The text of The Education of the Human Race was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 12 May 2013.
The Education of the Human Race (1780)
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
translated by FW Robertson
London: Henry S King Co. 1872
as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man,
I put away childish things.' St Paul.
HENRY S. KING & Co.
Our little systems have their day;
It is of some importance to understand rightly what principle really underlies the Divine Education of the Human Race, because we may be sure that such should be our rule in training and educating each Individual member.
Two ideas seem now in force; one a combination of Hope and Fear, by
which some teachers think it best to educate - Fear of a Material Hell, Hope of a not much less Material Heaven. These are the ultimates, up to which the lesser rewards and punishments lead.
There is also the doctrine of the Divine Paternity of each individual soul, in virtue of which every member of the Race can be appealed to as a Child of God, and be urged to live as becomes such high relationship.
The writer of this Treatise thinks the latter is the true mode of dealing
with the subject; and although he calls not on any hasty traveller, who may be impatient to reach his night quarters, to turn aside from the eminence from which he is gazing - yet he believes that he sees somewhat more than the prescribed road of his time: that he sees somewhat of the plan by which the Race has hitherto been educated: and he obtains, therefrom, some hints and suggestions as to its future destiny.
He does not offer these thoughts as the sum and substance of the matter, but rather as suggestions tending towards the discovery of fuller truth
through some other minds. And in this mood he seems to harmonise well with those who are expecting, not a new Revelation, but an ever-growing development of the meaning of that with which God has already furnished us: for assuredly we have not yet fathomed the infinite depths of the Divine Love for His Creatures. In our 'Schemes of Redemption', and 'Plans of Salvation', we have not yet reached the full meaning of that name under which God has revealed Himself in these latter days - OUR FATHER.
In our eagerness to prove the damna-
tion of every soul who does not believe this or that dogma, we are in danger of forgetting that Christianity is either a Gospel of Salvation, or is valueless: and we overlook the inevitable necessity that the human mind must pass through phases of ignorance, doubt, and even error, before it can become capable of receiving pure truth.
All the laws of the Universe have had existence from the beginning, yet how recently is it that Electricity has been discovered? and do we yet know all which this power implies?
Did the earth ever do other than go round the sun? yet how long is it since man found this out?
And are the spiritual truths of man's nature more easily discerned than the physical phenomena which surround him? Why should there not be development in these as well as in those?
Each little sect or religion has, doubtless, had same germ of the truth within it, which has rendered subservient to the great purpose of fertilising the world - but so long
as the professors of either of them think that they are favoured Children of the Divine Father, whom He regards with a complacency with which He does not view the rest of Humanity, so long is the fulness of God's idea not attained by them.
There may be much in this little Treatise which will be perplexing to men who merely read by the light of established and recognised formulas; much, which may sound like heresy to those who believe only that which can be found to be contained within the Articles and Creeds of their own
school; but to the honest, earnest Enquirer, it may suggest very profitable currents of thought, in which he may let his reason and imagination flow together, possibly in one of these flowing at last into the great ocean of Truth itself.
THAT which Education is to the Individual, Revelation is to the Race.
EDUCATION is Revelation coming to the Individual Man; and Revelation
is Education which has come, and is yet coming, to the Human Race.
WHETHER it can be of any advantage to the science of instruction to contemplate Education in this point of view, I will not here inquire; but in Theology it may unquestionably be of great advantage, and may remove many difficulties, if Revelation be conceived of as the Educator of Humanity.
Education gives to Man nothing which he might not educe out of him-
self; it gives him that which he might educe out of himself, only quicker and more easily. In the same way too, Revelation gives nothing to the human species, which the human reason left to itself might not attain; only it has given, and still gives to it, the most important of these things earlier.
AND just as in Education, it is not a matter of indifference in what order the powers of a man are developed, as it cannot impart to a man all at once; so was God also necessitated to
maintain a certain order, and a certain measure in His Revelation.
