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Man Worshiping

( Originally Published 1912 )

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill. —Hebrew Poem.

How many have felt that to belong to this beautiful order of nature is something to believe, something to trust when everything else has failed!

Max Müller.

These sentences introduce man as sustaining a fourth relation to the universe and the power which produces and upholds it. Appearing as a being who inquires into the causes and laws underlying and permeating all the operations of nature, he is called a Thinker. When he is deeply impressed by what he has discovered and is overtaken by wonder or is moved to laughter or tears by joyous or sad events, he is seen as a creature of emotion. When, obeying his wishes and necessities, his thoughts and feelings go outward and, coming in contact with nature and events, he tries to mould them into new forms and put them to new uses, he is a being of actions. When his thoughts and sentiments and actions have reference to something immeasurably greater than himself, he becomes a Worshiper.

It need not be pretended that this four-fold study exhausts the full meaning of mankind. Many things remain unstudied and unexpressed.

When school children draw the map of a state or a country, many details are omitted from the plan. It is enough if, in drawing a map of the United States, they mark the coast line with its prominent head-lands, locate the principal lakes, note the course of its large rivers, and indicate the great mountain ranges. There are many details which cannot be included in the outlined sketch. There is much that cannot be pictured. Over the real country seasons revolve in all their variety and beauty; upon it the summer and winter sunlight pours its splendor; over it winds sweep in their variable currents ; the whole face of the country is diversified with hill and dale; thousands of small and barely noticeable streams thread their way along the slopes toward the more important water courses.

Thus this study of man is only a rude draft of what he really is. Many details remain unrepresented. His life is divided into different zones. He has his spring, and summer, and autumn, and winter. Sometimes he is under sunshine, some-times under clouds. Over him hurricane-like passions sweep and zephyr like fancies idly roam. There are numberless small streams of tendency and influence that imperceptibly, but no less surely, help form the main current of his life. In an adequate account of him, all these things would appear. But it still remains true that these smaller things are all included in the larger outline, and may be omitted without marring the original plan. It is not so with the main characteristics. At first sight of humanity these instantly rise into great prominence. Thinking of the western hemisphere, North America, Central America, Mexico and South America rise before the sight. Thus, when the continent of humanity is recalled, the four divisions of man thinking, man feeling, man working, and man worshiping, come into view. No attempt need now be made to decide which of these four grand divisions is most important nor which has made man's career most wonderful. It is enough to agree that no one of them can be spared from human life. Religion is as much an organic and, hence, as necessary a part of humanity, as is thought, or feeling, or action.

To many thoughtful persons it would bring great satisfaction to know just how the world originated. It would bring relief to know when and in what manner the human race began its career upon this planet. Science has shed some light on the problems of existence, but it would be foolishness to pre-tend that it has completely answered all inquiries that may be made. Doubless Haeckel and those like him would be glad to receive more information on. the whole subject of creation. Asked if he did not think the evidences for immortality were conclusive, Doctor_ Johnson replied that he wished there was more evidence. Thus, when we read books on evolution, we all wish the argument was a little more conclusive. If some superior being should send word from another planet to earth that he could fully explain the origin of the world and of mankind, the men of science would extend him an invitation to come and deliver a course of lectures on the subject. Indeed, it is almost conceivable that some of the sectarian colleges and theological seminaries, that have hitherto assumed that they were in possession of complete knowledge of the whole question, might be willing to join in the invitation, and would contribute to a fund to bear the expenses of the enterprise. This would be university extension to some purpose. It would be the distribution of valuable intelligence and not the presentation of some commonplace opinions. How-ever, the prospect of receiving a visit from a celestial lecturer being hopeless, we mortals must move along the lines of earthly investigation. This method lacks much of being complete ; but, as it is the only one we possess, we must be content with it. Where we cannot have certainty, we must learn to extract all possible comfort out of probability.

There was a time when the church pretended that its knowledge was complete. Uncertainty was not only unnecessary, but it was sinful. Uncertainty was only another name for infidelity. Why should any one remain in doubt concerning the origin of the world and of man and of worship when the church could explain everything to him? If one really wishes to know, the church can instruct him. It can teach him that about six thousand years ago God became active and made the universe out of nothing. This task required five days. On the sixth day He made the body of man out of dust and breathed a soul into it. Then a book was written telling man what kind of being he is and what kind of being God is, and giving minute rules concerning worship. Thus all questions received definite answer.

Now this way of quieting doubt is rapidly losing its power. The mind is left to discover the truth in religion as it discovers it in everything else. Because of this there may be more uncertainty, but there is much less absurdity in religious beliefs.

We are forced to confess that we do not know all about the awful power constantly hurled forth into space by the sun. We do not know all about the relation that blazing star may sustain to other far distant worlds. We do not know what kind of fuel is consumed to keep up its raging heat. But this confession of ignorance is better than the quieting, but conceited pretense that we know all about it. Some of the ancients thought it was only a few miles away from earth. In the morning it came up out of the darkness ; it was drawn by horses in a chariot across the sky ; in the evening it went down into a dark under world. When it was eclipsed, it was thought a monster was devouring it and a great noise was made, by clashing shields together, and arrows were shot to prevent the calamity. Mod-erns know much more about the sun than did the ancients, but it is also true that to the moderns the unknown seems much greater than it did to those who lived in a remote past.

