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social disability and disrespect. It is the rereaders of relig ion that we like to read about; and, when I say "we," I mean all of us. For you will notice that, in the long run, it is the men who think for themselves who are read and thought about by the succeeding generations; and a man cannot think for himself without being more or less heretical; even John Calvin, it appears, being more heretical concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, judged by his own standards of perfection, than Michael Servetus whom he put to death. Why, almost all the names religious people care about were heretical in their day and generation, Luther and Calvin, Baxter and Taylor, Edwards and Hopkins, Fox and Wesley, and one greater than any of these, greater than all of them,- Jesus, the son of Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, the prophet of Galilee, the martyr of Jerusalem.
But this, too, I would have you notice: that the relego people have often been religo people at the same time; at the same time for rereading the documents of religion and its institutions, and for binding back the thought and purpose of the world to some venerable standard of the past. Even the most radical reformers frequently congratulate themselves that they can claim the sanction of a venerable antiquity. If we may trust the account in Matthew, Jesus declared that he came not to build anew, but to rebuild the ancient verities. And all the Christian reformers in their time - Luther, Fox, Wesley, Channing, and even Parkerhave honestly conceived their work to be the recovery of a primitive Christianity, and the shaping of their individual. lives, and the common life of Church and State, according to its law. The late Cardinal Newman, in his attempt to reform the Church of England, found his ecclesiastical ideal in the Church of the fourth century. He was a rereader par excellence: he would reread the Thirty-nine Articles so that they should be good Roman doctrine. But no man was ever more for binding back the present to the beliefs and ceremonies of the past. If a Father of the fourth century had written so or so, it was for him as if God had spoken it
in his ear. But he was only one of many to whom the study of religion has been the revising of a text by comparing it with old manuscripts, the oldest prima facie the best. They are students of a palimpsest, where one thing has been written over another; and what they are after is to get at the original writing, and make that a standard of belief and action, and bind back to it the faithless world. But, alas! the different reformers have not agreed as to the original reading! Some of them have said it was one thing, and some have said it was another. Luther's reading is not that of Fox, nor Wesley's that of Channing or Parker. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that these reformers have generally been nearer to the original reading than the dominant churches of their respective times, and they have done well to try to hold men back to that reading, to try to shape their lives according to its law.
For it is not, as our fiercer radicals and destructives sometimes think, as if the past had in it no permanent elements, against which the teeth of time may break themselves, but which they cannot break. That was a very common notion just about a century ago. The policy of the French Revolutionists was not unlike that of a certain worthy whom I knew of old, who could not agree with his butcher or baker as to their score. "Wipe it all out, and begin again," said he, suiting the action to the word. And the French Revolutionists wiped it all out in blood. But how soon they found the old things coming back! What was the Committee of Safety but another Inquisition, with Marat or Robespierre for grand inquisitor. But the good lasts equally with the bad; and it is the fool's notion of progress that each age or generation is an improvement upon each and all that have preceded it. For all our boasted civilization, what can we show, with all our industry and wealth and vast material success, that can compare with Raphael's pictures or with Shakspere's plays, with the cathedrals of the Middle Age and the temples with which Athens crowned her hills, and the "shapes of lucid stone" which they enshrined? But the
men who caused these things had not the comforts and conveniences of modern life. No; but they had what, perhaps, was better, the ability to do without these comforts and conveniences, to laugh at wind and weather, "to scorn delights, and live laborious days." And there are poems and other writings that have come down to us from the past that make the statues ugly and the temples dim; and, better still, actions of such beseeching loveliness that no age can wither and no custom stale their sweet and perfect charm. Let the rereading be as brave as possible, alas for the religion that does not, whatever is reread, bind back its friends and votaries to words and deeds that have no merely local or temporal significance, but are good for every land the sun doth visit, and for every time he measures on his ceaseless round!
