We are now living through the period of demolition. In morals, in social
life, in politics, in medicine, and in religion, there is a universal
upturning of foundations.
But the day of reconstruction seems to be looming in the orient, and now
the grand question is, Are there any sure and universal principles that
will evolve a harmonious system in which all shall agree? Or, is the
only unity to be anticipated that which results from the unsatisfactory
conclusion that all must “agree to disagree?”
The first alternative is believed to be in our future; and it is hoped
that this volume will contribute something toward evolving such
principles of reconstruction.
In some happily constituted minds and singularly favorable
circumstances, the passages of this life are almost uniformly happy, and
no clouds ever shut out the sunshine of a cheerful existence.
But, as a general rule, the farther we advance in life, the more solemn
become our convictions that its experiences are stormy, sad,
disappointing, and unsatisfactory. And the nobler the mind and the more
exalted its aspirations, the more surely are these lessons read and
If we turn aside from the lower haunts of poverty, vice, and crime, and
look only at the more favored classes, we find men toiling for years and
years to build up schemes which, in some sudden shock, crumble and pass
away; or, are their high hopes accomplished, some bitter ingredient
mingles with the cup of success, that turns it to gall.
And so, in heart-histories, the tenderest ties are formed, as it would
seem, only to be wrenched and torn. The young heart gives its fresh
impassioned love to its appropriate object, and, just at the happy
consummation, death or desertion forever ends life’s brightest
The young parents receive their first-born with untold rapture, and then
some disease or accident turns it to a hopeless idiot or ceaseless
The young husband lays at once his first love and his first born in the
same grave. The tender parents spend years and years of care and effort
to rear a darling child, and at the culmination of their hopes the
flower is cut down.
Business or misfortune severs those whose chief happiness would be to
live together. The long-tried friends of early life are thrown into
painful antagonisms that end their friendship. The conflicts of interest
and party develop conduct and character that shatter confidence in men
and tempt to misanthropy.
In short, there are seasons when a thoughtful and tender spirit is
tempted to feel as if some malignant power were commissioned to seek out
all that is most beautiful, harmonious, and delightful in the experience
of our race, only to imbitter, confound, and destroy.
And even where the experience of life has been the most favorable, as
its closing years come on early friends pass away, the capacities and
resources of enjoyment diminish, and the dim cloud that shrouds the
closing vista awakens solemn and anxious meditations on the untried and
silent future. Such experiences bring forth the heart-yearning questions
that come, as it were, from the united voice of sad and suffering
“Is there a God that controls the destinies of man? If so, what are his
character and designs? Is this sad life our only portion, or shall we
live beyond the grave? If there is another life before us, what
influence has our conduct and character here on its solemn destinies?
Are we left to our own unaided faculties to reason out from the nature
of things around us the replies to these momentous questions, or has the
Author of our being given some direct revelation to guide us?
If such a revelation exists, is it made accessible to all, or must one
portion of our race necessarily depend on fallible and interested
Does this revelation agree with reason and experience, and does it
contain all that we need both for safe guidance and for peace of mind?”
It is believed that, in the following pages, it will be seen that every
mind, of even only ordinary capacity, is furnished with the means of
answering all these questions, and with as much certainty as appertains
to the ordinary practical questions of this life.
At the same time, it will appear that most of the difficulties and
diversities of opinions in religious matters have mainly resulted from
neglecting these means of obtaining truth and peace, and that the “good
times coming” are all depending on the proper use of these means.
As introductory to the first main topic, it is important to refer to the
fact that, in all languages, man is recognized as possessing what is
called _reason_. He is called a _reasonable_ being and a _reasoning_
being, and it is claimed that it is his reason that places him at the
head of creation in this world.
Again, in discussions on truth and duty, all men seem to agree that
there is such a thing as _reason_, and that it is, more or less, to be
made the umpire in settling all disputed points. It is true that very
few seem to have a clear and definite idea of what this reason is, or
how it is to be made an umpire. But all allow that there is such a
thing, and that it has a very important office in deciding questions of
truth and duty.
Then, again, among more scientific men, we hear constant reference made
to our “intuitions” and our “intuitive knowledge,” as if there were some
fixed truths which are superior to all others. It is true, that when we
come to inquire specifically as to what are these intuitions, we often
find them to be acquired notions, and sometimes such as are unsupported
by any evidence, or even contrary to the best kind of evidence.
Nevertheless, those who use these terms all agree in the fact that there
are “intuitions” and “intuitive knowledge,” which are superior to any
other kinds of knowledge, and involve a certainty of conviction which no
reasoning can overthrow.
Then, as we advance still higher in the world of letters, we find
metaphysicians and philosophers assuming that a belief in certain truths
is implanted in all rational minds by the Creator as a necessary part of
their constitution, and that these truths are the foundation of most of
our acquired knowledge. The truths or principles of mind thus recognized
are called by various names, such as _reason_, the _principles of
reason_, the _primary truths_, the _intuitions_, the _intuitive truths_,
the _fundamental truths_, the _principles of common sense_, the
The grand difficulty on this subject has been, that while all agree in
the existence of such implanted truths, there has never been any _test_
for deciding which are these truths, in distinction from our acquired
It is the object of the succeeding chapter to present the most important
of these truths, and also to set forth an infallible test by which they
may be distinguished from every other kind of knowledge.
And this attempt is made with a full conviction that success in such an
effort is to be the foundation of that harmony of reconstruction which
has been indicated as provided for the future.