« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
As He “who spake as never man spake” is in all the children of dust towards the Father of pleased often to illustrate the conduct of the Fa- Spirits justifies a still more gloomy augury; iniher of Spirits to his intelligent offspring by a asmuch as the difference between the knowledge reference to the conduct which Aows from the of man and the ignorance of a child, absolutely relations of the human parent to his children, so vanishes, in comparison with that interval which the present subject admits of similar illustration. must ever subsist between the knowledge of the What God does with us in that process of mora Eternal and the ignorance of man. education to which we have just adverted, is ex- The remarks that have been made are not unactly what every wise parent endeavors to do with called for in the present day. For, unfortunately, his children-though by methods, as we may well it is now easy to detect in many classes of minds judge, proportionably less perfect. Man too in- a tendency to divorce Reason from Faith, or Faith stinctively, or by reflection, adapts himself to the from Reason ; and to proclaim that " what God nature of his children ; and seeing that only so hath joined together” shall henceforth exist in far as it is justly trained can they be happy, alienation. We see this tendency manifested in makes the harmonious and concurrent development relation both to natural theology and to revealed of their reason and their faith his object; he, too, religion. The old conflict between the claims of endeavors to teach them that without which they these two guiding principles of man (in no age cannot be happy—obedience, but a reasonable wholly suppressed) is visibly renewed in our day. obedience. He gives them, in his general pro- In relation to Christianity especially, there are cedure and conduct, sufficient proofs of his supe- large classes amongst us who press the claims of rior knowledge, superior wisdom, and unchanging faith so far, that it would become, if they had love ; and secure in the general effect of this, he their will, an utterly unreasonable faith ; some leaves them to receive by faith many things which of whom do not scruple to speak slightingly he cannot explain to them if he would, till they of the evidences which substantiate Christianity ; get older; many things which he can only par- to decry and depreciate the study of them; to protially explain ; and many others which he might nounce that study unnecessary; and even in many more perfectly explain, but will not, partly as a cases to insinuate their insufficiency. They are test of their docility, and partly to invite and ne- loud in the mean time in extolling a faith which. cessitate the healthy and energetic exercise of as Whately truly observes, is no whit better than their reason in finding out the explanation for the faith of a heathen ; who has no other or betthemselves. Confiding in the same general effect ter reason to offer for his religion than that his of his procedure and conduct, he does not hesitate, father told him it was true! But this plainly is when the foresight of their ultimate welfare jus- not the intelligent faith which, as we have seen, is tifies it, to draw still more largely on their faith, everywhere inculcated and applauded in the Scripin acts of apparent harshness and severity. Time, tures; it is not that faith by which Christianity, he knows, will show, though perhaps not till his appealing in the midst of a multitude of such trayearning heart has ceased to beat for their welfare, ditional religions, to palpable evidence addressed that all that he did, he did in love. He knows, to men's senses and understandings, (in a way no too, that if his lessons are taken aright, and his other religion ever did.) everywhere destroyed the children become the good and happy men he systems for which their votaries could only say wishes them to be, they will say, as they visit his that their fathers told them they were true. And sepulchre, and recall with sorrow the once unap- yet this blind belief in such tradition, many advopreciated love which animated him—and perhaps cates of Christianity would now enjoin us to imwith a sorrow, deeper still, remember the tran- itate! It might have occurred to them, one would sient resentments caused by a salutary severity: think, that, on their principles, Christianity never “ He was indeed a friend ; he corrected us not for could have succeeded; for every mind must have his pleasure, but for our profit ; and what we been hopelessly preöccupied against all examinaonce thought was caprice or passion, we now tion of its claims. It is, indeed, incomparably know was love."
