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My plea is for that rational treatment of religion, Bible, and Jesus Christ, that they shall stand against all assaults of criticism and scepticism. Before enlightened views on these subjects scepticism vanishes, as mist of the morning before the advancing sun. Listen to the lectures or read the magazine articles of Mr. Ingersoll and his followers, and their shafts are for the most part hurled against the oldtime superstitions lingering under the shadow of Adam. Rarely, if at all, do they attack the tenets of a rational faith. And we claim that Christianity, truly seen, is a rational faith. It does not trample reason. It appeals to it and educates it. My brother preacher of some other church deems it safer to take the Bible blind, and deprecates reason as hostile and dangerous. We protest: No! Reason is God's best gift to man. Through reason and conscience God speaks to us of truth and right. They are the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. To trample reason is to dethrone God from the soul. If reason and Bible are pitted against each other, then man must fit himself for the lunatic asylum or the Bible must go. We do not think a man must render himself a lunatic, in order to accept the Bible truly. My effort is to show that upon the everlasting foundation of reason the Bible rightly stands. It must be rationally read and interpreted. To reason Jesus Christ himself appeals. Essential Christianity is the loftier faith of reason. we place it on the eternal foundation.
Amid the pitiful and demoralizing timidities of the Church, rational faith stands erect and fearless, climbs the hills and sweeps the broad horizon, constructs more powerful microscopes and mightier telescopes to search the atomies and the constellations, not afraid of any truth to be found in God's universe, knowing that all discovery and all science cannot hurt, but only help, that true religion which is eternal.
How this doctrine of evolution also gives us faith in religious progress! not away from the eternal word of God, but in understanding it better, unfolding and applying it. Through the ages we see how man has come up from sav
agery; and, as we turn our eyes forward, we have only hints of the glory yet to be. To-day we see the grand army of the living God broken into fragments, separated into unbrotherly sects by controversies, prejudices, and bigotries. The antagonistic, warring sects are the disgrace and weakness of Christendom. The outside world looks on, jeering, How these Christians hate and despise one another! Good work languishes and fails. To remove ignorance, poverty, and misery, we only need a united church. This would speedily conquer the world. In the suggestions of evolution, I look forward hopefully. The fences will one day fall, and divisions disappear. In charities and missions of blessing to all mankind the broken church will one day unite. Catholic and Quaker, Presbyterian and Unitarian, will one day shake hands. There will be one flag and one captain, one faith and one baptism, one Lord and one hope of immortality.
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SCIENCE AND THE CHURCH.*
In order that we may understand the age-long conflict which has been carried on between science and the Church, I need to do what I have done a good many times,- ask you to go back with me for a little while and trace some features of the growth of the world's religious thought, so that we may understand how this conflict has come to be.
Glance, then, for a moment at the most primitive condition of human thought concerning the mysteries of the unseen. Of course it goes without saying that the childhood world had no conception of any natural order, any natural law. This childhood world was able to account for the happenings in the earth and in the heavens only by supposing that they were wrought by some one of numberless invisible capricious beings. The earth and the air were full of invisible spirits, powers, forces, gods, whatever you choose to call them, manifested in the running brook, in the winds, the lightnings, in storms. Diseases, troubles of every sort, as well as all the good and fair things of life, were supposed to be the result of the individual working of some one of these invisible powers. Naturally, as time went on, forms of service, rituals, would grow up, as the people would discover what they supposed to be methods by which to propitiate and placate and win the favor of these gods. And after these forms, these rituals, these services, had become established, of course it would be deemed impious to change them or to interfere with them. It would be certain in their mind to call down the anger of the gods. So you will see that any natural attempt,
* Stenographically reported.