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and guide of humanity; nor, even now,
would it be easy, even for an unbeliever, to
find a better translation of the rule of virtue
from the abstract to the concrete than to
endeavor so to live as Christ would approve
our life."

II. He who would make and keep his
conscience a light to guide his conduct and
a force to form his character must apply it to
his own life, not to the life of his neighbor.
He must act on the aphorism, "Conscience
for yourself, not for another." He who
habitually employs his conscience as a meas-
uring rod upon others in time loses the power
to employ it as a measuring rod upon him-
self. Instead of taking a nobler life than his
own by which to test his own conduct, he uses
his own life by which to test the lives of
others. The twin evil spirits uncharitable-
ness and self-conceit take possession of him,
and equally unfit him to judge others or him-
self. When Christ says, "Judge not, that ye
be not judged," he means exactly what he



says. We may judge whether a man is
adapted to a particular place or work — as a
merchant whether the applicant will be a good
bookkeeper, or the college whether the can-
didate is fitted to enter the freshman class.
But even the judge on the bench is not to
make his conscience the standard for the
criminal before him. He judges, not the
amount of absolute demerit in the man in the
dock; he only judges two things — what is
necessary to protect society from the crimi-
nal's depredations, and what discipline is
necessary to make an honest man out of
him. "If," says Thomas a Kempis, "thou
canst not make thyself such as thou wouldest
be, how canst thou have another to thy
liking.^" He who would keep his conscience
clear-eyed and a keen discriminator should
refuse to allow it to pass judgments on others,
should keep it solely to its allotted task, that
of judging its owner. He will thus change the
general question. Is it right to dance, to smoke,
to go to the theatre, to drive on Sunday.^ to
the specific question, Is it right for me to dance,



to smoke, to go to the theatre, to drive on Sun-
day? "Who art thou that judgest another
man's servant ? to his own master he standeth
or falleth."

III. Conscience should be a prophet rather
than a historian. It should stand in the bow
of the vessel to pilot it, not in the stern to cast
the log. There are a great many persons to
whom conscience is only a police officer: it
hales them before the court after the deed is
done, and submits them to inquisition to
determine whether the doing was right or
wrong. The time to interrogate conscience is
in the morning before the day begins. It is
well to forecast the day; to consider before-
hand the questions that are likely to arise, to
demand of conscience its judgments on those
questions, and so to be prepared to meet them
with some measure of provision. This is bet-
ter than to wait till the day is over and then
pass its events in review and call on conscience
to pass judgments on what can no longer be
changed. That also may be sometimes wise,
but chiefly as a preparation for similar events



that are likely to recur in ensuing days.
Conscience is intended to be our guide rather
than our judge; and a judge only that it may
be a better guide. We cannot alter yesterday.
All we can do is to learn its lessons that we
may not repeat the same blunder, run into the
same temptation, or commit the same sin
to-morrow. More dwelling on the past than
is necessary for better and wiser living in the
future only tends to either morbid discour-
agement or morbid self-conceit. Not without
significance does Christ compare the con-
science to the eyes, which are put in the front
of the head that we may see whither we are
going, not in the back of the head that we
may see where we have gone.

IV. Most important of all the conditions
for keeping conscience sensitive and luminous
is prompt obedience to its directions. The
most common method of making the light
that is in us darkness is a refusal to follow the
light we have. The process is this : We adopt
a course of conduct. Conscience protests.
We disregard the protest. Thus we are at



odds with ourselves. But to be at odds
with ourselves becomes intolerable. We have
refused to reconcile our conduct with our
conscience. Presently w^e begin to reconcile
our conscience with our conduct. First we
say, Everybody does it. Then, We must do
it. Then, It cannot be very wrong to do what
everybody does and what we must do. Con-
science is corrupted. It was accuser; it
becomes first apologist, then defender. The
process of corruption is complete. The light
that was in us has become darkness.

Education of conscience by a nobler

Employment of conscience in self-judg-
ment, not in judgment of others.