better that a man should be a sincere Christian These analogies afford a true, though most im- even by an utterly unreasoning and passive faith, perfect, representation of the moral discipline to (if that be possible,) than no Christian at all ; but which Supreme Wisdom is subjecting us; and as at the best, such a man is a possessor of the we are accustomed to despair of any child with truth only by accident; he ought to have, and if whom paternal experience and authority go for he be a sincere disciple of the truth, will seek, nothing, unless he can fully understand the intrin- some more solid grounds for holding it. But it is sic reasons for every special act of duty which but too obvious, we fear, that the disposition to that experience and authority dictate; as we are enjoin this obsequious mood of mind is prompted sure that he who has not learned to obey when by a strong desire to revive the ancient empire of young will never, when of age, know how to gov- priestcraft and the pretensions of ecclesiastical ern either himself or others; so a similar conduct despotism ; to secure reädmission to the human what better than that no reason of the Hindoo or the mind of extravagant and preposterous claims, Hottentot, that he believes what he is told, soithout any which their advocates are sadly conscious rest on reason except that he is told it—is an injunction possible no solid foundation. They feel that as reason is to be obeyed.
not with them, it must be against them; and rea- these operate each in due proportion, then, and son, therefore, they are determined to exclude. then only, can he be at rest. It may, indeed, tran
But the experience of the present “ develop- scend any calculus of man to estimate exactly the ments’’ of Oxford teaching may serve to show us several elements in this complicated polygon of how infinitely perilous is this course ; and how forces ; but we are at least sure that, if any one fearfully both outraged reason and outraged faith principle be so developed as to supersede another, will avenge the wrongs done them by their alien- no safe equipoise will be attained. We all know ation and disjunction. Those results, indeed, we familiarly enough that this is the case when the predicted in 1843 ; before a single leader of the affections or the appetites are more powerful than Oxford school had gone over to Rome, and before the reason and the conscience, instead of being in any tendencies to the opposite extreme of scepti- subjection to them : but it is not less the case cism had manifested themselves. We then af- though the result is not so palpable, when reason firmed that, on the one hand, those who were con- and faith either exclude one another, or trench on tending for the corruptions of the fourth century each other's domain ; when one is pampered and could not possibly find footing there, but must the other starved.* Hence the perils attendant inevitably seek their ultimate resting place in upon their attempted separation, and the ruin Rome--a prediction which has been too amply ful- which results from their actual alienation and filled ; and that, on the other, the extravagant hostility. There is no depth of dreary superstipretensions put forth on behalf of an uninquiring tion, into which men may not sink in the one case, faith, and the desperate assertion that the “evi- and no extravagance of ignorant presumption to dence for Christianity” was no stronger than that which they may not soar in the other. It is only for “ Church Principles,” must, by reaction, by the mutual and alternate action of these differlead on to an outbreak of infidelity. That proph- ent forces that man can safely navigate his little ecy, too, has been to the letter accomplished. We bark through the narrow straits and by the danthen said : “We have seen it recently asserted, gerous rocks which impede his course ; and if by some of the Oxford school, that there is as faith spread not the sail 10 the breeze, or if reason much reason for rejecting the most essential doc- desert the helm, we are in equal peril. trines of Christianity-nay Christianity itself—as If it be said that this is a disconsolate and dreary for rejecting their church principles !' That, doctrine ; that man seeks and needs a simpler in short, we have as much reason for being in-navigation than this troublesome and intricate fidels as for rejecting the doctrine of Apostolical course, by star and chart, compass and lead line ; succession ! What other effect such reasoning and that this responsibility, of ever can have, than that of compelling men to believe Sounding on his dim and perilous way, that there is nothing between infidelity and popery, is too grave for so feeble a nature ; we answer and of urging them to make a selection between that such is his actual condition. This is a plain the two, we know not.
matter of fact which cannot be denied. The variwe fully expect that, as a reaction of the present extravagancies, of the revival of obsolete super- in relation to the external world, obviously and
ous principles of his constitution, and his position stition, we shall have ere long to fight over again absolutely subject him to this very responsibility the battle with a modified form of infidelity, as now with a modified form of popery. Thus, prob
throughout his whole course in this life. It is
never remitted or abated : resolves are necessiably, for some time to come, will the human mind
tated continue to oscillate between the extremes of er
upon imperfect evidence ; and action imperaror ; but with a diminished arc at each vibration; which reason is not satisfied, and faith is required.
