Popular Science Monthly/Volume 25/July 1884/The New Theology
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The New Theology
By George G. Lyon
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By Rev. GEORGE G. LYON.
ASSUMING that the Being worthy of the highest adoration in heaven and on earth must be incomprehensible, and that his will and ways must be past finding out, no conceivable symbol can be final, or can be either satisfactory or helpful, except in a period of immaturity; and hence nothing can be more necessary than a new faith, or more reasonable than its confident and constant expectation; and that which is now dawning on the Christian world is doubtless destined to have its day. They who have toiled hard and borne the heat and labor of the preceding day and feel the need of rest, and they who dislike the dawn and love to slumber until noon, will be more annoyed than gratified by the light of this new morning; but they who are up with the rising sun will be delighted with the dispersing darkness and the increasing brightness, and with the new beauties and the fresh fragrance of the clearer light and higher life.
Thus far in its presentation the New Theology is reformatory rather than revolutionary in its teachings and tendencies. It accepts the nomenclature of the Old, but shades or expands its definitions so as to accord with the subtiler experiences and the enlarged observations of the age; and it maintains the dogmatic statements of the Old, but modifies their exposition so as to bring them into harmony with the laws and processes of being. It affirms with the Old that faith is the basis of salvation and of all deliberate activity, but it gives no THE NEW THEOLOGY,
��pre-eminence to any form of faith, and tests the validity and the suf- ficiency of a faith by the salvation it secures and the activity it in- spires. With the Old it accepts all Scripture given by inspiration as divine, and interprets Scripture by Scripture, but it holds in abeyance all biblical utterances which seem unreasonable, and rejects all which are in conflict with the nature of things or the course of Providence, and aims to understand and to coiToborate the written word by the works of !N'ature ; and it maintains that no portion of the Scripture can be a revelation of God to man except to the extent that it is understood and conforms to the laws of being.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the New Theol- ogy is its respect for science, indicated by its effort to put all its state- ments on a scientific basis and submit them in a scientific method, and to question the value or utility of any doctrine which does not come under some general and harmonious law, or which can not be scientifi- cally presented ; and, were this the only claim of the New Theology, it would entitle it to a respectful hearing, as well as put it in striking contrast with the Old. It does not insist that any of the great doc- trines derived from the Bible could have been discovered by scientific investigation, but, being disclosed by divine inspiration, as claimed, they are, when philosophically considered, recognized as reasonable and essential, and to be in accord with the constitution of things. It contends that the dogmatic teachings with respect to the trinity of the Godhead, the divinity of Christ, the atonement or human redemption in Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the immortality of the soul, salvation by faith, the operations of the Holy Spirit, human pro- bation, the eternity of divine rewards and punishments, and other biblical doctrines, are no longer to be announced as abstract truths to be received by a stultified credulity and denied at the peril of the soul, but are illumined under the light of philosophy as natural and essen- tial, and can be as rational y believed as any other inexplicable state- ments of experience or observation.