Prevision of conscience as a preparation for
the future, rather than revision by conscience
in judgment of the past.

Prompt and loyal obedience to conscience.

These are the four methods — perhaps,
rather, I should say four of the methods —
for keeping conscience a receiver and a giver
of light to the life.




Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings ; prove
all things; hold fast that which is good.

rr^HESE are not four independent apho-
risms. Combined, they embody Paul's
religious philosophy. Man possesses a spir-
itual nature by which he immediately discerns
the invisible world ; let him not quench this
spiritual nature. Does he lack it ? let him not
despise one that possesses it in larger meas-
ure, the man of spiritual genius. Yet let him
not accept all visions, his or theirs, with un-
questioning faith; let him test them all. How?
By asking the question, Are they profitable?
The first two counsels find a counterpart
in modern philosophy in a remarkable pas-
sage by Professor Huxley in his monograph
on Hume:

In whichever way we look at the matter, morality is based
on feeling, not on reason; though reason alone is competent
to trace out the effects of our actions and thereby dictate con-
duct. Justice is founded on the love of one's neighbor; and
e: 129


goodness is a kind of beauty. The moral law, like the laws
of physical nature, rests in the long run upon instinctive in-
tuitions, and is neither more nor less "innate" and "neces-
sary" than they are. Some people cannot by any means be
got to understand the first book of Euchd; but the truths of
mathematics are no less necessary and binding on the great
mass of mankind. Some there are who cannot feel the dif-
ference between the "Sonata Appassionata " and "Cherry
Ripe"; or between a gravestone-cutter's cherub and the
Apollo Belvedere; but the canons of art are none the less
acknowledged. While some there may be who, devoid of
s}Tnpathy, are incapable of a sense of duty; but neither does
their existence affect the foundations of morality. Such
pathological deviations from true manhood are merely the
halt, the lame, and the blind of the world of consciousness; and
the anatomist of the mind leaves them aside, as the anatomist
of the body would ignore abnormal specimens. And as there
are Pascals and Mozarts, Newtons and Raffaelles, in whom the
innate faculty for science or art seems to need but a touch to
spring into full vigor, and through whom the human race
obtains new possibilities of knowledge and new conceptions
of beauty; so there have been men of moral genius, to whom
we owe ideals of duty and visions of moral perfection, which
ordinary mankind could never have attained: though,
happily for them, they can feel the beauty of a vision which
lay beyond the reach of their dull imaginations, and count
life well spent in shaping some faint image of it in the actual

' T. H. Huxley, "Collected Essays," Vol. VI, pp. 239, 240.


What Huxley here declares to be true of
morality is equally true of religion. Both
are an experience. The truths of religion
and the truths of morality are not demon-
strated; they are perceived. Immortality is
not an hypothesis concerning the future,
more or less probable; it is a present expe-
rience of a continuing life that does not share
the decay and mortality which the body ex-
periences. Forgiveness of sin is not a theory,
so that one may discuss its possibility. The
soul forgiven feels the burden of the past
lifted off, the sting of remorse extracted, and
a new inspiration to a better life in the future.
When the Psalmist says, "Blessed is he whose
transgression is forgiven, whose sin is cov-
ered," he is describing his own experience,
which one can no more take away from him
by argument than he can take from the mu-
sician the enjoyment derived from hearing a
noble orchestra play a great symphony. The
inspiration of the Bible is a theological theory,
and theories differ as to its nature. But the
fact that the Bible has inspired men with



courage and hope and loyalty to truth and
virtue as no other collection of literature has
ever done is not a theory; it is an experience
which philosophy has not given and phi-
losophy cannot destroy. Faith in Christ is
neither a historic opinion that such a person
lived and taught, nor a theological opinion
that he stood in a unique relation to the Infinite
and Eternal One. It is an appreciation of
the beauty of Christ's character, the perfec-
tion of his life, and the truth and goodness of
his teaching. Its antithesis is not a doubt
whether all that is written of him in the Gos-
pels is true, nor whether he is uniquely divine ;
it is the experience "When we see him, there
is no beauty that we should desire him."
God is not a scientific hypothesis; he is the
Great Companion, the One in whom we live
and move and have our being. He is an
experience in the heart of his child as the
mother is an experience in the heart of her
child. "Religion," says Max Mliller, "con-
sists in the perception of the Infinite under
such manifestations as are able to influence



