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of the Christian Church, in proportion to the intricacy, doubtfulness, and transcendental character of the dogma involved, the passions of men have risen highest, their feelings have been the most deeply stirred,1 till error has been magnified into guilt, and difficulty of conviction into reprobation. In The perview of the permanence of the Faith which we in- of Chrisherit, it is important to remember that, while in no a religion wise committed to the errors of the past, Chris- ftsSpast ex^ tianity has before it all the promise of the future.perienceA sense of the reality of Christian truth as a spiritual religion, based not so much on logical convictions as on a personal relation of the believer to the " God of the spirits of all flesh," " Who hath spoken unto us by his Son," this it is which is essential to the progress of Christianity among mankind. Hence our safeguard against surrender- vital docing the vital elements of an objective faith in mis- been astaken consideration for the doubts and difficulties and tested, of a half belief. "He that is not with us, is against us; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth
1 "Divisions in matter of religion," says Hooker, "are hotlier prosecuted and pursued than other strifes, forasmuch as coldness, which in other contentions may he thought to proceed from moderation, is not in these so favourably construed."—Vol. II., p. 4, ed. Keble. Johnson attributed it to personal uneasiness when our confidence in an opinion which we value is diminished. But Coleridge, with more penetration, has observed that deep feeling has a tendency to combine with obscure ideas; a fact not confined to professed theologians, but exhibited by whole nations.—Friend, 1.138. Merivale, Conversion of North. Nations, pp. 42, 43, has well shown that " Arianism was but a slightly disguised I'aganism: and so no question of a letter," &c.
abroad," speaks surely an eternal warning. The victories of Christianity have everywhere been the triumphs of a definite faith. It has ever given forth to the world no uncertain sound in its conflicts with Rationalism or with the passions and licence of mankind. The residuum of a religion from which there has been carefully filtered off all special truths and objects of belief, retaining only some few moral generalities, can but issue in something very dissimilar to a living historic Christianity. To the last, it is true, some differences as to the larger and more intractable problems of man's nature in relation to God and the external world may be expected to remain among Christians Prospects themselves. There can, however, be no question
of Chris- '1
tianity in ag to the disintegrating effects of time and advanc
ultimate ing knowledge on the peculiar prepossessions of individual schools of thought and belief. There is a tendency arising from the historical antecedents of Protestantism to undervalue that catholicity of belief which must undoubtedly be held to be the normal and ultimate condition of Christianity, answering to those larger speculations on the continuity and totality of buman history which Science now opens out to view. The corrective to this tendency lies in a truer appreciation of the essential Value of spirit of Protestantism.1 Appealing to reason, ciple of without renouncing an authoritative standard, and
to private judgment fortified by the verdict of historical inquiry, its standing-point fits it expressly for the work of reconcilement between a traditional faith and the rationalizing forces of progress. The anarchy of criticism which marks the process its adaptaof severance and reunion has been mistaken by wants of Comte1 and others for the ultimate issue of centuries of unreasoning credulity. Protestantism, it is asserted with much injustice, has made no converts, and nowhere enlarges the area of its conquests.3 Since the treaty of Westphalia, it is said, no new territory has been added to its sway. But its work Jts true
lies deeper, and must be traced in a re-animation of the spiritual vigour of Christianity, in a general rehabilitation of its beliefs, and in re-arming it to meet the developments of increased knowledge and
1 See Phil. Pos., V. 354. "L'esprit d'inconsequence," &e. V. 299, 327. He is so prejudiced as to see no difference between Primitive Lutheranism and pure Deism.
a Macaulay's remarks are well known, Essays, pp. 352,536: "During these two hundred and fifty years Protestantism has made no conquests worth speaking of. Nay, we believe that, as far as there has been a change, that change has, on the whole, been in favour of the Church of Rome." So also Mr. Lecky, Hist. Bat., I. 187, who adds, " Whatever is lost by Catholicism is gained by Rationalism." The same writer, however, in another passage makes this important admission, " Protestantism as a dogmatic system makes no converts, but it has shown itself capable of blending with and consecrating the prevailing Rationalism."—lb., II. 93. Prof. Westcott very justly observes, "However imposing the apparent unity of the religious life of the middle ages may be, it cannot be questioned that socially and individually the principles of Christianity are more powerful now than then. We lose the sense of their general action in the variety of forms through which they work."—Cont. Rev., VI. 416.
advancing civilization. It, at least, has no Syllabus
As far as may be to carve out
Practical It seems practically impossible to grasp truth, toleration the truth of sacred things, firmly and yet not of opinion. jeaiougiy. fa be aB earnest in the propagation of
right belief without asserting its confession to be individually necessary to salvation as with such a creed; to hold fast the convictions of personal assurance, and yet to recognize that to all it is not given "to arrive at the knowledge of the truth."
1 Ps. cxxxix. 21, 22: "Do not I (should I not) hate them, 0 Lord, that hate Thee? . . . I hate them with j>erfcct hatred." Dr. Kay in his note on this passage cites Archbishop Trench, "Hatred of evil, purely as evil, is eminently a Christian grace," and Dean Stanley (Lect. on J. Ch., p. 253)," The duty of keeping alive in the human heart the sense of burning indignation against moral evil, against selfishness, against injustice, against untruth, in ourselves as well as in others,— that is as much a part of the Christian as of the Jewish dispensation."
Yet this weakness springs really from a want of faith. Principle
. . ofgenume
Toleration, if it is not to be indifference, must be toleration, grounded on the perception of counter-views as necessarily complementary and tending to establish the ultimate mean of truth. Thus, He who came among men to found "the everlasting Gospel," may be trusted to work with it to its more perfect reception, according to the light and knowledge of the time. Only, let not "the wrath of man" think "to work out the righteousness of God."GTM^sof Christianity has survived revolutions of opinion, ness, which, beforehand, might not unjustly have been deemed fatal to it. "It is I: be not afraid," is the lesson eternally stamped on the changes through which it has passed, and which now, if ever, is applicable in an age saturated with the idea of continuous and universal development, "stirring all science to its very depth, and revolutionizing all historical literature."1 Such a prospect, in earlier times, may be thought to have offered the only plausible defence of persecution of unbelief. But if so, it is valid no longer. t It has chrispleased God, by the teachings of experience, to power.* "increase our faith." We have learned to believe in the Religion of Jesus Christ, not as an abstract creed, vulnerable in every article; not as " the law of a carnal commandment," which "decayeth and
1 Lecky, Hist. Rat., I. 283. "Filiation and development," says M. Littré, Let Barbans, p. 139, " constitute the essence of history."