As a corollary to this respect for science the New Theology has an antipathy to authority, and insists on personal freedom in investiga- tion, and personal responsibility for conviction. It concedes that au- thority is necessary as a guide in immaturity, and that most of the knowledge acquired by individuals is derived, but holds that no ipse dixit is final, and that all communication is to be received tentatively and subject to amendment or rejection ; that authority is merely me- chanical in its action and in its effect, and that they who submit to it without question are mere machinery propelled like an engine by steam, capable of valuable service for a season, but neither develop nor improve, and are deprived of all the pleasures of progress and of increasing vigor and usefulness. It goes further, and charges that commanding authority dwarfs growth and weakens ability, and is, therefore, largely responsible for the general inability to distinguish
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��between right and wrong, and for the unsettled and weak convictions as to good and evil ; and, furthermore, that it is accountable for much of the prevailing unbelief and skepticism, for, without some collateral and corroborative evidence to support naked affirmations, faith be- comes weak, and lapses into superstitious credulity, or is abandoned for the more satisfactory — if not more intelligent — negations of infi- delity and agnosticism. And it must be admitted that it has always been difficult to hold the average of Christians to an unfaltering faith in the evangelical doctrines of Christianity — the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, etc. — that but few have a clear conception of any of them, that many deny one or more of them, that no two understand them alike, and that all have doubts and fears with re- spect to them ; and, therefore, the New Theology most earnestly pro- tests against the arbitrary and inconsiderate church canon which exacts unreserved or even nominal assent to all or to any articles of faith as a requirement of God and a condition of the divine favor and the soul's salvation. It does not question the soundness of the doc- trines affirmed, but it recognizes the impossibility of making all men see them alike, or of holding them to a credulous assent to them ; and affirms that many who doubt and many who disbelieve them are among the most exemplary of mankind ; that the sacred Scriptures comprehensively understood do not exact uniformity of faith in order to salvation ; and that were any symbol the basis of hope it could not be of universal application, and would, therefore, not be adapted to humanity, or be consistent with either the divine or human nature. It assumes that saving faith is that recognition of what is right and best which enforces its practice ; and the sincerity and strength of faith are determined by the degree of the conformity of the heart and life of the subject to the character and requirements of the ideal. In other words, the aim and effort of a man to be in accord with what he sincerely regards the true and the perfect, whether that be fetich- ism or Christianity, is the exercise of saving faith, and secures the soul its highest commendation and the divine favor ; and, since its real excellence is in sincerity, it may be as perfect and as acceptable in its first timid appliance by the feeble as in its last bold assurance by the strong.
The New Theology is not a positive philosophy which rejects or agnosticizes the unknowable and the incomprehensible. It accepts authority as the starting-point of inquiry, which is skeptical but open to evidence, and takes the reasonable and the probable rather than the positive or the absolute as the only attainable presumption of truth and error. And since problematic conviction constitutes the sum of all human knowledge, and forms the basis of all human activity, it regards as impractical theorists, insensible to the operative agencies of the ages, all who reject the probable for the positive.
Starting out with these leading ideas that no creed can be final so
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��long as there is the infinite to explore or the human intellect is capa- ble of comprehending more ; that new symbols are of periodicity and of rational expectation, and therefore that all creeds are tentative and adapted only to a transition period ; that authority is insufficient, and requires the corroboration of correlative facts or principles of observa- tion to establish faith ; that no formula of faith can be adjusted to all comprehensions or made the condition of salvation, and that the prob- able is the highest and the sufficient warrant for all human faith and practice — it remains to be seen if the New Theology has a clearer or a fuller apprehension of scriptural teaching, and if it can present its ideas less dogmatically and more scientifically, or as authoritative utterances corroborated by corresponding facts or experiences which are generally accepted.
No adherent of the New Theology, however enthusiastic or confi- dent in his early love, presumes that in this dawn of its day its beams are as bright or broad as they will be at its meridian ; and the most zealous of its expounders confess that in its present stage it is largely suggestive, and possibly adapted to arrest the reactionary tendency to reject all scriptural teaching as of divine origin or authority on account of the unreasonableness of some of the current theological interpretations and expositions, and to unite thinking Christians and confirm the weak and the wavering in the faith of the gospel, by such a presentation of scripture truths as will be commended by their judg- ment, and will show them to be essential to human welfare and analo- gous to the laws and phenomena of Nature. It is therefore chiefly a contribution of suggestive definitions and methods applied to the popu- lar or evangelical theology. But, in order to a clearer idea of the New Theology and its methods, it is necessary to give a brief statement of its presentation of some of the more prominent evangelical doctrines, and especially of those which within the last few years have been made conspicuous through church councils and the religious and secular press, as the atonement, the work of the Divine Spirit, human proba- tion, etc.
