Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/799

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connected with religion, among others to that of asceticism, at which Mr. Spencer tilts ever and anon with a good deal of vehemence, and of its connection with Christianity. Religion is represented as still imbued with the belief, derived from blood-thirsty ancestors, in a diabolical God who is to be propitiated by self-torture. Nothing of the kind is to be found in the Gospel, in the apostolic fathers, or in any form of evangelical Christianity. Jesus was denounced by his enemies for not being an ascetic. Paul lived a live of self-denial and voluntary exposure to suffering and peril; but it was not for the purpose of self-torture, it was, like his celibacy, for the purpose of propagating the Gospel, as a soldier undergoes toils and privations for the sake of victory, or a man of science for the sake of a discovery. Even the Baptist was not a self-torturer he was a reformer preaching by austerity. Launched into the world, Christianity felt the influence of the various currents of thought and tendency—Hellenic, Roman, Alexandrian, and Oriental—nor did it escape that of the fakirism which had been generated in the mud of the Ganges. The monks of the Thebaid were fakirs, and may be left to Mr. Spencer's mercy. But so was not Benedict, or Bernard, or Anselm. Western asceticism on the whole corresponded to its name, which denotes not self-torture but self-training—the self-training of the spiritual athlete. Its central idea was that of liberating the soul from the shackles of the flesh in order to its complete union with the Deity. Chimerical it was, no doubt, and extravagant in some of its manifestations, but it was not diabolical, nor did it point to anything diabolical in the nature of the ascetic's God; and it is by no means clear that, in such a case as that of Anselm, it would not have stood Mr. Spencer's test of pleasure, though the pleasure would have been of a peculiar and perhaps fantastic kind. It was compatible with immense usefulness, social, educational, and even industrial, for monasticism in its prime was a great agricultural improver. Moreover, as alchemy helped to give birth to chemistry, asceticism may have helped, by conquering the brutish appetites which hold unlimited sway over the barbarian, to give birth to rational temperance. No portions of the "Data of Ethics" are better worth reading than those in which the writer inculcates attention to health, both for our own sakes, and for the sake of the offspring to whom our constitutions are to be transmitted; and preachers, if they wish to be practical, might do a great deal of good by dwelling oftener on the last point. But, waiving the theological form of expression, it is difficult to put the duty of caring properly for the body higher than it was put by the apostle who called the body the temple of the Holy Spirit. And though no one wishes to detract from the dignity of physiological science, or to underrate the benefits which a diffused knowledge of it might confer, it is certain that the temperance, soberness, and chastity which Christianity has labored not without effect to inculcate, are keeping unscientific people in perfect health with the cheerfulness