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Scientific and Religious Journal.
|Vol. I.||SEPTEMBER, 1880.||No. 9.|
Voltaire says, “I am ever apprehensive of being mistaken; but all monuments give me sufficient evidence that the polished nations of antiquity acknowledged a supreme God. There is not a book, not a medal, not a bas-relief, not an inscription, in which Juno, Minerva, Neptune, Mars, or any of the other deities, is spoken of as a creating being, the sovereign of all nature.
“On the contrary, the most ancient profane books that we have—Hesiod and Homer—represent their Zeus as the only thunderer, the only master of gods and men; he even punishes the other gods; he ties Juno with a chain, and drives Apollo out of heaven.
“The ancient religion of the Brahmins explains itself in a sublime manner, concerning the unity and power of God, in these words found in the 2d chapter of the Shastah, ‘The Eternal, absorbed in the contemplation of his own existence, resolved, in the fullness of time, to communicate his glory and his essence to beings capable of feeling and partaking his beatitude, as well as of contributing to his glory. The Eternal willed it, and they were. He formed them partly of his own essence, capable of perfection or imperfection, according to their will. The Eternal first created Brahma, Vishna and Siva, then Mozazor and all the multitude of the angels. The Eternal gave the pre-eminence to Brahma, Vishna and Siva. Brahma was the prince of the angelic army. Vishna and Siva were his coadjutors. The Eternal divided the angelic army into several bands, and gave to each a chief. They adored the Eternal, ranged around his throne, each in the degree assigned him. There was harmony in heaven.’
“The Chinese, ancient as they are, come after the Indians. They have acknowledged one only God. They have no subordinate gods. The Magi of Chaldea, the Sabeans, acknowledge but one supreme God, whom they adored in the stars, which are his work. The Persians adored him in the sun. The sphere placed on the frontispiece of the temple of Memphis was the emblem of one only and perfect God, called Knef by the Egyptians. The title of Deus Optimum Maximus was never given by the Romans to any but Jupiter.” Voltaire adds, “This great truth, which we have elsewhere pointed out, can not be too often repeated. Jupiter was the translation of the Greek word Zeus, and Zeus a translation of the Phenician word Jehovah.”—Philosophical Dictionary, vol. 1, pp. 374, 375.
Ever remember, that there is, in all the ancient theories of gods, the grand idea of one supreme God. Unbelievers keep this great truth out of sight.
R. Dale Owen says of Christ, “His character and his doings, as exhibited in the gospel biographies—are almost as marvellous as the system he gave to the world. They accord neither with his country nor with his time, nor—except as one illustrious example disclosing to us what man may be—with that human race with which, on a hundred occasions, he expressly identified himself. It were difficult in this connection, to improve on the words of an anglican clergyman, whose early death was a misfortune to the church he adorned. ‘Once in the roll of ages, out of innumerable failures, from the stock of human nature, one bud developed into a faultless flower. One perfect specimen of humanity has God exhibited on earth. As if the life blood of every nation were in his veins, and that which is best and truest in every man, and that which is tenderest and gentlest and purest in every woman, were in his character; he is emphatically the Son of Man.’ ‘Christ is the crowning exemplar of the Inspired; for he, while abiding among us, lived, more nearly than any other of God’s creatures here, within sight and hearing of his future home. Therefore it is that his teachings are the noblest fruits of inspiration.'”
A.J. Davis says: “He (Christ) was A TYPE OF A PERFECT MAN, both in physical and spiritual qualifications. His general organization was indeed remarkable, inasmuch as he possessed, combined, the perfection of physical beauty, mental powers and refined accomplishments. He was generally beloved during his youth for his great powers of discernment, his thirst after knowledge, and his disposition to inquire into the causes of mental phenomena, of the conditions of society, and of the visible manifestations of nature. He was also much beloved for his PURE natural sympathy for all who were suffering afflictions either of a physical or mental character—It is true that at the age of twelve years he was admitted to the presence of the learned doctors. There he manifested some of his powers of discernment, interior and natural philosophy, unsophistocated love, simplicity of expression, kindness of disposition, and universal sympathy and benovolence. These he displayed with all the naturalness and spontaneousness resulting from the promptings of an uncorrupted and purely-organized spiritual principle.”
