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Religious Experience

Religious Experience

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY LANGDON CHEVES STEWARDSON, L.H.D., LL.D.


" Jesus answered themy and said, My doctrine is not mine but his
that sent me. If any man will do his wiU, he shaU know of
the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak of my self, *^
JOHN vn : i6, 17.
BY LANGDON CHEVES STEWARDSON, L.H.D., LL.D.


" Jesus answered themy and said, My doctrine is not mine but his
that sent me. If any man will do his wiU, he shaU know of
the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak of my self, *^
JOHN vn : i6, 17.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Sep 16, 2013
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RELIGIOUS EXPERIECETHE SOURCE AD PROOF AD REITERPRETER OF RELIGIOUS DOCTRIEBY LAGDO CHEVES STEWARDSO, L.H.D., LL.D." Jesus answered themy and said, My doctrine is not mine but histhat sent me. If any man will do his wiU, he shaU know of the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak of my self, *^JOH vn : i6, 17.A FEW words will suffice to put us in possessionof the circumstances which elicited from Jesusthe declaration of our text. He has beenspeaking to the people out of the wealth of his spiritualexperience, and in so doing has taught the doctrine of the new birth and of the spiritual meat and drink whichthe doing of the father's will provides for the newbornchild of God.The Jews who hear him are not only astonished athis erudition but are also scandalized by the fact that heis an imauthorized teacher. Jesus is a layman and not-a cleric. He has never attended the Theological Sem-inary in Jerusalem, neither has he been graduated as aRabbi or properly commissioned as a Rabbi's assistant.He is, in short, a free lance. The people thereforewant to know by what authority he purposes to sup-port his doctrine. The Scribes teach their doctrines onthe authority of Moses and the Prophets. "Here arecertain maxims, tenets, principles," they say. "Theyare to be proved from Holy Writ. They are the246 COLLEGE SERMOSprecepts of the Fathers: they are the traditional faith.Hence the true Israelite must accept them." Their reli-
 
gious teaching was therefore, as you see, the teaching thatbegan with creeds and catechisms; the kind of religiousteaching with which many of us are familiar and thatmakes the assent to given doctrines, the conmiencementand the sine qua nan of faith. It is the kind of religiousteaching that rests primarily upon the validity of exter-nal authority. It is the witness of the Fathers, thewitness of tradition to which it appeals.ow, it is to be noticed that when Jesus is asked togive his authority for the doctrines he has been preach-ing he does not appeal either to scripture or traditionbut to personal experience. "If any man will do hiswill," he says, "he shall know of the doctrine whetherit be of God or whether I speak of myself." In otherwords, when his authority is impugned and the truth of his doctrine called in question he does not, like theScribes, anathematize the doubters, neither does he re-sort, for the purpose of proof, to the glittering processesof logic nor to the hoary antiquity of texts. o! hesimply says: "If you will but resolutely will the willof God and do it, your own life will provide you withthe proof of my words." If you will but conscientiouslyfulfil such commands of God and conscience as youalready know, the great and rich experience which shallas a consequence be yours will open up into a percep-tion of these principles which I have been trying tomake clear. "If any man will do his will, he shall knowof the doctrine whetiier it be of God or whether I speak of myself."The siun and substance of this declaration is that thereligious life is much more than doctrine or theoreticprinciples and precepts. It is a series of activities, of movements of the will which, by the experience theyRELIGIOUS EXPERIECE 247
 
produce, bring enlightenment as to law and maxim.First comes the life and then emerge out of the life itstheoretic principles. Doctrine is declared to be butone moment of the religious life. It is also the result of spiritual struggle, insight and achievement. We maymake this clear from several points of view and byobserving certain facts of religious development.The initial fact to which I shall call your attention isthat doctrine is not the first word of the religious lifeany more than it is the first word of science or language.Long before the laws of the religious life emerge in con-sciousness, long before its principles are clearly discernedand made susceptible of intellectual formulation, thereligious life begins. Experience antedates doctrine.A glance at our own reUgious history will show this tobe true. Back of all apprehension of religious doctrineis the recognized influence and felt example of Chris-tian parents and Christian homes. It was the life of our mother which by surrounding us with love arousedour best emotions. She taught us more by what shedid and was than by what she said. We were consciousof the tenderness of her reproof and the joy of her ap-proval. She showed us living virtues: justice, mercy,love, beauty, reverence. Her thought for us begot inour hearts the wish to think of her and to do for her,the desire to curb our purely selfish impulses. Fromher we learned the happiness of giving and of makingothers happy. It was she, too, who told us stories of the great and good men of the world. Through the pic-tures with which she stored our minds we learned toadmire the patriotism of Washington and Lincoln, theheroism of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the beautifuland unspoiled benevolence of Jesus. We also saw herbear her trials with fortitude and sweetness. We heardher praying as we stood outside her door, silent and248 COLLEGE SERMOS

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