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deformed or offensive, 'is blossoming that flower of truth and loveliness which is native to the human heart, which renews its being, maintains its beauty, and ever sheds abroad its blessed influences.'
HEAVEN, in the tenth lecture, is a brief term for man's religious idea of the Chief Good-purity, blessedness, communion with God-variously represented according to men’s modes of thought, or habits of life. Of that heaven, it is maintained, that none have given us more authentic information than that which we derive from the human mind and heart.' The discoveries made to the world by Jesus and his apostles are treated as mere fictions, revealing nothing but imaginations, contradicted by advancing science. The assumption of particular knowledge of futurity has been as the golden sceptre and the thunderbolt in the hands of the priesthood.' These powers have a foundation in truth. The aspirations of the intellect, the affections, the imagination, betray the universal conviction of mankind-that the Chief Good is to be realized hereafter; and millions have clung to this conviction, as their homely delight and strength, in temptation and in death.
The religion of humanity is the theme of the eleventh lecture—perhaps the most important in the series, as a general view of the whole system. This religion is described, with much eloquence, as the constitution of human nature—the origin and test of moral truth. The truths developed in this constitution are the only truths worthy to be called revelations. They are free from the uncertainty, the ambiguity, the obscurity, ascribed to a book in a dead language. This religion, we are assured, is in all peculiar systems of religion, and is their soul ; in idolatries, in Judaism, in Christianity. In all these peculiar religions there are unjust assumptions, corruptions, and mistakes; Christianity, especially, has been deprived of some of its doctrines by geology, and of others by astronomy ; but the religion of humanity, being natural, is progressive with the advancement of the species in knowledge and in virtue.
The twelfth lecture is designed to show that Christianity is not the one true religion—that it is the religion of a minority; competing with religions more ancient, boasting miracles more wonderful and more numerous, and exhibiting the self-same morality and piety. Hence the alleged failure of the Christian missions, in contrast with the spread of our arts. The Christian religion is the religion of the superior races of mankind ; and it has been constantly undergoing changes and modifications. Simple at first, and isolated, it was gradually organized; then adorned with pomp and external power; then united in the Pope; more freedom was introduced by Luther ; while, within the last three
centuries, one tenet after another has been abandoned by increasing knowledge. With all these changes, the universal and enduring exist more truthfully and efficiently in Christianity than in any other of the specific forms of religion—in its devotions--in its grand theology-in the morality of Christ—in its moral pictures—in its maxims and precepts—and, above all, in the character of the Son of God. The records of Christianity, however, are charged with discrepancies, contradictory statements, legends, myths ; and the miracles, we are told, must yield to the criticism which discriminates the accidental and the temporary adjuncts from the permanent and enduring principles, disregarding, comparatively, that which marks out precisely the nature of heaven, and the conditions of salvation, and clinging to that which appeals only to reason, love, and hope.
In the thirteenth lecture, the author argues against the political establishment of religion. As religion belongs to the same principles of human nature which prompt men to form communities—as it is self-renewing, the only political mode of promoting religion is to let it alone, and to promote the development of human nature. As establishments necessarily uphold some specific forms of religion, they hinder and oppress inward religion, invade the rights of man, foster persecution, casuistry, dread of knowledge, and they have all failed as to their professed aim. National expressions of religion need not be discouraged ; but they should vary according to the forms in which any number of persons in the same nation may agree. Freedom is numbered among the religious ideas, though it is not confined to them.
The fourteenth lecture, on Education, embodies the author's notions on one of the most exciting practical questions of the day. Those notions can scarcely be appreciated, if viewed apart from the principles asserted in the previous lectures. Education is defined to be the voluntary action of mind upon mind, for the purpose of influencing the formation of character. Many other influences, beyond our control-society, literature, passing events, the tendencies of our constitution-ever at work, these in God, or God in these, constitute the power by which character is made.' Education is spoken of as a religious work,' not in the common acceptation, but according to the interpretation of religion given in this volume—the development of the religion of humanity. What others call secular, Mr. Fox calls religious; and this, he maintains, the State may promote-not by direct teaching, but by facilitating, enforcing, securing it, for all its subjects—by scattering the means of education over the country, stimulating local efforts, making the richer and more favoured localities help the poorer and more ignorant, checking the sectarian zeal of Churches and priesthoods, and taking care that
teachers shall be well qualified, invested with dignity in the eyes of society, and supplied with opportunities and advantages for the accomplishment of their purpose. This work is to be carried on in a spirit of reverence for humanity, not according to the views of certain creeds: it has its missions and its inspirations. It is the business of society to find the educators, to place them in their sphere, and to give them every facility for their work.'
The concluding lecture, entitled, 'Practical Influences, may, we think, be properly regarded, and is manifestly intended, as it seems, to challenge a comparison of the worth of natural religion with that of Christianity. In making this comparison, the lecturer strongly condemns the notion that religion is subordinate to the ends of civil government, or the means of building up a national character. He maintains that, according to the views he has expounded, those who are in such a stage of civilization as to need marvels, prophets, miracles and portents, and forms, will take care to have them in abundance ; but that the ruler may
be satisfied that there should be in society those who think the specific form the creature of the day, the offspring of a particular kind of civilization, and deem it not important as compared with the great, the vital, the enduring essence of religion.
