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tianity, that, for those who do speculate, a Unitarian, or Arian, or Sabellian theory is as impossible as polytheism. If God is to be Personal, as religion requires, metaphysics demands still a distinction in the Unity which unitarianism is compelled to deny.'! And if Arianism exists in the nineteenth century, so also do other forms of thought with which Athanasius came into constant contact. There are young Basils among us, firm in the faith, and yet not unsuspected of error. There are men who in the fullest sense hold the truth, who yet hesitate about the expression. There are men whom Basil, who himself grew to be the 'orthodox' and the 'great,' would have called the newer generation. Are there those whom he would have called the Samuels, the mediators between the old and the new ?
The pictures drawn by the contemporaries of Athanasius rise to the mind. The memories of men of this generation recur with them. Is the answer to our question now doubtful ? One thing at least is certain. If the Church is to be saved in our day as it was in his, it will be by men who in the spirit of Athanasius will add to gifts of intellect, of moral power, and of leadership, a firm hold of the central doctrine of the Incarnation as taught in the Scriptures and in the Church, will combine with it the proof that doctrine is life and not merely form, and therefore, as spiritual fathers, will welcome every child who really holds the living truth and acts and speaks in entire devotion to our Lord. The strong man can afford to be gentle. He needs neither chains for others nor armour for himself. The strong man who is gentle will attract the young, the erring, the ignorant, and the weak.
ART. II.—THE GOSPEL OF LIFE.
Christian Doctrine. By BROOKE Foss WESTCOTT, D.D.,
York, 1892.) THERE are many Christians to whose faith a rude shock has been given by the knowledge of what has been learnt or in
1 "The Christian Doctrine of God,' Lux Mundi, pp. 98, 101, 102. The whole of this essay is well worth careful study. It is to be regretted that it is not published apart from others which are less important.
? Supra, p. 308.
ferred from the comparative study of religion. To any who have been accustomed to regard the religious beliefs and practices of the Jews as wholly different from anything which existed outside the chosen race, or to look upon all the features of Christianity as peculiar to itself, it must necessarily be startling to realize for the first time that there is resemblance between Judaism or the Christian Faith and some forms of other religions. And when it is found that to say that all the points of likeness were borrowed from the Jews or from Christians is a way of escaping the difficulty which will not bear investigation, it is not surprising that there should be much distress of mind, in some cases leading to an abandonment of the true faith. For, indeed, when the mind has begun to consider the question and is left without the guidance and the control of a very clear sense of what Revelation is, and why the existence of it is to be accepted, it is easy to form a theory of religious thought which is as far removed as possible from inherited beliefs. And such a theory may well have a degree of consistency between its several parts which not unnaturally commends it to human reason.
I. It may serve the twofold purpose of helping some of our readers to estimate rightly the strength and the weakness of the lines of thought we have in view, and of suggesting an attitude of mind from which Bishop Westcott's Gospel of Life may profitably be considered if we endeavour to realize and present the point of view of those who hold that all systems of theology are natural developments.
It has been part of the work of the nineteenth century to compile a vast amount of information about the habits and beliefs of savage and civilized races. Commerce and missionary effort and the love of travel are combining to make it possible for us to know a great deal about native tribes of the present time. Research of various kinds is rapidly accumulating a great store of knowledge of the past. Much that is made known about the present and about the past bears on religion. And when two closely connected desires, the desire for propitiation and the desire for communion with an unseen Being, are found to underlie primitive rites of the most simple kind and the most complex forms of an organized worship, it is easy to say that these desires are natural instincts, parallel in many respects to the instinct of the swallow or the bee, and that the various ways in which they are satisfied are all alike merely the natural results of human thought. And those who have gone on from reading Mr. Darwin's Origin of Species and Descent of Man to the study of Mr. Spencer's great work
on the Principles of Sociology know how strikingly a view of natural science which has become popular lends itself to a theory of man and his mental history which makes the religion of Jew and Christian and Pagan alike a natural growth.
As it is with worship, so it is with moral teaching. We now know that we cannot make light of many movements towards goodness in the heathen world. The claims of Confucius, of Buddha, of Plato, of others, to be pioneers of true morality, may not be set aside. And those whose tendency it is to look upon all things as merely natural may be led to regard these as altogether on the same level as the Hebrew prophets and the Apostles of Christ, and even to see in the teaching of our Lord Himself and in the ethical system of His Church, only the operation of the same law of evolution! through which the body of man is said to have been formed and His worship is thought to have been developed.
Side by side with worship and morality religious customs grow. It is to be expected that as points of likeness are found in different systems of worship and in different forms of moral teaching, so also they will exist in the customs of religion. And this is known to be the case. Inquiry has discovered among widely separated peoples customs resembling some once thought to be distinctive of particular races and, perhaps, believed to exist for reasons peculiar to them.2 A mind searching for common customs of religion and discovering many, readily assumes that all are the result of natural growth.
