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Doctrine of Preexistence.


poetic words, and by elevated similes, which sound like a foreshadowing of our modern cosmogonic science. "The Lord," it is said, "possessed me from the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up . . or ever the earth was. When there were no depths . . . . when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth. While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him . . . . rejoicing always before him."

From these passages we learn that a well-calculated scheme of creation was assumed, in which individuals were already taken into consideration. But, as God's idea, man must also continue to exist to all eternity. Before briefly stating what is the main distinction by which ethnology separates the essential nature of the Christian doctrine from the religious impulses of other times, or of paganism, we must first emphasize the fact that the embodiment of the forces of nature in God which is found in the Old Testament, is set aside by the maxim that God must be contemplated as a spiritual being. The Gospels, indeed, attribute anthropomorphic language to the founder of their faith, inasmuch as God is spoken of as a father, but this is vindicated by the limits of the human intellect. We are incapable of imagining a spirit-for that which we choose to call by that name always resembles a thinking being like ourselves-inseparable from the functions of an organism. As long as we remain men, we shall always be forced to imagine the Divine in human form, but this is accompanied in the Gospels by a restriction of language. If God is to be addressed as Father we are told to apply to God alone the paternal name thus consecrated.8


6 Job xxxvii., xxxviii.

1 John iv. 24, πνεῦμα δ Θεός.

8 Matt. xxiii. 9, καὶ πατέρα μὴ καλέσητε ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς· εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν, ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

But there is one doctrine in particular which makes its appearance first and solely in Christianity, namely, the hypothesis of a benevolent Providence. To speak after the manner of Leibnitz, the plan of the best possible creation has been thought out to the smallest detail, to the number of hairs on the head of man, and the existence of the weakest creatures.9 In proportion as the recognition of such an idea is established, Shamanism of all sorts, the most dangerous error of mankind, is set aside. Although human reflection may perhaps overcome the grosser attempts to assume a feigned power over the course of nature by means of incantation and sorcery, there nevertheless remains much longer a reliance on symbolical actions, sacrifice, abstinence, penance, and prayer. The Indian Brahmins, as we have seen, by ingenious self-deceptions, deluded themselves into the belief that they, as possessors of such means, acquired a Divine nature. Although it was during the captivity that prayer first gained importance and power among the Hebrews," even Zechariah was obliged to bid them beware of the enforced fasting and mourning by which they fancied they could alter the counsels of God. The true Christian, while assuming the existence of a benevolent Providence, must not require any Divine interference with the normal course of natural events. The Founder of our religion even distinctly forbade supplications for earthly objects, for before the request was offered provision was already made for all the real wants of man. This necessary corollary of the doctrine of a benevolent Providence distinguished Christianity from all other religious creations. Christianity does not promise the realization of any wish, however small, intense, or pure. It is therefore impossible to stray further from the original and pure religion than when, on the supposition that earthly desires no longer reach the heavenly Father, a number of polytheistic intermediate beings are invented as intercessors, and by this circuitous course a reversion is made to Shamanistic prayer.


The form of prayer which Christ taught to his disciples is nothing


9 Matt. x. 29, 30.

10 Ewald, Hist. of Israel, vol. v. p. 23.

11 Matt. vi. 8, οἶδε γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι


The Lord's Prayer.

more than an injunction to observe, as in a mirror, the moral and religious state of our ego at the moment, to fortify ourselves in holiness by the thought of God, by the desire that the kingdom of Christian opinions may penetrate into our minds, as well as by the remembrance that whatever may befall us is the will of a benevolent Providence. It brings home to us the warning to forgive those who may have done us wrong, 12 and, finally, the petition that the Christian faith may not be shaken, and that doubt may be more and more thrust out. The only earthly sound in this prayer is the petition for daily bread, if indeed this be not an exhortation that gratitude is due for every day that is vouchsafed to us. The Lord's Prayer requires extreme concentration of thought if its purport is not to pass through the human mind without result. But so ineradicable are Shamanistic tendencies, that, notwithstanding the Founder's warning against thoughtless repetitions 13 which immediately precedes the teaching of the Lord's Prayer, as the Paternoster in an unknown tongue, it has for many centuries been, not expressed in prayer, but in Buddhist fashion,14 repeated by the counting of the beads of a rosary.