As to the nature and necessity of the atonement, the New Theol- ogy is perhaps more perplexed than as to any other evangelical topic, if indeed it is not agnostic, or at least without decided convictions ; and its adherents consider themselves as mere inquirers, investigating in an obscure light its profound mysteries, trusting that the dark labyrinth in which they are groping will lead to their fuller disclosure. It does not deny that in some way the mission of our Lord, accomplished im- measurable good to mankind, for it recognizes a new and diviner life issuing from Calvary and streaming down through the centuries in ever-increasing volume, purifying the hearts and inspiring the lives of men, and constituting the impulsive force to all that is desirable and divine in human progress ; but it can not reconcile with a worthy con- ception of either the divine or human nature the punishment or the
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suffering of the innocent for the guilty in order to placate the divine anger and render the Deity propitious, or to satisfy the claims of jus- tice so that the Judge can be clement to transgressors of law and per- mit them, untrammeled by guilt for the past, to reform, or give them another chance to do better. Neither the divine holiness nor justice was ever antagonized to the sinner, and therefore never needed to be con- ciliated, and certainly neither could ever be reconciled with sin ; so that an atonement either to dispose God favorably toward sinners or to tolerate sin, or to make any allowance for sin or to pardon sin, is inconsistent with the divine nature. And nothing can be more ab- surd than the teaching that God was at enmity with the sinner, unless it be the affirmation of those who believe it, that the atonement is " a provision of divine grace or love " ; for, plainly stated, it is this : An atonement or means of reconciliation was necessary because God hated sinners, but was really instituted because " God so loved the world " of sinners. Men feel that God is angry with them and hostile to them, but certainly the atonement of Christ, whatever it be, is counteracting this erroneous sentiment by its disclosure of the infinite and unwaver- ing paternal love of God for man in the life and death of his Son ; and any provision of mercy which the divine wisdom and goodness has made for sinners is necessarily predicated on this infinite love of the common Father of the race. And so the New Theology objects to all moral views of the atonement which make provisions for waiving any legal process or infliction of penalty, and holds that no new provision of grace or special scheme of redemption for the recovery of man from the power and dominion of sin was necessary ; that all the elements for the restoration from sin to righteousness are included in the pro- visions of Nature, and are sufficient when quickened and invigorated by the Divine Spirit to reinstate men in holiness and in the favor of God. So that the regeneration of the human soul is as practicable with- out the mission or work of Christ as an additional agency as with it, for it consists essentially in the deliberate determination henceforth and forever to be at one with God ; and from this determinative ini- tiative the optimistic element of the mind brings the peace, courage, and hope of faith. There is nothing now to affiict or discourage ex- cept the past, and that is forsaken and abhorred; and since in eternal progress, and effort the soul is in accord \vith the laws of its being and the Divine Will, it gradually comes to forget, as God does, its back- slidings, and to think only of that which is pleasing to God and which will be the source of perpetual delight.
It would not be consistent with the general run of creation had remedial provisions been left out of the moral nature of man while they are incorporated in animal, in vegetal, and in social being ; nor would it be consistent with the infinite forethought or consideration or compassion of our Father in heaven to introduce a new agency essen- tial to human welfare which was not of immediate and universal ap-
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plication to the race. It is true, the advent of Christ was of interme- diation in time, but in essence of being it was contemporaneous with accountability, and was revealed in prophetic language at the 'first overture of moral delinquency as the seed of the woman " that should bruise the serpent's head " ; and has ever, according to all human ex- perience, been recognized in the ideal of good which reproaches every varying thought and deed, and which constitutes the inspiration and the encouragement to all improvement. The advent and life of our Lord did not therefore impart a new moral element to the world, nor is Christianity a new provision of grace in the plan of human redemp- tion ; and the time element in their introduction is a mere question of policy, since they are not of vital importance. That is, it was for di- vine wisdom to determine when it would be most advantageous to the race to send the quickening example and teaching of Christ into the world, but their advent has in no way modified the relation of God to man, or of man to God, nor made the provisions of human redemption more ample or available. They are incidents in the process of moral progress, and could wisely be introduced only at the proper stage of development, so that the delay in their intercalation can not be re- proachful.
