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His will,- that God would subvert at any moment the government of the universe, and interrupt the action of the laws which He has given, and the freeplay of the forces which He has established ?
"Is it to ask Providence to put itself into our hands and conform itself to our ideas, desires, regrets ? Such prayers are only redeemed from the charge of blasphemy by the simplicity apparent in their imprudence and the sincerity that pervades their mistake. This is praying to God as one prays to a man; it is sheer anthropomorphism.
“For instance: Should one ask, as regards the world of Matter, that the tower of Siloam should
not fall on the eighteen Israelites whose dreadful death the gospel relates ? That is wishing that the laws of universal gravitation which maintain suns in their places, should be suspended for our advantage.
“Shall one ask, in the world of Spirit, for sufficient strength and suitable opportunities for the accomplishment of his allotted task? How can we imagine that God would ever refuse these ? Our transgressions would be, in that case, His fault; so far from His being able to reproach us for them, we should have a right to impute them to Him.
“ To pray, is much more than asking; and it is because praying is not mere asking, that it is so difficult to pray well; for asking is easy. A vague and secret disquiet, an irresistible lingering doubt, warns us, in our most ingenuous and candid acts of devotion, that a prayer which, in substance as well as in form, consists of asking and nothing else, is a wrongly conceived prayer; and thence it happens that prayer thus framed does not sustain itself on high, but lowers rapidly and returns to the level of the earth, and becomes extinguished in the distractions excited by worldly things.
“He who prays is holding intercourse with God. At such times the creature converses with the Creator; the finite being speaks, the Infinite Being answers; the aspiration towards God shoots forth quick as thought, which is engaged in it; it reaches God and, descending again from Him, brings its own answer, and makes it resound in the depth of the soul.
“This is the reason why every one feels the worth of his own prayers : as each hears the answer singly, each knows what his prayers produce and lead to, and he alone knows it.
" Here is also the reason why mental prayers, that is prayers conceived in distinct order (pensées en parole), so as to make their ideas precise, but not perplexed by the search of words and the sound of their utterance (sans que la recherche et la cadence des mots s'y mêlent), are the best; articulate speech (the weakness of which we shall consider further on) is too powerless, and in the presence of God is useless.
" Here, again, is the reason why short prayers are the best ; the more solemn a conversation is, the more it loses by excessive length. The extreme brevity of the Lord's Prayer is a divine justification of this remark.
“To proceed: In the case of a being whose legitimate calling is, to aspire after a nearer and nearer resemblance to God himself, and whose faculties have no other use, an interview with God can only tend to put his will, his thought, his nature, in more regular, more intimate, more complete harmony with the will, the thought, and even the nature of God.
“ Consequently, to pray is to acquiesce; the heart (le fond) of every prayer ought to be an act of acquiescence, and the fruit of prayer is the accordance of our will with God's.
“ By an obvious reflection, we perceive how prayer takes the form of a wish, the form which characterizes the Lord's Prayer.
“ We should not pray at all if we had not free-will; the wish is the expression of our will : in prayer our will goes forth to meet the Divine will, and the prayer fulfils its end if the fusion of the two is effected and acquiescence results.
"Prayer, then, is the point of union between the two wills.
“ This definition explains in detail all the effects of prayer; it explains how prayer consoles : to acquiesce is to put oneself in God's hands ;-how prayer
strengthens: to acquiesce is to gain confidence ;-how prayer reassures : to acquiesce is to hope, and hope is but the presentiment that the two wills, that of God and that of his worshiper, will come into accord by and by ;-how prayer calms: to acquiesce is to have taken one's course for self-devotedness or for self-sacrifice, and nothing calms the mind like a resolution once taken; -how prayer gives joy: to acquiesce in the will of God is to acquiesce in all that is happiest ;-in a word, this definition explains how prayer sanctifies and makes better; for what is there better than the will of God, which, by prayer, becomes our will? The act of acquiescence, in short, always results in proving or maintaining or assisting the accordance of our will with that of God; or, if there be a divergence, in substituting in us, for our own imperfect will, the perfect will of the Lord.
