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the per- possession of Divine Truth, its announcements are
of Chris- to be considered final, or, at least, as preparative1 to from the one complete scheme. A concluding argument will of its doc- hence arise in favour of the truth of Christianity from the universality of its tenets and their adaptation to the history and circumstances of mankind, warranting in this manner its assumption of doctrinal finality. If its morality is sound and universal; its type of character perfect and complete, not partial, national, local, or generic,2 but correspondent to the unity of our race; if its revelations, replacing earlier creeds and inheriting all they held of truth, reach on to the horizon of humanity, and assure for ever the destinies of man, we need not greatly fear for the future of a Religion which can only be coeval with our race. Present We now proceed to examine, in the first place, the into the character and extent of the influence exercised by extent of"1 Christianity at various periods on the consciences
the in- c •. ,
fiuence of ot its converts.
tknlty as § 2. It has been asked by a leading thinker of
a7<irfferent 'Such fls tne Mosaic system; which cannot therefore be properly periods. attacked, as it has been by Kant and others (see Religion innerhalb, &c„ Werke, VI. 301, ed. Hartenstein), as not Divine, because it did not preach immortality. Warburton's proposition on this subject is well known.
2 "The ceremonial law was succeeded by a pure and spiritual worship, equally adapted to all climates, as well as to every condition of mankind."—Gibbon, c. xv. Compare Palmer (Treatise on the Church, I. vii.) on the catholicity of Christianity. "The New Testament," says Prof. Seoley, Led. and Essays, p. 276, " is the text-book of universal or natural morality." On the objection that if Christianity be in harmony witli human nature, it may be viewed as a human invention, see Merivale, Conv. of N. Nations, p. 3.
our time,1 " what are the conditions necessary to constitute a religion?" "There must," he replies, "be a creed, or conviction, claiming authority over the whole of human life; a belief or set of beliefs PreHmi
t i . nary ex
deliberately adopted respecting human destiny and amination duty, to which the believer inwardly acknowledges elements that all his actions ought to be subordinate. More- to the sucover, there must be a sentiment connected with religious this creed, or capable of being evoked by it, suffi-system' ciently powerful to give it, in fact, the authority over human conduct to which it lays claim in theory." In other words, the success of a religion may be held to result from the relation of its doctrines to the organ of belief in man, from the convictions which it furnishes to the faculty of Faith. For Faith, the outcome of our spiritual nature in its apprehension of G-od, is the vital spark of all Religion. If Faith be on the wane, there is a canker at ««■ the re
• • lationofits
the root of the creed. 1 he external organization, doctrines the ecclesiastical arrangements, may look vigorous principle enough, but the end draws on. In criticising, then, the claims of a religion to acceptance from the side of experience, i. e. from its past success and present
1 Mr. J. S. Mill, A. Comte and Positivism, p. 133. He adds: "It is a great advantage, though not absolutely indispensable, that this sentiment should crystallize, as it were, round a positive object—if possible, a really existing one—though in all the more important cases only ideally present. Such an object Theism and Christianity offer to the believer." Mr. Lecky, II. R., I. 389, speaking of the first ages of Christianity, remarks that "it was then strictly a religion; that is to say, it consisted of modes of emotion, and not of intellectual propositions."
condition, and in inferring from these grounds its ulterior prospects, regard must be had to the work which lies before it, to the end which it proposes to itself for accomplishment. Now, all positive Religions1 lay claim to some measure of Divine Ail reii- Revelation; i. e. to communications from God to
properly man beyond the ordinary modes of information
vehicles of ....
revelation and knowledge. These it is its province to propanature, gate amongst mankind. Any religion, then, which should altogether divest itself of mysteries, the meeting-points between Nature and that which transcends it; satisfied with the simple proclamation of moral truths, however refined, or with a republication of the so-called Religion of Nature, which is, ill* fact, the apotheosis of moral abstractions; thus carrying no further message to the spirit and higher reason of man; any such religion may on
1 It has been said very truly that so-called Natural Religion exists only in books. Religions which have vital force and influence are positive religions; that is, they make for themselves a Church, and rites, and dogmas. These dogmas are the solutions of the great problems which have ever disquieted the mind of man—the origin of the world, the origin of evil, its expiation, the future of our race.
