Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

able to say so ? what are the arguments it uses ? Let us consider.

Men seem made for this world; this is what prevails on them to neglect the next world: they think they have reason for concluding, they think they see, that this world is the world for which they are to labour, and to which they are to devote their faculties. And therefore they persist in denying that they must live for the next world. It is not that they profess to run counter to God's Word, but they deny that He has said that they must live directly for the next world. As the Israelites did not avowedly cast off the God of Abraham when they worshipped the golden calf, but professed to worship Him under that symbol, so men generally, when they pursue this world as their supreme good, and as their god, deny that they are disowning their Lord and Maker, but maintain that He wishes them to worship Him by means of and in this world.

Now these are the sort of considerations which seduce them to think that this world is all in all :

1. For instance, there are a number of faculties and talents which seem only to exist in this world, and to be impossible in another. Consider the varieties of mental gifts which are in active exercise on all sides of us, and you will see what I mean, such as talent for business, or talent for the useful arts, mechanical talent. Or, again, consider the talents which go to make up a great warrior. They seem as if evidently made for this world, and this world only. If such ability is not to be used, it may be asked, why is it given ? If a person lives only for the next world, what is the use of it?

Our aim then, they say, must be an aim of this life, our end of action must be in this world, because our talents point that way. Talents are not necessary for religion, talents are not necessary for preparing for the life to come; yet they are given, therefore they are given for this life. Thus men argue : I do not say that they bring out their full meaning in words; but this is the argument latent in their minds. They say or think that if religion disowns the wisdom of this world; if it disowns, as its real and true ground, power, and rank, and might, and knowledge, and ability,—which it does ; then, all these things may disown religion, do not belong to religion, need not aim at religion. It parts with them, they part with it. Religion, therefore (they say), is not for this world. It is a private thing for each man's own conscience, but not for society, not for acting upon on a large scale. And this, both because man has faculties which religion does not deign to make its instruments; and also because these faculties do not exist beyond this life, and therefore, if they are to be employed, must be employed here.

2. Another consideration of the same kind, which is adapted to influence men of this world in the same direction, if they give their minds to consider the matter, is the existence of national character. This seems to them to be a providential mark of what this world is intended to be. The character of one individual may be accidental, and may arise from his own caprice or wilfulness; but when a whole multitude are one and the same, this cannot arise from themselves, it must arise from their very nature, it must be a token of

the will of God. That character, they say, whatever it is, must be pleasing to God. Now one nation is manly, and another is brave but cruel, and a third sagacious, and a fourth energetic and busy. These then, it is argued, are the qualities of mind for which this life is intended. Where was there ever a religious nation? or, at least, how is it possible, in the nature of things, that nations, differing as they do, and so complete in their differences, should have been intended for one form or creed? Religion, then, is for the next world, not for this. No (thus men seem to proceed), energy and activity, enterprise, adventure, rivalry, and invention,war, politics, and trade,—these are what men are made for here; not for faith, fear, humiliation, prayer, selfdiscipline, penance, tenderness of conscience, sanctity. It is very well if individuals feel themselves called this way; but it is a private matter for themselves, not to be urged on others. Or again, if we look at the religion of different men, one developes one set of ideas, another another; one adopts a strict creed, another is free and bold. All religions then are matters of opinion, because they are matters of disposition and habit.

3. I have spoken of nations, because the argument then can be made to look specious; but men generally apply it to the case of individuals. They go into the world, and they find individuals of this or that character, and not religious; and hence they argue that religion is but a theory, because it is not on the face of society. This is what they call seeing life and knowing the world, and it leads them to despise strict principle and religious conduct as narrow-minded. They say that religion is

;

very well for a domestic circle, but will not do for the world; for they take men as facts, as they might take the materials of the physical world, stones or vegetables ; as if they were what they were, and could not be otherwise; and as one cannot change the elements, but must take them for what they are, and use them, so they think we ought to deal with human beings. And as a person would be called a theorist, who cherished certain ideas about the natural world, to which the facts of that world did not answer, so they think a man a mere dreamer, who says that men ought not to be what they confessedly are; who comes to them with a doctrine which is above them, refuses to deal with them as he finds them, and tries to raise them, and change them, and to make them what they are not. As they would think a man a madman who waited for rivers to have done flowing, or mountains to make way before him, so they think it obstinate, impracticable, perverse, and almost insane, to run counter to the natural man, to thwart his wishes, to condemn his opinions, and to insist on his submitting to a rule foreign to him. Great philosophers have said, that in the case of the material creation we overcome nature by yielding to it, and because this is true of matter, the world would have it in the same sense true of mind.

4. Another consideration which the world urges in its warfare against religion, as I have already implied, is, that religion is unnatural. It is objected (what indeed cannot be denied, and is almost a truism) that religion does not bring the elementary and existing nature of man to its highest perfection, but thwarts and impairs

it, and provides for a second and new nature. It is said, and truly, that religion treats the body hardly, and is severe with the soul. How different is the world, which conceives that the first object of life is to treat our inferior nature indulgently, that all methods of living are right which do this, and all wrong which do not ! Hence men lay it down, that wealth is the measure of all good, and the end of life ; for a state of wealth may be described as a state of ease and comfort to body and mind. They say

that

every act of civil government is wrong, which does not tend to what they thus consider to be man's happiness; that utility and expedience, or, in other words, whatever tends to produce wealth, is the only rule on which laws should be framed ; that what tends to higher objects is not useful or expedient; that higher objects are a mere dream ; that the only thing substantial is this life, and the only wisdom, to cherish and enjoy it. And they are so obstinate in this their evil view of things, that they will not let other people take their own view and rest in it; but are bent on making all men (what they call) happy in their way. In their plans of social and domestic economy, their projects of education, their mode of treating the poor, the one object which they think sufficient for happiness is, that men should have the necessaries of life according to their condition. On the other hand, they think that religion in all its duties clashes with this life, and is therefore unnatural. Almsgiving they think the virtue of a barbarous or half-civilized or badly-managed community. Fasting and watching are puerile and contemptible, for such practices interfere with nature, which

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »