The Message and Ministrations of Dewan Bahadur R. Venkata Ratnam, volume 2/Chapter 10
A MAHAMAHOPADHYAYA ON RELIGION.
Reluctant though we be to measure lan- ces, especially on matters of theology, with a Sanskrit scholar of the learning and reputation of Mahamahopadhyaya Paravasthu Venkata Rangacharyulayyavarlu Garu of Vizagapatam, our allegiance to the beam of light that is the star upon our path and the lamp unto our feet, our deep regard for the erudite and liberal-minded Mahamahopadhyaya and the supreme importance of the question at issue, prompt and encourage us respectfully to state our views upon some of the points which he so ably discussed the other day at Nellore.* Apprehensive of the poor chance we stand against so veteran a knight, we nevertheless enter the lists, with the confession that, in responding to this call of duty, we are not unaware of either the weak spots in our armour or the defects of our weapons. Most gladly do we express our unqualified agreement with the learned Mahamahopadhyaya in holding that Religion is simply indispensable alike for individual and for national progress and happiness. It is our deep-rooted conviction that no per- son or race can be truly strong, peaceful and happy without a firm reliance upon a wise and loving Father and Ruler, a lively hope of a blessed future and a keen sense of moral responsibility. With us, that science is an aimless quest, that philosophy a purposeless probing, and that civilisation a pretentious show which ignores or eliminates Religion ; and they cherish the Laputan dream of building from the roof downwards who aspire to construct a society without the solid basis of a true, deep, liberal religion. In all ages Religion, rightly understood, has been the dearest treasure- the strength and the delight — of the true believer's heart ; at all times firm faith in a wise Providence has been the harbinger of national peace, progress and prosperity. The greatest of heroes, the noblest of martyrs, the most ardent of patriots, the most selfless of philanthropists, have in all countries been schooled in Religion and have always graduated from the Academy of Faith. Never has a man or nation been really great without religion — without deep, pure, child- like faith in God ; for, they who have ventured to sail "over life's solemn main" without the rudder of faith, the compass of hope and the steering of the Almighty Pilot, have been either wrecked on the rocks of temptation or drifted to the shores of disappointment. It is trust in an unerring Truth and submission to an omni-potent Love that result in high thinking, pure living and noble doing. By counsel- ling the bold and strengthening the weak, by confirming the loyal and assuring the wavering, by curbing the precipitous and consoling the bereaved, by refining the coarse and softening the hard, Religion plays a potent part in the fulfilment of the one increasing purpose that runs through the ages. It chisels off crookedness, wears away prejudice, sinks selfishness and gives a mighty impetus to the high hopes and aspirations that make us men. Under its holy influence the barren brain blooms with fruitful thought and the desert heart is enriched with purity and love. True faith gives a meaning to life and a purpose to history; without it the former is but an aimless struggle and the latter but the sport of chance.
Would that we could equally agree with the learned Pandit on other matters!. Extremely kind and courteous to individual Brahmos, he sets his face against their religion. He thinks that Theism is doomed to failure as a popular religion by its rejecting all revelation and by its exalting human conscience as the sole criterion for distinguishing right from wrong. This, we respectfully submit, is, at least, misleading, if not positively incorrect. That the Brahmos reject all revelation is wide of the fact. Theism would be a curse to society, a blight to the human soul, if it tended to stem the stream of light that flows from God to man. But, thanked be the All-Merciful Father, Theism is too humble, pious and scientific to promulgate ?so fatal a doctrine. Far from perpetually closing the channel of sweet intercourse between the Parent and the child, the Brahmos assert that revelation is not the speciality of a certain age, the provincialism of a certain land, the monopoly of a favoured race ; but that it is a Universal phenomenon co-eval and co-extensive with humanity. Wherever truth is boldly upheld, virtue duly honored, righteousness faithfully cultivated and self-sacrifice cheerfuly accomplished-each for its own sake, as in them lies the soul's normal state— there is revelation ; for thus are God and man brought together. Free as air, broad-cast as light, impartial as the genial showers of heaven, revelation informs the head, quickens the heart, strengthens the conscience and illumines the soul of every upward-looking man, to whatever clime or time he may belong. "This wide universe is the sacred temple of God;" revelation, in its truest and most catholic sense, is the 'open sesame' to the mystery of religion ; and man is, by his very birth, entitled to the bliss of communion with his Father in heaven. Gracious God has willed that all His sons shall be blessed in His Presence and in His service ; and that revelation, in diverse ways and to various degrees, shall be vouchsafed unto every one whom His power creates, His 'wisdom guides and His love cherishes. The Brahmos assert that, not only in some mythical past but at every minute and every second of time, the Divine Spirit is passing over the pregnant waters of the human soul, evolving it into a purer, nobler and holier being and that with every beat of our hearts the Lord's will is being proclaimed to the waiting millions of the world. They assert that He who feeds the ant in its hole and the raven in its nest, who has spread out the feast of His favours and the banquet of His bounty everywhere under the sun, whose matchless wisdom controls and whose boundless love embraces the entire round of things, has not left Himself without a manifestation in any age and does not doom the human soul to die of want or to find stale nutriments in the crusts and crumbs from the board of antiquity and to drink, unfiltered, of the water that has drained into itself the dust and sediment of the ages it has run through; but that, with a father's care and a mother's love, He keeps his hospitable door ever open, that the hungry and the thirsty, the unclad and the homeless, may find food and drink, raiment and shelter unto their souls. If by revelation is meant that descent of the Divine upon the human spirit, that touching of the human soul with the flame of heaven, that cleansing of the individual with the baptism of love, which subdues the lower self and on its stepping- stones raises man to a higher life ; which kindles the silent altars of duty and opens the hidden springs of activity ; which recognises the absolute dependence of the soul upon its Author and raises it above the murky atmosphere of a sinful world into the peaceful and happy bosom of its God and Father ; and which blows away the selfish barriers between man and man and knits the whole of humanity into one free and loving family of which God is the sole Parent, Protector and Guide, then ,the Brahmos most emphatically assert that such a revelation has been, is, and will ever be-from end to end of time. In the words of one in whom the East and the West are happily blended, who is the product of a deep study and a wide know- ledge of both Sanskrit and English, and who, instead of confining the heavenly gift of revelation to any particular age, book, nation or country, takes his stand upon the lofty principle of the universality of inspiration, "Religion is as widely spread as humanity itself. God's revelation to man was made not only at a certain period in the world's history, but it began with the dawning of human intelligence and went on progressing through all ages, and it is going on still and will go on, God is over with us, communicating more and more of His truth to us as our powers of apprehension become purer and keener. The latest phase of His revelation to man is that embodied in the (Theistic) movement which we here represent."* Thus we hold that the load-star of revelation, which guides the humble and cheers the way-worn, shines upon the path of every child of God, here dim and disturbed through fog and cloud and there bright and serene in the clear horizon.
But this self-same belief in the catholicity of faith and the universality of revelation shuts the door against the idea that Heaven's guidance is restricted to one particular age or country; nor do we see our way to the acceptanca of the theory that for all times and all climes has been given one final, clear-defined spiritual guide and ethical code to doubt which is blasphemy, to gainsay which is iniquity. If by revelation is meant a book or a set of books whose origin is, as a rule, veiled in antiquity; within whose covers is confined the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth; whose authority is the highest on all conceivable things; to which the individual consciousness must ever yield priority or be postponed; before which reason must be silent, conscience dumb and the heart awe-struck; in who?e contents must be found clear indications, though under an esoteric shade* of the latest theories in philosophy and the most recent researches in science; and from whose dictates man should never, at the risk of the eternal welfare of his precious soul, swerve by a single inch, then we do not hesitate to reject the idea as a good old fancy. Man is a being of conditioned faculties, capable of unlimited progress; and a revelation made to him must, to suit and benefit him, partake of his nature. The soul's normal state is growth; and knowledge as acquired by the soul must also grow. Truth is like a mighty river : it takes its origin on the heights of Divinity; ripples forth as a thin, silver line of crystal water; gains in volume and strength as it flows; receives tributaries from different directions; rushes and wheels, falls and rises, narrows and broadens, according to the peculiar features of the tracts it courses through; and, at last, breaking forth into a thousand channels of beneficial activities, terminates in the ocean of Infinity. The comprehension of infallible truth lies with the Eternal Mind. No more can man's limited understanding sound the