Gregg, a Deist, says: “I value the religion of Jesus, as containing more truth, purer truth, higher truth, than has ever yet been given to man. Much of his teaching I unhesitatingly receive as, to the best of my judgment, unimprovable and unsurpassable—fitted, if obeyed, to make earth all that a finite and material scene can be, and man only a little lower than the angels. ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord; * * * * * * but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ ‘By their fruits ye shall know them;’ ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice;’ ‘Be not a slothful hearer only, but a doer of the work;’ ‘Woe unto ye, Scribes and Pharisees, for ye pay tithes of mint, and anise and cummin, and neglect the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and temperance, (faith left out.)’
“‘The enforcement of purity of heart as the security for purity of life, and of the government of the thoughts, as the originators and forerunners of action.’ ‘He that looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart;’ ‘Out of the heart proceed murders, adulteries, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man.’
“Universal good-will toward men.—’Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;’ ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, that do ye also unto them, for this is the law and the prophets.’
“Forgiveness of injuries.—’Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you, pray for them which dispitefully use you and persecute you;’ ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us;’ ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven;’ ‘If ye love them only that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even publicans the same?’
“The necessity of self-sacrifice in the cause of duty.—’Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake;’ ‘If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me;’ ‘If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee;’ ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’
“Humility.—’Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth;’ ‘He that humbleth himself shall be exalted;’ ‘He that is greatest among you, let him be your servant.’
“Genuine sincerity; being not seeming.—’Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them;’ ‘When thou prayest, enter into thy closet and shut thy door;’ ‘When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast.’ All these sublime precepts need no miracle, no voice from the clouds, to recommend them to our allegiance, or to assure us of their divinity; they command obedience by virtue of their inherit rectitude and beauty, and vindicate their author as himself the one towering perpetual miracle of history.”—Creed of Christendom, pp. 318, 319.
“We hold that God has so arranged matters in this beautiful and well-ordered, but mysteriously-governed universe, that one great mind after another will arise from time to time, as such are needed, to discover and flash forth before the eyes of men the truths that are wanted, and the amount of truth that can be borne. We conceive that this is effected by endowing them, or by having arranged that nature and the course of events shall send them into the world endowed with that superior mental and moral organization in which grand truths, sublime gleams of spiritual light, will spontaneously and inevitably arise. Such a one we believe was Jesus of Nazareth, the most exalted religious genius whom God ever sent upon the earth; in himself an embodied revelation; humanity in its divinest phase, ‘God manifest in the flesh,’ according to eastern hyperbole; an exemplar given in an early age of the world to show what man may and should become in the course of ages; in his progress towards the realization of his destiny; an individual gifted with a grand, clear intellect, a noble soul, a fine organization, marvelous moral intuitions, and a perfectly balanced moral being; and who, by virtue of these endowments, saw further than all other men, ‘Beyond the verge of that blue sky, where God’s sublimest secrets lie.'”—Creed of Christendom, pp. 306, 307.
We regard him * * as the perfection of the spiritual character, as surpassing all men of all times in the closeness and depth of his communion with the Father. In reading his sayings, we feel that we are holding converse with the wisest, purest, noblest being that ever clothed thought in the poor language of humanity. In studying his life we feel that we are following the footsteps of the highest ideal yet presented to us upon earth.
By the very next sentence Gregg’s eulogy upon Christ becomes an eulogy upon the Old Testament. He says the Old Testament contained his teaching; it was reserved for him to elicit, publish and enforce it.—Creed of Christendom, pp. 300, 310.
“But it must not be forgotten that though many of the Christian precepts were extant before the time of Jesus, yet it is to him that we owe them; to the energy, the beauty, the power of his teaching, and still more to the sublime life he led, which was a daily and hourly exposition and enforcement of his teaching.”—Gregg, C.C.
