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ART. I.•Rev. N 5.9 THE "Christian Examiner" has already given its word of welcome and praise to the recent volume by Dr. Hedge, entitled "Reason in Religion." In prefacing our present argument with a few remarks upon the theory of religious belief contained in it, we desire to re-affirm, cordially, the general judgment there expressed. It is a work of great and permanent value. The essays which compose it possess qualities which are rarely united, — deep thoughtfulness and artistic beauty, solidity of substance and elegance of finish. The style is admirable, and, by an unsurpassed mastery of words and felicity of illustration, fascinates and perpetually delights the reader. Great thoughts are frequently condensed with epigrammatic terseness to the ultimate limit of compressibility, and thus rendered "portable property," -jewels which will be heirlooms to posterity. The essays are enriched, but not encumbered, by the deep and varied scholarship for which Dr. Hedge enjoys so high a reputation. The treatment of special topics, while combining originality of conception with very striking forms of presentation, exhibits likewise what is of vastly greater moment than these,a rare depth of religious feeling and experience, and a truth of spiritual insight which sometimes soars to genuine inspiration. Throughout
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THEISM AND CHRISTIANITY. "rancis &. Able
the entire work, there breathes a spirit of intense earnestness, loyalty to conviction, reverence for God, and charity for man, which appeals irresistibly to the reader's best sympathies, and touches the secret springs of aspiration and worship. A soul hungry for truth and life will find rich pasturage in its pages.
But, however valuable they may be in their insulation, the general plan and structure of the work entitle us to expect something more than a series of religious essays. It is presented in a form which warrants a demand for organic unity its title, divisions, and subdivisions, excite the expectation of a certain theological coherence, and justify the inquiry, whether there exists a universally dominant principle which controls and vitalizes the whole. Yet, viewed as a religious philosophy, or an attempt to organize rational religion, we find grave deficiencies, both in general scope and special execution. Its logic is sometimes so exceedingly loose as to permit point-blank contradictions, even in the same sentence.* Its breadth of survey and precision of statement are unequal to its depth of insight. Its speculative value is inferior to its spiritual uses. It very imperfectly carries out the application of reason to religion. On those great radical questions, the answer to which determines the answer to all others, a vagueness and vacillation exist, which seriously impair its value, in the eyes of scientific criticism, as a contribution to philosophical theology.
A most important question, considered as a problem for (1) reason to solve, is this: On what side of our nature do we come into contact with the spiritual world? by what faculty
*For instance, on p. 218, we find it stated, that "Christian Churches, as organized bodies of believers, must stand or fall with the Christian confession,that is, the confession of Christ as divinely human Master and Head." Here we have, as the "Christian confession," three distinct articles or propositions,Christ is divine, Christ is human, Christ is Master and Head of the Church. Yet, on p. 221, it is said: "Catholicism does not consist in uniformity of articles, but in unity of spirit, not in a common exposition, but a common confession and mutual good-will." Here uniformity of articles is affirmed and denied in the same sentence, as the essence of Catholicism; for, as we have just seen, the " common confession" is "uniformity of articles."
do we apprehend the great truths of religion? This question lies at the very threshold of inquiry; yet Dr. Hedge gives no explicit answer to it, or rather it seems impossible to reconcile his conflicting answers. It is true, his negative position is clear, and consistently maintained: the understanding is declared incompetent to "discover and establish the truths of religion" (p. 12). "There is no way to God through the understanding, which knows only to arrange and elaborate what the senses supply" (p. 36). "Truths of this order [i. e., the spiritual order] are apprehended by some other faculty than the sensuous understanding. The Holy Spirit is the teacher here" (p. 287). And this negative position, repeatedly affirmed in other passages, is, we believe, nowhere contradicted. But when we attempt to discover his positive position, and determine what this "other faculty" is, we are perplexed by discordant statements:
"Subjectively, then, the Holy Spirit is to be considered a divine instinct in man; a special faculty, differing from reason and understanding, and the other faculties of the mind, in this, that it always speaks with authority" (p. 291).
In this passage, the Holy Spirit seems to be regarded as a human faculty, cognizant by itself of divine things, and distinct equally from reason and from understanding. Yet in the following passage it seems to be regarded as God's spiritual influence, determining reason itself to the perception of spiritual truth: —
"The Spirit acts on the reason and on the will. It inspires the knowledge of moral and spiritual truths, and it quickens the moral and spiritual life. We are influenced by it in our perceptions and in our practice" (p. 286).
With regard to the religious function of reason, the passage last cited appears to show that it is an intuitive faculty cognizant of God; as, likewise, the following: "All that reason teaches of God is expressed in the saying, 'God is Law"" (p. 123). But, on the other hand, certain passages seem to show that reason teaches nothing whatever of God.
"It is my belief, that reason, in its own original capacity and funetion, has no knowledge of spiritual truth, not even of the first and fundamental truth of religion, the being of God." "The office of reason in religion is not discovery, but verification and purification" (pp. 208, 209).
Again: "The only effectual knowledge of God is the private experience of the individual soul" (p. 67). Yet, only a few pages before, it is said: "The mass of mankind must receive their religion at second-hand, and must receive it on historical authority" (p. 64). The history of Methodism apparently proves, that no appeal is so powerful with the common people as the appeal to their "private experience." However this may be, a second-hand religion is good for nothing; in fact, the very phrase is a contradiction in terms. Greek mythology tells of three ancient sisters called Phorcydes or Graiæ, who had but one eye among them, and were wont to pass it from hand to hand for alternate use. Some such hypothesis with regard to the "mass of mankind” is necessary, in order to reconcile these two passages; but we are loath to believe that mankind are afflicted with such a paucity of eyes.
With regard to the "intuition of God," we have the following inconsistent statements:
"The knowledge of God is not a conclusion of the understanding, but an intuition of the moral sense" (p. 66).
"Nor are any of the primary and fundamental truths of religion original perceptions of the mind" (p. 207).
An intuition of the moral sense is surely an original perception of the mind; and the knowledge of God is surely a primary and fundamental truth of religion. If so, no contradiction could be more explicit.
Lastly, faith is propounded as the faculty which knows God.
"Of God we know nothing except by hypothesis or faith, and can apprehend nothing except by illustration" (p. 240).
But hypothesis is supposition, faith is belief; their appar