depths of infallible truth than his narrow heart can enclose infinite love. If, as is generally put, truth is God Himself, both are alike outside the range of complete comprehension by man. If there is a purpose in nature and a destiny towards which the world is making, truth must be progressive. Infallible books must be expounded by infallible annotators, who in their turn must be borne out by infallible evidence, which, again, is void unless furnished by infallible witnesses before an infallible judge; and the learned observation of Di J, F. Clark is true not only of an infallible church but also of any authority claiming infallibility, that the claim can be made good only tby an infinite series of infallible witnesses and admitted only by an infallible tribunal. Have we not read how on the insertion or the omission of an i (iota) or of a long a (â) depended the substantiation or the rejection of a fundamental article of faith? Revelation as made to man is necessarily relative, "When God makes the prophet, He does not unmake the man." All the traits and peculiarities of the recipient's mind dim, alloy or divert the truth. The mind is not a passive reservoir but an active appreciator of truth; and all the idiosyncrasies of the man—his ruling ideas and moulding environments—give a particular shape and tinge to the revelation. In the very act of reaching, refining and expanding one's head and heart, conscience and soul, God's truth, which is gentle and plastic as ice, takes an impression of the features peculiar to the person. No two persons are the same all round; and Heaven's boundless wisdom, while retaining its high integrity and main identity, deigns to bend and adapt itself to the needs of each man. It is said of Charles V of Spain that, having abdicated the throne and entered a convent, he used to amuse himself by clock-repairing. This noon he sets all the clocks exactly to the same minute; the next noon no two of them agreee with each other! "Thoughtless man I was," says the Emperor, "that I, who cannot make two clocks go alike, hoped to make all people think alike!" Any truth, like a stage in a journey, is appreciated with reference to the ignorance left behind and the fresh avenues to truth open before; its place is determined as a point in a line of progress. The value of a truth lies at least as much in the exertion—thought and enquiry, prayer and meditation—put forth in its acquisition, amidst possible risks and failures, as in its own intrinsic worth. "If God should offer me," said a great man, "the absolute truth in the right hand, and the love and pursuit of truth in the left, I should choose the left." Revelation, in matters spiritual, is essentially subjective. Man is preeminently a thinking and feeling being; he cannot help it, and he likes it. It is the great Rubicon between him and other animals; and truth, above all things, is an object of personal quest and adoption. What has been disclosed to a person of a certain ag6 or country is no revelation to one of another age or country, unless the latter is similarly circumstanced as the former and is equally competent to give an independent, personal recognition to the truth. Food nourishes the body, truth feeds the soul; and neither the one nor the other can be taken vicariously. No more can a telescope supersede the use of the eye, or the most advanced type of machinery dispense with the presence of an initiating and guiding mind than the revelation made to another man and recorded in a book can obviate the necessity of a person working out the life-problem for himself. It there is no royal road to Geometry, there is absolutely no other path to truth than the one which a person, under the guidance of God and the helpful advice of the elder brothers in the great family of humanity, can cut out for himself. The grand law of 'sow and reap' is nowhere so true as in the investigation of truth. An infallible guidance is but a mechanical guidance incompatible with a free will and a full growth. Has the All-merciful Donor of all blessings endowed man with the precious gifts of intellect and emotion, conscience and devotion, that they may be mere parasites on an infallible revelation or be stunted in their growth under the deep shade of an overshadowing guru? An impious thought! For no kind of easy conveyance would we bargain away our own legs; nor shall we cast out our own eyes that we may be safe under a skilful guide. Again, they give us but a Hobson's choice who ask us to exercise our head and heart up3n a revelation that has been premised to be infallible. To allow a person full freedom of reason and reflection and yet to insist upon his moving only along certain well- defined grooves and upon his arriving at a pre-established conclusion, lacks consistency. Freedom of thought is the invariable pre-requisite to independence of conviction and action. Either the data should be withdrawn or the whole proposition admitted. Truth should be known to be admired and felt to be followed. Man is the climax of creation only when he is manly in head and heart, when he knows what he says and feels what he knows. "Heart within and God overhead" are his sure guides; to "trust in God and do the right" is the sum of his duty.
