Friday, February 27, 2015

The following piece is so well done and speaks to the doubts and then the truths of our faith. Is our faith but a phantom and well intentioned fantasy? James Martineau addresses this so eloquently.

"We must beware of the disposition to look at faith instead of living in it; to own it as a noble fact in human nature, without becoming personally committed to it; to feel interest in its representations, but evade contact with its realties. Men discuss with the lips each other's creeds, instead of going into silence with their own God. There clings to us some untrustful feeling, something that keeps us mere lookers-on, and hinders the surrender of our minds to the divine captivity that makes their freedom. If I were to try and express the sort of doubt which saps our moral strength, I should do it in the language of a theory which pervades the atmosphere of modern thought, and may well affect us, though we know it not. 
 "Religion," we perhaps think, "is a beautiful creation of the human soul, the embodiment of her highest aspiration and intensest hope, her acknowledgement of Law, her sigh of guilt, her gaze of love, her solace for death, her picture of eternal perfectness. It is at least her sublimest effort, and an affecting testimony to the sweet and solemn depth of her nature. But whether, as she wanders through its scenery, she wakes and sees, or only dreams, is more than we can surely tell. Perhaps she has made her creed by giving names to the shapes of thought within her, and then turning them out to dwell as visions in the external space and light. As fear calls up the ghost it dreads to see, and grief projects upon the air an image of the dead, so perhaps may human faith only paint its heaven and invent its God." 
This is the misgivings which weakens the present age for great enterprises, and fills it with a certain tolerant sadness, patient of human trusts, but uninspired by them.

No man of faith will let it remain doubtful whether his religion is a mere phantom-world, floating across the wall of thought; or accept compliments upon its majesty and grace, as if it were a free creation of his soul. Talk to him as if his religious reality was only relative to him, and is not really known to the eternal universe, and your very gentleness insults and hurts him.

"I speak," he will reply, "Of what I know, and testify that which I have seen; and if you receive not my witness as true, spare me your praise that it is a beautiful sentiment. The divine objects I announce are there, and the light by which I see them has no glory but as it flows from their reality; were it self-kindled, it would be but a darkness turned into fire."

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