A REASONABLE RELIGION. BY GEORGE H.

HEPWORTH

" Prove all things ; hold fast that which is good." — I Thess. v. 21.

The man whose religion will not stand the test of careful thinking has not very much to boast of. Feeling has more to do with religion than thinking has, but the thinking ought to come first in order to give direction to. the feeling. A man's feelings should always be indorsed by his brains. You do not want a theory of politics which will not hold its own against the doubts and questions of your neighbors,, and it would be absurd to have a religion which refuses to answer your inquiry as to its credibility and usefulness.

A. man should have faith, and he should know why he has it. If he is physically ill and receives from his physician a prescription which relieves his malady, he has a confidence in the doctor which is reasonably based, and whenever the malady 1 68

1

A REASONABLE RELIGION. 169

reappears he very naturally has recourse to that same prescription. It is not at all necessary that he should know how or from whence or why the physician came into that section of the country ; neither need he puzzle himself as to the doctor's pedigree during the last century or two. These are all interesting matters, and if he has time and inclination it will do no harm to enter that field of exploration, but they have practically no relevancy to his disease or its cure. If you were to make the rash assertion that you would not take the remedy until the doctor recited all the incidents of his past life and made you acquainted with the secrets of his experience, you would be a strangely unreasonable creature. The important question is not when or where the doctor was born, but whether he understands your case and can restore you to health.

Now a great many persons are unwilling to ac2

cept the providence of God, because they cannot see how He exists and in what way the providence acts. He must not only do them good, but explain how He does it. You might just as well say to the apple-seed, " I know that there is a mysterious life in you, and that when put into the

170 HERALD SERMONS.

ground you can burst your shell, push up slender shoots, grow into a beautiful tree, and bear rich fruit; but I refuse to plant you until I know how all this is done." You would not regard such a man as a reasonable creature. Your reply to his statement would be that he is both foolish and stupid not to avail himself of a delicious product because he cannot tell how it came. If the thing itself is proved beneficial by experience, then the more of it he can acquire the better. If he wishes to study the occult mystery of growth in his leisure hours, no one will say him nay ; but it is not absolutely necessary to know anything about an
3

apple except that it hangs on the branch and that he has a right to pluck, eat, and enjoy it.

But some folks put theology first and religion second, whereas the world would be better if religion were put first and men were allowed to deal in theological speculation much or little, according to inclination. Religion is the apple on the tree. What is called " getting religion " is nothing more than eating the apple and by that means convincing yourself of its value. Theology, on the other hand, is an inquiry as to the various and subtle natural forces which have combined to produce the

A REASONABLE RELIGION. I J I

fruit, and as to the method of their activity. I say, therefore, that theology is the luxury of the few, of the inquisitive and scholarly few, but that religion, which consists of eating the apple, is the divine privilege of all. If it is not reasonable to judge of the worth of anything by the effect re4

sulting from its use, then I must confess to being greatly puzzled.

But your doubts? Well, doubts come mostly from speculating about matters which no finite being can settle beyond dispute. No one ever lived without doubts. It would be an absolute impossibility to do so, and I am not at all sure that it would be desirable to do so. If you have never doubted, it is probably because you have never thought very deeply. Science and philosophy are full of doubts, and these doubts have led to unexpected discoveries. When the ordinary man begins to think about God and providence and prayer and heaven, he becomes dazed and bewildered, just as astronomers in the time of Galileo were dazed and bewildered by the innumerable worlds overhead which played hide-andseek with them. The time may come when we can uncover the mysteries of the Infinite as science

172 HERALD SERMONS.
5

has uncovered the courses of the stars, but certainly the time is not yet. The time may also come when our spiritual vision will be so developed that we shall see what the prophet saw — hosts of angels in the air; but that millennial period has not yet arrived.

What, then, is the standard by which to estimate the value of religion, and what kind of religion would you call reasonable? If you experiment with the principles which Christ announced, and find that they work untold benefit, that they make you sympathetic, honest, generous, noble, and manly, are you not reasonable if you adopt them as the policy of your life ? On the contrary, would you not be unreasonable if you failed to do so? We have many doubts about the theology of our fathers, but have we any doubt at all concerning the beautiful faith which made them brave and strong in times of great trial ?

The question is easily decided. If you take the doctor's prescription and it either relieves or cures,
6

be sensible enough to avail yourself of that doctor's services, and though there be a mystery about his birthplace, your confidence in him need not be disturbed, Take the apple that hangs within reach

A REASONABLE RELIGION. I 73

and eat it. If it quenches your thirst and satisfies your appetite, it makes no difference who planted the tree or how the fruit came from the blossom. A reasonable faith in religion does not depend on your knowledge of all the secrets of the universe, but on your knowledge of what that religion will do for you. In other words, the only true test of religious faith is to be found in personal experience. Mere argument amounts to nothing; a fair trial settles the matter beyond cavil. Those who have tested it most severely prize it most highly.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
7

2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

8

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful