Imágenes de páginas


Eclectic Review.

JANUARY, 1851.

Art. I.-1. Aids to Reflection. By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited

by Henry Nelson Coleridge. 2 vols. Pickering. 1848. 2. Essays on his own Times ; forming a Second Series of the Friend.

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by his Daughter. 3 vols.

Pickering. 1850. 3. Notes and Lectures upon Shakespeare, with other Literary Remains

of S. T. Coleridge. Edited by Mrs. H. N. Coleridge. 2 vols.

Pickering. 1849. 4. Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit; and some Miscellaneous Pieces.

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by H. N. Coleridge, Esq.,

M.A. Pickering. 1849. 5. Biographia Literaria ; or, Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life

and Opinions. By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by H. N.

Coleridge, and his Widow. 2 vols. Pickering. 1847. 6. General Introduction to the Encyclopedia Metropolitana ; or, a Pre

liminary Treatise on Method. By Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Third

Edition. Griffin. All human things are subject to one absolutely universal lawthat of change. Religion itself, the highest of the affairs of man, is not exempted from its operation. There are various proofs that this is the fact ; thus, in our personal religious experience we begin by trusting in Jesus as the Saviour of sinners, and thence advance to child-like confidence towards God in Him, N. S.-VOL. I.


and, beyond this, by Him attain to that state, which apostles have described as Christ living in us, the participation of the Divine nature, being children of God. The accuracy with which the Pilgrim's Progress' depicts the soul's life of a Christian, and the help which it has ever afforded to its development, would alone be sufficient to show that in this aspect religion is subject to change. The comparison of the manifestations of the religious life in different ages,-as, for example, that of patriarchs with that of prophets, and the psalmists' with the apostles', -conducts us to the same conclusion. But it is much more evident in the intellectual aspect of religion; and the whole history of doctrines is one continuous and incontrovertible proof of this extent of the reign of change. For the want of attention to such considerations, the opinion has become widely prevalent, that Christianity, unlike all else that concerns man, is immutable. With many this opinion has sprung from the feeling that religion has to do with eternal truths, and must, therefore, like them, be unchangeable. But with others the source is very different. All who have adopted as their formula of faith the creed or system of any Church or theologian of former days, are obliged to hold that, whatever modifications the expression of gospel truth may have been subject to before the date of their formula, it can know none after it. They are obliged to hold this, or else to renounce for their creed that which has most especially recommended it for their adoption. And they who have embraced the philosophy of the day as a religion, are also obliged to maintain the unchangeableness of Christianity, or else they would not be able to boast of the superiority of their invention to it, in its fitness for men of the present age.

This opinion widely prevails ; and meanwhile, on every side in society are indications of the imminence of a great change both in the intellectual and vital aspects of the gospel, commencing, most probably, in the former, but assuredly extending to, and terminating in the latter. Works of every variety of calibre, indigenous and imported, passionately proclaim it. The premature and too confident triumph of those that seek after wisdom over Christianity, and the timid conservatism of those to whom the kingdom of God is more in word than in power, alike bespeak its approach. But a surer sign is the hopefulness which possesses those who, whether in years so or not, are young in heart, and which impels them to lay hold of every help time brings for the nurture of the spiritual life within them; for disencumbering their faith of the traditional beliefs which have weighed upon it so heavily; for manifesting their knowledge and love of the truth in the clearest and completest manner; and for expressing it in such a way as to lead themselves and others

onwards to a more full and satisfactory experience of all that is given to man in Jesus Christ.

It is scarcely needful to say, that we heartily sympathize with those that thus strive and hope. And if what we have already said does not justify us, we might make our appeal to those who hold by the past, in preference to the present or coming aspects of the gospel. The most resolute in orthodoxy do not shape Christian truth into the same doctrines that they did whose names they employ as watchwords; and if they employ the same terms, the explanations they give of their meaning are vastly different. Father Newman, in his Essay on Development,'has gone far beyond the canons and decrees of the Romish Church; and the evangelical views of Mr. Gorham are not those of the Puritan divines whose ground he professes to maintain. Nor is it possible for them to do otherwise. The world has moved on during these last three hundred years; and it is with mankind as it is with individuals, who proceed from the first crude imaginings of childhood to the maturer, though still imperfect, opinions which beseem men of riper years; the cheerful docility of infancy is all that can or ought to be preserved. It would be as wise to insist that the Bible should never be printed, because it was originally preserved by writing alone; or that it should not be translated into modern languages, because first of all composed in Hebrew and Greek. The Church of Rome itself, in allowing the printing of modern translations, has admitted in effect what is sufficient to overthrow her claim of infallibility in the embodiment of Christian truth in her creeds of former ages. The worst enemies of the truth are those that


