Religion, in some shape
by J. C. Philpot
Religion, in some shape or other, is indispensable
to the very existence of civilized society. Crude, wandering tribes, like
the Australian negro or the North American Red Indian, may exist without any
public mode of worship or any outward acknowledgment of a Supreme Being,
though even these poor outcasts have some dim notion of "The Great Spirit;"
but man, in a state of society, can no more live without some recognized
form of religion than he can exist without laws or government, property or
marriage. Society has to be held together from within as well as from
without. Law and government, the rights of property and the divine
institution of marriage, as clamps and girders, bind together society from
without; religion, as mortar, binds together society from within. When
society is broken to pieces, it is either by atheism springing a mine from
within, or by anarchy battering down the walls from without.
The first French Revolution gave fearful proof of this.
It commenced in atheism and ended in anarchy, until, after
rivers of blood had been shed, tyranny stepped in to chain up the
tigers and hyaenas which were ravaging the land; and one of its first acts
was to restore the worship of a Supreme Being. So Socialism, that Satanic
plot against God and man, loudly proclaims its abhorrence of property, of
marriage, and of religion—the three grand elements of civilized society,
without which our fair country would be a wide scene of robbery, carnage,
lust, and blasphemy.
But let us not be misunderstood. When we speak of
religion in this wide, general sense, we mean by the term not that true
religion which is the special fruit of the Spirit. There is a natural
religion as well as a spiritual religion. Natural conscience is the
seat of the former; a spiritual conscience the seat of the latter. One is of
the flesh, the other of the Spirit; one for time, the other for eternity;
one for the world, the other for the elect; one to animate and bind men
together as component members of society, the other to animate and bind the
children of God together as component members of the mystical body of
Christ. True religion is what the world does not want, nor does true
religion want the world. The two are as separate as Christ and Belial.
But some religion the world must have; and as it will
not have and cannot have the true, it will and must have the false. True
religion is spiritual and experimental, heavenly and divine, the gift and
work of God, the birthright and privilege of the election of grace, the
peculiar possession of the heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. This
the world has not, for it is God's enemy not his friend, walking in the
broad way which leads to perdition, not in the narrow way which leads to
But a religion without God is a nonentity; and since
Christ has come into the world, and Christianity, as it is termed, is
generally established, a religion without Christ becomes a contradiction.
As, too, the Scriptures have been translated into different languages and
are widely spread and much read, a national creed must to a certain extent
embrace what is taught in the Scriptures, or men will instinctively see that
the religion professed is not that which the word of God has revealed and
brought to light.
But religion having thus become general cannot exist
without an order of men to teach it and practice its ceremonies.
Hence come clergy, forming a recognized priestly caste; and as these must,
to avoid confusion, be governed, all large corporate bodies requiring a
controlling power, thence come bishops and archbishops, ecclesiastical
courts, archdeacons, and the whole apparatus of clerical government. The
ceremonies and ordinances cannot be carried on without buildings set
apart for the purpose; thence churches and cathedrals. As prayer is a part
of all religious worship, and carnal men cannot, for lack of the Holy
Spirit, pray spiritually, they must have forms of devotion made ready
to their hand thence come prayer-books and liturgies. As there must be
mutual points of agreement to hold men together, there must be written
formulas of doctrine; thence come articles, creeds, and confessions of
faith. And finally, not to prolong to weariness this part of our subject, as
there are children to be instructed, and this cannot be safely left to oral
teaching, for fear of ignorance in some and error in others, the very form
of instruction must be drawn up in so many words; thence come catechisms.
People are puzzled sometimes to know why there is this
and that thing in an established religion—why we have churches and
clergy, tithes and prayer-books, Universities and catechisms, and the whole
apparatus of an Establishment, from the Queen, the head, down to the sexton,
the tail. They do not see that all these things have sprung, as it were, out
of a moral necessity, and are based upon the very constitution of man; that
this great and widespread tree of a national religion has its deep roots in
the natural conscience; and that all these branches necessarily and
naturally grow out of the broad and lofty stem.