The main distinction between Natural and Revealed Religion* is that where the former leads the latter goads, where the former persuades the latter compels. Natural Religion appeals to man's heart, Revealed Religion points to antiquity'; Na- tural Religion treats man as a being cast in the image of his Maker, Revealed Religion considers man to be but an improved variety of the simian species, which refuses to dance and do its work unless the rod of authority be held up. The motto of Revealed Religion is nationality ; the watchword of Natural Religion is nation- ality refined and expanded by rationality. "Follow in the wake of your fathers;" says Revealed Religion, "obey the mandates of old ; ask no questions ; make no inferences ; draw no conclusions. Hold your impotent reason in abeyance ; dogma and faith shall sway supreme." "All that is old," says Natural Religion in the wise words of immortal Kalidasa, "is not there- fore necessarily excellent ; all that is new
point. Religion is natural to man as understood, felt and assimilated by him, it is revealed to him by God, the Parent of all Truth. is not despicable on that account alone. Let what is really meritorious be pronounced so by the candid judge after due investigation ; blockheads only are swayed by the opinions of others." Natural Religion is bound to be catholic ; Revealed Religion cannot but be exclusive. With the latter God has spoken ; with the former He is ever speaking. The age of miracles is past, exclaims Revealed Religion; it shall never pass away, asserts Natural Religion. The former brands man as the offspring of darkness ; the latter cheers him as the child of light. The first states the laws of God to be inexorable ; the second proves them just and beneficent.
Nor is the appreciation, by a Theist, of the wisdom of other ages and countries any the less for his belief in the universality of inspiration. Rejecting the theory of plenary inspiration, he recognises that the dove of Heaven's "Holy Ghost" has been flying through all ages and countries and alighting at some time or other upon the head of 'very child of God: that He who is truth itself has in all ages been speaking in the native vernacular of each heart; and that, shaking off the narrow satisfaction of the 'frog in the pond,' man should go forth, like a bee "from bower to bower and assiduous sip at every flower." Disowning faith in an infallible revelation, which, by restricting the inspiring grace of God to a certain period of antiquity and to a limited portion of the world, seems to lie but a few stages off the camp of cold Deism, the Theist finds in his God a living Deity and a loving Father who knocks at the door of every heart, lights the lamp of inspiration in every soul, seeks after and reclaims every wandering sinner. He honours the prophets and seers of all ages and countries; he draws in, like gentle gales from distant lands, messages of wisdom and good news of love, from all quarters. For him the finger of Providence is working everywhere and the whole universe is one ever-unfolding chart of God's revelation. In spirit he is humble, in the search of truth unbiassed, in the appreciation ol wisdom catholic, To him there is no book but may disclose a precious fact, no man but may display a particular phase of God's greatness, He is the heir of all ages, the pupil of all teachers. His admiration for the records of the experiences of the past is reasonable yet profound; and his mission is to distil out, drink and assimilate into himself whatever is pure and lovely and of good report in every branch of knowledge. He aspires to the head of a Plato, the heart of a Jesus, the courage of a Luther, the faith of a Chaitanya, the fire of a Mahammed, the self-sacrifice of a Buddha. To him the different "sacred books" are but the several chapters of that endless volume which God Almighty has from time immemorial been writing on the sensitive tablets of the human heart. Once again to quote from that worthy representative of the Theists in the Western Presidency, Professor R. G. Bhandarkar, "let us exert ourselves to bring into practice the teachings of the old Rishis and learn from all the sources now available to us, indigenous as well as foreign. Let us learn from the Vedic hymns that the temple in which we should find God and worship Him is the universe and the heart of man, from the sacrificial religion which once prevailed that we should beware lest the forms and ceremonies we use should overgrow and destroy the tender plant of spiritual worship, from the rise of Buddhism that religion is not the privilege of a favoured class and that without high moral feeling and action it is an empty nothing, and from its failure that mere morality will not exalt the spirit and satisfy the religious craving of the heart, from the Upanishads that purity of heart is the way of arriving at God and contemplation brings us face to face with Him and elevates the soul; and from the Gita and the Bhakti school that man by his own efforts cannot effect his salvation, that God alone is our Father, Friend and Saviour and that we should lay our souls at His feet, live in Him and for Him and not for ourselves. If in all humility we learn this and learn whatever else is to be learned from the other sources that God in His mercy has laid open to us and follow our Guide fearlessly and faithfully, we need not be afraid of our future."