tively demanded amidst doubts and difficulties in until truth shall at last prevail, and compel it to To argue, therefore, that God cannot have left repose in the centre."* The offensive displays of self-sufficiency and
man to such uncertainty, is to argue, as the pertiflippancy, of ignorance and presumption, found
nacious lawyer did, who, on seeing a man in the
stocks, asked him what he was there for ; and on in the productions of the apostles of the new infidelity of Oxford, (of which we shall have being told, said, “They cannot put you there for
that." * But I am here," was the laconic ana few words to say by-and-by) are the natural and instructive, though most painful, result of attempting to give predominance to one principle of our in this life might lead us to expect the same sys
The analogy, then, of man's whole condition nature, where two or more are designed reciprocally to guard and check each other; and such
tem of procedure throughout ; that the evidence results must ever follow such attempts. The
which substantiates religious truth, and claims excellence of man—so complexly constituted is religious action, would involve this responsibility his nature-must consist in the harmonious action as well as that which substantiates other kinds of and proper balance of all the constituents of that Oxford Tract School, who have by a fatal indulgence of
* It has been our lot to meet with disciples of the nature ; the equilibrium he sighs for must be the an appetite of beliel, brought themselves to believe any result of the combined action of forces operating mediæval miracle, nay, any ghost story, without examiin different directions ; of his reason, his faith, lieve than to reason." They believe as they will to helieve; his appetites, his affections, his emotions; when and thus is reason avenged. Reason, similarly indulged,
believes, with Mr. Foxton and Mr. Froude, that a miracle is * Oxford Tract School, Ed. Rev., April, 1843. even an impossibility; and this is the “Nemesis' of faith.
truth, and demands other kinds of action. And I ly struggles with objections and difficulties is after all, what else, in either case, could answer impossible. Men may be said, in such case, to the purpose, if (as already said) this world be the know, but can hardly be said to believe. Before school of training of man's moral nature ? How Columbus had seen America, he believed in its exelse could the discipline of his faculties, the ex- istence; but when he had seen it his faith became ercise of patience, humility and fortitude, be knowledge. Equally impossible, and for the sam secured? How, amidst a state of things less than reason, is any place for faith on the opposite hypothcertainty-whether under the form of that passive esis ; for if man is to believe nothing but what faith which mimics the possession of absolute cer- his reason can comprehend, and to act only upon tainty, or absolute certainty itself—could man's evidence which amounts to certainty, the same nature be trained to combined self-reliance and paradox is true; for when there is no reason to self-distrust, circumspection and resolution, and, doubt, there can be none to believe. Faith ever above all, to confidence in God? Man cannot be stands between conflicting probabilities ; but her nursed and dandled into the manhood of his nature, position is (if we may use the metaphor) the centre by that unthinking faith which leaves no doubts to of gravity between them, and will be proportionbe felt, and no objections to be weighed ; nor can ably nearer the greater mass. his docility ever be tested, if he is never called upon In the mean time that arduous responsibility to believe anything which it would not be an ab- which attaches to man, and which is obviated surdity and contradiction to deny. This species of neither by an implicit faith in a human infalliresponsibility, then, not only cannot be dispensed bility, nor an exclusive reference of that faith to with, but is absolutely necessary; and conse- cases in which reason is synonymous with demonquently, however desirable it may appear that we stration, that is, to cases which leave no room for should have furnished to us that short path to cer-it, is at once relieved, and effectually relieved, by tainty which a pretended infallibility* promises to the maxim—the key-stone of all ethical truthman, or that equally short path which leads to that only voluntary error condemns us ;—that all the same termination, by telling us that we are to we are really responsible for, is a faithful, honest, believe nothing which we cannot demonstrate to be patient, investigation and weighing of evidence, as true, or which à priori, we may presume to be far as our abilities and opportunities admit, and a false, must be a path which leads astray. In the conscientious pursuit of what we honestly deem one case, how can the “reasonable service” which truth, wherever it may lead us. We concede that Scripture demands--the enlightened love and a really dispassionate and patient conduct in this conscientious investigation of truth—its reception, respect is what man is too ready to assure he has not without doubts, but against doubts—how could