EVEN if the first man were furnished at once with a conception of the One God; yet it was not possible that this conception, imparted, and not gained by thought, should subsist long in its clearness. As soon as the Human Reason, left to itself, began to elaborate it, it broke up the one Immeasurable into many Measurables, and gave a note or sign of mark to every one of these parts.
HENCE naturally arose polytheism and idolatry. And who can say how many millions of years human reason would have been bewildered in these errors, even though in all places and times there were individual men who recognised them as errors, had it not pleased God to afford it a better direction by means of a new Impulse?
BUT when He neither could nor would reveal Himself any more to each individual man, He selected an individual People for His special edu-
cation; and that exactly the most rude and the most unruly, in order to begin with it from the very commencement.
THIS was the Hebrew People, respecting whom we do not in the least know what kind of Divine Worship they had in Egypt. For so despised a race of slaves was not permitted to take part in the worship of the Egyptians; and the God of their fathers was entirely unknown to them.
IT is possible that the Egyptians
had expressly prohibited the Hebrews from having a God or gods; perhaps they had forced upon them the belief that their despised race had no God, no gods, that to have a God or gods was the prerogative of the superior Egyptians only, and this may have been so held in order to have the power of tyrannising over them with a greater show of fairness. Do Christians even now do much better with their slaves?
TO this rude people God caused Himself to be announced first, simply as 'the God of their fathers', in
order to make them acquainted and familiar with the idea of a God belonging to them also, and to begin with confidence in Him.
THROUGH the miracles with which He led them out of Egypt, and planted them in Canaan, He testified of Himself to them as a God mightier than any other God.
AND as He proceeded, demonstrating Himself to be the Mightiest of all, which only One can be, He
gradually accustomed them thus to the idea of THE ONE.
BUT how far was this conception of The One, below the true transcendental conception of the One which Reason learnt to derive, so late with certainty, from the conception of the Infinite One?
ALTHOUGH the best of the people were already more or less approaching the true conception of the One only, the people as a whole could not for a long time elevate themselves to it.
And this was the sole true reason why they so often abandoned their one God, and expected to find the One, i.e., as they meant, the Mightiest, in some God or other, belonging to another people.
BUT of what kind of moral education was a people so raw, so incapable of abstract thoughts, and so entirely in their childhood capable? Of none other but such as is adapted to the age of children, an education by rewards and punishments addressed to the senses.
HERE too Education and Revelation meet together. As yet God could give to His people no other religion, no other law than one through obedience to which they might hope to be happy, or through disobedience to which they must fear to be unhappy. For as yet their regards went no further than this earth. They knew of no immortality of the soul; they yearned after no life to come. But now to reveal these things to one whose reason had as yet so little growth, what would it have been but the
same fault in the Divine Rule as is committed by the schoolmaster, who chooses to hurry his pupil too rapidly, and boast of his progress, rather than thoroughly to ground him?
BUT, it will be asked, to what purpose was this education of so rude a people, a people with whom God had to begin so entirely from the beginning? I reply, in order that in the process of time He might employ particular members of this nation as the Teachers of other people. He was bringing up in them the future
Teachers of the human race. It was the Jews who became their teachers, none but Jews; only men out of a people so brought up, could be their teachers.
FOR to proceed. When the Child by dint of blows and caresses had grown and was now come to years of understanding, the Father sent it at once into foreign countries: and here it recognised at once the Good which in its Father's house it had possessed, and had not been conscious of.
WHILE God guided His chosen
people through all the degrees of a child-like education, the other nations of the earth had gone on by the light of reason. The most part had remained far behind the chosen people. Only a few had got before them. And this too, takes place with children, who are allowed to grow up left to themselves: many remain quite raw, some educate themselves even to an astonishing degree.
BUT as these more fortunate few prove nothing against the use and necessity of Education, so the few
heathen nations, who even appear to have made a start in the knowledge of God before the chosen people, prove nothing against a Revelation. The Child of Education begins with slow yet sure footsteps; it is late in overtaking many a more happily organised child of nature; but it does overtake it; and thenceforth can never be distanced by it again.
