The New Religion of Nature (1864)

The New Religion of Nature.


Delivered before the Alumni of the Cambridge
Divinity School, July

  It is our privilege, gentlemen, as we meet from year to year, to feel that we meet tor a purpose: that there is something to be said, and something new to be said, each time we greet. We do not come to repeat truisms; or revive the memory or traditions; or measure ourselves by accepted standards old thought; or take comfort in the assurance of our intellectual and spiritual stability. We believe, I think, that we have, in the twelve months gone, learned something in regard to our past, and received more light on our future. We look for contributions to our fund of Truth, and are disappointed if we must part, with no fresh conviction, promise, or comfort. We know that the world has been moving, and that we have been moving with it: that time has not stood still—nor the soul; that God has been working hitherto, in the realm of spirits no less than in the realm of matter; and the purport of that working for ourselves we would know. The age, we are sure, yields to the spirit, which is of all ages. And we would place ourselves for a moment at a point which commands its drift, and shows us how we stand adjusted to it: whether in antagonism or in sympathy—whether in advance of it, or abreast of it, or behind it.

  For it is admitted truth now, that the thought of a period represents the life of the period, and affects that life by its reaction on it; and therefore, they who would move strongly straight forward must move with its providential current. It is not ours to remold the age—to recast it, to regenerate it, to cross it or struggle with it, but to penetrate its meaning, enter into its temper, sympathize with its hopes, blend with its endeavors—helping it by helping its development and saving it by fostering the best elements of its growth. The interior spirit of any age is the spirit of God; and no faith can be living that has that spirit against it: no Church can be strong except in that alliance. The Life of the time appoints the creed of the time and modifies the establishment of the time.

  Let me, friends, according to my light, indicate the position in which we have come to stand and the work that is set for us to do. In studying the characteristics of the age we live in, it is not possible that precisely the same features should strike all eyes, or that any one observer should touch the essential peculiarity in a way to satisfy all. But as you have requested me to give my judgment to-day, you will find no fault with rue for giving mine, and will kindly weigh its worth or its worthlessness in scales of candid criticism.

  Among those who are counted prophets in the new dispensation, none is greater than Chemistry. It is a Natural Science, taking Nature in its largest sense. For while in the lower material sphere it pulverizes the solid substances of the earth—reduces adamant to vapor, and behind the vapor touches the imponderable creative add regenerating forces—in the upper Intellectual sphere it grinds to powder the mountainous institutions of man, resolves establishments into ideas, and behind the bodiless thought feels the movement of that Universal Mind whose action we call the Holy Spirit.

  Our generation is distinguished above preceding generations by its instinctive faith in this discovery, and by its persistent efforts to avail itself of these fine vital forces. Not precisely a return to Nature, for we never went to her, but an approach to Nature, is the general tendency of things. Faith in natural powers is the modem faith—often unconfessed, sometimes disavowed, not seldom indignantly rejected, but constant still the only constant faith. Medicine says, “Lend the physical system a helping hand, and if cure is possible she will cure herself. Open door and window; gratify the love for light and air; put Dr. Sangrado out of doors; get rid of splint and bandage as soon as you can, that the joint may regain its own suppleness and the splinters of the bone may work themselves into their own places; water the physic and reduce drugs to n minimum; meddle not with the recuperative forces of the body.

  In Education the new method consults the aptitudes of the mind humors the natural bent of the genius, and tries to charm the faculties into exercise. The very word education—the mind’s leading out, as into fresh fields and pastures new—in place of the old word, instruction—the mind’s walling in, as with brick and stone—tells the whole story of our progress in this direction.

  In Social Science the popular theories favor the largest play of the social forces—the most unrestricted intercourse, the most cordial concurrence among men: free competition, free trade, free government, free action of the people in their own affairs—the voluntary system. The community, it is felt, has a self-regulating power, which must not be obstructed by toll-gates, or diminished by friction, or fretted away by the impertinent interferences of officials. Ports must be open, custom-houses shut: over-legislation is the bane.

