settle down on a people like an epidemic; where in crowded fetid alleys, want, and exbaustion, and disease stagger unpitied to their grave, and a heavy voice rises up, How long, how long !' from women pale with stitching, and children weary of wheels and bobbins—and no man listens—there Religion has to be in the midst or rather ought to be in the midst. And is Religion to come, if it come at all,

. chanting a hymn to the sunrise, or with a formula about the correlations of the universe ?

The main, daily business of Religion is to improve daily life, not to answer certain intellectual puzzles ; to raise the actual condition of the great toiling mass; to transform society by making its activity more healthy, and its aim nobler and purer. It has to deal with the sins of great cities and the wants of great classes, the monotony, the uncertainty, the cruelty, of the industrial system. The weak side of the official Christianity, after all, is not so much its alienation from science, its mystical creed, or its conventional formulas, as the palpable fact that nearly nineteen hundred years have passed since the birth of Christ, and the Gospel has been preached by millions of priests, and yet, in spite of it, the practical order of society is so cruelly hard on such great proportions of men, that it is still so far a world for the strong, and the selfish, and the unscrupulous. How is the stir of pleasure we feel in a starry night, or recognition of the subtle homologies which connect Life and Matter-how is the faint sense of these intellectual luxuries to change the fierce, hurried, confused battle of life and labour ? And if it cannot act here, it will never be religion.

What, in a word, do we really mean by Religion? It is not enough to say that it is the answer to the questions, 'What is the relation of man to the infinite ? ' or “What is the origin of the universe ?' or What is the ultimate law, or fact, or power in the universe ?' Religion, no doubt, must have something real and definite to say on each and all of these problems. But it means something far bigger, more complex, and practical than this. Religion cannot possibly be sublimated into an answer to any cosmical or logical problem whatever. Suppose it proved that the origin of the universe was found in evolution or differentiation, that gravitation or atomic force was the ultimate law of the universe, protoplasm being the first

term of the series, and frozen immutability—the cold obstruction' . of the poet--the last term in the myriad links of the chain we call Life ; suppose that the relation of man to the infinite is the relation of the I to the Not-I, of the subject to the object, or again that it is the relation of a blood-corpuscle, or a cell, to a living animal, or any answer of the kind. Suppose any of these. Well! it is plain that neither evolution, nor differentiation, nor gravitation could be ipso facto any man's religion. It would be as absurd as to tell us that spectrum analysis was religion, or the persistence of energy, the binomial theorem, or the nebular hypothesis.


[ocr errors]

Now all these grand generalisations which pass by the general description of Pantheism are at most ultimate ideas of this kind, plus the impression of mystery and power with which we contemplate them-cosmic emotion, in fact. But then how are we to pass

from these remote ultimate generalisations, even when lighted up by the glow of admiration and delight, sentiment and poetry-how are these to pass to daily life, to sutfering, to sin, to duty ?

If the beginning and groundwork of Religion is to answer this question, What is this world around to me, what am I, this conscious speck, to the world around ?'—if this is the groundwork of all Religion, it is but the groundwork. The substance and crown of Religion is to answer the question, “What is my duty in the world, my duty to my fellow-beings, my duty to the world and all that is in it or of it?' Duty, moral purpose, moral improvement, is the last word and deepest word of Religion. And what is duty but my relation to men, my work towards men for men, my social life ; and what is moral purpose, or moral improvement, but social purpose and social improvement ? Duty, moral purpose, moral improvement, mean by their very etymology, the relations of man to man, not mere intellectual sympathies, but practical doings and mutual labour. Duty, morality, moral progress, imply a society, masses and groups of men; we cannot attribute them to solitary or transcendental beings. What would be duty, morality, progress, to Robinson Crusoe without his household and his companion, or to an Almighty and perfect God? We cannot use the words of them. Religion is summed up in Duty, and duty implies fellow-men-and much more-sympathetic work with men and for men.

Here is the failure of all the attempts of all the Pantheisms and idealisms of the universe. They cannot compass duty. No man can pass from these theories of differentiation, or world-spirit, or correlations of force, to duty, to social work in the mighty battle of life. You might as well tell a mother to bring up her child on the binomial theorem. Neither electricity nor the Milky Way can make men sob with remorse, or make women smile in grief. There is no common term between the immensities and tenderness, generosity, patience, sympathy. Call to the Unknowable and ask it to bestow on you a spirit of resignation to the dispensations of infinite differentiation.

The old theologies did (or do) in a way bridge the enormous chasm between the infinite and a good deed; for they told us that the good deed was the express order of the Almighty Creator who made the Infinite, and kept it in its place. There was (or is) a certain connection between God and duty, though it was often put to us in a very grim and distorted form of duty, in horribly inhuman, in fantastically unreal modes of duty. Still there was a connection. But between the molecular theory, or the development theory, and duty, there is no practical connection ; and none but a casual one or a fancy one can be made. The molecular theory (or the like) applied to human life may land you in a doctrine of hardened selfishness; the development theory may land you in a practice of selfindulgence or lawless lust. God may inspire duty; humanity may inspire duty. But cosmic emotion can at best appeal to the imagination, never to the heart or the conscience. To ask of it your duty to your neighbour is as idle as to try if by means of a steam-hammer you could beat out a sunset into an act of mercy.