SIMILARLY - Putting aside the doctrine of the Unity of God, which in a way is found, and in a way is not found, in the books of the Old
Testament - that the doctrine of immortality at least is not discoverable in it, is wholly foreign to it, that all doctrine connected therewith of reward and punishment in a future life, proves just as little against the Divine origin of these books. Notwithstanding the absence of these doctrines, the account of miracles and prophecies may be perfectly true. For let us suppose that these doctrines were not only wanting therein, but even that they were not at all true; let us suppose that for mankind all was over in this life; would the Being of God be for this reason less demonstrated? Would
God be for this less at liberty, would it less become Him to take immediate charge of the temporal fortunes of any people out of this perishable race? The miracles which He performed for the Jews, the prophecies which He caused to be recorded through them, were surely not for the few mortal Jews, in whose time they had happened and been recorded: He had His intentions therein in reference to the whole Jewish people, to the entire Human Race, which, perhaps, is destined to remain on earth forever, though every individual Jew and every individual man die forever.
ONCE more, The absence of those doctrines in the writings of the Old Testament proves nothing against their Divinity. Moses was sent from God even though the sanction of his law only extended to this life. For why should it extend further? He was surely sent only to the Israelitish people of that time, and his commission was perfectly adapted to the knowledge, capacities, yearnings of the then existing Israelitish people, as well as to the destination of that which belonged to the future. And this is sufficient.
SO far ought Warburton[*] to have gone, and no further. But that learned man overdrew his bow. Not content that the absence of these doctrines was no discredit to the Divine mission of Moses, it must even be a proof to him of the Divinity of the mission. And if he had only sought this proof in the adaptation of such a law to such a people!
But he betook himself to the hypothesis of a miraculous system continued in an unbroken line from Moses to Christ, according to which, God had made every individual Jew
[*William Warburton, 18th century theologian and Bishop of Gloucester whose best known work was The Divine Legation of Moses (Wikipedia).]
exactly happy or unhappy, in the proportion to his obedience or disobedience to the law deserved. He would have it that this miraculous system had compensated for the want of those doctrines (of eternal rewards and punishments, &c.), without which no state can subsist; and that such a compensation even proved what that want at first sight appeared to negative.
HOW well it was that Warburton could by no argument prove or even make likely this continuous miracle, in which he placed the existence of
Israelitish Theocracy! For could he have done so, in truth, he could then, and not till then, have made the difficulty really insuperable, to me at least. For that which was meant to prove the Divine character of the Mission of Moses, would have rendered the matter itself doubtful, which God, it is true, did not intend then to reveal; but which on the other hand, He certainly would not render unattainable.
I EXPLAIN myself by that which is a picture of Revelation. A Primer
for children may fairly pass over in silence this or that important piece of knowledge or art which it expounds, respecting which the Teacher judged, that it is not yet fitted for the capacities of the children for whom he was writing. But it must contain absolutely nothing which blocks up the way towards the knowledge which is held back, or misleads the children from it. Rather far, all the approaches towards it must be carefully left open; and to lead them away from even one of these approaches, or to cause them to enter it later than they need, would alone be enough to change the mere
imperfection of such a Primer into an actual fault.
IN the same way, in the writings of the Old Testament those primers for the rude Israelitish people, unpractised in thought, the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, and future recompenses, might be fairly left out: but they were bound to contain nothing which could have even procrastinated the progress of the people, for whom they were written, in their way to this grand truth. And to say but a small thing, what could have more
procrastinated it than the promise of such a miraculous recompense in this life? A promise made by Him who promises nothing that He does not perform.
