On this page
- Text (4)
Note: This text has been automatically extracted via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. The text has not been manually corrected and should not be relied on to be an accurate representation of the item.
Additionally, when viewing full transcripts, extracted text may not be in the same order as the original document.
recommending religious federation . He appears to overlook the fact that the union I advocate is one entirely for practical purposes , and that its terms ¦ would be so wide and comprehensive as to prevent all possibility of a more firmly rivetted spiritual despotism being the result , of which he seems to have such a wholesome apprehension . I agree with R . B . as to the failure of " religion ,
as it is taught us , to accomplish its original design ;" but so long as religionists remain divided that failure will be perpetuated . Union , in order to carry out the fundamental principle of all religions , love to God and to our neighbour for His sake , will bring religious men to consider well the grounds of their speculative differences ; and , if those differences must continue , to hold them as children of one universal Father , in charity and forbearance .
R . B . will not , I fancy , find much diversity between his views and mine , if he will read my former letter , especially with reference to the last paragraph of his . I remain , my dear sir , yours most faithfully , Edmund R . Larken .
FEDERAL RELIGIOUS UNIONS . June 11 , 1850 . Sir , —I differ as widely from Mr . Thomas as the Reverend Mr . darken himself ; but it seems to me that the remarks of the latter on the means of attaining religious unity are founded on a fallacy , a very common one I own , and one too that has lately received the sanction of the highest authority in the land : but something far more weighty than common consent , and far higher than highest authority , is required to convince me that unity in the proper sense of the word can result from an agreement to differ .
Mr . Larken accuses Mr . Thomas of confounding unity with uniformity , but falls into the very same error himself ; for unity of spirit is alone real and vital , alone deserves the name of unity : where this exists there needs no such associative effort as that he proposes , and where it does not exist , conclaves , synods , and conferences will but serve to render its absence more apparent . The sympathies of nature will act , whether in the soul of man or in anything else ; elective affinities constitute nature ' s associative force , and with them there is no reserve , no agreement to sink the difference . But , let us look a little closer
at the proposed federal union . What is it to effect ? In the words of Mr . Larken , " sanitary reforms , educational movements , efforts in favour of the overworked and underpaid , &c , would be carried on with that energy which united force alone can produce /' Now , with respect to sanitary and labour questions , we want no federation of religious sects as such ; they arc masters affecting the immediate material welfare of society , and are entered upon by all who feel their importance without any reference whatever to the form , of their religious convictions : with respect , however , to educational measures , is it possible that
any one who has watched the controversies which have agitated the religious and political world for some years past , can have arrived at the conclusion that the consummation so devoutly to be wished , that unity for which we strive , is to be attained by any conceivable federation of religious sects ? It is very easy to talk theoretically of laying aside minor differences of faith in order to coincide in the one great object of the age—the education of the peopleand as long as this term , education , is regarded as a cloudy abstraction , the hypothesis of agreement on the so-called minor points seems to carry with it no
great improbability ; but , no sooner do we face the difficulty , no sooner do we set it before us in its distinct concrete form , than the vision of unity by federation fades and dissolves into thin air . We would unite to educate the people it is true , but how are they to be educated , what kind of culture shall they have ? " Purely secular , " says one ; " purely religious , " says another . And wherein consists the diff . rence between secular and religious teaching , the difference , at least , as it is for the most part understood ? Is it not that in the one case the moral and intellectual faculties of man are to be fully developed
without any limitations voluntarily imposed , whilst , in the other , they are to be developed only so far as they can co-exist with a belief in certain dogmas which constitute the religious creed of the educators ; this creed being of course imposed upon the educated as a necessary part of their culture ? Now , for any federation to exist between parties differing so widely as the secular and religious educationists , implies a contradiction in terms , for the latter would ipso facto acknowledge that a creed is not necessary , and thus voluntarily throw down the barrier which , divides
them from the former . Then , again , the religionists are split into numerous sects , each holding certain distinctive dogmas , the points of difference being of course involved in their respective creeds , otherwise they would cease to be distinct bodies ; well , in order to form a federal union , they must agree to sink these points of difference ; in other words , to confess them non-essential , and thus stultify their own conclusions . Nothing seems to mo more indubitable than that a federal union of sects for educational purposes is the merest chimera that was ever invented . What is to
be done , then , it will be asked ; are we to fold our hands and look on ? By no means ; let us work diligently and wait patiently ; let us work at the barriers which divide sects and parties ; stone by stone let us remove them , and unity will be accomplished by the force of those natural sympathies divinely implanted in our souls . This , as I understand it , is the meaning of the New Reformation ; this the work it has to do . When it is once seen and felt by large numbers of men that creeds are only means to an end , that they
have contained something good , but are not themselves that something ; -when religion is recognized as an ultimate and indestructible fact of human nature , and that fact known to be the inextinguishable sympathy that binds a man to his fellow-men , compelling him to work with them and for them ; then , and then only , will unity be possible : but then , too , it will be not only possible but inevitable . Be it ours to spread this glorious faith , each one singly doing his appointed task , and the result who can doubt ? ThEOPHITjTTS .