We may use the arguments of theologians without arguing on the side of theology. If there be a real defensive energy in the older orthodoxies as against so much that is vague and unstable in modern scepticism, it is not at all wonderful. The faith of Christ, and Paul, and Augustine and Luther would not have done all that it has done for eighteen hundred years if it did not touch the deepest chords of the human heart. Religion, in a simply human form, will have more sympathy with Theism than with Atheism ; more respect for the Athanasian creed itself than for Pantheism; and a firm conviction that Christianity, whatever its destiny may be, will long outlive as religion all forms of cosmic emotion,

Has, then, the wonder and the beauty died out of Heaven like the setting of a sun that shall rise no more? The things that we have seen, can we now see no more? Hath there passed away a glory from the earth ? Not so! The worship of nature, the love and wonder at the world, our sense of all the universal harmonies-cosmic emotion so to call it-is neither crushed, nor dead, nor dying. It is as rich and radiant a part of our soul's food as ever in the days of Homer, or Hesiod, or Omar Khayyam, or Correggio, or Goethe, or Shelley. Cosmic emotion is not only a very real part of our culture, but it is an imperishable element in religion. Only it is not religion, it is only a small part of it, or rather only the foundation and prelude of religion.

A rational philosophy must include an adequate account of this external world, and its relations to man and the homologies of the physical world without and the spiritual world within. And as rational religion must stand on, or rather must incorporate and be in part) rational philosophy, rational religion must recognise and contain this cosmic emotion. One common error, as it vitiated all the old theologies, so it now vitiates all the modern forms of materialism, pantheism, and even transcendentalism, whether in its metaphysical form or in its scientific form. No single explanation will cover the whole of the physical phenomena and the whole of the moral and intellectual phenomena, for the excellent reason that there is no single principle running through all, and no logical means of bringing them into one category of thought. Monism cannot cover the field of thought and action, whether it be the monism of evolution or force, or the monism of God or Spirit. The Cosmos in its immensity cannot be stated in terms of God, nor in terms of spirit, soul, or conscious ness. Humanity and morality, on the other hand, cannot be reduced to terms of physics, either of force, or of evolution, or of order. There always stand everywhere, and in the last analysis—matter and mind : we cannot conceive the absence of either; we cannot identify them; we cannot state one in terms of the other. Hence the eternal dualism of all real philosophy, and thereby of all true religion; the eternal Cosmos, as the field and envelope of the moral life, and that moral life itself—the Environment and the Life: Man and the Universe; or better, Humanity and the World.

Our love of this rich and potent earth, our awe at this mysterious system which peoples space with a marshalled host of worlds, our sense of the profound unities and harmonies of the mighty whole, are now transfused with all the insight of the poets from Job, and David, and Sappho and Theocritus, to Shakespeare, and Shelley, and Wordsworth, and Blake, and Turner, together with all the thoughts of the philosophers from Pythagoras and Plato to Hegel and Comte; to Helmholtz and Darwin. Our sense of nature never was so rich and deep as it is now; and it gains in richness and depth immensely, when we are not asked to worship it, or to cast man's history and man's conscience and duty into its language (in short to make it a religion), or, on the other hand, to see in it the mere mode of life of an absolute, perfect, and almighty will.

Rational religion stands with a firm front between these two extremes, refusing to believe on the one hand that Nature in its good and its evil, its beauty and horror alike, is God, or the expression of God, or the visible manifestation of God and his will, refusing to believe on the other hand that Nature is the measure of man, or any kind of divinity to man, or the highest term of a series of which man is the unit. It is not so! There lies in the heart of the poorest and meanest child a force that cannot be even stated in terms of the deepest philosophy of the physical universe. Whilst one mother struggling to save one child were left on this mere fleck of dust in the countless procession of the suns, the devotion of that poor creature to her offspring, the love and trust of the child for her protecting parent, have a deeper religious meaning than all the music of the spheres, or the mystery of the cosmic forces. There, where these two are cowering together in trust, and love, there are still life for others, labour for others, endurance for the sake of something not our own, a sense of reverence and gratitude for protection, conquering pain and leaping over death.

And if we are to seek the sources of religion, the ideal of religion in the rushing firmament of suns, or in the withering waifs and strays of humanity who are yielding up their last breath in mutual trust and love, we shall have to look for it in them, for we can find it only in humanity, and in the world around us as the sphere and instrument of humanity.



The etymology of our Norman word county (comitatus, the jurisdiction of a comes) affords little help to the understanding of its real significance. The Saxon word shire (from scyrian, to divide), i.e. a section shorn off from the rest of the realm, is far more expressive. The origin of most shires is lost in the haze of antiquity. Their names in some cases serve only to indicate that tribes of Saxon invaders fixed their settlements there; e.g. Sussex, Essex (South and East Saxons); while others are obviously drawn from the presence of great landmarks, e.g. North-umber-land, West-more-land. Their boundaries are almost always matter of tradition, never recorded save by way of recital, but seldom disputed, being for the most part natural marks of division, such as hills, rivers, brooks, &c., which are not easily effaced or forgotten. It is this time-honoured and uncontested title to acceptance which explains, what would else seem strange, the fact that amid many points of similarity with its neighbours, every county differs from any other in certain characteristic features. The idiosyncrasy of each is difficult to define, but after a sufficiently long and wide acquaintance can scarcely be mistaken. Physical, historical, and social peculiarities combine to form it, and it may be regarded as the total impression made upon the observer's mind, partly by the dominant character of the hills, valleys, rivers, lakes, plains, and woodlands embraced within the prescribed limits; partly by the aroma of legendary or historical memories exhaled from the soil as a whole, or lingering round particular localities; partly by the familiar usages and mannerisms common to the inhabitants, which, having grown out of their original segregation and ancestral history, have been cherished and handed down as heirlooms from parent to child.

The centralising tendency of modern times, by means of such agencies as railways and telegraphs, has done much to level provincial distinctions, and threatens wholly to annihilate them ; but those of which I speak are too deeply indented to be readily obliterated, and will disappear slowly if they ever vanish altogether. Meantime there is a hopeful prospect of their being kept alive and fostered by the antiquarian spirit which seems to be gaining strength among us as a race, in close alliance with that healthy conservatism of which no

« VorigeDoorgaan »