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THE ! CHILDREN'S CORNER.

I THE WELSH DICKY BIRD SOCIETY.

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t" THE RELIGION OF THE FUTURE."

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THE RELIGION OF THE FUTURE." [SERMON BY REV. W. TUDOR JONES, UNITARIAN CHAPEL, SWANSEA.] The following is an extract of a sermon preached last Sunday evening by the Rev. W. Tudor Jones, at the Unitarian Church, High- street :— In dwelling on this subject, I lay no claims to any special inspiration. Indeed, no special inspiration is necessary. But the thing is necessary for the proper understanding of the true trend of things,—an unbiassed mind—a mind aware of the progress of thought; and by being aware of this progress of thought we are enabled to carry the lines into the future. The future will be what the present makes it. There will be another element in the future which is not found in the present, or else progress would be impossible. But something of the present will drop, and some- thing of the present will remain in the reli- gion of the future. To a few of these elements, those which will drop and remain, I wish to call your attention. (1) Let us ask in the first place— Dona RELIGION CHANOE ? We all admit that theology changes that it becomes more and more scientific in the de- velopment of the ages. Theology means the ideas which we possess of religion, of the highest things in a tangible form—in a form capable of being grasped by the understand- ing of man. It means the notions concerning God. the universe and man brought within the realm of the understanding. It is belief justified, which is the test which distinguishes true belief from superstition. So we will agree that theology changes. You need not go outside the churches of this town in order to see that notions concerning the highest things change and grow. Possibly, some of you have noticed in the papers of last week a paragraph of a sermon on How to read the Bible," preached by an able and highly re- spected Nonconformist minister of this town. This is a proof to us that things are chang- ing, and it augurs well for liberal theology and religion to find an able minister cou- rageous enough to proclaim the truth con- cerning the Bible in a way fundamentally different to that of the past. The minister mentioned that it is now immaterial whether we believe iu the verbal inspiration of the Bible or not; immaterial whether there was a real Garden of Eden, a literal tree of know- ledge or not. These are depicted in the book of Genesis as being real, but it is not neces- sary that we should believe them to be real. THB GREAT FACT, according to the paragraph mentioned, was that sin had entered our world, and that man had rebelled against his Creator and had con- sequently suffered. Also the preacher urged his hearers to read the Bible intelligently, and notice the progressive revelation which is found in it. Now, this is exactly what has been preached within these walls for over half-a-century. We are not alone to-day, and we rejoice in it. Others as well as ourselves believe now that the Bible is a noble book of man,—the records of a nation struggling after higher and higher conceptions of God. And we rejoice in the fact that the upward move- ment gathers strength, and is pressing on us often from the most unexpected quarters. A fortnight ago, Canon Cheyne preached a ser- mon in Rochester Cathedral on the Fourth Gospel, in which he pointed out the evidence of two hands in that Gospel, and mentioned that the evidence for miracles as now shown in modern light is insufficient for their belief. The learned Canon further pointed out that it is impossible for any historical mind to believe in them at this time of day. I say again, there are signs on all hands that theology is continually changing, continually moving upwards from the base of authority and orthodoxy to the peaks of reason, illu- mined by the understanding and conscience of humanity, and we take it as a good omen that the future will reveal higher and nobler and diviner conceptions to us concerning the universe, man, and God. DOES RELIGION MOVE AS THEOLOGY DOES ? It does. Religion is a kind of trust before the mystery of the universe. It is an attempt, intuitive in man, to place himself at one with the universe. Now, a certain amount of belief is found in even this. A man would not attempt to place himself at one with the universe unless he had some reason for doing so. Religion, in this way, has reason for its basis, if not for its contents, It is something which is not measured by the scales of the understanding solely because it is not an exact quantity and not a full grown thing. It is not a mechanical thing but a vital thing. We suspend judgment upon it because it is a living thing in process of perpetual unfolding. But the partial explanation which is given to it rests upon a knowledge of it. As Principal James Drummond says, Even religion cannot exist in intelligent minds without seeking to understand and define its own basis, contents and relations." In this way then religion moves. Man continually changes his attitude towards the great problems of the universe. From age to age he changes his points of view and multiplies the points, and it is in this way only tb at God and the universe become intelligible to us at all. No two ages, nor, indeed, two men, stand on the same level in viewing things. The standpoints are changed and multiplied in viewing all things on the whole scale of exist- ence, for this is a condition of all true advancement. So religion moves. Man rests in securer places, and finds his God more and more real. (3) May we ask then, towards what is THIS MOVEMENT OF RELIGION —the movement which is in a kind of fluid state to-day running down the stream of time towards a nobler state of things for our children than for us. "The progress of religion," says Emerson. is steadily to its identity with morals." All conceptions of God which humanity possess to-day flow on- ward to goodness, life and character. Emerson further says that the next age will behold God in the ethical laws. And another eminent American Unitarian says, "Ethics thovght out is religious thought; ethics felt out is religious feeling; ethics lived out is religious life." It is important to remember that these two writers do not identify ethics and religion. What they mean is that the whole of the science of conduct, the whole sphere of character will in the future be within the realm of religion. The meaning is that religion in the future will not be only nor mainly theories about things—things which often have no bearing upon human life. Religion will continue in a degree to be that, because the ideas which we possess concern- ing man's relation with God, the world and his fellows are not realized by us as yet. But the religion of the future will mean something besides this. All the ideas which are at the timè- possible of realization will con- stitute the essence of the religion of the future. It will lay emphasis, not upon dogmas, that is, not upon theories which were realized by man centuries ago, and which are the products of human minds akin to our own. Common sense tells us that these theories cannot be realized in the same manner now. This would be analogous to an attempt to wear the clothes of boyhood after we are grown up. You may smile at the analogy, but it is none the more ridiculous and foolish than the attempt to dress religion in a garb which suited our ancestors, but which does not suit us, and onr conceptions will have to be modified and corrected by those who will folJow us. We pass the mile-stones of life never to return to them again. Once they are passed they are, or at least ought to be, passed for ever. We must travel for ever onward. It argues ill for our manhood if we play like children, and waste our time in a foolish way about what ought to have been passed by us long, long ago. What is history but a continual movement towards the unknown future? Take move- ment, change away from the history of nations, and nations cease to be, and history ceases to be written. In order to live at the best, man and nations must be alert and on the move, possessing as the years pass away higher and finer conceptions of things, and greater grace of character and life. Religion then moves towards a nobler future, and the religion of the future will of necessity be very different to that of the past or the present. (4) In which way will the RELIGION OF THE FUTURE from that of the present? • What will remain and what will drop? The new century is to see, according to the ablest minds of to-day, an important reorganisation of the Christian Church. The world is weary of the immutability of dogmas which create a dualism in life a.nd divide man's faculties into different compartments. How then to bring about a healthier, saner religion ? The problem is not a mechanical one but a vital one. Religious sentiments deepened through centuries experience will not die in a day. But there are signs that the unessentials in them are dropping off more and more. The harsh systems of the wrath of God, the doctrines of hell and everlasting punishment are not preached to-day. Little is heard of a scheme of salvation, and the sacrifice of Christ is looked upon not as a contract between God and man but as an universal j principle upon which every noble life is built, The Churches of Christendom seem to be uniting more and more on the essentials. Congregationalists and Unitarians work together hand in hand in America. More emphasis is laid upon goodness than upon j dogma. One of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is the story about Moses, when in answer to his prayer that he might see God, God makes "all his goodness pass before him." Is there any other way by which we can see God who is spirit except as we see the expression and manifestation of goodness ? Wherever we see goodness we see God. God shows himself through men, through good thoughts and actions. Whoever loves good- ness loves God. The religion of the future: will have as its kernel goodness. It will not be goodness as conceived in a being beyond ourselves solely, but as goodness conceived by our spirits and lived in our lives. TRUE RELIGION will then mean not theories about the good- ness of God, not any special incarnation, but a clear manifestation of God in the lives of men. Let any man's life agree with the ideas which he possesses concerning the noblest and best and divinest things, and that man's life will reveal Grod in exactly the same manner as God has always been revealed. This constitutes the basis and true super- structure of religion. The religion of the future will then see God in goodness as we see ourselves in a mirror. Religion in this manner will not be an empty wail for God in space mainly, but man will find him within himself in goodness, truth and love. Speak to Him thou, for He hears, And spirit with spirit can meet; Closer is He than breathing, And nearer than hands and feet." The true verification of God will be the consciousness of his spirit dwelling in ours and moving us to higher realms of duty and activity. The stress in the religion of the future will be laid on the necessity of feeling this consciousness of God permeating our lives and not upon particular doctrines about him. The test of all things will be our own minds and spirits. (5) It will naturally oicur to you to ask WHAT PLACE WILL JESUS OCCUPY in the religion of the future ? He will always be revered as the one who brought to the surface of life the idea of union of man and God, and as the one who exemplified without ever wavering the eternal principle of self-sacrifice. But people say we owe all to him. Let us be honest ? Can we owe all to anyone ? Are we passive then in so far that the ideas which we possess concerning God and the universe are worthless ? The practical point which I wish you to notice, and which, as things seem to-day, is that man's attempt to fix his attention upon past events entirely—whether persons or things— is prejudicial to the growth of his life. Let me not be misunderstood. Look at it in this way. In all departments of human endeavour, in science, art and literature we are building upon the experiences of the past. This is also true in religion. Whatever has been of help to man in the past we endeavour to hold fast. The memories of the noble dead, the mighty deeds of heroes, and every act of goodness go to the beautifying of our characters and the growth of our lives. In this way we need not fear that the world will lose the inspiration of the life of Jesus. But surely this does not include the whole content of our lives. Have we not problems to face to-day ? Have we not modern enemies to fight ? The inspiration of Jesus does not mean the calling back of men to the mere imitation of the past in a servile fashion. This would be like commanding artists to copy the old masters without introducing any new element into their work. It would resemble forcing the young scientist to study Newton's Principia and ignore all scientific books which have since been written. Such things hinder the true unfolding of one's nature because they turn the means into an end. Such a manner in art, science, religion, do not spell progress. In connection with human advancement on all its planes two things must constantly be borne in mind— man himself and the perpetually changing environment. From age to age man throws something into the total environment of life,, so that it is never the same. It changes as the clouds. We cannot imitate Jesus nor anyone else, and it would harm our nature even if it were possible for us to do so. Our true masters in all departments of human thought and action are they who do not compel us to adjust our lives mechanically to theirs, but they who aid us with their thoughts and spirits for further development on the lines of our own nature. The TRUE DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE takes place by one's own spirit receiving what was good in the past and the present, thus moving on towards a richer future. Jesus would not ask—did not ask—men to imitate him. He wished man to be free in spirit—the man's own spirit. He would tell every man to find out and obey the laws of the divine kingdom through his own understanding and conscience and will, for thus the man could become free. But possibly it will be said that he made it a test of discipleship that men should calli him Lord. When we dwell upon this we miss his highest teaching. He taught the new truth that lordship meant service. He is our lord in the sense that He served most, and we are lords in the degree we serve, not rule. The religion of the future will find God net by calling Jesus names which He never called Himself, but by serving as He did. Our lives then move from theory to service, from names to the things themselves. In this manner the religious life grows by coming into touch with all that was noble in the past, and in the present as well. It will look upon all thought as the revelation of God, the gradual unfold- ing of things in consonance with the growth of our capacities. The religion of the future will not attempt to shut God in a book, but man and nature will be living books of God for all who wish to progress. Thus wherever man will look be will see God. Wherever he goes he will meet Him. (6) Lastly, the religion of the future will acknowledge TRUTH, GOODNESS AND GOD wherever they will be found, and its test of discipleship will be character and service and not particular opinions and theories about I character and service and God. Do you think Jesus would bar out of his company one who loved his friends, who attempted to serve mankind and to love his heavenly Father? The Church of the future will not do it either. But it is sad to think that to a too large extent the Church of the present does it. There is no room in many churches for a man who is courageous enough to proclaim the truth as he sees it. But the signs are increasing that we are going to witness a complete change in this respect. The true religion of the coming day will comprehend all true faith that has ever been, and will keep its mind and heart ever open for further light on the problems of existence. It will be the harbinger of peace and blessedness to man on the earth, and it will have a warm place in its heart for all who live the good life and who act the good will. No amount of opposition can hinder the coming of the glorious day. One might as well attempt to stop the flowing tide as to attempt to hinder the inevitable flow of things towards God and their eternal home. Onward will things go. ¡ The stream for ever runs. Still glides the stream and shall for ever glide, The form remains, the function never dies, While we, the brave, tho mighty and the wise, We men, who in our morn of youth defied The elements, mnst vanish be it so Enough, if something from our hands have power To live, and act, and serve the future hour; And if as toward the silent tomb we go Through love, through hope, and faith's trans- cendent dower j We feel that we are greater than we know."

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