Next we may briefly notice some of the questions raised and statements made or implied by our good critics.
A very serious objection is taken to the supreme authority of conscience in moral questions on the ground that its dictates are not uniform in humanity. To make a demand of this kind is, we think, unphilosophic. Like all other human faculties, conscience admits of variety „ change and growth. Originally imbedded in every heart and never entirely absent from any breast, conscience is dimmed or brightened, blunted or sharpened, weakened or strengthened by culture and environment. Invested with all the authority of the vicar of God in man, conscience lives and grows upon the care with which »t is cultivated and the obedience with which its mandates are carried out. Every time its angelic voice is heard and abided by, man gains in strength and fitness for the march of life; every time it is slighted, man is sapped of his energy and faints by the wayside. God All-merciful has established so intimate a relation between our various faculties that, like a powerful lever, each raises or lowers all its fellows with its own rise or fall. The strength or weakness of any one of them does not go without a corresponding effect upon the rest; and to expect a level uniformity in the measure of conscience in all mankind is to ignore the marked differences that exist between man and man in any society. The charm of God's creation consists very largely in the variety of its contents; and society is so framed that men may be one another's complements. An inflexible standard of right and wrong is against the ways of nature. God's justice is seasoned with mercy and savours of Divine Love, only when it judges every human being, not by a stern unchangeable law in which the Medes and the Persians would rejoice, bat by the beam of light upon that man's path and the fund of facilities at his disposal. "Unto whom much is given, of him much shall be required," necessarily implies the converse truth that unto whom little is given, of him little shall be required. The world is a vast school where each pupil is trained and disciplined in accordance with his tastes and capacities. To expect an invariable standard of morality, therefore, involves not only an impossibility in fact but also a reflection upon the wisdom and mercy of God.* That the conscience of an evil-doer lies dormant does not in the least tell upon the strength of the Theistic argument. This life is but the preliminary to an endless career that ranges beyond the grave; and Divine Nemesis invariably follows every act of neglect or disobedience. He is doubly ignorant who is not aware of his own ignorance; and he is doubly pitiable who is not conscious of his own spiritual blindness. If, as Cowper says,
"Freedom has a thousand charms to show
That slaves, howe'er contented never know;"
how deplorable is the fate of the creature who is morally enthralled! The evils of sin, like the pain of a disease, must be felt to be remedied. Punishments and rewards are intended to be correctives and incentives; and that they may successfully serve their purpose, there must be an antecedent sense of violation or obedience. Health and palsy may be equally exempt from pain; but from what diametrically opposite causes! Identical is the difference between a strong and a seared conscience. Is the malefactor's fate happy and enviable, then? He who is blind to the divine law and deaf to the prophetic voice in his very heart and soul will not be cured, by the external authority of any Sastras.— To reject the claims of conscience on the ground of its apparent absence in children is, we venture to think, as unphilosophic as the learned verdict of our "free-thinking" brethren that religion is a priestly imposition from which primeval savages are happily exempt. Both ignore the latent possibilities of a child and a savage, and both forget the universal law of progress. The child may be 'father of the man', and the savage the hoary sire of the civilised; but to measure the full proportions of an adult from the swaddling-clothes of an infant or to estimate the aspirations of a cultured person from the narrow notions of a barbarian, is to taunt the stately oak that it was once a tiny acorn. The first germs of conscience are in the infant bosom, pregnant with possibilities of growth under the pure atmosphere of a pious home and the genial light of a godly instruction. Nor has history been barren of striking examples of the working of conscience in children. The leader of the Theistic thought in America, Theodore Parker, was but four years of age when, returning home from a church of which his father was the minister, he saw a little tortoise peeping out from the water in an adjoining tank. He lifts up his stick to beat the tiny creature; but he hears a voice of warning and remonstrance, his infant hand is suddenly arrested, he turns round to see whence the sound has proceeded. But finding no human being within ken, he runs home and narrates the whole incident to his mother. The worthy lady takes the boy in her loving arms and says feelingly, with tears trickling down her face, "That voice that you have heard some men call conscience, but I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. If you listen to it and obey it, it will speak clearer and clearer, and always guides you right; but if you turn a deaf ear and disobey, then it will fade out little by little and leave you all in the dark. Your life depends on your heeding this little voice."
