« AnteriorContinuar »
in its silent chambers their communion cup of sorrow salt with tears. In such a house, with such inhabitants, having such bodies and such souls, life is worth living, even if we have our be-all and our end-all here, if creatures who can hope so much and love so much are shut in by a wall of darkness which cannot be broken down or broken through. “For,” as John Morley writes, “a man will already be in no mean paradise if at the hour of sunset a good hope can fall on him, like harmonies of music, that the earth shall still be fair, and the happiness of every feeling creature still receive a constant augmentation, and each good cause yet find worthy defenders, when the memory of his own poor name and personality has long been blotted out of the brief recollection of men forever."
Do these things mean that the religious rendering of the world is without moral inspiration? I doubt it very much. I doubt it none the less because I am persuaded that, if I could ever doubt the immortality of man, his mortal life would still have for me a tremendous ethical significance, morality and virtue would still be glorious homes for glorious realities, a life of purity and honor would still be infinitely preferable to a life stained with dishonor and impurity, and would still have incalculable influence on the fortunes of mankind. I doubt it none the less because I see that there is moral inspiration in the conviction of life's awful brevity. What spur and excitation here
"To crowd the narrow span of life
With wise designs and virtuous deeds"!
All this may be, and still the hope of other life beyond the present's bound may have its own peculiar moral inspiration. For, while without this hope every moral obligation would still remain in full force, who shall say that the quest for knowledge is not prosecuted under more inspiring auspices the moment we believe that all we have here in this primary school is but the first instalment of a boundless acquisition;
that duty does not step to a diviner music the moment we believe that what we make ourselves through patient effort here determines into what spiritual society we enter when we leave all this behind; that affection, which may be all the more impetuous for being pent in limits of mortality, does not expand into a broader, calmer flow when it has sweet assurance of unending years? Granted that not one moral obligation is created by the relation of this life to another, does not the whole of life float in a larger, more invigorating atmosphere when to the imagination it is no longer bounded by the limits of this present life? The promise we lay hold of is no promise of reward or rest, but that of larger, more engrossing toil.
"Over a few things we have faithful been:
Now over many do thou give us rule,—
For work, more work; for lessons learned, to be
Is there anything better than morality? Yes, the religion
portant chapter in the religious life of man. It has converted the God of the imagination from a cruel and licentious king into the heavenly Father worthy of men's perfect trust and loyal obedience. There are those to whom this process seems exclusively ideal. To me it seems a voyage of discovery which has thrown open to mankind a boundless continent,― the Infinite Reality of God. And the Columbus of this voyage is no other than the moral purpose of that infinite and eternal being which is the soul of man.
THE CONVERSION OF ENERGY.
THE word which will sum up the scientific achievement of the nineteenth century to an unparalleled degree, unless the years remaining have some very great discovery in store, is transmutation." The achievement corresponding to this word has been in two related orders of phenomena, the chemical and physical; and in one apart from these, the biological. In the former case, it is the transmutation of energy that has been discovered. In the latter, it is the transmutation of species. The two discoveries, taken separately, are of great scientific interest and value. Taken together, their philosophical and religious value is immense. The books elucidating these discoveries are the most valuable additions to "our Unitarian Literature" that have been written for the last half-century, though I have never heard that the American Unitarian Association has any of them upon its list of publications or keeps any of them for sale. But how impressively they teach the unity of the Force which has so many manifestations in the material world,—the unity of organization underlying myriads of animal and vegetable forms! "The Lord our God is one Lord." The pebble and the star, the sunshine and the coal, the moneron and the man, all chant in unison this Unitarian confession.
It is of the transmutation or conversion of energy that I wish to speak with you to-day, yet not of any of those brilliant illustrations of the law of conservation which have been developed by Grove and Mayer and Faraday and Tyndall and Thomson and Joule and others,— illustrations by which it is shown that, though the total energy of any body or
system of bodies cannot be increased or diminished by any mutual action, it can be transformed into any one of the forms of which energy is susceptible,— heat into motion, motion into heat, and heat or motion into electricity or light or magnetism or chemical affinity or mechanical force, and each of these in turn into any one of the others, or into all of them in various proportions. The conversion of energy of which I wish to speak has little of scientific, much of moral interest. Whether or not we have here a case of natural law in the spiritual world I shall not attempt to prove. But, if we have not an extended law, we have a striking correspondence. Here, as elsewhere, the natural world abounds in wonderful analogies of spiritual things, which many, like Professor Drummond, in his "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," have been inclined to overwork.
Some of you, I am sure, have read the Life of Elizabeth Gilbert. The briefest summary of what she was and did will afford a very striking illustration of one form of moral con servation, the development of faculty through limitation and defect. She was a bishop's little daughter, whose sight was destroyed in her third year by an attack of scarlet fever, which bequeathed to her a general inheritance of ruined health. Throughout her childhood and her youth she was not unhappy, her misfortune attracting to her a great deal of sympathy and attention. It was when she came to the threshold of womanhood that the difference between her life and that of her several sisters came home to her with agonizing force. Then in a happy hour, after a period of intense depression, threatening to shake her reason from its seat, she met a noble woman who cherished the conviction that, even for women cut off from love and marriage by some superiority or defect, a useful, happy life was possible, that the energy of their thwarted instincts might be converted into an energy of social good. The mind of the poor sightless girl, impregnated by the stronger mind of her companion, conceived a hope that she might accomplish something, notwithstanding her pathetic limitation. The energy