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however humbly he speaks, is in earnest in what he says, and who is not hampered by having to maintain any connection with the creeds of the seventeenth century, the sixteenth, the fifth, or the first. So far as it is civil, one says to such people that we of the liberal churches are in the liberty in which Christ set us free. One says that the laymen of the orthodox churches are vigorously feeling their way to such freedom, but that their clergy,- alas ! -from their conventional position and its necessities, are still in bondage to a "law," and that this bondage is a very terrible bondage. The anecdote is so trivial that, excepting among personal friends, I would not repeat it. But it serves to introduce what I had intended to say here to-day of the contrast between positive religion and negative religion, which is the contrast between the gospel and the law, as Paul lays it down here. The truth is - and we had better recognize it that it is given especially to the liberal churches of our time to propagate positive religion,- the religion of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the drawback and difficulty of the creed-bound churches is that, like the Jews who had enlisted in Christianity in Paul's day, they are still fettered by this or that or another dogmatic law. We work, therefore, with the freedom of the sons of God, while they work in the shackles of an old ceremonial or dogma. Now, I shall not say another word about them. I am sorry for them. But, as I said, their laymen are working through quite as fast as could be hoped. The clergy will certainly have to follow the laity. We need not distress ourselves about their position, if only we are true to our own. It is, however, our special business to show to the world—to the world of young people, to the world of dissatisfied people, to the world of the come-outers from the creed-bound churches - what the word "religion" means. I think a failure in this matter is to the last degree dangerous to our present social order. As the word "religion" is generally used, it simply means ecclesiasticism. It is the discussion of the arrangement of this or that society which calls itself a church. One grade higher
—perhaps not better—is the grade in which religion means philosophy or dogma. Thus a certain person has such and such a theory about the origin of evil, or about the native tendencies of man, and to that theory he gives a great deal of attention. Perhaps he writes a book about it. Perhaps he founds a school upon it. That man is generally, in offhand and careless talk, thought to be a religious man. Or yet, again, people speak of certain acts as in themselves religious, as the telling of beads or the singing of hymns or the reading of the Bible. Such acts are, indeed, meant to help forward the religious life; but religion itself is a reality far larger, being indeed infinite and never finite, being a life and not a method.
Now, a general misunderstanding of the word means a failure in accomplishment of what the Church wants to do. If Mr. Jay Gould came to Boston, and announced that he would give six addresses here, on the method of growing rich, open to all comers, he would have hearers enough. If Mr. Wendell Phillips had opened a hall to teach all. comers the art and secret of oratory, he would not have spoken to empty benches. Why does the Church find that people hesitate to come and hear her proclamation? Why does she find that they prefer to come only one day in seven, and that on that day for one man or woman who comes three or four prefer to stay away? Let the Church try, all along her lines, the experiment of positive religion. Let her everywhere make all people understand that she has the secret of living, of enlarging life. "I will teach you how to have more life to-morrow than you have to-day. My business is to teach you this, and to help you in the exercises of life; and, unless I succeed, you may reject my services and my advice, you may scout me as false, and turn your back to my solicitation." Practically, in daily life, it is not understood that Christian teachers make any such proposal. It is understood that they want to restrict people in a good many things which they would be apt to do. They must not dance. They must not swear. They must not play cards.
The Catholic Church adds more details. They must not read "Paradise Lost." They must not be Freemasons. They must not send their children to this or that school. Analyze the answer which most young men and most young women would make if you asked them why they did not give themselves up to religion and a religious life, and the answer would come out on this, "I want to live, I love to live, and the Church wants to hinder and restrict me."
Now, this restriction is exactly like what the Jewish system did. "Thou shalt not,"—that had become the essential part of its direction. The ecclesiastics of the Jews made it the whole. Jesus Christ insisted on setting restriction back to its own place. He made life the essential, and they killed him for doing so. But let any teacher to-day take his positive ground. Let any man to-day try his positive experiment. Let any man who teaches urge his pupil to enlarge his life, not to limit it. Let any man who learns try what enlarged life is, and what are its conditions. Let a man as Paul would say - walk by the spirit, and refuse to walk by the letter. The success of that experiment, which is the great experiment of life, will always surprise the ecclesiastics. The prophet always annoys and astonishes the priest. And those who stand in the liberty of the sons of God will always be begging the people who are restricted by a mere law to throw off the chains of their bondage.