By conscience the Theists mean the divine urge in the human soul, the counsel and guidance from on high, the oracle of God in man. But our good critics would seem to take it in the sense of unillumined human wisdom gathered by personal experience—that sense of prudence and utility which is bred in man by a knowledge of the work-a-day world; and they naturally question the efficiency of the faculty as a spiritual guide. If conscience denoted the frail unaided human reason, it would certainly be suicidal to depend upon so fickle a guide. But conscience is of Heaven, though subject to human capacities or limitations. It is the inward mentor who speaks with authority and enforces his commands. It is Heavens directing finger on the tablet of the human heart, the current of inspiration straight from the throne of God, the throb and motion of the soul under a divine influence, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to lead the wayfarer across the desert of the world. In obeying the dictates of conscience man does not rely upon his own weakness but yields himself up to the guidance of that Omniscient Master whose service is his salvation. The oracle may be heard here in sweet seraphic tones, there in low wavering whispers; the luminary may in one place shine clear in heavenly radiance, in another it may be screened behind the mists of ignorance or superstition. But in our God is found the blissful harmony of infinite Power, boundless Wisdom, and unlimited Love. He teaches, He judges, He loves, He saves. In the dispensations of Him unto whose omnipresent eye the end is disclosed from the beginning, sooner or later, here or hearafter, good is the final goal of ill and every winter changes to spring. The light that shineth upon every heart is our sole guide. Shut against it, man is open to no other benignant influence. God's mercy alone availeth!
In pleading for the prime recognition of individual conscience and experience, a Theist is often charged with arrogating to himself that infallibility which he denies to all else. But the truth lies just at the opposite pole. By his very act of advancing a personal right to Heaven's direct guidance, a Theist is obliged to admit an identical claim for every human being. Nothing is a more effective deterrent to that self-sufficiency which rejoices in its own ignorance or forces its crotchets upon the world than the consciousness that the same Parent of light who sends forth a ray into his soul is every second illumining the hearts of His countless creatures; and that where others see and walk, he yet feels and crawls. Nothing is half so well calculated to humble pride, defeat ambition, rebuke egotism and put self-exaltation out of countenance than the belief that he is himself but one of a myriad receptacles of Heaven's golden showers, and that his poor puddle is a sorry tiling by the argent brooks and the crystal lakes all around; while the most potent incentive to diffidence and humility, search and meditation, catholicity and fraternity, is the conviction that every soul, however low or dark, is a shekinah of God. Thus is self killed, wisdom honored, and the world constituted a spiritual republic.
Religion is life; and life is growth in knowledge, faith, love and service. The function of religion is to refine, expand and intensify those ideas, hopes, emotions and aspirations whose embodiment or realisation is life. This axiomatic truth is differently expressed when the internal growth of man—his individual consciousness, the native prompting of his soul—is said to be the test of religious growth. It is only when the beautiful moon-lit countenance of truth shines direct upon the garden of the heart that the philomel of the soul bursts forth in heavenly harmomonies of praise and prayer. It is only when the nectar of truth is imbibed into the blood and the sinews of the soul that religion shapes itself into holy lives and happy homes, free commonwealths and model societies.
Toleration is the watchword of the times. But toleration presupposes the right to free action as prompted by individual mind and heart. Except on the postulate that every man is at liberty to follow his lights, that the law enacted in each heart—the voice heard in each bosom—is the supreme authority for that man, toleration would not only be meaningless but also amount to a deplorable negligence of an imperative duty that man owes to his brethren.
