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He cast off the creeds, doubted and criticized, and was all the more truly religious and all the better morally. The only real safety of religion and morality lies in such rationalism as he manifested, in such freedom as he achieved, and in such thoroughness as he exemplified.

The deeper moral of the poem points not only to freedom of thought, but to thought worthy of freedom. It is not enough to be free to think; there should be deep, persistent, strenuous thinking. Intelligence is the first ground of liberty. A learned nation cannot be enslaved either by king or priest. The poem also points to progressiveness in religion. Though the Cotter prepared a manual of devotion for his children it was not a dogmatic document, but was designed to stimulate and direct. That manual cut those who used it away from the creeds, but it connected them with the living God whose manifestation in Nature was continuous, and whose inspiration of humanity was constant. It showed them principles that better than dogmas, and presented to them a method of knowledge the application of which led them into a boundless region of Truth. It taught them openmindedness, comprehensiveness, and sym pathy, and gave them the stimulating hope of More Light.'


And in this connexion we see in the genial reasonableness of the Cotter a prophecy of that Mightier church .. whose covenant word Shall be the deeds of love. Not Credo thenAmo shall be the passport through its gates. Man shall not ask his brother any more · Believest thou ?'but' Lovest thou ? 'and all Shall answer at God's altar, ‘Lord, I love.'

And, deeper than all, the poem stands for the scientific method in religion. The superstitious, traditional, and dogmatic method was discarded by the Cotter. The

Aul' Clay Biggan' was open to the New Light' from whatever quarter it would come. The Cotter was not afraid to read heretical books and meet modern views ; he had no dread of reason, no closed faculty. He read his Bible with his brains, and sought for all manner of helps to the mind. There were books in the ‘ Biggan' such as there were not even in Judge Auchinleck’s library at Dr. Johnson's visit, when Burns was in his fifteenth year. There was Biblical Science and much else extraordinary in that little sanctuary before the like was heard of elsewhere, and all on account of the enthusiastic mental vigour of one man. The most radical need in religion to-day in Scotland is men of mental determination like his. A virtuous populace would rise from such.

Ought we not, as countrymen of the Cotter and admirers of the poem in which his integrity is enshrined, to cultivate a religious freedom and earnestness like his, put reason into religion, let science touch the soul with its broadening intelligence, make our homes sanctuaries of high thought and pure affection, and our country a holy land ? Shall we not help to raise the 'wall of fire around our much loved isle,' by building up the ' dignity of man,' and making the man of independent mind '—the man with ‘soul erect,' the man of the future ?


It is well known that we are in the midst of a vast movement of change in religious thought and life, a movement of mingled construction and destruction, whose beginnings, if we can date them at all, are from the Reformation, and whose end no man living can foresee.

This movement is not the work specially of any one of the various religious bodies as compared with others. It has had many simultaneous beginnings. No denomination, sect, or party, no single group of men, can claim as their own peculiar privilege to have originated it or to guide it. The true claim that the people called Unitarians can make is, not that they have originated the new spirit that has entered into the religious world, but that they were among the first to feel it and respond to it. They may also most justly claim that, in


the face of much bitter prejudice, they have done their part in helping forward the spiritual emancipation of humanity. Even those religious communities who have been unconscious of this movement as affecting themselves, and some who have bitterly fought against it, have been deeply affected by it. They have moved like that party of explorers in the Arctic regions, who were travelling to the North over what seemed to be a limitless expanse of ice, which, though they did not know it, was a vast ice-floe, drifting slowly but irresistibly to the South, and carrying all on its surface with it.

What more usually happens, however, is that a number of tendencies, which existed already in a half-conscious state, more suddenly become conscious of themselves collectively, and of their combined mission. As time has gone on, this has taken place in so many different religious bodies, and from so many different points of view, that there is an accumulating aggregate of unconcerted movements, of which we can say that, one and all, they are endeavours

or less

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