The ethics of Paganism perhaps met the wants of the uncultivated people of antiquity, but not until the advent of the luminous "Star of Bethlehem," was the true road to moral perfection and the way to salvation made plain. Of old, brutishness was the rule, virtue and spirituality the exception.
Now, the dullest may read the will of God in His revealed word; men have every incentive to be good, and are constantly becoming better.
This is the assumption; what are the facts? on the one hand an unspiritual, dogmatic, too often debauched clergy; a host of sects, and three warring great religions; discord instead of union, dogmas without proofs, sensation-loving preachers, and wealth and pleasure-seeking parishioners' hypocrisy and bigotry, begotten by the tyrannical exigencies of respectability, the rule of the day, sincerity and real piety exceptional. on the other hand, scientific hypotheses built on sand; no accord upon a single question; rancorous quarrels and jealousy; a general drift into materialism. A death-grapple of Science with Theology for infallibility — "a conflict of ages."
At Rome, the self-styled seat of Christianity, the putative successor to the chair of Peter is undermining social order with his invisible but omnipresent net-work of bigoted agents, and incites them to revolutionize Europe for his temporal as well as spiritual supremacy. we see him who calls himself the "Vicar of Christ," fraternizing with the antiChristian Moslem against another Christian nation, publicly invoking the blessing of God upon the arms of those who have for centuries withstood, with fire and sword, the pretensions of his Christ to Godhood! At Berlin — one of the great seats of learning — professors of modern exact sciences, turning their backs on the boasted results of enlightenment of the post-Galileonian period, are quietly snuffing out the candle of the great Florentine; seeking, in short, to prove the heliocentric system, and even the earth's rotation, but the dreams of deluded scientists, Newton a visionary, and all past and present astronomers but clever calculators of unverifiable problems.*
Between these two conflicting Titans — Science and Theology — is a bewildered public, fast losing all belief in man's personal immortality, in a deity of any kind, and rapidly descending to the level of a mere animal existence. Such is the picture of the hour, illumined by the bright noonday sun of this christian and scientific era!
Would it be strict justice to condemn to critical lapidation the most humble and modest of authors for entirely rejecting the authority of both these combatants? Are we not bound rather to take as the true aphorism of this century, the declaration of Horace Greeley: "I accept unreservedly the views of no man, living or dead"?+ Such, at all events, will be our motto, and we mean that principle to be our constant guide throughout this work.
Among the many phenomenal outgrowths of our century, the strange creed of the so-called Spiritualists has arisen amid the tottering ruins of self-styled revealed religions and materialistic philosophies; and yet it alone offers a possible last refuge of compromise between the two. That this unexpected ghost of pre-christian days finds poor welcome
* See the last chapter of this volume, p. 622. + "Recollections of a Busy Life," p. 147.
from our sober and positive century, is not surprising. Times have strangely changed; and it is but recently that a well-known Brooklyn preacher pointedly remarked in a sermon, that could Jesus come back and behave in the streets of New York, as he did in those of Jerusalem, he would find himself confined in the prison of the Tombs. J What sort of welcome, then, could Spiritualism ever expect? True enough, the weird stranger seems neither attractive nor promising at first sight. Shapeless and uncouth, like an infant attended by seven nurses, it is coming out of its teens lame and mutilated. The name of its enemies is legion; its friends and protectors are a handful. But what of that? When was ever truth accepted a priori? Because the champions of Spiritualism have in their fanaticism magnified its qualities, and remained blind to its imperfections, that gives no excuse to doubt its reality. A forgery is impossible when we have no model to forge after. The fanaticism of Spiritualists is itself a proof of the genuineness and possibility of their phenomena. They give us facts that we may investigate, not assertions that we must believe without proof. Millions of reasonable men and women do not so easily succumb to collective hallucination. And so, while the clergy, following their own interpretations of the Bible, and science its self-made Codex of possibilities in nature, refuse it a fair hearing, real science and true religion are silent, and gravely wait further developments.
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