Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/14

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

terms as our fathers'—namely, by fidelity to what we see and feel to be true.

"Few minds in earnest," says Cardinal Newman, "can remain at ease without some sort of rational grounds for their religious belief." But it is equally true that half-formed, half-developed minds, which means the great mass of the people of any age, rather draw back from exposing their faith to a light so common, so secular as that of reason. Plutarch quotes Sophocles as saying that the Deity is

"Easy to wise men, who can truth discern,"

but adds that the vulgar look with high veneration upon whatever is extravagant and extraordinary, and conceive a more than common sanctity to lie concealed under the veil of obscurity. The average mind clings to the mysterious, the supernatural. Goethe, as lately quoted by Matthew Arnold, said those who have science and art have religion; and added, let those who have not science and art have religion, that is, let them have the popular faith; let them have this escape, because the others are closed to them. Without any hold upon the ideal, or any insight into the beauty and fitness of things, the people turn from the tedium and the grossness and prosiness of daily life, to look for the divine, the sacred, the saving, in the wonderful, the miraculous, and in that which baffles reason. The disciples of Jesus thought of the kingdom of heaven as some external condition of splendor, and pomp, and power which was to be ushered in by-and-by by hosts of trumpeting angels, and the Son of man in great glory, riding upon the clouds, and not for one moment as the still small voice within them. To find the divine and the helpful in the mean and familiar, to find religion without the aid of any supernatural machinery, to see the spiritual, the eternal life in and through the life that now is—in short, to see the rude, prosy earth as a star in the heavens, like the rest, is indeed the lesson of all others the hardest to learn.

But we must learn it sooner or later. There surely comes a time when the mind perceives that this world is the work of God also and not of devils, and that in the order of Nature we may behold the ways of the Eternal; in fact, that God is here and now in the humblest and most familiar fact, as sleepless and active as ever he was in old Judea. This perception has come and is coming to more minds to-day than ever before—this perception of the modernness of God, of the modernness of inspiration, of the modernness of religion; that there was never any more revelation than there is now, never any more miracles or signs and wonders, never any more conversing of God with man, never any more Garden of Eden, or fall of Adam, or thunder of Sinai, or ministering angels, etc.; in fact, that these things are not historical events, but inward experiences and perceptions perpetually renewed or typified in the growth of the race. This is the modern gospel; this is the one vital and formative religious thought of modern times.