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of scientific knowledge or philosophical speculation; and all alike are represented in the articles of dogmatic religion as infallible truth, which cannot be called in question save at the risk of ecclesiastical excommunication and exclusion from the heaven of God's approving sympathy." In “revelation ” there is always a vital principle which is itself progressive, embodied in various transitory forms. To limit revelation to some mere event of history, is to limit it to some one embodiment, which in the course of time and human progress will come into direct conflict with scientific knowledge and philosophic thought and sometimes even with moral insight: and thus the very essence of religion is discredited.
It has been said that this view of revelation identifies it with “subjective inspiration,” and abolishes its “ objective side,”—that is, the instrumentality of infallible persons or books. But the objection is pointless unless “subjective” means undivine, which throws us back on the old Deism ; and it may be asked, if this is so, how is the divinity of the so-called “objective” revelation to be
proved? The truth revealed has to be “subjectively” recognised and assimilated by man; but truth cannot be revealed to incapacity. If the human mind is naturally undivine, it could not grasp divine truth, or would have no apprehension of its value and significance. Could we, in such a case, fall back on “external criteria," such as the working of miracles, mere exhibitions of anti-rational and anti-natural power? There seems really to be no conceivable connection between the possession of such power—even if it were historically proved—and the possession of divine truth. The two things have nothing in common. As Dr Martineau trenchantly observes, “external criteria—i.e., unmoral rules for finding moral things, physical rules for finding spiritual things—there can be none.”
If “subjective” means created, imagined, or thought merely by the finite mind, as such, then our view of revelation expressly excludes its “subjectivity.” The most characteristic facts of human nature would be inexplicable if man were merely a finite or self-contained being. Every man is in vital union with Humanity and with God, even though the Divine Image and Superscription there have been all but effaced. The solidarity of the race accounts for the diverse degrees and manners of revelation and mediation; and it is the train of human souls, in their several degrees of nobleness, who are for us the angels that ascend and descend on the ladder that leads from Earth to Heaven.
FORMS OF AGNOSTICISM AND POSITIVISM.
It is evident that belief in God as an Infinite Man, superintending the course of events for our benefit (the old idea of Providence), is dying out of the modern mind. Dissatisfaction with this conception is the root of much of the prevalent "unbelief,” as is evident from the confessions of Richard Jefferies, Olive Schreiner, and William Watson, among many others. Such confessions do not imply that the spiritual roots of religious faith are dead.
What is known as Positivism is descended from David Hume, and (when consistently carried out) means complete intellectual scepticism. The Positivists, however, stop half-way, saving scientific and rejecting theological beliefs. The peculiarity of Comte's Positivism is that it regards Religion as a necessary part of human nature. Comte gives a true analysis of the three factors that constitute Religion ; but his “Religion of Humanity" fails to satisfy what is required by his own analysis.
He holds a decided view (maintained also by Huxley) as to the opposition between human morality and the course of physical Nature. The natural conclusion is that physical Nature has not produced the whole of human nature; that human morality and human ideals have a deeper root. Even in physical Nature we find what may be called anticipations of human morality.
We have now reviewed two types of thought which start from the same position and move in directions exactly opposite to one another. The common starting-point was the conviction that in our sense of moral authority we have an intimation that there is a personal moral Governor of the world, everywhere present and active; or, as Dr Martineau expresses it in the Preface to his Study of Religion, “an ever-living God, a Divine Mind and Will ruling the Universe and holding moral relations with mankind.” 1 Cardinal Newman, going in search of a system of dogmas expressing the dealings of the moral Governor with man-dogmas which must be absolutely true-rests on the Infallibility of the Church; an authority merely external. Dr Martineau and Francis W. Newman, destructively criticising the
1 I am now speaking only of those lines of thought in Dr Martineau which converge into ethical deism and individualism.