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A NON-ETHICAL MONIST

No farther shoot

Thy broad ambitious branches, and thy root.
Fancy departs: no more invent;
Contract thy firmament

To compass of a tent.'

As the bird trims her to the gale,
I trim myself to the storm of time,
I man the rudder, reef the sail,

Obey the voice at eve obeyed at prime:
'Lowly faithful, banish fear,

Right onward drive unharmed;

The port, well worth the cruise, is near,
And every wave is charmed.'

This is beautiful and impressive; but it gives no ground for trust to a sinner. The apostle has a better hope; knows whom he has believed; and is persuaded that he will keep that which he has committed to him against the great inevitable day. Aye, more than this, he has a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a monist. He held that there is but one substance, ground, or principle of being, namely, God. Scripture asserts this doctrine, when it teaches the divine omnipresence and immanence. If Emerson had taught only this, he might have been of unqualified benefit to his generation. But Scripture teaches other truths which qualify this-I mean the truth of God's transcendence and personality, and the truth of man's distinct personality as reflecting the personality of God. There are two sorts of monism— an ethical monism which recognizes these ethical facts in God and in man, and a non-ethical monism which ignores or denies them. It was a non-ethical monism

THE AUTHORITY OF NATURAL IMPULSE ΙΟΙ

to which Emerson held. Deity so absorbed humanity that there was little room left for freedom, or responsibility, or sin, or guilt, or atonement, or retribution. Unitarianism demonstrated its logical insufficiency by its lapse from ethical standards. The high Arianism of Channing degenerated into the halffledged pantheism of Emerson. While we recognize the great truth which Emerson proclaimed-the truth of metaphysical monism, or the doctrine of one substance, principle, or ground of being-we must also insist on the complementary truth which he ignored or denied the truth of psychological dualism, or the doctrine that man's soul is personally distinct from matter on the one hand, and from God on the other.

Emerson did not regard himself as a pantheist. He cared little for names. He was bent only upon seizing whatever truth there was in pantheism, while he still held to the essentials of theism. But he was unconsciously influenced by naturalistic prepossessions, and he did not sufficiently realize that nature must be interpreted by man, and not man by nature. The God that nature gave him was a God devoid of moral attributes, a God who was author of evil as well as of good, a God who manifested himself only in law, a God who could hold no personal intercourse with his creatures, a God incapable of revelation or redemption. Man is thrown back upon his own powers. The only God he knows is in his own soul. An exaggerated self-appreciation takes the place of worship; natural impulse becomes the only authority; self-realization is the only end. Thus a non-ethical monism is ultimate deification of self, and Emerson is "the friend and

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THE DRIFT OF EMERSON'S INFLUENCE

aider of those who would live in the spirit," not in the sense of leading them to receive and obey the Spirit of God, but by blinding them to the truth and giving them over to the spirit of evil.

In his early days Emerson quoted with approbation our Saviour's words, "If ye do my Father's will, ye shall know of the doctrine." It was not an exact quotation, but it had awakened a responsive emotion in his heart. We are led to wonder what Emerson's influence would have been, if he had heeded that admonition and had yielded his allegiance to him whom God has sent to reveal and to save. That matchless gift of fresh and incisive utterance might then have been used in winning men to Christ, whereas it has often drawn men away from him; it might have led men through Christ to God, whereas it has often held before them a vague abstraction which eludes while it attracts. The God of the pantheist is no God for the ignorant or the sinful or the dying. In so far as he taught men of a present God in nature and in history, we can apply to him the words of Christ, "He that is not against us is for us." But in so far as he ignored and denied Christ's deity and atonement and authority, Dr. William Hague's judgment upon Emerson must be ours-a judgment all the more fitting because it repeats the words of Christ himself: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."

Emerson died on the twenty-seventh day of April, 1882. Cabot tells us, very simply and beautifully, that on the following Sunday, April the thirtieth, in Sleepy Hollow, a grove consecrated as a burial-place on the

IN THE CATHEDRAL OF NATURE

103

edge of the village of Concord, and at the foot of a tall pine tree upon the top of the ridge in the highest part of the grounds, Emerson's body was laid, not far from the graves of Hawthorne and of Thoreau, and surrounded by those of his kindred. His mortal remains rest in the Cathedral of Nature, whose life he strove to absorb and to interpret; and since he uttered at least some truth of value to his generation and to the world, we may still say:

Speak no more of his renown,
Lay your earthly fancies down,

And in the vast cathedral leave him,
God accept him, Christ receive him!

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