theism, has now done its work. It has prepared the way for Positivism, that is, for the belief in Laws; and soon the present stage of mental and moral anarchy must draw to a close.1 It cannot, This view

. due to the

I fear, be denied that there are many solvents cireum

stances of

of customary belief at work among us. The ad- the age, vance through improved means of locomotion and mechanical appliances of our knowledge of mankind, of nature, and the earth which we inhabit; the tendencies of physical inventions, of political and social concentration, of scientific discovery, and of philosophical criticism, are all acting in one direction. They will strip off, no doubt, the unessential garb of Christianity. It remains to be seen whether its inward frame can be shaken. I make no excuse for putting the matter thus bluntly before you. It is well even for the youngest of my hearers, who are, thank God, least, if at all, familiar with the philosophy of unbelief, to know something of its language and mode of assault. Let them not be startled. When has the religion

1 See Phil. Pos., III. 418, V. 299. Ho holds l'dtat tboologique to be l'e'tat fictif. The Church is with Comte a speculative corporate body, destined to give way when the interests of speculation and practice are combined in the advance of knowledge. "La tb6ologio et la physique sont profondemcnt incompatibles."—Lec. I. No doubt, it is the function of Religion and of Philosophy to offer a general theory of the universe. This theory is slowly verified or improved on by the progress of knowledge contained in particular sciences. In this manner religion is always on its trial; but it has not failed yet, nor is there any reason to believe it will. For an eloquent description of the joint aims of Philosophy and Religion, see Saisset, Easais, pp. xxxiv.-vii.

imt must of Jesus Christ not been upon its trial; or when

he without .

delay en- has it shrunk back from the test? But the charge

countered. .11

01 failure whether meant as a gibe, or as a serious objection, as a ready weapon of attack, or as an houest stumbling-block, cannot be overlooked; it must not be postponed. To ignore a doubt, is not only open to the imputation of cowardice: it is unwise. For it cannot but operate to the prejudice of the truth: and when at last it comes up, as come it will, for answer, the fault bears its own punishment.

Nature of & it cannot indeed be denied that the im

the current J

attacks on nutations to which I have alluded, are current

the success

of Chris- in the literature of the day. "The popular re

tianity. . .

ligion," it is said, " has entered on its last phase; "2 "Christianity has dwindled down to a drivelling, feeble, desultory thing." "It is now obvious that the theology of former ages cannot be maintained. ... A change in religious thought has gradually forced its way through the cultivated classes of the community. The educated man no longer believes what the Evangelist believed and affirmed." 3 "The

1 Bishop Fraser is reported to have said: "It is a common gibe that Christianity is losing power; and to a certain extent, I think, wo cannot deny that the gibe is true and deserved."—Guardian, August 16, 1871.

* No new view. See ap. H. J. Rose, Protestantism in Germany, p. 163, 2nd ed. Schmidt and other Rationalists held that Christianity is a mere temporary dispensation, and that the world should return to Natural Religion.

3 Christian Theology and Modern Scelitkimn, by the Duke of Somerset, Jxmsivtt. Fabri (ISrufe yeyen Aluterialismus) complains that theological spirit is too much decayed and too far neutralized to be any longer really formidable in any part of Western Europe."1 Such are some of the statements not unfrequently made. It is of moment, therefore, to estimate the grounds on which they rest, and the amount of truth they may contain. Nothing is easier than to repeat a charge when once it is made. Repeated, it soon begins to be Reasons of believed, and held more largely on a tacit principle pbrtance, of authority; and then a fresh start is made from the assertion as if it were a fact both proved and acknowledged.2 On what grounds, then, we ask, is the career of Christianity believed to have closed? Is there any present pressing proof of it? Is it truer now than at any former time? Is it plainer now

the majority of Christians now-a-days are pagans as to head; though accepting the faith with their hearts.

1 "L'esprit theblogique est trop dechu ou trop neutralise pour etre encore vraiment dangereux dans aucnne partie de notre Occident Europeon. C'est partout l'esprit me'taphysique qui constituc desormais le seul antagoniste que le Positivisme doive avoir serieuscmcnt en vue: lui seul prolonge desormais 1'influence; impuissante pour rien fonder, mais trop efficace pour entraver du genie religieux qui s'e'teindrait spontanement sans un tel remaniement." Comtc to J. S. Mill, ap. Littre, A. Comtc et le Posit., p. 448, written 1843. See also Paroles de Phil. Pos., p. 24.

2 "Ideas obtain authority and dominion, not altogether from their intrinsic truth, but rather from their constant asseveration, especially when they fall in with the common hojies and fears, the wants and necessities, of human nature. The mass of mankind have neither leisure nor ability to examine them: they fatigue, and so compel the world into acceptance."—Milman, Latin Christianity, III. 437. "Lcs fausses opinions ressemblent a la fausse monnaie, qui est frappee d'abord par de grands coupables et depensfio ensuite par d'honnetes gens qui perpeuient le crime sans savoir ce qn'ils font."—De Maistre, Soirf'*, p. 2G. than it has ever been before? Are there no special reasons to indicate that the wish may be father to the thought? Is Christianity less an object of dislike and suspicion than it has ever been with some prevalent systems of philosophy? Is it less ami of of an obstacle to their reception? Is there anv

their being .

at present less impatience in the heart and mind of man than forward, of old to anticipate the designs of Providence or to foredate the beginning of the end? Something may not unreasonably be attributed to the expectation on the part of its detractors that Christianity may be killed or scotched by a policy of indifference. To pass it by as already foredoomed, to deal with it as a thing of the past, much may perhaps be looked for from this course of treatment. Dogmas ere now have perished of pretermission, if not of controversy, have given way to a modification of opinion, if not to argument, have yielded to insensible decay. Such has been the fate of many an extinct superstition. This in the eyes of some critics is " the great turning-point in the history of civilized nations."1 Why, then, should it be otherwise with the time-worn, cum

1 "When in the progress of society its theological element begins to decay, the ardour with which religious disputes were once conducted becomes sensibly weakened. The most advanced intellects are the first to feel the growing indifference, and therefore they are also the first to scrutinize real events with that inquisitive eye which their predecessors had reserved for religious speculations. This is a great turningpoint in the history of every civilized nation."—Buckle, Hist. Civil., II. 263. Compare Mr. Lecky, Hist. Rat., I. 104.

brous fabric of Christian tradition? The increasing secularization of politics, the loss of temporal influence by the Church,1 mark, it is urged, the decline of dogmatic theology as a practical power. Moreover, something of a just retribution clings Grounds about such a change of fortune, which must render sessions on it not wholly displeasing to the taste of the physical Natural philosopher. In past days Theology began by phers. monopolizing science, metaphysic, even history itself. In the hands of the Fathers of the Church she early invaded the realm of Natural knowledge,2 quickly subordinating it to Revelation, and thereby rendering its progress impossible". In this manner Lactantius denied the sphericity of the earth, and Augustine antipodes. "From the fifth to the twelfth centuries," writes Guizot, "it is Theology that possessed and directed the human spirit. All opinions are impressed by Theology: philosophical, political, and historical questions are all considered under a theological point of view. So all-powerful is the Church in the intellectual Former re

1 lations of

order that even the mathematical and physical Theology

. ... . , . to physical

sciences are held m submission to its doctrines, science. The theological spirit is in a manner the blood which ran in the veins of the European world

1 This view, of course, loses sight of the possibility tliat such a severance may even advance the ultimate influence of religion. Otherwise Dissent must equally decline with Established religions.

2 Compare Bacon, Nov. Org., Aph. lxxxix.

« ElőzőTovább »