FOR although unequal distribution of the goods of this life, Virtue and Vice seem to be taken too little into consideration, although this unequal distribution does not exactly afford a strong proof of the immortality of the soul and of a life to come, in which this difficulty will be reserved hereafter, it is certain that without this difficulty the human
understanding would not for a long time, perhaps never, have arrived at better or firmer proofs. For what was to impel it to seek for these better proofs? Mere curiosity?
AN Israelite here and there, no doubt, might have extended to every individual member of the entire commonwealth, those promises and threatenings which belong to it as a whole, and be firmly persuaded that whosoever should be pious must also be happy, and that whoever was unhappy must be bearing the penalty of
his wrong-doing, which penalty would forthwith change itself into blessing, as soon as he abandoned his sin. Such a one appears to have written Job, for the plan of it is entirely in this spirit.
BUT daily experience could not possibly be permitted to confirm this belief, or else it would have been all over, for ever, with people who had this experience, so far as all recognition and reception was concerned of the truth as yet unfamiliar to them. For if the pious were absolutely happy, and it also of course was a necessary
part of his happiness that his satisfaction should be broken by no uneasy thoughts of death, and that he should die old, and satisfied with life to the full: how could he yearn after another life? and how could he reflect upon a thing after which he did not yearn? But if the pious did not reflect thereupon, who then should reflect? The transgressor? he who felt the punishments of his misdeeds, and if he cursed this life, must have so gladly renounced that other existence?
MUCH less would it signify if an
Israelite here and there directly and expressly denied the immortality of the soul and future recompense, on account of the law having no reference thereto. The denial of an individual, had it even been a Solomon, did not arrest the progress of the general reason, and was even in itself a proof that the nation had now come a great step nearer the truth. For individuals only deny what the many are bringing into consideration; and to bring into consideration that, concerning which no one troubled himself at all before, is half way to knowledge.
LET us also acknowledge that it is a heroic obedience to obey the laws of God simply because they are God's laws, and not because He has promised to reward the obedience to them here and there; to obey them even though there be an entire despair of future recompense, and uncertainty respecting a temporal one.
MUST not a people educated in this heroic obedience towards God have been destined, must they not have been capable beyond all others of executing
Divine purposes of quite a special character? Let the soldier, who pays blind obedience to his leader, become also convinced of his leader's wisdom, and then say what that leader may not undertake to achieve with him.
AS yet the Jewish people had reverenced in their Jehovah rather the mightiest than the wisest of all Gods; as yet they had rather feared Him as a Jealous God than loved Him: a proof this too, that the conception which they had of their eternal One God was not exactly the right con-
ception which we should have of God. However, now the time was come that these conceptions of theirs were to be expanded, ennobled, rectified, to accomplish which God availed Himself of a quite natural means, a better and more correct measure, by which it got the opportunity of appreciating Him.
INSTEAD of, as hitherto, appreciating Him in contrast with the miserable idols of the small neighbouring peoples, with whom they lived in constant rivalry, they began, in captivity under the wise Persians, to measure Him
against the 'Being of all Beings' such as a more disciplined reason recognised and reverenced.
REVELATION had guided their reason, and now, all at once, reason gave clearness to their Revelation.
THIS was the first reciprocal influence which these two (Reason and Revelation) exercised on one another; and so far is the mutual influence from being unbecoming to the Author of them both, that without it either of them would have been useless.
THE child, sent abroad, saw other children who knew more, who lived more becomingly, and asked itself, in confusion, 'Why do I not know that too? Why do I not live so too? Ought I not to have been taught and admonished of all this in my father's house?' Thereupon it again sought out its Primer, which had long been thrown into a corner, in order to throw off a blame upon the Primer. But behold, it discovers that the blame does not rest upon the books, that the shame is solely its own, for not having long ago, known
this very thing, and lived in this very way.
