« EelmineJätka »
Bible, or in antiquity, or was more con- has thrown over its super-charge of formable to common-sense and order. cargo, or quelled an intestine mutiny. These are comparatively innocent and Or take a yet graver question-the unexciting propositions. The distract- mode of regarding those physical ing thought lay in the conviction that wonders which are called miracles. one or other was absolutely perfect, and There is no doubt an increasing diffiwas alone essential to the Christian re- culty on this subject-a difficulty enligion. It is for the rectification of this hanced by the incredulity which now misplaced exclusiveness that we owe a besets educated sections of mankind, deep debt of gratitude to such men as and by the credulity which has taken Hooker in England and Leighton in hold with a fresh tenacity on the Scotland. There is much to be said half-educated. It is a question on for Presbyterianism ; there is much to which neither science nor religion, I be said for Episcopacy. But there is venture to think, has yet spoken much more to be said for the second the last word. It is a complex proary, temporary, accidental character blem, imperatively demanding that of both, when compared with the careful definition of which I spoke general principles to which they each before, and the calm survey of the minister; and in the light of these extraordinary incidents not only of principles we shall view more justly biblical but of ecclesiastical history, and calmly the real merits and de- whether Catholic or Protestant. On merits both of bishops and of pres the true aspects of such physical porbyters, than is possible for those who, tents as have been connected with the like your Scottish or my English history of religion, there is much to ancestors, upheld the constitution of be argued. But on these arguments either Church as in all times and under I do not enter. The point on which all circumstances irrevocably indis- I would desire to fix your attention is pensable. What is true with regard this : that whatever view we take of to those two leading distinctions these “signs and wonders,” their reis still more applicable to all debates lative proportion as grounds of arguon Patronage, Ecclesiastical Courts, ment has altogether changed. There Vestments, Postures. There is a is a well-known saying, like other difference, there is, if we choose so famous axioms 1 of Christian life, erroto express it, a right and a wrong, in neously ascribed to St. Augustineeach case. The appointment by a “We believe the miracles for the sake multitude may be preferable to the of the Gospels, not the Gospels for appointment by a single individual; the sake of the miracles." Fill your the appointment by a responsible layman may be preferable to the appoint
1 It fell to my lot two years ago to track out ment by a synod; a black gown may,
the story of another famous maxin, which had
been really the maxim of Rupertus Meldenius, in certain circumstances, be superior an obscure German divine of the 17th century, to a white one, or a white one to a red but in like manner, falsely ascribed to Augusone. But far more important than tine, “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, any of these positions is the per
in omnibus caritas.” See “ Address on Richard
Baxter," in Macmillan's Magazine, July, 1876. suasion that, at most, all of these The saying in question is sometimes quoted as things, the nomination, the jurisdic Augustine's, but on inquiry I find that there tion, the dress, the attitude of minis- is no ground for ascribing it to him. The ters, are but means towards an end
nearest approach to it is the passage from
the treatise De Unitate Ecclesice, c. 19, quoted -very distant means towards a very in Archbishop Trench's work on the Miradistant end. And in measure as cles. “ Quaecumque talia fi.e. the Donatist we appreciate this due proportion, Miracles) in Catholicâ [Ecclesiâ] fiunt, ideo scandals will diminish, and the Church
sunt approbata, quia in Catholicâ fiunt; non
ideo manifestatur Catholica, quia hæc in eâ of the future will leap forward on
fiunt." This, however, is a very inadequate its course, bounding like a ship that statement of the principle, if indeed it be not
minds with this principle, view it in all its consequences, observe how many maxims both of the Bible and of philosophy conform to it, and you will find yourselves in a position which will enable you to treat with equanimity half the perplexities of this subject. However valuable the record of extraordinary incidents may be in other respects, however impressively they may be used to convey the truths of which they are confessedly the symbols, they have, in the eyes of the very men whom we most desire to convince, become stumbling blocks and not supports. External evidence has with most thinking men receded to the background, internal evidence has come to the front. Let us learn by experience to use with moderation arguments which, at least for the present, have lost their force. Let us acknowledge that there are greater miracles, more convincing miracles, than those which appeal only to our sense of astonishment. “ The greatest of miracles," as a venerable statesman has observed, is the character of Christ. The world was converted, in the first instance, not by appeals to physical, but to moral prodigies. Let us recognise that the preternatural is not the supernatural, and that, whether the preternatural is present or absent, the true supernatural may and will remain unshaken.
