Page images
PDF
EPUB

excited by means which operate directly upon itself. It can be strengthened in no other way than by its own activity and exercise. This is generally admitted of the knowing and reasoning powers, but it is as absolutely and strictly true of moral principle and of the religious sentiments, as it is of the intellect. God's laws are as simple as they are universal and immutable. A muscle of the human body acquires strength and freedom of action only by the frequent exertion of its own powers. So it is with every faculty of the intellect, - so it is with the animal appetites and instincts, --so is it with all the capacities of the moral and religious nature.

In order to educate the sense of duty, it is not enough to enlighten the intellect. The sense of duty itself must be appealed to; -- it must be called into living action. I would not knowingly tread upon forbidden ground, I would not willingly lay profane hands on the altar of religious faith; and I trust that I am not now guilty of so doing. But I wish to say, that of all the errors of the Christian church, by far the greatest, the most disastrous, and the most universal, seems to me to have arisen from ignorance or disregard of the principle which I am now endeavoring to illustrate. The essential elements of religion have been placed in the head and not in the heart. Theological science has been substituted for moral principle and religious feeling. Before the moral and religious nature can be effectively cultivated, it must come to be seen that it is a nature by itself; as entirely different from the intellect as are the selfish passions. The cold deductions of the reason, in relation to the doctrines of any system of religious belief, may be perfectly sound, while the moral and religious nature itself is dormant or lifeless. The head may be right in theology, while the heart is dead in trespasses and sins. The deductions of the reason may be obscure, uncertain, or positively erroneous, while the moral and religious nature is glowing with intense and rapturous life. No want of logical acumen ; no mistake of the speculative mind; no absence of mere knowledge can cool the fervor of an adoring spirit, or hold back from its ascent to the throne of Heaven the supplication of penitence and faith. Every faculty of the mind, — instinctive, social, reasoning, moral and religious, -must be educated and strengthened by placing it in relation to the objects for which it has been created and endowed. The instinctive powers must be excited through the objects which have been placed in relation to them; the

social powers through their objects; the reasoning powers through theirs; the moral and religious powers through theirs. To every power there are certain things, objects, phenoinena, placed in a definite relation. In this especial relation to the intellect have been placed the Jaws, appearances and properties of matter ; the laws, operations and actions of the powers of the mind; their mutual dependencies, and their various other relations. Within us there is a sense of the beautiful, and this faculty recognises, appreciates, and delights in, all forms and manifestations, in nature and in art, in matter and in mind, of the perfect, the excellent and the fair. In relation to the feeling of reverence have been placed all things and beings that are lofty, exalted, above us, – its highest object being God. The intellect may study his attributes, his character, his designs; but reverence alone can feel the majesty of his presence, and bow down in humility and awe before Him. The intellect may study the nature and uses of prayer, but it cannot pray ; it may utter the words, but it cannot breathe the spirit that animates and fills them; it may mould the form, but it cannot add the wings which alone can carry it up to Heaven. The intellect may seek out and ascertain what particular course of action is right, but it cannot feel the obligation of doing right. The head must do its own work, it cannot do that of the heart; the heart must work out its own salvation, this cannot be done by the head.

A great deal has been said about the connection of Science with Religion. But let us be careful that we do not misapprehend the nature of this connection. It is the province of science, it should be its highest and noblest province, to act as the handmaid of religion. It should free the mind from superstitious and debasing fears ; from narrow and illiberal prejudices; from the mists of ignorance and error. It should unfold to us the character of God, as it is revealed to us in his word, in his works and in his dealings with men. It should follow its manifold and noble vocation, always in the spirit of religion. In the generous ardor of self-devotion it should consecrate all its labors to the glory of God and the good of men. But let it be remembered, after all, that science cannot usurp the place, or exercise the functions of religion. The intellectual eye may “ look through nature up to nature's God," and it may thus see him more distinctly than it otherwise can; as we survey through the telescope those distant worlds

which the unaided vision could never reach. But no appliances of art, and no cunning of earthly wisdom can impart that look of ineffable confidence, devotion and trust, which fills the eye when we gaze directly upon a beloved face, or commune in the depths of our spirit with the great object of adoration and worship. Science has its own mission, and a glorious one it is ; let it fulfil it. Duty and love have theirs also, and it is still more glorious than the former ; let them too do their work. All these powers may aid each other, but every one must perform its own appropriate part for itself.

That science has no necessary connection with moral and religious principle is evident enough from the entire history, both of science and religion. If it is true that,

“ An undevout astronomer is mad,” there should be some strange transfers of illustrious names from the rolls of philosophy to the registers of lunatic hospitals. All these shining spheres, which inlay the firmament with patins of bright gold, may be as familiar to the understanding as household things, while the heart is as cold as the light which they shed down upon us.

If these principles, which I have thus attempted very briefly and partially to illustrate, are sound and true, it is easy to see what the practical results are, which ought to grow out of them.

If they are sound and true, the best methods and plans for their practical application will naturally present themselves; or they will soon be ascertained by trial and experience. This portion of the subject I have not thought it proper to touch

upon. There are many and various duties in relation to this matter which we owe to the cause of humanity. While one workman clears off the old timber and removes the rocks with gunpowder and fire, another may turn up the deep furrow, a third may plant the seed, and a fourth

may water. I have thought it best to limit myself to the office of stating and developing some few of the general doctrines of the subject, and I shall now conclude, as I have thus far proceeded, with a few further observations of the same comprehensive character, in relation especially to the stated subject of the lecture.

The patriot, or the martyr, who gives his body to the stake, or the scaffold, rather than renounce his allegiance to the

Full as

right and the true ; the lone woman, who in solitude, neglect and penury, amid suffering and wrong, bears patiently and cheerily up, sacrificing her whole self at the call of duty and the voice of love, - are loftier and nobler manifestations of human nature, than the hero who conquers nations, or the philosopher who creates new sciences or discovers new worlds. Only so far is intellectual greatness a good as it corresponds to the promptings and principles of the higher nature. is the world of false judgment, and unjust appreciation, and wrong passion, it is after all only the true, the disinterested, and the right, that is garnered up in the heart of humanity, and cherished as its best possession. Only this lives and grows green with age. Meanness, injustice, wrong-doing, selfishness, will at length dethrone and drag down to the earth the proudest spirit that ever reigned in the empire of mind. Not all the wonderful genius and the various learning of Bacon can keep sweet his memory, or wipe off the cloud that is daily and silently gathering over the brightness and sullying the glory of his name. Time is ever setting right the wrong judgments of men ; reversing their premature decisions ; breaking in pieces the false gods of the past; casting down its idols of clay; stripping the crowns from the foreheads of the temporarily great or notorious only, and placing them on the brows of the pure, the disinterested, the just, and the good. The same thing is seen in literature, one of the most universal modes of expression of the intellectual and moral nature. In this, as in the living action of humanity, only the excellent and the true endures. What are the immortal utterances of the bard and the orator; living on through all time ; received into all hearts; echoed by all tongues; humanity's familiar and household words? They are those, and only those, which coming from man's holiest and highest nature, address themselves to the same nature again. They are those which speak to us of the innocency and joyousness of childhood; of the sacredness of friendship and love; of the patriot's valor, and the martyr's cross ;they are those which tell us of self-sacrifice; of heroic daring; of patient endurance for the glory of God in the rights and the interests of men. With what a triumphant and eternal harmony do these voices, issuing from the great deep of the past, ever roll on, gathering strength from generation to generation, and sweetness from age to age !

I have been speaking of the relative value of moral and

of intellectual endowments. I will not, on the present occasion, so wrong and degrade the former as to institute any comparison between their worth and that of all temporal good, riches, power, or fame. All these have their value. I wish to speak no words but those of truth and soberness. I make no fanatical crusade against the goods of this life, or against those desires of the mind which covet them. They are God's gifts, and when occupying their right places and devoted to their right ends, they are worthy of the Giver. Neither will any one suspect me, I trust, of a wish to underrate, or disparage the nobleness, or the usefulness of intellectual strength or attainment. I only claim that all these should be held as goods subordinate to moral and religious truth. A sweet temper is a richer dowry than a keen wit, — the spirit of self-sacrifice a higher and more difficult attainment than a knowledge of the stars.

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh

a city."

I would see the whole of man's nature reverenced and developed. His body, this tabernacle of flesh and blood, the instincts which he possesses in common with the brutes, as well as the intellect which conceives, and the adoration which bows down before Him are the works of his Maker's hands. No one of their properties or powers is to be hated or contemned. Let the senses receive the fullest culture of which they are susceptible. Let the eye be gratified with the beauty of form and color which God has framed it to perceive and to delight in : let the ear be filled with the rayishment of sweet sounds, which God has so exquisitely attuned it to hear. Let art imitate and rival the cunning of nature. Let her glory in the creation of ideal beauty. Let the marble be made to speak, and the canvass to glow with life. Let the charm of gentle manners, and the graceful courtesies of civilization and refinement be spread over the face of society. Let invention minister to all the commoner wants of man: - let it call the elements into his service ; let it bid the fire, the water, the earth and the air to do his work; to weave his clothing, to build his houses, to print his books, to bring to his doors all the products of the earth; – to carry him over the land and the sea. Let science unfold to him the mysteries of the universe; let it count the flowers, let it number the stars, — let it weigh the sun and the planets in a balance; but running

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »