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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

The Unity of Though, Feeling and Action

The Unity of Though, Feeling and Action.

From what i have said you may perhaps infer that I should Urge the symmetrical development of thought, feeling and action, as equally essential to religion. .This is true. The highest perfection of our humanity in its aspects no solely by individual but also by social effort is, If I mistaken religion's true end and aim. Conceding to each faculty the fullest and freest, play consistent with the natural hegemony of reason and conscience, "religion lays an equal emphasis on them all. Thought must lead; but it is no more important than feeling and will. It must decide all questions of duty or truth in the last appeal; but if it pours Contempt on any one of its followers, it violates its high trust. Feeling must follow thought, adapting itself (as it always does in the end) to what thought declares to be the truth; although it stimulates thought to activity, it is itself the proof of that activity, and is indispensable to the whole and rounded character. But its place is not to govern. In every healthy mind, feeling takes care of itself, and in time will always twine itself about mature convictions as closely and as naturally as the vine clings about the supporting trellis. Hence it is unwise to borrow trouble or cherish anxiety, if new truths or beliefs produce disturbance of the feelings, or even distress. Be patient. Give the sentiments ample time to adapt themselves to what your deliberate reason ac- page 22 cepts as true, and be sure that in the long run the truth will vindicate itself even to them. Whoever has a whole-souled devotion to truth, and cherishes the certainty that nothing else can permanently bless or benefit, will be willing, even while seeking to feed the sources of all noble feeling, to endure the temporary discord of heart and head in order to realize the higher concord that is made possible thereby. "Be simply true to truth," is the dictate of religion, "and the happiness that flows from consenting heart and head will only tarry; it is sure to come." This is the freedom that is needed: let the mind freely search for the priceless prize of truth, and let the affections freely follow in its wake to crown the victor with delight.

But this is not all that religion demands. The will is the centre of the personality. What thought decrees to be right, will must accomplish. It is the executor of a wisdom not its own; and the wisdom it executes is shadowy and unsubstantial till will has put upon it the royal seal of action. The stress laid on overt deeds by the mere moralist is none too great, if equal stress is also laid on feeling and thought. The tree is known by its fruits; the faith is known by the life. Pitiable indeed is the being whose religion does not create conduct in harmony with the highest conviction and the noblest sentiment. Only in the full-orbed symmetry of a character in which thought, feeling, and will are balanced and harmonized, can religion behold her work complete. To evolve out of crudity and malformation the perfect man and the perfect woman, is her task and glory. Three in one and one in three,—this is the real trinity of thought, feeling, and will, which constitutes the essence of every individuality; and religion has no other function than to fill the world with great and noble individuals.