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the result of seeing the truth from only one angle.
Unfortunately, open-mindedness is not the attitude of the majority of men. On the contrary, most men are all but impervious to new ideas. They prefer to move on in the old ruts, and rather than be disturbed in their beliefs, they continue to swing in the old orbit. They not only will not receive new light, but oppose it. It is a historic fact that every new truth, whether religious or scientific, has fought its way to recognition in the teeth of men who thought themselves conservators of truth. As a rule, men who oppose new light most vehemently, are slaves to tradition. The narrow man is most dogmatic, and most intolerant of breadth and open-mindedness. He thinks he is doing God service when he keeps the feet of the race in old paths. He would pour all men through one mould, and force all to see truth from one angle, and excommunicate all who do not swallow his creed. Such a man is shackled by prejudice and fossilized by bigotry. Orthodoxy with him is little more than mental slavery. He approaches truth, not with an open mind, but with his mind bound hand and foot with pre-conceived opinions. He has been grooved by religious education and wedded to biased views by personal interest. He has been blinded to the larger aspects of truth, because he has always seen truth from only one angle.
We live in an age of reconstruction. We must adjust the old faith to the new facts. It is not maintained that truth has changed, but our understanding of it has. All will concede that the world is wiser today touching religious questions than ever before. We know the facts of religion more thoroughly, and are better acquainted with the will of God, than were the patriarchs in Abraham's time, or the prophets in Isaiah's time, or the disciples in the time of Christ. We have an accumulated wealth of facts other ages had no means of knowing. The mind of the race is more mature; the facilities for knowing are better; and light on moral problems is clearer than at any other time in the history of the race, or the development of truth. Theology is being reconstructed in the light of larger learning; the Bible is being illuminated by the critical research of men of devout spirits and master minds, and religion is being revitilized and restated in terms of human experience.
It is the part of wisdom to break with exploded theories
and outgrown traditions. The time has come when men must think for themselves, and the man who thinks must open his mind. Facing the facts squarely and honestly, we have nothing to lose but everything to gain. In a time like this, narrowness is a sign of ignorance, and in. tolerance a relic of mediaevalism.
I remark again: Another mark of intellectual honesty is to reserve the right of private judgment in the interpretation of truth. Time was when men submitted to ecclesiastical authority in matters of faith, without question or resentment. They had no opinions of their own, or, if they had them, they dared not express them. What preachers said from the pulpit was put into their mouths; and what people believed in the pew was found in the creeds. To think for oneself was arrogance and blasphemy. To dissent from accepted dogma was an affront to ecclesiastical authority, punishable by death or excommunication. The masses of the people took their conception of religion from the creeds and schools. They knew nothing of the source of their faith or the grounds of dogmatic assertions. To the average man the Bible was a sealed book, and his knowledge of its contents was received secondhand. Religious instruction dogmatic and assent to accepted beliefs compulsory. One must believe what he was taught, whether he saw the reason of it or not, and he must not believe anything else. A proof text, selected from any portion of the scriptures, was ready for any dogmatic assertion; and a thing was so, not because it was so, but because the Bible said so.
But it will be seen that no man can be intellectually honest and be a machine or a parrot. Intellectual autonomy is the highest birthright of man. The right of private judgment is the genius of protestantism. The reformation is a historic monument over the grave of intellectual bondage in matters of religion. That great event in history declared to all succeeding generations, once for all, that every man has a right to read the Bible for himself and interpret it as he understands it.
I hold that we are responsible for our thinking as our living. It is not only our privilege, but our duty to search and see if accepted beliefs are so. This is not arrogance, but obedience to the highest law of our nature. The thinking man of our time knows no intellectual oligarchies or monopolies on truth, and he recognizes none. The
day has come when preachers and ecclesiastical courts no longer think for the educated. Even the average man has felt the pulse of a liberal education, and the broadening influences of culture, and feels impelled to examine the grounds of his faith. It is not strange that authority has yielded before individual opinion. Men of today boldly accept the responsibility of their own doubt or dissent.
We must search and see if things are so, without bias or prejudice. We should approach religion as we do any other subject. We should consider its claims alone upon their merits. We should read the Bible as we do any other book; not because it is just like any other book, but because we must test its truth as we test any other truth. We should believe the truth of the Bible, not because it is in the Bible, but because it is true. We should make up our minds after we have examined the facts, not before we have seen them. Too often we form our theory from our creed and go to the Bible to prove it. This is to take what we believe to the Bible, instead of deriving what we believe from it. There can be no honest search of the scriptures to ascertain their teaching, with one's mind already made up. Intellectual honesty demands that we be fair with our facts, as well as our theories. If our age seems skeptical and iconoclastic, we need not be surprised. The reason is not far to seek. It lies in the fact that the method of theology has been so unscientific, and men have read into the Bible wþat they could not read out of it. The difficulties, however, are not with religion, but outgrown views of it. The break of the modern mind is not with the truth of the Bible, but paganistic and mediaeval interpretations of it. The fact is, men are as ready to believe today as ever, but they are less ready than ever before to believe any and everything.
The last mark of intellectual honesty is: Once we know and believe the truth, we should make performance square with perception. The majority of men are more eager to know the truth than to live it. As a rule, men fight harder to make and preserve their creeds than to build and buttress their characters. With many people, opinion is fundamental, bu life only incidental. They read their Bibles devoutly and habitually, and safeguard their orthodoxy scrupulously at the same time that they are animated by any other than a Christian spirit, and live any other than a religious life. Everyone knows that it is
one thing to believe something and quite another to be something. It is much easier to illuminate one's thought than to incarnate that thought in one's life. Many a man is convicted with the truth, but not converted by it. Honesty demands that we live the truth when once we know it. We cannot afford to do less than what we ought to do. We cannot do more than we know to do. Knowledge of right puts us under everlasting obligation to do right. Truth is a trust we cannot honestly keep without turning it into life. It is not perception nor preception that we need most, but performance. We should make our living square with our learning. Who thinks high ought to live high. A man ought to be as clean in his life as he is clear in his thought. Honesty demands that broad, sane, robust thinking be incarnated in upright, clean, manly living.
WHO IS GOD, AND WHY SHOULD
WE SERVE HIM?
What is the Almighty that we should serve Him?-Job 21:15.
THIS question was asked in a spirit of derision and irrev
They asked it, not because they doubted the existence of God, or were convinced that He could not be known; but because they questioned the reality of His claim upon their lives, and doubted the propriety of rendering service to Him. Their idea of Him was a peculiar one. They looked upon Him as a sort of uncomfortable presence about their lives, and desired to rid themselves, not only of any consciousness of Him in their thought, but to disclaim any obligation to Him in their lives. They pictured Him as a sort of despot and monstrosity, and his service more a burden than a blessing. Thinking of him as they did, we are not surprised that they should treat him and the whole subject of religion with contempt and indifference. Their attitude toward Him was due, partly, to the erroneous conception of Him which they entertained; and partly, to the wickedness of their lives.
With us the question assumes a more serious form, and if we are prepared to ask it with more intelligence, we should also ask it with more reverence. Who is God, and why should we serve Him? This is the most important question in all the circle of religious thought, and one which every thinking man must ask, at one time or another. It is the very substance and center of all religion and is fundamental to any intelligent conception of Christian theology. Tell me what your conception of God is, and I will work out your doctrine of man, of salvation, of the atonement, of forgiveness of sin and of the future life. Regard God as a hindrance to your happiness, and He can never be a help to you. Consider Him an uncomfortable presence about your life and you will not