The same thing may be said of man, of his origin, of his history, of his worship. Much is known, but much remains unknown. If we knew the origin of one human power we might easily know the origin of all. Tennyson's familiar lines contain a profound truth :

"Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is."

Thus if we knew how man became a being that thinks and feels, we should know how he became a being that prays. As he thinks because he is man, he worships because he is man. The one seems no less natural and hence no less necessary than the other. As the reasoning power made man investigate the laws and phenomena of the world, spiritual power made him reverence the cause from which they proceed. Reason would not of itself make him a religious, nor would emotion alone make him a logical being. It is from the union of these two powers that he stands forth as a worshiper.

It is an error to assume that religion arises wholly from the emotions. If this were true, children would be the most religious. As the power of thought advanced, religion would retreat. By the time a child had reached the age when it could demonstrate a simple problem in Geometry, its religion would be scarcely perceptible; and, when it could state and maintain by argument the doctrine contained in Newton's Principia, it would have entirely lost all reverence. Just when it has reached the point where it is able to perceive the greatness and the marvel of the universe and can think intelligently of a Creator, it suddenly sinks into indifference. This is hardly conceivable. Indifference is not caused by thought. It may rather be traced to lack of thought. Irreligion sometimes arises from carelessness and shallowness. A poet said, "The undevout astronomer is mad." Thus irreverence is not the expression of a mind that is full of great meditations over the world and history and destiny. It is more likely to be the noise made by a few small prejudices rattling around in a mind that is nearly empty.

As. an argument that worship springs only from emotion, it is sometimes said that it is more a feminine than a masculine act. Constructively, this statement contains two libels. By the imputation that she is deficient in thought, one of them is against woman; and, by the suggestion that he lacks something that causes him to fall below the true glory of existence, the other is against man. It is pointed out that a larger number of women than of men attend the churches, but this does not prove that the sisterhood of the race has a monopoly of sentiment and the brotherhood a monopoly of intellect. Where both are free to attend, at almost every assembly there are more women than men. They are in a majority in mixed literary clubs. If a Bossuet or Massillon should be announced to preach a series of sermons, doubtless a large majority of the audience would be women; but the same thing would occur if some Humboldt were to lecture upon natural science or some Hegel were to lecture on pure philosophy. Poetry and music are thought to be the highest expression of emotion; and yet the greatest poets and musical composers are men. It has been a popular fallacy that, be-cause of her emotional nature, woman is unfitted to understand philosophy, and science, and government, and all things demanding intellect. In face of this is the singular fact that in mythology those things relating to justice and wisdom have been pre-sided over by women. In the Hindoo mythology it is Saraswati, the wife of Brahma, that gives literature and science. Hebrew wisdom is personified as a woman. Among the Greeks it is Athena and among the Romans it is Minerva that represents the highest intellectual qualities. Numa received his laws from the nymph Egeria. In our own mythology, Justice is represented by the figure of a woman. In history, Hypatia was the greatest teacher of philosophy of her times. Zenobia was a great ruler. So were Elizabeth and Maria Theresa. Weak and foolish and impulsive queens have been fully matched by weak and foolish and impulsive kings. Thus that woman, rather than man, seems to be more friendly to religion does not prove a lack of intellect in the one or an excess of emotion in the other. Worship is not the possession of woman alone, but the possession of humanity. It belongs to every human being that has a mind which can think and a heart which can wonder.

Worship might be called reason in bloom. Before there can be admiration there must he knowledge. The world is beautiful to the heart; but it is the eye that first beholds its forms and colors. Death is impressive, but what makes it so impressive? It is because the mind has reflected over it. It is not impressive to a young child. Thus worship does not discover a God; it only celebrates his greatness and majesty after philosophy has found him. As having found the sea man admires it, having found the movements of the planets he wonders at them, so having been led by his intellect to believe in a Creator he worships him. His heart follows his reason. As all who look at the night sky, thick sown with shining worlds, are filled with delight or overborne with awe, so, all who meditate over the Power that made and maintains those worlds in their unceasing order and, from their meditations, pass into a mood in which spoken or unspoken prayer or praise goes forth from the heart, are worshipers. The idea of a God surpasses all other thoughts the mind can contain. The emotions following this idea are the most sublime the heart can hold. Thus, composed of reason and sentiment when employed over the greatest truth known to mankind, worship becomes the most exalted act of the soul.