SINCE the Jews, by this time, through the medium of the pure Persian doctrine, recognised in their Jehovah, not simply the greatest of all national deities, but GOD; and since they could, the more readily find Him and indicate Him to others in their sacred writings, inasmuch as He was really in them; and since they manifested as great an aversion for sensuous representations, or at all events, were instructed in these Scrip-
tures, to have an aversion to them as great as the Persians had always felt; what wonder that they found favour in the eyes of Cyrus, with a Divine Worship which he recognised as being, no doubt, far below pure Sabeism, but yet far above the rude idolatries which in its stead had taken possession of the forsaken land of the Jews.
THUS enlightened respecting the treasures which they had possessed, without knowing it, they returned, and became quite another people, whose first care it was to give perma-
nency to this illumination amongst themselves. Soon an apostacy and idolatry among them was out of the question. For it is possible to be faithless to a national deity, but never to God, after He has once been recognised.
THE theologians have tried to explain this complete change in the Jewish people in a different way; and one, who has well demonstrated the insufficiency of these explanations, at last was for giving us, as the true
account - 'the visible fulfilment of the prophecies which had been spoken and written respecting the Babylonish captivity and the restoration from it.' But even this reason can be only so far the true one, as it presupposes the, by this time, exalted ideas of God. The Jews must by this time have recognised that to do miracles, and to predict the future, belonged only to God, both of which they had ascribed formerly to false idols, by which it came to pass that even miracles and prophecies had hitherto made so weak an impression upon them.
DOUBTLESS, the Jews were made more acquainted with the doctrine of immortality among the Chaldeans and Persians. They became more familiar with it too in the schools of the Greek Philosophers in Egypt.
HOWEVER, as this doctrine was not in the same condition in reference to their Scriptures that the doctrines of God's Unity and Attributes were - since the former were entirely overlooked by that sensual people, while the latter would be sought
for: - and since too, for the former, previous exercising was necessary, and as yet there had been only hints and allusions, the faith in the immortality of the soul could naturally never be the faith of the entire people. It was and continued to be only the creed of a certain section of them.
AN example of what I mean by 'previous exercising' for the doctrine of immortality, is the Divine threatenings of punishing the misdeeds of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
This accustomed the fathers to live in thought with their remotest posterity, and to feel, as it were, beforehand, the misfortune which they had brought upon these guiltless ones.
BY an allusion I mean that which was intended only to excite curiosity and to occasion questions. As, for instance, the oft-recurring mode of expression, describing death by 'he was gathered to his fathers'.
BY a 'hint' I mean that which
already contains any germ, out of which the, as yet, held back truth allows itself to be developed. Of this character was the inference of Christ from the naming of God 'the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' This hint appears to me to be unquestionably capable of being worked out into a strong proof.
IN such previous exercitations [exercises], allusions, hints, consists the positive perfection of a Primer; just as the above-mentioned peculiarity of not throwing difficulties or hindrances
in the way to the suppressed truth constitutes the negative perfection of such a book.
ADD to all this the clothing and style.
1. The clothing of abstract truths, which were not entirely to be passed over, in allegories and instructive single circumstances, which were narrated as actual occurrences. Of this character are the Creation under the image of growing Day; the Origin of Evil in the story of the
Forbidden Tree; the source of the variety of languages in the history of the Tower of Babel, &c.
2. THE style - sometimes plain and simple, sometimes poetical, throughout full of tautologies, but of such a kind as practised sagacity, since they sometimes appear to be saying something else, and yet the same thing; sometimes the same thing over again, and yet to signify or to be capable of signifying at the bottom, something else:-
AND then you have all the properties of excellence which belong to a Primer for a childlike people, as well as for children.
BUT every Primer is only for a certain age. To delay the child, that has outgrown it, longer in it than it was intended for, is hurtful. For to be able to do this in a way in any sort profitable, you must insert into it more than there is really in it, and extract from it more than it can contain. You must look for and
make too much of allusions and hints; squeeze allegories too closely; interpret examples too circumstantially; press too much upon words. This gives the child a petty, crooked, hair splitting understanding; it makes him full of mysteries, superstitions; full of contempt for all that is comprehensible and easy.