practised—and this fallacy cannot be too sedulously all this coëxist with a faith which presents the guarded against. But that guilty liability to selfwhole sum of religion in the formulary, “I am to deception, does not militate against the truth of believe without a doubt, and perform without hes- the representation now made. It is his duty to see itation, whatever my guide, Parson A., tells me?'' that he does not abuse the maxim--that he does Not that, even in that case, (as has often been not rashly acquiesce in any conclusion that he shown,) the man would be relieved from the wishes to be true, or which he is too lazy to exnecessity of absolutely depending on the dreaded amine. If all possible diligence and honesty have exercise of his private judgment; for he niust at been exerted in the search, the statement of Chilleast have exercised it once for all, (unless each lingworth, bold as it is, we should not hesitate to man is to rerit his religion wholly to the accident adopt, in all the vigor of his own language. It of his birth,) and that on two of the most arduous is to the effect, that if " in him alone there were of all questions : first, which of several churches, a confluence of all the errors which have befallen pretending to infallibility, is truly infallible? and the sincere professors of Christianity, he should next, whether the man may infallibly regard his not be so much afraid of them, as to ask God's worthy Parson A. as an infallible expounder of pardon for them ;' absolutely involuntary error that infallibility? But, supposing this stupen- being justly regarded by him as blameless. dous difficulty surmounted, though then, it is true, On the other hand, we firmly believe, from the all may seem genuine faith, in reality there is natural relations of truth with the constitution of none : where absolute infallibility is supposed to the mind of man, that, with the exception of a very have been attained, (even though erroneously,) few cases of obliquity of intellect, which may faith, in strict propriety-certainly that faith which safely be left to the merciful interpretations and is alone of any value as an instrument of men's apologies of Him who created such intellects, moral training—which recognizes and intelligent- those who thus honestly and industriously “seek"
shall “find ;" —not all truth, indeed, but enough * See Archbishop Whately's admirable discourse, entitled "The Search after Infallibility, considered in refer to secure their safety; and that whatever remainence to the Danger of Religious Errors arising within the ing errors may infest and disfigure the truth they He here makes excellent use of the fruitful principle of have attained, they shall not be imputed to them Butler's great work, by showing that, however desirable for sin. According to the image which apostolic à priori, an infallible guide would seem to fallible man, eloquence has employed, the baser materials which ing it in relation to religion, he has acted only as he unavoidable haste, prejudice, and ignorance may always acts.
have incorporated with the gold of the edifice,
will be consumed by the fire which “ will try every | materially vary in their version, and though some man's work of what sort it is,” but he himself of the circumstances alleged may be in appearance will be saved amidst those purifying flames. Like inexplicable. But the last thing a man would the bark which contained the Apostle and the for- think of doing, in such cases, would be to neglect tunes of the Gospel, the frail vessel may go to the preponderant evidence on account of the residpieces on the rocks, but “by boat or plank" the uum of insoluble objections. He does not, in voyager himself shall “ get safe to shore.” short, allow his ignorance to control his knowledge,
It is amply sufficient, then, to lighten our re- nor the evidence which he has not got to destroy sponsibility, that we are answerable only for our what he has; and the less so, that experience has honest endeavors to discover and to practise the taught him that in many cases such apparent diffitruth ; and, in fact, the responsibility is principally culties have been cleared up, in the course of time, felt to be irksome, and, man is so prompt, by de- and by the progress of knowledge, and proved to vices of his own, to release himself from it, not be contradictions in appearance only. on account of any intrinsic difficulty which remains It is the same with the conclusions of natural after the above limitations are admitted, but be- philosophy, when well proved by experiment, cause he wishes to be exempted from that very however unaccountable for awhile may be the disnecessity of patient and honest investigation. It crepancy with apparently opposing phenomena. is not so much the difficulty of finding, as the No one disbelieves the Copernican theory now; trouble of seeking the truth, from which he shrinks; though thousands did for awhile, on what they a necessity, however, from which, as it is an essen- believed the irrefragable evidence of their senses. tial instrument of his moral education and disci- Now let us only suppose the Copernican theory pline, he can never be released.
