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Rabbi Isadore Isaacsor








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THE title of this book indicates its purpose. It is
written in order to give aid to those who desire to
hold fast to their faith, but find intellectual and moral
difficulties in so doing. There is a considerable class
of persons in the community who have no conscious
desire for spiritual life, who are very willing to be rid
of the sanctions imposed by a belief in God and the
future, who have no sense of sin and therefore no
desire for pardon, no sense of unworthiness and
therefore no desire for a diviner life, to whom the
rejection of Christianity, with its hopes and its
duties, brings no regret. This book is not addressed
to such. It does not aim to make an unwilling con-
vert ; it does not seek to convince any one against
his will, to wring a verdict by force of logic from a
reluctant jury. I have little faith in polemical theol-
ogy ; little faith in the possibility of convincing any
one of the truth of Christianity who sees nothing in
it to desire ; still less faith in any moral advantage
in such conviction, even if it can be produced. Self-



satisfied sceptics will not read this volume, or if they
attempt to do so, will find little in it.

There is also a considerable class of persons whose
faith is not perplexed. The Christian religion pre-
sents no difficulties to them ; the system of doctrine
which they have inherited from their ancestors is
adequate and satisfying; they are either ignorant of
the course of modern thought, or they hold religious
truth in one chamber of the mind and philosophic and
scientific truth in another chamber of the mind, and
never allow the two to come into collision. This
somewhat curious mental state must, I think, be very
common in those who hold to Roman Catholic theol-
ogy. The intelligent Romanist knows that there is a
difference between animal and vegetable substances ;
that the wafer, chemically analyzed before consecra-
tion, will present ocular demonstration of its vegetable
nature; that if it is submitted to the same chemical
analysis after consecration, the same ocular demon-
stration of its vegetable character will be afforded.
Scientifically, he believes that the bread remains bread
after consecration as before, yet religiously he believes
that it is mysteriously changed and becomes the ver-
itable body of the Saviour. I am not unaware of the
answer which Roman Catholic theologians give to
this difficulty when presented to them : but to most
votaries of the Roman Catholic Church, bowing at
the presentation of the host, it simply does not pre-
sent itself at all. They find no difficulty in holding


scientifically one opinion and religiously another
opinion, though the two are in direct conflict. In a
somewhat similar manner there are doubtless many
Protestants who read the first chapter of Genesis
without feeling the least mental disturbance or ques-
tioning in consequence of the revelations of modern
science. They read on the Sabbath the statement
that " God made the heavens and the earth in six
days and rested on the seventh ; " they read in the
week the scientific revelations of geology concerning
the long, slow processes by which the world was
evolved and brought into a habitable condition ; and
they find no difficulty in receiving and holding both
views. They ask for no explanation, because they
do not collate and compare their scientific opinion
and their religious faith. So I have known Ortho-
dox ministers who held firmly to the dogma of eter-
nal punishment in its most distinct form, who believed
— I do not say professed to believe, for I think their
intellectual conviction was genuine and assured — that
there is no opportunity to exercise a saving faith in
Christ beyond this life, and no hope in the life to
come for one who has not exercised such a saving
faith in this life, and yet who found no moral or in-
tellectual difficulty in speaking words of comfort and
hope to heart-broken mothers when a child, grown to
maturity, had died suddenly without any evidence
whatever of evangelical repentance and faith. Such
ministers are not to be charged with dishonesty ; they


possess minds capable of holding two inconsistent
views, one an intellectual and theoretical opinion, the
other a practical and sympathetic sentiment, and they
are not disturbed by the inconsistency. If that incon-
sistency is called to their attention, they invent or
discover some sort of reconciliation ; but unless it is
called to their attention it gives them no concern.
This book is not written for this class of persons. I
have no desire to disturb a religious faith which is
undisturbed. It may rest on false foundations: it
may be alloyed with error. If so, there are enough
forces at work in the community to shake it from its
false foundations and to burn out its alloy — with the
possible chance of burning up the gold also. This
work of the destruction of falsehood — or false forms
of truth, which are themselves the most dangerous
kind of falsehood — I leave to others.

