Progress Of Religious Thought -- By: James H. Fairchild
BSac 49:195 (July 1892) p. 412
Progress Of Religious Thought
GROWTH is the law of life. Growth in knowledge is the law of human life. Especially it is the law of the Christian life. The Christian is one who honestly and faithfully employs his faculties, and improves his opportunities. It is inevitable that he should become wiser in experience, in the knowledge of the world, of himself, and of God. To the honest soul, even apart from illumination from above, there must come increase of religious knowledge; that is, of the knowledge of God, and of duty, and of himself as related to God. But such a faithful soul is God’s chosen dwelling-place, and the heavenly fellowship brings exaltation of thought and character and life; thus it comes that the path of the just is a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The Christian community, composed of such docile and progressive souls, must present an aggregate of advancement in religious knowledge which is beyond the attainment of the individual believer. Each member of such a community contributes somewhat to the common possession, and the result is surer and more satisfactory than any personal thought or experience. Personal opinion is sure to be more or less distorted and colored by the limitations and idiosyncracies of the individual, while in the common result these tend to balance and correct each other. No man can perfectly trust his own experience or thought, until he has had
BSac 49:195 (July 1892) p. 413
opportunity to compare his own with his neighbor’s. Thus any company of believers, in the aggregate of its religious thought and opinion, is wiser than its wisest member; and an adequate statement of that thought m the form of a creed or confession comes nearer to the ultimate truth than any expression of individual belief. We are not to suppose that every such expression prepared for any church or Christian body is an adequate embodiment of the general belief. In general such statements are elaborated by a single mind, and obtain acceptance from his influence or authority. His opinions have doubtless in every case been more or less modified by the opinions of others, his predecessors and contemporaries, but the result will always exhibit, to a greater or less extent, what astronomers call the personal equation. On such statements of Christian truth theological systems, bearing the names of the strong thinkers who have impressed their thought upon them, have been built up, and upon special tenets or opinions embodied in these systems, Christian denominations have been founded. Such a statement when once framed and accepted, especially when it becomes the organizing principle of a church or denomination, will hold its place, and for a time direct, and sometimes limit, the progress of thought. Ever...
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