When it is asked—whether these religious ideas are sufficient for the salvation of the soul, the answer is, No-according to the Christian estimate of salvation ; but, substituting another estimate of salvation, then these simple ideas, the universal heritage of humanity, the testimony of man's spirit to the spirit of God that is in him, do save the soul, and produce the life of God in the soul of man.'
· If it be objected, that Mr. Fox's system is one of negations, he replies--that it is expansion, not negation ; that he acknowledges the inspiration of the Scriptures, as well as other books; that he acknowledges revelation in the Bible, as well as in nature and in history; that he acknowledges God was in Christ, as well as in humanity, and in things inanimate too; and that there was, and is still, a progressive development in religion. He confesses that his views are not those which will fan the ardour of proselytism; but, instead of this, what is common to all religionists, will be more prized than their characteristic differences.
Such is a brief, but not hasty, nor partial, outline of these lectures. They are couched in perspicuous and elegant language, and pervaded by a free, and manly, and independent tone; a strong vein of common sense; and a poetical, rather than a logical, style both of thought and of expression. No reader can fail to perceive indications of the ambition of a reformer, and of the complacency of one who believes that he
has demolished a good deal of popular misconception. The spirit of the lectures is eminently philanthropic, and breathes a good-humoured confidence in human nature, which is very attractive. We mean no censure in saying that they are superficial. There is a superficies : it is well that it should be seen. There are minds well fitted to see it, and to show it to others. With such a mind this author is endowed. Along with this endowment, he possesses considerable powers as a rhetorician, and, as those who have heard him will gladly testify, considerable merits as a public speaker. All these qualities have secured for him no small measure of popular admiration and influence. What he says is heard, what he writes is read, with much prepossession in his favour. Having won his way, by his brilliant abilities and by his liberal opinions, to a place in Parliament, the clerical character is forgotten in the laical; and he has the very great advantage of setting forth independent opinions, rather than the dogmas of a sect. Most cheerfully do we acknowledge his right to do this. Nor have we any hesitation in saying, that he has done it ingenuously and gracefully. We could not honestly say that he has brought forth any new fact, or any new speculation—that he has burdened himself with the load of much learning, or that he has entangled himself greatly with the difficulties of severe reasoning. He exhibits many of the excellences, and some of the faults, common to the champions of human progress, who oftentimes see, or think they see, in a few simple ideas, a succedaneum for the larger and more complicated investigations which profounder, and more comprehensive, and more patient, inquirers have ascertained to be necessary for a fuller perception of the truth. He has woven, not without the skill which conceals labour, the ancient and many-coloured objections to Christianity, into the warp of that fixed dislike of the supernatural which treats all evidence to the contrary of its own conclusions with inconsiderate and inconsistent scorn-making theories, and not facts well proced, the law of its belief. We will not undertake to affirm that he understands his own position ; that he has examined what there is in Christianity beyond the rudiments he sees in human nature, and which raises it, as a theology specially inspired for a purpose clearly stated, entirely beyond the plane of all specific religions whatever; that he has patiently investigated the relations of this divine theology to that human nature which men have wronged by the transgression of its laws; that he has closely pondered the eternal principles embodied in a nature which has conscience for its supreme faculty; that he has meditated, with adequate seriousness, on the workings of a human spirit in which a long-neglected conscience asserts its dread authority,
and makes the whole man feel that he needs a deliverer beyond himself, and something more potent than ideas—however natural and correct—to adjust his relation to the Holy One, whose government he has set at naught; that he has weighed the true value of a book, or the critical, historical, analogical, and personally experimental grounds, which millions have had for holding that the Book of Christians stands alone in the literature of the world—that, if not true, it is a miracle as really beyond the laws of mental nature, as the raising of the dead is beyond the laws of material nature, and, if true in the outline of its most natural transactions, must be true, according to the principles of all historical evidence, in those extraordinary statements which are necessary to the actual consistency of all the rest; or that he has even reached the sublimest of all intellectual perceptions—the perception of a Wise, Powerful, Good, and Holy Being, who shows, by what we call Nature, that he is before it and above it, its originator and its end. We have it not in our power to say that the writer of these lectures has done justice to the intelligence, the philosophy, the learning, the philanthropy, the love of freedom, the self-sacrifice, the piety, the meekness, the dignity, the spiritual power, of the men by whom Christianity-as it is in its own documents, and in the matured character of those who earnestly, as well as intelligently, hold it as true—has been studied profoundly, beautifully honoured, and bravely defended with arguments unanswered, and by lives such as the religion of humanity' has neither eclipsed, nor equalled, nor proved to be factitious.
We should have been glad to recognise in these lectures a higher reverence for Him whom Christians, from the times of John and Paul, down to this day, have adored, and loved, and served ; especially after being told of Christian Unitarianism, that it has never found itself so much in sympathy with mankind, notwithstanding its boast, and its justified boast, to some extent, of superior rationality, as to diffuse itself very widely in society ; nor can any system which does not bring Divinity nearer to us than the endeavour to conceive of an infinite person, and yet to separate that person from the world of existence.' We should have thought that it belonged to the highest attainment of humanity to sympathize with Him who is its perfect Exemplar, and to receive with gratitude the lessons he has taught on the great themes to which the constitutional tendencies of man are so divinely adapted, and on which he discoursed as never man discoursed before nor since. We should have thought, moreover, that the harmony of his life -both with his own references, of the dignity of which he was so evidently conscious, and which shed its peculiar lustre on