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THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, JUNE 7, 1903.
RT. REV. ALEXANDER C. GARRETT, D. D., LL. D., BISHOP OF DALLAS.
St. John 1-4: "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
The student of the three synoptic gospels can not fail to perceive that the writers of those annals are engaged for the most part in tracing the personal characteristics of our Lord as He was seen every day "going about doing good," and then they tell of the kingdom He came to establish, the duties of His servants, and the moral and spiritual qualities they were expected to exhibit, together with the rewards and penalties ensuing according to their works.
But the student of St. John's gospel will observe that the sacred writer goes back to the very beginning of things and points out the principle which underlies the whole, out of which all things whatsoever have been evolved, and by which the life of men is illuminated and sustained. We have thus suggested for our consideration the following course of thought:
1. Religion is natural to man.
2. Christianity imparts a new principle of life and develops a new quality of character.
3. The duty of a great university to the State. 1. Religion is natural to man.
Wherever and whenever man appears on this earth he is found conscious of the mystery of his origin and of the tragedy of his end. He comes, he knows not whence, and goes, he knows not whither. He is never found without religious ideas and some forms appropriate to their expression. If we summon the various races to pass before us in review they will come with their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, apprehensions and anticipations, dreams and desires, life and death all bound up in their religion. If we begin with the savage of our own day, the science of anthropology will afford us a vast amount of information as to his manners and customs, habits, modes of life, weapons, industries, beliefs, and all of them will be bound up in his religion. The material outfit of the savage tribes has always been most meager. A few flint arrowheads and stone axes, and after many centuries of struggle bronze and finally iron supplanted these. A hollow tree rudely tapered formed his canoe. The skins of beasts supplied his clothing, while their bones and teeth adorned his person. His life is one continual contest with the beasts of the field for the mastery of land and sea.
In the midst of all this conflict with his natural conditions of existence he is conscious of strange affinities for things above and beyond these. Everything is to him the clothing of a soul. All living things are the visible manifestations of an indwelling spiritual being. Nay, even the rocks and mountains, valleys, lakes and rivers are the vehicles of thought. The heavens and all the glory of the stellar universe are but the glittering raiment of a spiritual being.
And as we rise in the evolution of the race we find cosmogonic and ancestral mythologies endeavoring to account for all the phenomena of nature, and exhibiting a richness and variety of beliefs which challenge the highest quality of modern scholarship and the rarest gifts of sound judgment for their adequate interpretation. Nor is this absorption of primitive man in religion a mere accident. It is the answer from his nature to the great original whence He came. The growing mind feels its kinship with the divine and seeks continually for a more adequate realization of its presence and power.
If we search among the buried monuments of Egypt, penetrate to the interior of her pyramids, unwrap the coverings from the mummies, and read her sacred writings, we shall find that the things which made her the mother of arts and civilization, which inspired her literature and nerved the arm of her warriors, was faith in the life that never died—her religion. Or, if we try to trace the wanderings of the Phænician voyagers, who first learned to navigate the pathless seas, and wove characters into written speech, and planted colonies on foreign shores, what shall guide our quest? The votive offerings they hung up in the temples of their gods-in a single word, their religion. And if we pass to the valley of Mesopotamia and unearth its buried cities, the story is still the same: kings and people rose to greatness by the favor of the gods, and all honor and glory of their achievements were ascribed to their religion.
In India the story is still the same. There surely was the manifestation of the Divine most conspicuous. All nature conspired to make it plain, the majestic grandeur of its rugged surface kindling the imagination and impressing the emotions with the conviction that God was impersonated in mountain chain and flower.
In China we shall find the bony fingers of dead ancestors hold today in a bond inviolable the lives and industries of its teeming millions.
And if we test the great European nations we shall find the same conditions still prevail. The poetry, the art, the philosophy of Greece are the imperishable record of its religion. The majesty of Rome and the simplicity of ancient Britain bear their testimony to the same fundamental verity.
The conclusion from this brief review is not so much that religion is natural to man, as that it literally possesses him, and is in reality the mighty force which has made him what he is.
But to trace its history is not to explain either its origin or its power. Science may engage in the study of religious art and archeaology without finding any adequate explanation of the religion which created the art and inspired the poetry and literature.
All science must begin, whether willing to confess the fact or no, with the metaphysics which pure mathematics demands before reason can think and which it can not eliminate by thinking, and which underlies all attempts to explain Nature as being in space. Out of this the separate physical sciences may grow through concrete stages-geological, chemical, biological—until they terminate in man as a social and religious being. In all this labored process the investigation does not really touch the cardinal features of the problem. It begins with certain powers native to the human mind, uses them in all its varied operations, but can never account either for their origin or character. If from lower beings derived, why have they reached their climax in man alone? What has happened to exhaust the fertility of the matrix? Why does the environment, so confidently affirmed to be the sufficient explanation of man's powers, fail utterly to duplicate its efforts? It is plain that the man is indefinitely more than his environment; that he rises superior to it and shapes it to his will. He digs out the hidden treasures concealed in Nature's bosom, shapes tools for her further conquest, and creates a new set of conditions more conducive to his comfort. Thus he becomes at once the interpreter and the interpretation of Nature. He explains her laws, reads and translates her secret processes.
He finds that her powers and sequences are intelligible because his own intelligence can understand and use them. He stands out in his intellectual and religious nature as the concrete interpretation of the intellectual ideas and the religious ideals which have given birth to Nature, and are the fountain source of all her powers.
Religion must be viewed in a twofold sense, as objective and subjective. The former is expressed in the legends, the beliefs, the mythologies and sacred books of the various nations, to which we can not now refer more particularly. The subjective sense denotes certain thoughts, feelings and tendencies which belong to man as man. Here a question of great interest presents itself: Can this religious consciousness be resolved into any faculty or any function of any faculty? Is it an intellectual, an emotional, or an ethical consciousness ?
It would not be difficult to find authorities for its limitation to any one of these.
But a sounder philosophy finds that it includes the whole energy of man. To quote the words of a recent writer: "There can not be religion without knowledge, for faith and knowledge are rather a unity than a true antithesis. Faith is intellectual, involves thought; and it is only as man conceives an object that he can have any conscious relation to it. The unknown, as outside man's consciousness, is an object neither of thought nor of faith, and so has for him no real being, nor any relation to his conscious life. There can, therefore, be no religion without thought, for not to think were not to believe-to have nothing that could be described as either object or article of faith. Nor can