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authority with the Bible; or a Bible must be had from which every thing inconsistent with the system has been expunged; or a divine revelation must be given up altogether.
It will be seen that it is not necessary for the purposes of our argument that this philosophy in all its details should be regarded as true. We may hold that there is such a thing as an intuitive knowledge of the infinite, and that a science of theology is possible, but that with which we are now concerned is the fact that the most influential philosophy of the age, that which will soon give the prevailing tone to the thinking of our times, if logically carried out, compels us to choose between evangelical religion and universal skepticism.
But, besides this, a Restoration of Faith, is, we think, foreshadowed in the fact that schemes of reform on the rationalistic basis have run themselves out to the most wicked or ridiculous consequences, so that the age finds itself baffled and cheated in that direction, and is beginning already to retrace its steps. The fact is, and it is more and more recognized, all social evils resolve themselves into one or another form of sin. The difference between true and false systems of reform is. that the former bring the agencies of Redemption to bear upon evil, while by the latter these agencies are discarded. Rationalistic systems of reform proceed upon the idea that social evils are the result of man's circumstances, and not of the corruption of his nature; and these systems, we maintain,, are right, and must and should prevail, unless the Fall and Redemption, which are the fundamental principles of evangelical religion, are to be recognized as the fundamental principles also of social and political philosophy. It is well that we should understand that the rejection of evangelical religion leads necessarily to the wild and wicked schemes of reform which are the curse of the present day. Give up the idea of the Fall and of the native depravity of man, and you inevitably seek for the remedy for evil in the powers and tendencies with which man is endowed. If he is not naturally depraved he needs no redemption which his own nature does not afford. And if it is in his own nature that the remedy is to be found, then that nature should be left to its own unrestricted development, for whatever is most free in it is moat in accordance with true happiness. To what monstrous absurdities and unspeakable abominations has this rationalistic philosophy at last conducted us! The atheist Shelley, a memorial of whom has recently been thrust upon a Christian community, in his Notes to Queen Mob has proposed the abolishing of animal food as a remedy for all the evils of humanity! Socialism or the destruction of property, and Free Love or the destruction of domestic ties, are the inevitable outgrowths of this philosophy. Our age has heard the infamous proposal of the Emancipation of Woman by the annihilation of the family; but the last and most characteristic insult of this godless nationalism to the moral sense of mankind is the detestable work of M. Michelet, which is a disgrace and burning shame to our common humanity. In this work, the circulation of which is one of the saddest tokens of the low morality of the higher circles in society, he invades with unhallowed step the sanctities of domestic life, and erects a so-called safeguard for virtue and honor by putting a spiritualized physiology in the place of Christ!
It is well that we have come at last near to the consummation of this development. As in philosophy, we are learning that we must choose between religion and universal skepticism; so in reference to questions of social and political reform we must choose eventually between evangelical religion and the vilest spawn of Radicalism.
If we have not lost all confidence in the age, can we doubt but that it will retrace its steps? The age is logical, and, therefore, it has carried out its Rationalism to these miserable results. But it has not abandoned utterly its faith. It still trusts in purity, in honor, in integrity, in love. It still recognizes the great principles of the moral government of God, and it will turn back and seek until it finds those grand principles of historic Christianity, in which the great problems of society have their roots.
In this connection we can not but express our obligations to Dr. Bellows for the masterly manner in which he has shown that the true principles of reform are eminently conservative. Some shallow thinkers of our times, who deem themselves wiser than all the generations of the past, are in the habit of denouncing Conservatism as the great enemy of progress. Dr. Bellows tugs bravely at the foundations of this popular Radicalism, and sweeps them triumphantly away. Nobly and eloquently has he declared that there are great facts and truths which are not open questions, but which have the testimony of that which is immeasurably above individual reason; the universal reason of the race. We must build upon the foundations of the past. All true progress must have its roots in institutions which already exist. This is the conservative idea of reform, but it is utterly in conflict with the popular Rationalism of the age. The great advances of humanity have invariably been made upon this principle. The treasures of the past have been carried on into the future. The religious reformations of the world especially have always been accompanied by a return to the fundamental principles of historic religion. Jesus Christ, for we may speak reverently in such a connection of him, was the greatest and at the same time the most conservative of Reformers. The roots of that system which he came to fulfill were interwoven through every generation of the world, and grasped firmly the great primeval facts and principles of our being.
But besides these indications of the course which earnest, and thoughtful, and devout minds must pursue, which is nothing less than a return to the principles of evangelical or historic Christianity—there are most striking indications of a revival already of evangelical life.
The most remarkable evidence of this is perhaps to be found in the history of Germany for the last thirty or forty years. There the great battle between Evangelical religion and Rationalism has been fought; and the forms of Rationalism which are now rife among us are those which have been driven out from the land of their birth. In 1817 the Third Centennial Anniversary of the Reformation was celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm. New inquiry was stimulated as to the real principles of this great religious movement, and the faith of Luther was brought out in full contrast with the cold, negative Rationalism which then prevailed. The Evangelical Union was inaugurated in Prussia, which looked to a union of Lutheranism and Reform, and the consequent strengthening of both. It was evident that a new era had commenced. It was at this period that the extraordinary genius of Schleiermacher, whose universal scholarship had mastered seemingly all the philosophy and literature of the world, began its mighty influence over the German mind. With a theology far from orthodox, he still defended with unexampled ability and success the fundamental doctrines of Sin and Redemption. Schleiermacher has been followed in the same career by the profound historian Neander; by Tholuck, and Olshausen,whose Commentaries on the New Testament are equalled only by the dissertations of Hengstenberg on the Old. Twesten and Nitzsch infused still more of evangelical life into the Schleiermachian theology, and UUman and Dorner labored in the same cause with eminent success.
In the dark and stormy days of the revolutionary year 1848, the Kirchentag, with its Inner Mission for the Promotion of the Practical Interests of Christianity, was formed. Tholuck, Nitzsch, Mliller, Hengstenberg, Dorner, Ullman, Hoffman, Ebrard, and Lange, were the principal founders and defenders of this movement. Its annual meetings, in which great numbers of the first men in Germany have participated, have had a vast influence in the promotion of evangelical life and doctrine. Its department of the Inner Mission, especially under the fostering care of Dr. Wichern, has shown how beautifully works of charity spring forth from evangelical faith.
While it is certain that there is still a vast deal of Rationalism in Germany, it is certain also that its true tendencies have been so clearly exhibited that a most powerful reaction has taken place. A system which has found its goal in the atheism of Feuerbach, who says that man's idea of God is only as it were, a double vision of himself, is no system for the naturally devout character of the German mind. The recoil from such results has already been tremendous. Hundreds of pulpits which were formerly filled with Rationalistic preachers are now occupied by men who proclaim with earnest enthusiasm the doctrines of the cross. The science of Germany is assuming more and more a position of harmony with religion. Evangelical truth has enthroned itself in the Universities, which were once withered and shrivelled with the blasts of Rationalism; and from these venerable seats of learning, through innumerable pastors and teachers, a healthful stream of saving truth is now flowing through every portion of the land. Rationalists in this country prate about the progress of the age as if it would inevitably favor their views; but in Germany, where Rationalism has had the fairest field, the progress of the age is fast outgrowing it, and the land of Luther begins to rejoitfe every where in the restoration of the light which was first shed upon it from the torch of the great Reformer.
No reflecting mind can fail to see in the wonderful revivals of religion which have prevailed so extensively within the last few years, an evidence of a renewal of evangelical life. After every allowance has been made for exaggeration of statement, for the influences of sympathy and nervous excitement, for the stimulating effect of revival measures, and for the extravagance and excess by which they have been attended, the facts are still sufficiently remarkable to demand the earnest consideration of every thinking man. They show beyond a question that it is the evangelical system alone which stirs the heart of humanity, since it is that alone which stands in any adequate proportion to the conscious wants of the soul, or proposes any thing which is felt to be an adequate remedy. All the resources of Rationalism, employed with the highest skill and power, have never been able to call forth such a response from the human heart. It can not summon the deep affections, the profound powers of our nature to the aid of truth and holiness. The great truths of the Fall and the Redemption are the only ones which cause every chord of our being to vibrate, sweeping over them tumultuously at first, till they send forth wild and discordant wailings; and then sweetly and soothingly, while there rises from them one perpetual harmony of joy and peace.