But there are also a great many persons in our time
whose faith is perplexed. They are spiritually con-
scious of the life and truth obtained by their fathers
from dogmatic systems, which they are no longer able
to accept. They cannot believe what the preachers
of their childhood taught them from the pulpit, and
yet they cannot willingly surrender the life which grew
up under that teaching. They cannot believe in the
verbal infallibility of the Scriptures, with two versions
of these Scriptures, possessing equal authority, before
them ; and yet they cannot surrender their faith in the
Bible. They cannot believe in the scholastic concep-


tion of a God- man, who created bread as a God and
ate it as a man : who taught as a God and was wearied
as a man : who comforted his disciples as a God and
sought their sympathetic prayers as a man : who rose
from the dead as a God, after he had died upon the
crosSr as a man : and yet they cannot surrender their
faith in a divine Word of God, who translates the be-
fore unutterable divinity into communicable form and
brings him into the life of man. Their moral nature
revolts at the notion of an angry Deity, who demands
for so much sin so much suffering, and lets the guilty
escape only on condition that an innocent one will
suffer ; and yet they cannot consent to abandon that
inexplicable peace of mind which comes from a sense
of sin not merely forgiven, but laid upon another and
almost literally borne away into the darkness. This
book is written to aid such minds. It is written for
those whose spiritual nature craves spiritual truth,
whose intellectual nature revolts against intellect-
ual falsehood, and the harmony of whose nature is
such that they must hold all spiritual truth in intel-
lectual forms which are not irrational and self-contra-
dictory. It is not so much an attempt to prove the
truths of Christianity by logical processes as to state
them in thinkable form. It is not an attempt to con-
struct a new theology, still less is it polemically di-
rected against an old theology : though in some
cases, for the sake of greater distinctness, I have


contrasted the new statement with the old. It is an
attempt to state the truth, which is involved in all
theological systems which have ever taken strong
hold upon human hearts in modern thought forms.
It is not so much philosophical as it is personal. It
is the record not so much of studies pursued in books,
as of experiences wrought in my own spirit and in my
own thinking. I cannot inherit truth : I have to ac-
quire it. I have worked my own way through the
forest to the light, only to find, generally, that I had
followed, unconsciously, a path which others had
blazed long before me. Some things which I once
doubted are no longer doubtful : some things which
were once traditional beliefs I have cast off as errors :
but perhaps a still greater number of opinions have
changed their form, retaining their substance, and
have become in their new aspect profitable and vital
convictions. In this book I have done little more
than endeavor to tell those who are beset by similar
difficulties the mental process by which I have cast off
some old notions and some old doubts, and reached
stronger and clearer convictions respecting certain
fundamental truths of the Christian religion.

Spiritual truth can never be accurately stated in
intellectual forms. It is vital, not philosophical : and
something is always lost in the attempt to translate it
from the realm of experience into that of intellect.
No moral philosophy can fathom a mother's love ; no


theological philosophy can fathom the Divine love.
The experience of shame and humiliation in the con-
sciousness of sin transcends all definitions of sinfulness;
the experience of help and peace and joy in conscious
fellowship with God transcends all definitions of re-
demption. All creeds are attempts to define the un-
definable ; attempts to state what transcends all state-
ment. Hence, while spiritual truth remains eternal,
the dogmatic definitions necessarily change. If any
one could have assumed to make a final interpretation
of spiritual experience, surely it might have been the
Apostle Paul : but it is Paul who says " We know in
part and we prophesy in part." As Scripture re-
mains the same in the Hebrew, the Septuagint, the
Vulgate, Luther's Translation, the Authorized Ver-
sion and the New Revision, so spiritual experience re-
mains the same, whether the form of statement be that
of Calvin's "Institutes" or Wesley's Sermons. As
changes in language require new translations because
of new verbal forms, so changes in intellectual con-
ditions require new translations into new philosophical
or dogmatic forms. It is my hope that the contents
of this little book, because they are modern in their
form, may be aids to faith for some who desire spirit-
ually to hold fast to the faith once delivered to the
saints, but who find it impossible honestly to hold fast
to some of the dogmatic forms into which those saints
have translated it, and who cannot sacrifice honesty


even to spiritual happiness ; and this hope is somewhat
encouraged by the service which the lines of thought
here developed seem to have rendered in a previous
use, though in different form, in the pulpit, upon the
lecture platform, and in the columns of the Christian

Lyman Abbott.

Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, N. Y.


ANEW edition of this volume is called for.
Looking at the title-page, which shows that
nearly ten years have passed since the last " revised
and enlarged " edition was printed, I wonder if in
these ten years any changes in my faith have taken
place such that honesty demands a revision or re-
writing of the volume. I re-read it and send it forth
again without altering a word. Had it been a
volume in theology, it is probable that some modi-
fications, perhaps some material modifications,
would have been required. But it is an expression
of faith, not of theology, and the faith to which it
gives expression, years of reflection and study have
only strengthened. I hold more firmly than ever
before to the faith herein expressed, in the Infinite
Power and Universal Presence, in the Divine Image
of that Power and Presence in Jesus the Messiah,
in the Forgiveness of Sins brought to the world of
men through Christ's Sacrifice, in the Book whose
story culminates in his life, teaching, and passion, in
the inheritance of the children of God which that



Book of Promise offers to all men, in the Resurrec-
tion of the Dead, and in the Life Everlasting. I
am devoutly thankful for the assurances which have
come to me that this little book has helped to clarify
and confirm this faith in others, and gladly send it
forth again upon its errand, with the prayer that it
may in the future render this service more efficiently
than it has ever done in the past.

Lyman Abbott.

The Knoll, Cor nwall-on- Hudson,
June, igoi.



Preface v

Preface to the Third Edition . . . xiii

I. — The Alternative Creed 15

II. — The Unbelief of Unbelievers ... 23

III. — The Basis of Faith 31

IV. — The Testimony of Consciousness . . 42

V. — The Infinite Power 52

VI. — The Universal Presence 67

VII. — The Image of God 75

VIII. — Come and See 86

IX.— "Ye Know Him" 99

X. — The Forgiveness of Sins 107

XI. — The Law of Sacrifice 116

XII. — The Book of Promise 126

XIII. — The Earthly Inheritance .... 139

XIV. — The Spiritual Inheritance .... 152

XV. — The Resurrection of the Dead . . 168

XVI. — Eternal Death 183

XVII. — The Eternal Life 191




CHRISTIANITY is a philosophy, a history, and
a life. All three phases of Christianity are illus-
trated by its most venerated and venerable symbol,
the Apostles' Creed. The first paragraph is philo-
sophic — " I believe in God the Father ; " the second
is historic — " and in Jesus Christ his only begotten
Son, who was born of the Virgin Mary ; " the third is
vital — " I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catho-
lic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of
sins." The first offers an interpretation of nature, the
second of history, the third of human experience.
Existence is a mystery. Schumann's " Warum ? "
does but musically interpret the questioning of every
thoughtful heart : " Who am I ? What am I for ?
How came I here ? Under what law or lawgiver am
I ? What forces help to make and what to mar me ?
And what is my destiny ?" To each of these ques-
tions Christianity has a definite answer ready. It
replies : " You are a child of God ; put here for char-


acter building ; by your Father ; under his authority ;
dependent on him for success ; and with immortal,
incorruptible, eternal life your true destiny." These
questions are deep ones ; they go to the very roots
of life. These answers are sublime ones, too large
to be easily accepted. For myself I cannot think of
accepting them on the authority of any man or body
of men, living or dead, past or present, speaking from
the platform or from the tomb. They may help me
to my conclusions ; they cannot, must not, shall not
form those conclusions for me.

