Изображения страниц

We turn, in the last place, to Mr. Tayler's object in issuing this book. In his preface, he says :

*The idea which possessed my mind, when I first sketched out the plan of this volume, was the desirableness of embracing, in a common point of view, the phenomena of the different religious parties, whose unintermitted strife and sharp conflict of manners and opinions, have given such a deep and varied interest to the spiritual history of England; especially during the three centuries which have elapsed since the Reformation. In pursuing this idea, I have tried to discover the governing principle, and understand the characteristic working of each party ; to apprehend their mutual relation ; to show how they have occasionally passed off into each other; and out of their joint operation to trace the evolution of a more comprehensive principle, which looks above the narrowness of their respective views, and, allving itself with the essential elements of the Christian faith, may in time, perhaps, devise some method of reconciling an unlimited freedom and variety of the religious life with the friendliness and mutual recognition of universal brotherhood.' pp. iv. v.

This is, certainly, a very ill constructed and bewildering sentence. We suppose, however, that Mr. Tayler's object is the association, in Christian churches, of men of every kind of Christian faith. Thus, in a passage already quoted, he seems to praise Baxter because he would have taken in all quiet and visible Christians that did not break in on the established church order, from the Papist on the one side, to the Socinian on the other.' And on page 474, he seems to desire the union

of all Christian minds, if not in one habitual communion, yet at least in a bond of mutual recognition, and in a friendly interchange of religious offices.' In furtherance of this object, Mr. Tayler strives to show, so at all events it seems to us, that all existing Christian parties are so many modified embodiments of at least one great comprehensive principle, allied with the essential elements of the Christian faith. But he nowhere announces what this principle is; and he makes no effort to show that what he deems the essential elements of the Christian faith are so understood by other Christians, or, if not, ought to be. We should have supposed, from the words we have cited, that this principle, common to us all, is extra-Christian, and even ante-Christian. But finding on page 3, 'the principles which distinguish Christianity from all previous religions are spirituality and mental freedom ;' we conclude that when these are found allied with the essential elements aforesaid, the pre-requisites for church membership exist. We afterwards learn, however, that there is no need to bear in mind more than these elements, in order to determine on fit candidates for Christian fellow. ship :

• The spirit of Christ embraces three elements ; union of will and endeavour with the everlasting Father; affectionate sympathy with humanity; and the habitual presence of the idea of immortality. These are all expressed and embodied, with a surpassing power and beauty, in his life. And to sympathise with that life, to baptize our hearts in its redundant spirit of faith and love, to look up to Christ as our spiritual helper and guide to a higher world, is belief unto salvation, an entrance into the kingdom of God. It is difficult to conceive how any pure minds could decline this sympathy with the life of Christ ; . . . and in this sympathy of the will and affections with Christ, this acknowledgment of Him with the heart, as the head of his church, the spiritual family of God, there seem to exist the only indispensable conditions of a comprehensive union among Christians.'-pp. 476, 477.

Mr. Tayler, however, wishes to comprehend none but Christians in this union. For having spoken of religious feeling and affection, identical, we suppose, with 'spirituality and mental freedom,' as cravings, of our nature which meet in Christ with their appropriate object, he adds, page 431, These elementary wants of our spiritual nature are not considered by deism. It is not adapted to them. It labours under deficiences which only an historical religion can supply. It wants a visible head ; it has no Christ. It needs some link for the human soul, through human sympathies, with the unseen God, a centre of living union, a bond of universal brotherhood.' A deist might reply to Mr. Tayler, and, for aught that we can see, successfully; "We neither need a link, through human sympathies, with God, nor see one, should we need it. We have the religious feeling and affection, the spirituality and mental freedom. A link, a medium, may carnalize and darken; we cannot think it in any way desirable. Besides, your Christ is no historical personage to us. You and your brethren, too, form very different conceptions of his character. Possessed, then, as we all are, equally of the same religious feeling towards God, it does not seem a sufficient cause of separation, that we cannot agree about historical truth; especially when you Unitarians agree among yourselves in little more than this, that there was once a man, and that his name was Christ.' Mr. Tayler himself says, page 422, “In mode of reasoning, and in the general conception of religion, the deists and the rationalist divines of this time' (the middle of the last century) ‘had much in common. The line must have been vague and arbitrary, indeed, which kept such writers as Middleton, and Wollaston (author of the 'Religion of Nature Delineated,) within the limits of Christianity, and put Shaftesbury, Morgan, and Chubb, without them. We think so too; and quoting again from Mr. Tayler, pages 431, 422, 'It is a presumption against deism's possessing the whole truth, and meeting the entire demands of our nature, that it has shown itself incapable hitherto of generating and sustaining a church;' we add, and it is a presumption against Mr. Tayler's scheme of church comprehension, that it seems necessitated to include the votaries of what has hitherto shown such incapability. Or if the obligation to include them be not, as yet, apparent, we see not how it can be denied after reading the following from pp. 559, 560 :- If one thing be clear in the New Testament, it is, that the conversion there spoken of as the beginning of the Christian life, was a change brought on the will and affections of man. When this is accomplished, through communion and sympathy with the spirit of Christ, it is surely a matter of subordinate importance, what view be taken of those purely external facts, which have no value but as subservient to the moral effects that are anticipated from a belief in them. See, too, pp. 422426. Now it is 'the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus' which Mr. Tayler denotes by the term external facts.' But we can see no reason for excluding the life and the character of Jesus from the same class of facts to which the miracles and the resurrection belong. If, therefore, this change is accomplished, though without communion and sympathy with the spirit of Christ, it is surely a matter of subordinate importance what view be taken of the purely external facts, that Christ lived, and that his character was far above the ordinary standard of human morality,' p. 430. Be these facts asserted, or be they denied from men's intellectual inability to grasp them,' p. 560; yet, if the asserters and the deniers equally acknowledge with their hearts' the same moral nature in God, and the same moral standard for man, we see not why they should not enter into one religious church as easily and cordially as 'devout persons, who, unable to assure themselves of the reality of Christ's miracles and his resurrection, yet acknowledging with their hearts what they feel to be divine in Christ's doctrine and person,' are allowed by Mr. Tayler's scheme to constitute with him, and such as he, a Christian church. The presumption,' then, against the scheme, becomes the stronger.

