Page images

tory to the pious and religious persons of whom he speaks, we can scarcely conjecture; but we must be permitted to say, that they appear to us very weak and insufficient.

We now proceed to another important branch of the subject— we refer to the systematic and persevering attempts made by certain persons to lead the public mind to a taste for German writers on Theological subjects, who may be pronounced, as a body, unsound and heretical. We spoke generally, not merely in reference to Mr. Hare, when we spoke of their "fostering that taste" which is now being gratified by translations from German Infidels. That writer, with some ingenuity, endeavours to clear himself from any such imputation by informing us, that the first work in which he openly spoke concerning the merits of German Theology, and attempted formally to promote its study, was published only in 1846; and therefore, that it is quite impossible that his writings can have created the taste for such studies. But we must distinctly assert that we did not impute the origin of this taste to him, or to his writings; we attributed it rather to his coadjutors, Mr. Coleridge and Mr. Carlyle; but most assuredly he has been, and is "fostering" and encouraging that taste. What may have been his private exertions in promoting the study of German Theology, we have no means of knowing; but we find him admitting in the pamphlet before us, that he is "ashamed " that he has allowed "so long a period of his life to pass away, without taking up the public defence of what is sound and good in German Theology, to which he "owes so much." We find him, as we might have expected from so ardent a disciple of Coleridge, a student of German Theology for "thirty years, and referring to it in his earlier writings, as he himself admits. And we find his friends and pupils all students of it likewise. He will not deny that a taste may be fostered and promoted as much by example and conversation as by writings; and really it is rather too much for him to endeavour to throw off from himself and his connexion the imputation of fostering a taste for German Theology, which is a matter of notoriety, and which, we shall presently see, he affirms to be in itself desirable and advantageous.

[ocr errors]

The truth is, that this writer is so much bent on exculpating himself and his friends on this point, that he unconsciously takes very inconsistent positions. We have seen that he denies that his writings can have had any thing to do with fostering a taste for German Theology, from which we might infer that he did not feel any wish to promote that object. And the same inference is clearly deducible from the line of argument which he subsequently adopts (pp. 45, 46); where, in defence of his friend Mr. Maurice,

he quotes that writer's assertion, that "the Jerusalem bishopric will not bring us into contact, either with that which is most feeble in the Pietistic, or that which is most dangerous in the Rationalizing side of German life. That contact exists already; the commerce is establisht; the sea has failed to be an effectual cordon sanitaire; all our devices will assuredly fail also. The question is, how the intercourse may be turned to profit and not to evil." After which he goes on to argue "that Mr. Maurice is not speaking (in a subsequent passage) of the introduction of German Theology, as desirable in itself, but as having been already accomplisht, and as inevitable." He remarks that, "the rationalizing and infidel Theology of Germany has made its way into England without Mr. Maurice's aid and without mine. The question is, How is it to be resisted? How are we to draw good out of this evil? Faith, we know, through God's help, can, out of all evil." (p. 47.) So that, it seems, this taste for German Theology which exists, is a thing which those writers have had no part in; they repudiate all connexion with it; they look at it as having been productive of great evil; and their great object is to resist the evil which has arisen from it. All this is very fine, and. might be very satisfactory if it stood alone; but in the sequel it turns out that, so far from being regarded as an evil, this taste for German Theology in general is regarded as a good—a thing in itself desirable!

The pamphlet in fact goes on to argue, that if any system of exclusion were adopted, religion would become extinct. "The living faith of the nation wanes away when it is debarred from intercourse with all that has life in it ;" and accordingly, in Romish countries, where the introduction of different doctrines is prevented by law, "every thing connected with religion becomes hollow, nominal, unreal." In any such case men "find out, after a while, that they are dancing round a dry mummy of orthodoxy." This line of argument goes to prove that religion would perish, if a free course were not given to discussion on all points of belief; so that the taste for German Theology must be beneficial, and even essential. And further on the writer says, "that German Theology may render us valuable service in the training of our divines; we may in some measure infer, from what has already been effected in England by the influence of German Philology.

Of a similar kind, I feel confident, will be the result in Theology; and that here, too, our peculiar English gift of choosing out and adopting what is practically good and useful, and rejecting what is excessive and extravagant and merely notional, will manifest itself very beneficially. Nay, we have already seen proof of The great superiority of Mr. Trench's works to our


common English exegetical writings is evidently owing in great measure to his familiarity with the best German divines." (p. 53.) He urges (we cannot help smiling at the comparison_drawn), that, at a time when we are abolishing all commercial restrictions, it would indeed be a wild paradox if we were to enact a Bill of exclusion against the products of German thought;" and he winds up his remarks by praying that "our Church and the Protestant Church of Germany may be drawn more and more closely together." All this is perfectly in accordance with the position taken by Mr. Maurice, in the passage quoted in our article above referred to, in which he anticipates benefits of the most important nature from the introduction and study of German Theology. But then it is scarcely consistent with what had been previously urged: it gives a character of unreality to Mr. Hare's attempt to free himself from the responsibility of having promoted this taste for German Theology. If he is anxious to evade the responsibility of having promoted studies which are introducing heresy and infidelity, he can scarcely plead that such a mode of proceeding is beneficial to the Church; and if, on the other hand, it be desirable on the whole, it is not an evil; and these writers need not be ashamed to own their share in promoting it. But when men attempt to take both grounds at once, it seems that such a course indicates more of an anxiety to make out a case, than of any other nobler aim.

