Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

now and also at least for an immense period of past time, and the consequent belief that the universe has come into its present state by a very prolonged evolution of some kind. How far this view is well founded I have not undertaken to decide ; but I have endeavoured to judge what are its bearings upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, and to establish the truth of those doctrines without any assertion necessarily inconsistent with this view. My object has been to show how men who hold the views of modern science may still accept the Christian religion.

As argument to be of any good effect must proceed upon common ground, I have wished upon all occasions to assume nothing which a moderate and candid opponent might not, I hoped, allow; and I have honestly tried to take into account any objection which seemed to me plausible. Thus I have not urged the authority of the Fourth Gospel as a work of the Apostle St. John, although it would much strengthen my case, because I thought that the sceptical party would generally refuse to allow that the Gospel was St. John's. And when I came to examine the critical point in the historical evidences of Christianity, viz. the proofs of the resurrection of Christ, I thought it right to mention and consider all the weak points in the evidence which are known to me.

In writing thus I may at times have expressed myself in a way painful to some Christians, although it has been my endeavour not merely to observe the limitations imposed upon me by my position as a clergyman of the Church of England, but also to respect the feelings of my

fellow-Christians. If I do give offence, I must plead in my defence the great need at the present day of answering sceptical arguments, and also the great need of manifest moderation and fairness, if our answers are to have a good effect.

My work, I allow, has a negative part. I have examined the arguments of a school of Christian apologists whose reasonings certainly cannot be reconciled with the scientific view mentioned above, but who have been much relied upon in this country as argumentative defenders of Christianity. I have taken Bishop Butler and Archdeacon Paley as representing this school probably to the best advantage, and I have felt obliged to conclude that their arguments have lost much of their value, though not all. But at the same time I have tried to show that there were other grounds, viz. the witness of the moral faculty, on which the authority of the moral teaching of our religion and the truth of its

principal doctrines might be rested. One doctrine, indeed, of popular Christianity I have not felt able to defend in this way, that is, the everlasting misery of the wicked. Nor, again, can I support a certain view as to the atonement which is, I believe, popular, although it has not, I hold, any title to be thought orthodox. Whether my opinions on these points can be justified must be decided by argument, and for such arguments as I have to offer I must refer to my Essays.

But there is one consideration which I would at. once bring forward to mitigate any prejudice which these admissions upon my part may produce. It cannot be denied that a large class of thoughtful and well-informed men in this country are dissatisfied with the popular religious opinions. They, at least think, that they see an opposition between our traditional Christianity and modern thought and science. This class is, I believe, still larger on the Continent. Its existence, all will allow, is a very grave fact, and I contend that it behoves religious men, in the presence of that fact, seriously to consider what it is which they put forward as religious truth, to insist upon nothing for which they cannot see a secure foundation, and not to suffer any mere prejudice, or sympathy, or habit of belief, to hinder

them from modifying those statements, which especially give offence, if they can conscientiously

do so.

As I have to deal with the relations of religion to science I have spoken only of those grounds of religious belief which are commonly thought to be rational and argumentative. No doubt as a matter of fact religious belief is brought about and modified by many other influences, and the study of such influences and their effects may be of high interest and have its place in the domain of science. But it is not contemplated here. I have treated only of the intellectual grounds of religious belief. They may not hitherto have been the common grounds of such belief, but it may, I think, be assumed that they will become so more and more. As knowledge and the diffusion of knowledge advance, men will be less and less ready to rest their convictions as to the most important of all subjects upon authority, tradition, mere feeling, or a supposed practical necessity. These last are the guides of the pupilage, not of the maturity of our race.

« AnteriorContinuar »