“One remark more will shew most completely how correct it is to regard prayer as the expression of our will, that is, as a request; but also and above all,' as the abandonment, if need be, of our will, that is, acquiescence;-the remark, namely, that, whether, granted or not, prayers produce the same fruits;
the result of prayer is independent of the fulfilment of the wish expressed in it; asking is only the form, the substance of it is acquiescence.”
The remainder of the Chapter, which we would fain quote at length, develops this last important remark in reference to intercessory and social prayers, and establishes it by citing “ the most celebrated prayers” on record.
With “experiential" metaphysics such as these on every practical question treated of, we may without criticism leave our author to in. dulge his own lively speculations on other subjects, where we cannot follow him assentingly; as in his highly interesting, though fanciful, Chapters on Continuous Activity, Sleep, Reverie, and Ecstacy and Poesy; or in his benevolent thought of a future state for the lower animals, appended to his truly philosophical account of their present nature, instincts and connection with men.
We pass on to the more purely theological part of the book, that which gives his notion of Christianity. Having described what man is subjectively, he goes on to shew what the Christianity is which suits his experience : Le Christianisme Expérimental.
The theology of this book is substantially the same as that of the author's Orthodoxie Moderne of 1842, which was indeed no orthodoxy at all in the English restricted sense of the term, being pure Arianism, with a little obscurity about the Fall; the Trinity, the imputation of sin and human impotence, being stoutly disclaimed; the first as an absurd, the others as immoral notions. The following is the summary of principles maintained in the Orthodoxie Moderne :
“PRINCIPES. La religion chrétienne, selon les principes de l'orthodoxie moderne, peut se résumer, quant à sa doctrine, dans les points suivants :
“Nous croyons que l'Ecriture-Sainte, seul livre inspiré, contient une révélation directe et positive de l'Esprit de Dieu, révélation suffisante pour tous et pour chacun ; mais que cette inspiration n'est point dans les mots, et qu'en conséquence une interprétation toute littérale de la Bible court toujours le risque de la mettre en contradiction avec la raison, la conscience, l'histoire et surtout avec elle-même.
“Sur cette base, tout l'édifice de notre foi s'élève.
"Nous croyons aux miracles de l'Ancien et du Nouveau Testament, après avoir examiné préalablement, selon les règles de la saine critique sacrée, si tel ou tel fait doit être rangé dans cette classe.
“Nous croyons aux prophéties, sans admettre que l'Ancien-Testament tout entier soit un long oracle et un type perpétuel du Nouveau.
“Nous croyons que l'homme est incapable de se justifier lui-même devant Dieu, et de mériter le salut.
“ Nous croyons à l'insuffisance, à l'imperfection de ses efforts, non à son impuissance radicale et absolue pour la recherche de la vérité, l'amour de Dieu et la pratique du bien.
“Nous croyons à la nécessité du secours de la grâce, en repoussant toute doctrine qui arriverait, directe ent ou indirectement, à une négation ou à une altération de la liberté morale de l'homme.
“ Nous croyons que le salut de l'homme, c'est-à-dire sa conversion et sa sanctification, sa réconciliation avec Dieu et son bonheur éternel, est une æuvre où l'homme doit nécessairement entrer pour sa part, en s'appropriant par la foi et l'obéissance les secours de la grâce.
“Nous croyons que cette æuvre a pour point de départ la miséricorde de Dieu, et pour moyen l'ensemble de la mission divine du Christ, savoir: sa parole, sa vie, son sacrifice, sa mort volontaire et sa résurrection glorieuse.
“Nous croyons à la divinité de Jésus-Christ, comme Fils unique de Dieu et seul médiateur entre Dieu et les hommes, en rejetant l'idée Athanasienne de la trinité et en admettant que la foi, sur cette doctrine, doit s'arrêter à la limite posée par le Seigneur lui-même, quand il a dit: Personne ne connaît le Fils que le Père (Saint Matth. xi. 27).
“Enfin, quant à l'Eglise, nous nous déclarons les adversaires du principe des confessions de foi obligatoires, persuadés qu'il est impossible d'en dresser une qui ne violente quelque conscience et qui par conséquent ne conduise à un séparatisme; persuadés que l'unité nécessaire à l'Eglise a été fondée par le Seigneur dans l'Evangile, qu'il ne nous appartient pas de la remplacer par une unité factice faite de main d'homme, et que le devoir du vrai chrétien est de savoir prier et communier avec tous ceux qui invoquent le Seigneur d'un cæur pur (2 Tim. ï. 22)."
In the Christianisme Expérimental, the same views are implied, but not systematically developed. The particular doctrines have more or less prominence here, according to their connection with the metaphysical and ethical principles now
propounded by our author. His notions on the Fall occupy, therefore, a prominent place in those Chapters of Book II. which speculate on Eden, and in Book III. on the Problem of Redemption,- disproportionately so, indeed, in the view of those whose orthodoxy is yet further modernized than his. Having maintained (Chap. XIII.) that “ Progress, or the increasing assimilation of the creature to the Creator is the end of creation," he thus defines Eden, the Fall and Original Sin (Chap. XX.):
What is it that is variously phrased as Paradise, Eden, the Golden Age, the reign of the Gods on earth? It is Progress in course of fulfilment; it is the age, the day, the moment (the question how long is of no importance here) during which Progress is going on; free-agency follows its right alternative; creatures approach towards God in continually nearer resemblance.
“ What, then, does a Fall mean, in the dogmatic sense of the word ? It is the first step that engages a class of creatures in the opposite course to that of progress; the first deed by which their free-agency takes its wrong alternative; the first departure from God; the first feature of voluntary difference from the Creator.
“ And what is Original Sin, in the dogmatic sense of that word ? It is the Fall considered under the aspect of our social condition (solidarité). Our fellow-men are the beings concerned in the same phase of progress as ourselves and in conjunction with us: if, therefore, among moral beings walking along the same road, there exist a mutual relation through the affections with which they are endowed, a single one of them, by turning back, will carry the whole species backwards; a single one, by withdrawing from God, will more or less estrange all his fellows."
Here is no theological orthodoxy, most assuredly; the Fall is not imputable, but sympathetic, according to this statement. But is this the true philosophy of “experience"? Our author does not believe that Adam's posterity all fell in him; but if the world was, in Adam's day, already full of people (which he does not say, but his theory implies it), could all his contemporaries, with one consent, fall away from progress through their mutual relation (solidarité) to this one, or to the pair of transgressors ? Subjective philosophy” (in our subjectivity at least) rejects the idea. Our Christianisme expérimental says that all human experience is against it.
Some singular speculations follow, on physical evil. The physical world was put wrong through sympathy with moral disorder; and it is in process of rectification ever since the period of redemption, the leading Miracles of that period having been so many exertions of the physical laws, as those existed before the Fall. Chap. XXI. opens thus :
“ Moral evil is the occasion of physical evil. When any race of progressive beings takes a false road and recedes from the Creator instead of approaching nearer to Him, it is inevitable that the system of nature (la nature) which had been assigned to that race as the instrument of this phase of progress, must change with it. The surrounding medium deteriorates when the beings immersed in it become themselves deteriorated.”
“A class of progressive beings is merely tenant of the world and system of nature, which are arranged to serve as its abode; it holds them, as it were, on lease for a given time; and it was the necessary result that the use or the abuse should improve or injure the resources of the domain and the state of its cultivation.”
Our author then enumerates, as observable instances of the “reaction of the moral world on the physical,” the influence of civilization on climate, the economical results of peace and war, and the frequent issue of vicious indulgence in disease and decrepitude ; and bids us believe that volcanoes, tempests, inundations, famine and pestilence, were also thus occasioned, though “ the means of this reaction of the moral on the physical world are a secret in the bosom of God.”
