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Contemporary Review, January, 1880. (New York.)
The Contemporary Review contains an article on "The Eighteenth Century," by Hillebrand, from which we give its view of Wesley and the Methodist movement.
Little was left either of the mysticism or the superstition of Christianity. All that remained was a very prosaic system of morals, and a very jejune metaphysical belief m an all-loving Creator. The worship of God dwindled more and more into a mere form. The sermons were moral essays, such as Addison might have written in the Spectator; indeed, at last, under the influence of Sterne's daringly profane genius, they became short humorous lectures on all possible subjects, except Christ and redemption. There was still, however, the outward semblance of reverence for Christianity, which even Hume did not discard. Gibbon was the first to attack religion openly and without any show of respect; but Gibbon was hardly to be called an Englishman any longer, at least with respect to his philosophical standpoint, which had been determined wholly by his residence on the Continent. By the end of the century, however, this nationalism had so far spread that Paine and Priestley could use its language even to the people, because "the faith which had long failed to satisfy the educated classes was 'now rejected also by the instincts of rude common sense." (Leslie Stephen.) Even the .conservative divines, who showed a hostile front both to the orthodox and the freethinkers, preached a morality which amounted to nothing more than sentimentalism or mere prudence. They did, indeed, retain the theological forms of speech; but they used them with such an uncertain sound that the hearer might put any construction upon them that he pleased. They talked about harmony, oneness, the best of worlds, and so on, and found God in nature, but said little or nothing about his personality. God had, indeed, once shown himself to man in a tangible form, but that was long ago, in remote wonder-world; and since then the Most High had ceased to interfere with the order of nature. In- short, God the Father had become a sort of "supernatural overseer, whose decrees were carried out in an extra-natural world, but who (for this world) was a constitutional monarch who had signed a social contract and had withdrawn from the active government." The argument, therefore, between Christians of this stamp and the Deists was, if we except the pugilistic Warburton, a very tame one. Indeed, it could not well be otherwise, since the Deists did not wish to stamp out religion, and their opponents were by no means intolerant.
Few things could bear less resemblance to the English Church of to-day than the Church of this period. While in our time the still very numerous Broad-Church party can hardly gain a hearing, between the aristocratic Catholicizing High-Church and the Puritanical democratic Low-Church, at that time it was almost exclusively dominant, taking the lead on all points; in a word, it was the fashion, for the High and Low-Church of today are the outgrowth respectively of the Wesleyan movement of the last century, and of the Tractarian agitation of our own.
The English Church was wonderfully adapted to the English mind and character, as well as to the historical conditions of the country. It had the advantage of being a national Church; it was free from the only dangerous rival, and did not extend its toleration to that which " can never be regarded simply as a religion." (I believe Mr. Lecky is the only living English writer who is able to rise to this unqualified judgment upon Catholicism.) It had, moreover, rejected the dogmas of Catholicism most obnoxious to reason; it was a compromise between two extremes. It had a monarchical and aristocratic constitution; it was closely bound up with society through the marriage of its priests, and yet, as being sure of a following, had not abandoned the historical tradition so dear to Englishmen.
In the middle of the century the indifference had become so great within the Church, that Hume could say: "The nation has settled down into the coolest indifference to religious matters of any nation in the world." This was, indeed, only half true, but the great man who dwelt on the lofty heights of an intellectual culture did not notice the movement which had already begun deep down in the valley among the working classes. The judgment Hume pronounced referred only to the State Church, and so far it was fully justified.
As early as 1740 a reaction of religious sentiment began to make itself felt. The pietism which, fifty years before, had renewed for a century the growth of religious life in Germany, awoke in England also. The Dissenters were still a feeble minority at the beginning of the century—about one in twenty-two to the adherents of the State Church. The Independents, or Congregationalists, who would have been glad to see the State Church broken up into a number of small bodies, independent of the State, and who were strongly Calvinistic in their dogmas, especially in the doctrine of predestination, had, after a great show of resistance, been almost carried away by the religious reaction. The political instincts of the English rebelled against a Church which was to be only an invisible spiritual community of the elect scattered over all the world. The Anabaptists, who were bent on purifying the character of the Church, and who sought to make the initial rite a more rational act, and the Quakers, who believed in the abolition of all outward rites, set themselves against the new movement. They still lived on, and lost but few of their adherents, but they won no new ones. Only the young sect of the Unitarians, so entirely a creation of the last century, grew and flourished; this was, however, of necessity, only a creed for the cultured, and could not become a national religion even in this century of enlightenment. For it required, as an essential feature, the complete emancipation of the Church from all obligations which could in any way limit the doctrinal liberty of the clergy; and religion, a national religion, cannot exist under such conditions. It was otherwise with Wesleyanism, which did not at first identify itself with Dissent, but, like pietism in Germany, made its aim to renovate the national Church through the feelings and by a spiritual regeneration. It therefore formed lay societies and associations within the Church, and required manifest conversion and the personal reception of revealed truth by every individual; it even introduced Moravian institutions, and Wesley himself was in direct connection with the Moravian body. He wished, however, to remain in communion of the Established Church. Such a compromise could not, of course, be lasting, but he had, so to speak, to be turned out by the shoulders. Long after he and his apostle, Whitefield, had transferred their activity from the Church which had driven them out to other and freer fields, they declared themselves to be true members of the Established Church. First in 1785, and more positively in 1795, the "Evangelical movement," as it was at first called, was consolidated into the Methodist sect, which now numbers in England alone a million of members, (some say 2,400,000,) and in America two millions. Nevertheless, it began from that time to decline, for "although powerful religious movements always emanate from the classes which are inaccessible to philosophical culture, they are, nevertheless, doomed to become unfruitful unless they are capable of assimilating some philosophical element." (Leslie Stephen.) This unfruitfulness must be understood, however, only of Methodism as a sect. Wesleyanism, as a historical fact, was abundantly fruitful. It gave new life to the State Church, roused it to resistance, and discovered to it its own weak points.