But in considering these answers to these questions
I naturally look to see what alternative is offered,
what other answers are proposed. These are the an-
swers of Christian faith ; those of unbelief it is not so
easy to ascertain. For belief is organized and has its
creeds, while unbelief is inorganic and has none.
There are no symbols of infidelity, and one must
search through many an author, and for himself put
together their various articles into one connected
whole. When at times the profound mystery of ex-
istence again appalls me, and the tremendous posi-
tiveness of Christianity arouses anew all the old ques-
tioning, I recur to this creed of the creedless, and
consider what alternative it offers. There are diffi-
culties — great difficulties — in the Christian faith ;
the difficulties of unbelief seem to me, on a candid
comparison, vastly greater.


Unbelief starts out with the assumptions, sometimes
explicitly asserted, sometimes tacitly assumed, that
all our knowledge is derived directly from our senses,
or indirectly by logical processes and from the material
furnished by the senses. They bring in the threads;
the reason weaves them into a pattern ; the web is
knowledge. That there is any power which sees the
invisible, any capacity for directly and immediately
grasping the unseen world, it either openly scouts or
quietly ignores. The benediction, " Blessed are they
that have not seen, and yet have believed," Professor
Clifford, for example, characterizes as " profoundly
immoral," and declares that it would be impossible
that it should be ascribed to a true prophet or a
worthy leader of humanity, by " any man who clearly
felt and recognized the duty of intellectual honesty,
of carefully testing every belief before he received it,
and especially before he recommended it to others." 1
Recognition of a spiritual sense, which directly and
immediately perceives the invisible world, is not, so
far as I know, characterized as " immoral " by any
other prophet of unbelief, but it is passed by in silence
as an antique superstition, or benignly smiled at as a
childish fantasy. 2

Starting with this assumption, unbelief begins its

1 "Lectures and Essays," Vol. II., p. 218.

2 I shall not attempt to give authorities for the statements in these
pages, except when I quote verbatim from some author ; they could
easily be multiplied indefinitely, but would encumber the page with


quest of the universe for a God; the investigation is
honest, earnest, sincere, protracted ; the result is neg-
ative. There is no God to be seen ; that is very clear
— and perhaps some other hypothesis will do as well
to account for all that is seen. On this point it is true
the investigators are not agreed among themselves,
for the sectarian differences are as great among skep-
tics as among Christians, though, since their convic-
tions are not as vital, their strifes are not as bitter.
The Deist thinks there probably is a God, but one
who is by no means perfect in wisdom, power or be-
nevolence ; the Agnostic, that there is an invisible
power behind visible nature, but it is the unknown
and forever unknowable ; the Positivist disowns even
an unknown God and bids us substitute the worship
of humanity ; while the Atheist rejoices to see the
Great King dethroned and man reclaimed from his
greatest weakness, the superstition of worship and the
restraints of divine law. "A Being of great but
limited power, how or by what limited we cannot
even conjecture : of great and perhaps unlimited in-
telligence, but perhaps even more narrowly limited
than his power ; who desires and pays some regard
to the happiness of his creatures, but who seems to
have other motives of action which he cares more for,
and who can hardly be supposed to have created
the universe for that purpose alone : such is the
Deity whom Natural Religion points to, and any
idea of God more captivating than this comes only


from human wishes or from the teaching of real or
imaginary revelation." ' This faith of the Deist goes
too far for the Agnostic, who brings back from his
quest only the assurance that "amid the mysteries
which become the more mysterious the more they are
thought about, there will remain the one absolute
certainty that he is ever in the presence of an Infinite
and Eternal Energy from whom all things proceed." 2
But some remnant of faith is allowed to participate in
even this barren conclusion ; and the Positivist ad-
vances a step beyond. He laughs at the unknowable,
the everlasting naught, the Infinite and Eternal (X n )
of his too credulous companions, and gives Man, spelt
with a capital M, for our admiring reverence. 3 "The
dim and shadowy outlines of the super-human deity,"
he tells us, " fade slowly away from before us, and
as the mist of his presence floats aside we perceive
with greater and greater clearness the shape of a still
grander and nobler figure — of Him who made all Gods
and shall unmake them. From the dim dawn of his-
tory, and from the inmost depth of soul, the face of
our Father Man looks out upon us with the fire of
eternal youth in his eyes, and says, ' Before Jehovah
was, I am.' " 4 But even this requires faith, for only
a perception of the invisible can discover in man