not to have been discovered by human reason, bus If the previous representations be true, the con- made known by revelation, and its reception enditions of that intelligent faith which God requires joined on faith, leaving the apparent inconsistency from his intelligent offspring, may be fairly infer- with the evidence of the senses just as it was. red to be such as we have already stated ;—that Thousands, no doubt, would have said, that no the evidence for the truths we are to believe shall such evidence could justify them in disbelieving be, first, such as our faculties are competent to their own eyes, and that such an insoluble objecappreciate, and against which, therefore, the mere tion was sufficient to overturn the evidence. Yet negative argument arising from our ignorance of we now see, in point of fact, that it is not only the true solution of such difficulties, as are, per- possible, but true, that the objection was apparent haps, insoluble because we are finite, can be no only, and admits of a complete solution. Thoureply; and, secondly, such an amount of this evi- sands accordingly receive philosophy—this very dence as shall fairly overbalance all the objections philosophy-on testimony which apparently conwhich we can appreciate. This is the condition tradicts their senses, without even yet knowing to which God has obviously subjected us as inhabi- more of it than if it were revealed from heaven. tants of this world; and it is on such evidence we This gives too much reason to suspect, that in are here perpetually acting. We now believe a other and higher cases, the will has much to do thousand things we cannot fully comprehend. We with human scepticism. Nor do we well know may not see the intrinsic evidence of their truth, what thousands who neglect religion on account but their extrinsic evidence is sufficient to induce of the alleged uncertainty of its evidence could us unhesitatingly to believe, and to act upon them. reply, if God were to say to them, “ And yet on When that evidence is sufficient in amount, we such evidence, and that far inferior in degree, you allow it to overbear all the individual difficulties have never hesitated to act, when your own temand perplexities which hang round the truths to poral interests were concerned. You never feared which it is applied, unless, indeed, such difficulties to commit the bark of your worldly fortunes to can be proved to involve absolute contradictions ; that fluctuating element. In many cases you befor these, of course, no evidence can substantiate. lieved on the testimony of others what seemed For example, in a thousand cases, a certain com- even to contradict your own senses. Why were bination of merely circumstantial evidence, in you so much more scrupulous in relation to ME?" favor of a certain judicial decision, is familiarly The above examples are fair illustrations, we allowed to vanquish all apparent discrepancy on venture to think, of the conditions under which particular and subordinate points ;—the want of we are required to believe the far higher truths, concurrence in the evidence of the witnesses on attended no doubt with great difficulties, which are such points shall not cause a shadow of a doubt as authenticated in the pages of the two volumes to the conclusion. For we feel that it is far (Nature and Scripture) which God has put more improbable that the conclusion should be into our hands to study ; of the conditions to untrue, than that the difficulty we cannot solve is which He subjects us in training us for a future truly incapable of a solution ; and when the evidence state, and developing in us the twofold perfection reaches this point the objection no longer troubles involved in the words a reasonable faith." If us.
