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as well as our religious periodicals. The special culture of this century is giving this ancient controversy some aspects of its

One of these is, that almost as many of the prominent supporters of the sceptical side of the argument, and some of the ablest of them, are working their batteries inside of the nominally Christian line. That is, the cause of substantially deistical anti-christianism is finding just now staunch and ingenious defenders in professedly orthodox communions, as well as in others which assume the name of liberal churches. Those of them like Powell and Williams and Colenso appear to stand upon about the same platform with Theodore Parker and his disciples. Their avowed object is, of course, to reconstruct the Christian system into closer harmony with the progress of this period of the world. But as yet they have shown no ability of this kind. They have a genius for disorganization and destruction ; but for rebuilding and rehabilitating they have as yet found neither time nor faculty, whatever may be the wishes of some of the more conservative. We are sometimes exhorted to address ourselves to this controversy as something new under the sun, in its elementary positions and forces. We can not so regard it. It is essentially the disputation of the early Christian centuries : “Not whether the first principles of ethics and natural religion are true and valid, but whether natural religion is able to secure the eternal interests of mankind - a question which is constantly recurring, and which constitutes the gist of the controversy between scepticism and Christianity at this very moment, as much as it did in the first ages of the church.” For, continues Professor Shedd, from whom we quote : "it was their desire,” the anti-christian philosophers, “ to establish human philosophy upon the ruins of Christianity, as a universal religion sufficient to meet the wants of humanity, and therefore rendering the revealed system superfluous." What but this are our sceptics attempting?

The recent volumes of Mr. Lecky and Professor Fisher substantially represent the present state of the argument, on the opposite sides of this great debate. Mr. Hurst's work on Rationalism, noticed in our last number, gives the historical 'aspect of the conflict from the evangelical stand-point. Mr.

1 History of Christian Doctrine. I. pp. 64, 65.

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Lecky writes in the interest of the sceptical school, with much
literary ability. His reading is extensive, and he is a master
in the art of effective contrast and grouping. He aspires to
the philosophical treatment of his subject both in the temper
and the method of his discussion, more successfully, however,
in the first than the second. Religion and theology, in his view,
are under the same law of development with material science;
must submit to the same conditions of acceptance or rejection.
Here he is alike illogical and unhistoric. His favorite theory,
in regard to religious and supramundane matters, is that belief
and scepticism flow and reflow by some kind of tidal influence
which no one can account for, but which sweeps along resist-
lessly, carrying away old faiths of immemorial reverence. Thus,
he
says,

that the universal belief in witchcraft drifted off, awhile ago, into the Dead Sea, whither, in the same way, he is sure the belief in all miracles is just going, if not already gone. But, the superstition about witches gave way before the clearer processes of the human understanding carefully re-examining the subject; while no such result is following the most scholarly inquiry into the physical world and textual exegesis, as related to the miracles of the Bible. Mr. Lecky strangely overstates the facts, at this point. The supernaturalism of Christianity is in no such dilapidated condition as he assumes.

Then, again, in subjecting the science of theology to the same laws which govern other scientific growths, does he mean to teach that these are the sport likewise of his currents of belief and unbelief which silently work under old foundations, overturning all that the heart used to love, and the reason to venerate? We had thought that thorough study was the especial boast of the natural as well as rational philosophy of the day ; that the age was not quite so much afloat as this at the mercy of what seems hardly more than accident.

Under this tendency, the author sees the intellect or sentiment of the modern world advancing to the enthronement of the individual conscience as the verifying faculty of all truth and error; to a theology, the cardinal doctrines of which shall be equality, fraternity, the suppression of war, the elevation of the poor, the love of truth, the diffusion of liberty.” Rejecting the dogmatic and the miraculous from the Scriptures, he gives

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us a system of mere rationalized ethics as the new religion of humanity. With some special features of its own, the work is ultra Unitarian in its bearing on the person and government of God, and essential Universalism in its disposal of the life hereafter — a mixture of error with which we are becoming painfully familiar.