THE very way in which the Rabbis handled their sacred books! The very character which they thereby imparted to the character of their people!
A BETTER Instructor must come and tear the exhausted Primer from the child's hands. CHRIST came!
THAT portion of the human race which God had willed to comprehend in one Educational plan, was ripe for the second step of Education. He had, however, only willed to comprehend on such a plan, one which by language, mode of action, government, and other natural and political relationships, was already united in itself.
THAT is, this portion of the human race was come so far in the exercise of its reason, as to need, and to be able to make use of nobler and worthier motives of moral action than temporal rewards and punishments, which had hitherto been its guides. The child had become a youth. Sweetmeats and toys have given place to the budding desire to go as free, as honoured, and as happy as its elder brother.
FOR a long time, already, the best
individuals of that portion of the human race (called above the eldest brother) had been accustomed to let themselves be ruled by the shadow of such nobler motives. The Greek and Roman did everything to live on after this life, even if it were only in the remembrance of their fellow-citizens.
IT was time that another true life to be expected after this should gain an influence over the youth's actions.
AND so Christ was the first certain practical Teacher of the immortality of the soul.
THE first certain Teacher. Certain, through the prophecies which were fulfilled in Him; certain, through the miracles which He achieved; certain, through His own revival after a death through which He had sealed His doctrine. Whether we can still prove this revival, these miracles, I put aside, as I leave on one side who the Person of Christ was. All that
may have been at that time of great weight for the reception of His doctrine, but it is now no longer of the same importance for the recognition of the truth of His doctrine.
THE first practical Teacher. For it is one thing to conjecture, to wish, and to believe the immortality of the soul, as a philosophic speculation: quite another thing to direct the inner and outer acts by it.
AND this at least Christ was the
first to teach. For although, already before Him, the belief had been introduced among many nations, that bad actions have yet to be punished in that life; yet they were only such actions as were injurious to civil society, and consequently, too, had already had their punishment in civil society. To enforce an inward purity of heart in reference to another life, was reserved for Him alone.
HIS disciples have faithfully propagated these doctrines: and if they had even had no other merit, than that of
having effected a more general publication, among other nations, of a Truth which Christ had appeared to have destined only for the Jews, yet would they have even on the account alone, to be reckoned among the Benefactors and Fosterers of the Human Race.
IF, however, they transplanted this one great Truth together with other doctrines, whose truth was less enlightening, whose usefulness was of a less exalted character, how could it be otherwise. Let us not blame them for this, but rather seriously examine
whether these very commingled doctrines have not become a new impulse of direction for human reason.
AT least, it is already clear that the New Testament Scriptures, in which these doctrines after some time were found preserved, have afforded, and still afford, the second better Primer for the race of man.
FOR seven hundred years past they have exercised human reason more
than all other books, and enlightened it more, were it even only through the light which the human reason itself threw into them.
IT would have been impossible for any other book to become so generally known among different nations: and indisputably, the fact that modes of thought so diverse from each other have been occupied on the same book, has helped on the human reason more than if every nation had had its own Primer specially for itself.
IT was also highly necessary that each people for a period should hold this Book as the ne plus ultra [the highest standard of excellence] of their knowledge. For the youth must consider his Primer as the first of all books, that the impatience to finish this book, may not hurry him on to things for which he has, as yet, laid no basis.
AND one thing is also of the greatest importance even now. Thou abler spirit, who art fretting and restless over the last page of the Primer, beware!
Beware of letting thy weaker fellow scholars mark what thou perceivest afar, or what thou art beginning to see!
UNTIL these weaker fellow scholars are up with thee, rather return once more into this Primer, and examine whether that which thou takest only for duplicates of the method, for a blunder in the teaching, is not perhaps something more.
THOU hast seen in the childhood of the human race, respecting the doc-
trine of God's unity, that God makes immediate revelations of mere truths of reason, or has permitted and caused pure truths of reason to be taught, for some time, as truths of immediate revelation, in order to promulgate them the more rapidly, and ground them the more firmly.
THOU experiencest in the boyhood of the Race the same thing in reference to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. It is preached in the better Primer as a Revelation, instead of taught as a result of human reason.
AS we by this time can dispense with the Old Testament, in reference to the doctrine of the unity of God, and as we are by degrees beginning also to be less dependent on the New Testament, in reference to the immortality of the soul: might there not in this Book also be other truths of the same sort prefigured, mirrored, as it were, which we are to marvel at, as revelations, exactly so long as until the time shall come when reason shall have learned to educe them, out of its other demonstrated truths and bind them up with them?
FOR instance, the doctrine of the Trinity. How if this doctrine should at last, after endless errors, right and left, only bring men on the road to recognise that God cannot possibly be One in the sense in which finite things are one, that even His unity must be a transcendental unity, which does not exclude a sort of plurality? Must not God at least have the most perfect conception of Himself, i.e., a conception in which is found everything which is in Him? But would everything be found in it which is in Him, if a mere conception, a mere
possibility, were found even of his necessary Reality as well as of His other qualities? This possibility exhausts the being of His other qualities. Does it that of His necessary Reality? I think not. Consequently God can either have no perfect conception of himself at all, or this perfect conception is just as necessarily real, i.e., actually existent, as He Himself is. Certainly the image of myself in the mirror is nothing but an empty representation of me, because it only has that of me upon the surface of which beams of light fall. But now if this image had everything, everything
without exception, which I have myself, would it then still be a mere empty representation, or not rather a true reduplication of myself? When I believe that I recognise in God a familiar reduplication, I perhaps do not so much err, as that my language is insufficient for my ideas: and so much at least for ever incontrovertible, that they who wish to make the idea thereof popular for comprehension, could scarcely have expressed themselves more intelligibly and suitably than by giving the name of a Son begotten from Eternity.
AND the doctrine of Original Sin. How, if at last everything were to convince us that man standing on the first and lowest step of his humanity, is not so entirely master of his actions as to be able to obey moral laws?
AND the doctrine of the Son's satisfaction. How, if at last, all compelled us to assume that God, in spite of that original incapacity of man, chose rather to give him moral laws, and forgive him all transgressions in consideration of His Son, i.e., in con-
sideration of the self-existent total of all His own perfections, compared with which, and in which, all imperfections of the individual disappear, than not to give him those laws, and then to exclude him from all moral blessedness, which cannot be conceived of without moral laws.
LET it not be objected that speculations of this description upon the mysteries of religion are forbidden. The word mystery signified, in the first ages of Christianity, something
quite different from what it means now: and the cultivation of revealed truths into truths of reason, is absolutely necessary, if the human race is to be assisted by them. When they were revealed they were certainly no truths of reason, but they were revealed in order to become such. They were like the 'that makes' - of the ciphering master, which he says to the boys, beforehand, in order to direct them thereby in their reckoning. If the scholars were to be satisfied with the 'that makes,' they would never learn to calculate, and would frustrate the intention with which their good
master gave them a guiding clue in their work.
AND why should not we too, by the means of a religion whose historical truth, if you will, looks dubious, be conducted in a familiar way to closer and better conceptions of the Divine Being, our own nature, our relation to God, truths at which the human reason would never have arrived of itself?
IT is not true that speculations upon
these things have ever done harm or become injurious to the body politic. You must reproach, not the speculations, but the folly and the tyranny of checking them. You must lay the blame on those who would not permit men having their own speculations to exercise them.
ON the contrary, speculations of this sort, whatever the result, are unquestionably the most fitting exercises of the human heart, generally, so long as the human heart, generally, is at
best only capable of loving virtue for the sake of its eternal blessed consequences.
FOR in this selfishness of the human heart, to will to practice the understanding too, only, on that which concerns our corporal needs, would be to blunt rather than to sharpen it. It absolutely will be exercised on spiritual objects, if it is to attain its perfect illumination, and bring out that purity of heart which makes us capable of loving virtue for its own sake alone.
