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is a future state of things, with rewards and punishments prepared for the good or the bad, according to their several deeds. I will add, too, he may persuade himself that this is. a fact; he may most conscientiously believe it; and even die in support of his opinions. But will all this amount to any thing like knowledge? The utmost surely that can be said, is, that it is an opinion, and one founded on some probability. But then, the same philosophy, the same soaring spirit, which in its flight mocks the boundaries of mortality, may also mock the boundaries here prescribed to it, and within a month, perhaps, come to conclusions entirely opposed to all this, viz. that God is tyrannic; that there is no such immortality, and no such future judgments as these, &c. and the fact is, thousands have so veered about in their notions. Millions have held, and do now hold, all these and a thousand other such ungrounded opinions, notwithstanding all the force, efficacy, and so on, of these exalted and heavenborn ideas. If, then, we have not demonstration in favour of this system; we have at least experiment against it: and the best modern philosophers have, with all the advantages of discovery, determined, that experiment is the safest test of truth in every case. What then are we to think of a religion built upon such a philosophy as this? What of the man, or set of men, who can be so blind as to adopt it for one moment, when consequences so truly awful are depending thereon? But, I may be told, as this writer with others of his school frequently tell us, that Christianity has not yet under any shape produced unanimity:* that men change their notions as often under its most favourite form, as they ever did under the teaching of the philosophers. I answer: This fact may be indisputable, without at all affecting our question. Christianity forces the will of no man, as already observed; it only addresses the understanding, taking for granted, that men will duly cultivate that; not by filling the head with vain and ungrounded notions, but by studying things as
Inter eos ipsos, qui eandem revelationem sequi se professi sunt, magna opinionum diversitas obtinuit ; nec illa revelationis auctoritas impedire potuit, quo minus ejus asseclæ ad superstitionem erroresque alios non modo ineptos, sed etiam perniciosos, delaberentur. Quodsi vero Deo placuisset, omnes idem prorsus sentire de rebus divinis, certe sapientissimis præsidiis id effecturus fuisset." (Ib. p. 42.)
they are; by coming to facts tangible and intelligible; and by estimating these as to their effects and consequences by the just deductions of experimental knowledge. If after all they err, the fault will not be in the system of Christianity, but in the men; for it will be difficult, if not impossible, to conceive any thing easier to be understood, than the essentials of Christianity rightly interpreted are, as our author frequently allows. There is, besides, a most glaring error in the reasoning here proposed: it takes for granted the thing to be proved; and involves, to all intents and purposes, a petitio principii. For how, it may be asked, is it to be known, that any one can by abstraction, reasoning, or any earthly way whatever, arrive at a certainty as to religious truths? Or, further, How can any one affirm, that the conclusions he may thus have arrived at are such truths? Where, I ask, is the test of their truth to be found? The utmost, surely, that can be said must be, that such believe that they have made this acquisition; but then, every Jacob Behmen, every mystic, every pretender, may believe or affect to believe, the same; but will any reasonable man assert that such a belief, or pretence to belief, can be cited as sufficient to put an end to all further inquiry? Surely not. The conclusion he will come to must be, I think, that such assurances are mere assumptions, and may be nothing more than gross instances of perverted reason, well calculated to mislead and to deceive. We are told by our author in another place, that this sort of rationalism is the great panacea for curing all sorts of error and mysticism.* I greatly doubt this; for it
"Usus ejus (i. e. theologiæ rationalis) multiplex.... ex analogia cujusque disciplinæ, quæ, ut ordine certo exponatur, ad notiones et enuntiationes universales revocari debet : denique, ex ævi nostri ingenio, partim mysticismum et misologiam quandam præ se ferentis, obsoletarumque opinionum patrocinium affectantis, partim novum quendam Gnosticismum et Scholasticismum tuentis; partim Syncretismo, adeoque Cryptocatholicismo indulgentis; quæ vitia non nisi rationali theologia bene explorata atque stabilita evitari possunt, siquidem ea recte cognita sola veram exhibet normam, ad quem quævis religio positiva et singulæ ejus partes exigi ac judicari debent." (Ib. p. 73.) I will only remark, that all the errors here alluded to, can be very well met without the aid of German rationalism; because Christianity, long before the days of either Spinoza or Dr. Wegscheider, had recourse to the aid of reason, both in recommending and in defending the truth. In another place (p. 59), Luther is cited as an advocate for this rationalism; but the truth is, Luther's rationalism went no farther than to employ right reason in recom
may be true, that upon this, as a principle, mysticism of every sort has been founded; and, as far at least as my information goes, this is the fact. Mysticism, as every one knows, judges of its own privileges solely by its own convictions, whether those arise only from natural feelings, erroneous views of the Scriptures, a superstitious education, or all these combined. And nothing more, as far as I can discover, is appealed to by this highly enlightened and favoured school. I will allow, they are in the habit of adorning their idol with the titles of right reason, rightly informed views, sound deduction, * &c. &c.: but what will all this amount to, farther than the fact, that they have been pleased so to grace their groundless theories, notions, and deductions? With words we have here nothing to do; all we are concerned about is, What is the thing meant? And, I think it must be confessed, that it deserves nothing better than the appellation of groundless and irrational theory.
But further: If true religion rise no higher than the deductions of mere abstraction, or reasonings, it may be, about the aptness or fitness of things, it may be asked, In what respect does it differ in principle from heathenism? What these enlightened men will say to this question, I know not; but sure I am, that no difference whatever can be pointed out: and, that they can discover none, may, perhaps, be inferred from the frequency of their appeals to the heathen philosophers, in support of their sentiments. † I will, however, venture a step further, and affirm that this, and this alone, is the leading principle of heathenism. The facts
mending and defending revealed religion; not in arguing, that human reason was the only source from which true religion could be derived. Luther, therefore, was reasonable, but not a Rationalist.
*Nothing can be more truly ridiculous than some of the assertions occasionally made on this subject: take, for example, the note (a) at page 42. "Nam rationem, quatenus suprema ejus vis cernatur in ideis concipiendis eademque ipsa recte dicatur idea, homini a Deo datam esse facultatem non excultam, sed assidue excolendam constat, ejusque aciem, non nisi adjuvantibus rebus faustissimis a Dei providentia repetendis, ita curari posse, ut ne præstringatur erroribus." I think I may affirm, that the man capable of receiving doctrines like these, must be in a state of mind admirably adapted for the reception of every sort of nonsense and mysticism, that may be brought before him.
+ This is obvious from almost every page of their works; but they actually go much farther. They affirm that Judaism, i. e. the religion of the
upon which the philosophers built, confessedly came from another quarter; but the reasoning was all their own. Those facts can easily be traced to the Bible:* the reasoning, such as it is (and it is precisely of the same sort with that adopted by this enlightened school), is certainly their own; and its object was, just like that of our favoured divines, to reduce to the common operations of nature and of reason, these facts, which had been taken as matters of faith by their more wise, but less sophisticated, forefathers. From the abundant remains of ancient philosophy still preserved, we can have no possible doubt as to its real character. Of the vanity of its theological researches and conclusions we are not only convinced by the deductions of sound reason, but Scripture itself in the most positive terms informs us, that it was a system of error and darkness, of vice and abomination, of cruelty and woe; and yet it had the advantage of all that human reason could invent, display, recommend, or enforce. In its favour, the noblest efforts of intellect which the world ever witnessed were called forth, exhibited, and reduced to practice; and yet a few unlearned men, descended from illiterate forefathers and born in an illiterate nation, have not only condemned the system, but exposed its fallacies.† To
Jews as rightly collected from the Old Testament, contained a large admixture of paganism; and that upon this Christianity was built, with such alterations only as the spirit of the times called for. "Nihilo minus ea (religio per Jesum Christum et Apostolos tradita), quippe non una eademque forma positiva a singulis ejus auctoribus et tradita et sancita, ingenio seculi, quo primum innotuit, Judaicisque opinionum commentis accommodata, et mythis.... traditionibusque implicata fuit, omnique tempore a genio seculi variisque eam fingendi conatibus pependit." (Ib. p. 53.) A first draught of all this will be found in Spinoza, pp. 37, 53, 58, 81, 89, 90, 136, &c.
