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but which are only the garments of life. What is curious in this progressive analysis--by which the soul comes to the conviction of its spirituality and infinitude, and of an infinite Spirit beyond and above itself, whom it should spiritually adore—is, that the conception of the infinite and of the Divinity, precedes the conception of the spiritual. It is after we have learned to distinguish between the divine and the human, the finite and the infinite in our mind, that we learn to distinguish between mind and matter. It is after we have trod the confines of the infinite, and bowed to God as the personation of the infinite, that we clothe him with the attribute of spirituality. But though the greater fact is preceded by the less, the reciprocity of their subsequent influence is not modified thereby. The spirituality of our souls, the infinitude of our souls, God as the source and emblem of infinitude, our adoration of Him as this source and this emblem,-promote and stimulate each other, without reference to the order of their arrival. Whenever they commence to operate co-actively, they commence also to operate as sympathetic agencies; the spiritual worship of the infinite God suggesting our own spirituality, or the idea of our own spirituality suggesting the worship of the infinite God, or the idea of infinitude suggesting both. This may seem mere theory, but it will seem so only to him who has never endeavoured to weigh the value and significance of his capabilities. To him who has, all that I have been saying will seem merely the transcript of his own mental retrospect; and for such only am I speaking
To attempt to illustrate the wisdom of Jesus to any
other class, is extravagant folly. The man who has not endeavoured to realise, in some form, the maxims of the great Teacher, is unfit to hear those maxims explained. He to whom they are a dead letter, will be certain to discover that the interpretation of them is obscure and sophistical. And though you must all have felt, at some period, that you are spirits, that God is a Spirit, and that they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth; still, if you have not made this a topic of frequent meditation, then all my enouncements respecting it will seem dull and meaningless, and dull and meaningless will seem the original enouncement of Jesus.
What is the condition of mankind in general with regard to religion? Do they spiritually worship the spiritual Deity? Do they consciously transfuse the conception of the infinite into its holy personation ? Not in the least. In as far as they have any religion, and they have all some, their religion is of a spiritual kind. But then, it is not a conscious reverence, but an unconscious mixture with the errors which, under the name of religion, they have embraced. They substitute symbolism for religion; and the honour that they pay to symbolic representations of God, they dignify with the name of adoration. Their communion with the Eternal, to the extent that it is spontaneous, is wholly a material communion. It is material in its motives, material in its utterance, material in the objects that it places before it as types of the Supreme. And to the extent that it is material, it can be characterised as nothing better than idolatry. For idolatry does not consist simply in the worship of stocks or stones, fantastically carved according to the taste or the fancy. It is the deification of matter in form whatever. I am as guilty of idolatry when I deify the universe, as when I deify any portion of the universe. And in this sense, how wide-spread is idolatry, from the most transcendent Pantheism down to the lowest brutalities of savage superstition! We are all idolaters; for we all, to a certain degree, allow the material to
overpower the spiritual, in our intercourse with God. And this degree will in a great measure depend, not on our education, not on our position, not on our advantages of knowledge, but on the amount of our introspective tendencies, and the nature of our introspective habits. Not our mental culture, but our moral consciousness, will be the determinator of the purity of our religion. Not what we have been taught, but what we spontaneously and consciously evolve from our spiritual nature, as a tribute to the King of beaven, will be acceptable to his mercy and affection. Just as we live in our own souls, and are familiar with their aspirings and capacities, shall we be religious. Just as we live in the material emblems of the Divinity, shall we be idolatrous. This is a simple test, simpler than all others that can be offered to your attention. Tell me not of your rapture at the
glories of creation; this is but a poetical and figurative emotion. Tell me not of your bold and comprehensive flights through space and time; this is but a vague effort to blend yourselves into pantheistic identity with infinitude. Tell me not of your ceaseless industry to unfold and to illustrate God's providential control; this is but giving tone and elevation to your scientific pursuits. In your heart are the true birth-place and theatre of your devotion. Bring, if you find it suitable, the glories of creation, the infinitudes of space and time, the arrangements of providence, to develope and to feed your spiritualism; but never make your spiritualism subservient to these. Feel evermore, that it is not the God without you, but the God within you, that demands your praise -a spiritual God, to be spiritually worshipped by your spiritual powers.
The materialism and the dogmatism of religion are inseparably connected. Spiritualism cannot dogmatise. The spiritualist, the man that worships God in spirit and in truth, feels that he has no right to interfere with the spirit, or with the spiritual worship of his fellow-men. How could be consistently interfere? Through wbat instrumentality has he arrived at his spiritual convictions, and at his spiritual commune with the Father of Spirits? Through an instrumentality wholly spiritual; through an instrumentality, therefore, wholly hidden from the knowledge and experience of any one but himself. He would regard it as an audacious folly, if any one were to pronounce dogmatically upon the modes and results of his spiritual progress, as a dangerous tampering with the dearest claims of his personal liberty. What, then, is his obvious duty toward the spiritual progress of all human beings? A duty of tolerance, a duty of unlimited forbearance; a duty that it would be insanity to avoid, inasmuch as the recognition of the mysterious, the unfathomable in the origin of his holiness, and the expression of his holiness, would more indispensably necessitate a recognition of the mysterious and the unfathomable in the holiness of his brethren, and in the expressions of holiness that gush from their bosoms. Whereas, the materialist, however constitutionally tolerant, cannot avoid dogmatising. His belief has always a relation to some sensible fact. Seeing that fact only with the eyes of sense, and not with the eyes of faith, he cannot help considering it as a voluntary perversion or voluntary blindness, if it is not as palpably seen and as firmly admitted by all to whom he chooses to indicate its existence. He may not persecute in consequence, for he may not bave the will or the power; but he cannot help forming a lower opinion of the moral truthfulness or the mental strength of his neighbour; and this is a species of persecution. And it may not stop merely with contempt, where there are both the will and the power to persecute. Where there is any sinister influence to serve, or any malignant feeling to gratify, dogmatism inevitably becomes persecution. All ecclesiastical records are a proof of it. So that we have to oppose materialism, not only because it is opposed to spiritualism, to the spiritual consciousness and appreciation of the individual, and to the spiritual communion of the individual with the spiritual Deity; but because it conducts to the cruelest atrocities of persecution, and to that fierce antagonism which is so inconsonant with the genius of Christianity.
It is on this ground, as much as on any other, that I attack what in our days is defended so strenuously under the name of Orthodoxy. I attack it, because I consider it unscriptural. I attack it, because I consider it false. I attack it, because I consider it absurd. I attack it, because I consider it every way at war with buman sympathy and human progress; but I also attack it, because it is material, therefore dogmatical, therefore persecuting in its character and tendencies. There is none of its peculiar tenets in which material emblems are not lavished to excess, and the pure and the holy strangled under a crowd of material ideas. And if spiritualism survives in the breasts of some of its professed adherents, it is because the better principles of their nature have enabled the spontaneous and the conscious to master the traditional while under its apparent empire: there is the outward garb of materialism, but spiritualism is the dominating element.
To confirm my assertion, that Orthodoxy has this material construction, let us pass in review some of its most notable doctrines.
Take, for instance, the Trinity. Here, every part is material. What can be more material than the division into persons? A thing that can be divided, cannot be a spiritual thing. Unity is indispensable to spiritualism. The very simplest idea of a spirit, is that of something whole, something that cannot be separated into parts. Our body can be shattered into infinitessimal atoms; but when we contemplate this fate of our body, we are consoled by the reflection, that our soul cannot be shaken from its entireness. And yet this entireness, which is regarded as one of the noblest distinctions of our souls, is refused to the soul of God! He is frittered into fragments with as much unscrupulousness as if he were a mass of matter, delivered to our will to be combined according to caprice. Look also at each of the separate portions of the Trinity. How grossly material! The Father and the Holy Ghost are localised in a material heaven, which is delineated with as much minuteness as Mahomet's paradise; and the Son is crushed into the stature of an ordinary man. How can we suppose, that with these material images forever floating before the mind of the devotee, there can be any spiritual worship? How can we suppose, that there can be anything more than the coarsest, narrowest, most mechanical communion, with a coarse, narrow, mechanical phantasm that is put in the place of the infinite, spiritual, omnipotent God?
No less material than the Trinity, but perhaps still more so, is the popular doctrine of the Atonement. The death of Jesus, is one of the holiest scenes on which human reverence can dwell. But it was holy, not because it was a bloody or a torturing scene; it was the spirit of Jesus that gave it its consecration. There have been deaths far more lingering and painful than that of Jesus -deaths preceded by long years of imprisonment and privation. Jesus passed at once from the circle of his friends and followers to the cross; and then he had only a few hours of physical suffering to endure. His real glory, his real bonour, consisted, not in the mode of his death, but in the calm and strength and purity of his convictions; which led him to count martyrdom a blessing, if it brought emancipation to injured and trampled
But this spiritual triumph, this earnestness of