A DEFENCE OF SCRIPTURE AUTHENTICITY . Sir , —Though I have been much interested in Mr . Newman ' s work , " Phases of Faith , " considered as a candid review of his own moral and religious life , and as an earnest protest against the corruptions of religion , yet it was not without disappointment that I perceived , whilst perusing the later chapters of the volume , that he does not discriminate between the authentic and non-authentic portions of the Scriptures ; he does not consider that those evidential circumstances which militate against the Divine origin of the doubtful or unauthenticated parts of the New
Testament are wholly powerless to undermine the claims to authority and genuineness of those glorious sentiments , hallowed inculcations , and immutable laws , which are mingled with , but uncontaminated by , the manifest corruptions . Did it never occur to so intelligent a mind as Mr . Newman ' s that marginal notes , inscribed on the ofttranscribed manuscripts , might , from interested and artful motives , be subsequently inserted in the text by copyists , even if more flagrant interpolations were not perpetrated ? Who that is acquainted with the histories of priestcraft and monastic life , has reason to doubt the probability of this ?
But how , it may be inquired , are we to decide upon the genuineness of particular passages in the New Testament ? We must , in the first instance , prove it can be done by reference to external or profane history . The great facts narrated there , such as the existence of Jesus , his formation of a church , and his subsequent crucifixion—the succeeding persecution endurtd by his disciples , their indomitable perseverance notwithstanding the most ignominious treatment , their persistency against all worldly interests , and their constancy unto death—often violent and
terrible as it was , during the earliest era of Christianity ! A sufficient motive must be allowed for such remarkable conduct—had it been the conduct of one man the resolvement of the difficulty might be fanaticism or monomania—for even two or three the same explanation might suffice , but that multitudes should adopt thesame course of action , can only be accounted for by the great miraculous event which they sacrificed every earthly advantage and blessing to bear testimony to—namely the resurrection from the dead of their Great Teacher , and its signification to all who followed his example !
Again I contend that the Bible is the only source from which a clear conception of a pure religion can be gained—the idea of one great Beneficent Being can be arrived at by no unassisted mortal intellect . And as a proof of this , what nation , however enlightened , however gifted with genius , antecedent to the introduction of the Old Testament to the Gentile world , did attain to the knowledge of the One True God , the origin of the good and also of the apparent evil , the rewarder of righteousness and annihilator of wickedness . The existence of the earth can be no evidence of a Divine Creator ; for , if it were , the belief in that Being would involve the consequent belief in a still superior originator , and so on inimitably .
But to return to the question of genuineness in particular passages . When once the principal facts are established , this is comparatively easy to determine . We have only to consider the design of these revelations , the character and motives of the authorized ltevealer , the corroborated injunctions , and pervading spirit of the whole , and then harmonize it by a well-consirlcrecl , impartial , and conscientious rejection of any obvious contradiction , cither verbal or spiritual . I remain , sir , yours obediently , Claua Walijby .