Yes, of course, a positive religion implies some of the negative demands of the law it supersedes. Thus the men who accept a positive religion do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not commit adultery. But the do not side is simply consequent on the large life they enter into. If I mount on wings as eagles, of course I do not crawl as a caterpillar. If I commune with God, of course I do not vegetate as an oyster. And what we mean when we talk of religion is this Infinite Life, which Isaiah describes as mounting on wings like eagles, and which the Saviour describes as living in the empire of God. When they came to him, and asked him what were the great com
mandments, he said, "Love God and love man." The positive side of religion was to him the essential proclamation; and the negative laws would, of course, follow in their fit order.
Now, when the negative law is put forward as the central and essential law, it becomes, as Paul is forever saying, a bit of repression which no man succeeds in obeying. Why should he, if he have not obtained the omnipotence of the higher life? Why do people fail? Because they have not the great alliance. This is, indeed, of course. Thus I determine, of my own will and pleasure, that I will rise at six to-morrow morning. Six o'clock comes. The pillow is soft, the bed is warm. I am all unnerved in its comfort. I do not want to rise. I determine again-of my own will and pleasure, as before— that I will not rise. Why not? I have as good a right to make one decision as the other. But let me enter into the larger life of close relationship with other people. Let me promise four or six friends that I will meet them to-morrow morning, and they that they will meet me, for some common duty or pleasure. I am well-nigh sure to rise. The common life is larger than my personal life, and the common strain is stronger than my personal selfishness. It will be found that that experience covers a great deal of moral failure. Selfishness becomes sin very easily. A boy comes to the city, sure he shall not yield to its temptations. Has he not studied the physiology of intemperance? Does he not know the terrible penalties of lust? But if I myself am the only judge and arbiter, if I myself am the only party to decide whether I will have this or that indulgence now and risk to-morrow, I myself break down when this woman tempts to lust or that man tempts to drunkenness. "Yes, I did determine I would not drink : I now determine that I will." And this, if you analyze it, means that the poor fellow is alone. He'is not in the high companionship of God. He is not borne up and sustained by the eager love of near and dear friends whom he will not kill with the grief of his failure. Such religion as he had
was negative, and not positive. He could not hold to the "Thou shalt not," because he did not train himself to the great commandments,- the love God and love man.
Yet that young man fails precisely because no one has taught him how he is to enlarge his life, how he is to live in a life which grows larger every day. He is very far from supposing that religion has anything to do with enlarging his life. If any one told him to go to the athletic club that he might grow stronger every week, he would understand that. But nobody has told him that, if he prays to God, he will be stronger. On the other hand, his notion is very much what Aucassin's was. The passage is that cited most often from the celebrated romance of the days of the crusades. Some one asked Aucassin if he did not want to go into paradise.
"Into paradise?" repeated Aucassin, angrily. "And what have I to do there? I do not care to go there, if it be not with Nicolette, my sweetest darling, whom I love so much. Into paradise! And do you know who those are that go there, you who think it a place where I must wish to go? They are old priests, old cripples, old one-eyed men, who lie day and night before the altars, sickly, miserable, shivering, half naked, half fed, dead already before they die. These are they who go to paradise; and they are such pitiful companions that I do not desire to go to paradise with them. But to hell would I gladly go; for to hell go the good clerks, and the fair knights slain in battle and in great wars, the brave sergeants-at-arms, and the men of noble lineage. And with all these would I gladly go."
Aucassin has been trained to think that heaven is a place for sickness and faintness and death, and hell a place of adventure and spirit and life. And he chooses as young men choose.
The satire is perfectly fair. But it is satire aimed not at Aucassin, but at the priests who taught him. And you and I, if we ever mourn that Religion has not her sway of empire over the world, must remember who are to blame. Our business is to proclaim Religion as the handmaiden of Life