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THE ETERNAL RELIGION.



THE

ETERNAL RELIGION



BY

J. BRIERLEY, B.A.

( "J. B. )

Author of" The Common Life," " Ourselves and the Universe," &c n Ac.




gorfe:
THOMAS WHITTAKER, 2 & 3, BIBLE HOUSE.



H0FF1TI



Preface.

AMID the seeming confusions of our timer
there is, amongst leading minds, growing into
ever clearer vision the main lines of the
structure which, when fully in view, will be
recognised by humanity as the Eternal Religion.
The earlier theologies were advance sketches
which, we are now coming to see, were not
only incomplete but, in important respects,
were wrongly drawn. We are better equipped
to-day than the older framers of systems. We
are in a more favourable position for discerning
between the evanescent and the permanent,
between what are essentials and what are
matters of detail.

It is the peculiar privilege of our age to
have come into possession at once of the
entire heritage of the past centuries, with their
vast endeavours after ultimate truth, and at
the same time of a scientific method for
assaying their results. In what I have here
advanced I have tried to utilise the advantages
of that position. I have kept always before
me the idea of religion as at once a principle
and a history. Its story, properly considered,



144458



vi PREFACE.



is that of eternal ideas expressed, with varying
degrees of clearness, in historical personalities.
The progress both of the ideas and of the
personalities has, it is here maintained, reached,
so far, its highest term in Christianity, which is
accordingly here treated as the Eternal
Religion. In the exposition of it under this
view I have tried first to prepare the ground
by the exhibition of certain principles, the
proper apprehension of which seems essential to
a grasp of the theme as a whole. Following
this I have dealt with some of the leading
positions of Christianity, with a statement of
the grounds on which its claim rests for
validity and permanence. The succeeding
chapters offer applications of religion, as thus
expounded, to some of the more prominent
phases of present-day life.

While dealing with the final religion, the
book, I need hardly say, lays no claim itself
to finality. It is the barest of sketches. It
merely suggests the roads along which the
thought of the future seems likely to travel.
Its purpose will be fully served if it help in any
humble degree to a better apprehension of
those great facts, and of those spiritual forces
upon which the humanity, both of to-day and
of to-morrow, must sustain its inward life.

J. B.

LONDON,

August, 1905.



Contents.

CHAPTER PAGE

I. THE ETERNAL REVELATION . . 1

II. DOCTRINE AND EXPERIENCE. . 10

III. THE ETERNAL COMMERCE . . 18

IV. LIFE AS SYMBOL ... 27

V. THE WAR OF GOOD WITH GOOD . 36

VI, THE SYSTEMS, AND MAN . . 46

VII. THE ETERNAL GOSPEL ... 55

VIII. CALVARY 65

IX. WHAT WAS THE RESURRECTION ? . 75

X. OUR MORAL HABITAT ... 86

XI. THE STORY OF MORALS . . 95

XII. ON HUMAN PERFECTION . . 105

XIII. ETHICS OF THE INTELLECT . .114

XIV. WEALTH AND LIFE . . .123

v XV. A LAYMAN'S RELIGION. . . 132

XVI. RELIGION AND ART . . . 141

XVII. NATURE THE PREACHER . .150

XVIII. BEHIND THE HISTORY . . . 159

XIX. OF SPIRITUAL Loss . . .168

XX. CONVERTS 177

XXL NECESSITY 186

XXII. FAITH AS A FORCE . . .195

XXIII. RELIGIOUS IMPOSTURE . . . 204

XXIV. THE SOUL'S EMANCIPATION . . 214

XXV. RECOGNITIONS . . . .224

XXVI. THE THOUGHT BEHIND. 233



viii CONTENTS.



CHAPTER PAGE

XXVII. CONSCIENCE . . . .243

XXVin. IDLE PIETY . . . .251

XXIX. THE CENTRAL MYSTERY . . 259

XXX. PHYSICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS . . 268

XXXI. PUBLIC RELIGION . . .277

XXXII. RELIGION AND AMUSEMENT . . 286

XX Xin. RELIGIOUS EPICURES . . .295

XXXIV. LAST THINGS 304



THE ETERNAL RELIGION.



i.

The Eternal Revelation.

