation becomes as science passes to and fro, touching with her wand of order the
great heaps of matter, till they fall into line, and present their thought! A well-arranged series of fossils will furnish “sermons in stones” upon the direct creative presence. It is your province to take the facts out of the keeping of scepticism, which uses them to reduce God to a continuity of force. They are all ready to declare that he is a person of immediate and constant presence, of incessant thinking agency. No matter whether you incline to the theory of Darwin, that all varieties have been developed by means of varying natural conditions, in an unbroken and gradual series that offers no point for a direct creative interference; or whether, with Owen and Agassiz, you prefer to think that every epoch began with freshly created types, not derived from previous ones, and that the only development is in the underlying thought. Both of these theories presume a divine presence and a personal volition in the act of creation, as necessary to supply the line of vital thinking in Darwin's gradualism, as in the other hypothesis of successive and isolated periods. All the facts which support one or the other are God's distinct statements that he is on the spot. Science cannot be non-committal if she would. When she is the most reluctant to make confession of faith in a divine person, her investigations anticipate her reserve, and proclaim that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." This act of making is independent of all theories. Force cannot make anything until it is also made, and this keeps heaven close to the exigency of each moment: otherwise a constant force could not constantly create. What a body of a Creator science is unveiling to the gaze of religion ! Prick it anywhere, and you draw the blood of his presence.
I said it would be well for you to accept the mental method that has definitely broken with tradition, and is writing its own Scripture. God holds its hand, and guides the fumbling fingers through the old and new traces of his work. But your business is to use it to preserve the honor and gladness of human souls. You have a direct commission to their moral and spiritual life: they must share the moral certainty of your aspiration. They want the encouragement of your own purpose to be faith