The essential point of this prayer, or self-communing, is the socalled third petition, which patiently and gratefully welcomes all that may be decreed for man in this world the next, as the enactment of a benevolent Providence. Even severe strokes of destiny may turn to inward advantage, since, setting aside the cases in which they harden and embitter, they raise the mind into that disposition of gentleness and forgiveness which renders it most. susceptible to Christian truth. The consolation of the new doctrine was not for the sound and strong, but for broken hearts.15 But the self-training of the moral man has to begin with the dis


12 In a similar sense it is said by Jesus the son of Sirach, "Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest."

13 Matt. vi. 7, μὴ βαττολογήσητε, ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί· δοκοῦσι γὰρ, ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὑτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται.

14 As the analogous Buddhist prayer-mills have already been mentioned, we will add that even among the ancient Erânians prayer was prescribed to be repeated 100 and 1000 times. Duncker, Gesch. der Alterthums.

15 Luke v. 31.

cernment of his own faults. Forbearance towards fellow-creatures, conflict with one's own hardness of heart and uncharitableness, are the constantly reiterated precepts of the Gospels. The ordinances of the Old Testament were not upset but enhanced and refined. Not murder only, but all animosity; not adultery, but every culpable desire, were to be suppressed. No merit was to be assumed for recompensing love by love, for that was done by the heathen also, but, like God, who makes the sun to shine upon the just and the unjust, to return curses with blessings, hatred with benefit, insults with intercessions, was enjoined on Christians as a new code of duty.16 The subjugation of human nature is everywhere required as a striving towards the kingdom of heaven, and an ennoblement of earthly society is enjoined. To the young man who wishes to bury his father, the Founder replies, "Let the dead bury their dead," 17 as if every one to whom his own salvation is not the chief concern were a living shadow. Parental and filial or fraternal affection, which is only enlarged self-love, is to be extended to all mankind. 18


In human society, social rights necessitate their own obserThe progress of our race depends on a complete organization of work and functions which is inconceivable without strict observance of the rights of others. When the sense of truth and justice is blunted all society goes to ruin. This inexorable moral law ensures the social training of our race. But the Christian aspires to something higher than the refinement of the social instinct of mankind. Kennan, the traveller, praises the compassionateness of the Koriaks; he never saw a child receive a blow, he never heard a hard word spoken to a woman; but those enfeebled by age or hopelessly ill are speared with great dexterity; the father or mother is usually killed by the son, for the stern necessities of the nomadic life do not allow the migratory community to be burdened by the decrepit, and the social instinct places the general welfare above pity for the individual. If we acknowledge that maxims such as these are incompatible with the Christian code of duty, we admit that our morality rises above

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and occasionally opposes the social instinct. Our care of those diseased in mind may be regarded as prudential egotism, for no one can foretell whether he may not derive benefit from this social protection. But we also provide for human malformations, such as cretins and idiots. Assuredly it would be more for the benefit of society to abandon such beings to their fate, and to apply the the expenditure required for their care to more profitable purposes. In not doing so we satisfy a sense of duty which cannot be traced to our social instinct. 19 Negro slavery and many systems of bondage were justified by the supposition that the bondsmen required discipline, that is, compulsion to labour; that they throve much better under pressure, and that a great part of their services was lost to the world after their liberation. Nevertheless, every noble mind, abhorring coercion of every kind, would deem these sordid advantages too dearly purchased. But we owe this sensitiveness of conscience to the teachings of the Gospel implanted in us in youth.


When Christianity is charged with its persecutions of heretics, its inquisitions, its religious wars, the reproach applies only to those who transformed the doctrines of gentleness into the reverse. There has never been any dispute as to the morality of Christianity, but only as to the dogmas as established by the decisions of councils. Christ himself combated the party which assumed to represent orthodox Judaism: he who declared the Sabbath to be made for man, and who has left behind him the words so crushing to dogmatists, "In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandment of men."

The contemners of the doctrines of the Gospel in our times generally overlook the circumstance that all philanthropic efforts have found their strongest auxiliary in the Christian teaching. The abolition of negro slavery was already contemplated, but the accordance of equal rights for all in public life was more warmly advocated by the Christian sense of duty. We owe our present

19 Among the ancient Mexicans, cretins were also taken care of (Oviedo, Historia general), but this was certainly from superstitious fear or as a fancy, just as in the Fiji Islands the chiefs were wont to maintain cripples for their

own amusement.

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