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may not this Church dictate the religion of the future? Be. cause, like every other party in the Church, it would rest our faith on history. And though, “in this case, it is history corroborated by consciousness, not opposed thereto,” under no conditions is it probable, argues Miss Cobbe, that history can furnish the ultimate sources of faith. Consciousness illustrated and confirmed by history, - on this rock would she place the corner-stone of her Theistic Church. To the elucidation and proof of this position she devotes the closing chapters of her book.
This book, which is worth a dozen of the “Ecce Homo," and still more rash and ill-digested “Ecce-Deus," sort, though written primarily for Englishmen, deals unavoidably with questions that concern us all. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear this bit of admonition:
“ The Unitarians, while giving to him [God] alone the name of God,' and jealously reserving it and all acts of worship for him, have yet persisted in giving to Christ that position which practically to us, as moral beings, is a divine one, namely, that of our moral Lord and teacher, and future judge. This doctrine involves in itself the essential evil of Trinitarianism ; nay, goes beyond it. It signifies exceedingly little to us, in a spiritual sense, whether more superhuman beings than One have a right to the title of God, or what we think about the eternity or self-existence of the Deity. What does signify to us, spiritually, is the question, Who is our moral Master? To whom do we owe allegiance? Who has taught us (whether internally or externally) the law of duty ? Whom do we obey or offend, as we regard or disregard that law? Who watches our obedience now? Who judges us now and for all eternity? These questions touch the very heart of religion. To present to our minds a second Lord, another Master, Teacher, Judge, destroys for us the whole moral value of the doctrine of the unity of God. Nay, with all respect, I would urge the question on Unitarians, whether they do not here fall into an error worse than that of the Trinitarian ? If we are to believe in two moral Lords, – a great Lord and a lesser Lord; a king and his vicegerent, — is it not better to believe that these two are one and the same Lord ? From this persistence in holding by the doctrine of the moral lordship of Christ, after they have rejected that Trinitarian hypothesis on which such a doctrine could be properly based, the Unitarians may surely
trace their small hold upon the minds of men, as compared with the claims they might otherwise justly make upon the largest sympathy. That one half-note wrong in their beautiful psalm seems to have made it lose all its reverberating power” (pp. 124, 125).
There are in this volume many points of interest upon which we cannot touch. Especially interesting is her review of Renan, with which we by no means wholly agree; and very noble, certainly, is her definition of the spiritual rank of Jesus: “He must surely have been the man who best fulfilled all the conditions under which God grants his inspiration." But her talk of the regenerate and unregenerate smacks almost too strongly of the very same old bottles into which she has averred so stoutly that our new wine ought never to be poured, unless it is her justification that she has mixed enough of the old wine with the new to render any serious amount of fermentation quite impossible. And after all her trouble over the psychology of Mill, which resolves her intuitions into results of cerebral association, and all her dread of his utilitarian theory of morals, it must be quite refreshing to her to find him so energetically affirming * her own central thought, “If God is good, he is good in our sense of the word;” and declaring, that, though utility is the basis, it is not the motive, of our moral action. Indeed, except in Miss Cobbe's own writings, we know not where to look for sterner rebukes of the “ celestial prudence” of the popular theology, than abound in the writings of John Stuart Mill.
Not in the order of time, but in the order of significance, we now come to Miss Cobbe's greatest work, and that by which she is most widely known, — “Intuitive Morals.” But of this book it is not necessary that we should here say any thing special. It has been before the public several years; and very beautiful and blessed has its mission been. For many a struggling one beset with doubts, it has bridged a gulf that seemed impassable, and borne him over into “new, firm lands” of faith and joy. Its trumpet-tones have roused many a drowsy
* Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, vol. i.
