There is one further notion of deity that demands recognition in this brief summary, the notion, namely, of the supreme deity. As men develop in intelligence, imagination, and in range of social intercourse, it is inevitable that one god should be exalted above all others, or worshiped to the exclusion of all others. Such a religious conception arises from the experience of the unity of nature or of the unity of man. There is an evident hierarchy among the powers of nature; some are subordinated to others, and it is natural to conceive of one as supreme. Most evident to sense is the exultation of the heavens above the earth and the intermediate spaces. So we find Heaven to be supreme God among the Chinese, and Zeus among the Greeks. On the other hand, there is a hierarchy among tutelary and ancestral gods. As the patron gods of individuals, of special arts, or of tribes and provinces are subordinated to the national god, so the national god in turn is subjected to the god of a conquering nation. Allied with the idea of universal conquest is the idea of an all-dominant god, the god of the ruling class. Or a tutelary god may be universal in proportion to the universality of the activity over which he presides. The gods of the same activity though belonging originally to different cults may come to be identified; so that there arises the conception of a god that shall be universal in the sense of presiding over the common undertaking in which all men are engaged. And similarly the god from whom all men are descended will take precedence of the gods of families, tribes, and nations. Thus there are several more or less independent motives which may lead to a universal religion, such as Christianity, whose god is a god of all men, regardless of time, place, race, or station.

Deity, then, in the generic sense common to all religions, high and low, is some force beyond the range of man’s control, potent over his fortunes, construed as friendly or hostile, and so treated as to secure, if possible, its favor and support. It is important in the next place to point out two different motives in worship, connected with two different ways in which the worshiper and his god may be brought into unison. To put it briefly, one may propose to have one’s own way, or surrender to the god’s way. This is the religious application of the fact that there are two ways to obtain satisfaction and peace of mind; to get what one wants, or to want what one gets. Religion may be said always to lie somewhere between these two extremes. It is natural and reasonable to try the former method first. And this is undoubtedly the earlier motive in worship. Man wants food, and long life, and victory over his enemies, and he seeks to gain the deity’s support in these undertakings. But there is never a time when he does not recognize the necessity of making concessions. He pays sacrifices, or observes taboo, or adopts the code of conduct which his god prescribes. And it is the common religious experience that the conditions of divine favor become more exacting, while the benefit is less evident. Thus there arises what philosophers call the problem of evil, of which the classic Christian expression is to be found in the Book of Job,〖H. C., xliv, 71ff.〗 who “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil,” and nevertheless was visited with every misery and disaster. In so far as Job solved this problem he found the solution in entire surrender to the will of God. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Nevertheless in the end “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Certainly a religion of utter renunciation would be no religion at all. There would be no motive in worship unless one were in some sense blessed thereby. The tendency in the evolution of religion is to substitute for the carnal or worldly blessing for which one had at first invoked divine aid a new and higher good which one learns to find in the mode of life which religion prescribes. Religion becomes thus not merely instrumental, but educative. From it one learns not so much the way to satisfy one’s natural and secular wants, as the way to despise those wants and set one’s heart on other things. It is this mingled self-assertion and self-surrender in religion that makes reverence its characteristic emotion. God is both the means by which one realizes one’s end, and also a higher law by which one’s end is reconstructed.

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