THE late Auguste Sabatier, in his essay on
" Religion and Modern Culture," describes
in powerful language the gulf that has opened
in Europe between science and the Church.
For two hundred years the two forces have
been in antagonism. They represent two
opposing principles. The one founds itself
on the freest inquiry. The other rests on
external authority ; an authority which derives
from the past, which declares truth to be an
affair of a revelation made to men ages ago,
and, 'which is not to be added to nor taken
from. He gives the result of the conflict in
the country he knows best, his own France.
Irreligion, he says, has swept over it like a
sirocco. A later authority says there are
to-day less than two millions of practising
Catholics in that population of forty millions.



2 THE ETERNAL RELIGION.

The rest are, for the most part, practically
outside Christianity.

The conflict here described is, of course, not
confined to France. It rages all over the
civilised world. In England, where religion
is an active interest, there have been abundant
attempts at compromise, most of them as
futile as they were well-meaning. Amongst
Protestants, where the principle of authority
had been shifted from an infallible Church to
an infallible Bible, we have seen endeavour
after endeavour, by means of interpretations
fearfully and wonderfully made, to join
modern science to ancient Genesis. The
difficulty here is that to our faith in the
Scripture has to be added an equally implicit
faith in the interpreters, an embarrassing
business when some half-dozen of them, at
odds with each other, claim at the same
moment our allegiance. The position to-day
amongst both religious teachers and their
followers is, in this matter, entirely unsatis-
factory. They are carrying two sets of ideas
in their minds, to each of which they in turn
defer, but which they are quite unable to
reconcile. They believe in science ; they
believe in revelation. They accept the truth
which is being arrived at by observation and
research ; they live morally by another truth
which they hold has come down from heaven.
But when these two appear to clash, as is often



THE ETERNAL REVELATION.



enough the case, the modern believer has no
solution of the difficulty. He is only uneasily
conscious that his two life theories are some-
how at war, and his soul suffers accordingly.

It is time this war was ended, and that can
only be in one way. Religious peace will
come, a peace final and abiding, when men
everywhere recognise that these two things
are, after all, one ; that science and revelation
are really the same thing ; that there is no true
revelation that is not science, and that there
is no true science that is not revelation.
Humanity has been long, and by devious
routes, working its way towards this con-
clusion, and at last it is fully in sight. To
accept it, we know, means to cut through
a greatmany venerable ideas, but,crec?e expertis,
when we have done the business, we find
ourselves spiritually not one penny the worse.
" What," exclaims some one, " are we then
to put Scripture on the same level as science ;
are we to regard the apostles as inspired in no
other way than a Copernicus or a Newton ? "

Let us take here one thing at a time. The
question for the moment is as to authority ;
as to a solid enough basis for our belief.
Waiving for the moment all speculative aspects
of the matter, and coming straight to the
practical issue, let us ask ourselves, " Which
of the two bases of belief to-day is the more
solidly established in the human mind, that



THE ETERNAL RELIGION.



which founds itself on scientific grounds, or
that founded on the old theological assumption?
When a man puts this question frankly
to himself there can be no doubt as to the
answer. Science is to-day the authority.
Do we not see, however, that by this admission
we recognise that the inspiration question
has really solved itself ? We cannot have
anything better than the best. There are no
two sorts or degrees of truth. Truth to us is
the thing we believe ; the thing which brings
to the mind its own irresistible proof. And
so the truth brought to us by a Paul, and
that offered by a Kepler, are seen as ultimately
on the same basis, that of the evidence behind
and in them; of their inherent congruity
with the perceptions and laws of our mental
life. What more do we want ? Calvin was
really, though perhaps unconsciously, recog-
nising this principle when, on being asked
on what he based the authority of the New
Testament, if he threw away the dogma of the
Church's infallibility, he replied that it carried
its own authority. It appealed to the heart
as colour appeals to the eye, and is its own
revelation.

