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The Theologian a spiritual man.
preaching, for they are the great central topics of the evangelical faith. Study them, then, with your eye on the work of Christ and on the souls of men. There is no ground to fear that the thorough study of them will dissipate their spiritual aroma, if you study with the believing heart, as with the investigating mind. The greatest theologians of the ChurchAugustine, Anselm, Calvin, Edwards, and many bright names of more recent memory, have been also the most spiritual and the most spiritually influential of her sons; and the reason is obvious: when a soul can both most intelligently comprehend and most cordially apprehend Divine truth, then does that soul, apprehended itself and carried sweetly captive by the truth it knows and loves, stamp itself more deeply on men and life. But we must preach these things to ourselves as we study them. We must handle sin, atonement, acceptance as solemnly and vitally in the class-room, as if we were speaking of them to one on the verge of the world to come. Let me welcome you to this employment, and let me pass on to you as the motto of your class-work, and of your life-work, the well-known words, “ Utilis actio, utilis eruditio, sed magis unctio necessaria, quippe quae docet de omnibus.”
Art. II.—Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century.
THE subject with which, in the following article
, we mean to , deal is strictly indicated by the heading; the works named below indicate rather the quarters whence the student of this period of our history may find much suggestive help, than the scope of our inquiry. Professor Cairns, in his able and scholarly lectures, ranges over a wider field than the one covered by our title. While making the eighteenth century the main
'The Cunningham Lecture for 1880, by Professor CAIRNS, D.D. A. and C. Black, Edinburgh.
English Thought in the Eighteenth century, by LESLIE STEPHEN. Smith, Elder, and Co.
History of England in the Eighteenth Century, Vols. I. II., by W. E. H. LECKY. Longmans and Co.
Religion in England under Queen Anne, etc., by Dr. STOUGHTON. Hodder and Stoughton.
object of his study, he deals with both earlier and later phases of the history of unbelief; he takes eighteenth-century unbelief, as related to the opposition of earlier ages on the one hand, and the infidelity of our own time on the other. The Cunningham Lectures have added considerably to our knowledge and understanding of this important question. They are a solid piece of workmanship, worthy alike of their accomplished author, the Church under whose auspices they were delivered, and the subject discussed. To his opponents Dr. Cairns is fair, even to the point of generosity, and no one can rise from the perusal of his work without a feeling of gratitude, and a sense of obligation to the learned, candid, and thoughtful lecturer.
In the first lecture, the unbelief of the first four centuries is discussed and its character well defined ; in the second, the lecturer glances at several aspects of the opposition to Christianity manifested in the seventeenth century; the third lecture deals with Deism proper, as it appeared in England-giving a comprehensive outline of its origin, causes, character, decline, and death; in the fourth and fifth lectures the course of Deism is traced in France and Germany,-in both of which countries it was considerably metamorphosed, appearing under new forms, but with the same old spirit; the closing lecture discusses modern unbelief chiefly as associated with three great and representative names-Strauss, Renan, and Mill. It will be seen from this brief summary that Dr. Cairns gives a comprehensive view of his subject, and that he wanders over a large extent of territory. His lectures will well repay careful study, and, if we mistake not, he has added a most suggestive and instructive chapter to the modern science of apologetics.
In order the better to point the moral often suggested by Professor Cairns, we shall confine our remarks to the unbelief of the eighteenth century, and mainly to this opposition to the claims and authority of Christianity as it appeared in our own country.
It may be said that unbelief is the same in any or every country ; this is partly true, by no means all the truth : properly speaking there are two factors in unbelief to which attention may be directed,—the one, that "evil heart " which, whether in Pagan, Humanist, Deist, Agnostic, or Apologist, will Earlier forms of Unbelief.
ever manifest itself, and which, for our purposes, may be regarded as almost a constant quantity; the other is that factor which comes from the conditions of the age, the spirit of opposition to God's claims and Revelation, which varies with the changing aspects of human life and thought; "all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims,"—the “spirit of the age—which it is impossible to seize and accurately define”l—this gives to unbelief its special character in any one period, and this we must ever try to understand if we are to deal wisely with any period of history. Dr. Cairns points out in his lectures, and by so doing he has contributed not a little to our understanding of this matter, how the scepticism of early days differs from the unbelief alike of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. The early assailants of Gospel truth themselves believed in the supernatural; the opposers of our day object to this at the very threshold of their inquiry. These unbelievers actually appealed to the supernatural, and they found no fault with either the documents to which Christians appealed, or the historical facts on which they based their doctrines. So in the seventeenth century; whilst there were attacks made that went to the root of all belief, yet the main stream of hostile tendency stopped far short of this. True, there was that alike in attack and defence which may be called universal ; Spinoza certainly went to the root of the matter, and Pascal has a message for every age,—but both Spinoza and Pascal are better understood in our day than they were in their own age. The common stream of unbelief flowed in channels less deep and broad. Even in the early days of the eighteenth century, there were articles in the creed of an ordinary Deist that would appear, to the unbelievers of our time, scarcely more palatable than the creed of the most advanced Christian. All this only shows how different the unbelief of one period may be from that of another, and how necessary it is carefully to discriminate between things that are very unlike, even if covered by the same general name.