OR, is the human species never to arrive at this highest step of illumination and purity? - Never?
NEVER? - Let me not think this blasphemy, All Merciful! Education has its goal, in the Race, no less than in the Individual. That which is educated is educated for something.
THE flattering prospects which are open to the people, the Honour and Well-being which are painted to him,
what are they more than the means of educating him to become a man, who, when these prospects of Honour and Well-being have vanished, shall be able to do his Duty?
THIS is the aim of human education, and should not the Divine education extend as far? Is that which is successful in the way of Art with the individual, not to be successful in the way of Nature with the whole? Blasphemy! Blasphemy!
NO! It will come! it will assur-
edly come! the time of the perfecting, when man, the more convinced his understanding feels itself of an ever better Future, will nevertheless not be necessitated to borrow motives of action from his Future; for he will do the Right because it is right, not because arbitrary rewards are annexed thereto, which formerly were intended simply to fix and strengthen his unsteady gaze in recognising the inner, better, rewards of well-doing.
IT will assuredly come! the time of
a new eternal Gospel, which is promised us in the Primer of the New Testament itself!
PERHAPS even some enthusiasts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had caught a glimpse of a beam of this new eternal Gospel, and only erred in that they predicted its outburst at so near to their own time.
PERHAPS their 'Three Ages of the World' were not so empty a specu-
lation after all, and assuredly they had no contemptible views when they caught that the New Covenant must become as much antiquated as the old has been. There remained by them the similarity of the economy of the same God. Ever, to let them speak my words, ever the self-same plan of the Education of the Race.
ONLY they were premature. Only they believed that they could make their contemporaries, who had scarcely outgrown their childhood, without
enlightenment, without preparation, men worthy of their Third Age.
AND it was just this which made them enthusiasts. The enthusiast often casts true glances into the future, but for this future he cannot wait. He wishes this future accelerated, and accelerated through him. That for which nature takes thousands of years is to mature itself in the moment of his existence. For what possession has he in it if that which he recognises as the Best does not become the best in his lifetime? Does he come
back? Does he expect to come back? Marvellous only that this enthusiastic expectation does not become more the fashion among enthusiasts.
GO thine inscrutable way, Eternal Providence! Only let me not despair in Thee, because of this inscrutableness. Let me not despair in Thee, even if Thy steps appear to me to be going back. It is not true that the shortest line is always straight.
THOU hast on Thine Eternal Way
so much to carry on together, so much to do! So many aside steps to take! And what if it were as good as proved that the vast flow wheel which brings mankind nearer to this perfection is only put in motion by smaller, swifter wheels, each of which contributes its own individual unit thereto?
IT is so! The very same Way by which the Race reaches its perfection, must every individual man - one sooner - another later - have travelled over. Have travelled over in one and
the same life? Can he have been, in one and the self-same life, a sensual Jew and a spiritual Christian? Can he in the self-same life have overtaken both?
SURELY not that! But why should not every individual man have existed more than once upon this World?
IS this hypothesis so laughable merely because it is the oldest? Because the human understanding, before the sophistries of the Schools had dis-
sipated and debilitated it, lighted upon it at once?
WHY may not even I have already performed those steps of my perfecting which bring to man only temporal punishments and rewards?
AND once more, why not another time all those steps, to perform which the views of Eternal Rewards so powerfully assist us?
WHY should I not come back as often as I am capable of acquiring fresh knowledge, fresh expertness? Do I bring away so much from once, that there is nothing to repay the trouble of coming back?
IS this a reason against it? Or, because I forget that I have been here already? Happy is it for me that I do forget. The recollection of my former condition would permit me to make only a bad use of the present.
And that which even I must forget now, is that necessarily forgotten for ever?
OR is it a reason against the hypothesis that so much time would have been lost to me? Lost - And how much then should I miss? - Is not a whole Eternity mine?