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It is, then, false to assume, that the two facts, sense of dependence and idea of its object, include all that is essential to religion. They do not include, and cannot give us, the two essential elements of religion, namely, the idea of providence and that of obligation. They disclose no ground for worship in the providence of God; they suggest no service to God, to be given because his due. They are not religion, then, and cannot, of themselves alone, give us religion.
But we are not yet done with Mr. Parker's theory. We have shown that it cannot give us religion ; we now assert that it is repugnant to religion, and, if admitted as true, would enable us to account for all religious phenomena without assuming even the existence of God. “ Two things,” says Mr. Parker, “are necessary to render religion possible ; a religious nature in man, and God out of man, as the object of that nature. These two facts admitted, religion follows necessarily, as vision from the existence of a seeing faculty in man, and that of light out of him. Now, the existence of the religious element implies its object. We have naturally a sentiment of God. Reason gives us an idea of him. These are founded in our nature, and are in themselves unchangeable, always the same." - p. 159. This sounds well ; but the sentiment of God, the religious sentiment, we must remember, is the sense of dependence, and the idea of God is merely the idea of something on which dependence rests. The sense and the idea are both facts of our nature, facts given us in our nature. Our nature being given, then, both these facts are given. Then man being given, all is given that is essential to religion. Then Mr. Parker is quite too liberal in allowing the existence of God out of man as necessary to religion. The existence of God is quite superfluous, and quite unphilosophically assumed ; for philosophy admits no more causes for a fact than are necessary. If religion, then, be the facts of our nature, or their spontaneous production, it requires the admission of no existence but man, and can dispense with God altogether.
But Mr. Parker replies, “ The sentiment implies its object.” Not if its existence can be accounted for without assuming its object; and this can be done, if it be a fact of man's nature ; for, man's nature given, it is given. Moreover, as we have seen, the sentiment only implies the necessity of an object to satisfy it, not that the object exists. It implies the necessity of its object, not as the condition of its existence, but simply as the condition of its satisfaction. Here is a point Mr. Parker probably overlooked.
But the sentiment is said to be the sentiment of God, and therefore necessarily implies that God is. The sentiment in question is defined, officially, to be the sense of dependence. Strictly speaking, the object of the sense is dependence, and therefore, even admitting the sense or sentiment implies its object, it does not necessarily imply God, unless God and dependence are one and the same.
“ But reason gives us the idea of God.” This amounts to nothing ; because reason gives it, not because it sees the object of the idea, or demonstrates from certain data that God is. The idea is said to be a fact given in our nature, and therefore antecedently to all exercise of reason. It is simply a fact or property of the rational subject, and is given in the idea of the subject, - consequently, does not necessarily imply God out of the subject. Before you can conclude from the idea to a reality outside of man responding to it, you must establish the principle, that no idea is, or can be, given in human nature. But establish this, then the idea of God is not given as a fact of human nature. But this is to deny your own assertion. Therefore you have no right to conclude from the idea of God to the existence of God.
It is clear, therefore, that, if you reduce religion to the sense of dependence and idea of its object, and declare these to be facts, elements, or principles of human nature, you have no occasion to assume any existence, in order to account for religion, - to give you all of religion, - but that of man himself. But, if there be no God, all religion is a delusion. Consequently, the attempt to find in human nature a solid and imperishable foundation for religion ends in showing that it has no foundation at all. Alas ! man is a poor foundation to build any thing upon. The wise master-builder will seek some other foundation, - even the Rock of Ages.
Again, Mr. Parker has no occasion to assume the existence of God as an object of obedience. When he defines religion to be voluntary obedience, he defines it to be obedience to the law of our own nature. Our nature given, this law is given, and all is given, and contained in it. There is no need, then, of introducing the cumbrous machinery of a God. Man is what he is. He is all his nature is. His nature is all that is essential to it, or essential elements of it. All that is essential to religion is essential in his nature. Man, then, is it all, and all that is essential to religion is given without assuming any existence beyond him. Do not tell us, then, that to religion it is necessary that there should be a God out of man, for to religion, in your sense, it is not necessary. Man is enough for your purpose. With man, therefore, try and content yourself.
