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It is felt, and seen, and said that we are entering upon a New Age. The literature, the philosophy, the science of the day are immeasurably in advance of those of former ages, and are advancing with gigantic strides in the path of progress. “Excelsior !" is the universal cry.
But besides this, those secular elements possess the capacity of moving, not only in a lateral, but also in an upward direction, and thus of ascending on to a higher plane. As matters now stand, however, yesterday's science is supplanted by to-day's, as to-day's will be by to morrow's. The same may be said of the philosophical systems which are daily cropping up, each supplanting and frequently contradicting its predecessor. Not very satisfactory, this, to meet the multiplied and ever-multiplying wants of the New Age ! Something is evidently needed to complete the edifice : a keystone to steady and permanently to unite the now ever-rocking stones of the arch. The religious teachings of the day have been applied to the solution of the problem, and have been found wanting. Attempt after attempt has been made to dovetail those teachings into the secular elements above named; but every attempt has resulted in a signal failure. And it is safe to predict that all future attempts will be attended with a similar result. And why? Evidently because the philosophy and the science of the day—not to speak of its literature-stand on a higher platform than the corresponding elements of the former age, and, therefore, cannot find their appropriate correlative in the religious teachings of that age : the keystone does not fit the arch, nor can it ever be made to fit it. Now the question is, whether the religious teachings which we have accepted and are seeking to inculcate as those of the New Dispensation, will fulfil the conditions required? Let us endeavour to ascertain.
The primary want, the want of wants, both felt, and seen, and declared by the literati, the philosophers, and the scientists of the day, is THE WANT OF A God. The trimorphous entity—the reader will please pardon this audacious neologism-offered to their acceptance by modern religious teachers will not satisfy their cravings; still less will the shadowy abstraction of another class of religionists. What they deeply feel the want of, is a God whom their intelligence can grasp, who can be brought into actual contact with their literature as its life-giving principle, with their philosophy as its motive power, with their science as its ultimate object : a God, too, round whom their best affections can twine themselves, as does the ivy round the oak.
Now, is the God revealed in and by the teachings of what we regard as the New Dispensation calculated to satisfy that want? We boldly answer HE is! In the first place, He is a personal God, not a mere abstraction made up of negations, nor yet a shapeless nondescript diffused through illimitable space, but a personal God, apprehensible by the human intellect, capable of being visibly pictured before the mind's eye as a Divine Man, and therefore—this with all due reverence—as a Human God; since in the annals of this world's history is recorded in words Divine, His appearance and sojourn among men in a human form, which, previously emptying it of its finite elements, He gradually filled with the indwelling Godhead, and with it ascended “above all the heavens, that He might fill all things !” Then he is a God of ever-enduring, all-embracing Love—a Being not who has love as an attribute, but who is Love itselfwhose every Essence is Love—who would cease TO BE if He could cease TO LOVE. Finally, He is a God wielding Almighty Fower, but wielding it under the promptings of His Love and the guidings of His Wisdom, to the best and wisest ends.
Such a God, it is quite evident, is capable of being brought into actual contact with all the secular elements that go to make up
the literature, the philosophy, and the science of the present day—including within the latter term the lowliest handicraft that can be conceived or imagined. It does not enter into our plan to indicate the multifarious ways in which this contact may be brought about: they are as various as are the aspects under which those secular elements can be viewed, that is to say, as are the branches into which they can be divided. Thus the points of contact between the God of the New Dispensation and the secular elements of the New Age, are literally innumerable.
Another want deeply felt by the New Age, is a correct view of the relations that subsist between the world of mind and the world of matter; those, namely, of similarity and those of difference, those of comparison and those of contrast. At present the literati, the philosophers, and the scientists have only vague and shadowy notions respecting those relations. And how can it be otherwise ? when they are cognizant of only one of the terms of the comparison. They are profoundly ignorant of the nature of the world of mind. Such of them, besides, as are pursuing its stuly, have started from premises as vague, and by them as dimly perceived, as the subject itself of their investigation; they have commenced by contemplating the mind
altogether apart from any bodily investiture, i.e., altogether apart from Form, which they have regarded as exclusively a property of matter. Hence their investigations have resulted in the hazy and conjectural conclusion, that Mind is an abstract something which they are unable otherwise to define. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at, if the mental world which they have built on so hazy a foundation, has proved as indistinct to the view as inconstant in its form, and as liable to disappear altogether as the cloudy materials of which it is composed. Hence the avowed scepticism which all but universally prevails on the subject among the philosophers and scientists of the present day. For,
While science has been daily gaining in definiteness, philosophy, finding no appropriate correlative in the religious teachings of the former age, could not but grope in search of a similar quality for its speculations. And, not finding it in that which was offered to its acceptance in the religious teachings of the day, need we wonder if both it and its fellow-element, science, have ultimately sought a dreary refuge in universal scepticism, and that, too, notwithstanding the fine heart-intuitions which are constantly whispering of a life loftier and infinitely more enduring, and fraught with joys, and aims, and aspirations infinitely more noble than material life, intuitions whose whispers will neither be silenced nor ignored.