soul from the long sleep of a traditional faith, to face-and-face communion with the highest truth. We well remember with what pleasure we were swept along by its majestic current, when we first launched upon it, several years ago; and how hard it was to check the almost irresistible impulse to write to the author, and inform her of our admiration for her book. At the time of its appearance, it was reviewed, at length, in the “ Examiner;" and, from the praise there given, we cannot find it in our head, and much less in our heart, to subtract the smallest particle. And yet it is not for the most obvious characteristics of the book that we now value it most highly. It might be far less strong than it is in its opposition to sensational psychology and the doctrine of utility, and our total impression of the book would not be very different from what it now is. Miss Cobbe does well to insist, beforehand, that the value of her work does not depend on the correctness of her metaphysics. But sometimes she seems to forget this, and to speak as if the moral welfare of the race were staked on certain theories, which failing of acceptance, the reign of conscience would be over. Therefore it is that we are often led to wish that Miss Cobbe had developed the ideas contained in this book, after having seen more of the world, instead of in her solitude, before the rare experience of men and women which she afterward enjoyed, had deepened and enlarged her character, and humanized the various aspects of her thought. Hardly could any experience add much to her already rich and glowing consciousness of God or to her abstract faith in man. But, if we are not much mistaken, she has a great deal more faith in men and women now than she had ten years ago. A little more of this would have dispelled the fears which sometimes haunt her pages, – that virtue is at the mercy of our metaphysics. For ourselves, we believe that every thinker, thinking honestly, will add something to the truth, however hostile to our views of truth at any given time his theories may be. Let Bain and Mill and Spencer say their strongest word: if they are seeking for the truth, it will not lead them or their followers astray. We do not believe that any man has been made worse by sitting at the feet of these men, or ever will be, though their philosophy is any thing but intuitive. Let their unwearying analysis go on; and, in whatever direction it may carry them, it ought not to be doubted, that a grander synthesis will be the ultimate result. And, in the mean time, we are sure that every earnest moralist, untrammelled by tradition, will be in practical accord with every other. In given circumstances, Frances Power Cobbe and John Stuart Mill would act with a strange unanimity, considering that their theories of morals seem to be so far apart.
The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life; and it is the spirit which pervades “ Intuitive Morals” that impresses us most deeply with its worth. Of the main truth of its philosophy we are profoundly convinced, and believe that the most that cerebral psychology can do, with its magnificent array, is to force Spiritualism * back on its reserves, strengthened by which it shall again sweep every thing before it. But the sublime unselfishness, that makes these pages radiantly beautiful, is quite independent of the philosophy which they set forth. “Do right for the right's sake; love God and goodness because they are good,” - this is the constantly-recurring admonition for which her book has been so highly prized. And in its practical bearings there is no philosophy that can break its force. And indeed there is no philosophy, independent of religion, that pretends to do this. It is only when religion of an unworthy type steals for a time the garment of philosophy, and with it tries to hide its naked ugliness, that “enlightened selfishness" is set forth as the highest rule of life. Against this rule, in all its shifting forms, the chapters of “Intuitive Morals” wage a continuous, unsparing, and successful war.
Not the least valuable portions of the book are those criticisms of current theological conceptions, which, for the most part, are introduced as notes, expanding and illustrating the body of the work. Our readers, for the most part, may have got so bravely over these conceptions, tliat they may not appreciate the force of the remarks by which they are here overthrown; for, when they are once overthrown in one's own
* Not Spiritism, which is the most materialistic movement of the age.
mind, it seems as if they ought to fall in other minds by their own weight. But it is very seldom that they do. The strongest arguments are oftener of no avail, else would there be no Calvinists upon the earth to-day; for, logically, they have been routed more than a thousand times. But, when arguments can hope to avail any thing, these of Miss Cobbe's ought to be very mighty for the tearing down of strongholds where the various forms of orthodoxy are entrenched. Sooner or later, every distinctive doctrine of supernatural orthodoxy gets its deathblow at her hands. But orthodoxy has a great deal of that convenient ignorance which sometimes makes a general so successful in the field. It never knows when it is whipped.
The promise of “Intuitive Morals” was, that it should be followed by two other volumes, - one, dealing with the social and personal duties of man; the other, with his duties towards God., Only the second half of this promise has been kept. The first half has been withdrawn. But what would have constituted a very important chapter in this part of her work, had it been written, has been worked up into one of the best essays in her “ Studies, Ethical and Social,” on “ The Rights of Man and the Claims of Brutes,” — an earnest and admirable discussion of a question that receives almost as little theoretical as practical consideration, and that is indeed very little. The fault of this essay, as of several others, is that it threatens never to get fairly under way. We are kept so long standing in the vestibule, that, when we are admitted to the house, we are in a better mood to criticise than to enjoy. And highly as we should prize a complete work from Miss Cobbe, on the great subject of which this essay forms a part, it is not as if Herbert Spencer had not written “ Social Statics,” the most popular of all his works, which opens with an onslaught on the “greatesthappiness” philosophy, which can hardly be surpassed in vigor and conclusiveness.
" Religious Duty" does not impress us as a book well calculated, upon the whole, to do the work for which it is designed; i.e., to make religious duty more abound. If any subject, from its very nature, demands a rich and flowing treatment, it is this; but, unfortunately, it is just here that Miss Cobbe sinks