  In the training of the young the doctrine comes into fair repute at last, that the disposition must be a natural growth, not a manufactured article; that each character has its own proper style, which must be considered, its own law of development, which must be consulted. If you have a lily in your garden you will not deal with it as you would with a sun-flower. The old system decreed uniformity—repression; the same treatment for every individual, and that a harsh one. Eradicate the special taste; shock the natural sensibilities; cross the working of the spontaneous being; break the disposition in. Now we consult our children’s dispositions: favor them and work with them as much as possible—substitute encouragement for rebukes and love for law. If a child goes wrong we throw the blame not on its nature, but on something by which its nature is limited, fretted and hampered. We do not know what it needs, or knowing, cannot supply it. The child is to be pitied for the misfortunes of its parentage or its environment, not punished for its depravity. Solomon’s rod is burned to ashes.

  In the discipline of personal character, again, the great mark of our generation is a deep faith in the soul’s power to take care of itself, and a desire that it may exercise that power to the utmost. The curer of souls learns a lesson from the physician of the body. Formerly, was one tormented by a doubt, he stopped thinking; now, he thinks harder. Formerly, was one saddened by a disbelief, he shut the skeleton in a closet under lock and key, and made useless from the haunting horror some of the most capacious chambers of his mind; now, he drags it out into the day, and sees it decompose under the action of light and air. Formerly, had one a sorrow, he rushed into his private room, darkened the windows, abstained from food, dressed in black, refused to see his friends, stocked his mind with melancholy thoughts, cherished repining, swallowed cup after cup of his own tears, and by blunting every natural instinct fancied he could, with the aid of a ghostly man, obtain supernatural grace; now, he takes more than common pains to keep his mind wholesome: he seeks the breeze and the sunshine, travels, calls in his friends, reads cheerful books, collects the utmost brilliant pieces of thought, opens his heart to the dayspring, sets himself some loving task that will make the fountains of charity and duty flow; would rather not see the priest, unless the priest can meet him, man-fashion, and give him, instead of ghostly consolations, the honest sympathy of a brave and hopeful heart. Formerly, was one afflicted with remorse of conscience, he stopped all the passages of self-recovery, sealed every fountain of joy ,and set himself to brooding with all his might on hell and the judgment; if a cheerful view of his case came up, he shut his eyes, that he might not see it; if one suggested that he was not quite so bad as he seemed, he exclaimed, “Get thee behind me, Satan, with your intimations that I am not hell-begotten and hell-doomed;” if a gleam of hope in regard to the future found its way to him through a chink in the shutter, he stuffed cotton in the chink; he made it his business to muse on his sin, to vilify his nature, to anticipate his ruin, to drape his Deity in black. Now, if one has a sin, he does his best to forget it—to outgrow it—to cover it up with a new and better life; he adopts a wholesome moral diet, and keeps his conscience in robust condition. The tacit assumption is that men forgive themselves, and are by men and God forgiven, when they rally to do better. So they put heaven before them in place of hell, and use their fault as a spur, not as a clog. Away with fears! away with despairs! away with devils! away with perdition! away with doom! “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise, take up they bed, and walk!”

  This familiar faith in the recuperative forces of Nature, and the regenerating power of the organic elements of the human constitution, holding thus in the highest departments of the mind, is disintegrating the old beliefs of mankind. The primeval faiths are decomposing under the chemical influence of this quick and subtile Naturalism. Walking the other day through a Roman Catholic convent with a priest of the New Catholic Church—the Catholic Church of Young America—I spied a confessional in a corner of the chapel. So I said to my companion—the New Church keeps the old box. “Oh yes, he solemnly replied; “oh yes, there is a great significance in that. There a man kneels face to face before the majesty of his conscience, and owns up squarely to his wrong-doing. It is a manly thing to do, and an education in manliness.” Not a word, you observe about confession as a sacrament; not a word about penance or priestly absolution; not a word about supernatural aid; not an idea suggested that might not suggest itself to a Protestant of the most heretical school. I seemed to see the old Mephistopheles sitting in the confessor’s robes, behind the grate, and listening with a leer to the penitent’s guilty tale.

  Protestantism has the poison in its heart. Dr. Bushnell complacently merges the supernatural in the natural, thus making over to natural causes the work of grace; and then, by deifying the Will, tries to reinstate the supernatural in the flesh. But while he carefully keeps open that little overgrown postern-gate for the lurking Deity, he does not perceive that through every door and window the Prince of this World marches in with his legion, and takes possession of the whole theological castle. The old flag may fly from the walls, but the guards are slain and the citadel is in possession of the foe. Regeneration resolves itself straightaway into Christian nurture, and the scheme of salvation is a process of home training.