Then, in the Chapter on Miracles, he thus resumes and completes his most extraordinary theory :
“ As the being, such his world ; that is, as the inmate, such his dwelling; a system of nature is ever in harmony with the phase of progress which it is to subserve; and hence it follows that a system of nature must change with a fall; that moral evil must bring physical evil in its train; and that a race, by receding from God, must, so to speak, carry with it, far away
from God, the system of nature which ministers to it. All its own powers being vitiated, those of nature are, in their way, vitiated also. Birth, Life and its various conditions, Death and its circumstances, will become difficult, from being before easy; the imperfection will be two-fold, inasmuch as the development of the powers of matter cannot remain perfect where the development of those of the mind has ceased to be so.
“But a redemption (being simply the introduction into the bosom of fallen humanity of a principle of return towards God, or amelioration) must put in action, in the midst of that system of nature which the human race occupies, powers superior to those which have reigned there since its fall, and must overrule those which the fall developed.
“ Whence it follows, that Miracles are simply the product of powers which reigned in nature before the fall, and which redemption for the moment recals, exhibits and revivifies; or, they are the effect of the regenerating influence of redemption upon the powers of nature as modified by the fall.
“As having been means of progress and of happiness before the fall, redemption, which is its antidote, re-awakens these latent slumbering powers of the natural world, and makes them serve to the re-awakening of man's progress and his return towards God.
“ And as to those powers of nature which were vitiated, redemption, the corrective of the fall, corrects them.
“ Miracles, then, are an indispensable condition of redemption : on the one hand, they give practical proof that moral evil has produced material evil, and that Nature carried in her bosom powers of sufficient efficacy to have preserved a better organization and to have spared us all physical evils; on the other hand, miracles attest the value of redemption, since they shew it to be superior to the vitiated powers of matter.”
Still, our author's view of the operation of redemption is altogether that of a moral influence, exercised chiefly through the personal character of the Redeemer. “Redemption is personalized in the Redeemer;" and he must pass through the ordinary stages of human development in the “present phase of progress to the threshold of the next;" “must be born, live, die, rise again; nothing less, nothing more.” He must meanwhile be “the representative of God, the depositary of His powers, the alter ego of the Infinite Being, the Ideal realized and manifested." In this sense, and this only, M. Coquerel speaks (as in his Orth. Mod.) of the “ Divinity" of Christ, on which he forbids speculation or precise definition. The Saviour is issu de Dieu, come forth from God. Our author thus points out the suitableness of the period at which Christ came. The passage is a fair illustration of his general style, rhetorical even when argumentative and historical:
“ The ages of mankind prior to redemption claim to be judged in a deep spirit both of justice and of pity; our faith should shew itself impartial with respect to them. But it is impossible to avoid noticing that, from the beginning of human annals, from the moment when, as we ascend the night of antiquity, the first light of history dawns upon us, evil and error go on increasing down to the time of Jesus Christ; human free-agency follows its wrong alternative and becomes more and more addicted to it; the human race retrogrades, going further and further away from God by error after error and iniquity upon iniquity; it is a growing course of perdition.
With Jesus Christ, mankind stops on the fatal road and turns back; retraces its steps towards God, towards truth and goodness, towards charity and peace; reascends to truth upon truth and virtue upon virtue; regains its resemblance to the Creator; and ever since the coming of Jesus Christ there has been a growing course of salvation.”
This assertion being of a purely historical character, he gives an historical picture of the age of Jesus Christ :
“ Roman society during the decline of the republic and under the first emperors, presents in abstract the state of the world at that period. he characteristic of that age was, that man acquiesced in his deep fall as a natural and necessary situation, to the extent of regarding it as irremediable. Man seemed to have lost all sense of his own perfectibility. The human race at that time resembled the bestiariï of the arena, who took it as matter of course VOL. IV.