Strauss allows that it was not possible that the early Christians should have looked upon Christ as their Redeemer and Mediator between God and men, if the apostles had not proclaimed this very doctrine; and the apostles could not have preached it if Jesus himself had not designated himself as the Redeemer from sin, guilt and death, and demanded faith in himself as a religious act. He asserts that the distinguishing features of the Christian church must be traced to Christ, his ministry and teachings about himself; that Christ claimed the power to secure peace to his followers. He also claims that the moral and religious character of Christ is above every suspicion, and unequaled in its kind. He says, “The purely spiritual and ethical conceptions of God as the ‘only one,’ he owed to his Jewish education, and, also the purity of his being. But the Greecian element in Jesus was his cheerfulness, arising from his unsullied mind.” Again he says, Jesus, by cultivating a frame of mind that was cheerful, in union with God, and embracing all men as brethren, had realized the prophetic ideal of a New Covenant with the heart inscribed law; he had to speak with the poet, received God into his will; so that for him the Godhead had descended from its throne, the abyss was filled up, all fear was vanished. His beautifully organized nature had but to develop itself to be more fully and clearly confirmed in its consciousness of itself, but needed not to return to begin a new life.
Gregg, the Deist, after presenting Jesus as the “one towering, perpetual miracle of history,” says, “Next in perfection come the views which Christianity unfolds to us of God in his relation to man, which were probably as near the truth as the minds of men could in that age receive. God is represented as our Father in heaven, to be whose especial children is the best reward of the peace-makers, to see whose face is the highest hope of the pure in heart, who is ever at hand to strengthen his true worshipers, to whom is due our heartiest love, our humblest submission, whose most acceptable worship is righteous conduct and a holy heart, in whose constant presence our life is passed, to whose merciful disposal we are resigned by death. His relation to us is alone insisted on. All that is needed for our consolation, our strength, our guidance, is assured to us. The purely speculative is passed over and ignored.” It may be that the prospect of an “exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory” may be needed to support our frail purposes under the crushing afflictions of our mortal lot. It may be that, by the perfect arrangements of Omnipotence, the sufferings of all may be made to work out the ultimate and supreme good of each. He next makes this grand concession: To the orthodox Christian, who fully believes all he professes, cheerful resignation to the divine will is comparatively a natural, an easy, a simple thing. To the religious philosopher (meaning such as himself) it is the highest exercise of intellect and virtue. The man who has realized the faith that his own lot is so regulated by God as unerringly to work for his highest good—with such a man, resignation, patience, nay cheerful acquiescence in all suffering and sorrow, appear to be in fact only the simple and practical expression of his belief. If, believing all this, he still murmers and rebels at the trials and contrarieties of his lot, he is of the childishness of the infant which quarrels with the medicine that is to lead it back to health and ease.
Huxley says: “The belief that the divine commands are identical with the laws of social morality has left infinite strength to the latter in all ages. The lover of moral beauty, struggling through a world full of sorrow and sin, is surely as much the stronger for believing that sooner or later a vision of perfect peace and goodness will burst upon him, as the toiler up a mountain for the belief that beyond crag and snow lie home and rest.”—Modern Symposium, page 250, 1.
Baldwin Brown, of the Liberal School, speaking of a very singular effort of Mr. Harrison, says: “I rejoice in the passionate earnestness with which he lifts the hearts of his readers to ideals which it seems to me—that Christianity which as a living force in the Apostles’ days turned the world upside down, that is right side up, with its face toward heaven and God—alone can realize for man. I recall a noble passage written by Mr. Harrison some years ago: ‘A religion of action, a religion of social duty, devotion to an intelligible and sensible head, a real sense of incorporation with a living and controlling force, the deliberate effort to serve an immortal humanity—this, and this alone can absorb the musings and the cravings of the spiritual man.’ A.J. Davis speaking of the first century, says: ‘Jesus Christ and his apostles were at this time establishing the only true religion.'”
