Page images

history, when it appears to contradict the Church, would be suo PA, merely of treason and heresy, but of apostasy."* Yes, oi treason to Rome, but of faithful and courageous loyalty to Christ “I am the truth,” said Christ. “The truth shall make you free." Speak the truth in love, prove all things, hold fast that which is true, said His apostles. How can it ever be consonant to His will that the members of His brotherhood should conspire together to make believe that white is black at the bidding of any man on earth? The Church of England, at any rate, has no such treason to answer for. Her

octrinal canons, by distinctly asserting that even “General Councils may err and have erred,” and by a constant appeal to ancient documents, universally accepted, but capable of ever-improving interpretation, have averted the curse of a sterile traditionalism. No new light is at any time inaccessible to her. Every historical truth is treasured, every literary discussion is welcome, every scientific discovery finds at last a place amid her system. Time and patience are, of course, required to rearrange and harmonize all things together, new and old; and a claim is rightly made that new “ truths " should first be substantiated as such, before they are incorporated into so vast and widespread an engine of popular education as hers. But, with this proviso, Theology accepts every certain conclusion of physical science as man's unfolding of God's book of nature.”+ It is, therefore, most unwise, if any of her clergy pose themselves as hostile to new discoveries, whether in history, literature, or science. It may be natural to take up such an attitude; and a certain impatience and resentment at the manner in which these things are often paraded, in the crudest forms and before an unprepared public, may be easily condoned by all candid men. But euch an attitude of suspicion and hostility between “ things old” and “ things new goes far beyond the commission to “banish and drive away all strange and erroneous doctrines contrary to God's word.” For this commission requires proof, and not surmise, that they are erroneous; and the Church has had experience, over and over again, how easy and how disastrous it is to banish from the door an unwelcome guest, who was, perhaps, nothing less than an angel in disguise. The story of Galileo will never cease, while the world lasts, to cause the enemies of the Church to blaspheme. Yet of late years it has been honestly confessed by divines that “the oldest and the youngest of the natural sciences, astronomy and geology, so far from being dangerous, providentially destined to engage the present century so powerfully, that the ideal n.ajesty of infinite time and endless space might counteract a low and narrow materialism." I

This experience ought not to be thrown away. No one, who has paid a serious attention to the progress of the modern sciences, can entertain a doubt that all the really substantiated discoveries which

[ocr errors]


* Abbé Martin: “Contemporary Review," December, 1878, p. 94. + Dr. Pusey: University Sermon, November, 1878, #Kalisch: On Genesis, p. 43.


have been supposed to contravene Christianity do in reality only deepen its profundity and emphasize its indispensable necessity for

Never before, in all the history of mankind, has the Deity seemed so awful, so remote from man, so mighty in the tremendous forces that He wields, so majestic in the permanence and tranquility of His resistless will. Never before has man realized his own excessive smallness and impotence; his inability to destroy-much more, to create one atom or molecule ; his dependence for life, for thought, for character even, on the material environment of which he once thought himself the inaster. The forces of nature, then, have become to him once more, as in the infancy of his race, almost a terror.

And poised midway, for a few eventful hours, between an infinite past of which he knows a little and an infinite future of which he knows nothing, he is tempted to despair of himself and of his little planet, and in childish petulance to complain, “My whilom conceit is broken ; there is nothing else to live for.” And amid these foolish despairs, a voice is heard which says, “Have faith in God! have hope in Christ! have love to man! Knowledge of this tremendous substratum of all being it is not for man to have : his knowledge is confined to phenomena and to very human (but sufficient) conceptions of the so-called laws by which they all cohere. But these three qualities are moral, not intellectual, virtues. For the Church never teaches that God can be scientifically known; she never offers certainty and sight, but only “hope,” in many an ascending degree; she does not say that God is a 'man, a person like one of us,—that were indeed perversely to misunderstand her subtle terminology,—but only a MAN has appeared, when the time was ripe for him, in whom that awful and tremendous Existence has shown us something of his ideas, has made intelligible to us (as it were by a Word to the listening ear) what we may venture to call His "mind” towards us, and has invited us—by the simple expedient of giving our heart's loyalty to this most lovable Son of man-to reach out peacefully to higher evolutions, and to commit that indestructible force, our Life, to Him in serene well-doing to the brotherhood among whom His spirit works, and whose welfare He accounts His own.

Is not this humanizing of the great Existence, for moral and practical utility, and this utterance (so to speak) of yet another creative word in the ascending scale of continuous development, and this socializing of His sweet beneficent Spirit in a brotherhood as wide as the world, precisely the religion most adapted to accord with modern science ?

Yet no one can listen to ordinary sermons, no one can open popular books of piety or of doctrine, without feeling the urgent need there is among Churchmen for a higher appreciation of the majestic infinitude of God. It is true that, in these cases, it is the multitude and not the highly-educated few who are addressed; and that, even among that multitude, there are none so grossly ignorant as to compare the Trinity to "three Lord Shaftesburys," and not many so childish as to picture “one Almighty descending into hell to pacify another." *

Such petulance is reserved for men of the highest intellectual gifts, who—whether purposely or ignorantly, it is hard to say-have stooped to provide their generation with a comic theology of the Christian Church. But, after all, it is impossible not to feel that the shadows of a well-loved past are lingering too long over a present that might be bright with joyous sunshine; that the subtleties of the schoolmen are too long allowed to darken the air with pointless and antiquated weapons; that the Renaissance, with its literary fanaticism, still reigns over the whole domain of Christian book-lore; and that the crude conceptions of the Ptolemaic astronomy have never yet, among ecclesiasties, been thoroughly dislodged or replaced by the far more magnificent revelations of the modern telescope. It is not asserted that no percolation of "things new” is going on. It is not denied that as in the first century a change in ideas about the priesthood carried with it a change in the whole religious system of which that formed the axis, † so now a change in ideas about the earth's position in space demands a very skilful and patient readjustment of all our connected ideas. But such a readjustment of the old Semitic faith was effected, in the first century, by St. Paul; and there is no reason to think that the Church is unequal to similar tasks now. And in this country especially there is an established and organized “ Ecclesia docens” which probably never had its equal in all Church history for the literary and scientific eminence of its leading members. For such a society to despair of readjusting its theology to contemporary science, or idly to stand by while others effect the junction, were indeed a disgraceful and incredible treason; so incredible that-until it be proved otherwise—no amount of vituperation or unpopularity should induce any reflecting Englishman to render that work impossible by allowing his Church to be trampled down, and its time-honoured framework to be given up as a spoil to chaos.

But there is yet another element in this question, which binds the Church of Christ to give to its solution the very closest and most indefatigable attention. It is this : that from every science there arises nowadays a cry like that addressed to Jesus himself when on earth :“Lord, help me!” It is not as if Atheism were satisfied with itself. In the pages of the “National Reformer” and similar organs of aggressive free-thought we are amused with the buoyant audacity of the

Yet even there we find many a passage which calls forth the sincerest sympathy. Take, for instance, the following:

“There are few reflectivo persons who have not been, now and again, impressed with awe as they looked back on the past of humanity. . It is then that we sea the grandest illustrations of that unending necessity under which, it would seem, man labours, the necessity of abandoning ever and again the heritage of his fathers,

of continually leaving behind him the citadel of faith and peace, raised by the piety of the past, for an atmosphere of tumult and denial. Whatever may be our present conclusions about Christianity, we cannot too often remember that it has been one of the most important factors in the life of mankind."I

* M. Arnold: Literature, &c. (1873), p. 306. Spencer: Sociology (7th ed. 1878), p. 208. + Heb. vii. 12. Bradlaugh’s “National Reformer," October 6, 1878.

young idea."

This is touching enough-though perhaps the stolid aggressiveness which knows, as yet, no relentings is really a far more tragic spectacle. But there are other lamentations, uttered of late years by distinguished Atheists, which might move a heart of stone, much more should stir the energies of every Christian teacher-himself at peace-to seek by any sacrifice of his own ease or settled preconceptions an “eirenicon,” 3 method of conciliation, an opening for a mutual confession of needless estrangement and provocation.

. Does that new philosophy of history which destroys the Christian philosophy of it afford an adequate basis for such a reconstruction of the ideal as is required! Candidly, we must reply, ‘Not yet.' Very far are we from being the first whi have experienced the agony of discovered delusion. , . . Well may despair almost seize on one who has been, not in name only but in very truth, a Christian, when that incarnation which had given him in Christ an everliving brother and friend is found to be but an old myth (of Osiris) with a new life in it." *

“ The most serious trial through which society can pass is encountered in the exuviation of its religious restraints." +

“Never in the history of man has so terrific a calamity befailen the race, as that which all who look may now behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and burying our highest life in mindless desolation. The floodgates of infidelity are open, and Atheism overwhelming is upon us.

Man has become, .in a new sense, the measure of the universe ; and in this, the latest and most appalling of his soundings, indications are returned from the infinite voids of space and time that his intelligence, with all its noble capacities for love and adoration, is yet alone-destitute of kith or kin in all this universe of being.

Forasmuch as I am far from being able to agree with those who affirm that the twilight doctrine of the new faith’is a desirable substitute for the waning splendour of the old,' I am pot ashamed to confess that, with this virtual negation of God, the universe to me has lost its soul of loveliness. And when at times I think, as think at times I must, of the appalling contrast between the hallowed glory of that creed which once was mine and the lonely mystery of existence as now I find it, -at such times I shall ever feel it impossible to avoid the sharpest pang of which my nature is susceptible.” I

It is well that Churchmen should be aware of this state of things; and especially that the clergy, when they are tempted to have their fling (secure from all reply) against the so-called “ infidel,” should bear in mind how often the bravery of defiant arrogance is a mere mask to cover a sinking heart. For pity's sake, therefore, as well as for their own sake, the clergy should guard against two gross but common mistakes : (1) the mistake of abusing modern science, and depreciating it unquestionable difficulties in relation to the established theology ; (2) the still more fatal blunder of trusting to worn-out tactics and to the

'artillery” of Jonathan and David for the reduction of these modern earthworks. To the Greeks became I as a Greek,” said St. Paul. And so must the minister of Christ in these days make up his mind to hring home the Gospel to his own countrymen, with all their faults and peculiarities; and to the Englishmen of the nineteenth century must

Stuart Glennie: In the “Morning Land” (1973), pp. 29, RTS, 431. # Draper: Science and Religion (i1th ed. 18:8, p. 328. # Physicus : On Theism, pp. 51, 63, 114.

means save some.

become an Englishman of the nineteenth century, that he “may by ali

But no success will be obtained, unless Churchmen will remember that the vast domains recently conquered by science are (practically speaking) assured and certain conquests. They are no encroachment, but a rightful “revindication" of scientific territory. And, accepted in a friendly spirit, harmonized with skill and boldness, and consecrated (not cursed) in the Master's name, they bid fair to become a new realm whereon His peace-bringing banner may be right royally unfolded, and where, even in our own day, the beginning of a permanent unity may certainly be effected. And this must be attempted by a brave and telling proclamation of the great Christian doctrines,--that the awful self-existent “I AM" is none other than “our Father in heaven,” that Christ, the blameless Son of man, is the best image of His person ; and that His pure Spirit, brooding over the turbid chaos of human society, offers the surest means and pledge of a future Cosmos, where “life may perhaps transcend these baffling veils of space and time, and, in forms “undreamed of by our philosophy," display the boundless riches of nature and of God.

G. H. CURTEIS, in Contemporary Review.


WHEN Voltaire had to leave Germany, and was looking around him for another place of abode, some citizens of Geneva invited him to that city, and made a proposal for facilitating the printing of his books. Perhaps it was the conveni' nce of being near a printing-press that led him to accept the offer. Voltaire was rich, and had an <ye to all the amenities of life, and choo ing two beautiful situations, loe acquired one house near Geneva, and xrother near Lausanne. It wukrmarked that he was the first Roman 'atholic, if he could be call,d such, that had acquired establishments in these cantons since the days of Calvin and Zwingle. Voltaire, however, did not make either of these houses his permanent residence. There runs into the canton of Geneva, close to the town, a tongue of French territory, in the Pay; de Gex, now called the Department l'Ain. At Ferney, in this part ish France, four miles from Geneva, Voltaire purchased a piece of land, and built the chateau which still bears his name. The Pays de Gex had been made a wilderness at the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Protestants who were once numerous in it had been dragonnaded, burnt, or banished, and half the country had become a marsh, spreading pestilential exhalations round. It had been a project of Voltaire's to settle in some such wilderness, in order to recisa it. Fcracy suited him admirably for this

« PreviousContinue »