IV. And what is the true supernatural? What are those essentials in
religion which have been the purifying salt of Christianity hitherto, and will be the illuminating light hereafter ; which, raising us above our natural state, point to a destiny above this material world—this commonplace existence? The great advance which, on the whole, theology has made in these latter centuries, and which it may be expected still more to make in the centuries which are to come is this, that the essential, the supernatural elements of religion are recognised to be those which are moral and spiritual. These are its chief recommendations to the reason of mankind. Without them, it would have long ago perished. So far as it has lost sight of these, it has dwindled and faded. With these, it may overcome the world. Other opportunities will occur in which I shall hope to draw out at length both the means by which these spiritual elements of Christianity may be carried on from generation to generation, and also the characteristics which distinguish them from like elements in inferior religions. It is enough to have indicated that in the supremacy of these, and in their supremacy alone, lies the hope of the future. To love whatever is truly lovable, to detest whatever is truly detestable, to believe that the glory and divinity of goodness is indestructible, and that there has been, is, and will be a constant enlargement and elevation of our conceptions of it-furnishes a basis of religion which, whilst preserving all the best parts of the sacred records and of Christian worship and practice, is a guarantee at once for its perpetuity and for its growth.
Observe also that in proportion to our insistence on the moral greatness of Christianity as its chief evidence and chief essence, there accrues an external weight of authority denied to the lower and narrower, but granted to the higher and wider, views of
merely the polemical and untenable assertion that, whatever miracles are wrought by here. tics for that very reason go for nothing—the exact opposite of our Lord's words, Mark ix. 38.
The substance of the sentiment, however, has been repeatedly expressed by writers, who, if less famous than Augustine, have penetrated far more profoundly into the root of the question. Not to mention Coleridge, Arnold, and Milman, it may suffice to quote from the work of Archbishop Trench to which reference has just been made. "• Miracles,' says Fuller, * are the swaddling clothes of the infant Church ;' and, we may add, not the garnients of the full-grown." (Trench on the Miracles, 51.) " It may be more truly said, that we believe the miracles for Christ's sake, than Christ for the miracles sake." (Ibid. 103.)
In the two sermons preached in the College Church and in the Parish Church of St. Andrews on the following Sunday, March 18th.
religion. When we look over the long that desired by the best of the theoannals of ecclesiastical history, we shall logians; that what Mr. Lecky calls often find that it is not within the close the secularisation of politics is in fact range of the so-called orthodox, but the Christianisation of theology. That from the outlying camp of the so-called view of man, of the universo, and of heretic or infidel, that the champions God which by a recent able writer is of the true faith have come. Not from called “ Natural Religion "l is in fact the logic of Calvin, or the rhetoric of Christianity in its larger and wider Bossuet, but from the great scholars aspect. The hope of immortality, and philosophers of the close of the which beyond any other belief of man last century and the beginning of carries us out of the world of sense, this, have been drawn the best por- was eagerly defended by Voltaire and traitures of Christianity and its Rousseau, no less than by Butler and Founder. A clearer glimpse into the Paley. The serious view of duty, the nature of the Deity was granted to admiration of the heroic and the Spinoza,' the excommunicated Jew of generous and the just, the belief in the Amsterdam, than to the combined forces transcendent value of the spiritual and of Episcopacy and Presbytery in the the unseen, are cherished possessions Synod of Dordrecht. When we cast of the philosophers of our generation, our eyes over the volumes which, per- no less than of the missionaries and haps, of all others, give us at once the saints of the generation that is past. clearest prospect of the progress of The Goliath of the nineteenth century, humanity, and the saddest retrospect as was once well observed by a Proof the mistakes of theology-Mr. fessor 2 of your own, is not on the Lecky's History of European Morals and opposite side of the valley-he is in of Rationalism-when we read there our midst; he is on our side : he is of the eradication of deeply rooted not to be slain by sling and stone, but beliefs which, under the guidance of he is if we did but know it-our ecclesiastics and ecclesiastical rulers, friend, our ally, our champion. If were supposed to