This conclusion is inevitable, when the essential elements of religion are made essential elements of human nature. The Transcendentalists, we are willing to admit, — for we were ourselves the first in this country to set forth on this point the doctrine we have ascribed to them, have been governed by good motives, and have really wished to defend religion against the infidel. But they have begun at the wrong end. That man is led by the wants of his nature to seek after some support, and by his reason to recognize a God who has made him and for whom he should live, we do not deny, - though we do not believe, that, as a matter of fact, he first attained in this way to the idea of God; for the belief in the existence of God is too early found, too universal, and too firmly rooted in the human mind, to have originated in so long and so difficult a process. That man's own experience of his own insufficiency, of his nothingness, of the fact that he is everywhere limited, hemmed in, which may be called a sense of dependence, and which all must, to a greater or less degree, experience, is among the first and chief causes that lead him “through nature up to nature's God,” we are willing to admit, and much that Mr. Parker says on this head, when not taken in support of his theory, is no doubt true, and even impressive ; but the doctrine, that religion is a fact of our nature, or has its origin in our permanent nature, if it mean any thing more than a rhetorical fourish for the fact, that the constantly recurring facts of human experience have a strong tendency to impress us with a sense of our own dependence, and to lead us to look out of ourselves for some independent support, - which, after all, we suspect, may be all Mr. Parker really means, - is essentially repugnant to the very idea of religion. The sense of dependence and idea of its object are not elements of religion ; they are simply facts which lead us to seek religion, and which, perhaps, facilitate its acceptance and observance.
To place religion in these is to deprive it of all moral character, and to render it in itself nothing worth. Mr. Parker may extol the religious sentiment and idea as he will, but, as he defines them, they do not necessarily involve a single
moral or religious conception. Man is religious, not by virtue of his nature, but of his acts. He is placed, not by his nature, but by his CREATOR, under a law; and he is religious only in obeying that law, and in obeying it because it is God's law. The natural powers by which he obeys, so far as his obedience depends on himself as the obedient subject, are the same as those by which he obeys his parents or the magistrate. He must have reason, by which to perceive the law, and to perceive it as God's law,—and will, by which to will its obedience ; but these are not powers brought into play only by religion ; they are brought into play in every act which is properly an actus humanus.
The Transcendentalists, overlooking this fact, - that religion, so far as it depends on man, depends on the rational and voluntary nature, — seek to find its origin in the sensitive
Having begun with the principle, that reason and will are to be discarded, and sentiment only retained, and having ascertained that sentiment operates instinctively without will or reason, they have fancied it would afford a more solid and respectable foundation for religion than the inductions of reason and the resolutions of the will. What they really want is to find an origin for religion which is under 'shelter from human will and reason. This is obvious in all their writings. Thus, Mr. Parker resolves religion into a sentiment and idea both given by our nature, independently of all exercise of will or reason. Placed in the instinctive nature, they really believe religion is raised above us, because, according to them, the instinctive nature is always to be regarded as supreme and authoritative.
But if we examine this doctrine more closely, we find, that, though it adopts, now and then, religious names, it embraces no religious ideas. “ The legitimate action of the religious sentiment,” says Mr. Parker, “produces reverence." - p. 44. The religious sentiment is the sense of dependence. Where is the proof that the sense of dependence produces reverence? But suppose it does. What is the quality of this reverence ? Like produces like. The reverence that springs from a sentiment must be itself a sentiment. It is a sensible emotion. It may be well enough as far as it goes, but it is not reverence in the religious sense. Religious reverence is not a sensible emotion, though it may be accompanied by such emotion, but an affection of the rational and voluntary nature. Even admitting that the sense of dependence should legitimately produce reverence, it would, then, be only a sensible reverence, possessing in itself no religious character.
But this reverence “may ascend into Trust, Hope, and Love, which is according to its nature, -or it may descend into Doubt, Fear, Hate, which is against its nature. It thus rises or falls as it coexists in the individual with wisdom and good ness, or with ignorance and vice." - p. 44. A man may be religious, either with wisdom and goodness, or with ignorance and vice! Religion can combine and coexist with either. A very accommodating thing, this religion of yours, and worth writing books about ! But let this pass.
What is the proof that it is more against the nature of reverence to descend into doubt, fear, and hate, than it is to rise into trust, hope, and love, when once it is admitted it can so descend without ceasing to be reverence ? It would relieve the monotony of Mr. Parker's book, if he would now and then prove an assertion.
But the trust, hope, love, into which reverence may rise, what are they? Affections of reason and will ? Not at all. They are the products of a sentiment, and belong to the sentimental nature. They are not, then, though Mr. Parker writes their initials in capitals, religious affections. They are sensible emotions, or instinctive affections, - not the result of rational apprehension of their object, and voluntary confidence in him and preference of him. They do not, then, rise to the religious order, and are, taken in themselves alone, worth nothing. But even pass over this. Are they produced for the sake of God, and offered to him because his due ? In trusting, hoping, loving, do we ourselves act, and act propter finem, and not merely ad finem ? According to Mr. Parker's whole doctrine, in them we do not properly act, - we but follow our nature, and therefore really render God no service because his due, and therefore perform no religious act; though the acts of trust, hope, love, when done for the sake of God, are unquestionably among the most acceptable acts we can perform.
Here is apparent the grand defect of Transcendentalism, It tries to find a religion which borrows nothing from reason and will, and which will go of itself, requiring us to trouble ourselves no further about it than to leave it alone and let nature do her work. In this they are consistent with themselves. Religion should, on their principles, like every thing else, be reduced to instinct, and, like Dogberry's reading and