DOCTRINES . Hampstcad , Juno 10 , 1850 . Sin ,- —In your review of Carlyle's pamphlet in last week ' s Leader you say , " It is not a king we want , but a doctrine to be governed by ... . a doctrine that may open our understandings to a faith in the eternal powers , a faith which we once had , even in spite of
our ignorance , and which we have stupidly lost , in , spite of our boasted knowledge . But we shall not gain it while the true pioneers of the age remain content to utter vaticinations that find their most eloquent and pregnant passages in equivocating language about God and the Devil . Some of us have forsworn that equivocation and are bent upon trying what plain sincere language can do . " That is an excellent resolve . But , hava you made it ? Does there not lurk in your mind a little of the reigning malady of doubt' compromise ? What
is your meaning when you say— " We have departed from the laws of the universe , as it seems to us , because the clergy , that sacred body , called upon to explore the said laws , and their relation with the instincts and consciences of men , have become deprayed by the modern bigotry for the intellectual spirit ; or by the modern faithless devotion to the commercial spirit ; or by the no less modern sybaritic love of comfort and peace , rather than truth and power , for that is the present form of effeminacy amongst us . "
Is there no equivocating language about Good and Evil in this sentence ? Do you really deem it possible for man to depart from the laws of the universe ? Is not mental delusion and hallucination one of the effects of a universe law ? Do you not think that evil in every form is the result of a law of ^ the universe which shows that going in the wrong direction is not the same as moving in the right ? Is there not a law of evil as well as a law of good r Is not a bug a living law as well as a bee ; a wolf as real as a lamb ? Are they not equally in unison with , the laws of truth and progress ?
But , what are the laws of the universe ? Are they not full of living contradictions ? Is not Nature full of contradictions ? Is not Scripture full of contradictions ? How are we to know and understand these real or these seeming contradictions and their living conflicts ? Is it really a doctrine which is wanted " to open , our understandings to a faith in the eternal powers" ? Are , there not good and evil doctrines ; doctrines of
despotic violence like wolves and tigers , as well as doctrines of humility , and peace , and liberty , like sheep and oxen ? How are we to know the value and importance of such doctrines in theory and practice ? What is the use of evil doctrines , and when are they to cease ? What are the providential uses of foul vermin and ferocious animals ? When are they to disappear and by what means ? What would another doctrine do to help us onward in the twofold work of social progress : internal improvement , and external development ?
In building up new doctrines are we not turning our backs on facts and revelations ? Does not Mr . Newman's " Phases of Faith , " and all the host of doubting books and doctrines , prove to us that we are leaving the highways of common sense and observation to wander in . the swamps of dreaming logic ? It seems to me that doubts and doctrines have already split the minds of men to atoms , and that those confessions which still hold together certain sects and fragments of the universal church , are crumbling daily into dusty triturated unbelief and chaos .
What we want , then , is a better understanding of living facts and revelations ; and especially of their diversities , both natural and spiritual . The mind can find no rest within itself ; no science of external facts in its own dreamings ; no knowledge of the universe and its progressive laws . But how is man to compass knowledge and improve his understanding ? Let him search the Scriptures with an eye of faith , and study the creation . If he be drunk with the fumes of some narcotic doctrine , let him wait till he is sober , as a man intoxicated with strong liquor waits until his senses have recovered their own . strength .
It may be asked if Scripture be not an intoxicating thing , producing sad delusions and hallucinations ? This question may be answered by another—Is not Nature an intoxicating thing in alcoholic drinks imbibed without discretion and good sense ? I have no doubt of Scripture being a mixed stream of thought , divine and human ; but the wisdom and the revelations it contains are not less positive on that account . Faith in Providence is all that is required to study and observe the laws of life and progress in the universe : cosmical and microcosmical ; natural and spiritual : verbal and incarnate .
That which staggers " philosophic minds , deluded by the logic of " pure reason , " when they study Scripture , is the seeming muss of contradictions which abound in it . They do not recollect that contradiction is no proof of falsehood or imposture in the book of Nature . Wolves and tigers are in contradiction with lambs nnd antelopes , and will continue in this state of living conflict until man subdues the earth and rids it of all vermin and ferocious animals . The Gospel is in contradiction with the Law , in Scripture , and will not be logically or identically reconciled with it , until the law has been •« fulfilled in every jot and tittle , " beginning -with
June 15 , 1850 . ] ffif > £ & £ && £ ?? 277 _ . _ - .. .. ___^_ _ . _ _ __ _ . ^ . . . - - - ...-- - — . — —
Leader (1850-1860), June 15, 1850, page 277, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1842/page/13/