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Thus religion, the science of spiritual things, whose subject-matter, passing the sphere of experience, is the soul and spirit of man, and his relations to the Maker of the universe, "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; Whom no man hath seen, nor can see,"1 is in this school of thought dethroned, discrowned, nay, thrust out for final extinction: her occupation gone, the reason of her being disallowed.3
§ 6. The inquiry remains, "Why must we believe Assump. that Christianity has failed? If the charge be necessary
to fl belief
true, it must be capable of proof, either from the in the exhibition of a fixed tendency to decline—the re- chrisligion of Christ must be shown to have already hamty' passed its meridian, and to have yielded only disappointing results—or from a present feebleness and prostration, so utter and unquestionable, so chronic and inherent, as to defy dispute; or, lastly, from the discovery that the tenets of Christianity
1 1 Tim. vi. 16. Comp. Tertullian, Apd., c. xviii. Invisibilis est etsi videatur: incornprehensibilis, etsi per gratiam reprassentetur; insestimabilis, etsi humanis sensibus restimetur. It is in this sense that Augustine writes: "Summus ille Deus qui scitur melius nesciondo." De Ord., II. xvi.
2 Lange, Oeschichte des Materialismus, p. 60, has some good remarks on the insensible stages by which the physical philosophy of the day passes into dogmatism. "Unsere Matcrialisten vergessen nur zu haufig, dass sie ganz einerlei, ob sie von Beruf etwa Professoren der Physiologie sind oder nicht,—sich alsbald auf dem Boden der Philosophic nnd nicht der Natur Wissenschaft befinden, wenn sie sich zu einer Gresammtauschauung des Weltganzen zu erheben versuchen, nnd dass sie dogmatische Philosophen sind, wenn sie die Resultatc ihrer Anschauungcn katcgorisch als Thatsacb.cn vortragen."
are incompatible with truths now very generally acknowledged, and with that marked progress in intellectual effort which is a main ingredient in the present condition of affairs. It is with the last of these alternatives that we shall first, and consti- for some lime, be occupied; for the particular ob
tuting a .
denial of jections which it covers are fatal not only to the
its power . . .
toco-exist continuance 01 Christianity, but to all systems vancing of religion acknowledging or implying Theism.1 tion. These, then, require to be met before entering on the direct historical proofs which guarantee the prospects of our common faith. With one of these, indeed, the refutation of such objections is immediately connected, and practically identical. For the power, which they impugn, of assimilating healthfully the varying conditions, the attendant conceptions of progressive civilization, must ever be a most important ingredient in a religion destined for permanence. It is this element which is mainly neutralized or denied in the observations which will now be considered. Particular § 7. The difficulties still urged against the re
1 It is evident that, though a man may be a Theist and not a Christian, a fact which has recently been somewhat ostentatiously proclaimed (Christianity and Modern SceIiticism, sub fin.), it is impossible for him to be a Christian and not a Theist. Thus, Shaftesbury, Workl, II. 209, writes: " Averse as I am to the cause of Theism, or name of Deist, when taken in a sense exclusive of Revelation, 1 consider still that in strictness the root of all is Theism; and that to be a settled Christian, it is necessary to be first of all a good Theist."
ception of Christianity are partly very ancient, °"which though now advanced upon new grounds: some sumption are essentially modern in their character and bearings, and, as such, are at present most frequently encountered. Though general in their scope, they are brought to hear particularly on the dominant, that is, upon the Christian faith. All progress, it is asserted, in human affairs, of whatever kind, is intellectual. Moral subjects form no exception.1 The progress of Nature is towards intellectual, not moral development. Moral dogmas, if they advance at all, which is very questionable, advance only through intellectual processes. The same is true no less of theological and religious beliefs, which owe their virtue to their moral element. Religion has never been a true source of culture, which is really derived from knowledge and not from belief.2
1 Pascal long ago noted the source of this confusion. "Les inventions des homines vont en avancant do siecle en siecle. La honte' et la malice du mondc en general en est de mSme."—Pensies, L 205. The notions of Mr. Buckle and kindred thinkers on these subjects are traceable to Condorcet and Turgot. "Progress," says Mr. Morley, Crit. Misc., p. 91, " in Condorcet's mind is exclusively produced by improvement in intelligence. It is the necessary result of man's activity in the face of that disproportion ever existing between what he knows and what he desires and feels the necessity to know. Hence the most fatal errors of his sketch. He measures only the contributions made by nations and eras to what we know; leaving out of sight their failures and successes in the elevation of moral standards and ideals, and in the purification of the passions."
s See Buckle, Hist. Civ., I. 254. "When religious opinions are deeply rooted, they do, no doubt, influence the conduct of men; hut before they can be deeply rooted, some intellectual change must first have taken place," &c.
Civilization explains religion, and not religion civilization. "The history of the civilization of the earth," it has been quaintly said, "is the history of the civilization of Olympus also."1 Thus Christianity has been no cause of civilization, but its effect. The consequences very commonly attributed to Christianity in the history of mankind are really due to an advance in civilization. The Church of Christ may seem to have done some good in things where her interest did not happen to clash with the interests of Europe, as in helping to abolish slavery; but, after all, circumstances and manners would have produced the result necurrent cessarily and of themselves.2 The essence of all literature religions is in a moral code, and this is found to of the day, ^ near]v everywhere identical. So in the moral part of Christianity there is nothing new. All providential interposition, speculatively or historically considered, is inadmissible, and therefore, also, every religion resting upon such interposition. Such notions belong altogether to the
1 Morley, Crit. Misc., p. 153.
2 See Condorcet ap. Morley, Crit. Misc., p. 94, and M. Comte, Phil. Pos., V. 397. The case is temperately and honestly stated by Guizot, Civ. in E., I. 110, ed. Bohn. "It has often been repeated that the abolition of slavery among modern people is due entirely to Christians. That, I think, is saying too much: slavery existed for a long period in the heart of Christian society, without its being particularly astonished or irritated. A multitude of causes and a great development in other ideas and principles of civilization were necessary for the abolition of this iniquity of all iniquities. It cannot be doubted, however, that the Church exerted its influence to restrain it."
infancy of knowledge; its progress is marked by tbeir decay and extinction. Since the discovery of the great laws and agencies of Nature all miraculous tales have been given up. Every advance of science is an extension of the idea of Law, and that into regions of thought and phenomena hitherto held exempt.1 But the theory of universal invariable law is abhorrent from Christian doctrine, and, indeed, from all systems which are not of a pantheistic character, or, at least, go beyond pure theism. Religion itself, and so-called revelation, are parts of the order of Nature, and may be explained out of phenomena which leave no room for supernatural considerations. Religion is a natural infirmity of thefatal t0
_ * the perma
human mind in its immature stages, just as there nence and
. power of
are specific disorders in childhood incident to the christianhuman body. Thus Christianity is a partial and of ail
« ~ , 1 . genuine
evanescent iorm 01 anthropomorphism, necessary religion, perhaps to a transitional mode of thought. It is the tendency of knowledge, and so of civilization, to extinguish religion. Advancing culture removes the feelings, or more strictly the occasions of the feelings, which are the elements of religious sentiment. By eliminating fear and wonder from the mind, in its gradually increased acquaintance with the
1 Such as the special Providence of God, the foundation of all religion: the freedom and personality of man: with its consequences on social law and morality. See some good remarks in Christian Remembrancer, No. CXXXI., p. 240.