Observe that here we are in no way diminish-
ing the religious value of revelation. We are
simply broadening its range and placing it on
a surer ground. For the universe which by
slow degrees is opening to us by the telescope



THE ETERNAL REVELATION.



and by spectrum analysis is one with the
universe discovered to us in the religious
consciousness and in the pages of the Bible.
They are only varying aspects of the same
reality. How certain this is is proved by the
simple consideration that every advance made
by science in cosmic knowledge has immediately
reacted upon our theological ideas. The
two things march together. The mere fact,
for instance, that the patristic writers of the
early Christian centuries based their inter-
pretations of Scripture, and their whole
thought system upon a world-view which
included a creation in six days, a geocentric
universe, and a literal interpretation of the
Genesis story of the Fall, alters entirely
our view of their own authority as spiritual
teachers, as well as of the formal creeds of
which they were the authors. Science has here
inevitably asserted its authority in the sphere
of doctrine. On the other hand we are
beginning to see, as never before, the directly
religious value of science. The great teachers
have, indeed, always realised that. Let any-
one read the lives of the pioneers of research ;
let him read the story of a Copernicus, of a
Kepler, of a Newton, the men who, as one
of them said, " read God's thoughts after
Him," and note the religious awe which
filled their spirits as the realm of truth opened
before them ; let him read of Copernicus,



THE ETERNAL RELIGION.



when his great discovery burst upon him,
regarding it as a new vision of God ; of Kepler,
praying that " he might find in his own soul
the God whom he discovered everywhere
without," and he will see that here also is one
of the open roads of the Spirit. The present
attitude of the scientific leaders is, in this
respect, most noteworthy. The materialism
of thirty years ago has been outgrown. Men
have tunnelled through their mountain and
are reaching the sunshine on the other side.
The utterances of a Kelvin, of a Crookes,
of a Lodge, are a testimony that the age
of revelation is not over, and that what is now
being opened to us is on the same note and
toward the same end as the utterance of
prophets and apostles.

Where the Church has fallen into error, and
brought confusion into our thinking, has been
not in affirming a Divine revelation, but in re-
stricting it to one particular time or set of times,
and to one particular order of ideas. Whereas
the Divine revelation is an eternal one ; has
been going on from the beginning ; is going
on now. It is a favourite idea of certain
researchers, illustrated, too, with a vast
mass of evidence, that every tribe of man has
in its literature or customs the marks of a pure
and elevated primitive faith. However that
may be, one cannot read the world's story at
any point without realising how, from the



THE ETERNAL REVELATION.



beginning, the men of every nation have been
under a spiritual discipline. Who that has
looked into the Bhagavad Gita but has felt
this as regards India ? When we read, too,
the definition of religion by Asoka, the great
Buddhist king : " Religion is an excellent
thing. But what is religion ? Religion is the
least possible evil, much good, piety, charity,
veracity, and also purity of life," can we doubt
that here, also, was a heavenly leading ?
The Stoics were seekers after God if ever there
were any ; and when Epictetus declares ;
" When you have shut your door and darkened
your room, say not to yourself you are alone ;
God is in your room " ; we may be sure
that some of them had not only sought God,
but found Him. That was a truth which some
of the early Fathers were not slow to realise.
It is pleasant to see an Origen, a Clement,
openly proclaiming that the great Greek and
Latin teachers spoke by the inspiration of the
Eternal Word. Zwingli, who saw so many
things before his time, saw this also. In a
" Confession of Faith " written just before
his death, he speaks of " the assembly of all
the saintly, the heroic, the faithful and the
virtuous, when Abel and Enoch, Noah and
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will mingle with
Socrates, Aristides and Antigonus, with Numa
and Camillus, Hercules and Theseus, the
Scipios and the Catos, and when every upright



8 THE ETEKNAL RELIGION.

and holy man who has ever lived shall be
present with his Lord." Luther and Bossuet,
from their opposite camps, joined in con-
demning this utterance. We to-day, in
the clearer light that has come to us, are
sure that he was right and that they were
wrong.

It is only in this view of the eternal revelation
that we obtain any consistent or tenable
position in relation to the Scriptures. But
in that view all becomes clear. I The Bible,
properly read read, that is, in trie historical
sequence of its books offers the most striking
illustration in literature of that spiritual
evolution which constitutes the religious history
of the world. * These pages are like the fossil-
crowded strata in a geological series, that reveal
the successive steps along which life has
ascended from the beginning. We see here
how, under a never-ceasing guidance and
uplift, man has slowly clarified his view of
God, of his brother, of duty, of sacrifice, of life
and death. And just as the geological story
gives us at intervals gaps and convulsions,
periods which mark fresh eras and the coming
of a new order, so here, in the passage from
the Old Testament to the New, we discern
a fresh epoch opening, a glorious and unparal-
leled enhancement of man's spiritual life, j The
world has suddenly become warm with the
Divine presence. God has come nearer to



THE ETERNAL REVELATION. 9

man. Jesus, in His perfect consciousness of
the Father, has made all things new.