be essential to the there is a constantly increasing tenexistence of religion-witchcraft, per- dency, as Mr. Lecky says,to identify secution, intolerance, prohibition of the Bible and conscience, this is in commercial intercourse--if for one other words, as he himself well states moment our faith is staggered by see the case, a tendency to place Chrising that these beneficent changes were tianity in a position“ in which we brought about by States in defiance of have the strongest evidence of the Churches, by philosophers in defiance triumph of the conceptions of its of divines, it is revived when we per Founder," a position in which by the ceive that the end towards which those nature of the case the doubters will be various agencies worked is the same as constantly diminishing and the intel1 This statement would be justified by a
ligent believers constantly increasing. comparison of the best sayings of Spinoza It is indeed one hope not only for with the best sayings of the Synod of Dort. the solution, but for the pacific solution The former are still read with admiration and of our theological problems, that in instruction, even by those who widely differ from Spinoza's general teaching. The latter
this, more than in any previous age, in are but little known, even to those who most
our country more than in most counfirmly agree with the theory propounded by tries, the critical and the conservative the Synod. It may also be well to record, over against
overlap, interweave, and shade off into the anathemas which have been levelled at his name, the epithet by which his humbler ac i See a series of most instructive articles in quaintances called him immediately after his Macmillan's Magazine, on “Natural Religion,” death, “The blessed Spinoza,” and the de. between February, 1875, and April, 1877. scription given of him by Schleiermacher, Professor Campbell. “He was a man full of religion and of the 3 History of Rationalism, i. 384, ii. 247, Holy Ghost.”
each other—“ Ionians and Dorians on purity, the generosity of mankind, is both sides.” The intelligent High high religion; whatever debases the Churchman, the moderate Free Church- mind, or corrupts the heart, or hardens man, melts almost imperceptibly into the conscience, under whatever prethe inquiring scholar. The generous text, however specious, is low religion, Puritan or Nonconformist is more than is infidelity of the worst sort. There one third a Latitudinarian, perhaps are, according to the old Greek proverb, even half a Churchman. Few philo- many who have borne the thyrsus, and sophers have so entirely parted with yet not been inspired prophets. There the natural feelings of the human are many also who have been inspired heart, or the natural aspirations of the prophets without wearing the prophetic human mind, as to be indifferent to mantle, or bearing the mystic wand ; the sane or insane direction of so and these, whether statesmen, phimighty an instrument for good or evil losophers, poets, have been amongst as the religious instinct of mankind. the friends, conscious or unconscious, And thus the basis of a reasonable of the religion of the future; they theology,even if shaken for the moment are citizens, whether registered or unby the frenzy of partisans, has in- registered, in the Jerusalem which trinsically become wider and more is above, and which is free. solid. The lines drawn by sects and And now, with all this cloud of witparties do not correspond with the nesses, what is our duty in this interval deeper lines of human nature and of of waiting, of transition? What is our history. A distinguished theological duty ? and what is yours, O students statesman some time since drew out of St. Andrews, O future pastors of the what he called a chart of religious famous Church of Scotland, O rising thought. But there was one school of generation of thatstrong Scottish nation thought which was noticed only to be which in former times was the firmest dismissed. And yet this school or ten- ., bulwark of a national, Protestant, readency is one which happily rung across Ill sonable Christianity? You, no doubt, all the others and contains within itself, Illl in this secluded corner of our island, not indeed all, but many of the finest feel the breath of the spirit of the age. elements of Christendom—the back How are you to avoid being carried bone of Christian life, the lamp of about with every gust of its fitful docChristian thought. We often hear of trine? How are you to gather into the reconciliation of theology and your sails the bounding breeze of its science. The phrase is well intended, invincible strength? There is nothing and has been used as the title of an ex to make you despair of your Church. cellent book. But it does not exactly ill It may have to pass through many describe the case. What we need is the transformations; but a Church which recognition that so far as they meet, has not only stood the rude shocks Theology and Science are one and indi- || of so many