* In pp. 21, 22, we have a note on the probable origin of monotheism, &c. The fact appears to be, that a belief in one supreme Deity was universal among the ancient heathens; and it certainly is so now wherever heathenism prevails. Besides, all the primary facts upon which heathenism is built are clearly the facts of the Bible; which is easily enough accounted for, because the Bible exhibits, beyond all question, the older documents: all the rest is the work of pure rationalism. See Van Dale de Origine et Progressu Idololatriæ, and my Observations on the Origin of Heathenism, &c. in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature. See also Lactantius de Origine Erroris, &c.; Arnobius adversus Gentes; Justin Martyr ; Clemens Alexandrinus, and the ancient apologists generally.
See the quotation from Theodoret at the end of this work.
the soundness of their conclusions, the excellency of their morality, and the undeviating tenor of their exemplary lives, even the philosophers of Germany afford their testimony. Now, I may ask, Is it not marvellous that these unscientific men should, without the aids of philosophy, abstraction, &c. have arrived at conclusions of this sublime and overpowering nature? How has it possibly come to pass, that the fisherman Peter, the tent-making and Judaizing Paul, the meek and mild-hearted John, who could scarcely write Greek, have conspired to recommend such truths, morality, faith, and heavenly-mindedness, as Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the rest of this dazzling cohort, never thought of? But this is not all; they actually set up for reformers and controversialists; and, what is still more marvellous, they succeeded; for we find, both in the court of the Areopagus and of the Cæsars, some of the able and pious partisans of these poor and illiterate men. We are told, however, that, after all, they were philosophers, and so were all the prophets. The only difference discoverable between these and people generally was, that they had more fervour, more moral feeling, poetical zeal, and so on:* and the same was the case with the philosophers of Greece and Rome. If this
Atque hæc revelationis opinio (i. e. supernaturalis), cui sæpissime adjunctum fuit de certa theocratia commentum, multis modis hominibus profuit, sive ad res publicas constituendas legibusque vinciendas, sive ad notionem officiorum propagandam; siquidem ratio humana sine institutionis alienæ et auctoritatis externæ beneficio vix satis excoli posse videtur." (Weg. p. 27.) For the purpose of recommending this notion, on the origin and authority of the Hebrew polity, we have a citation from Diodorus Siculus, shewing that Minos made some such claim, in order to recommend his laws to the people of Crete; Mneuis, to recommend his to the Egyptians; Lycurgus, his to the Lacedæmonians, and so of others: and the inference to be made is, that just as much reliance may be placed upon the one as the other. And again: "Quemadmodum Judæi, æque ut aliæ priscæ gentes, efficacium virium animo a natura insitarum haud probe dignoscentes, animi motus sensusque acriores atque insolitos et cogitationes subito menti injectas a quodam numinis afflatu, s. inspiratione . . . . repetebant: ita illi jam inde a secundo ante Christum natum seculo, ad scripta sua sacra inspirationis opinionem transtulerunt," &c. Then, in order to identify the whole with pure heathenism, we have in the note (a), "Apud Græcos et Romanos poetæ, vates, philosophi, et alii divino quodam afflatu vel numine ipso hominem penitus occupante excitari dicebantur, quod respondet Hebraico by 'n ma' mn Ezech. i. 5, et by nowa ma ¬ i. 3, iii. 14, 22, (πvsuμatopógos apud LXX. Hos. ix. 8, φερόμενος ὑπὸ πνεύματος ἁγίου. 2 Pet. i. 21). Hinc θεοδίδακτοι, θεοφόροι, &c.