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Ideal; it is the law of progress which is his ineffaceable baptism upon our souls.
That law must be fulfilled. Time and space are granted to us wherein to exercise our free will. We can—through our action and endeavour—hasten or delay the fulfilment of the law in time and space; multiply or diminish the trials, struggles, and sufferings of the individual; but not, as the dualism taught by your dogma would do, eternise evil, and render it victorious. Good only is eternal : God only is victorious.
Meanwhile, that dualism which dominates your doctrine of grace, of predestination, of hell, of redemption half-way upon the historic development of humanity, and every portion of your Dogma inspires and limits your Moral Code, and renders it irremediably imperfect and inefficacious to guide and direct human life at the present day.
Your dogma is expiring. Your moral code is therefore rendered sterile and expires with it. It is deprived of its origin and its sanction; of that faith in the duty and necessity of regulating human life by its precepts, whence it derived its power to govern men's individual instincts, passions, and free will. You have but to look around you in order to perceive this.
The moral code is eternal you say, and you point to the precepts of love towards God and man, of sacrifice, of duty, of preference given to the salvation of the soul over the desires and interests of a day.
Yes; those precepts spoken by the lips of Jesus do live, and will live; they are as undying as our gratitude towards Him. His cross, as symbol of the sole enduring virtue, sacrifice of self for others,— may still be planted, without any contradiction, upon the tomb of the believer in the new religion; but a moral code which is to have a fruitful, active influence upon mankind, requires far more than this.
The precept of love, which is inborn within the human soul, is the basis, more or less apparent, of all religions; but each religion gives a different value and larger interpretation to that general formula of Duty. The moral problem, the solution of which progresses with the epoch, is the problem how we are to worship God, how we are to love man, how we are to work out the soul's salvation, and it is the mission of the religion of each epoch to give the force of a law, supreme over all and equally binding upon all, to the definition of the How, and to compel the fulfilment of the duty thus defined by linking it with heaven, tracing it back to the Divine conception of the creation. Even if your moral code were sufficient for the intelligence and the aspiration of the epoch, it would still remain sterile; a mere inert, inefficacious dead letter, because this link is lost. Your heaven exists no longer, your conception of creation is proved false. The telescope has destroyed it for ever in the fields of the infinite ; geology has destroyed it on earth; the recently-recovered tradition of the past of humanity has destroyed it in the kingdom of intelligence, and the presentiment within us of a new law of life has destroyed it in our hearts. But your moral code, holy as it was before it had become adulterated by your corruption, intolerance, and cowardly compromise with the atheistic powers of the world, is unequal to the obligations imposed upon us by God.
The dualism of your dogma, transferred into your moral code, generated that antagonism between earth and heaven, matter and spirit, body and soul, which, no matter to what grade of the doctrine you belong, essentially narrowed your conception of the unity of life, and of its mission here and elsewhere, rendering it impossible that the great social questions of the day should be solved through help of your religion.
In the face of an empire believed to be omnipotent, and founded upon the prestige of material force placed between a religion which sanctioned the dogma of the two human natures (freeman and slave) and a philosophy which consigned mankind to the dominion of fatality, in a world in which there existed no conception of the collective life of humanity, or of an innate faculty of progress in individual 'man-having to address himself to men either intoxicated with tyranny and lust, or crushed by poverty and the abject servility induced by despair of a better future—it was impossible for Jesus to conceive any other mission for the benefit of the brother men he loved so well, than that of effecting their moral regeneration, or any other consolation for their wretchedness on earth than that of creating for them a country of freemen and equals in heaven. It was his purpose to teach men how to save, to redeem themselves, in spite of, and against, the earth.
From the legend of the temptation, in which the earth is evidently the heritage of the evil spirit, down to the “render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's” of the three first Gospels; from the opposition between the law of God and the flesh, of Paul (Rom. vii.), down to the “love not the world,” of John (2 Ep. ii. 15), the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles constantly insist upon our divorce from all terrestrial things, as a condition of moral improvement, of salvation. In their eyes our earthly abode is overshadowed by the curse of sin and temptation; and our sole hope of salvation from this curse lies in our suicide of the man within us. As Tell even in the midst of the tempest spurned from him the bark that bore the oppressor, each of us is held bound to spurn from him the earth, to cast loose every tie
that binds him to it, in order to raise himself on the wings of faith to heaven.
The result of these teachings is a moral code which may be thus summed up :-Adoration of God, and faith in Christ, as the necessary intermediate to our salvation; renunciation of every natural desire; abdication of every aim of social transformation; indifference to every earthly good; resigned acceptance of every existing evil, either as a means of expiation, or of imitation of the sufferings of Jesus; war to the body and to the senses; submission to the powers that be; exclusive importance given to the work of internal purification, especially to the realisation within ourselves of faith in heavenly grace.
The holy nature of Jesus's own mind diffused a breath of love over the whole of his teachings, and generated a spirit of charity and disposition to good works in his hearers; but it was the love of men who, despairing of vanquishing the evil existing in the world, sought only to alleviate the more immediate sufferings of individuals. Christian charity was rather a means of purifying one's own soul, than the sense of a common aim, which it was God's will that man should realise here below. It did not overpass the limits of benevolence, and led the believers in the new religion to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick with whom they came in contact; but to no attempt to destroy the causes of human hunger and misery. Even as the earth itself was despised, so were all the good things of the earth to be despised as a perennial source of temptation, and the gifts to the poor and to the Church testified to this belief. Poverty itself was preached by the majority of Jesus's followers as a blessed mortification of the flesh, and regarded by all as an incontestable necessity. Love of country, and that love which embraces the generations of the future, and is devoted even unto sacrifice for their sake; that love which will not tolerate the brand of inequality or slavery on the brow of a brother man, was unknown to Christian morality. The true country, the real home of Christian freemen and equals, was heaven; every man was bound to direct his course thither; and the greater his sufferings on earth, the stronger the hope he might entertain of his soul's future, and of celestial joy. The world was abandoned to Satan. Religion taught man to renounce it; religion, which was alike his isolation and his refuge; it imposed no mission of earnest and resolute struggle, and of slowly progressive, but certain victory.
Such was, such is, your Moral Code. Solitary contemplation and monastic life were its first logical consequences. At a later period, when you were triumphant, when the necessity, which all religions undergo, of transforming society in their own image, compelled you to mingle in social and political life, you frequently (with immense advantage to civilisation) obeyed that uncertain and instinctive sense
of right and equality which lies at the root of your religion ; but it was simply as a fact, not as a doctrine, and did not in any way alter the educational principle of your Moral Code ; which was incarnated historically, in the dualism of the temporal and the spiritual powers
—the Papacy and the empire. The greatest of your Popes, Gregory VII., attempted to crush this dualism beneath the omnipotence of moral force; but he failed, and died in exile. The greatest of your philosophers, Thomas Aquinas, attempted to destroy the antagonism between the soul and the body, through a definition of man borrowed from Aristotle ; but it was too late: not even the decrees of your Council of Vienna, in support of his attempt, could transform a moral code which had been identified with the Christian Conception of Life for thirteen centuries.
Your religion was the religion of individual man. It did not it could not, at its origin, contemplate collective humanity. It aspired towards the ideal, the divine, and would, had it been possible, have sought to realise its ideal on earth. But the instrument failed it. The short, imperfect life of the individual (beyond which this conception did not extend) is incapable of its realisation. Your religion, as if to avenge its own impotence, cried anathema upon the terrestrial world, and referred the solution of the problem to the world of grace—to heaven.
Herein lies the secret of all you have achieved, and of all you have failed to achieve.
Christianity is the religion of individual man. The vast religious synthesis through which we are gradually advancing towards the realisation of the ideal, is resolved like an equation containing an indefinite number of unknown quantities. Every religious epoch disengages one such unknown quantity, and classes one more term of the problem among the known quantities, never more to be disputed. Two grand primary epochs—the gigantic Aryan religions of the East-concentrated their intelligence, inspiration, and labour, upon the two terms—God and Nature. But in both these epochs, the ideal man (crushed by spiritualist or materialist pantheism) was absent. While Mosaism elaborated the idea of the divine unity, and preserved the sacred deposit for futurity by incarnating it in a people, a third great epoch assumed (in Europe) the office of disengaging the human unknown—beginning with the individual and adding it to the number of known quantities. As the human individual manifests life under two aspects, personal and relative-represented by the two terms liberty and equality—80 that epoch was divided into two long periods.
In the first period, polytheism affirmed the individual, and elaborated his emancipation within certain narrow limits, evolving-in the Greco-Roman world—the idea liberty. During the first labour of elaboration, however, and in the intoxication of rebellion against Oriental pantheism, the conception of the Divine unity was broken up into fragments, and all basis of durability was thus destroyed.
In the second period, your religion, having inherited from Moses its belief in the Divine unity, replaced the Deity at the apex of the pyramid, and fulfilled its mission with regard to the problem of the individual, by defining his relative life, proclaiming the equality of souls, and declaring all men the children of one Father.
Such was the historic mission of Christianity ; nor was it possible that the epoch, when—as it invariably happens—it deduced its political and economic constitution from its religion, should advance beyond the limits of the doctrine of the individual, and the two terms (liberty and equality) by which that doctrine is represented. When the Protestant sects—moved by the corruption of Catholicism —sought to recall the multitudes to initial Christianity, they were unable to discover any other criterion of truth than individual conscience. The great political and social revolutions which, towards the close of the last century, attempted (knowingly or unknowingly) to realise the Christian principles in practical life, summed up their whole labour and endeavour in a declaration of the rights common to every individual, and prefixed as sole governing law of the development of the double life-moral and material—of mankind, the insufficient rule of liberty.
God—God and Nature—God, Nature, and Man:--three cantos of the gigantic religious Epopea which has the ideal for its subject, and the generations for its poet. Wherefore do you pretend that God and the generations shall now be dumb ? Wherefore should we bury in your sepulchre an inspiration inseparable from life itself, and silence the new canto rising to the lips of creation, which has for its theme-God, Nature, Man, and Humanity ? Wherefore should not the new heaven, of which we already have dim prevision, be represented by a new earth ? the new dogma, by a new Moral Code ?
The earth is of God; it cannot be accursed. Life, like the God from whom it springs, is One and everlasting; it cannot be broken up into fragments, or divided into periods of a character radically opposed. There is no antagonism between matter and spirit. Matter gives forms to thought; symbols to the idea ; means of communication between being and being. The body, given by God as the earthly tenement of the individual, and the means of communication between his life and that of the external world, is not the seat of evil or temptation. Evil and temptation, wherever they do exist, exist in the Ego: the body is the instrument which translates either good or evil into action, according to our free choice. The dualism between the temporal and spiritual power is an immoral conception,