secessions and disruptions, visible. Whatever enlarges our ideas of but continues to gather into its ranks nature enlarges our ideas of God. What-1 the most liberal tendencies of the ever gives us a deeper insight into the nation, is too great an institution to nature of the Author of the universe be sacrificed to the exigencies of party, gives us a deeper insight into the if only it be true to that fine maxim secrets of the universe itself. What- of Archbishop Leighton's, of leaving to ever is bad theology is also bad science; others “to preach up the times," and whatever is good science is also good claiming for itself “to preach up etertheology. In like manner, we hear of nity.” The principle of a national Esthe reconciliation of religion and tablishment, which Chalmers vindicated morality. The answer is the same; in theinterests of Christian philanthropy they are one and indivisible. What has in these latter days more and more ever tends to elevate the virtue, the commended itself in the interests of Christian liberty. The enlarging, ele- less but greater, in proportion as the vating influence infused into a religious questions of religion involve a larger institution by its contact, however and deeper sweep of ideas than when slight, with so magnificent an ordinance they ran within the four corners of the as the British commonwealth; the Confession of Faith. Nor is there any value of resting a religious union not reason in the constitution of your on some special doctrine or institution, Church, or in the prospects of your but on the highest welfare of the whole country, why that Confession should community ;--these principles are not be an obstacle to the expanding forms less, but more appreciated nowthan they of religious life amongst you. I am were in a less civilised age. It is the not here to criticise or disparage that growing conviction of all reflecting venerable document, which, born under minds that there is no ground in the my own roof at Westminster, alone of nature of things or in the precepts of all such confessions for a short time the Christian religion for the sharp represented the whole national faith division which divines used to draw of Great Britain. If it has some between the spiritual and secular, for defects or exaggerations, from which the curious fancy which represented our own Thirty-nine Articles are free, all which belonged to ecclesiastical on the other hand it has soared to matters as holy, all which belonged to higher heights and struck down to the state as worldly. In proportion deeper depths. Each views theology as those larger and nobler hopes of from a limited experience; and through religion, of which I have been speak- the colour of the atmosphere, political, ing, penetrate into all the communions philosophical, and military, in which of this country, the provincial and re- the framers of each were moving. To trograde distinctions which have been compare the failings and the excelstereotyped amongst us will fade away; lences of the two Confessions, and to and the policy of improving and re- illustrate from them the condition of forming institutions, instead of blindly our respective Churches, would be, if destroying or blindly preserving them, this were the time or place, a most will regain the hold which as late as interesting and instructive task. Still, the first half of this century it retained even the Confession of the Westminster on the intelligence and conscience of Assembly is not the essential, is not the nation.
the best characteristic of the Church There is perhaps a danger which of Scotland, any more than the threatens the Church of Scotland, in Thirty-nine Articles are the essential common with all the Churches of or the best characteristic of the Church Christendom—the apprehension which of England. Nor are the present we sometimes hear expressed, that the forms of adhesion to it more sacred more gifted and cultivated minds of than the ancient forms of adhethe coming generation shrink from the sion to the English standards, which noble mission, because of the supposed a few years ago, by the timely interrestraints of the clerical profession. vention of the Imperial Legislature, Far more dismal than any secession of were largely modified, and might Old Lights or New Lights would be at any moment, without any loss to the secession of the vigorous intellects the Church or the State, be altogether and nobler natures which of old time abolished. made the Scottish Church, though poor These however are merely passing in wealth, rich in the best gifts of God. and external difficulties, to be surmount· But it is precisely this tendency which ed by patriotic policy, by mutual forit is in your own power to cure or to bearance, by courageous perseverance. prevent. The attractions of the Chris- Neither for us nor for you are any tian ministry, the opportunities which such restrictions worth a single gifted it offers of untried usefulness, are not See Essays on Church and State, 212.