the moral character of man." * A perception
is something very different from a conclu-
sion. The soul immediately and directly
perceives the Infinite. "Spirit with spirit
can meet." And, meeting with his Father
and filled with the consciousness of the
Everlasting Presence, the soul cries out,
" Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and
there is none upon the earth that I desire
beside thee."

The present age is called a sceptical age.
In so far as it is sceptical the reason may be
easily seen. We have allowed this spirit in
us which immediately and directly perceives
the invisible and the eternal to be quenched.
We have been for the last century looking,
not at the things which are unseen and eternal,
but at the things which are seen and temporal.
We have focussed our attention on the material
world and dimmed our vision of the imma-
terial and spiritual world. What, in a fa-
mous and pathetic passage, Charles Darwin
has said of himself, the nineteenth century

• » Max Miiller, "Natural Religion," p. 188.


might say : "Up to the age of thirty or beyond
it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works
of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Cole-
ridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure,
and, even as a schoolboy, I took intense de-
light. But now, for many years, I cannot
endure to read a line of poetry : I have tried
lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so
intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have
also almost lost my taste for pictures or
music." ^

The remedy is not new arguments for im-
mortality, new theories of the atonement, a
new philosophy of inspiration, a new defini-
tion of divinity, a new conception of divine
personality. These are all well in their way;
they may be valuable, possibly indispensable.
But they do not constitute a radical remedy
for modern scepticism. The scientific method
will never give demonstration of unscientific
truth. Arguments will never take the place
of a living experience. As well expect an ex-
position of the undulatory theory of light to

^ "Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," Vol. I, p. 8L


give sight to the blind. The radical remedy
is a new point of view, a new habit of thought,
a new exercise of the unused spiritual faculty.
I once stood on the prow of an Atlantic
steamer by the side of the lookout. When
he saw a sail in the distance, he sounded a
little whistle as a notification to the wheels-
man. It was sometimes ten or fifteen min-
utes before I could see what he had seen.
I needed, not a philosophy of vision, but a
better pair of eyes. He who cannot see God
lacks, not sound philosophy, but spiritual
vision. We have lost our far-sightedness
because our eyes have been fixed on the
near-by things. Not unintelligently : the mi-
croscope, the telescope, the laboratory, have
all been employed in honest investigation.
Not fruitlessly: we need to know the world
we live in, and we know it a great deal better
than our fathers knew it. Not always self-
ishly: we have unselfishly sought to improve
the condition of our fellows. But too exclu-
sively. And so we have developed one side of
our nature at the expense of the other side.



There are philosophers who deny that there
is any other side of our nature; who affirm
that we can only know what we can touch,
taste, see, hear; all else is hypothesis; that
scientific knowledge is the only knowledge.
There are philosophers who affirm that most
men can get no further into the invisible world
than to see the justice that is founded on
love of one's neighbor and the goodness that
is a kind of beauty ; that religion, like art and
music, is only for the elect few. But most
of us have no such philosophy. We recall
devout souls; we realize that they have an
experience which we have not; we envy
them their possession; we want some article
or sermon or book to give it to us. But no
article, sermon, or book can give it to us.
Nothing can give it to us but the development
of an undeveloped faculty. We can acquire
the power to see only by looking.

So far as this is a sceptical age it is so
because it is too exclusively a scientific age.
I do not know what the booksellers would say,
but I do not believe that there is a great de-



mand for devotional literature. The Bible
is studied more thoroughly than before, but
it is critically, that is, scientifically, studied.
That it is more used as a simple expression
of devotional life, I doubt. Biblical scholars
have been more busy in endeavoring to as-
certain who wrote the Twenty-third Psalm
':han in endeavoring to ascertain how a twen-
tieth-century Christian can have this blessed
experience of divine companionship; they
have been more desirous to discover who
wrote the Fourth Gospel than to learn how we
can make the prayer in the seventeenth chap-
ter of John the supreme desire of our lives.

