Abbildungen der Seite

there will be much disputing, in which the Church and the social state must both suffer. And here, too, it is possible that the same mistake may arise, that the words of Genesis are taken to be elastic to fit all discoveries, and that Bible science, in matters of natural history at least, is at the bottom true and inspired, only we did not understand it. Many like contradictions have already offered themselves in human experience. It is imagined that the six days mean really periods, although from the context the meaning is shown to clearly agree with the word, since the morning and evening are given to limit the term and decide the intention. It cannot, indeed, be too often remembered that people did not write, in early times, what they did not mean. The reverse is found to be the rule, and, where a different intention is contended for, the burden of proof lies upon the champions of the figurative and poetical sense of the tradition. When a statement becomes an allegory, it is already ceasing to be believed as a fact.

It will be well then for us to place the account of Genesis where it belongs. As contradicting the process cess of gradual

tradicts the proof gradual development, it is well if we can view it in development. its real light and remove it, so far as it is an obstruction, from the path of knowledge. So long as it is taught in a bald unæsthetic way in the Sunday school catechisms, it is productive of great injury to the growing generation. To read it in the Churches as a grand poetic account of the origin of things may still be countenanced. But there is a great difference between teaching a thing as literally true and reading it for religious edification. In one sense the world, and all that therein is, is a great miracle, but as to how it was

Genesis con

brought about, the real workings of the great Force which moves all things, of all this Genesis gives an incorrect idea. When we all believed that things were suddenly and miraculously made, it could not have been immoral to teach Genesis as literal truth. But this is no longer so. Biology has been separated from her theological mother, and she has taken her place as entitled to give her own testimony. The study of Genesis, or the origin of things, Religion must surrender to the Sciences, because, from the very nature of things, Religion cannot come to any conclusion in the premises that can and will be fully accepted. Her kingdom is not of this world.

In the following pages I have given the original and the translation of the two first chapters of the Book of Genesis, together with a criticism upon them. From

this I think it will be seen that those of us who have The story of Genesis may be studied the matter are free to reject the story as a solid rejected on its

inspired account on its own merits. For us this account of the origin of things must take its rank as a fairy-tale, something that was pleasant to believe and arose naturally as the result of a limited experience, but that is no longer to be accepted as true. One reason for its being clung to is that we part with old traditions slowly, because they are easier for us to handle mentally than the newer ideas. But it seems to me that the intellectual world is progressing in this direction, and that to aid it in any way, however humbly and inefficiently, is praiseworthy and is what is needed at the present time. For the scholar needs activity in which to work, but not confusion and bitter strife. He works to aid the transformation of society and ideas, so that men's minds may be modified with



out too much jarring. To-day increasing knowledge is changing our conceptions more than ever upon once seemingly settled matters in social life and religion. And it is thus particularly a time for the exercise of tolerance and good temper so that we may offend each other as little as possible, neither make difficulties, nor disconcert the carriage of society. It is certainly in this spirit that the present criticism of the creation story of Genesis is written.

Probably no assemblage of the white race is so unanimously engaged in the work of money-getting as we

Our prime conceit is, that he who has the most money is the greatest man. We value wealth rather than power, and comfort rather than right-thinking and right-doing. We value science chiefly for what it will bring in money and comfort, and we make an insidious distinction between that knowledge which we can patent, and that which has no immediate pecu-niary result, but which in its total effects on our civilization is of immensely greater import, forgetting that theories must be put forth in order to see the tendency of facts. The results are that we have a general low estimate of individual virtue, that our

The pursuit industrial enterprises take the form of monopolies, we feres with our are wasting our natural resources, our lands are falling study of Reli

gion. into the hands of fewer owners, and our public schools into the control of ecclesiastics and politicians. We do not keep in mind that the perfection on all sides and the well-being of the individual citizen is to be aimed at, not the triumph of any one school in State or Church. But while we are so engaged in this pursuit of wealth, it is evident that we have less time for other matters, serious reading, serious observation.



And so it comes to pass that in our land of political
freedom there exists greater religious intolerance than
in Germany or France, countries whose political insti-
tutions are less liberal than our own. For in this
matter of religion we are seen to be thrown more
exclusively on the different sects for advice, because

we do not take time to attend to its efficient criticism
treated as a ourselves. We treat religion as a matter of business
matter of busz-

to which the ministers are paid to attend, instead of a
matter, the whole ground and superstructure of which
we should feel bound to investigate for ourselves. And
so it comes to pass that these things are relegated more
entirely to the clergy, and the spectacle is presented
of a nation, otherwise active and intelligent, quite
dependent for opinions on very important subjects upon
a profession which at the best is very conservative,
and at the worst very backward. The effect of this is felt
on both parties. By an artificial protection it lowers
the education of the clergy and helps to turn out a mass
of preachers unfit for the ministry, and it makes the
people indifferent to the real message the Church has to
carry. For the last quarter of a century all religious
progress in America has come from a movement in
Europe. Educated Episcopalians are looking for the
opinions of Dean Stanley, Canon Farrar and Canon
Curteis. Those of the American Episcopal Bishops who
are active in a literary way seem to belong to a past
generation. They are resisting necessary changes and
seem endeavoring to oppose in a futile manner the ad-
vance of light and knowledge. But the moment one
touches the infallibility of religion, even remotely, that
instant one is extended upon the cross of misrepresen-
tation. One can do much in other directions and escape

calumny, but speak against animistic doctrines, even it you leave animism itself untouched, and you fall by the swords of your friends. Every inducement is held out to you to join, at least in appearance, the opposite ranks, and if you do not, you must be wary, indeed, not to be fatally set upon. The spectacle is over again presented, through Roman, Grecian, Alexandrian, Mediæval and present time, of Science proving her case and then declaring, through the mouth of her advocate, that other evidence, never presented, still exists which throws her out of Court. All this to escape personal blame and censure and to appease the many votaries of the Supernatural. So it comes to pass that our sympathies are withdrawn from the people who surround us and the age in which we live, and are thrown out into the future, to the coming Man who will, we hope, be wiser and happier than we can'ever be, and for whom we sacrifice ourselves and taste the pleasures of selfsacrifice. This seems to be the origin of the Religion of Humanity, born because of the harshness and unreason surrounding us.

One stands perforce outside of the hopes and joys of the world when one refuses to go with it in this matter of dogmatic belief. The barren pity in one's heart is

Visions of the refused all sympathy and ebbs and flows unnoticed by purity and reathose for whom it is excited. So the mind becomes son, will prefilled with visions of the sweeter time when Christ's Kingdom shall come; the great misunderstood Kingdom, when purity and reason will prevail, and before which all prejudices will disappear. Before it can come,

, indeed, all selfishness must be banished from our souls. We must look abroad over the barriers of all beliefs, becoming, in a true sense, Catholic. For but a little


« ZurückWeiter »