The aim of the atonement is to exemplify a condition and life cor- responding to, but surpassing, the highest ideals of men, which may be approximately attained by every individual of the race in every stage of accountability ; and the effort to realize this condition and life is the acceptance of its provisions and its accounted righteousness or the transfer of Christ's righteousness to the believer ; for the faith that impels to be like Christ is transforming in its effect, and by its con- tinuous exercise believers become Christ-like in character and conduct. And this has ever been the result among heathen and Christians of efforts to attain ideal excellence ; for the human mind is so constituted that its desirable ideal is always an approximation to the perfection of Christ ; and hence the declaration of Peter, "I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him " ; and hence, also, the Christ-like worthies among Hebrew saints and pagan philosophers, Mohammedan dervishes, Indian fakirs, and fetich -worshipers. Moral processes, corresponding to those accorded to the atonement of Christ, have been going on in all ages and among all races, regenerating the hearts and improving the conduct of all believers — i. e., of all who aimed to realize their ideal excellence ; and this regenerating process was probably signified in the occult religious mysteries of the more cultured nations of antiquity. The atonement, therefore, is not a pro- vision for sin or for the sinner, but for man ; and, had sin never en- tered the world, the mission of Christ would have been as necessary to the exaltation and salvation of mankind as it is under the reign and power of sin. It is a practical revelation of an ideal which was essen-
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tial to the highest good of man, and which could be eternally approxi- mated, but which never could be conceived by man without its dis- closure in the life and death of our Lord.
In regard to the supernatural, the New Theology doubts or denies it in the economies of Nature and of grace. It believes in the inspira- tion of all scriptural and other truth, in the authenticated phenomena called miracles, in the regeneration of corrupted human nature by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the active and efficient superin- tendence of divine providence ; but it maintains that the divine imma- nence in the world is sufficient to account for the minutest and the mightiest phenomena which have occurred, or which can take place, and that to assume special divine interferences or the interposition of new agencies in the communication of the Divine Will, in the govern- ment of the material or moral world, in the recovery of man from wickedness to righteousness, presumes the " sober second thought " on the part of God that his original executions were defective, and needed amendment or reformation ; that he is partial, and favors with advan- tages one age or one class more than another, and that he is change- able and unreliable. All natural wants, physical and spiritual, are in- dicative of the divine disposition to help, and are assurances of suitable supplies — material for the body and immaterial for the mind — which, according to all human experience, never ignore nor supersede a natural law or function ; and it is doubtful if any supernatural helps could be recognized or appreciated; so that it is not improbable that all that is called supernatural is of misconception, superstition, or credulity. And, if there be no necessity for it, or if that which is so called can be ac- counted for or accomplished by natural means, its exercise would be a useless display of energy, while, if necessary, it shows that the provis- ions of Nature are inadequate to its necessities and thereby reproach their author ; and if it intervenes to assist, or retard, or counteract, it must be a supersedence of the supernatural by the supernatural — a kingdom divided against itself and self -destructive ; for is not Nature, in its being and in its processes, a divine arrangement and incapable of any modification or rearrangement except by a greater than Nature ? And to the affirmation that all the divine creations and phenomena are necessarily supernatural, it may be asked : How can there be a super- natural without a natural to exceed? and if supernatural, how can they be superseded unless by a greater than the supernatural ? and would it not be useless to introduce the supernatural unless it could exceed a process of Nature or equal an act of creation ?
But who knows what Nature is capable of ? or if it has ever been superseded ? or that any of the operations called supernatural are more than natural ? As mankind advances in intelligence, the supernatural retires, like barbarism before civilization ; and yet, the prevalent be- lief of Christians is, that there is a supernatural, spiritual agency in the world which enlightens the mind and transforms the heart of
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man, and which assures of the divine favor and begets the hope of eternal life ; and a less prevalent conviction that this divine ele- ment has in times past performed miracles, and may even now be controlled to heal the sick, and cure the lame, and do superhuman deeds.