the considerations just urged were duly borne in It is the same with historic investigations. mind, we cannot help thinking that they would There are ten thousand facts in history which no afford (where any modesty remained) an answer one doubts, though the narrators of them may I to most of those forms of unbelief which, from time to time, rise up in the world, and not least | at as a fool, or pitied as insane. The evidence, in our own day. These are usually founded on then, which substantiates the greatest and first of one or more supposed insoluble objections, arising truths mainly depends on a principle perfectly familout of our ignorance. The probability that they iar and perfectly recognized. Man can estimate are incapable of solution is rashly assumed, and the nature of that evidence ; and the amount of it, made to overbear the far stronger probability in this instance, he sees to be as vast as the sum arising from the positive and appreciable evidence of created objects ;-nay, far more, for it is as which substantiates the truths involved in those vast as the sum of their relations. So that if difficulties ; a course the more unreasonable inas- (as is apt to be the case) the difficulties of realizmuch as—first, many such difficulties might be ing this tremendous truth are in proportion to the expected ; and secondly, in analogous cases, we see extent of knowledge and the powers of reflection, that many such difficulties have in time disappeared. the evidence we can perfectly appreciate is cumuOn the other hand it is, no doubt, much more lative in an equal or still higher proportion. Obvieasy to insist on individual objections, which no ous as are the marks of design in each individual man can effectually answer, than it is to appreci-object, the sum of proof is not merely the sum of ate at once the total effect of many lines of argu- such indications, but that sum infinitely multiplied ment, and many sources of evidence, all bearing on by the relations established and preserved amongst one point. That difficulty was long ago beauti- all these objects ; by the adjustment which harmofully stated by Butler*, in a passage well worthy nizes them all into one system, and impresses on of the reader's perusal; and as Pascal had observed all parts of the universe a palpable order and before him, not only is it difficult, but impos- subordination. While even in a single part of sible, for the human mind to retain the impression an organized being (as a hand or an eye) the of a large combination of evidence, even if it traces of design are not to be mistaken, these are could for a moment fully realize the collective effect indefinitely multiplied by similar proofs of contrivof the whole. But it cannot do even this, any ance in the many individual organs of one such being more than the eye can take in at once, in mass and -as of an entire animal or vegetable. These are detail, the objects of an extensive landscape. yet to be multiplied by the harmonious relations
Let us now be permitted briefly to apply the which are established of mutual proportion and preceding principles to two of the greatest contro- subserviency amongst all the organs of any one versies which have exercised the minds of men ; such being : and as many beings even of that one that which relates to the existence of God, and that species or class as there are, so many multiples which relates to the truth of Christianity; in both are there of the same proofs. Similar indications of which, if we mistake not, man's position is yield similar proofs of design in each individual precisely similar-placed, that is, amidst evidence part, and in the whole individual of all the individabundantly sufficient to justify his reasonable faith, uals of every other class of beings; and this sum and yet attended with difficulties abundantly suffi- of proof is again to be multiplied by the proofs cient to baffle an indocile reason.
of design in the adjustment and mutual dependence Without entering into the many different sources and subordination of each of these classes of oror argument for the existence of a Supreme In- ganized beings to every other, and to all ; of the telligence, we shall only refer to that proof on vegetable to the animal—of the lower animal to which all theists, savage and civilized, in some the higher. Their magnitudes, numbers, physiform or other, rely—the traces of an “eternal cal force, faculties, functions, duration of life, rates power and godhead" in the visible creation. The of multiplication and development, sources of subargument depends on a principle which, whatever sistence, must all have been determined in exact may be its metaphysical history or origin, is one ratios, and could not transgress certain limits withwhich man perpetually recognizes, which every out involving the whole universe in confusion. act of his own consciousness verifies, which he This amazing sum of probabilities is yet to be applies fearlessly to every phenomenon, known or further augmented by the fact that all these classes unknown ; and it is this — That every effect has a of organized substances are intimately related to cause,(though he knows nothing of their connexion,) those great elements of the material world in and that effects which bear marks of design have which they live, to which they are adapted, and a designing cause. This principle is so familiar which are adapted to them : that all of them are that if he were 10 affect to doubt it in any practi- subject to the influence of certain mighty and subcal case in human life, he would only he laughed tle agencies which pervade all nature—and which
* The truth of our religion, like the truth of common are of such tremendous potency that any chance matters, is to be judged of by all the evidence taken to- error in their proportions of activity would be may be alleged in this argument, and every particular sufficient to destroy all, and which yet are exquithing in it, can reasonably be supposed to have been by sitely balanced and inscrutably harmonized. accident, (for here the stress of the argument for Christianity lies,) then is the truth of it proved. * * * It is
The proofs of design arising from the relations obvious how much advantage the nature of this evidence thus maintained between all the parts, from the gives to those persons who attack Christianity, especial most minute to the most vast, of our own world, ly in conversation. For it is easy to show in a short and are still to be further multiplied by the inconceivalively manner that such and such things are liable to objection, but impossible lo show, in like manner, the united bly momentous relations subsisting between our force of the whole argument in one view.---Analogy, part own and other planets and their common centre ; II. chap. vii.