Now, I wish to say a few things in view of all that I have given from the opposite side. And first, as it is the part of science to find a cause for every effect, we will look after the causes as given by those men who reject the essential divinity of the religion of Christ, and also look after the strength or weakness of their cause, as the case may be:
1. What is the cause of the character they ascribe to the Christ? We will begin with the Deist Gregg. He claims that God has endowed men differently—has endowed some with brains so much larger and finer than those of ordinary men as to enable them to see and originate truths which are hidden from the mass; and that when it is his will that mankind should make some great step forward, should achieve some pregnant discovery, that is, discovery loaded with benefits to our race, he calls into being some cerebral organization of more than ordinary magnitude and power, as that of David, Isaiah, Plato, Shakespeare, Bacon, Newton, Luther, Pascal. Here we discover the cause of the superior character of Christ as a teacher, which is assigned by all the leading spirits in modern unbelief, viz: a finely endowed cerebral organization, and a Jewish education; these are constantly presented as sufficient to meet the scientific demand for the cause of his life and teachings, or the cause of Christianity. But there is a scientific demand lying behind all this, viz: what is the cause of this fine cerebral organization, which was so wonderful as to produce the most wonderful character of all ages? The answer, given in the clear-cut words of all except Atheists, who say there is no God, is this, “The all-wise disposer of all things sends just such men into our race, when any great step forward is necessary to be made—that he endows them with direct reference to the discoveries and achievements to be made.” So the great cause, after all, is, upon their own showing, the will and power of God; for if he endowed him, as they claim, with direct reference to his teachings and achievements, it follows of necessity, that he willed that those very teachings and achievements should not only be made, but be made just when they were, and just as they were; so Christianity finds its origin in God, and is a manifestation from God, according to the showing of Gregg and Strauss. For Strauss will have it that the finite must not be separated from God. But you must remember that Strauss is a Pantheist, and that he, as such, claims that the infinite, or God, who with him is not a person, but all-pervading life, receives the finite into itself, and so it becomes a part of the idea of the Godhead; in such a manner, however, that it is not peculiar to Jesus alone, but to humanity as such. So Strauss reaches the same thought that Gregg expresses—so far as the relation of Christ to Godhead is concerned. While he and Strauss differ upon the subject of the Godhead, one being a Deist and the other a Pantheist, they find their agreement in naturalism, that is to say, they account for the Christ character upon the score of his being more finely organized and endowed by relation to the Godhead; Gregg claims that this is attributable to an all-wise Godhead, and Strauss claims that it is attributable to the all-pervading life, or Pantheistic Godhead, and both include as a second cause of his character his education.
We then systematize as follows: first, the Deist who accepts the character of Christ as exhibiting a superior life. His first cause for the existence of Christianity is the fine organization of Christ. His second cause is his education. The pantheist has it as follows: first cause for the existence of Christianity, the fine organization of Christ. Second cause, his education; both, however, must find a cause behind that fine organization, and that cause, they claim, is the Godhead, however much they may differ about that Godhead.
This relation between Christ and the true Godhead is the fundamental article in the Christian religion, and becomes at once, by common agreement, the first great cause of the origin and existence of the Christian religion. No Pantheist, or Deist, or Naturalist gets away from this conclusion without avowing Atheism. What does it amount to? Answer: Christianity is of God. The reason is this, the fine cerebral organization of Christ was of God. Hence we have it, first cause, God; second cause, Christ; effect, Christianity. Common admission, Christ is the grandest character, the purest life, the finest teacher, finest organization ever yet given to the race. The Christian says, Amen! But science must find a cause for every effect. What was the cause of the teachings of the apostles, whose sincerity was such that they died for their religion? Well, Strauss says, It is inconceivable that they should have done it if Jesus himself had not designated himself as the Redeemer from sin, guilt and death, and required faith in his person as a religious duty, claiming the power to secure peace in the Holy Spirit. According to Strauss, we have this arrangement:
First, the infinite—the Godhead took the finite Jesus into itself.