« ElőzőTovább »
"Lo/ I am with you alway; even unto the end of the world."— <?9att. ncbiif. 20.
§ i. "I AHERE is a growing tendency to regard JTM^^, *• the results of the Eeformation in two v<ew* °/
very opposite aspects. It has been assailed as the nation on
* * * 1 m the present
commencement of an era of unbelief, of unsettle- estimate of
... . , _ the Chris
ment of all authoritative teaching; as the cause of tian religion.
all subsequent fluctuations of opinion on religious subjects.1 Its historical course has been held up as a warning; as exhibiting the Nemesis of a revolt from traditional doctrine. Strange to say, the Romanist and the disciple of Comte, though from very opposite suggestions, are of one opinion as to the demerits of Protestantism. While the former eyes it with sternness, or, at best, with compassion, as the outcome of human waywardness and rebellion; the latter regards it only with philosophical contempt.8 To him it is an interruption, a view of
'Gibbon (VII. 61) struck the first chord of this ill-omened pre- tivists diction. "The friends of Christianity are alarmed at the boundless impulse of inquiry and scepticism&c. He here appears in the unwonted garb of " the candid friend" of the Religion of Christ. "Le Protestantisme le grand reveil chrftien," says M. Renan more truly.
2 Comte notes as marks of the religious disorganization of the age, the resistance of Catholicism to intellectual emancipation, and the secularization of the ruling classes. These are the results of Protestantism, t. e. of the right of private judgment, which leads inevitably to Democracy in Church and State, to a negative philosophy, attacking first stumbling-block, a logical inconsequence, an issue of mental anarchy, a period of transition, of confusion, of necessary evil, fraught with social and political disturbance. A s the introduction to afterchanges; the pioneer of Positivism; a main agency in dissolving the older military and hierarchical organizations; the accompaniment of an era of free, metaphysical discussion; it might, one would have thought, have been entitled to passing reofthe spect. This is not, it seems, to be accorded. But istic there is also another view of this great historical movement, one which has affected so largely and so permanently the condition and fortunes of Europe; which is now becoming popular. The Reformation is looked on as the companion, and as itself the result, if not the precursor, of a spirit
religious truth, while all other becomes a lesser and included result. He divides Protestantism into a. Lutheranism, which is really an attack on Catholic discipline, the dogmatic differences being alight: b. Calvinism, an assault on Catholic organization or hierarchy, of the most powerful kind: c. Socinianism, a dogmatic revolution of the deepest character, being a protest in favour of Monotheism. See Phil. Pos^ V. 680, ff. In V. 353 he speaks of "l'esprit d'inconsequence qui caracterise le Protestantisme," and mourns the intellectual fluctuation, the malady of the age, which has flowed from it. He thinks the recognition of the solidarity of man and the continuity of human life have been lost in the anarchy which has been the work of Protestantism. This era of revolution, of dispersive analysis, began, indeed, from tlie fourteenth century, continuing to the present time, when it is about to close irrevocably. Phil. Pos., V. 233, 346; Pol. Pos., III. 417, 500. See also Littr6, A. Comte, p. 223; and Paroles, p. 60. Dorner, EisU Prot. Th., I. 272, points out that the Befonnation principle, which h« been so often termed disorganizing, and has even been confounded with the spirit of revolution, gave effect, with a power previously unknown, to the divine right of civil authority.
of Rationalism;1 an inevitable consequence, indeed, and one not, therefore, to be condemned; part of the natural progress of human effort, and of the growth of the human mind. This progression, evident in all other departments of social activity, in industrial and secular advance, in national morality, in philosophy and speculation, could not fail to make itself felt in the region of theological opinion. This estimate of Protestant- its esti
m . mate of
ism will be found (however it may be connected Proteswith it,) not to be identical with that of Positivism; which regards it either as a pure negation, or as a confused form of theological belief.
I have already given reasons for believing that Religion, as to its own evolution, is not dependent on moral progress, and is only indirectly affected by intellectual culture. It remains only to dis- n«w it
engage the future of Christianity from the conse- future of quences to which it must be liable; if it is to be tianity. regarded, (together, indeed, with all religions,) as a thing of the past; a lingering survival of an anterior stage of thought or civilization; or again, as a mere vehicle, though of an exalted and highly commendable kind, for passing on to future generations the gift of an improved morality.2
1 See Mr. Lecky, //. Rat., I. 181, 288. Rationalism, he thinks, is the totality of the influences of civilization. Continental Protestantism has continually developed towards it.
2 fn this, according to Rationalistic theologians, consists the perfectibility of the Religion of Christ; viz. in expanding the doctrines of Christianity into those eternal truths of reason, which constitute the
Theory of § 2. The former view regarding the prospects 'of the Christian Church and more immediately of Protestantism, being that of the Positivist school, forms part of an elaborate but highly artificial criticism of life and history; which must, if at all, be accepted as a whole. It must defend itself along its whole line; if it is to be taken as a true explanation of the world and of the times in
whether which we live. At present we are concerned no
answering C1 , .. 1 1 • rr 1 t
to facts, further than to inquire whether it oners the only legitimate account of the course of human affairs in respect of Religion, and whether its view is sufficiently confirmed by present facts and actual probabilities. No doubt, as has been already said, the Reformation presents no interruption of the continuity of History.1 It was itself the slow
universal possession of the race. There is something ominous in Mr. Lecky's language when he says: "Loyalty, patriotism, and attachment to a cosmopolitan cause, are three forms of moral enthusiasm respectively appropriate to three successive stages of mental progress: and they have, I think, a certain analogy to idolatrous worship, Church feeling, and moral culture, which are the central ideas of three stages of religious history."—H. E. M., I. 142.
1 "The error of Positivism," writes Dr. Westcott, "is in limiting Christianity to the view of Catholicism. Christianity is supremely fitted to mould for itself the organism which is best suited to meet the intellectual, or social, or moral wants of the age. It is manifold in embodiment, thougli one in essence. It is not a principle of order, but a spirit of life. It is limited not by laws of logical construction, but by laws of free growth. It survives the decay of one organization, to animate another,"—Coiit. Eev., VI. 415. "II est incontestable en effet d'apres l'ensemble de notre passe intellectuel pendant les trois demurs si Deles, sans avoir besoin de remonter plus haut, que la continuity et la fecondite sont les sympt6mes les moins equivoques de toutes les conceptions vraiment scientifiques."—Comtc, Phil. I'os., IV. 209. We claim these also for Christianity.
result of time and previous changes. Similarly Results of also it has in turn initiated changes which are still motion going on, and are still the subjects of discussion progress, and dispute. The real point is the nature of these changes and of their consequences. The Christian world, it is not denied, is endlessly divided, and shows as yet few signs of ultimate reunion. Is this, then, to be held the beginning of the end? Does it mark a decline in the power and spirit of Division
Religion ?—in its hold upon the life and mind and whether & conscience of its professors?—in its capacity of of decline, assimilating surrounding conditions of culture and of converting unbelief? I cannot see that it does. I see in these facts rather the evidence of the working of a leaven; which, if it ceased to ferment, might be justly suspected of inefficacy and decay. This leaven (if we have learned any lesson from the past history of Christianity, it is this;) works variously in accordance with the circumstances of the time under review. In Protestantism it has Historical been conditioned by the advance of opinion ment of through intellectual discussion and physical dis-tanUsm. coveries; by military history; by social and political vicissitudes tending to a multiplicity rather than to unity of form.1 It has been crushed under
1 " However imposing," remarks Prof. Westeott, " 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."—Comle on Christianity, font. Rtn., VI. 416.