The Successful Man's Religion
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
It is natural for every man to worship something. His heart craves some supreme object of affection upon which to bestow his best thought and labor and around which cluster the hopes and aspirations of his life. It is natural for one and all to have some kind of a religion. Some men worship self; others, the pursuit of knowledge or the accumulation of riches ; others still, the goddess of fame ; others, the true and living God; all, something. To bestow upon any object or pursuit all our thought and industry; to carry it with us day and night; to look to it as the chief end of life, is to do reverence to that object or pursuit, and the act contains all the essentials of religious worship. Hence there is much idolatry among men. "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me," reads the declaration from Mount Sinai, and men go out into life to worship all the gods of Greeks and Romans.
There comes a time in the life of a man when he must stand up alone to meet his destiny. He enters an unequal fight. On one side are the habits of his life and all those qualities which go to make up character. On the other are the evils of the world and the tendencies which drag men down. He meets with fearful odds, and must at last own himself vanquished by forces that he cannot resist. Oh the despair of such hours of self-examination and self-humiliation when the darkness of moral defeat closes round us ! It is a sad hour when the proud spirit feels itself conquered and bows itself to evils that it can no longer resist; when it goes down the swift stream that sweeps it onward to painful disaster. When this hour comes into life, we all flee to some religion—to some power that we conceive to be better than we. We answer to the longing of the heart for something to worship, something to serve as an anchorage of faith. Under such circumstances men in all ages of the world have fled to some divinity, fancied or real, to save them from a chilling sense of defeat.
The dusky Hindoostanee believes that Bramah will watch over his life in an endless series of changes that, in an infinite future, shall end in utter nothingness. After the weariness of almost eternal labors, his soul shall rest in everlasting sleep.
The ancient Greek believed that Phoebus Apollo was the guardian of his destiny, that he would sustain him in the vicissitudes of life and, at the allotted hour, would send a far-darting shaft to release his soul from the body for its descent to Elysium and the islands of the blessed.
The modern skeptic has found a new religion, as old as Lucretius and his fable of the nature of things. It is the gospel of agnosticism and positive negation. He denies that life can be virtuous or evil. He asserts that restless passion is only some involuntary stimulus of nerve centres. He avers that faith is a myth and moral excellence an abstraction of philosophy. He claims that love for one's kind and all the turbulent longings of the soul for immortality are a superstition or at most the throbbing activities of cell-life in the cerebrum. In his philosophy, all is made from the dust of the earth, and in his ethics "dust thou art, to dust returnest " is written of both body and soul.
But there is a religion which satisfies all the longings of the human heart. It offers a perfect ideal of noble life. It places before the thought a boundless contemplation of perfect purity. It gives to the affections the highest activities; it offers to ambition the most praise-worthy ends of life; it places upon its recipient the gravest responsibility, and gives him the highest conception of virtue. If a scholar, it gives a broadened life of activity in fields yet unexplored. If a humble man it brings a steadfast hope that is a vast happiness in itself. If sorrowful and tempted, and buffeted by tempestuous evil, this religion comes with peace and healing, to roll back from before the face of the Father the clouds of human doubt, to show him the Crucified One in his ineffable and unspeakable glory.