There are many reasons why, in these times, we should study with great interest the unbelieving tendencies of the last century. First of all, if we neglect this study we cannot expect
1 Archbishop Trench, New Testament Synonyms, p. 207.
2 Cairns, Lecture 1. VOL. XXXI.-NO. CXIX.
to understand or appreciate the Apologetic works in common use, and that have been honoured by all churches and all believers. How often are Butler and Paley misunderstood by both friends and foes on this very ground! On the one hand, these writers are held up as having answered all actual and possible objections; on the other, they are condemned as worthless. The late Mr. Maurice speaks of “groaning” as he reads the arguments of the good Bishop Butler; he thinks, in seeking to defend some of the outworks of Christianity, Butler has given up its very citadel. In reply to this, the clear-sighted Canon Mozley says the groaning might have been spared if Mr. Maurice had taken the trouble to understand the origin and scope of the Analogy. In like manner, men sneer at Paley's twelve men with their arguments in favour of the Resurrection of Christ, forgetting, as Professor Fairbairn clearly shows, that there have been theories of the Resurrection against which Paley's argument of the "twelve honest men is perfectly conclusive.”? If then we are to understand the very books with which we are supposed to be familiar, above all, if we are to do justice to the work of the Apologists of the last century, we must try to find out the kind of opposition against which they so earnestly contended.
In the second place : the unbelief of the eighteenth century, however weak it may appear to some in these days, was wide-reaching in its results. Hume, its boldest and latest product, is hardly now to be considered a voice and nothing more; nor can we forget his relation to Kant and the critical philosophy of Germany-which has so largely influenced the religious thought of our age. After Deism had done its work in England, it crossed the Channel, to do a work far more whorough-going, and in its ultimate issues more lasting. Dr. Fairbairn speaks of Lessing's edition of the Wolfenbüttel Fragments as the “last words of the dying Deism,"3 but before these last words were spoken, it had changed the very conception of religion in Germany, and wrought havoc in fair France. What we term Rationalism, or Naturalism, as Cairns has it, was simply the German edition of English Deism. During the Seven Years' War officers of high rank in Why Deism demands study.
1 Mozley's Essays, vol. ii. p. 264. 2 See Dr. Fairbairn's Studies in the Life of Christ, p. 337. 3 “ David Friedrich Strauss ;” Contemporary Review, vol. xxvii. p. 953.
discussed Collins and Tindal over their cups, and, in the intervals of more serious business, fought over again the conflicts of the Deists.
In France too, perhaps even more gravely, Deism had its effect upon
life and thought. In no sense can we regard it as a “spent force,” simply because able English Apologists had the best of the argument. The brilliant literary efforts of Voltaire and Rousseau, as well as the grosser, but not less powerful, forces working in connection with the great Revolution, must all be associated with Deism.
Thirdly, and in our opinion most of all: the Deistic form of unbelief demands and deserves study on account of the clear conception thus gained of the intimate connection between life and thought, the creed and the character ; between a low standard of moral life and an unworthy conception of spiritual truth. Still more deserving of study is this period, when we remember that the most telling reply to the unbelief of the Deists came not from the Philosophy of Berkeley, the Ethics of Butler, or the Evidences of Paley, valuable as were each and all of these, but from that great spiritual revival ever associated with the great and honoured name of Wesley.
Dr. Cairns beautifully says: “It was not a faith nursed on works of evidence, but on communion with a living Christ, that carried the Reformation through the Diet of Worms, the siege of Leyden, and the Marian persecutions;" so may we say that by far the best works of evidence, in the eighteenth century, were the triumphs of Wesley and Whitefield. The best answer, after all, to the cold criticisms of Hume and the “causes ” of Gibbon, although other answers then and now are ever to be honoured and welcomed, were the “tears shaping white gutters down the black faces of the colliers, black as they came out of the coal-pits,” shed under the simple but spiritually powerful preaching of Whitefield, or the new life and quickening that came to every nook and corner of England, yea and the world, under the divinely guided work of the Wesleys.
English unbelief in the eighteenth century is mainly Deistic. This form of opposition to the claims of Christianity
i Cairns, Lecture 11. p. 32. 2 Stephen's Essays in Eccles. Biography—"The ' Evangelical' Succession.”