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MR. SAVAGE'S BOOKS.
SERMONS AND ESSAYS.
Christianity the Science of Manhood.
187 pages. 1873 $1.00 1876
Religious Reconstruction. 246 pages.
The Evolution of Christianity. 178 pages. 1892
Light on the Cloud. 176 pages. 1876. Full gilt.
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Mr. Savage's weekly sermons are regularly printed in pamphlet form in Unity Pulpit." Subscription price, for the season, $1.50; single copy, 5 cents.
GEO. H. ELLIS, Publisher,
141 Franklin St., Boston, Mass.
A MAN ASCENDING.
"Now are we children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be."- -I JOHN iii. 2.
In this closing sermon of the present series I wish to trace the lines and note some of the principles of human ascent. I am asked a great many times as to how the fact of deteri`oration and decay on the part of men and of nations is to be explained as consistent with the law of evolution. A great many people seem to think that, if there is anything in evolution, it means a necessary and eternal progress for everybody. Of course, those who have studied it with any care know that it means nothing of the kind. If there is a pathway up a mountain side, it is a path up not only, but it is equally a pathway down. If you find your feet upon a stairway, that does not necessarily mean that you are to climb to the top, you can go the other way to the bottom, if you will. So the law of the evolution of life is not inconsistent with the law of dissolution, decay and death. It is simply a question as to whether we shall discern the conditions of ascent, and conform to those conditions. But in a world as wide as this, with circumstances so varied, with people of all grades and kinds, it naturally follows, almost necessarily we might say, that somebody, some persons, some peoples, will comply with the conditions, and so will advance. No matter whether we see those conditions and intellectually and purposely select them, or whether we happen to comply with them, in either case the result of progress will follow. But there can be no intelligent progress except as we purposely discern the laws of God, and obey them. Take it in the matter of physical health: if a man obeys the laws of his life simply by following his instincts and tastes, without any
thinking about them, the result will be health and growth. But, if we are to be certain of these things, there must be careful study of those laws and conditions, and an intelligent, loyal obedience to them.
During some parts of the discourse which is to follow, you may think that I am a good ways off from the lines of an ordinary sermon, that I am dealing with very material instead of spiritual things. But before I am through you will note that these things bear upon the spiritual as necessary conditions thereto, and that we shall end with the spiritual laws.
I have had occasion to tell you more than once, perhaps, in the past that the general growth of the world may be figured as three or four great stages. For a long time, thousands and thousands of years, I do not know how long, the dominant power on this planet was chiefly physical. Muscle was king of the world, brute force was supreme. But out of the struggles and conflicts, even of those brute forces, there was necessarily, in accordance with the law of the survival of the fittest, a development ever towards higher and finer animal forms.
Next after this came the era of mind, brain, thought, either as cunning or as the higher intelligence, not displacing muscle, but dominating it. Man has ever developed his mental capacity. Although the weakest of all the animals almost on the face of the earth, he was able to outwit — that is, to translate the word, to outknow— other animals, and so to become king of the world. I do not mean to say, and, of course, you will not understand me as meaning to say, that one of these conditions lasts for a certain period of time, and then is entirely displaced by one of the others. I simply wish to indicate the steps of progress; for the lower step remains intact, when you have climbed upon the next one.
Beyond the physical then came the mental; and beyond the mental the world has gradually climbed through sympathy into conscience and into the recognition of right and wrong, and the conviction that the right, because it was right,
ought to be king. And now after generations, in spite of all the evil that there is in the world, in spite of all the pessimistic wailing of the modern time the moral ideal is the mightiest force on the face of the earth. I believe, however, that another step is coming, that we can already see dim outlines of it, that we may already find some whose feet are placed upon it, so that their heads are up in the higher air.
I believe the next great era of human progress is to be called properly the spiritual, the recognition of the spiritual identity of man with God, the life in the spirit. When we have reached this, it will be something higher than a sense of ought and the law of duty. This, by and by, will be gradually outgrown and left behind; for that man is not the highest type of man who figures a certain course of conduct out, and says, "I ought to do it, and therefore I will!" That implies conflict between another tendency in his nature which would lead him the other way. The highest type of man is the one who loves the right, so that the sense of ought ceases to be necessary. If a man lives in God, in the spirit, in such a way that he instinctively chooses the good, he has risen out of the range of mere conscience, he has left that below and behind.
There are two lines - two parallel lines, perhaps, we may say of human ascent. One traces man's gradual conquest over his conditions: the other traces man's gradual conquest over himself. I do not mean that one of these courses is run, and then the other taken up and followed after that is complete. They are parallel lines; and the incidents and activities of the one constantly act and react on the other. And yet, for clearness of thought, it will be necessary to trace, at some little length, the external lines of ascent, and then to go on to the consideration of the growth of man in controlling his own nature.
Let us, then, begin in the far-off time, and note some of the principal steps that man has taken as he has climbed up into kingship of his conditions, as he has learned to control the forces of this external world.