The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
Modern Principles: — A Synopsis of Free Religion
A Synopsis of Free Religion.
I. Christianity" as a System.
1. Regarded as to its universal element, Christianity is a beautiful but imperfect presentation of natural morality.
2. Regarded as to its special element, Christianity is a great completed system of faith and life—a coherent body of doctrines logically developed and organized as an historical power by the Christian Church. It claims absolute control over the collective life of society and the outward and inward page 9 life of the individual. It rests this claim on the supernatural revelation of the will of God; that is, on the' principle of Divine Authority.
3. The chief features of this system are the doctrines of the Fall of Adam, the Total Depravity of the human race, the Everlasting Punishment of the wicked, and salvation by Christ alone. Through the transgression of the first man, all human beings lie under the consuming wrath of God, and are condemned to an everlasting hell, from which the only escape is by the Atonement of Christ.
4. This system demands absolute and unreasoning submission from the human mind. It teaches that doubt is sin, and that disbelief is damnation. It everywhere condemns freedom of thought, and persecutes it in proportion to its power. It is the worst enemy of liberty, science and civilization, because it is organized Despair of Man.
II. Free Religion as a System.
5. Free Religion is a great and growing system of ideas, hitherto very imperfectly developed, but destined to become embodied in a world-wide Commonwealth of Man. It will claim absolute control over the collective life of society and the outward and inward life of the individual. It will rest this claim on the natural perception of truth by the universal human race; that is, on the principle of Human Freedom.page 10
6. The chief features of this system are the supremacy of liberty in all matters of government, the supremacy of science in all matters of belief, the supremacy of morality in all matters of conduct, and the supremacy of benevolence in all social and personal relations. It puts the Church on the level of all other institutions, the Bible on the level of all other books, the Christ on the level of all other men, leaving them to stand or fall by their intrinsic merits or demerits.
7. This system encourages the largest activity of the human mind, and asks no assent that can be withheld. It is the best friend of progress of every kind, because it is organized Faith in Man.
III. Antagonism of the Two Systems.
8. Between these two great systems there exists an absolute conflict of principles, aims and methods. The one ruled the world in the Dark Ages of the past. The other will rule the world in the Light Ages of the future. Their battle ground is the Twilight Age of the present.
9. Free Religion emphasizes the Unity of the Universe, the Unity of Mankind, the Unity of the Person, and the Unity of the Unities.
IV. The Unity of the Universe.
10. Nature is an organic, living whole. All things are in harmony as parts of a perfect cosmos. All phenomena, physical and spir- page 11 itual, are correlated in the unity of a perfect order.
11. The laws of Nature are elements of one underlying, all-permeating, all-comprehensive system of Law. Fixed and inviolable, from eternity to eternity they know no change. The belief in miracle is an infinite delusion.
12. The forces of Nature are modes of one omnipresent Energy, illimitable, uncreatable, indestructible—the cause of all metamorphoses and the life of all that lives.
13. Thus Nature is infinitely many in her phenomena, and absolutely one in her order, laws and forces.
V. The Unity of Mankind.
14. The origin of the human race is one, in virtue of a common descent from inferior types of being.
15. The nature of the human race is one, in virtue of the universal possession, in varying degrees, of the same fundamental faculties.
16. The destiny of the human race is one, in virtue of a slow but constant progress towards a universal and perfect civilization.
17. The human race ought to be a political unit, as a universal Republic of Republics based on the principle that the liberty of the individual is absolute except as limited by the equal rights of all individuals.
18. The human race ought to be a social unit, as a universal Co-operative Union based page 12 on free industry and free commerce,—labor and capital being reconciled by the education of ignorance and the reformation of selfishness.
19. The human race ought to be a religious unit, as a universal Brotherhood of Man, based on faith in human nature and love for all human beings.
20. Thus the human race is one in origin, nature and destiny; and it ought to be one politically, socially and religiously.
VI. The Unity of the Person.
21. Every human being is an independent consciousness, manifesting itself on the one h and in numerous unlike faculties (sensation, perception, locomotion, passion, affection, will, reason, conscience, etc.,) and manifesting itself on the other h and in the absolute unity of personality (the I.)
22. Every human being ought to develop the unity of personality into the unity of character, based on the principle that the liberty of every faculty is absolute in the exercise of its natural function.
23. The unity of character requires that the Intellect shall make experience its point of departure, reason its road, knowledge its goal, and the love of truth its inspiration and guide; that it shall count all questions open that are not shut by positive demonstration; that it shall reject all answers which have no better basis than ignorant assumption or dogmatic authority; and that page 13 it shall seek answers to all questions through the patient study of universal Nature according to the laws of scientific thought.
24. The unity of character requires that the Conscience shall govern all personal action by absolute and universal moral ideas (truthfulness, justice, benevolence, purity, honor, integrity, self-respect); that it shall speak in all places and at all times with the voice of absolute command; that it shall shine like a sun that never sets, flooding the soul with the light of an ever-beautiful ideal? that it shall unsparingly rebuke every betrayal of the right, encourage fidelity to it by approving smiles, and waken deathless aspiration towards it by unveiling the eternal possibility of virtue; and that it shall make the welfare of all a private duty to each, thus consecrating the private life to the public good.
25. The unity of character requires that the Affections shall irradiate life in all its relations with the splendor of unselfish love;: that they shall make manhood more manly and womanhood more womanly by blending them in one pure and happy home; that they shall dignify existence with noble friendships; that they shall deepen the joy and; lighten the grief of others by respectful and tender sympathy; that they shall reverence the good and pity the evil in every human soul, and broaden out into a mighty and self-forgetful love of universal man.page 14
26. The unity of character requires that the Will shall serve the conscience and reason, and know no other law; that it shall master the passions and confine them to their lawful functions; that it shall be incorruptible in this servantship, and unconquerable in this mastership; and that thus, harmonizing the animal and the spiritual, it shall bring the entire man into harmony with the laws of Nature.
27. The unity of character requires that the Sentiments and Imagination shall soar to the beautiful and sublime, and never trail their wings in defiling mire; that they shall venerate the truly venerable, delight in the magnificence of universal Nature, and thrill to its mysterious life; that they shall recognize the infinitude of the unknown, and add to the clear insights of science the deep glow of poetry and the deeper reverence of worship.
28. Thus the individual is one in the unity of personality, and ought to be one in the unity of a free, powerful and self-harmonized character.
VII. The Unity of the Unities.
29. The Unity of the Universe is repeated in miniature in the ideal Unity of Mankind; and the ideal Unity of Mankind is repeated in miniature in the ideal Unity of the Person. The macrocosm is mirrored in the microcosm.page 15
30. The great inspiration of the nineteenth century is faith in these ideal unities as possible in fact. Its faith in Man is part of its faith in universal Nature; and its faith in universal Nature includes and necessitates Its faith in Man.
31. The great endeavor of the nineteenth century, half-conscious though it be, is thus to reproduce the eternal harmony of Nature in the life of the race and the life of the individual,—to create a civilization grounded on universal reverence for freedom, truth, and the equal rights of all mankind.
32. The Universe is Many in One, and One in Many. Such also will be Humanity, when its ideals shall have been realized in the world and in the soul. The national motto of America has become the great watchword of the ages—
E Pluribus Unum.