There is one other topic of importance, on which the pamphlet before us confirms, in the fullest way, the view which we have taken. We refer to the general characteristics of the school of which its author is a member: we have described that school as consisting of men who are not connected by agreement in any positive doctrines or creed; but who range in their religious tenets from Orthodoxy of a certain kind, to Pantheism. We have included in that school such men as Coleridge, Carlyle, Hare, Bunsen, Maurice, Blanco White, Sterling, Arnold, and many others, who differed on many points, and perhaps held very few, if any, doctrines in common; and we have described the characteristic of that school as consisting in "the striving after intellectual liberty, a tendency to reject all which does not commend itself to the individual reason as right and true; a tendency to resist authority, of whatever nature it may be, which interposes any restraint on the freedom of speculation. It is not so much any objective truth which thinkers of this class contend for, as liberty of thought in general. Their objection is not to particular doctrines, but to any supposed obligation on individuals to receive these doctrines." Hence we find them all concurring_in_denouncing and sneering at orthodoxy as a bigotry or a shadow.

Mr. Hare talks sneeringly of "telling the beads of an orthodox rosary," in speaking of those who have no inclination for the speculative religionism which he would fain introduce. To such thinkers any person who firmly and stedfastly adheres to the great forms of Christian doctrine, which have come down to us hallowed by the consenting voice of the universal Christian Church, or of the particular Church of England, is pretty sure to be a person who dreads inquiry,-one who has no confidence in his faith's power to stand the shock of rival opinions! He must feel "insecure" in his religion, if he is not prepared to throw down all barriers which may interfere between the settled faith of a nation, and a scene of tumultuous daring speculation (such as we see in Germany), which would subvert all that remains of morality and religion in the land.

Now it appears, from the pamphlet before us, that we were substantially correct in describing the principles of this school as consisting simply in a struggle for absolute liberty of thought, unrestrained by any authority whatever. Mr. Maurice admits that all the persons whom we included in our remarks do, in a certain sense, stand on the same ground; they all "did or do feel more or less strongly, that the popular English religious systems cannot last;" that High Churchmen, Low Churchmen, Anglicans, Evangelicals, &c., will see the destruction of their religious tenets. And they all agree in declaring "liberty, liberty of conscience, heart, reason, spirit,- to be the great blessing of man.


And in the same tone, Mr. Hare admits that the various members of the school have a certain spirit in common, as far as he can judge, which he describes as a desire to seek truth and justice (not mere "liberty," as Mr. Maurice more correctly describes it)-in all things and above all things;" a resolution not to "sacrifice our reason and our conscience to empty forms and lifeless conventions;" a feeling that "we cannot recognise any great value in a belief, unless it be a living faith," &c. So that, on the whole, we are sufficiently borne out in maintaining, that the general characteristic of this school of the "Church of the Future," is the assertion of unbounded liberty of speculation, even on the very first elements of religion; and a consequent enmity, more or less developed, to all existing forms of religion; an impatience of all that lets or impedes them in the career of speculative reasoning. It is no objection to this, that some of these men praise the Creeds or the Articles; all that can be said is that such individuals find in those forms a response to their present feelings and views; they concur with their subjective religion. But where this spirit is cherished, there can be no security for any

stability in faith; for Creeds and Articles are checks on "liberty" of speculation. No objective faith is really admitted; it is regarded as a lifeless orthodoxy. And, in fine, what is all this but the very spirit which has been dominant for more than half a century in Germany, and which has reduced that country, once the abode of faith, and the birth-place of the Reformation, to a howling wilderness?

[ocr errors]


Where is Christianity in Germany? Where, at least, is (not merely nominal and professing Christianity, without any real creed, but) any fixed and settled faith in the inspiration of Scripture, and in the first, vital, essential principles of Christianity-the doctrines of the Divinity and the Incarnation, and the Atonement as connected with them? We are grieved to say, that it is a matter of notoriety, that in Germany the Church of Rome is the only body which maintains these essential tenets; and that even she is deeply tainted by Neologian infidelities. Mr. Hare asserts that there is such a thing as German faith," and that a Christian substance" is not "wholly wanting" to German Theology; and we admit the truth of this in a certain sense, in individual instances; but we have yet to learn that there is such a thing as orthodox faith in Germany; we have yet to learn that there are any writers who are not tainted more or less by the horrible errors universally prevalent. Mr. Hare himself does not attempt to show that there are any such writers. He tries, indeed, to answer one charge against Olshausen, which we quoted from a contemporary journal; but our other charges he leaves unanswered. He does not attempt to defend Schliermacher, Luecke, Neander, Tittman, &c. He disclaims any intention of saying, "that any German divine of the present day is to be taken as an infallible guide;" which, as a reply to us can only mean, that none of them are really orthodox. He does not allege any instance of a German divine who is wholly free from the errors of his country. He is not able to allege that they are safe guides, though he recommends them to students; and when we remember what the errors of German Neologianism are, when we reflect that they render Christianity a mere philosophy, and denude it of all that we mean, when we speak of a Revelation from God, we confess that we cannot find any excuse for persons holding office in a Christian Church, and yet persevering in patronizing and recommending a Theology, which is in all parts tainted with heresy and infidelity.

Mr. Hare endeavours by all means to represent the question as a personal one between us and himself. We have felt it a duty to remonstrate strongly against the course which he and

« PreviousContinue »