« FöregåendeFortsätt »
out; he has all a patriot's desires for the liberation of his country, and would, no doubt, willingly sacrifice what remains to him of life to ensure its liberty. Such works cannot fail to do good, as they tend, at the same time, to nourish generous feelings, and to diffuse the knowledge of what gallant things the people of Italy have performed in the attempt to shake off the yoke of the barbarians. That their beautiful country should still remain subject, in a great measure, to Austria, is a reproach to all Christendom. But she has no longer anything to expect from without. Her liberation must be her own work, and we trust that even now the sword is sharpening which is to accomplish her deliverance.
Art. III.—1. On the Religious Ideas. By W. J. Fox, M.P. 8vo.
London : Fox. 2. The Westminster and Foreign Review, April 1850, Art. IX. The
Church of England. We have placed together the titles of Mr. Fox's volume, and of an article in the Westminster,' as presenting similar views, in some respects, of Christianity, as taught, not by the Church of England only, but by the numerous bodies in this country that abide by the ancient Catholic faith of Christendom. Both in the lectures of Mr. Fox, and in the brilliant paper of the • Westminster,' that faith appears to us to be misrepresented and repudiated ; and we should ill discharge our duty to our own convictions, and to the great principles which we hold to be of paramount evidence, as well as authority and moment, if not avail ourselves of the appearance of these publications to record our judgment of their contents, of their tendency, and of the treatment which they deserve at our hands.
The lectures of Mr. Fox are fifteen in number:-1. The Religious Ideas—their Universality ; II. Their Objective Reality; III. Revelation; IV. God; V. Divine Attributes ; VI. Creation and Providence; VII. Redemption ; VIII. Human Immortality; IX. The Moral Sense; X. Heaven ; XI. The Religion of Humanity; XII. Christianity; XIII. Political Establishment; XIV. Education ; XV. Practical Influences.
In the first lecture, Mr. Fox represents a few simple ideassuch as revelation, God, providence, the sense of right and wrong, duty, redemption, heaven as the primeval elements of religion; and these ideas he treats as common to Judaism, Christianity, the
mythologies of the Goths and of the Greeks, the multitudinous idolatry of the Hindoo, the stern monotheism of the Mohammedan, and the gigantic superstitions of ancient Egypt. These ideas he regards, not as strictly innate, but as tendencies to modes of thought which are universal, and which have been modified in a thousand different ways by priests, kings, prophets, or reformers, in all ages; while these modifications have been further influenced by differences of race, government, climate, literature, and discoveries in science. With this comprehensive view of the religious ideas' the lecturer speaks with equal approbation of the Veds of India, the Prayer of Epictetus, the Dialogues of Plato, and Pope's Universal Prayer. He calls these ideas
•The religion of humanity, more ancient than the oldest superstitions, more divine than the best attested oracles, more enduring than the faith which seems to be the most firmly established in the world ;-a religion of humanity, which goes deeper than all, because it belongs to the essentials of our moral and intellectual constitution, and not to mere external accidents, the proof of which is not in historical argument, or metaphysical deduction, but in our own conscience and consciousness ;-a religion of humanity, which unites and blends all other religions, and makes one the men whose hearts are sincere, and whose characters are true, and good, and harmonious, whatever may be the deductions of their minds, or their external profession ;-a religion of humanity, which cannot perish in the overthrow of altars or the fall of temples, which survives them all, and which, were every defined form of religion obliterated from the face of the world, would re-create religion, as the spring re-creates the fruits and flowers of the soil, bidding it bloom again in beauty, bear again its rich fruits of utility, and fashion for itself such forms and modes of expression as may best agree with the progressive condition of mankind.' —Pp. 12, 13.
Amid the changes which have lately been rife in the world, the lecturer sees no safety but in holding fast by the great and enduring principles of our moral being.
In the second lecture, all religions are traced to the same materials, and are represented as containing the proofs that religion itself is not a form, a dream, a fraud, a chance, or a superstition,—but a reality. The historical forms which religion has assumed are treated as very unimportant to its essence. It is here, by the ordination of that omnipotent nature, from which all result.' As all our faculties are objective, so both human nature and religion are correlates, belonging to the same system of causation. The ideas of God, and of a future state, and the dictates of the moral sense, are regarded as more powerful than the Bible or miracles, because of their affinity with human nature and with human knowledge.
The third lecture disposes of the question of Revelation, by comparing the claims of different religions to this kind of authority. Every claim is acknowledged as, in some degree, founded in truth. The Koran of Mohammed, we are told, much more distinctly claims to be, in its entirety, a revelation, than the Bible.' The craving for revelation shows that nature is stimulating art to a constantly ascending scale of wants and gratifications. The forms which religion has assumed are all arraigned, as having failed to satisfy the great want of humanity :
• No religion has so appealed in its entirety to the common human heart, as to become the religion of human nature; and yet they have all had ample time for doing so, had it been in them. As to Christians, they have taken of late rather to split than to multiply; to divide rather than to extend. They cannot convert one another, and hence there is little chance of them converting the Hindoos or other heathen.'—P. 40.
As revelation of the great ideas of religion is not found, according to Mr. Fox, in the Holy Scriptures, he finds it everywhere else—wherever moral or spiritual truth is, without any preternatural agency, just as the theory of the universe arose in the mind of Newton, or as the principle of political economy to which Bentham devoted his life, arose in the mind of Priestley. What we call logic in the West is, in the East, ascribed to the
great source of thought;' and as religions have generally originated in the East, they bear the Oriental character. Each particular religion adds to the original ideas something which is impossible, or improbable; and one religion borrows from another. All exclusive claims, those of Christianity, for example, are denounced as arrogant and presumptuous. The true miracle is—Nature. The source of thought and truth is within.