But the revelation still goes on. For no
fresh fact that emerges in the physical sphere
but will shed its own light on the spiritual
sphere. That the New Testament is a different
book to us from what it was to our fathers is
proof in itself that the revelation continues.
The Spirit of Truth is ever fulfilling His
mission. The human consciousness is a volume
in which God incessantly writes, and each
generation has its special contribution. Vinet
has in this connection a prophetic word which
we to-day need specially to remember. " The
Reformation," says he, " is ever permanent
in the Church even as Christianity. It is
Christianity restoring itself by its own inherent
strength. So that even to-day . . . the
Reformation is still a thing to be done, a thing
ever to be recommenced, and for which Luther
and Calvin only prepared a smoother and
broader way."



II.

Doctrine and Experience.

IN the former chapter we discussed, as a
phase of the eternal religion, the concurrent
revelation opened to us in science and Chris-
tianity. We may now take a further step in
reviewing some of the relations between the
existent Christian theology and the primitive
experiences on which it is based.

The world has had before it, for now some
fifteen centuries, a system of closely-knit
propositions, offered as the orthodox account
of the Christian faith. The acceptance of
these propositions has, during this time, been
regarded by devout persons as a condition
of salvation, as well as essential to character
and respectability. Upon them has been
reared a new morality, with a whole vocabulary
special to itself of " virtues and their contrary
vices." To doubt these propositions was a
deadly sin ; nay, more, it was a criminal
offence, for which millions of people have been
put to death. " Miscreant," than which we
have nowhere a more opprobrious word, is a



10



DOCTRINE AND EXPERIENCE. 11

literal translation of ' ' misbeliever. ' ' One needs
to be steeped in the patristic and mediaeval
literature to learn the terrific significance to
men of those times of the word " heretic.''
As late as the sixteenth century we have
Cardinal Pole declaring that thieves, murderers
and adulterers were not to be compared in
criminality with those who sought to tamper
with the Catholic belief ; while Newman, in
our own time, speaks of the publisher of heresy
as being " embodied evil."

But, as we have seen, there has arisen against
this set of ideas a vast and ever-growing
revolt. It was found for one thing that the
propositions themselves were some of them
doubtful. It was, perhaps, an even more
important discovery that the mere acceptance
of dogmas was in itself neither religion nor
morality. Of this latter truth the orthodox
centuries had indeed been piling up an only
too abundant evidence. There has never
been a lower morality, a more absolute
dissoluteness, and lack of all the fibre of
character than in times and places where every
article of the Creed has been accepted without
question. The brigands of Sicily and Spain
are orthodox Catholics. The monks who
figured in that unspeakable record the " Black
Book " of the monasteries, compiled for
Thomas Cromwell, had subscribed all the
creeds. It was not of heretical sects, but of



12 THE ETERNAL RELIGION.

the Roman clergy, that Jerome in the fourth
century draws the life-like picture in which
they are depicted as " flattering rich matrons,
spending the day in calls at grand houses,
admiring a cushion or a handkerchief by way
of obtaining it as a present, walking abroad
with hair aesthetically arranged and rings
glittering on their fingers " ; while monks
are described as " worming their way into
favour with the rich, and pretending to fast,
while they repaid themselves with nightly
revelry."

The revolt against doctrine once started
took, as revolts are apt to do, extravagant
forms. The creeds which had so despotically
ruled, were in the fashionable circles of the
eighteenth century mocked at and despised.
In those " suppers of the gods," at Sans
Souci, with Frederick the Great as host, and
Voltaire, Algarotti, and D'Argens among
the guests ; when the wit was, according to
Sulzer, who had been present, " more brilliant
than anything he had read in books," the old
beliefs were one of the prime subjects of raillery.
Voltaire considered he had laughed the Chris-
tian doctrines out of existence. Condorcet
arraigned them as built up in ignorance of
natural laws. Diderot declared the Christian
system to be " of all systems the most absurd
and atrocious in its dogmas, the most unin-
telligible, metaphysical and intricate, and



DOCTEINE AND EXPERIENCE. 13

consequently the most liable to divisions,
schisms and heresies." A large portion of the
adult male population of France has since
that time been brought up in this opinion,
or has embraced it.