Not only devotional literature — all litera-
ture takes a second place. Our great poets
are of the past, and I wonder how much
their poems are read by the present genera-
tion. Our favorite novels are problem novels ;
our favorite plays society plays. To present
in fiction as nearly as possible a reproduction
of what we see in daily life is the ambition of
realism; to present a caricature of it is the
ambition of American humor. It is true that



the study of literature has been in recent years
taken up in our schools and colleges; but,
with rare exceptions, it is the scientific, not
the literary, study which is pursued. Greek,
which is pre-eminently the language of the
greatest literature of the past, is not only dead,
but well-nigh forgotten. And we wonder
that the age is sceptical, and endeavor to
supply the defect of an undeveloped faculty
by a scientific method ; to substitute a reli-
gious hypothesis for a religious experi-

The first step in the remedy for the scep-
ticism of the twentieth century is indicated
alike by Paul and by Professor Huxley : by
Paul in the three words, "Despise not proph-
esyings"; by Huxley in the more ample
statement, "There have been men of moral
genius, to whom we owe ideals of duty and
visions of moral perfection, which ordinary
mankind could never have attained; though,
happily for them, they can feel the beauty of
a vision which lay beyond the reach of their
dull imaginations, and count life well spent



in shaping some faint image of it in the
actual world."

There are men of outsight — careful,
skilled, trained observers — under whose
guidance and direction we put ourselves if we
desire to investigate the external world. There
are men of insight, with quick, sensitive spir-
itual vision, under whose guidance and direc-
tion we may well put ourselves if we desire
to become acquainted with the invisible world.
These men also tell us what they have seen;
and their testimony is worthy of our consid-
eration. These are the poets and prophets,
the men of moral genius. Their ideals of
life are not their creation; they are their
visions of the eternal and invisible realities.
Tennyson and Browning have something to
give us as well as Darwin and Huxley. There
have been explorers of the deeps of spiritual
experience as well as explorers of the mysteries
of the stars and the molecules. To get ac-
quainted with them, live with them, learn to
love them, to consider carefully their visions
which lie beyond the reach of our dull im-



aginations, and to count our life well spent
in the endeavor to shape some faint image
of these visions in our actual world, is the
first step toward that acquaintance with the in-
visible and the eternal which Paul calls faith.
We can find in Browning's "Christmas Eve"
inspiration to a larger spirit of catholicity;
in Tennyson's "Quest of the Holy Grail" a
summons to a nobler pilgrimage; in Lowell's
"Commemoration Ode" a call to enlist in a
more unselfish service; in Whittier's " Eternal
Goodness" a glimpse of the All-Father which
will at least create in us a desire to know him
better. Nor shall we find in literature any
better interpretation of these spiritual visions
than in portions of the Bible, nor anywhere
in the Bible a better interpretation than in
the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The real and radical remedy for scepti-
cism is a sincere, continuous, and persistent
endeavor to acquaint ourselves with these
ideals, and to shape some faint image of
these visions of truth and beauty in our lives.




Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings ; prove
all things ; hold fast that which is good.

^"TTE are counselled by Paul to keep alive
our spiritual nature and to honor those
who possess it in larger measure than our-
selves. But we are also cautioned not to
accept as true all that the prophets say, nor
even all that we think we have experienced.
We are to test both their visions and ours
and hold fast only those which stand the test
of practical reason. If to believe that men
can directly and immediately take cognizance
of realities which the senses cannot perceive
is to be a mystic, then Paul is a mystic. But
if to believe that what this inward sense de-
clares is to be accepted with an unquestioning
faith, that this voice within is the infallible
voice of God to be followed without doubt and