Such movements, however, arising out of feeling, always produce in the end a reactionary effect, as had been already shown in the case of German pietism, while, on the other hand, rationalistic movements are, of necessity, always progressive. The Tractarianism, Puseyism, Ritualism, of the present century, which would never have arisen but for the impulse given by Wesleyanism, are thoroughly reactionary in their nature.
Thus has this much calumniated eighteenth century, which produced such fair flowers and noble fruits on the continent, left deep and beneficial traces also in England. It was an era of increased political liberty; of revival in literature; and of remarkable religious development. This should be remembered by the Radicals, advanced thinkers, and High-Churchmen, who are wont to look back with so much contempt on the age of their grandfathers. A century in which England twice, at the commencement and at the close, defended European independence against schemes of universal monarchy, and built up and perfected its own internal constitution; an age which produced, from "Gulliver" to "Hallowe'en," a series of literary masterpieces such as no other nation in the world possesses; an age which exercised the most complete religious toleration the world has ever seen, without falling a prey to religious marasmus—such a century need not shrink from comparison with any other, even in the glorious annals of English history.—Pp. 11, 12.
The North American Keview for January contains a very able article, entitled "The Metaphysics of Science," by Prof. Alexander Winchell. Its aim is to show that Science can exist only under assumption of a basis of metaphysical principles, and that that basis is in its nature truly teleological. The contempt so often expressed by scientists in regard to metaphysics is, therefore, suicidal; for the scientist can neither draw an indnction nor propound a demonstration without the due metaphysical postulates. Metaphysical truths are to science what the nails are to the planks of a ship, the fasteners which enable the totality of said planks to be a ship. Agib, the son of Cassib, we are veraciously told in the "Arabian Nights," sailed his ship so near to a loadstone mountain that its nails were all pulled out; and what became of Agib the son of Cassib's ship? Jnst what would become of science if its metaphysical nails were extracted. It would tumble to pieces, and cease to be science. Dr. Winchell's style is sententious, embracing a large proportion of Latin words, renderiug his thought difficult of attainment to the popular reader; but the language is very uniformly the exact expression of the thought.
Inquirers are sometimes perplexed as to the doctrine of theism implied in the theory of Evolution, as evolution presents itself both in the animal system by heredity, and in the astronomic system by the nebular hypothesis. Dr. Winchell thus finds theism in both:
All that we know of fundamental plans of structure in the organic world is but a body of facts exemplifying adjustment of parts, not alone to each other, but to an archetypal conception— an intelligential standard. It is frequently suggested that fundamental relationships have resulted from the law of heredity, with progressive divergence. That, probably, is a valid scientific account to give of what have been styled plans of organization; and every one is free to rest in the finality of science. But if our minds are so constituted that we irresistibly conclude design from co-ordination, regardless of the instrumentality or means by which the co-ordination becomes expressed in matter, then heredity with divergence is not an ultimate explanation, and every man is at liberty, without reproach, to pass beyond the pale of science, and recognize heredity as a thoughtful determination fixed for the purpose of introducing order and method into the organic world, as we find them. So the mathematical order of the solar system is explicable in scientific terms, by ascribing it to the cooling of a primitive nebula; but the forces engaged in the evolution of a planetary system must be rationally conceived as merely the instruments which work out symmetrical results co-ordinated to a general concept or plan. If, finally, the deepest law of nature is the law of evolution, we may recognize that as the all-embracing principle under which events emerge into being; but reason can never be divested of the simple conviction that events co-ordinated on so comprehensive a scale, and co-ordinated to so vast a scheme, give expression to purpose equally vast and comprehensive. The explanations of science are held to be valid, but they do not go far enough; they are not ultimate explanations. By the inherent principles of our mental being we postulate and posit motive and agency behind the last explanation of science.—P. 81.
The following is his exposition of the nature of Fobce:
As design is the necessary implication of parts co-ordinated to each other, or. to a general concept, so metaphysical cause is the only rational explanation of those ultimate physical antecedents which belong to the category of sub-causes or scientific causes. Of metaphysical cause science professes to have no knowledge, holding that invariable antecedence is the scientific conception of causation. But, manifestly, no phenomenon comes into existence because another phenomenon precedes. The precedence is the sign of antecedent efficiency. So the law under which a phenomenon arises is modal, not causal, and implies prior ordination, as the subordinated event implies transcendent causation. The conditio sine qua non of a phenomenon is not its essential cause, but the condition of the operativeness of a certain law which expresses a method of activity of essential cause. The notion of metaphysical cause is therefore the underlying ground of all the ultimate conceptions of science.
That notion, in spite of the formal restriction of the logic of science, has found constant expression in scientific language under the name of force. This, like the assumed atom and molecule of physics, the ethereal medium and the ultimate incompressibility of matter, is a purely metaphysical conception. It is a name which the necessities of thinking have impelled lis to adopt for the efficiency transmitted from or through the phenomenon which stands in the place of invariable antecedent. Yet there are questions still deeper which offer themselves as subjects of analytic thought. Is force an entity or an attribute? If an entity, is it self-acting or subordinated? If subordinated, what is the nature of the power which subordinates it? If self-acting, then the discernment and design revealed in the results of its activity are attributes which characterize a demiurge. But, if we say force