But the Voltairean position about Christian
doctrine is, with scholars and thinkers, as
much out of date as the dogmatic despotism
against which it was a reaction. The world,
after flying from one extreme to the other, is at
last, in these~matters, reaching a more central
and secure position. And the cardinal point in
the new thought structure is, as we have said,
the discovery of the proper relation between
doctrine and experience. Doctrine, as we
now see, is not the artificial product vamped
up by the priests for their own purpose
which the French Encyclopaedists imagined.
It has, on the contrary, its place in the nature
of things. It is in every case the explanation,
according to the lights available at the time,
of certain human experiences. However high
the metaphysics soar, their starting-point
is a phase of consciousness through which the
human spirit has at some time passed. The
Athanasian Creed may seem at first sight a
mass of cobweb speculation. But it would
never have been in the world apart from a series
of historical experiences. Its doctrine of
Christ is the attempt, according to the formulas
of that age, to put into words the transmitted



14 THE ETERNAL RELIGION.

impressions of the first disciples concerning
their Master. The doctrine of the Spirit is
a similar rendering of inner movements of the
soul.

But the whole crux of the modern question,
the hinge of its demand for a theologic recon-
struction, lies in the question : Granted the
experiences, as genuine, and as unspeakably
valuable, are the doctrines handed down to
us a proper or adequate interpretation of
them ? In other departments it is a common-
place of history how experiences which for
centuries were common to all men had been
by all men misinterpreted. Countless millions
had seen the sun's daily ascent into the heavens,
and had obtained from the spectacle a view
of the solar system proved afterwards to be
false. It has been the world's age-long educa-
tion to gain rules for the proper interpretation
of phenomena. We are now discovering that
we are only at the beginning of the lesson.
How far, with all our training, we are competent
as interpreters is seen in the modern attitude
to Spiritualism. Here are experiences which
no one can doubt. But what do they stand
for ? There are serious and capable men who
declare them an obsession of evil spirits ; a
Huxley denounces them as frauds ; a con-
temporary of his, fully his mental equal, the
mathematician De Morgan, declares his con-
viction^that the phenomena he had seen



DOCTRINE AND EXPERIENCE. 15



" showed a combination of will, intellect
and physical power which were not that of
any of the human beings present."

But if we, after our ages of culture, in
presence of facts of this order, are so much
at sea in our explanations of them, how far, we
are now asking, were the first Christian disciples,
and the doctrine-makers who came after them?
in a position to explain what they had felt in
the presence of Christ ? They called Christ
divine; and truly, for they felt that in His
person, word and influence, the Divine had
in very deed come amongst them. Their
language, as it has come to us, is the evidence
of the stupendous spiritual impression the
Master had made. In like manner their
doctrine of the Spirit was a reflex of a blessed
yet unspeakable work going on within them.

That they should call Christ divine was not
only to express, as adequately as they knew
how, what was to them an indubitably Divine
Fact. It was, we have to remember, in
strict accord with the whole former tradition
of humanity. The world from the beginning
has held, with a true instinct, that the Divine
manifestation, wherever traceable, has been
always through the human. It was from the
human, indeed, men climbed to the idea of a
Divine. It may well be, as Euhemerus
maintained in the fourth century, and as
I^ocke and Nietzsche after him have contended,



16 THE ETERNAL RELIGION.

that the pagan gods were originally illustrious
kings who were deified after death. All the
forms of worship and all its vocabulary began
on this lower plane. The kneeling, the uplifted
hand, the prayer of intercession, fhe adoring
words even, came first into history as addressed
to human rulers. The final reference to an
Unseen, Infinite and All Holy, was a later
inspiration.

What is behind the human has ever been
the mystery. And the mystery reached its
culmination in Christ. He stood before the
disciples with the Infinite as His background.
And this Infinite behind Him was also within
Him. The early Church did its best to describe
that Infinite, with what results we know.
But it is not these explanations that have
given us Christianity or that have advanced
religion. That was done by the soul's actual
experiences. It was when the disciples felt
their hearts " burn within them " in contact
with the Master, when they realised the gracious
uplift of His teaching, the ineffable peace He
breathed upon them, that in them religion
found its life and its self-propagating power.
And it has been so ever since. When Wesley,
at the meeting in Aldersgate Street in 1738,
" felt his heart strangely warmed," and entered


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