  From our own Liberal Theology, the elements of unnaturalism, preternaturalism, supranaturalism, have disappeared almost as completely as they have from the systems of Science. Our fathers admitted naturalism into the understanding and the affections, but left the reason, the conscience, and the soul, under the dominion of traditional beliefs and instituted forms. They confessed the divine authority of custom and creed. They inhaled the ecclesiastical spirit and bent the head to the majesty of established law. They wore the clerical dress of the ancient régime. They were conservatives of the existing order of thought and practice. They dreaded impulse, and distrusted intuition, and feared the devouring appetite of the soul. The understanding was permitted to nibble away at the Scripture, and the heart was allowed to eat away a portion of the creed; but the core of neither could be touched. Their appeal was to the common persuasions of Christendom, and the appeal conceded the divine character of the main beliefs of the Christian world: antiquity was the test of truth; the miracle proved the doctrine; revelation, regeneration, redemption, salvation, were still weighty with something like the old accredited sense. Unconscious—as pioneers always are, of the idea involved in their own positions—allowing inconsistent elements to lie side by side among the first principles of its thought; external in its method of viewing truths, empirical in its mode of acquiring spiritual knowledge, dreading individualism, delighting in harmony of usage and form, judging rules of action by their consequences, satisfied with the outward appearances of order and excellence, magnifying good behavior—prophet of the moral and becoming; confessing a radical tendency to evil in man, which called for repression by all the ancient appliances of the criminal code, and made necessary a stringent doctrine of future retribution—the old Unitarian system struggled between the upper and nether millstones of Nature and Grace.

  We are far enough from that now: Naturalism has struck into the roots of the mind. One of our most revered men, occupying a position on the extreme right, writes a book entitled, “Christianity the Religion of Nature.” It is becoming a subtile and a deep conviction that the spirit of God has its working in and through human nature. The inspiration of the moral sentiments, the divine character of the heart’s affections, the heavenly illumination of the reason, the truth of the soul’s intuitions of spiritual things, are taking their place among the axioms of theological thought. The natural in every department quietly usurps the place and function of the supernatural. Revelation is the disclosure of truth to the active and simple reason; Inspiration, the drawing of a deep breath in the atmosphere of serene ideas; Regeneration, the bursting of the moral consciousness into flower; Salvation, spiritual health and sanity. Miracle is not a suspension or violation of law, but the fulfillment of an untraced law: the doctrine establishes the wonder; the humanity of Christ proves his divinity; the child of human nature is the true son of God; the guarantee of immortality is the feeling of immortal desires; the pledge of the kingdom is the undying hope of the kingdom—all the soul’s books are sacred scriptures:

“Out from the heart of Nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old.”

The creeds are man believing; the churches are man organizing his beliefs for work; the liturgies are man praying; the holy books are man recording his experiences; the psalms are man’s expression in words of his pious feelings; the rites and ceremonies are man expressing his feelings in symbols.

  The new Liberal Church understands itself, and triumphantly avows what the older Liberal Church sadly suspected. It has a perfectly consistent scheme of thought; it goes into the mind for its ideas; it admits the claim of spontaneity; its method of obtaining the truth is rational; the harmony it demands is harmony of principles—the orderly sequence of laws. “Show me causes,” it cries. “Let me into the motives of things; for issues and results I care not. Reveal to me the creative powers of goodness—the genesis of all excellence—that I may bring the semblances of goodness to judgment.” It is radical, disintegrating, anarchical, revolutionizing. It demands freedom for the individual, and for every part of him—from the part of him that touches the ground to the part of him that touches the heavens; subjects the ancient order to criticism and change and overturning; scouts the notion of inherent evil or sin or depravity, and looks forward with immeasurable hope to the greatening magnificence of the coming time.

  The extent to which Liberal Christianity has succumbed to this devouring spirit of Naturalism is indicated forcibly in the part it has played in the great drama now enacting in our country. Feeling the pulse of the age in every nerve, having faith in democratic institutions, because it has confidence in the human nature that is in man—the word Liberty always on its lips—thrilling instinctively to the popular tendencies—it was by no accident, or whim, or impulse of circumstance, that it brought the whole power of the moral sentiment to act against that institution which set every moral sentiment at defiance—that oldest and most tenaciously cherished institution of the earth—strong in ancient prescription, sanctioned by the authority of the greatest names, hallowed by holy Scriptures, dear to all conservative minds as a piece of the primitive rock of society. It has been distinguished for the natural earnestness of its protest against that great obstruction to the spontaneous movement and free play of man’s organic powers. It had no words strong enough to enunciate its verdict on that crime against human nature. In the terrific agitation which inflamed the southern mind to frenzy, and lashed the Northern mind to indignation—agitation which from the field of sentiment passed to the field of party polemics, and from the field of party polemics stepped out at length, armed for deadly duel, on the plain of war—this liberal Faith of ours has been known of all men as bearing a distinguished part. From Church, and Bible, and Government, and Society, and Organic Law, its children have appealed directly to natural justice, natural pity, natural sympathy, assuming that all saving grace was in the normal man. Its pulpits poured volley after volley into the consecrated inhumanity, and many a pulpit lost its brave soldier in the fight: the preacher abdicating or yielding to expulsion rather than strike on humanity’s flag.

  I think I am not wrong in saying that no bod of men, with such brave, hearty enthusiasm, accepted the civil war, at the first moment, as a struggle for the ultimate rights of universal man—a battle with the barbarism of the past—a life and death conflict between human nature, simple and free, and the unnatural, the preternatural, in the European systems. When others were deploring the sad necessity, and were dreading the disturbance of the old order of things, our men—our young men at least—and a few of our men are old, or ever will be old—flung up their caps and hailed the judgment-day with hope. They went into the regiments as army chaplains; they went as privates into the ranks; they took rifle in hand and died at their posts of honor; they worked the associations which were organized for soldiers’ relief; they urged the policy of emancipation; they went among the blacks as teachers. Their pulpits were draped with the flag and resounded with war sermons; their vestry-rooms buzzed with the laborers for the Sanitary Commission. They have been unwearied in their efforts and indomitable in their faith. They have believed in the divine decree of the crisis, and in the divine inspiration of the people. They saw no issue possible but liberty, and liberty was the mend-all and the cure-all—vindicator, consoler, regenerator, savior. They have never felt discouragement, save when the cause of liberty trembled in the scale of fortune; and that discouragement could not last, for they devoutly believed that at last servitude and servility must kick the beam. The army of the North was to them the church militant; and the leader of the army was the avenging Lord; and the reconstruction of a new order, on the basis of freedom for mankind, was the first installment of the Messianic kingdom.

  There is Naturalism pure and simple. The axioms of the Liberal Faith rush to their inferences under the logic of events. In this card we show our whole hand. The sacramental Catholic Church has no interest in the war, and less than none, probably, in the destruction of slavery. The aristocratic Episcopal Church is lukewarm. The conservative portion of the Calvinistic Protestant Church cannot heartily support a struggle which involves so much of social, moral, and religious radicalism. Some of the honored fathers of the Unitarian Church, not yet drawn into the current of Naturalism, suffered from a divided mind. But young Liberalism, which is Liberalism carrying out its principles, had no misgiving, but welcomed the grapple in the darkness between the old systems and the Word.

  And, now, friends, assuming the correctness of this description of the spirit and tendency of the time, and of our relation to it, shall we look forward to our immediate future as a religious body with hope, or with fear? Is this unquestionable, universal, all-absorbing and overruling tendency to Naturalism, rushing us into the pit, or impelling us toward the kingdom? It is doing one or the other. We are either all wrong or all right. The religious life and the secular life of the community go one way—the way of the moral life. If the times are out of joint spiritually they are out of joint politically, socially, and in every other respect.

  Of course it is impossible in a few minutes or in many minutes, it is impossible at all, as yet, to say what are or what are likely to be the results of the tendencies so many dread and so many welcome with delight. They have not yet transpired in history, and are matters, thus far, of conjecture merely. But as far as conjecture will go, on the trail of a principle, our attitude, as it seems to me is one of hope. The powers of Nature do their work well, and do it best the more they are emancipated. How self-sufficient is the constitution of things! How cheerful, and reliant, and self-sustaining, the elemental forces! With what matchless ease the organic laws preserve the unbroken order of the world, in the heavens above, the earth beneath, the waters under the earth! How enchanting the rhythm of their movement! What firm and exquisite grace as they urge the successive and infinite changes from the chaos to the cosmos! Unaided by forces outside of themselves, unassisted by the mechanism of rope, wheel, pulley, lever, they wear away primeval rock, lift mountains from their eternal base, convert forests into coal-beds, change gas into granite and granite back again into gas, take the cast-off shells of infusoriæ and metamorphose them into chalk and flint, shift the ocean margins, cut new channels for rivers, push up green continents from the bosom of the shoreless deep, and spread fields over the gloomy abyss; replace noxious plants, poisonous insects, destructive animals, with plants, insects, and animals, of higher form and greater usefulness. With the sweetest dignity and most unerring judgment they handle comets, planets, constellations, tossing the golden balls from center to circumference, and making the empyrean sparkle from bound to bound with the lively play of the flashing suns.

