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THE RELIGIOUS HYPOTHESIS

103

tempt of men. But the validity and inexpressible value of religious faith will seem almost more convincing if we witness its power in inconspicuous and unrecorded lives. How can we overlook the splendour of the religious hypothesis, if we observe how the consciousness of God's presence and irradiating love accompanies the mother as she goes about her domestic duties, or sits at the bed of her sick child; or as it attends, as the silent background of his life, the labourer in the field, the craftsman in his workshop, the man of business behind his counter or in his office, making their lives clean and human and beautiful and the obvious service of the Best. There could be no more signal proof of the power and truth of religion than its capacity to penetrate and convert the economic spirit of these times.

It

The religious man when he looks around seems to me to be entitled to say that while the religious hypothesis, like all others, is never finally proved, it is always and everywhere in the act of being proved. is the one thing that is being done throughout creation. It is the experiment-the Grand Perhaps of the Universe, on which both nature and spirit are engaged. The consciousness of the omnipresence of the unutterable goodness of the Divine Being is being gradually deepened. There is no incident in man's life, no outer circumstance in his world, but at the magic touch of religious faith will be heard by the religious spirit to testify to the unlimited goodness of God.

I admit at once that the fulness of religious trust does not prove the truth of the religious hypothesis. Men have trusted their very souls to errors and delusions. But, on the other hand, if there are

The

the

Spiritual
Laboratory
and the
experimental
test of the
"Grand
Perhaps."

certain forms of the religious faith, certain hypotheses, which deepen the meaning of natural facts, which amplify and extend the suggestiveness of the natural sciences, and so far from traversing their findings,

Universe as accept and invite them; and if in the world of human conduct they dignify human character, add reach and sanity to man's aims, construct and consolidate human society, elevate and secure the life of man and make for peace and mutual helpfulness amongst the nations-if, in one word, a form of religious faith, or hypothesis, works in these ways, then, indeed, is the proof of its validity strong; stronger than the proof of any other hypothesis, because wider and deeper. The truth or falsity of the religious hypothesis is manifestly the paramount issue for man; and, one might expect, would overcome the indifference which is characteristic both of the shallow belief and of the shallow scepticism of our time.

It is on this account that we are entitled, in all earnestness as well as with respect and yearning love for their cause, to urge the analogy of the method and spirit of the natural sciences upon our religious teachers. After all, it is this method that Philip used in order to convince Nathanael. When the latter doubted if they had found him of whom Moses in the Law and Prophets wrote, in Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, he asked Philip," Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth ? " The answer was-"Come and see.' The same answer ought to be offered by the Protestant Church to every enquirer in every age. The Church as teacher must learn to represent its beliefs not as dogmas but as truths which it challenges the disbelieving world to put to the test, and to the hardest

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THE SPIRITUAL LABORATORY

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tests it can find even amongst the worst intricacies of the pathetic tragedies of human life. It will thus find that reason will serve religion as soon as religion. allows reason to be free. Till then there must be conflict, and loss on both sides.

The

misunder

standing of

the nature

of

LECTURE VII

RELIGIOUS LIFE AND RELIGIOUS THEORY

I HAVE been trying to make plain the function of hypotheses, not only in science, but in the ordinary affairs of the everyday life of plain men.

Two considerations combine to induce me to dwell a little longer on this topic, even at the cost of some repetition. The first is the fact that the nature of hypotheses and the part they play are very often misunderstood. Their use is supposed to be confined hypotheses. to the natural sciences, and, so far from being recognized in other fields as fundamental principles which give systematic coherence to the facts, they are there supposed to be irresponsible guesses and nothing more. The second consideration arises from the greatness of the change that would follow were the Protestant Churches and their leaders to assume the attitude of the sciences and treat the articles of the creeds not as dogmas but as the most probable explanation, the most sane account which they can form of the relation of man to the Universe and of the final meaning of his life. The hypothesis of a God whose wisdom and power and goodness are perfect, would then be tried and tested, both theoretically and practically, and, I believe, become thereby ever the

THE TASK OF THE CHURCH

107

Churches to

attitude

science.

more convincing. The creed would be not merely a The significance record of an old belief to be accepted on authority, of the but a challenge to the sceptic and the irreligious. The would come Church, instead of being a place where the deliverances were the of ancient religious authorities are expounded, and adopt the illustrated by reference to the contents of one book and of natural the history of one nation-as if no other books were inspired and all nations save one were God-abandoned -the Church would be the place where the validity of spiritual convictions are discussed on their merits, and the application of spiritual principles extended; where enquiring youths would repair when life brings them sorrow, disappointment or failure, and the injustice of man makes them doubt whether there be a God, or if there be, whether he is good and has power, and stands as the help of man. Recourse to their certified spiritual guides, knowing that full and sympathetic justice will be done to all their difficulties, ought to be as natural to them as their recourse to the physical laboratory or the workshop of the mechanician when an engine breaks down.

has to win

confidence

of men.

But the Church has a long way to travel before it The Church creates a faith and a trust such as we accord to the the natural sciences; and mankind, on its part, is far from meting the same measure to the faith or lifehypotheses of the religious man as it willingly accords to the man of science. Let me exemplify this charge.

Not all the physicists in the world could account for and measure all the forces spent as the rumbling gravel-grinding cart is dragged past one's window. Not all the physicists in the world can indicate precisely and measure exactly the forces that go to change the colour and shape of a cloud from that of a camel to an

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