And the reason is plain. If we search the apostolic writings, taking them as the authoritative exponent of what was believed in the primitive Christian Church, we shall find everywhere the same indefiniteness of teaching on the subject of the world of mind. While it was the apostolic boast, that “ life and immortality had been brought to light by the Gospel,” still, in the apostolic writings, little or nothing was taught respecting it beyond the bare fact of its existence, which, we will freely admit, was far more distinctly affirmed than it had been under the former Dispensation. And what does modern religious teaching offer to supplement this hazy vagueness? Let us listen to a popular religious poet of the day “ And am I born to die,
“A land of deepest shade To lay this body down?
Unpierc'd by human thought, And must my trembling spirit fly The dreary regions of the dead, Into a world unknown ?
Where all things are forgot !”
Is it, then, -we emphatically repeat the question,-is it any wonder if the philosophy and the science of modern times, after having vainly sought an appropriate correlative in the religious teachings of the day on the great subject of the world of mind, in other words, of life and immortality, have finally drifted into universal scepticism, or if literature has been largely imbued with the same sceptical spirit?
Here, then, it is, that the religious teachings appropriate to the New Age, which are those of the New Dispensation, can step in and dispel the haziness which has so long overspread the speculations of the literature, the philosophy, and the science of the Age respecting the hitherto mysterious theme in question, and with it the scepticism to which it has led. Supplying a definite theory,--definite because founded on actual observation and experience--a theory too, sanctioned by rational deduction and heart-intuition,—those teachings will prove the appropriate correlative to the secular elements above mentioned, which these have so long and so vainly sought. We scarcely need pause to point out how philosophy, having eagerly laid hold of the definite teachings offered by the New Dispensation in respect of the world of mind, and accepted definite fact instead of vague speculation, as the basis of her theories on the subject, will imbue with her definiteness her fellow-element, literature; and thus how, all being now possessed of that quality, they will unanimously accept the religious teachings of the New Dispensation as their appropriate correlative.
Then, possessing a rational theory of the world of mind, philosophy and science will be able to proceed to a satisfactory investigation, followed by results equally satisfactory, of the relations that subsist between that world and the world of matter.
There are a variety of other wants peculiar to this New Age, the enumeration of which would prove excessively tedious to the reader, but which, it could easily be shown, might all be supplied by the religious teachings of the New Dispensation. We can, however, notice only one more, together with its supply in and through the above-named teachings, after which we will bring this paper to a close.
This want, then, is a Definite and universal Ethical Code. Now, in order that any given ethical code may possess these qualities of definiteness and universality, it must also possess that of Unity of Principle, and have an infallible and authoritative standard to which it
may be referred. The question therefore arises as to whether the code supplied by the religious teachings of the day, or even that supplied by those of primitive Christianity, fulfils those conditions. The teachings of the present day, by denying to man all active participa
tion in the work of his reformation, are obviously inefficient to that end; whilst those of primitive Christianity would be wholly unsuited to a state of society so complicated as the present.
Here, then, again, the teachings of the New Dispensation step in to supply the want; not, however, from anything to be found in the records of the former Dispensation, but from their own independent resources. First, there is Unity of Principle. The great maxim which lies at the foundation of all the moral precepts involved in the teachings in question is this: “Shun all evils, because they are sins against God.” Observe first, the form of the precept. It is not “do," but “shun," i.e., refrain from "avoid doing.” Now, in contradistinction to this, if the apostolic writings be searched throughout, it will be found that they contain scarcely one precept in the shape of an authoritative prohibition, but that they for the most part consist of exhortations to DO. Next observe the reason, or the motive, from which evils are to be shunned : “ Because they are sins against God;" not because your neighbours, the world, or the Church, might think ill of you, or even because you might miss heaven, were you to act otherwise, but because “evils are sins against God."
Next, we have said that an Ethical Code must, besides possessing Unity of Principle, have an infallible and authoritative standard to which it may be referred. And this the ethical teachings of the New Dispensation have in the Decalogue, which is prefaced by the declaration: “God spake all these words." And, by asserting the ability of man to keep “all these words,” and pointing out to him the source whence he may derive this ability ; by re-enacting, too, the Divine summary of the second Table, “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them," and reinstating it to the rank of a Divine command, the religious teachings of the New Dispensation have supplied the want of the New Age, of a definite and universal Code of Ethics; and thus, in conjunction with the supply of the other wants above enumerated, have fully vindicated their claim to be the appropriate correlatives of the literature, the philosophy, and the science of the New Age,
And here it may not be inexpedient to remark by the way, that no attempt should be made to adapt the religious teachings of one Dispensation to the secular elements of another. Such attempts will not only result in signal failure, but will also in the end prove disastrous to the teachings themselves. It was repeated attempts of this kind which caused the corruptions we read of in the early Chris