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having acted upon a straightforward and honest interpretation of the language of Scripture. They apparently recoiled from doing what is now so often done), viz., to quibble and palter with the literal simplicity of the sacred text until it is so depraved as to be made to appear to mean almost anything whatever, that the philosophy or fashion of the hour may seem to require, in order to maintain with the multitude its authority as verbally inspired truth.
In one respect, however, the theological mind and the sacerdotal spirit remain the same. From Galileo to Colenso modern history reveals one long consistent chain of ceaseless effort to suppressper fas aut nefas' free intellectual enquiry, to stamp out all truth, but what the audacious presumption of theologians may choose to stereotype as the truth,' and, by every means, whether violent or fraudulent, to persecute in body or mind its most fearless, upright, and accomplished exponents.
Priestcraft can no longer, indeed, in our country rekindle the fires of Smithfield, or even induce the grand jury of the county of Middlesex to present an unanswerable book as a common nuisance ?; but unhappily it is yet permitted so to
· See the estimate of Galileo's character in the masterly memoir above referred to. The numberless inventions of his acute industry; the use of the telescope, and the brilliant discoveries to which it led; the patient investigation of the laws of weight and motion, must all be looked upon as forming but a part of his real merits, as merely particular demonstrations of the spirit in which he everywhere withstood the despotism of ignorance, and appealed boldly from traditional opinions to the judgment of reason, and
He claimed and bequeathed to us the right of exercising our faculties in examining the beautiful creation which surrounds us.'
2 Of Toland's Christianity not Mysterious, published in 1696, we are told, the grand jury of the county of Middlesex was induced at once to present it as a nuisance, and the example was followed by the grand jury of Dublin. Two years after its publication the Irish Parliament deliberated upon it, and, refusing to hear Toland in defence, passed sentence that the book should be burnt, and its author imprisoned.'--A. S. Farrar's Critical Hist. of Free Thought, Lec. iv. p. 179.
apply the torture of social stigma as often probably to tear peace of mind from the inmost heart.
See passim, "A Critical History of Free Thought,' &c., by the Rev. Adam Storey Farrar (Bampton Lectures for 1862). This able, candid, and instructive work might well have been entitled ' a history of the persecutions for opinion by the Christian Church in all ages. It is indeed a most painful record. The author, though speaking from the orthodox point of view, is compelled to admit that the progress of knowledge is the exciting cause of free thought, that the human mind cannot be chained, that new knowledge will suggest new doubts, but that the human mind, struggling to be free, has been kept down by material force and cruelty. That in the long interval of the middle ages the Church was always able to supplement or supersede argument by force, and did, in fact, silence the unbeliever by martyrdom; and that in the long suppression of liberty that followed the political revolutions of 1848 the orthodox movement in theology united itself with the reactionary movement in politics, whereby absolute government was constituted, not merely a fact, but a doctrine. He confesses that those who have been the teachers of the world have too often been its martyrs. When, however, the mind of Europe awoke, free thought could no longer be suppressed by force.'-Pp. 147, 251, 293, 399, 511, 512.
Gibbon, in 1776, is enabled to say, in reference to the clerical outcry that greeted the publication of his history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. xv. and xvi. : 'But the shaft was shot, the alarm was sounded, and I could only rejoice that, if the voice of our priests was clamorous and bitter, their hands were disarmed from the powers of persecution.'-Memoirs of my Life and Writings ; Gibbon's Decline and Fall, &c., vol. i. p. 104. Murray, 1854.
NOTE C, p. 7.
The Theological phrase “ Arbitrary Supernatural Will,
and the Scientific term · Invariable Natural Law.'
It can hardly be too seriously insisted upon, that in attempting to define the attributes or operations of Deity, we are only reducing to language the ideas of our own finite and limited intelligence, upon a subject completely beyond the grasp or comprehension of the human understanding; that our criticisms are really only the discussion of such ideas, and that, whilst theologians of the schools have thought they were establishing religious truths by elaborate argumentation, they have been only multiplying and arranging a theological language.'