It is not questioned that there is an enlightening, encouraging, and comforting spiritual influence in the world ; but why assume that it is supernatural ? or that it is a new and distinct agent which is supe- rior to and supersedes Nature ? No one has yet fathomed the mys- teries or power of a single element of nature, and therefore can not reasonably assume that Nature is insufficient to account for all the phenomena attributed to the supernatural, nor can any one show that the supernatural has ever done or can do more than is done by Nature in its ordinary processes. And if, as claimed, the natural occurrences are divine operations, then, certainly, no supernatural agency could be more subtile, or more powerful, or more beneficial, than a common process of Nature. Even the advent of Christ can not be regarded as a new or superseding force in human life if he be " God manifest in the flesh," for God has ever made himself known by his works and providence, "even his everlasting power and divinity." The mere form of his appearance would not be a superior component, and if he were a creation he could not be a supernatural power.
The profound conviction of the Christian mind is, that the God who created, upholds the universe, and watches over and guides the movement of every atom day and night, and guards the thoughts of every heart and gives them the impulse of theu* transforming energy. This is the divine in nature, and there could be no course of nature without it ; but it is neither a new, nor a distinct, nor a superseding element in nature. It is God as the ever-present and efficient force in matter and mind, who " rides in the whirlwind and guides in the storm," who lives, and moves, and has his being in the human heart, and who helps in every infirmity. He is the unseen, intangible sub- sistence in and of self, and yet not self, which purifies the heart and ennobles the life, and which improves society, and ** makes for right- eousness " from age to age, and to the ends of the earth.
He is the Holy Spirit, sent by our Lord, who vitalizes every letter and word of the Divine utterances, and abides in them so that they are living words, and scintillate with the radiance of their divine sig- nificance as the light from the urim and thummim of the high-priest of old, and as the shekinah from the mercy-seat between the cherubim over the ark of the covenant. He is the light which enlighteneth every man who cometh into the world, the persuasion in every invita tion, the comfort in every promise, the encourager in every prediction, and the inspiration in every hope. Every sigh over a wrong is of his awakening ; every smile started by a kindness springs from him ; every incident that teaches some good to do or some evil to shun is
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his persuasive voice, and every movement toward righteousness is the impulse of his impending presence.
According to his word, God is in man, living and moving of his own good pleasure ; not beyond his reach nor without him, but in him and of him, and may be recognized in every stone and star, in every glint of beauty and waft of fragrance, in every touch and tone of ten- derness, and in every strain of melody and movement of intelligence. What, then, would be the use or the value of the supernatural in nature ?
As to the scientific dogma of the evolution of man from monad through monkey, the New Theology is as ready to accept it as to re- ject it, according to the evidence ; but in no event does it see the necessity of nor admit a special divine interposition to complete any stage in the process, and it is unscientific to assume it. The divine immanence is constant, and is sufficient for every evolved condition without aid from or resort to unnatural or supernatural supplementa- tion to the uniformity of nature ; and, whether evolved or not, man is consciously and practically a moral being, capable of virtue and vice, and justly censurable for evil and worthy of commendation for good.
