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Ꮲ Ꭱ E F A C E.
THE substance of this book was delivered as a course of lectures before an unsectarian theological institution, the Divinity School of Meadville, Pennsylvania. The subject of the course is the Source and Meaning of Belief in the Divine Being. This is always the great central problem of religious thought. In discussing the subject, the author preferred to arrive at his results by means of a comparison and estimate of some typical forms of religious thought. The reasons for selecting the five thinkers named on the title-page are suggested at the conclusion of the opening chapter; and, it is hoped, those reasons will be found justified in the chapters which follow.
These thinkers were not chosen simply in order to be examined in turn as a group whose various doctrines have no special connection among themselves; although, if they had merely been set side by side in this way, they would still represent the most important tendencies of nineteenthcentury thought on “the Problem of God.” They were chosen in order to be carefully compared together, because, in the author's view, their principal and fundamental teachings, while differing widely, throw much light on each other and on the great problem already named.
The author was led to his main position by perceiving the need of reconciling the two methods of Theism which are usually known as Rationalism and Mysticism. These types of thought have hitherto proceeded in mutual independence; they have been supposed to rest on opposite and even antipathetic moods of mind. They both contain important truths that cannot be dispensed with. The various forms of Rationalism have received full justice in
the century which has just ended; while Mysticism has been generally “despised and rejected.” There are, however, signs of a growing tendency to do justice to it. This is seen on the philosophical side, in the place which Experience holds in the argument of such works as Mr Bradley's Appearance and Reality, Professor PringlePattison's Man's Place in the Cosmos, Professor Royce's Gifford Lectures, Professor Ormond's Foundations of Knowledge; and on the theological side, in the treatment of Mysticism in Mr Inge's Bampton Lectures, Professor Caldecott's Philosophy of Religion, and Mr Upton's Hibbert Lectures. In the present volume stress is laid on six connected points : the necessity of real experience as the ground of all forms of belief; the necessity of a rational interpretation of experience before it can be the ground of any belief; the impossibility of separating experience and reason, or relying on one to the exclusion of the other; the necessity of recognising infinite variety in the forms both of experience and of ration
ality among men; the necessity of distinguishing experience and its interpretation, because, though both vary, they may be, as it were, “independent variables”; and above all, the value of Work, activity and energy of spirit, in moulding experience and so affording new data for knowledge. The principles here stated in such an abstract form are applied in the following chapters to the concrete subjects of religious belief.
The discussion of abstract “metaphysical” difficulties is foreign to the author's object, and all philosophical questions brought forward are dealt with as simply as is consistent with accurate thought.
The view taken of Browning's contribution to the problem has, perhaps, some slight claim to originality. The chapters dealing with Dr Martineau's doctrine have been revised and expanded since his death, which took place after the delivery of the course.
S. H. MELLONE.