without demanding credentials — if this is
to be a mystic, Paul is not a mystic. If to
believe that every such inward testimony,
whether from our own experience or from the
experience of others, is to be brought before
the tribunal of reason and then investigated,
that no faith is so sound and no tradition so
ancient that it may be accepted without
question — if this is to be a rationalist, then
Paul was a rationalist. If to believe that
the reason is the only faculty for the ascertain-
ment of truth, that we are to entertain no
opinion as true unless it has been demon-
strated by the reason, that all convictions
must be reasoned convictions — if this is to
be a rationalist, then Paul was not a ration-
alist. For, I repeat, the four aphorisms.
Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesy-
ings; prove all things; hold fast that which
is good, constitute in aphoristic form Paul's
philosophy. Man has a spirit which imme-
diately and directly perceives the invisible
world ; let him not suffer it to be paralyzed.
There are men of spiritual genius who pos-



sess this spiritual power in an unusual degree ;
let us not despise, but respect, their testimony
as to what they have seen and known. But
let us not take either their experiences or our
own as final ; let us carefully consider them
and accept and act upon them only as they
are reasonable. In deciding on their reason-
ableness, the final test is their practical effi-
ciency. Are they beneficial ? Do they pro-
mote our welfare and the welfare of man-
kind ?

Much of our knowledge is derived from
our senses. We know, or think we know,
what we see, or think we see. But our senses
sometimes deceive us. We are subject to
hallucinations. If we are in doubt whether
we have really seen what we think we have
seen, or if others are in doubt concerning the
matter, reason is called in to decide the ques-
tion and rectify the error, if error there has
been. When, for example, a traveller re-
ports that the Oriental juggler, standing on
the open ground, with nothing but the sky
above him, throws a rope up into the air and

L 145


then climbs up it hand over hand and dis-
appears from sight, the scientist discredits
the tale. It is not reasonable; that is, it
does not tally with what we know of the laws
of nature. The scientist does not aver that
anything is impossible; he only avers that
some things are more improbable than others.
In this case he contends that it is more prob-
able that the traveller is mistaken than that
the law of gravitation has been suspended.
So when he reads in an ancient record that
Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and
it obeyed him, the scientist says at once:
This is not reasonable. It is more probable
that the effect was produced by a quasi
mirage, or that the expression is a poetical
one used to express the apparently intermi-
nable day, or that the record is wholly mis-
taken, than that the earth stopped for an
appreciable time in its revolution on its axis.
In both cases the scientist is following Paul's
counsel : he is proving — that is, testing by
his reason — the story which is brought to
him; and, in each case, he rejects it because



it seems to him more credible that the witness
is in error, or his meaning is misapprehended,
than that the laws of nature were reversed
or suspended. But it is quite conceivable
that the testimony to the feat of the Oriental
juggler or to the apparently lengthened day
should be so overwhelming that the court
would be compelled to accept it. In that
case the reason would be applied to find some
explanation of the phenomenon not incon-
sistent with the assumption of science that
nature is subject to law, or, to phrase this
differently, that God is a God of order and
not of anarchy.

As the physical senses are sometimes mis-
taken, so sometimes is the inward or spiritual
sense. Personally, I doubt whether the latter
is any more frequently mistaken in its testi-
mony than the former ; whether, that is, hallu-
cinations of the spirit are any more common
than hallucinations of the senses. The reason
why the spiritual sense is less trusted is partly
because we easily distinguish between what
we have seen and what we conclude from



what we have seen, and with difficulty dis-
tinguish between what we have experienced
and what we conclude from what we have
experienced. However this may be, Paul
would have us bring all our spiritual experi-
ences, no less than our sensuous observations,
into the court of reason, and subject them
there to investigation. The inward sense is
no more infallible than the outward sense.
Both are to be tested and their testimony
confirmed or their errors corrected. For
example :

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:

Thou madest man, he knows not why;
He thinks he was not made to die;

And thou hast made him : thou art just.

In this verse Tennyson gives expression to
what is the nearly universal instinct of man-

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Online LibraryLyman AbbottThe temple → online text (page 5 of 6)