But, more than any other, the topic which has made the New The- ology most conspicuous is that which is denominated a second proba- tion, which is yet illy conceived and variously presented. Consistent thinkers not only accept the doctrine of rewards and punishments, but hold that neither can adequately express the Divine attitude toward holiness and sin, nor man's sense of propriety and justice, unless they be eternal. They do not assume to describe the rewards or the pun- ishments of the future, nor to know their constituents, but presume, from their appropriateness, and from the consistency in the order of divine things, that they will be similar to or identical with the peace and joy of believers, and the commotion and wretchedness of sinners on earth. From this point the New Theology shades off gradually from the Old. It holds that sin involves death or permanent dis- ability, and that continuous sinning becomes increasingly disastrous, undermining and weakening the moral nature, until it becomes so enfeebled as hardly to be able to perform or to enjoy the pleasures of a virtuous deed, and logically terminates in the extinction of moral being. But since, according to Scripture and science, nothing is made in vain, or to be destroyed, there must be hope where there is life, and since the annihilation of any existence implies a useless act in its crea- tion, or an error in the calculation of its author, it assumes that being, especially moral being, is an assurance of immortality, and that so long as there is a spark of vitality there is a possibility, or, according to the nature and course of things, a probability of an awakening to a higher life and its eternal development. And if, with the diminu- tion of moral energy referred to, there is, as is claimed, an element of pain as a corollary of transgression, it is an additional evidence of the
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probability of reformation and growth, for suffering is not a penalty in token of disapproval, bat a sign of mercy and an agency of restraint and reformation. The penalty of sin is death — an eternal disability — and the pain that accompanies it is its symptom demanding attention, and the application of curative remedies. As the pain of a burn, the gnawing of hunger, the distress of fever, are symptoms of threatened danger which indicate the localities in jeopardy, the disintegration of the tissues in process, and call for help, and disturb until relieved ; so the fiery darts of sin, the cravings from spiritual inanition, and the restless ferment from corrupt desires and vicious practices, give the alarm of moral dissolution, and cry "with groanings unutterable," until the remedies are applied and the cure is effected. So that suf- fering, physical and spiritual, is the cry for mercy from the depths of transgression, and is the sign of hope and the assurance of a " present help in time of need," unless the desire of sufferers exceeds the meas- ure of the divine and human compassion. If, therefore, life is contin- uous and pain accompanies penalty, the possibility of recovery from the pain of transgression and of a new opportunity in life must be their concomitants, and last as long as "life and thought and being." So that penalty, so long as it is accompanied with pain, is an evidence of probationary being, and there is certainly no philosophic nor scien- tific reason, and probably no biblical teaching, incompatible with these two principles — the continuity of life, and the remedial nature of pain; and, therefore, it may confidently be afiirmed, where there is pain there is hope.
But probationary life is not hypothecated on continuity of life, nor on any remedial provision in life, but on the essential nature of moral- ity. The phrase ^^ second probation ^"^ is misleading, so far as it implies a continuity of condition or state. Each moral act — i. e., each delib- erate act for which a moral being is responsible — completes a proba- tionary period, so that a moral life is a succession of periods in which deliberate choice, or the acceptance or rejection of ultimate good, is expressed. Probation is, therefore, of instantaneity and not of continu- ity, except so far as continuity indicates a succession of moral or pro- bationary processes ; character is the tendency evoked by the last determination ; virtuous life is a succession of best choices, and finite moral being and morality terminate with probation. There is a dis- position in the human mind to repeat its acts, and it acquires the facility of habit by its repetitions, so that one virtuous or vicious act heralds another, but each volition determines, as it also indicates, the character, and therefore, if there be virtue in the future, it must be predicated there as here on a probationary existence, and be secured by deliberate choice. And to the objection that this postulatum ren- ders the conditions of the future as uncertain as in the present, it need only be said that the ordinances of Heaven are not regulated by specu- lative philosophers or theologians. But why should the conditions of
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the future differ from those of the present ? Is God variable or par- tial ? Is not a probationary existence here wise ? Could there be vir- tue or vice, happiness or wretchedness, without it ? Could there be virtue or vice under constraint? Would obedience or disobedience that was perfunctory, or a sequence, or of habit, were it possible, be of any moral quality so as to be either pleasing or displeasing to God, or profitable or damaging to the soul ? Or is there any greater proba- bility of falling from virtue hereafter than here ? But virtue is im- possible anywhere without the alternative of vice ; and, since the tendency to repeat is confirmed by repetition, and since virtue only accords with or is agreeable to the soul, is it not probable that the acquired taste for virtue shall continually increase until all other in- clination of the soul shall cease, and virtue shall be loved for itself, and be practiced because it is so loved ? And so vice can only be vice when it can be rejected. It, too, may be pursued to a habit, but it is always hostile to nature, and can never be relished ; so that, since it is unnatural and disagreeable and unnecessary, it is not improbable that it will be resisted and ultimately be superseded by virtue ; for will not the " evil" always "bow before the good" ? This, at least, would be in accord with the order of nature, and could neither minify pen- alty nor reproach law, and would vindicate the divine righteousness in the creation and redemption of man, and be the fullest and the grandest exhibition of the divine wisdom and love to the intelligent universe.
