Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

doing justice to pre-Christian ideas,1 to the aims of Stoical and Platonic ethics, and to the practice of an Aurelius and a Julian "lending a passing dignity to the dishonoured purple," it has yet shown how poor was the substitute they contemplated for a faith which appealed courageously, but also triumphantly, to the masses, and was the creed alike of the slave and of the sage. It is often thought enough to remark that Paganism was doomed before Christianity appeared. But11 s"c:

•> 1 A ceeued

why, if this be so, did Christianity alone succeed,from its

* J very su

alone survive of all the sects and schools which periority. competed for the mastery of mankind? Why not simple monotheism, or some abstract form of thought?" Christianity grew," it has been said,' "because it could best make good the blank left by the discredit of the old religions, by the despondency, incredulity, and disgust which made room for it." True; and these were the first results which convinced the world and converted it. It was found to contain all essential verities.3 The fundamental ideas of Natural Religion con- Causes of

this supe

1 See at length Mr. Lecky, H. E. M., 1.180, 190, 363. "Of the sects n°rlty' of ancient philosophy the Stoic is perhaps the nearest to Christianity. Yet even to this sect Christianity is fundamentally opi>osite."

a Mackay, Rise and Progress of Christianity, p. 163. See Keandcr's reflections at the opening of his history, I. p. 3, and Dean Merivale's Lectures, p. xi. "Christianity, in fact, was not simply the resource of a dissatisfied philosophy: it was not accepted as the only refuge from the blank negation of a creed. It was the tried and approved of several claimants to the sovereignty of the religious instincts among men."

3 Compare Saisset, Essais, p. 299.

fessedly belong to it. It inherited all that is true in earlier theologies and systems of philosophy the unity, the personality, the independence, the energy, the love of the Divine Nature; the grandeur, the littleness, the strength, the weakness, the dignity, the responsibility of man. No in what philosophical mind would desire to deny the obli

manner a A"

result of gations of Christianity to foregoing systems among

the age in . .

which it which it assumes its due and ordered rank, or

appeared. . .... • ,1

that its teaching is in a sense progressive, the outcome and result of time. Jewish prophecy and heathen philosophy had in different ways prepared for its reception. Christ came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets; the Law of Moses, it is true; but no less the Law of Nature, and of Gentile morality in its highest and purest conceptions. For these, Jewish Prophecy no less prepared a way, and often antedated their spirit.3 to Chris- & 8. A bold attempt has been sometimes made

tian mo- J A

rality as defective.

1 Compare Prof. Jowett (.9. PauTs Epistles, II. 204). "The peculiarity of the Gospel is not that it teaches what is wholly new, but that it draws out of the treasure house of the human heart things new and old, gathering together into one the dispersed fragments of the truth." Of course it is not intended to represent Christianity as a mere system of eclecticism.

a Compare Comte, Phil. Pos., V. 349.

3 " Christianity," remarks Neander profoundly, "is the end to which all development of the religious consciousness must tend, and of which, therefore, it cannot do otherwise than offer a prophetic testimony. Thus there dwells an element of prophecy, not merely in revealed religion, unfolding itself beneath the fostering care of the Divine Vintager (John xv.) as it struggles onwards from Judaism to its complete disclosure in Christianity, but also in religion, as it grows wild on the soil of Paganism, which by nature must strive unconsciously to to disparage the truth of Christianity, by charging upon it the inculcation of defective morality, even in the person of its Founder;1 sometimes of immoral developments, sometimes of ethical rules untrue without requisite limitations, and impossible in practice.2 Such accusations may on the whole be left to balance one another, as when it Self:con

'tradictory.

is said by one school that the religion of Christ has never sufficiently encouraged the culture of the intellect, and by another that it gives a factitious and disproportionate influence to what are called "the higher parts" of human nature. If the Altruism of the Positivist be deemed an

the same end."—Ch. Hist., I. 240, ed. Clark. Comp. Mcrivale, Led., p. 70. "The law is the teaching of the human conscience generally, whether enlightened by a revelation, or any other less special illumination from above; by the habits and ideas of human society," &c.

1 See Strauss, New Life of Jesus Christ, I. 438; and Mr. F. Newman on the Defective Morality of the Xcw Test. "The character of Christ," said Paley, fmely and truly, " is a part of the morality of the Gospel."

2 Thus M. Comte regards the Lutheran preference of Faith to Works, and the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination, as strictly immoral in their tendency. Phil. Pos.,Y. 685. Shaftesbury (Works, I. 98) charges on Christianity the omission of the heroic virtues: of patriotism and public spirit, and of private friendship. Yet Christ Himself wept over His country. Cf. also Rom. ix. 3, 4. Mr. Lecky, //. Rat., II. 113 (see also H. E. M., II. 149), observes, " that Christianity triumphed only by transforming itself under the influence of the spirit of sect." This means that it transferred men's allegiance from their country to the Church. I do not think this is properly chargeable on the principles of the religion. Yet, if true, it would only be substituting a much larger area of patriotism, and one which coincides with a large advance in civilization. The practice of the early Church (" Nec alia res aliena magis quam publica," Terr. Apvi. c. xxxviii., and see Origen, c. Cds., VIII. ii.), in this matter furnishes no proper estimate of the intentions of the religion.

Unpracti- improvement on the morality of the Gospel in living for others without the limitation of loving our neighbour only as ourselves, it seems not unreasonable to require that this level should first be reached.1 Total annihilation of self, at best an impracticable dream, was far from the thought of Him who "knew what is in man." But Christianity has been charged with other more practical Further failures. Indifferent and injurious to secular profrom the gress, to material welfare and industrial developchris- ment (" infrnctuosi in negotiis dicimur"), it has lamty. been faxe([ w^ij custom of religious wars, of

persecution for opinion, with the institution of torture, with doctrines pernicious to sound morals, such as absolution, indulgences, the placing ceremonial bbservance before natural duty, the reprobation of good actions wrought without the pale of the Church, and a benevolence, however wellmeaning, yet economically mistaken. It has been blamed for errors in practice fraught with social misery and mischief, yet consequent on Scriptural, or at the least ecclesiastical, doctrine.2 So also for shortcomings in the enforcement of moral

1 There are, indeed, some good remarks on this point in Comte, Phil. Pos., IV. 553, V. 434. Compare Prof. Goldwin Smith, Study of Hist., p. 3, and Mr. Herbert Spencer, Study of Sociology, Cont. Rev., XXI. 318-321.

2 Compare Condorcet, as quoted by Comte, Phil. Pos., V. 423. Such are the medieval view of the sinfulness of usury, the treatment of witehcraft, the wager of battle, the institution of Monasticism, &c. See Mr. Farrar's remarks ( Witness of Hist, to Christ), Lecture V.

laws, with an inability, for example, to suppress warfare, to prevent or redress social injustice and economic errors. The importance of such charges Their im

, . , . . . , , . portance.

lies not only in their imputation on the moral estimate of Christianity, but still more on its value as an instrument in civilization, and as consequently a permanent agent in human progress. Nor can it be denied that the evils in question are in some Such resort the results of the teaching of Christian ideas, not chargeUnless, however, it can be shown that they are principles the logical consequents of such ideas, their natural religion, fruit and reasonable issue, so that each can be referred to the doctrine on which it rests, forming part of the actual message of Christianity, no vital blow has so far been struck on the armour of Case of

religious

Christian defence. Religious wars were certainly wars, not unknown to other times and other systems. All may, perhaps, be more correctly attributed to , a political or defensive origin,1 or to a survival of Paganism, wherein "the kingdom of Heaven suffered violence," and "the violent took it by force." The political effect of a common faith is to react hostilely upon foreign creeds. Persecu- Persecution for belief, whatever immediate motive is belief, assigned to it, was practised by Pagan rulers in

1 The wars of Charlemagne may be cited in this respect: the Crusades were actually defensive. See Comte, Phil. Pos., V. 404. Compare Paley's remarks on some sup]<oscd effects of Christianity (Kvid., II. vii.). The religions of Greece ami of Rome, so far forth as State institutions, involved penal consequences and even death. See Dollinger, Gentile and Jew, I. 243-5.

« ElőzőTovább »