" Have you heard the Golden City Mentioned in the legends old ? Everlasting light shines o'er it, Wondrous tales of it are told.
Only righteous men and women Dwell within its gleaming wall;
Wrong is banished from its borders, Justice reigns supreme o'er all.
Do you ask, Where is that City, Where the perfect Right doth reign.
I must answer, I must tell you, That you seek its site in vain.
You may roam o'er hill and valley, You may pass o'er land and sea,
You may search the wide earth over, 'T is a City yet to be !
We are builders of that City, — All our joys and all our groans.
Help to rear its shining ramparts ; All our lives are building-stones.
What that plan may be we know not.
How the seat of Justice high, How the City of our vision.
Will appear to mortal eye, —
That no mortal eye can picture, That no mortal tongue can tell.
We can barely dream the glories Of the Future's citadel.
But for it we still must labor, For its sake bear pain and grief,
In it find the end of living And the anchor of belief.
But a few brief years we labor, Soon our earthly day is o'er ;
Other builders take our places, And " our place knows us no more.
But the work that we have builded,
Oft with bleeding hands and tears, And in error and in anguish,
Will not perish with our years.
It will be at last made perfect.
In the universal plan ; It will help to crown the labors.
Of the toiling hosts of man.
It will last and shine transfigured.
In the final reign of Right; It will merge into the splendors.
Of the City of the Light!"
Does not this cover life ; does it not sanctify death; does it not take hold of the deepest needs, the highest longings of our nature; are we not touched with unspeakable awe to know that our humblest work, even though done " in error, in anguish," and " with bleeding hands and tears," cannot fail of its end, but helps on to the ultimate consummation ? I am reminded of George Eliot's words, — Even our failures are a prophecy.
Even our yearnings and our bitter tears After that fair and true we cannot grasp, — As patriots who seem to die in vain Make liberty more sacred by their pangs."1
Not a patriot, not a martyr, not an ideal reformer, has ever said or can ever say his word or do his deed in vain. They only live in vain who compromise with their ideal convictions, who believe in no grand goal for humanity, who would rather live well, comfortably housed and honored in this present order of things, than dare condemn it and help to create a better. 1 A Minor Prophet.
I have said Unitarianism is unsatisfactory on its practical side, because it lacks a great thought; and this thought is to my mind, — I utter it at the risk of seeming extravagant, — that the perfect order of things, which Omnipotence was to produce for us in another world, we are ourselves to create here. I believe there is a kind of omnipotence in human nature : I do not mean, of course, as men ordinarily are, eating, drinking, wrapped up in pleasure, business, and personal interests, but as they might be, under the influence of ideas. I might more properly say, I believe in the omnipotence of ideas, and of men in so far as they are possessed with them, — and men only need to open their hearts to be so possessed. The true atheist is he who does not believe that an ideal justice and right can conquer in the world, that men — all men — and universal human society and government cannot will and do the good, the perfect good. There is no need of the miracle-working, heaven-creating God of the old theology; nay, he is our enemy to the extent that men are led to give to him the tasks and trust him for the results which they should accomplish themselves. There is a miracle-working, a heaven-creating power in ourselves. So long as we pray, this divinity is dishonored. Until he awakes, there is no salvation.
Unitarianism does not see this, and does not because of what I must call — and this is my third point — its general lack of seriousness in treating of the issues of the day. Nowhere is this better shown than in its attitude toward this subject of prayer. Prayer for temporal things, for rain or fair weather, for food or shelter, Unitarians do not make, except by a slip of the tongue; but they pray for spiritual blessings, for the kingdom of God. But are not these just the things that need praying for the least, that are most within our own power ? Eain or fair weather are very evidently in some other control than our own; but purity, charity, truth, how can these ever come to us save by our willing to have them ? A perfect order of society, how can it ever dawn on the earth save as man sets his heart upon it and determines that it shall be ? Certainly these are the best things, and if prayer would bring them, they would be the most worth praying for; but because they are the best, ay, the most sacred things, therefore all the more scrupulous should we be in laying hold of only the true and effectual means for getting them. The difference between those who do not pray and those who do, is not in any lessened value the former set on these higher things, or in any diminished aspiration or craving for them, but simply in the sense of the law of cause and effect. Rain does not come save as there are certain conditions in the atmosphere; truth, justice, and the reign of the right can no more come save as there are certain conditions in the human soul, certain widespread dispositions in human society. Prayer is a survival from an old uncritical, unscientific habit of mind; it remains with men today chiefly because it is a habit; it remains above all with Unitarians, who are rationalized in so many ways, almost purely and solely because it is a habit. And they do not see that it is a confusing habit, to abandon which is not to give up a form or a few words merely, but to recognize the change of view that has come over the world in respect to the means of accomplishing the highest and dearest ends. Jesus did not vaguely aspire for the kingdom of God; nor did his followers, when, after he had gone on high as they imagined, they besought him to come again quickly : they believed he would come, and he believed that the faith which might remove mountains could also be answered by the establishment of the Divine Kingdom. How vain then is it to repeat his or their language, when the mighty belief that was in it is no longer ours! Let those who have a new belief not dally with an old form. Let us appeal to men as fervently and with as absolute a faith as ever of old prompted prayer to God; and the slumbering divinity that lies down deep in us all will arise, and, loosed from his bonds, go forth to recreate the world.