Mr. Tayler, as well as Mr. Newman, has a theory of development. The two theories are not identical, nor are they used for the same purpose ; but they are both redolent of the same Teutonic spring. Mr. Newman developes one principle or institution into many, and reveres the latter as deeply as the former. His developement is regular, progressive, and without a blemish ; and though the process be unintelligible to an heretic, and, indeed, to his eye have the appearance of an aggregation of antagonistic natures rather than of the develop



ment of one, yet to the pious all seems as orderly and natural as the evolution of mathematical corollaries. Mr. Tayler's development, however, is still stranger and more startling. He developes circularly, commencing with purity, developing into all species of impurity, and then developing backwards into simple purity again. The following is his own account of the matter :

Things were approaching the state in which the gospel had been originally preached to men. For the last century there had been a constant effort to reverse, step by step, the process by which the Church had gradually arranged and consolidated its constitution, and grown up into the form and organization of the papal hierarchy. First, the connexion with Rome was dissolved, and national independence was acquired under the sovereign and the bishops ; this was the work of the Anglican party, and its result was the Church of England as constituted under Elizabeth. The next move was to reduce bishops to the rank of Presbyters, and to govern the Church by subordinated assemblies of pastors and elders, the national unity in religion being still preserved. This was the effort of the Presbyterians, who thus got a step further back towards primitive Christianity. Then came the Independents, who renounced the idea of a national religion, and by their congregational system, retaining, however, a fixed discipline, a regular ministry, and a due administration of ordinances, approached still nearer to the ancient practice of the Church. Lastly, the Quakers, the Seekers, the Fifth Monarchy men, throwing off the restraint of any definite system, abandoning themselves to a wild enthusiasm, and living in the vague expectation of some great approaching change, remind us, in the absorbing spiritualism of their views, and their renunciation of the ordinary concerns of life, of the description given in the Acts, of the infant Church at Jerusalem, and terminate this progressive picture of the reversal of the Christian story.” (pp. 192, 193.)

Of these same primitive Christians, the Quakers, we read, too, as follows, on pp. 190, 191 :

*The earnest, meditative mind of Fox, retiring in disgust from the hopeless controversies of the rigid Scripturalists, looked for an authority anterior to Scripture itself in the revelations of the spirit within, awakened by Scripture, and holding direct communion with God. He penetrated through the letter to the divine spirit which it expressed, and which he saw mirrored in the quiet depths of his own mind. The principles of the Quakers, originating with him towards the close of the war, and exaggerated in the wild vagaries of Naylor, completed the cycle of Puritanic change.'

Again, on p. 245 :

'Quakerism went back to the primitive fountains of religious conviction, and involved elements of the deepest spiritual truth, fitted to attract minds of a pure and elevated order. Its extreme simplicity really adapted it to very high mental refinement." VOL XX.


And we find in the next page

Its theology stands in a sort of middle point between Calvinism, Arminianism, and Socinianism.'

Of course, now, proof enough is given in all parts of the book, that those elements of Quakerism which Mr. Tayler admires, are nearly, if not quite, identical with modern Unitarianism or Free Inquiry. This, therefore, is the last development and whether it take the form of Deism, or retain a connexion with what Mr. Tayler calls,' the essential elements of the Christian faith,' it seems to us neither more nor less than what we have already found him describing as our nature's religious craving. Whereas, then, Mr. Newman wishes to confine church membership to those who adopt all the later developments of first principles, Mr. Tayler's object is to include in church communion all men who are conscious of religious sentiment, a feeling and an affection for 'the spiritual power and presence that encompasses us,' a sense of God, one of the ultimate facts in our constitution.'— See pp. 428, 429. And though at times he seems ready to impose the condition that this 'sentiment' shall have been awakened 'through communion and sympathy with the spirit of Christ,' yet when we review all that he has said, and especially the passages referred to last, we do not believe that he would strenuously insist thereon. All men, therefore, who possess the religious sentiment;' all, at least, who have it in connexion with sympathy with Christ, in whatever point of the cycle they may be, whether in the Roman Catholic state, the Anglican, the Independent, or the Seeking; whether, then, the development is now commencing, or whether, as in the modern Unitarians, it has proceeded to the last result, the completion of the circle, the point where pure non-inquiry and pure free inquiry meet, and are identical; all such men should form 'a comprehensive union;' 'individuals and societies grounding on this simple basis, whatever forms and usages they may find expedient for the culture of their spiritual affections, and associating with it any exposition of doctrinal views that may be needed for the satisfaction of the speculative intellect; but all, amidst their many varieties of opinion and worship, prepared to own as a brother disciple of Christ, every one whose life is conformed to that Divine example, and whose heart is filled with his heavenly spirit.'-p. 477. We have lately had occasion to object to an Evangelical alliance with a doctrinal basis; we must now object to Mr. Tayler's proposal for a Christian, or a Theistic, alliance with a basis of sentiment.

And we assert, then, that Mr. Tayler's scheme would necessitate the introduction of the very thing that he abhors, a test of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »