Some experience of these things offers itself to every man who has won freedom for himself and openly rejoices in it; such an one receives many applications for the secret of his own life from those who, when they have it, are not strong enough to use it for themselves. Let it be enough to say, that such difficulties and such despair as these grow commoner year by year.

The general force of this stream may already to some extent be directly measured by the effects which it has produced. We can discern a certain withdrawal from the advanced posts of orthodox dogma; some beliefs, which men who would willingly be thought educated, no longer think it necessary to hold; some questions, which formerly it was treason to touch, now considered open to discussion. Such a book as Dr. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible is, with all its errors and timidities and shortcomings-nay, in consequence of them-a valuable proof of this; the method of orthodoxy is to slip quietly away from untenable outworks, and by and by to deny that it ever looked upon them as part of its line of defence. Another instance of the same kind, in the field of Christian doctrine, is to be found in the modified theories of atonement which in the minds of nearly all thoughtful theologians have taken the place of the old scheme of substitution. Still, the opposite method of estimating the force of this new current of thought and feeling-by the strength of the dam which it is thought necessary to oppose to its volume-is, at present at least, more directly applicable. A bibliolatry which every day grows harder and narrower, is the best proof of the growing prevalence of a scientific biblical criticism. And all theologians are agreed that so strange a phenomenon as the theory of plenary inspiration now current in England among men who are, in their own fashion, not without learning, is not to be found in any age or region of the Church. It seems to have grown up in Protestant England and Scotland (there is nothing like it in other Protestant countries) as a kind of substitute for the ultimate authority of the Church maintained by Roman Catholicism. Although it can find no warrant for itself in the writings of Fathers or Reformers, it bates no jot of its high pretensions. It will learn nothing and admit nothing. In face of geology, it clings to the seven days' work. In face of astronomy, it believes that the sun

stood still at Joshua's word. It listens to Balaam's ass speaking Hebrew. It sees no improbability in Moses' telling the tale of his own death and burial. It conceives itself to represent the orthodox belief of former ages of the Church, and so cannot credit its own ears when the great names which it chiefly delights to honour are quoted against it. Although again and again convicted of discreditable ignorance, it still erects an unabashed front, and lifts up a brazen voice. Perhaps it has rarely shewed its true nature more clearly than when, not long since, it raised against Bishop Colenso an unanimous shout of heresy, for his assertion of the partial ignorance of the Son of Man; and the incriminated opinion was proved to be that not only of such Fathers as Athanasius and Chrysostom, but of such Doctors of the English Church as Hammond and Lightfoot and Waterland!

If we turn for a moment from the Established Church to the various sects of orthodox Dissenters, we see, mutatis mutandis, a repetition of the same facts. There is, indeed, little to note among Methodist churches; in no other churches is so little play allowed to the speculative intellect; in none other is the spiritual sword wielded with so swift and strong an arm. Perhaps the most remarkable fact in the history of Baptists during the last ten years, will prove to be the number and the eccentricity of their sensation preachers: their late activity is summed up and symbolized in Mr. Spurgeon and his great Tabernacle. But even here, and still more when we come to the Independent churches, we hear, not remotely, the general stir and turmoil of the times. Accusations of neology, scepticism, rationalism, every modern alias under which old heresy disguises itself, are rife in the air. There are schools of the prophets freer and less free; there are men who have slowly and sorrowfully left the early home of their faith; there are others who wonder how long it will continue to be a home for them. And as we take this rapid survey of religious opinion, one fact, which we will carefully lay aside for future consideration, forces itself upon our notice. The strength of the theological movement seems to stand in some fixed relation to the amount and thoroughness of general education. It manifests itself most decidedly in the Church of England, which maintains the closest connection with the literary and scientific life of our time, and whose represen

tative men receive the most complete intellectual training before entering upon their specially professional studies. It is less noteworthy, though still visible, among those orthodox Dissenting churches which, while they aim at giving their ministers a careful theological education, are more solicitous to keep apart the sacred and the secular elements of knowledge. And it reaches its lowest ebb in those bodies who still look upon "carnal learning" as an encumbrance to the true preacher of the gospel, and in whom, therefore, the full intellectual life of the century vibrates with but a feeble and uncertain pulse.

But are there any signs that this strange movement of thought, the existence of which is as fully admitted by those who dislike and fear it as by its most hopeful and eager friends, contains within itself an element of permanence and progress? What is there to distinguish this from other similar epochs of Christian belief, when a latitudinarian theology has obtained a certain prevalence, only to be surely beaten back when a revival of religious life has brought with it the old reliance upon traditional forms of thought? "This is but a cold wind of doubt and disbelief sweeping over the Church," say the stanch friends of orthodoxy, "nipping for the time all luxuriant growth of faith, chilling the generous sympathies of simple trust; wait awhile for the return of the Spirit's breath, and the very remembrance of these grey skies, these sleety showers, shall be blotted out. Age after age has heard the repetition of the same cavils, which are but a perpetual manifestation of the enmity of the natural mind to the things of God; let the Church stand still upon the old ground; patience alone will ensure her final victory." Others, again, who look upon these facts from a higher and a more philosophical point of view, report a radical difference between theological and all other scientific truth; that while the history of the latter is one of steady progress, and a continually larger kingdom conquered from the infinite unknown, the former is a deposit of fact, once supernaturally placed in the custody of the human mind, which cannot make it more, but exhausts all the possibilities of the case in remaining simply faithful to the first trust. And therefore, although debates arise from time to time as to the original contents of that trust, the very nature of the controversy precludes such an issue of perpetually enlarging knowledge as is characteristic of sci

entific investigation. The battle sways from side to side; a temporary prevalence is gained by this or by that principle of belief; one generation is eager in free inquiry; the next calmly rests in the arms of authority. So to-day's action carries within it the germs of reaction to-morrow, and the decisive victory implied in progress cannot be.

To enter upon the whole complex argument to which these thoughts afford an access, would be inconsistent with the special purpose of this paper; though, at the same time, we may be permitted to point out one or two characteristics of the present theological eagerness which seem to invest it with more than a temporary importance. We admit that cases may be cited in which a latitudinarian theology has been swept away by a rising tide of religious life. Something of this may be due to the fact that liberality necessarily loses the distinctive force of fanaticism; that a religious belief conscious of the lights and shadows, the perplexities and obscurities of all human knowledge of infinite realities, cannot express itself with the incisive dogmatism of a faith which confidently guages God and Eternity by its own hard and narrow philosophy. But, in truth, the latitudinarian theology which succumbs to the first summons of an earnest religiousness, no matter how unreasoning, must be itself the offspring of religious indifference. Can this be said of our present "crying for the light"? It has risen from the midst, not of an unbelieving, but of a believing age, an age for which, on the one hand, sacerdotal, on the other evangelical, theories of religion, brought to a practical outcome by honest and self-sacrificing men, have done their best. And it expresses, not the desire of our time to banish God from the world and to escape from beneath the restraints of a divine law, but the most eager yearning of pious souls for a God on whom they may surely stay themselves, and a law which shall transfigure earthly states into a kingdom of heaven. "Lord, I believe-help thou mine unbelief," is its constant burthen, a faithful note, and yet, mingled with it, one which, till the discord is resolved into a deeper harmony, seems to have a sound of faithlessness. Such a latitudinarianism as this has nothing to fear from any genuine spiritual quickening; for it has reached the point at which allegiance to Truth and service of God are discerned as part of the same manly piety.

There is, in the next place, a wide difference between the

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present and all other controversies which have ever agitated the Reformed Church of England. For it has been characteristic of them, that they have been fought, so to speak, within the limits of Scripture, and have been essentially conflicts of interpretation. The method of the Protestant Reformation was an appeal from the authority of the Church to the authority of Scripture, an appeal which the Reformers honestly made as against Rome, though they did not always clearly abide by it, in relation to the ecclesiastical organizations which took her place. And as, in lapse of time, the Bible became firmly seated in the throne once occupied by the Church, theological investigation took more and more the single form of an attempt to ascertain the sense of Scripture. It was, at least tacitly, assumed that by a just use of methods of interpretation a single and self-consistent dogmatic result could be attained: the primitive Church, in settling the canon, had prescribed the area within which these methods were to be applied; nothing remained but to select the needful logical implements and to use them heedfully and fairly. Nor does it militate against this view that recent decisions in the Ecclesiastical Courts have affirmed, that heresy and orthodoxy in the Church of England are discerned, not by an appeal to Scripture, but by the test of legally established creeds and formularies. For in this case the appeal to Scripture is only pushed one step farther back. The Church drew out the sense of the Bible, once and for ever, and, expressing it in those formularies, has practically forbidden any fresh scriptural investigation in contravention of them. In truth, a clergyman in signing the Thirty-nine Articles has signified his acceptance of them as the true results of scriptural interpretation, and cannot be suffered to deduce different results from his own personal investigation. Not the less does it remain true, that the doctrines of English Protestant Churches have been directly or indirectly founded upon a rude assumption of the authority of the whole Bible, which has practically involved a theory of plenary inspiration, more or less distinctly held. And the cardinal question implied in every controversy, whether as to the nature of God, or the theory of grace, or the scheme of redemption, has been, "What is the sense of Holy Writ?"

But the discussions which at present fill the air go deeper

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