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OBJECTIONS TO THE PROGRESS OF CHRISTIANITY CONSIDERED.
"C'est mal raisonner contre la religion de rassembler dans un grand ouvrage une longue enumeration des maux qu'elle a produits, si l'on ne fait de même celle des biens qu'elle a faits."—Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, xxiv., ii.
"Not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless Itfe."—tyib. bii. 16.
§ i. r I AHE many forms of Religion which have Religion played their part on the stage of the a mode of
world's history, have sometimes been held to be femorabut different modes of proclaiming the same morallltytruths.1 It is these which are regarded as the true salt of society, the ever-resumed heritage of the whole human race. "All religions," said Diderot, "are but the sects of the one Religion of Nature." I do not now stay to inquire what such a religion is; whether altogether reasoned out, or itself the gift of a primary revelation: whether it exists; whether it corresponds to the actual beliefs of the lower races; whether it could Relation
ever become adequate to the moral wants of man- Canity to a kind; whether it be not Christian morality with of Nature, the omission of all that is Christian, with its proofs
1 SeeComte, Phil. Pos., IV. 77. The teaching of the School of Kant regards ecclesiastical beliefs as the vehicle for conveying truths of pure, t". e. natural, religion. See Mr. Lecky's remarks, Mist. Hat., I. 329. Compare H. J. Rose, Eitt. Prot. in Germany, p. 143. Its effect, as Dr. Farrar, B. L., p. 323, has tersely remarked, is " to destroy Revelation by leaving nothing to be revealed." The Gospel thus only makes legible the eternal Law of Nature written in the heart.
drawn from reason, and not from Revelation. What hinders, however, that such a religion, acknowledging, as it needs must, from the side of experience a sense of sin, even points to a remedy which is found only in the revelation of a Mediator ?1 Such a fact, then, and the system of which it is a part, does not supersede or contrasupple- diet the instincts of Natural Religion. It rather contra-' completes and supplements them, and shows the dictory. (}urjgtjan faith to be itself in a manner natural. The objection, however, implied is really this: that Christianity, while no doubt "as old as the implied creation," is unfortunately also no newer. It is
objection , .
against the no more than a re-publication of the Religion of
originality ... „ •,. . .
and useful- Nature. For the principles of morality, it is religion, implied, are in effect few and simple, incapable of enlargement or multiplication. Obscured they may have been from time to time in the progress of ages and by the circumstances of mankind. But positive religions, while they have done much to impede the recognition of these principles, have
1 "The matter of Revelation is not a mere collection of truths, not a philosophical view, not a religious sentiment or spirit, not a special morality poured out upon mankind as a stream might pour itself into the sea, mixing with the world's thought, modifying, purifying, invigorating it; but an authoritative teaching, . . a religion in addition to the religion of nature, not superseding or contradicting it."—L H. Newman, Qramm. of Assent, pp. 382, 479. See Dr. Mozley in Cont. Rev., VII. On the relation of Christianity to natural religion, see Chalmers, Bridg. Tr., sub finem. He concludes: "Natural theology has been called the basis of Christianity: it were better called the basis of Christianization."
succeeded but poorly in exhibiting their truth, or in facilitating their reception.
§ 2. The error in these assumptions seems to Error in lie in the supposition that all the particulars of assumpmoral truth have been from the first well known and understood: or that they are in their own nature incapable of further development. Some who have justly seen that morality has really been progressive, have preferred to attribute the result to improved knowledge rather than to the influence of religious ideas. Can it, however, be Morality
. . really pro
seriously maintained, with any show of reason, gressive. that the whole aspect of moral truths in the history of our race has been stationary? that there is really nothing to be found in the world which has undergone so little change as those great dogmas of which moral systems are composed ;1 or again, to use the words of a powerful though hasty objector, that " to assert that Christianity communicated to man moral truths previously unknown, argues, on the part of the assertor, either gross ignorance or else wilful fraud." *' All the great moral systems," he adds,a "which have exercised much influence have been fundamentally the same: all the great intellectual systems have been fundamentally different." So, then, all
1 Buckle, Hist. Civ., I. 180, who adduces Kant's authority to the same effect. See, however, Lange's counter-criticism, Qesch. des Matcrialismus, pp. 511, 512.
* Bucklo, u. s., p. 181.