Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/94

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between theory and fact, the highest pleasure of the religious man has been already tasted in the very act of praying, prior to verification, any further effort in this direction being a mere disturbance of his peace? Or is it that we have before us a residue of that mysticism of the middle ages which has been so admirably described by Whewell—that "practice of referring things and events not to clear and distinct notions, not to general rules capable of direct verification, but to notions vague, distant, and vast, which we cannot bring into contact with facts; as when we connect natural events with moral and historic causes. . . . Thus," he continues, "the character of mysticism is that it refers particulars, not to generalizations, homogeneous and immediate, but to such as are heterogeneous and remote; to which we must add that the process of this reference is not a calm act of the intellect, but is accompanied with a glow of enthusiastic feeling."

Every feature here depicted, and some more questionable ones, have shown themselves of late; most conspicuously, I regret to say, in the "leaders" of a weekly journal of considerable influence, and one, on many grounds, entitled to the respect of thoughtful men. In the correspondence, however, published by the same journal, are to be found two or three letters well calculated to correct the temporary flightiness of the journal itself.

It is not my habit of mind to think otherwise than solemnly of the feeling which prompts prayer. It is a potency which I should like to see guided, not extinguished, devoted to practicable objects instead of wasted upon air. In some form or other, not yet evident, it may, as alleged, be necessary to man's highest culture. Certain it is that, while I rank many persons who employ it low in the scale of being, natural foolishness, bigotry, and intolerance, being in their case intensified by the notion that they have access to the ear of God, I regard others who employ it as forming part of the very cream of the earth. The faith that simply adds to the folly and ferocity of the one, is turned to enduring sweetness, holiness, abounding charity, and self-sacrifice, by the other. Christianity, in fact, varies with the nature upon which it falls. Often unreasonable, if not contemptible, in its purer forms prayer hints at disciplines which few of us can neglect without moral loss. But no good can come of giving it a delusive value by claiming for it a power in physical Nature. It may strengthen the heart to meet life's losses, and thus indirectly promote physical well-being, as the digging of Æsop's orchard brought a treasure of fertility greater than the treasure sought. Such indirect issues we all admit; but it would be simply dishonest to affirm that it is such issues that are always in view. Here, for the present, I must end. I ask no space to reply to those railers who make such free use of the terms insolence, outrage, profanity, and blasphemy. They obviously lack the sobriety of mind necessary to give accuracy to their statements, or to render their charges worthy of serious refutation.—Advance Sheets.