The study of comparative religion is in these days warmly advocated on all hands. But unless the human soul is acknowledged to be endowed with certain fundamental spiritual intuitions which constitute the data for measuring the relative excellence of the diverse claimants to appreciation, a study of comparative theology is, we will not say futile, but simply impossible. According to a well-known legend, perhaps apocryphal, Khalif Omar consigned a cyclopean library to the flames on the strength of an argument whose logic was, from his view-point, irresistible. If those numerous volumes pretended to contain what was, tin its essence not comprised in the one 'God-given' Kitab (Book), theirs was insufferable presumption; if they could advance no such claim, they were an unmitigated superfluity. Either way what was believed to be the 'garnered wisdom' of ages was demonstrated to be Worthless. This would evidently reduce to an uncomfortable dilemma the position of the student of comparative religion who also owns allegiance to one infallible scripture. Is not that positon rather closely akin to the pious formality, described by Emerson, in pursuance of which grave church-dignitaries would meet in solemn conclave, invoke divine grace and guidance in the selection of a worthy hand for a. vacant see, and invariably fix upon the person whom the King, the Defender of the Faith, had already commended to them for acceptance? An impartial and appreciative study of different modes of faith is possible only for him who believes that wherever man aspires, God inspires; and that the majesty of a living soul overtops the authority of an antiquated script.
The acme of all religion is absolute faith in God—an implicit trust in the guidance of Him who i£ our Father, our Teacher and our King. But this faith is begotten of the conviction that in all ages and countries God bestows a parental care upon each individual soul; that every human being has a right to direct, intimate communion with Him ; and that under the genial sunshine of His truth the spirit grows in purity, piety, wisdom and love. Faith springs from a personal consciousness of God's power, wisdom, mercy and holiness—of the mighty miracles that He has wrought in one's own soul.
Hence, viewed from any stand-point, our stay and strength lies in personal conviction, individual consciousness—the harvest of God's inspiring work in the soul. May the gracious Father grant us all the love and the courage to welcome truth, wherever found, and to gather to our bosoms as sisters and brothers of the same family the good and the true of all ages and of all countries!
We should exceed the space at our disposal and overtax the patience of the reader, if we entered on a detailed consideration of the other interesting subjects dealt with in the learned lecture under review. A cursory reference to some of them is all that is possible. We are happy to be at one with the Mahamahopadhyaya in rejecting the Christian doctrine that with this brief span of threescore and ten years the probation and the activity of the soul close for ever, and that through endless ages there will occur no change, there will ensue no growth—in fact, there will be nothing to do save singing in heaven or seething in hell. It is an article of faith opposed alike to 'sense' and 'sweetness.' The human soul is an off-spring of the Spirit of God; and a deity that can condemn his own issue to everlasting suffering is, as Herbert Spencer feelingly remarks, immeasurably crueller than that Fijian God who is alleged to feast on the souls of the departed. As Tennyson puts it in his own happy style, the God of Love and the God of Hell— together they cannot be thought. Yet the dogma of eternal hell seems to be the strongest 'apology' for the dogma of "vicarious atonement;" for as that eminent English Theist, the Rev. Charles Voysey, has acutely observed, granted that there is no eternal hell and that punishment is only remittent and remedial, there would be no need or justification for Vicarious atonement .' How noble, then, is the touching utterance, 'Hell is the hospital of God!'—It is not, however, clear to us how the orthodox Hindu dogma of the transmigration of the soul is the only alternative to the orthodox Christian dogma of eternal doom. Is the world beyond the grave so barren of growing life, or is the 'ethereal spark' in us so helplessly dependent upon a fleshly cover, that, banished its heavenly abode, it must inevitably and repeatedly enter a "darksome house of mortal clay" for any progress in wisdom and holiness to be possible? Are the post-sepulchral regions utterly foreign to refined aspirations and sublime activities? Is the final goal of man, after all, sheer inactivity—a dormancy disturbed by no dream? That, we think, is the only legitimate inference from the theory that an unembodied soul is incapable of progress or growth. But the very significant modification of the orthodox conception introduced in the reincarnation theory by our brethren of the Arya Samaj and the Theosophical Society is, to our mind, suggestive of the belief that the spirit perpetually rises, on the stepping-stone of the dead self, to higher things. Ours, therefore, is the faith, which is in per feet consonance with the prof oundest intuitions of the heart, that, 'after the second birth of death' 'life shall live for ever more' 'the broken arcs' of this world shaped into the 'perfect round' of heaven.