  Working thus in the material world, will the same immanent force work nothing in the spiritual? May we confine our conception of Law to the recognized system of the material universe? Must we not suspect at least that the perturbed will, the eccentric desires, the wandering wishes that whirl and flame along the moral empyrean, may also be held in its fine leashes? Creating such beauty in the realm of material nature, will it create none in human nature? Will the irresistible grace which makes the orbs of the solar system dance to their spheral music cause no lyric movement among the members of the human family? Can the fountain spirit set the springs among the hills flowing toward the sea, and can it not set the springs of love in the heart flowing toward their Infinite Ocean? Can the all-pervading breath alter the composition of the atmospheres, and can it not modify the commingling of the social elements? Can the pitying world spirit drape ruins with ivy and cover stones with moss, and cannot the quick spirit in man grow over a wasted life or adorn with loveliness a hard nature? Can the decomposing forces pulverize Alpine peaks, and yet fail in the attempt to convert a mass of iniquity into vapor that shall vanish away? Can the light touch of the solar beam cause the whole race of flowers to open their eyes to the sun and glitter with the hues of the diamond as they gaze, and will not the inner light in man induce men and women to seek the all-good? Can the sunbeam call the whole animal world into being and create the very civilizations of men, and shall the Sun of Righteousness be powerless to recreate the moral world and call into being the kingdom of God within us? Can the plastic powers of Nature arrange the leaves with mathematical precision on the stem of a plant, change leaf into flower and flower into fruit, and is there no plastic power in the very constitution of man, that can arrange the elements in human development, and from the raw material of passion and impulse create the perfect results of goodness? A singular inconsistency were it true! That there should be a living God in stocks and stones and none in hearts and souls—a living God in the solar system and none in the social system—a living God in the star-dust and none in the dust out of which God made man!

  No man can read history for other men, but as I read history it reveals to me the persistent effort of organic human nature to come at its prerogative of self-government; and a new outbreak of glory accompanies each new effort. The successive steps in the well-being of man were successive emancipations of natural power.

  The grand achievement of Christianity was the emancipation of human nature from its terrible Jewish thralldom. Its revelation seems to have been that men could judge for themselves what was right—could please God by being true to themselves—could find the blessed life by returning to the simplicity of little children—and could bring in the kingdom of heaven by yielding to the solicitations of kindness. Man greater than the Sabbath; man greater than the temple; man greater than the priesthood or the law. The religion was a consecration of Nature: the abolishment of the old oppressive hierarchies, and a cordial invitation to the heart to make a religion for itself. Just so far as it was in the deepest and purest sense “natural religion, just so far as it emancipated the moral forces of humanity—was it quick and quickening. Christ broke a fetter, and unmanacled man worked his way upward by the use of his hands. Christianity now stands for liberty of conscience and soul-freedom. It is another name for personal manliness and social justice. In some quarters it is a name for sobriety, temperance, chastity, and the finest physical condition which conformity with the natural laws will produce. It is a branch of the English Episcopal Church, remember, that has inaugurated muscular Christianity—the Christianity of the oar and the foot-ball. The name of Jesus is everywhere spoken in connection with the healthy normal development of mind and heart. The religion is the emblem—human nature is the creating power.

  We boast the superiority of Protestantism over Catholicism, as shown in the greater thrift, comfort, intelligence, of Protestant countries. Is it Protestantism as a system of dogmas or of appliances that cause the difference? Is it not human nature, which, under Protestantism, has a better chance? Catholicism fetters it: Protestantism releases it. Catholicism keeps it supine on its back: Protestantism sets it upright on its feet; and whatever progress it has achieved is due to the excellent use it has made of locomotive powers. It was not the free Bible that did the work of grace, but the free mind which set its busy hands to the task of picking up knowledge in every field, and very soon read the Bible, and a great many books beside, in a fashion that Luther and his friends did not like. The doctrine of justification by faith cause thick scales to fall from human eyes; and the eyes, once open, look straight into the verities of the moral and spiritual world. The doctrine of justification had no miraculous property—it was neither microscope nor telescope: the laws of spiritual optics helped men to see.

