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than the liistorical question of when Monotheism began to be. If Monotheism ever began to be, it was only by reason of a preceding and a pre-existent unity. Nay, if ever the time shall come when all men shall worship together one God, one faith, one baptism, it shall only be because in their separate faiths and in their separate baptisms there has been a connecting bond which has ensured their ultimate union. . What is this bond; what is that common element which underlies religious diversity and makes it possible for religious diversity to pass away? The consideration of this subject demands a separate chapter.
THE COMMON ELEMENT IN RELIGIONS.
THERE are few spectacles which have habitually appeared more sad than the variety of forms assumed by religious worship. To the eye of every missionary the number and the variations of human creeds have always seemed amongst the things most to be deplored in the world. The question is, Why? No man will say that the sight of variety is in itself inore sad than the spectacle of monotony: every one must feel that it is the reverse. No one regards it as a blemish in the art of poetry that it embraces within its pale so many different forms of poetic thought. No one looks upon it as a blemish in the art of painting that it holds within its sceptre so many different ideals of the painter's power. Why should it be thought a blemish in the aspect of religion that it is found throughout the world in ever-varied shapes and in ever-changing garbs ? In every other department of study the existence of variety is reckoned á triumph. Why should the
sphere of religion be the only exception? Why should the multiplicity of religious beliefs and the diversity of religious schools be viewed by earnest minds as indications of the depravity of human nature and as signs of incipient development in the life of the soul ?
Now I think it will be found that the reason of this difference lies in something deeper— lies, indeed, in the fact that religion is not habitually regarded either as a science or as an art. The scientific man seeks the presence of law beneath every form ; the poetic man seeks the presence of beauty beneath every form; but the religious man tends originally to recognise only one form. Every nation looks npon its own mode of belief as an accidental privilege—something which has fallen from heaven as a special gift to itself. Accordingly, it feels constrained from the very outset to magnify that element in its faith which most separates it from other faiths. It not only glorifies the form—which is legitimate-but it feels bound to disparage every other form. It has received its own religion not by a law of liuman nature, but by a miracle which has set the law of human nature at defiance. It has been elevated above the worship of other lands as far as heaven is distant from the earth. The worship of other lands is therefore to it only a falsehood and a blasphemy. The variety in the religious opinions around it is a source of inexpressible sadness. Every divergence from its own form of faith is a divergence from the path of holiness. Its missionary zeal is prompted and inflamed by the sense of this surrounding destitution. It feels impelled to establish uniformity of worship, and to make itself the pattern of this uniformity. Yet even in its missionary efforts it does not lope to reach the hearts of inen through a human channel. Its own faith las come to it by miracle; by miracle must it come to others also. The only chance for the establishment of religious unity lies through the suppression of humanity; for the human is the antithesis of the divine, and God is only reached by the annihilation of man.
Now, if this view be the true one, religion is the most unscientific, the most ivartistic, the most inhuman thing in the world, and the longer the world lasts, the more unscientific and the more inhuman it must become. The tendency of all mental progress is to reduce phenomena under one law. Every advance of thought has in other departments been an advance in unity. If religion should elect to linger behind, its position must ultimately be one of absolute solitude. But is religion to linger behind ? For some time back there have been signs of the contrary. In nothing has our age been more distinguished from previous ages than in the revolt from this first conception of the nature of faith. It is not in the loosening of its creeds and formulas that the nineteenth century is distinguished as a Broad-Church century. Creeds and formulas have been loosened before; the age of the Reformation was more pronouncedly an age of religious licence than ours. The peculiarity of the nineteenth century lies in this, that the loosening of its creeds and formulas is not a cause but an effect, not the inauguration of a movement but the result of a move. ment already inaugurated. It is not a negative but a positive tendency that has produced the liberalism of the nineteenth century. The minds of men have relaxed their interest in details only because they have found an interest in the existence of a general principle whose being was hitherto unsuspected. They have awakened to the recognition of the fact that in addition to religions there is a religion. They have come to believe that beneath the various forms there is something which is common, that, underlying the diversities of creed, there is already existing an element of unity. If reverence for the form has declined, it is only in order that there may be more room for the operation of the spirit. The movement towards the recognition of a common element in religion has been, strictly speaking, a purely modern one. It found its initial note in the latter half of last century. It was inaugurated by Lessing in his “education of the human race.” It was taken up by Herder in his search for a common principle of miversal evolu