Images de page
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

state of moral triviality.'1 If a certain ethical orthodoxy is
generally necessary to salvation (as the dogmatists phrase it),
why not a certain doctrinal orthodoxy? If intellect must deal
with philosophical doubt and difficulties, and if, in this ordeal,
moral instincts are its best safeguard, why may not intellect
look open-eyed upon historical doubts, and triumph by the help
of the same talisman ? There is no serious question of the
broad facts of Christ's life. The question arises as to their
spiritual meaning; and that is attested by conscience. Nor
can Christians cut themselves off from the history of their race.
They are saved where their brethren are saved-at the cross of
Christ. Again, Mr. Green believes that rational self-conscious-
ness implies a uniform working of natural law such as absolutely
excludes miracles. It is strange that a mere theory of know-
ledge should be held to afford a complete ontology, and a com
plete theory of conduct. But I cannot fully enter here into
the difficult metaphysical issues involved in this controversy.
Nor need I repeat what I have already advanced in an earlier
section of this paper towards a reply. Only let me add,
that man's free will is debarred equally with God's by Mr.
Green; a circumstance which terribly hampers his reply to the
' natural history’ moralists; for, though his idealist doctrine
has some truth to add to popular libertarianism, yet, when
idealism is pushed (as by Mr. Green) into a determinism masked
by quibbles, then the doctrine becomes equally untrue and im-
potent. Green's moral genius drags his doctrines in the right
direction; but his greatness is almost entirely achieved in spite
of his beliefs—to a very small extent indeed because of his
beliefs. For the same reason, Mr. Green vacillates helplessly
in regard to personal immortality. On all these grounds then
—as believing in a living God, in human freedom, in guilt, in
redemption, and in a life to come—we part from Mr. Green.
His affirmations we also affirm, but we refuse his negations.
God is more than a principle formative of man's experience,
and has done more for us than this Half-Christianity admits.

2 P. 83. Cf. the reference given above, p. 34.

1 P. 93.

[ocr errors]

111, 4

God is present in the consciousness of God'-assuredly He is; and in all consciousness of duty God is present; but God is also before and behind and beyond and above man's consciousness of God. He is a loving and understanding God,'—yes, and not a dumb God, but one who has spoken unto us in His Son,

“So, through the thunder comes a human voice
Saying, “O heart I made, a heart beats here,

Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself.”'i We believe both the universal revelation and the special revelation with its miracles. We worship not a formula, but a Father. It is not true that criticism invalidates "? the old faith. Prejudice invalidates the old faith ; but, when scepticism has tried to be constructive, it has never yet managed a tolerably successful explanation of the life of Christ or of the origins of Christianity. It never yet has; it never will.

I should also like to call the reader's attention to the fact, that the view of miracles for which we are pleading is the Bible view—the view of Paul and of John—a view equally far removed from the moral dryness of the eighteenth century evidence-hunters, and from the metaphysical coldness of Mr. Green's Hegelian Pantheism, to which facts are nothing, and ideas everything, which, with its disenchanting touch, annuls the reality, or at least destroys the certainty of God, of freedom, of immortality, and leaves us only a mass of impotent ideas in a world of dead mechanical laws. Mr. Green himself very truly points out 3 that in the Johannine writings—he ascribes them to a late writer—the principles are everything, and special sensuous facts are only signs, supplementary though necessary, of God's spiritual purposes and workings.

Only it

1

Browning, An Epistle.

2 Green, u.s. p. 104. 3 P. 30. Mr. Arnold is less happy than usual in his criticism when he treats every word disparaging miracle as authentically Christ's, all praise of it as John's or some other reporter's. The early Christian attitude to miracle was twofold ; miracle was to it an element, and only an element, in God's dispensa. tions. We can prove that both sides of this truth were in John's own mind, while we believe he was taught both by Christ.

it just

must be added that to St. John, not the Christ, but His individual works, were the secondary signs. “Christ in the flesh' was the spiritual fact itself or spiritual principle—for the two are treated as exchangeable—by which St. John lived, for which he was ready to die. Now that, and not Mr. Green's dissolving view of Christian faith—that, and not the Apologists' bundle of intellectual notions, is what we plead for. Is it to go for nothing that, as against both orthodoxy and heresy, we defend the positions of John, and of Paul (e.g. on the Resurrection), and of Christ (e.g. on the Fatherhood of God and on immortality)? Is it fair to regard as a mere compromise—as mere trimming—what goes back to the well-head of Christian life and truth, and draws from thence ?

(2) We ought next to cite those half-Christians who believe in Christ's revelations and in nothing else ; but we cannot regard such faith as even a half degree of Christianity. Revelation which does not issue in the spiritual exercises of joy, of penitence, of obedience, is not a religious thing. When men treated revelation as notional, they either got hold of the Christian religion surreptitiously, or thrust it into an appendix to their system (e.g. the High Church doctrine of sacraments); or else the world lived for a time without religion.

(3) We pass on therefore to discuss the half-Christianity of the Evangelicals, or the system which concentrates all attention upon Christ's gift of pardon. Lest my language should prove offensive, let me explain that by a half in this connection, I do not mean the mathematically exact fifty per cent., but a fraction, notably less than unity. From this point of view, there can be no hesitation in treating the evangelical theory as a half-Christian rather than a Christian system. Evangelicalism did not, indeed, deny the other elements of the Christian Gospel; but it misunderstood the nature of revelation, and it misrepresented spiritual joy, while the life of obedience was left altogether outside the logic of its system. In that system Christ was not the author of holiness in us, but a sub stitute for holiness. That a Christian should perform good works was an important secondary consideration; the primary matter was, that he should not trust in good works. To teach men their need of pardon—to lead them to seek and find pardon—was the main thing. In their own characteristic language, they sought to escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.' I need not say, that evangelicalism is nobly right in testifying to the world the evil of sin—in testifying to all men that they have no hope except in God's mercy forgiving them through Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding this, I conceive that a more unchristian ideal was never held up to men than that they should spend their lives in trying to outwit God's moral law. In God's universe we may feel sure people will get what they deserve—on the whole, and in accordance with the higher justice, which includes mercy. Christ's work is not the paralysis, but the fulfilment of the world's moral order. God is not a martinet, entangled in His own Draconic code. But God is a judge; and to escape from God's justice into some unmoral region could be no salvation, but very much the contrary. On the whole, it is wonderful that evangelicalism, in its historical shape, has done so much good work as it has accomplished. It has taught many souls the evil of sin. It has taught many the blessedness of forgiveness. It has revealed to many the love of Christ. It comes to us associated with the dear and reverend memory of not a few pure lives and victorious deaths.

But all this cannot blind us to its hopeless defects, social and spiritual. In its frenzy for a 'simple Gospel,' it simplifies away the moral basis of Christianity. Why should we expect the Gospel to be intrinsically simple? What is more complex or mysterious than a soul's relation to God, to Christ, to past sin, to the Spirit of future holiness, to the Church, to the world ? When the Gospel is simplified down to the point of asking men to accept forgiveness,' all significance is gone from it. Why "accept' forgiveness indeed ? In order to escape hell; sufficient hedonist motive! yet it fails to work. No;

[ocr errors]

let them seek forgiveness. God's pardon is not morally intelligible unless it be offered to those who know something of their need and want—if ye seek me with your whole heart.' When you simplify the Gospel to an unmeaning platitude, you have taken out of it every motive that can appeal to men. It is not an easy salvation men wish! They wrong man greatly who say he is to be seduced by ease. Difficulty, abnegation, martyrdom, death, are the allurements that act on the heart of man. Kindle the inner genial life of him, you have a flame that burns up all lower considerations.'1 I do not dwell here on the fact that, once you get men to 'accept' forgiveness, you have to turn round on them and explain that they have accepted’ the conditions of a life-long service. Ought not that circumstance to give pause to evangelical simplifications' of the Gospel ? Ought not men to know beforehand the whole of what they are accepting'?

If Christianity were a bare amnesty, then evangelicalism might be right; but Christianity is much more. It is, as it was called at a very early stage in its history, 'a way,' which certainly does not mean a 'way of escape,' but a way of human life- a theory, a principle, a power of human life. Instead of preaching as dying men to dying men, let us rather preach as living men to living. For indeed God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. And to leave the Christian life—the Kingdom of God—to grow up by accident, is to dishonour and desert our Master.

One is struck, too, by the singularly far-fetched inducements by which personal religion is pressed on their hearers by modernising Evangelicals. To avoid it is ‘unmanly,'' ungenerous,' etc. etc. Very good second-rate motives—very good auxiliary motives—but entirely unsuited for the first rank ! We must do right because it is right. If we do not lay that as the foundation, our superstructure will not be moral, and never will it be animated by the breath of God's Spirit. But this moral beginning is transformed by religion—clothed with life,

1 Carlyle, Hero-worship, ii. p. 65.

« PrécédentContinuer »