The fourth lecture, on God, proceeds on the principle that there are few, if any, atheists. A revelation implies a revealer. The impulse of Gibbon, to write his history, was a sort of occurrence which, told in Oriental phraseology, would be the word of the Lord came to such a one, and said, Go thou, and do this great work. Thus, the relation in which man perceives himself to be to some unseen power, suggests a revealer. By a similar process, the various emotions of the mind are related to the same invisible power. This relation is recognised in Fetishism, Polytheism, and Monotheism. The mental process of abstraction and identification is the source of all revelations. Moses, as a wise man, dealing with a horde of savages, appealed to their traditional knowledge of the God of their fathers; and, adapting his instructions to their history, spoke of that God, first as a Deliverer, and then as a Legislator. Then Miracle
gave place to Law. After this, their military experience led them to speak of God as 'the Lord of hosts,' — a sort of Mars or Odin, the leader of armies, the God of battles, and the giver of victories.' In later times, of enforced submission, the thought of mercy came, and God was addressed as a Father.
In our own times, this thought is impeded by creeds and conventional theories; but the tendency of our day is towards the recognition of universal humanity, and of an essence, a spirit, a soul of the universe, incorporate with all, and in all : we believe in God.'
The fifth lecture is a condemnation of the Christian conception of the Divine attributes, as the conception of a barbarous age, artificially preserved by national formularies, but inconsistent with a state of society in which the free scope of the moral sense is allowed. Whatever we can conceive of perfection in our best moments, is the true standard of the Divine perfections, It includes majesty-holiness—power-plurality, these are found in all religions: the Egyptian priests, with the ark of OsirisMoses, with his rod-Babylon, with its high tower—Persia,with its sun-worship—the Druid, with his mystic circles—the Greek, with his lovely forms—the Catholic, with his cathedrals and cessions—and the Protestant, with his sterner simplicity-all' are doing their work, in varied ways, very imperfectly, very erroneously often, as needs must be with the imperfection of their nature ; but they are doing their work, the work of humanity, the work of divinity. They are endeavouring to unfold, according to their means, their native conceptions of the religious ideas; they are labouring for that. let us not look on as uninterested spectators; but let us look on with hope, let us look on with help according to our ability—that we too may have our share in the grand result, our portion in the blessed heritage of eternal truth and happiness.'--Pp. 90, 91.
The sixth lecture, on Creation and Providence, treats the Christian mode of viewing these subjects as fraught with the absurdity of ignorant ages-substituting, poetry for science, creation for the development of law, God for nature, and the interventions of Jehovah for the 'one pervading life, soul, spirit, and tendency’— the great development towards which all things tend, of the infinite in the finite, of God in humanity and nature.' True piety is 'a harmony with the spirit and life of things.'
The seventh lecture, on Redemption, treats of the sacrifices which abounded in the ancient world, and the historical and mythological Redeemers of antiquity, as embodying the principle of redemption by endurance, by devotion, and by the moral influence which attends upon self-sacrifice. This principle is opposed to the manufactured doctrine to be found in the
speculations and theories of the epistles of the New Testament writers;' and it is declared to be embodied in the history of Jesus. The natural doctrine of redemption by sacrifice illustrated by the examples of Cato, Kosciusko, Clarkson, and Howard—is said to fill the minds of the good, as the Spirit of God possesses every atom of universal being :'
• Thus the Redeemer has glory in the redemption for which he sinks every other thought; in his life we trace a pure emanation of Divinity, and we feel that death restores or raises him to a more perfect identification with that Divinity.'-P. 124.
The eighth lecture, on Human Immortality, draws from every philosophic theory of human nature the acknowledgment of a peculiarity, and a superiority, in the human constitution ; and deduces from that nature the conclusion of its immortality. Even admitting exceptional cases of ignorant or isolated human beings, the lecturer contends, from the whole analogy of natural history, that there is no presumption against the future life of man. He regards the idea of the life to come as being preeminently religious; and, through all the conceptions of the nature of that life to come, which have been framed by poets, philosophers, or barbarians—the shadows of earth cast upon the clouds :-he sees the proof that man is intent upon a future state of existence. The grounds upon which this faith has rested are not in the arguments, but in the natural tendencies of the believers.
There,' he says, “let it stand, bound within the covers of no sacred book-independent of tradition and legend—not resting upon the ques. tionable testimony of historical evidence-unlinked from any association with preternatural wonders-needing the confirmation of no Church or priesthood-neither affirming nor denying any divine mission-but resting and remaining, like the enduring pyramids, or, rather, like some mountain heaved up by Nature herself, to tower aloft and hold communion with the skies, those skies which are a type of Divinity. “Love to God and love to man" was the summary of the stone-tables of natural and Christian duty. There is a summary of the religion of Nature inscribed on the fleshly tables of the heart, and that summary is, “ The perfection of Divinity—the immortality of humanity." Pp. 139, 140.
In the ninth lecture, which is on the Moral Sense, the utilitarian theory of virtue is abandoned for the general sense of right and wrong which pervades human nature, and in which ‘God speaks by the feelings of his rational creatures.' This sense may have been distorted by superstition, and Churchism'has 'made sad havoc with it. Still, the source from which these perversions flowed was pure; and beneath whatever may seem