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If the object of Revelation is to reveal God to men, and if God is revealed to men mainly by the experiences of a heaven-guided life, then it would seem that Revelation is intended to teach us how to live. But if Revelation is to teach us how to live, and if life changes and grows from century to century, then it would seem that Revelation must grow also, that the proportion between the two may be maintained.
Such a view of Revelation is persistently enforced throughout the whole of the Bible. Old and New Testament alike assert that religion is to be a progress, not a standing-still. The Law and the Prophets point to a Redeemer ;
the Redeemer promises us
a Spirit which shall guide us into all truth.
But in every Church and in every age the Party of Growth has to contend with two other parties, the Party of Destruction, who would destroy everything, and the Conservative Party, who would preserve everything as it is; and these two Parties will always make themselves more easily intelligible than the first—the Party of Progressive Truth. To retain everything exactly as it is, or to destroy everything root and branch—either of these has the merit of being a plain policy, appreciable by the laziest of minds in the laziest of humours; and this in itself is no small commendation in a busy age which finds desultory reading far more attractive than thought or study. The policy of the Party of Growth, necessarily involving partial destruction and partial conservation, obliges them to give reasons for destroying some things and preserving others, and to justify their discrimination. But to discriminate, how tedious! And to justify discrimination, how dull for the reader of the justification ! Not half so amusing, after dinner, as a slashing demonstration in some magazine (which everybody will read and talk about) that everything is naught, nor half so intelligible as next month's rejoinder, set off with epigrams, that whatever is, is good!
Who is puerile enough to complain of this state of things, or to lament that growth is slow and unsensational ? One might as well complain that the quiet processes of Nature are less amusing than the transformation scenes of a pantomime. Besides, those who are disposed to feel a little irritated at the nonsense that is published and tolerated by extreme parties, and a little disheartened by the slow progress of intelligent religion, may take courage from the thought that the present neglect of truth is as natural and inevitable as its ultimate triumph. The times just now are against us. Besides depression in the material prosperity of the nation, wars and politics—war in its most degrading aspect, and politics in their lowest and basest signification-distract our minds from progress of every kind, religious as well as social. If it is a mark of “barbarous times” to have at the head of affairs a government degrading to the national morality, and if it is a “calamity” and “ disaster” that the nation should be dragged in unjust wars and impracticable engagements by a policy from which the educated conscience of the country recoils with disgust, then we may easily account for a temporary outbreak of superstition among us. For superstition, says Bacon, is caused by calamity no less than by ritualism : The causes of superstition are pleasing and sensual rites and
and lastly, barbarous times, especially joined with calamities and disasters.
Some of these causes at least are readily removable; and when they are removed we may hope for better things. But even when progress comes, let us pray that it may come naturally and therefore slowly. If we are certain that we have found the truth, and if we are confident that the truth must ultimately prevail, we can afford to innovate by degrees, following the example of time itself; which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived. As we commend this sentence to the attention of the Destructive Party, so we may offer for the consideration of the Conservative Party another sentence by the same author : Surely every medicine is an innovation, and he that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils. For time is the greatest innovator ; and if time, of course, alters things to the worse, and wisdom and counsel shall not alter them to the better, what shall be the end ?
The following sermons-of which six were preached before the University of Oxford, from 1877 to 1879, and the seventh in the Chapel of Balliol College in 1878—are intended as a contribution to the views of that Middle Party described above, that Party which desires neither to destroy