1 John Stuart Mill : "Three Essays on Religion," p. 194.

2 Herbert Spencer, in " Nineteenth Century," Vol. XV., p. 12.

3 Frederic Harrison, in "Nineteenth Century," Vol. XV., p. 505.

4 Professor Clifford, " The Ethics of Religion," "Fortnightly Re-
view," July, 1877.


greatness or nobleness, or present from his history an
object before which reverence can bow. And so we
finally reach the culmination of this creed of the
creedless in the repudiation of all reverence whatever
for God or man, law or person, in the confession of
this faith : " Religion, instead of a prerogative of hu-
man nature, appears as a weakness which adhered to
mankind chiefly during a period of childhood, but
which mankind must outgrow on attaining maturity." 1

Two things, then, are clear to me. First, that
there is no alternative between the Christian religion
and no religion at all. These successive steps follow
each other with an inexorable logic. I must accept
substantially Mr. Mill's position that " any idea of
God more captivating" than his imperfect Deity
comes only from the teaching of either real or
imaginary Revelation ; and if I agree with him in
denying to man all capacity to know the invisible by
direct spiritual perception, I must follow on to agree
with Herbert Spencer that this imperfect Deity is un-
known and unknowable, and with Frederic Harrison
that an Infinite (X n ) is not an object of intelligent
worship. As little can I unite with him and Comte
and Professor Clifford in the worship of Man. In vain
I attempt to join this little band of unworshiping wor-
shipers. My soul refuses to substitute for the " Our
Father " of my childhood the adoration of Humanity.

Our brethren who are upon the earth, hallowed be

1 Strauss, " The Old Faith and the New."


our name ; our kingdom come ; our will be done on
earth ; for there is no heaven. We must get us this
day our daily bread ; we neither forgive nor are for-
given, for Law knows no forgiveness; we fear not
temptation, for we deliver ourselves from evil; for
ours is the kingdom, and ours is the power, and
there is no glory and no forever. Amen.

Can such a prayer as this satisfy me ? No ! I can-
not utter it. The alternative is between a revealed
religion and no religion at all ; between the Christian's
faith in the Christian's God, and no faith, no God, no

It is equally clear that this modern skepticism is not
modern at all. It is ancient paganism — hardly in a new
dress — only in a new name. " Mr. Spencer's 'Energy,'
says Frederic Harrison, " has no analogy with God.
It is Eternal, Infinite, and Incomprehensible ; but
still it is not He, but it." It? Where have I seen
this before ? I look back across the centuries, and,
behold ! the modern faith in an Eternal It is but the
echo of the paganism of the Persian poet of seven
centuries ago.

" We are no other than a moving row
Of magic Shadow shapes that come and go
Round with this Sun -Illumed Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show.

'* Important Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Checker-board of Nights and Days ;
Hither and Thither moves and checks and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.


" The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes,
But Right and Left as strikes the Player goes,
And He that tossed you down into the Field
He knows about it all— He knows — He knows.

" The Moving Finger writes ; and having writ
Moves on ; Nor all your Piety and Toil
Shall turn it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears wash out a word of it.

" And that inverted Bowl they call the Sky,
Whereunder crawling, cooped, we live and die,
Lift not your hands to it for help — for It
As impotently rolls as you or I." *

Frederic Harrison and Herbert Spencer do but re-
peat the pagan philosophy of Omar Khayyam, as he
repeated that of Buddha and Confucius. The Eternal,
Infinite, and Incomprehensible It is not a new Divin-
ity. The alternative of the Christian creed is the

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