  Liberal Christianity takes credit to itself for the happy influence of its truth, on the unfolding of personal character, the sweetening of domestic life, the amelioration of the social state, the healing of the bruised and broken heart, the tranquilizing of the death-bed, the beautifying of the immortal hope. It is a great privilege to be able to associate such rich benefaction with the Liberal Faith. But the angel who opened Peter’s prison door did not give him the feet to leave the prison. The angel that rolled the stone from the door of the sepulcher did not resuscitate the Christ. Liberal Christianity but said to human nature: “Take up thy bed and walk;” manage your own economies; heal your own hurts; mend your own fractures; repair your own losses; construct your own scheme of providence; build your own house in the skies; work out your own salvation. Liberal Christianity was the first escaped slave—establishing an underground railroad for his comrades. It stands for opportunity, not for power. Its force is the force of its maker, MAN—force greater than was ever manifested before, because it is the force of the whole man. The Liberal Faith is better than others, because it allows more latitude than others. It unties more hands, and leaves men footloose, to go whithersoever they will. Do they go to perdition? It is our boast that they go to the kingdom.

  Human nature, under liberty, will vindicate itself as a divine creation. The freer it is, the more harmonious, orderly, balanced, and beautiful it is. The physical system proves it by the increased vigor and heightened enjoyment of men who obey the laws of their constitution. The intellectual system proves it by the beneficence of knowledge. The social system proves it by the diminishing vice, crime, turpitude, under the voluntary régime—a point by which I believe statistic will abundantly establish.

  The moral condition of the world proves it. Where conscience is freest it rights the most wrongs, removes the most evils, relieves the most poverty, corrects the most sin.

  The spiritual system proves it; for where the soul is freest it frames for itself the noblest, the most encouraging, the most beautiful, the most earnest faith. The very delusions it is led into, through its inexperience, are full of a fine enthusiasm and a boundless hope. The aberrations of its untried power serve, like Leverrier’s planet, to confirm at last the irresistible law of gravitation, which draws the souls to the great center—God. Its superstitions catch a light from the empyrean, instead of a shadow from the pit. The enormous moral heresies it blunders into have a gleam of splendor and a touch of sanctity in them, which redeems them from turpitude while they last, and quickly recuses them from the grave they menaced. Its daring infidelities burn with an ardor of aspiration which gives them all the air of saving faith, and makes the unbelief which is of nature looking more magnificent than the belief which is grace. Nature’s seers, running their eye along the line of the moral law, catch vistas in the future brighter than those were that now are fading from the Old Testament page; and Nature’s prophets, putting their ear to the ground, hear the murmur of nobler revelations than were ever given to the old oracles now moving their stiffening lips in death. Humanity’s heresiarchs are lordlier than inhumanity’s priests. The soul’s image-breaking is diviner than the prelate’s worship. Knowledge distances faith. Human solidarity more than makes good the Catholic’s communion. The revelation of universal Law makes the belief in miracle seem atheistical; and the irresistible grace of the spirit that lives and moves and discloses its being in humanity, sweeps past the dispensations of Catholic and Protestant Christendom, as the eagle distances the dove.

  It is not to be denied, gentlemen, that our position is beset with many perplexities, and that, as thinkers, we take our chance with the rest, who are seekers in the domain of positive knowledge. We discredit theology; we have conceived a distrust of system; we put not our faith in metaphysics. Our aim is the good we can reach, rather than the true which may be unreachable. If we are to have a philosophy of the universe we must find a new one: we must begin again: we must wait. The former things have passed away. The theological system of the old world is not for us under any guise. The spirit of it has fled. The virtue has departed from its sacraments, the meaning from its symbols, the sense from its formulas. Our bark has sunk to another sea, and speeds before other gales to another harbor. If the sea is not always smooth, or the gale always steady, or the harbor always in full view, as much may be said of every sea, of every gale, of every harbor which the ship of our humanity tries.