To compass this end, Christian theology has resorted to purgatory, universalism, restoration, annihilation of the wicked, second probation, and other subterfuges, and has sought in scriptural teaching and in natural processes for a theodicy that would relieve the Creator from the reproach of the eternal punishment of sinners. To a greater or less extent all these schemes to rescue man from the unquenchable fire and the gnawings of the undying worm, or to justify their infliction, are evoked by shame or horror at the extreme severity of the penalty, and express the modifications which human wisdom and tenderness would interpose or substitute. They not only reproach God for in- humanity, but overlook the fact that his law could not be sanc- tioned nor be worthy of respect were its penalties either variable or transient.
Death — eternal disability — must follow the first and least as well as the last and greatest transgression, and the eternity of its infliction is based on sin and not on continuous sinning. But death does not end life. It is a stage in a process which marks the decay or loss experienced by a wasted moment or a neglected opportunity which never can be recovered, and the beginning of a new opportunity in life, and can be no more reproachful in its recurrence than in its in- cipience. The eternity of the reward and punishment is not only an expression of the sanctity of the law, but of the divine respect for it.
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and leads its subjects to reverence it that they may enjoy its benefits and escape its condemnations forever. So that eternal punishment is adapted to awaken pleasure and gratitude rather than shame and hor- ror, and needs no sentimental theodicy of human contrivance to justify it or to reconcile it with divine or human nature.
The New Theology does not claim to make men better Christians, for it teaches that the divinest character is formed by striving after the best, and that no intellectual belief or formal creed can improve moral nature ; but it aims to give clearer and more rational ideas of God and his will and ways, and to present Christianity in a more attract- ive form and with an enlarged scope to its province. It contemplates the divine Creator and preserver with reference to his moral creation chiefly in the light of a loving Father, immanent in all the works of his hand, directing and supporting in every motion, and controlling all forces and agencies so that they shall be in harmony with his law and work together for good. It defines Christianity as that which is wor- thy of God and becoming to man, and accepts as Christian teaching and life everything from every source which accords with and pro- motes godliness. It recognizes and adores Christ as the manifestation of every conceivable attribute and desirable quality contained in the infinite Godhead, and as the only sufficient and perfect Saviour of man- kind ; and it holds that faith which seeks to be possessed of the mind of Christ regenerates the heart and makes the life Christ-like, and se- cures salvation to mankind by the divine or Christ-like possessions it imparts. It acknowledges as acceptable worship to the true God the sincere devotion that is paid to any god, and insists that this is con- formable to sound reason and sacred Scripture ; for no two devotees of pagan altar or Christian shrine conceive the same God, so that there must be as many gods as men ; and certainly any creed that does not include sincere idolatry and fetichism as acceptable forms of worship to him who is high over all, blessed for evermore, is less tolerant than Brahmanism, which teaches that they who have not discovered the highest God may worship lower gods, and also than the Supreme Vedic God who three thousand years ago declared, " Even those who worship idols worship me."
It maintains that the Christian religion appertains to the whole life, and defines it as the purpose to do God's will in everything, or " to do with our might and as unto the Lord whatsoever our hands find to do," It makes the threading of a needle as sacred as a sacrament. It seeks to do as God would do in eating and drinking, in buying and selling, in speaking and thinking, in work and play, in personal indulgences, and in administering to the needy. Everything to do is a religious duty and an opening to diviner capability and enjoyment, and any- thing done that is not intended to please God or to achieve the high- est good is irreligious or infidel.