Professor Fisher brings to his, task a careful study of the questions at issue between the oppugners and defenders of a supernaturally governed world and a superhumanly authenticated revelation of religious truth. He rightly perceives that this debate covers the first as well as the second of these topics, and that, in the hands of the rationalists, it rejects the supernatural element from every department of the jurisdiction of the universe, material and spiritual. Hence, while he does not regard miracles as the most important testimony to Christianity, he directs his attention very much to their defence as involving the whole question of supernaturalism. Pursuing this intention, he examines, with a nice critical eye and a fine mastery of the subject, the more recent attacks upon the genuineness of the historical books of the New Testament; the speculations of the Tübingen school of extreme rationalists, in which the assumption revived by Hedge' is refuted, that the earliest doctrine of Christ's person was humanitarian ; the writings of Strauss' and Renan respecting the life and work of Jesus ; the similar labors of Mr. Parker. Professor Fisher regards the sceptical movement thus described, as in a transition state from deistical to pantheistical foundations, if anything worthy of this word can be predicated of so airy a thing as this ; and accordingly makes an argument for the personality of God against these dreamers. *In these varied bearings of his subject, he shows himself familiar with its present phases, and has well maintained the catholic ground against its ingenious, learned, and often unscrupulous assailants. His work will become a text-book upon this

"Reason in Religion (reviewed in our last number). Book II., ch. I.

2 The exposition here given of Strauss' revision of his Life of Jesus for the German people, is most damaging both to his literary and moral honesty. So far from its being a retraction of his former work, it now ascribes the Gospels to a studied falsification for purposes of theological partizanship, instead of the earlier theory of a mythical genesis consistent with pious motives. The spirit of this recension is thoroughly bad. Prof. Fisher says, its proper title would be: “Conjectures concerning the Life of one Jesus, by a Disbeliever in the Authenticity of the Gospels and Existence of God."

controversy. Compared with Mr. Lecky's volumes, while equally able intellectually, more thorough and accurate in its scholarship, and much more deferential to historical truth, it is Christian and not Pagan in its fundamental principles. We mean just this. But our purpose is not to follow these writers in the unfolding of their views. We shall give, instead, our own reflections upon the main issue involved, as variously suggested. And the line of thought which our discussion will follow is this : Nature - its laws and order : Man- his relation to nature : God -- his relation to both of these, in providence, in miraculous intervention, and in remedial grace.

§ 1. What do we mean . by Nature ? In common understanding it includes the created system of things; that which has in it a being or becoming, under a constitution of law and in a sequence of orderly progression. From this we separate rational and responsible life : and when we would speak of this we say human nature, making thus a familiar distinction between two quite unlike departments of creation. So the beauties and sublimities of nature lie in the sphere of the material or physical world — sky, ocean, mountains, forests, and the like. The adaptations and forces of nature, in the same way, refer to the forms, combinations, and compositions of the earth's solid and fluent adjuncts, and the rest of the outlying portions of the universe. The word has other uses, which are inexact or figurative ; as when nature is personified into a sentient, living being, and then called the cause or author of other things. If it is thus said that nature produces plants, flowers, animals, or any existence, it can only be truthfully meant that these come to pass in accordance with the order or laws of the natural world. To state this literally, or in any sense except by an allowance of language, is to erect a mere effect into a sovereign, creating power, which is but another name for God.

The world about us as thus described, is a vast machine or mechanism which has a variety of movements and ways of acting, the observance, classification, interpretation of which make up our natural sciences. Students of this kind of knowledge have collected a multitude of facts from every part of this great kingdom ; have compared, analyzed, experimented, combined, and established what are styled the laws of nature. These

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forces are inherent in, or inseparable from, all material substances. They always have been so. A uniformity is observed in their working. It is necessary to the comfort, security, continuance of the universe that it should be steadily gov. erned by laws of this sort. The order of nature prevents the disorder, the rupture, the destruction of nature. It is an in estimable blessing as it is a demonstrated fact.

One of these laws is, that whatever is now in a state either of rest or motion will continue so, until something occurs or operates to change its condition. So of the whole material structure it is true, that it will naturally run on as it is going, under its proper and constituted forces of attraction and repulsion, growth and decline, life and death, unless some outside interference comes forward to alter, reset, redirect its on-goings. That is, these forces have a specific and understood action. They are not fitful and irregular, or self-opposing and defeating. Water will not descend to-day and ascend to-morrow of its own accord, as we say. So universally. The stars in their courses, the atoms of a sandhill, the gases of the atmosphere obey the laws of their being, as their uniform and reliable state. As it was in the beginning, so is it now, und so it will be. We have no hesitancy in putting this obvious and unquestionable truth as strongly as those who draw from it an inference which we regard as wholly unauthorized and inadmissible. That inference we shall state in due time. But here we must devote some attention

§ II. To Man - in relation to this nature which lies around him. He is partly material. Our bodies do not differ from other merely physical organizations in their components, and laws of being. They are made up of much the same elements that enter into the formation of the things which we daily see and handle. They submit to the same forces which control inanimate substances. They grow and decay and die under mechanical causes. These processes are mainly like the similar changes which we observe in vegetation. We are thus of the earth earthy.

But we are more than this. When God had created man out of the dust of the ground, he breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul. This means very much

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