The fact that the earliest art and literature are religious indicates that worship came very soon in the career of mankind. What lies back of the first hymns and altars can be only conjecture, but these expressions show that worship had become a habit. The most ancient books of India, the writings of Job and Eschylus all contain the idea of a God. This is significant and yet perfectly natural. Confronted by all the amazing phenomena of the world, one of the first questions of a mind having come to consciousness would be: What is their cause? When man seeks for causes and effects he is a reasoning being. When he is trying to discover why rain falls, why rivers flow, and why the stars move, he is fully within the realm of philosophy. But when he asks what is back of the laws by which rains fall, rivers flow, and planets move, he is seeking for a higher cause. He has passed upward from a natural to a spiritual philosophy. Religion is a search for the cause of all other causes. Searching for game to quiet his hunger a hunter found the, silver mines of Potosi. Thus, searching for the reason of all common phenomena, man found a God. Acting upon all suggestions from without and with-in, Balboa pressed forward and, from one of the peaks of Darien, he discovered the Pacific. So, obeying beckonings from without and impulses from within, man ascended to spiritual heights from which there burst upon his view a sea greater than the western ocean. Unfurling his flag he sang Glorias to Him whose power and splendor fills its mighty expanse. Thus the term God is an expression of an exalted sentiment and the inevitable conclusion of a most profound philosophy.

It is short-sighted to become either sarcastic or sorrowful over the defects of religion. It would be foolish either to hate or to ridicule the Mississippi because its beginnings are so small. To estimate it correctly it must be seen in all its sweep of thous-ands of miles through the continent from the high-lands of Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It is thus that religion should be judged. Worship can-not be better than the mind and heart which practice it. When it is asked why the worship of Egypt or of Palestine was so defective, the inquiry should go farther and ask why the government of those nations was not better. The answer to one will also answer the other inquiry. Why did they offer sacrifices? For the same reason that they used wooden plows. The emblems of religion were imperfect and some of the rites of worship cruel, be-cause much of the greatness and goodness of Deity was concealed from them. Each succeeding age has had to re-open its religious doctrines and customs to receive larger and better meanings for the same reason it has had to re-open its theories and practices of education and government and agriculture. As man becomes more rational and more humane, thus his religion becomes. The harpsichord upon which Beethoven played his sonatas was an imperfect instrument compared with the modern piano. But the imperfection of the instrument is no argument against music. Thus religion does not need denial by any modern heart so much as it needs a means of nobler expression. Man's conception of God should equal his conception of the universe. Our religion should match our astronomy.

As one reads a great book his mind and heart gradually rise to the mental and spiritual eminence occupied by the writer. All small things vanish in presence of great thoughts and feelings. So, in reading the great volume of nature, the mind ascends, as if on wings, and the heart easily be-comes a worshiper of its infinite Author. In this adoration no church form need be employed. It may be framed in new words or it may reject all utterance as inadequate. Our Aryan forefathers broke out into rapturous hymns at sight of the rising sun. Socrates stood all night facing the east in silence. Aurelius prayed in his tent as a soldier and in his palace as a king. Spinoza saw God in everything. Standing on a hill, at day break, Rousseau was over-come with ecstasy. Christ prayed all night among the mountains. By far the greater part of worship is outside of all churches. But, wherever it may be, the soul is never higher than when, yielding to di-vine impulses, it finds itself in presence of the Creator. Many are the forms of human greatness. Old and new, in thousand shapes all along the shores of time, as shells are sprinkled on the shores of the moaning sea, lie the works of man. But, shamed by none of his secular, stands out clearly his sacred employment. If the one makes him great, the other makes him divine.

The young generation has come upon a scene in which much light speech on the subject of religion may be heard. Many inherited opinions are being cast aside. It would be well for every young heart to remember that, if they are to be uttered at all, hasty or hostile words should all be reserved for partial or obsolete forms of religion and never directed against the living reality abiding beneath all passing forms. Beliefs, unmade and thrown away, should be speedily replaced by nobler beliefs. Whether in the church with its rising and falling organ tones, or in the home with its hearthstone where human affection is strong, or out beneath a light-flooded or star-sown sky, every heart should yield to its most sacred impulses. No one should permit the call of enticing voices, the din of material pursuits, or the confusion made by the tearing down of old theologies to silence the gentle pleadings of the inner spirit. To be able to ascend, at times, above all the turmoils of our noisy years ; to appeal from the passing to the enduring; to see that nature has made ample provision for all the soul's desires and that its outgoings toward the Supreme Beauty and the perfect Good are not in vain; to have times of complete surrender to a divine purpose; to have consciousness of untrammelled union with the Power and Love which make planets move and hearts beat; this, when all things else have failed, brings courage, brings solace, brings joy.

Let science and philosophy instruct, let literature and art awaken, and let the beauty of nature en-thrall us, but something still remains undone. In all the varied experience of many successive years there are times in which we cannot do better than to heed the injunction contained in the simple lines which have been carried in memory from our early years:

"Child, amid the flowers at play,
While the red light fades away;
Mother, with thine earnest eye,
Ever following silently;
Father, by the breeze at eve
Call'd thy harvest-work to leave;
Pray! Ere yet the dark hours be,
Lift the heart and bend the knee."

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