Monday, August 29, 2016

Regulating spiritual vs temporal affairs

"There is no distinction between things spiritual and things temporal. The two are so intimately connected by the Author of our nature that no human power can separate the one from the other. The subject of all government is man; but man is a spirit, and it is because he is a spirit that he is capable of government. A corpse cannot be governed, nor can it perform the most ordinary functions of life. There is a mental or spiritual element in sweeping a room or mending a pen. When we get to the higher functions of life, the distinction between spiritual and temporal becomes unmeaning. Take, for instance, the case of a war. War is always described as a temporal matter, the highest manifestation of the secular power; but surely there is nothing which makes greater demands upon all that is spiritual--upon courage, upon conscience, upon every moral faculty whatever. What, then, is the sense of the assertion that to go to battle is a secular act, and to go to prayers a spiritual act? Is there any subject in the world on which a man who really believed in prayer would pray with more intense earnestness than the question whether or not he should lend his influence to peace or to war? Is there any higher religious duty than that of manfully carrying on a just war and inflexibly opposing an unjust one? The only real ground for the distinction is the desire to protect particular religious bodies, especially the Roman Catholic Church, from inquiry. It is the bait which the priest holds out to the layman--“Let me alone, and I’ll let you alone. You shall have all that you really care for--noise, excitement, wealth, and power; leave the soul to me.” An honest man or nation will refuse the offer with disgust. The use of wealth and power and hard work is to educate the soul, and if that is to be privately drugged with narcotics by a representative of the “principle of authority” the rest matters very little."

(from "Carlier's Early History of the American States", review by James Fitzjames Stephen, in Saturday Review, 2 April 1864)

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