Or the incarnations of Vishnu in the Hindu theology may attract attention, and if it is acknowledged that those under whose influence the legend of Krishna was formed may have been acquainted with the history of Christ, and that there are startling differences not only in details but in essential features between the story of the assumption of a human form by Vishnu and the doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, there is yet much in the Avataras which may be used to support a theory that the idea of Incarnation is a natural product evolved by human thought.
With such a theory of the development of worship and religious customs, of morality and of the central doctrine which is distinctive of Christianity, the conclusions of some
1 Since the above was written Professor Huxley's remarkable lecture Evolution and Ethics has come into our hands.
? See e.g. Letourneau, The Evolution of Marriage and of the Family, PP263-5.
schools of literary criticism harmonize. Polished Hebrew scholarship and keen critical insight have combined with the most patient industry to work out a view of the books of the Old Testament which, for those by whom it is accepted, revolutionizes old ideas. If the Law ascribed to Moses is later than the Prophets; if the historical books are a compilation of matter partly true, partly legendary, partly invented, partly idealized ; if what has been supposed to be prophecy is in one case mere human foresight, and in another case a dramatic form of history written after the event, the ground is cleared for the exclusion of any supernatural element from the development of the Jewish nation, and for the task of rewriting the account of it on the lines with which we have been made familiar by Kuenen's Religion of Israel and Wellhausen's History.
Nor does the criticism of the New Testament fail to lend support to the same theory. When it is said that the first three Gospels are in substance as well as in form a growth; that the fourth Gospel merely represents the effect of Alexandrian thought on an imperfect tradition ; that the Acts of the Apostles is late and untrustworthy; that the view of St. Paul, in the few Epistles left to him, of our Lord is different from that of the first Christians, and at the same time a stepping-stone to the later belief in the Godhead of Jesus Christ, the full faith and system of the Catholic Church may easily be regarded as the result of natural processes in which legend has gradually surrounded fact and dogma has grown in extent and precision.
And under the magic power of the fascination of the discovery of a single law which, with differing modes of operation, will explain every problem of history and thought, as it lays bare the growth and progress of the material world, the idea of a personal God fades away as the creation of the minds of those who used to be regarded as His creatures.
We appreciate the position. We recognize the force of a theory which accepts one law and makes it apply, with plausible results, to every subject of inquiry. We understand the dominance with which such a conception may rule the mind, and when the critical faculties have been too exclusively developed, or the absorbing study of natural science has left too little opportunity for the cultivation of powers which it does not exercise, it is only what might have been expected beforehand that there should be ready acceptance of a theory which regards Jewish and Christian theology as without objective basis ; which resolves the recognized morality of an individual or of society into the outcome of natural law ; which explains all forms of religion and theistic beliefs as of common origin ; which looks forward to life and thought perfected through many conflicts in which distinctively Christian beliefs, with much else, have perished. From an a priori point of view such opinions as we have described might have very great probability.
II. It is not our task in the present article to discuss our subject at any length from a critical or historical point of view. On a former occasion we stated the reasons for our conviction that criticism and history testify that the faith of the Catholic Church in the Godhead of Christ is a part of the primitive Christian belief, and that the so-called critical views of the New Testament which are bound up with the opposite theory will not bear real consideration. A reference to Mr. Watson's The Book Genesis a True History and Professor Robertson's Early Religion of Israel may suffice to show the possibility of competent critics spending the greatest pains on the study of the Old Testament and remaining assured of its historical character and truth. And while the critical outworks of naturalistic opinions may thus rightly be questioned, it is also the case that the holders of such opinions fail to explain why there were hope and movement and purpose among the Jews which were not found elsewhere, or to take due account of the differences, more striking and significant than the resemblances, between Judaism and Christianity and all other professions of religion.
Leaving then, for the present, criticism and history, we wish to inquire how far naturalism is satisfying to the deepest instincts of inan. And here we are approaching such a theory on its own chosen ground. For it is its strength that it claims to be based on ascertained laws of human thought and development. It sets aside testimony and rejects doctrine because of its view of mental habits.
Human nature pleads for a God who can be the object of love. The most striking feature of the old civilised heathenism is the absence of hope. In its noblest forms, as for instance in the Dialogues of Plato, there is a deep undercurrent of despair. Faculties unsatisfied, and therefore distorted and dwarfed, produce strange results. The despair of civilized heathens is due, in part, to the want of a God whom they can love.
Heathen savages, if we may trust those who have given
See Church Quarterly Review, January 1891, “Authority in Religion,' pp. 295–302.