Quid sumus et quidnam victuri gignimur.
Mr. Lecky, H. Rat., I. 182, points out that *' Protestant Rationalism regards Christianity as designed to preside over the moral development
of mankind In its eyes the moral element of Christianity is as
the sun in heaven, and dogmatic systems are as the clouds that intercept and temper the exceeding brightness of its ray." In p. 335, he seems himself to incline to the view that dogmatic systems are a provisional arrangement for semi-barbarous periods, though he admits that Christianity is the solitary instance " of a religion not naturally weakened by civilization." Pietism in the hands of Spener, Francke, &c., as also the Remonstrants, early endeavoured to separate religious morals from dogma. The movement has terminated in Strauss.
these very accounts be suspected. It falls short of the due operation of Religion in itself; which, as a function of human nature, has its own appropriate work by the realization of which it must stand or fall. That work,1 though the contrary is not unfre- are not quently asserted, is not identical with the inculcation with the of morality, however high, however pure. The 0"TM°"°" Science of Ethics falls legitimately within the ken rallty' of human knowledge, capable of improvement and advance. But when it has led man to the threshold of Religion, a sphere is discovered to him from which he has not borrowed morality.2 Thus the doctrines of a religious system, while properly in accord with morality, transcend by their nature the limits of its teaching.3 Morality is present in them, even if as
1 The most elementary forms of religion seem to afford little trace of ethics. Compare Mr. Tylor, Prim. Cult., I. 386. In Confucianism, on the other hand, ethics overpower and extinguish the religious element. See Dolliuger, Gentile and Jew, I. 56-8; Legge, II. 130, 319. "To give oneself earnestly to the duties due to men, and while respecting spiritual beings to keep aloof from them, may be called wisdom," was the maxim and practice of its founder. It is not strange to find, from Mr. Cooper (Pioneer of Comm'-rce), that his temples at the present day are deserted. Lange, Oesch. des Mater iulismus, p. 537, says, " Die Religionen haben urspriinglich gar nicht einmal den Zwcck der Sittlichkeit zu dieuen." See Buckle, Hist. Civ., II. 303. "The Church," writes Dean Hook, " was not incorporated to inculcate a code of morals.
The inculcation of morality is an incident of Christianity, and
not of its essence."—Lives of Archbishojs, N. S., I. 3.
* Compare Guizot, Civ. in E., I. 87, ed. Bohn. Paley's Evid., Pt. II. c. ii., on the morality of the Gospel. Christianity, strictly speaking, is no new code of morals, but an appeal to the highest moral experience.
5 " There is a fine line," writes Coleridge, "which, like stripes of light in light, distinguishes, not divides, the summit of religious Morality from spiritual Religion."—A. It, p. 81.
Relation of a vital, yet as a rudimentary element. This fact Tsystemofis evident on a comparison of barbarous with reigion. cjyj]jze^ j-aceg.1 To condemn a creed on moral
grounds is not, therefore, properly conclusive, though it is, no doubt, the case that in proportion to its truth it will encourage a purer and more elevated morality,2 which varies in most men in proportion to their practical belief in God and H is Proper promises. Its real test on the experimental side
test of the r. . 1
successor lies in the accomplishment of its true specific end.
a religion .
And this would seem to be so to educate, to mould and inform the spirit of man, as to restore it to its divine image, and prepare it for a future continuous existence.3 This work involves, indeed, moral issues. The correlations and interaction between the life that now is and its after-stage very soon become mutually interpenetrated. The spirit, as part at least of the principle of personality in man, is inseparable from those acts or decisions of the will which determine its character, and as includes Revelation instructs us, its ultimate destiny. Reli
moral in- »
but"a?'a &on tnen> which occupies itself with the spiritual
secondary 1 Compare Mr. Tylor, Prim. C, II. 326. 2 Hence the fine lines of Persius:
Composituin jus fasque animo sanctosque recessus Mentis, ct incoctum generoso pectus honesto; Hkc cedo ut admoveam templis et farre litabo. * Mr. Lecky well observes, H. E. M., I. 363-4, " Reverence and humility, a constant sense of the true majesty of God, and of the weakness and sinfulness of man, and a perpetual reference to another world, were the essential characteristics of Christianity, the source of all its power, the basis of its distinctive type."