The mode in which Divine mysteries are attempted to be made intelligible, through the medium of language and logic, was ably animadverted upon by Dr. Hampden in his Bampton Lectures on The Scholastic Philosophy considered in its relation to Christian Theology,' whence the foregoing quotation is taken ;' but it is nowhere more clearly and concisely stated than in the defence of the Rev. Charles Voysey, on the bearing of the charge of heresy preferred against him. He therein observed— First, you are told that a doctrine is a sublime mystery, which transcends the powers of the human mind. The next step is, to substitute for the mystery a gloss or explanation which is quite intelligible, and as absurd as it is intelligible. Finally, you are told, that because the gloss is equivalent to the mystery, you cannot expose its absurdity, without denying the truth of the mystery.'
The theologian, who conceives it to be his especial province, with presumptuous pen, to parcel out and analyse the attributes of the Great First Cause, as though they were familiar to him as the ingredients of some chemical com
1 Lecture ii.
pound,' finds it necessary in the first instance to lower the conception of Deity to the level of humanity, that is, to designate God as a Person ; ? and it seems perfectly plain that in so doing he lays himself open to the imputation that
man has created God in his own image.'3 The various mental attributes that we' (the theologians) ascribe to God
can be conceived by us only as existing .... in a Person. . . It is our duty to think of God as Personal.'4 It has indeed been said that belief in the existence of a Personal God is essential to all religion, but such an axiom seems to be based on the narrow view of regarding religion as limited to theology.
The reader need hardly be reminded that these are not the conclusions of Science. Again, personality, as we conceive it, is essentially a limitation and a relation. But Science knows of no limitation of the Inscrutable Power manifested to us through all phenomena, and whose nature transcends intuition and is beyond imagination. : ... duty requires us' (men of science), “neither to affirm or deny personality; our duty is to submit ourselves with all humility to the established limits of our intelligence."
1 'If any theologians in the present century had constructed creeds subdividing the Deity into persons, and then deciding upon their relationship, equality, and consubstantiality, the presumption and impropriety of such vain conceits would have offended the whole Protestant world.'-Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism, by the Duke of Somerset. Bain, 1872.
2 Our human personality gives a false modification to all our conceptions of the Infinite.-Theodore Parker, Discourse on Matters pertaining to Religion.
3 Mackay's Progress of the Intellect as exemplified in the Religious Development of the Greeks and Hebrews. J. Chapman, 1850. Chap. iii.,.' Idea of God metaphysically,' sec. 1.
4 Mansel's Limits of Religious Thought, Lecture üi.
7 Herbert Spencer's First Principles, chap. v. sec. 31; Sir J. Herschel's Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy, chap. ii.
The most imperious, and, to the earliest thinkers, mysterious and apparently supernatural, attribute of man, was his Will, and therefore, amongst other qualities, Will was at once transferred to and became an integral portion of the earliest anthropomorphic conception of God ;' and the interminable discussions that have been thereby occasioned, on that and its cognate and derivative subjects, are well by our great poet depicted?
Others apart sat....
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost. But Will, in the only intelligible sense, or of which we can have any knowledge, viz. human will, was known to be vengeful, arbitrary, variable, capricious, and capable of being turned or influenced by entreaty. Hence, such by analogy is the theological conception of the Will of God, and hence it came to be popularly believed that the Divine Will could be operated upon by prayer, and hence too it has arisen that those uniformities of co-existence and sequence in everything
Science may perhaps be said to be, in this respect, atheological, but it is not the less religious on that account. Indeed, True religion without science is impossible; the dignity, and therefore the truth, of religious beliefs is in direct relation to the knowledge of science, and of the great physical laws by which our universe is governed.'--Sir J. Lubbock, Origin of Civilization, &c., The Primitive Condition of Man.' Longmans, 1870.
Religion ignores its immense debt to Science; and Science is scarcely at all conscious how much Religion owes it. Yet it is demonstrable that every step by which Religion has progressed from its first low conception to the comparatively high one it has now reached, Science has helped it, or rather forced it to take.'
The beliefs which Science has forced upon Religion have been intrinsically more religious than those which they supplanted.'Herbert Spencer, First Principles, pp. 102, 104.
Mackay's Progress of the Intellect, fc., chap. iv., Moral Idea of God.'
2 Milton's Paradise Lost, book ii. 557–561.