themselves to these changes. They attempt impossibilities. Men must for ever up and on; and if hindered in attaining new and wider apprehensions and manifestations of truth, will attain new and fatal apprehensions and manifestations of falsehood, all the more fatal because mistaken for truth. The complaints uttered against the restlessness and mobility of young and active minds have less than no weight and value. If such minds move not, which will? It was so at the Reformation, when one of the favourite declamations against the Reformers was grounded on the youth of their adherents. Nay, it was so when the gospel was first preached amongst men. Every morbid stupidity that is ridiculed or condemned by these, is a reflection on the wisdom and faithfulness of their elders. The part the elders should have taken was that of preparing for the change, and guiding, and even leading on to it. Or, supposing that so much as this was impossible, and that settled and habitual modes of looking at the great things concerned could not be so altered or modified as to lead to such labours; at least, there should have been so

much knowledge as to allow them to see, that what has proved in every way suitable and sufficient for themselves must not of necessity be suitable and sufficient for others belonging to a later and more advanced age. And when they complain that these aspirants condemn them retrospectively, they should not forget their own unfairer judgment, which has condemned beforehand that which is sought from the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' hidden in Jesus Christ. There is a grand word in * Locke's Journal,' which they who ponder the characteristics of these times would do well to keep in mind : It is a duty we owe to God, as the fountain and author of all truth, who is truth itself; and it is a duty also we owe our own selves, if we will deal candidly and sincerely with other souls, to have our minds constantly disposed to entertain and receive truth wheresoever we meet with it, or under whatever appearance of plain or ordinary, strange, new, or perhaps displeasing, it may come in our way.' This thought we commend to those of whom we speak, and address ourselves to the task before us.

We have placed at the head of this article the titles of several of the works of our distinguished philosopher and poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for the purpose of recommending the study of his writings to those of our readers who are desirous of obtaining a sure standing-place, whence they may look upon the religious controversies that are now proceeding, and discern whither they are tending; and whence, too, they may set forth, with some assurance of success, in the arduous and noble endeavour after genuine Christian life and knowledge. This recommendation we wish especially to impress upon our younger readers, remembering how this study furnished to ourselves the means of gaining such a confidence in the gospel, that not only were we placed out of the reach of the old objections to it, but forefended also from the misery of feeling ourselves beset with difficulties unknown before, which we could not dispose of, and which would have left us no alternative but to renounce what we heartily believed, or to hold by it without a reason that could satisfy the heart. Many beside ourselves ascribe to Coleridge such service as this; and most surely, at no time was such service needed as at the present, when the truth is assailed with weapons, apparently from her own armoury, and by men whom we might well believe to be willing to die for her sake; and when she is defended in a manner that leaves us little ground for expecting an ultimate triumph, save the eternal life which is hers as the offspring of God.

But we must narrow our field, for it would be too large a task on this occasion to show the bearing of our author's principles upon all the theological questions which are now under

discussion; and the position taken by him in respect of one at least, the connexion of the Church with the State, is such, that though Dissenters cannot agree with it, they could find more in it than Churchmen to approve. We shall confine our remarks, therefore, to the relation of Philosophy to Theology, which will include the Method, or Organon, of theological inquiry, and the relation of Theology to Religion, excluding specific notice of the sources of theological knowledge, of the doctrines of theology, and of all which is associated with ecclesiastical matters. And we shall adopt this course, both because these subjects are well suited to our pages, and also because in them are involved some of the points of the greatest moment, respecting which definite and available principles need now to be obtained. Something we must say of the questions themselves first, and then we shall endeavour to show what aid Coleridge can afford to an honest and intelligent inquirer.

The question of the relation of Philosophy to Theology appears to us to be the primary one of our day, and, indeed, of every day; for according to the conclusion arrived at upon it, almost every other question is answered, and it is one upon which shallow and most unsafe opinions may be easily formed, and such as shall seem to be incontrovertible whilst they are utterly baseless. It must be remembered that this is a subject of a purely scientific character, for theology is truly a science, inasmuch as it is knowledge reduced to method and organic order, although that knowledge is of such a kind as to make the system constructed, in every case, in no small degree individual. A Christian man alone can apply scientific method to that know. ledge which is the material of theology, since he alone possesses it; but any man of philosophical insight and education can teach the scientific method by which a theology can be formed, since it is only the method common to all sciences. Excepting those good simple souls, who mean nothing but the service of truth, though they often do it great disservice, who are not sufficiently cultivated to avoid the confusion of theology with religion, of the science with the knowledge which it methodizes, the relation of philosophy to religion is denied only by such as will allow no philosophy to be true but their own, and who, not always knowing exactly what that is, fear that, if they admit such a relation generally, their own theology will not be able to stand its ground. And yet it is evident that, as a man's philosophy is, so, if he be a Christian man, must his theology be; that is, a Christian man must needs ' interpret' (as Lord Bacon says) the facts of his religious life by the help of those views and principles, whatever they may be, that form his philosophy. We do not speak of theologies taken at second

« AnteriorContinuar »