« ElőzőTovább »
to pick up their arrows, and then run away to discharge them at Christianity or the Church." 1
§ 9. An age of admitted scepticism has not, as Scepticism yet, proved itself either fatal or, perhaps, even 0f inquiry dangerous to the truth of Christianity. By Gibbon midable to it was thought to have been really favourable to rellgion' the progress of religion, that is, of the Christian religion. It is the modern fashion to predict that it will be its bane. But it may be held for certain, looking to past experience, that a sceptical spirit must sooner or later give way to a state of things in which the yearning after religious belief will vastly predominate. For scepticism, though just2 within just limits, being the natural resort of the intellect when overweighted by authority, and by no means, therefore, a necessary alien from the household of faith; yet represents, at most, but being the negation of implicit belief or of credulity; and is, therefore, in itself, no more than a definite stage, a passing phase in the process of intellectual
1 Coleridge, A. p. 221.
1 Thus scepticism, considered as a means of arriving at truth, may be coeval with belief itself. For "les conditions de la civilisation," says M. Kenan, "sont comme celles d'un probleme a donnees limitees." "Had religion," he justly adds, " been a simple superstition, like astrology, science would long since have swept it away."—Questions Contemporaines. On the limits of scepticism Leibnitz observes, "il ne faut point douter pour douter; il faut que les doutes nous servent de planche pour parvenir a la venté. II ne faut point qu'on puisse reprocher aux vrais philosophes ce que le fameux Casaubon répondit a ceux qui lui montrerent la Salle do la Sorbonne, et lui dirent qu'on y avoit disputé durant quelques siecles; 'Qu'y a-t-on conclu'? leur dit-il."
growth.1 True scepticism is often made to do service for positive unbelief, and more especially and pre- of theological postulates. But this is to confound cause with effect, a logical aspect of Thought in general with its application to the results of a particular inquiry. If, however, scepticism can issue only in chronic incredulity, the prospect, blank indeed for Religion, whose very soul is faith, might prove equally so for all cerNegation tainty whatsoever. There is a faith which pre
of belief J 1
entails the cedes and lies at the root of all scientific proof.
eclipse of m . .
an know- There is a faith which belongs equally to its most cherished triumphs. "We call its discoveries sublime; but the sublimity belongs not to that which they reveal, but to that which they suggest." 2 And thus the mind of man, the consummate outcome of a practically infinite evolution, would, if deprived of faith, be reduced to the condition of an organ destitute of all objective environment or appropriate function. Such a theory of things is simply inconceivable and disastrous. Perilous times may come, as ere now they have
1 "Though there are many who describe our own time as an unbelieving time, it is by no means sure that postority will accept the verdict. No doubt it is a sceptical and critical age, but then scepticism and criticism are the very conditions for the attainment of reasonable belief."—Tylor, Hist. Prim, ft, I. 253.
8 Prof. Goldwin Smith, Lectt, p. 48. He adds: "and that which they suggest is that, through this material glory and beauty, of which we see a little and imagine more, there speaks to us a Being Whose nature is akin to ours, and Who has made our hearts capable of such converse."
cast a cold shade upon the enthusiasm of religion and the fortunes of mankind. We may " fear as we enter into the cloud," and "the love of many may wax cold." But dark, indeed, must be the prospect which shuts out altogether and always from the soul of man its faith in G-od, in the reality of its own instincts, in its personal immortality. Such a view of human life and of the universe is mournful, from its very hopelessness, beyond recall, beyond redress.1 But sometimes it shows darkest the nearest before dawn; and there is good cause to ask whether it be not so now.2
§ 10. For Religion in some shape is a neces- Forecast sity, not a weakness, of the heart. Philosophically reconciliaviewed, it supplies in Revelation a remedy for that revelation confession of Nescience which constitutes the Sum science, of Natural Religion. In the highest stage of
1 This has been thus exquisitely expressed:—
Mourn not for them that mourn
He heals the broken heart.
But weep for him whose eye
Yet give the heart no home:
Who marks through earth and space
Unfilled by the Divine.
D. Greenwell, Carmina Crucis.
* Compare Luther, Ausleg. der Genesis, c. xliv. 17 (ap. Bunsen, Ood in Hist., III. 240); and Ozanam (Civilis., I. 31), who says rhetorically, " Providence loves such surprises."
civilization the purest form must ultimately prevail. Such we hold, and even by opponents has been admitted, to be the faith of Jesus Christ.1 It is not here contended that the influences of civilization and of Christianity are, in fact, identical. Each may owe much to the other: and both something to the mutual alliance of their individual. force. It may be that each moves in a distinct sphere, with separate action, and to appearance separate interests. But if it be urged that in the admitted advance of human affairs intellectual enlightenment is the cause, Protestantism or any other form of Co-exist- Christian truth but an effect: it is enoucrh to
ence of '0
tianity rePty? that thus a* least they co-exist; the religion with ad- 0f Christ in its purest form is the religion of civi
cjviiiza- lization. Nor, in saying this, do we undervalue the benefits of Knowledge and Science as true
1 "Le monde sera eiernellement religieux ; et le Christianisme dans un sens large est le dernier mot de la religion."—Renan, u. s. "Deism," he adds, "cannot be the final term of religion; for it is not truly a religion at all: it is a scientific conclusion." The following sentences, written nearly half a century since, are now doubly interesting:—" Wo confess, the present aspect of spiritual Europe might fill a melancholic observer with doubt and foreboding. It is mournful to see so many minds, noble, tender, and high-aspiring, deserted of that religious light which once guided all such : standing sorrowful on the scene of past convulsions and controversies, as on a scene blackened and burnt up with fire: mourning in the darkness because there is desolation, and no home for the soul; or, what is worse, pitching tents among the ashes, and kindling weak, earthly lamps, which we are to take for stars. This darkness is but transitory obscuration: these ashes are the soil of future herbage and richer harvests. Religion, Poetry is not dead; it will never die. Its dwelling and birth-place is in the soul of man, and it is eternal as the being of man."—Carlyle, Miscdl., I. 72. elements of progress; or seek to stem and turn aside the tide of advancing culture. It is folly even to wish to reverse a movement in human affairs which is definite and uniform in operation. It is a question of fact whether Christianity has not or is not moved along with it, mingling with its advance, and assimilating its effects. "It is the peculiarity of the religion of the Bible," it has been well said, "that whatever be the aspect of the past, and of the present; in spite of all glories of what we look back to, and all discouragements in what we see now, it ever claims the future for its own."1
§ 11. It is the truer, as it is the heartier, faith Meeting
i i • • points of
to hold that, in the golden age which Science now knowledge ranks as to come, and not as gone, Knowledge and gion. Religion must ultimately coalesce and coincide. The one is the science of the visible; the other of that which, though invisible, is no less real, no less truly a phase of Truth and Being. But if both are founded in the reality of things, there must be between them a fundamental harmony. For " it is incredible that there should be two orders of truth in absolute and everlasting opposition."2 The
1 Dean Church, Univ. Scrm., p. 72. "The tendency," says Sir H. Maine, " to look not to the past, hut to the future, for types of perfection was brought into the world by Christianity."—Ancient Law, p. 74. "Hopefulness has ever been a note of the Church of Christ. It has been often mistrusted and misapprehended."—Merivale, Northern Nations, p. 116.
3 Herbert Spencer, First Princ, p. 21.