  It is enough to say that as yet no new and satisfying philosophy of the spiritual laws has been presented to us. Come it may, but come it has not. The only attempt made, of late, to restore theology to the rank of a science, and supply a philosophy of spiritual things, is the brave and earnest, the able and eloquent one, of Mr. Henry James; an attempt that has not had justice meted out to it, either on the score of its nobleness or of its power. But Mr. James’ effort is, after all, a magnificent tour de force—a desperate attempt to break through a problem it cannot solve. Mr. James seems to me as one who would get away from the consequences of naturalism without dislodging its principle. It is not enough to say that he admits—he contends for, he almost fiercely asserverates the sole and absolute unity of the divine life—the one principle—infinite, supreme, all in all, abounding and alone—the only Life in itself there is: essential Spirit, with no adulteration or admixture of evil. He contends for the immanence of the Spirit in the universe—for the immediateness and irresistibleness of its operation in man. He urges with unwearying iteration that the end of all this operation is the establishment of a normal social condition—a pure brotherhood of men on the earth. Ecclesiasticism, dogmatism, philosophy, are scourged pitilessly from the field, to make room for his unlicensed thought. But while thus giving rein to the most unchartered pantheism, while making man and all his faculties phenomenal—the will a kind delusion, the moral sense a disguised spy, the consciousness of personality an acute device by which man is induced beneficently to impose on himself, he posits depravity as absolutely as Augustine, and preaches regeneration as zealously as Whitefield. He would make pantheism undo its own work, and monotheism break into bitheism from its own weight. We submit that his one principle is overworked in this effort to get depravity without a demonic principle—a cursed earth without a devil—an evil nature without an evil law—a need of redemption from innate sin when an infinite love is the only life in the universe—an independent personality which can make struggle against God when all out of God is illusion.

  Surely the end in view does not demand such violent hypotheses. If the fraternity of man be the end sought, the Naturalism I have been explication—not enforcing—is leading us full surely to that. Thither all indications point. The conditions of a perfect social system are all given us, without revelation. God has made man for a harmonious system. Our common interest, our common need, our common sympathy, all cry for a common justice, and a common justice is the kingdom of God.

  Ours be it then, brothers, to do our work as we stand. It is good work if well done. It may not be final work, but it helps forward the final work. We are elaborating an episode, perhaps, in the poem of Progress; but the episode is part of the poem. Ours be it to help the age by sympathizing with the age—by interpreting the age itself—by fostering its hope, by furthering its endeavor, by keeping fair its promise, by guiding its aim, by balancing the movement of its dazed and inconstant will. Be it ours to represent and to deepen the religious spirit which is at the heart of it. It is enough for any sect to do this.

  Our prospects for the future, friends, are brilliant indeed. We are in the van of movement—we are among the leaders of the advance. That movement will gain an added impulse when the regenerating sword shall have extirpated the monstrous brood of evils which we call slavery, and cut that last knot of servitude which the wit of man has thus far failed to untie.

  The release of the national mind from its thralldom to the traditions of slavery will give new life to the Liberal pulpit. Relieved from the degrading necessity of teaching the alphabet of social morals; discharged from the shameful duty of proving that humanity is not human when its skin is black; disengaged from the vexatious and demoralizing struggle with men, over a question implicating their pecuniary and political interests, and put in amicable and honorable relations with the masses of intelligent people; permitted to devote their trained powers to the high questions which concern the personal, social, and spiritual well-being of mankind; able to breathe the air of serene ideas, and privileged to communicate truths of the noblest order to men who are willing to receive them; scholars and thinkers once more, sought for their wisdom, honored for their fidelity, beloved for their virtues—the clergy will come again into eminent favor. Young men of talent and promise will enter the ministry, as a career not unworthy of free and noble minds. They will not be bound to the slave-trader’s interpretation of Church, and Bible, and creed. They will not be held to the slaveholder’s reading of the lessons of history of the ways of Providence. They will not be compelled to use the slaveholder’s text-books in science or in philosophy, or to submit the manuscript of their sermons to the eye of his censor. Ah me! what shackles will fall when the negroes’ hands are untied! Teachers shall be teachers then; and priests, priests; and prophets, prophets; and we shall begin to see the time when men will be kings and priests to themselves, and all the Lord’s people will be prophets.

The Friend of Progress Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 1. Nov. 1864, pp. 1-9.