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ranks of men who, from varying points of view, have seen each his aspect of Truth, and are now to practise it. What would the world be if the visions that come to our students in these days of scientific wonders and historical illumination were to be to them what the vision on the Damascus road was to St. Paul?_if, as they trace and measure the movements of the past, and explore the secret chambers of nature, finding everywhere unity, purpose, promises of the triumph prepared for Love, in library and laboratory they should hear the voice of God calling to them: “ This is My eternal Truth, My command to thee. Take it up as the rule of thy life. Listen, and obey!”
What would it be if his zeal for law and facts were to inspire every scientist with the determination to found his personal character upon them ?-if philosophers felt the obligation to set forth Truth in their lives, as they do in their books?—if composers of music were to undertake to be themselves as full of harmony as are their works, or painters to become in character as beautiful as the pictures with which they delight us ? We have made the world splendid by a mental, a theoretical devotion to Truth; but we shall make it incomparably more magnificent and beautiful when we give ourselves body and soul to Truth in the practical relations of commerce, politics, and society.
Consider what marvellous secrets of the world would be wrung from it by the operation of that principle to which I have in a word referred,—the illuminating power of Obedience. They said unto Him, Master, where dwellest Thou? He saith unto them, Come and ye shall see.” Truth must be followed; then it leads to deeper Truth. Of every new revelation in the career of the race in the path of knowledge, it must say, “ I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision."
You apprehend, I am sure, that the subject is too great to be more than suggested in an address like this, to be more than sketched in such a course as this is to be. My purpose is, however, on these Fridays in Lent to indicate a little more definitely what the results of such an Obedience as I have proposed will be in what we are accustomed to think of as the distinctively Christian field; that is, what will ensue when men who call themselves Christians begin seriously to accept and really to obey the plain commands of the historical personage Jesus of Nazareth, commands which heretofore we have been satisfied to quote with appropriately pious unction, and dismiss with religious alacrity. Here also I can do no more than indicate, and if these mere hints interest, or, it may be, trouble and amaze, anyone, -how much more mightily shall the world be moved when some God-appointed prophet shall pursue the demands of Obedience to the end, and make the ultimate and inevitable applications to business and society of the Christian principles which we now profess,—and hold so lightly!
As we pursue our enquiries, we shall be compelled to severe arraignment of the maxims upon which the intercourse of society is conducted, and the theories upon which its institutions are founded. We shall discover that the literal and heroic acceptance of Christ's words as meant to be obeyed, will force us to profoundly modify the conduct of our individual lives, and to be prepared for far-reaching changes in society, which is now organized upon principles directly contrary to those proposed by Christ. We shall be led to superlatively heart-searching enquiry into our real relation to our religion; we shall be obliged to consider whether we truly hold, or merely profess it. For the very essence of religion is the subordination of the present interests of the individual to the larger interests of mankind; in that scientific and beautifully accurate as well as thoroughly supported language with which Mr. Kidd has lately made us familiar, Religion is that which provides an ultra-rational sanction for the subordination of the interests of the individual to the interests of the social organism; a sanction, that is, for social conduct.1 In plainer words, a religion is a belief which moves men to be unselfish, which teaches them to sacrifice themselves for their broth
As we look about on the tragic spectacle of humanity's life-drama; as we see the conditions under which the far greater portion of its children come into the world; as we consider the hard lot of the patient millions who bear the burden of the world's toil, and the scarcely less unhappy circumstances which condemn their envied neighbors to the care of wealth, and bind them down to places in a system in whose grasp also their hearts are crushed and ground; as we hear the recriminations of the envisaged classes, and see based on the fabric of political equality the most obvious social and material inequality; as we see the pursuits of peace carried on upon the theory of war, and with the same mercy,—shall we not have reason to ask ourselves why, if we truly believe in our religion, its sanctions do not induce us to social conduct; why, after nineteen centuries in which to contemplate the life of our Blessed Lord, the adorable mystery of His humiliation, the stupendous and unexampled sacrifice of Calvary, we have not learned to practise Love and Sacrifice, why we have not seriously set about building up the Kingdom for whose foundation He laid down His life? That enquiry we shall have to make.