And now, in the light of these general reflections, let us look at our own eight-and-twenty years together, and see how they have stood related to these two meanings of religion, the rereading and the binding back, and see whether the religion we have been endeavoring to foster here has had the one meaning or the other; or (if haply it has blent the two in one) whether it has done this in good proportions, and attained a good result.
One thing is sure: that, if we have not done a good deal of rereading in our religion here, we have been very strangely isolated from the general drift and motion of the time. For by nothing else have these years, along which we have walked together, been so strongly characterized in the world about us as by their rereading of the natural world and human history, especially that part of the latter which transpired in Judea at the beginning of our Christian era, and for some centuries before the event of Jesus' ministry. It may be safely said that never at any time in the world's history not forgetting such great epochs as the Protestant Revolution and the first Christian century – has such a change come over men's ideas and opinions of the most important objects of their thought. In 1864 the great work of Darwin was only five years old, and had attained
only the most limited recognition of the scientific world; while, as for the theological, it had hardly anything for it but opposition and contempt. But, when in 1880 Professor Huxley wrote of "The Coming of Age of the 'Origin of Species,"" already the scientific opposition had entirely ceased, except in quarters where it did not really count; and the theologians had for a long time been busy adjusting their old theology to the new science, and finding chapter and verse for it in the Bible, where it had only waited a few thousand years for science to discover it elsewhere with infinite patience of research, in order to break silence and declare, "Why, we have been right here in hiding all the time." The theological readjustment made necessary by the Darwinian doctrine, and more emphatically by the general doctrine of Evolution, of which that is a part, has not been less important than that required by the changed conditions of the Copernican astronomy. That changed the centre of humanity. This has changed the centre of Deity. Before Copernicus the earth had been the centre of the sidereal system, and man the centre of the moral universe. The other stars were but his evening lamps. The "scheme of salvation" took no account of any world but this. Man's centrality vanished with the Copernican astronomy. God's centrality has been established by our later science. Erewhile he
"sat outside to scan
The spheres that 'neath his finger circling ran."
He was an external, mechanical Creator, and with the establishment of the evolution doctrine he found his occupation gone. The making of the world had been by laws and processes which from the chaos to the cosmos, from the moneron to the man, had known no break or intervention from without. A God so reft of all activity threatened to vanish altogether, and did so for the more scientific and intelligent, but only straightway to reappear as the immanent, indwelling, and Eternal Life of all the universe of men and things. This was at first the heresy of a few, but it is
now the gospel of a great and ever greatening company. Long since it burst the precincts of our Unitarian churches and invaded the most orthodox, whose priests and bishops only a little while ago contended that the fossils of the various strata and the bones of extinct animals were manufactured by the Mechanic Deity just as they are, either to see what he could do or for the trying of our faith.
This wonderful rereading of the natural world and of the theological system corresponding to the mechanical conception of the world, for all persons capable of seeing things in their relations, with any intuitive perception of what things go together and agree and what things do not, must have implied the utter and complete inadequacy of the traditional belief in Christianity as a supernatural revelation. But this belief has been subjected not only to the indirect destruction of the new natural science and philosophy, but equally and at the same time to the direct annihilation of the new and higher criticism, which, beginning with the work of Niebuhr upon Roman history, has at length subjected the Old Testament and New to the same principles and methods of investigation, and demonstrated that neither in the form nor the contents, neither in the record nor in what is recorded, is there a hint or sign of supernatural interference or of supernatural action, unless all natural things are at the same time supernatural, in virtue of the immanent divinity who worketh all and in all.
Such having been the general record of rereading during the last thirty years,-not that the rereading began within. this period, but that during it it has received a vast acceleration,— said I not truly that, if we have not done a good deal of rereading in our religion here, we have been very strangely isolated from the general drift and motion of the time? But we have done a good deal of rereading; and, if we have been isolated, it has been less and less with the advancing time, and it has never been from or by those of the rereading disposition. It was at first from and by those who strenuously opposed themselves to the new readings