—We are again happy to bo able to share in the esteemed Mahamohopadhyaya's view that pure, heaven-inspired love, far from being restricted to human beings, enbraces 'both man and bird and beast,' aye, even the 'kingdoms' below the animal. Nothing shall lie outside its rule—not, certainly, those mute, trustful friends of man, the animals, which are, with the sanction of so-called religion, daily butchered by the score. The plea that, when thus slaughtered in religious ceremonies, the poor victim compasses its own as well as the sacrificer's happiness and salvation, hardly merits a more serious treatment than the Charvaka's scathing taunt, 'then let the sacrifice forthwith offer his own father!"—It is again difficult for us to follow the lecturer in his dictum that the difference between the three main sect? of the Hindus is but slight. If, as is admitted by the warmest advocate of Hinduism, the distinction between the three schools of thought and belief reaches down to the fundamental conceptions of the nature or attributes of God, the relation of the universe to the Prime Cause, and the ultimate destiny of man—not to speak of the many minor, though significant, points of divergence, we fail to see how one can set aside the Hon'ble Mr. P. Chenchal Rao Pantulu's conclusion, now become almost classical in its expression, that "Hinduism is an encyclopaedia of religions." It cannot be that the erudite Madhavacharya was conjuring slender shades into imposing figures in his Sarvadarsana-Sangraham. However, we have no mind to discount any laudable desire to narrow the gulf between the diverse 'creeds' of man. But this noble end can be accomplished only by setting the spirit free from the fetters of dogma and by sifting the essential from the non-essential, the eternal from the transcient, in human faith.—As regards th 'allegory intended to justify the worship of Siva or any other supposed deity, let it suffice to observe that the Mahamahopadhyaya himself admits that such worship is in substance false, though the adorer's heart is not in the wrong. No doubt, ignorance may be no sin* But, if the essence of worship consists of both Truth and Love, then is it not the prime duty of wisdom to help a brother to Withdraw from error? True tolerance implies something more than good-natured non-interference; it springs from that large-hearted trust, that keen-sighted sympathy, which ever strives to elicit the best, the truest and the loveliest, in human spirit. Never will an appeal to the native instincts of the soul fail of its object; 'Jove nods to Jove from behind each one of us.' If, as declared by a competent authority or. indubitable evidence, 'religion is a universal phenomenon of human nature,' it is because divine 'grandeur' intimately permeates human 'dust'; it is because, ' the Truth in God's breast lies trace for trace up©n ours impressed.' Hence, the supreme—indeed, the sole— aim of the progress of the race should be to circle up from 'man' to 'God,' even to that crowning round, that transfiguring height — with its universal matin-song of a fadeless morn, with its eternal bridal of "the love of Truth and the truth of Love."
- * Vide The Hindu, February 22, 1889.
- * Basis of Theism and its relation to the so-called Revealed Religions by Ramakrishna Gopala Bhandarkar, M. A., PH.D., C. I. E.
- * We use the words in their ordinary, wide-accepted signification. But as manya Theistic writer has shown, they really refer to one and the same phenomenon as viewed from the human and the divine stand.
- * Writing some half a dozen years ago, one whom the whole country knows, honours and loves—Mr. A. O. Hume—says, "Admitting that truth is infinite, and that our minds are finite,—that not only is the point of view of each individual somewhat different from that of even his neighbours, but that the. stand-points of different nations, and different ages are widely differed,—how can any really wise and spiritually-minded man contend that any scripture can be an infallible revelation to mankind generally of the present day?" 'No infallible revelation of Divine truth would be of any use to us mortals." "Divine truth resides only with the One Only-'