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whose public men were without character; an age of “ light without love,” whose " very merits were of the earth, earthy.” In this estimate, the followers of Mill and Carlyle will agree with those of Dr. New
The Stoical moralists of the second century, who witnessed a similar coincidence of moral degradation and material welfare, had no difficulty in connecting them together as effect with cause :
66 Bona rerum secundarum optabilia, adversarum mirabilia” (Seneca, ad Lucil., 66). But the famous theory which satisfied the political philosophers of antiquity — viz. that the degeneracy of nations is due to the inroads of luxury — is laughed to scorn by modern economists. It is, at any rate, a theory which can hardly be adopted by those who pour unmeasured contempt on the eighteenth, by way of contrast with the revival of higher principles by the nineteenth century. It is especially since the High-Church movement commenced that the theology of the eighteenth century has become a byword. The genuine Anglican omits that period from the history of the Church altogether. In constructing his “ Catenæ Patrum,” he closes his list with Waterland or Brett, and leaps at once to 1833, when the “ Tracts for the Times” commenced, Charles II. dated his reign from his father's death. Such a legal fiction may be harmless or useful for purposes of mere form ; but the facts of history cannot be disposed of by forgetting them. Both the Church and the world of to-day are what they are as the result of the whole of their antecedents. The history of a party may be written on the theory of periodical occultation; but he who wishes to trace the descent of religious thought, and the practical working of
the religious ideas, must follow these through all the phases they have actually assumed. We have not yet learnt, in this country, to write our ecclesiastical history on any better footing than that of praising up the party, in or out of the Church, to which we happen to belong. Still further are we from any attempt to apply the laws of thought, and of the succession of opinion, to the course of English theology. The recognition of the fact, that the view of the eternal verities of religion which prevails in any given age is in part determined by the view taken in the age which preceded it, is incompatible with the hypothesis generally prevalent among us as to the mode in which we form our notions of religious truth. Upon none of the prevailing theories as to this mode is a deductive history of theology possible. 1. The Catholic theory, which is really that of Roman Catholics, and professedly that of some Anglo-Catholics, withdraws Christianity altogether from human experience and the operation of the ordinary laws of thought. 2. The Protestant theory of free inquiry, which supposes that each mind takes a survey of the evidence, and strikes the balance of probability according to the best of its judgment, — this theory defers, indeed, to the abstract laws of logic, but overlooks the influences of education. If, without hypothesis, we are content to observe facts, we shall find that we cannot decline to study the opinions of any age, only because they are not our own opinions. There is a law of continuity in the progress of theology, which, whatever we may wish, is never broken off. In tracing the filiation of consecutive systems, we cannot afford to overlook any link in the chain, any age, except one in which religious opinion did not exist. Certainly we, in this our time, if we would understand our own position in the Church, and that of the Church in the age; if we would hold any clew through the maze of religious pretension which surrounds us, - cannot neglect those immediate agencies in the production of the present, which had their origin towards the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Of these agencies there are three, the present influence of which cannot escape the most inattentive. 1. The formation and gradual growth of that compromise between Church and State, which is called Toleration; and which, believed by many to be a principle, is a mere arrangement between two principles. But, such as it is, it is part of our heritage from the last age; and is the foundation, if foundation it can be called, upon which we still continue to build, as in the late act for the admission of the Jews to Parliament. 2. The great rekindling of the religious consciousness of the people, which, without the Established Church, became Methodism, and within its pale has obtained the name of the Evangelical movement. However decayed may be the Evangelical party as a party, it cannot be denied that its influence, both on our religious ideas and on our church life, has penetrated far beyond those party limits. 3. The growth and gradual diffusion, through all religious thinking, of the supremacy of reason. This, which is rather a principle, or a mode of thinking, than a doctrine may be properly enough called “ Rationalism.” This term is used in this country with so much laxity, that it is impossible to define the sense in which it is generally intended; but it is often taken to mean a system opposed to revealed religion, imported into this country from Germany at the beginning of the present century. A person, however, who surveys the course of English theology during the eighteenth century, will have no difficulty in recognizing, that throughout all discussions, underneath all controversies, and common to all parties, lies the assumption of the supremacy of reason in matters of religion. The Kantian philosophy did but bring forward into light, and give scientific form and a recognized position to, a principle which had long unconsciously guided all treatment of religious topics both in Germany and in England. Rationalism was not an anti-Christian sect outside the Church, making war against religion: it was a habit of thought ruling all minds, under the conditions of which all alike tried to make good the peculiar opinions they might happen to cherish. The Churchman differed from the Socinian, and the Socinian from the Deist, as to the number of articles in his creed; but all alike consented to test their belief by the rational evidence for it. Whether given doctrines or miracles were conformable to reason or not, was disputed between the defence and the assault; but that all doctrines were to stand or fall by that criterion, was not questioned. The principles and the priority of natural religion formed the common hypothesis on the ground of which the disputants argued whether anything, and what, had been subsequently communicated to man in a supernatural way. The line between those who believed much and those who believed little cannot be sharply drawn. Some of the so-called Deists were, in fact, Socinians; as Toland, who expressly admits all those parts of the New Testament revelation which are, or seem to him, comprehensible by reason. (Christianity not Mysterious.) Nor is there any groạnd for thinking that
Toland was insincere in his profession of rational Christianity, as was insinuated by his opponents; e.g. Leland (View of the Deistical Writers, vol. i. p. 49). A more candid adversary (Leibnitz), who knew Toland personally, is “glad to believe that the design of this author, a man of no common ability, and, as I think, a well-disposed person, was to withdraw men from speculative theology to the practice of its precepts.” (Annotatiunculæ subitanee.) Hardly one here and there, as Hume, professed Rationalism in the extent of Atheism : the great majority of writers were employed in constructing a via media between Atheism and Athanasianism ; while the most orthodox were diligently “hewing and chiselling Christianity into an intelligible human system, which they then represented, as thus mutilated, as affording a remarkable evidence of the truth of the Bible.” (Tracts for the Times, vol. ii. No. 73.) The title of Locke's treatise, “ The Reasonableness of Christianity,” may be said to have been the solitary thesis of Christian theology in England for great part of a century.
If we are to put chronological limits to this system of religious opinion in England, we might, for the sake of a convenient landmark, say that it came in with the Revolution of 1688, and began to decline in vigor with the reaction against the Reform movement about 1830. Locke's “Reasonableness of Christianity ” would thus open, and the commencement of the “ Tracts for the Times” mark the fall of Rationalism. Not that chronology can ever be exactly applied to the mutations of opinion ; for there were Rationalists before Locke, - e.g. Hales of Eton, and other Arminians; nor has the Church of England unanimously adopted the principles of the “ Tracts for the