Page images
PDF
EPUB

performed outwardly (opus operatum); the dead mechanical doctrine of salvation by works. This, of course, does not deserve even the name of religion. On the other hand, we find that those who associate religion with the understanding, generally identify it with morality (rationalist standpoint). There is still a higher view, in which religion appears as an inward act, an act of the spirit within us. If this is anything more than a speculative phrase, concealing moral indifference, and putting genius in the place of ordinary virtue, we may understand it, in the Christian sense, as meaning that religion is an act of the Divine Spirit in us; which is, in reality, regeneration. Piety has regard in the end to the improvement of our character and conduct. In this, rationalism and pietism agree, that with religion there must be something seen; though they differ widely as to that which is to appear, and the means by which it is to be produced. And if it is praiseworthy to strive after right action, and certain that religion will lead to activity, this does not, therefore, prove that religion and action are the same thing.

In support of this we may adduce the following :

1. Though the connexion is inseparable between perfect religion and perfect morality, so that we can imagine no true religion without morality, and no true morality without religion, yet we find amongst men different stages of development, and a marked diversity both in small and great things, one element appearing often very prominently, while the other has not kept pace with it. We meet with sincere piety, which we cannot with justice set down as a mere profession and hypocrisy, and which, notwithstanding, with regard to morality, leaves too much to be desired; there are careless and ill-behaved children of God, who feel, however, that they are under the guidance of God, and wish to remain so. Think, for example, of David and other Old Testament characters. In fact, it is impossible, without keeping this in view, to understand the Old Testament, and, just as much so, the middle ages, with their deep-seated godliness, and yet their utter want of cultivation. We might also find examples amongst the evangelical men of modern times. On the other hand, there is an honourable morality, which might well put many of the pious to the blush, a morality not confined to mere legality, but consisting in selfrespect and self-control, which we cannot but esteem and admire, yet in which the religious element, all reference to God and eternity, is entirely wanting. To this belong both the stoicism of the ancients, and the morality most generally found amongst the cultivated men of our own time. Although, therefore, both (morality and religion) are intimately connected, yet we can separate them in idea, and, to a certain extent, they are actually found apart.

2. Morality presupposes a kind of skill, which is based on practice, and exercises itself in a series of moral actions, or in self-denial of various kinds. Religion is in its origin power, spiritual life, which shows itself by working outwards from one point as a centre. Religion bears the same relation to morality as genius to talent. As there may be men of genius, who are exceedingly awkward in the practice of different arts (for example, in the old German school of painting),

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

though they evidently possess the truest intuition, whilst others, however perfect their forms, only work out the most commonplace idea (the Dutch painters, for instance); so is it with morality and religion. The true master is he in whom talent is subservient to genius, and pervaded by it.

3. Moral action is conditioned by the outward relations of life, and where these no longer exist, the sphere of the former ceases. A man cast upon an island can make no use of his morality, unless his moral self-respect becomes the object of his worship, and thus idolatry takes the place of religious worship. But in quiet seclusion from the world the religious life may break forth in its greatest glory. The hermit's life was an unhealthy appearance, but there lies at the root of it this truth, that the religious man needs an hour in solitude, of which the merely moral man feels no want, and it is only from this religious point of view that we can do justice to such phenomena.

4. The moral life requires no further worship than moral deeds. The religious life also shows itself in actions ; by their fruits ye shall know them. But it will break forth besides this in word and symbol; it speaks in prayer, it expresses itself in art, it communicates itself to others, or if these are unwilling, to God himself. The act of Mary Magdalene remained incomprehensible to those who sat at table. Why this waste' says the moralist always, when the religious life acts without regard to utility, this money might have been given to the poor.' The idea of the Church is not exhausted by that of a merely moral society (as Kant explained it). Such a society would either have simply a negative tendency (like temperance societies), or an instructive one (schools of morality), or one directed to outward practice (a benevolent institution). The church rests upon a necessity of a totally different kind; and it shows a misconception of religion when the worshipping assembly is regarded as belonging merely to one of these. Are prayer and the sacrament only means of virtue ? Or is it only the weak who require them? Religion has always to receive from God, as well as render to him.

5. Morality is based on freedom, self-direction, religion on dependence, and the direction of another. These by no means exclude each other, though they may be considered apart. That is the most perfect state in which the religion elevates the morality, and the morality protects the religion.

III. Is, then, religion a matter of feeling ? To this we hear objections on all hands. But these objections have been mostly summed up by Baumgarten Crusius, who says: “No one can think of making feeling the basis of religion, if he understands himself, and feels the importance of a life free from danger and uncertainty. We hope to succeed in explaining our notion of religious feeling, and in showing that a life free from danger and uncertainty is by no means inconsistent with our theory of feeling when rightly understood; our task will then be accomplished.

1. An explanation is undoubtedly necessary; for there is much which gives itself out as religious feeling, without any title to the name. We must especially exclude that feeling, dependent on sensation,

a

which some distinguish from feeling by the name of impressions. It would certainly be dangerous to say that the softest, most sensitive, and bodily and mentally, most excitable, are therefore the most pious. If this is the only conception we can form of feeling, he is in the right who at the outset rejects a religion of feeling, and takes refuge in action. Attacks upon such heroes of sentimentality and temperament are just, although those who make them have often mistaken the true nature of feeling. When Schleiermacher, however, bases religion upon feeling, only they who wilfully misunderstand can possibly maintain that he means such feeling as this. Nor is it esthetic feeling. There is, no doubt, a certain relation between art and poetry and religion, but we cannot say, that he who has no taste for art, no fancy, is thereby incapacitated for religion; or, vice versâ, that the greatest poet or painter is the most pious man. The finest minds, and the priests of the temple of genius, have often resembled parasitic plants, fixing themselves on the sacred bloom of religion, and extracting its sap; whilst, on the other hand, the utter want of everything artistic, is often unnoticed where the fulness of religious life is evidently in operation. How else could we be attracted by a badly executed picture of a saint, or edified by the distracting singing of a village congregation? We are no defenders of that want of taste which, from religious zeal, has denounced whatever is beautiful. A religion stripped of everything attractive, such as Puritanism does its best to foster, and that utter want of taste which is often defended as originality, do more to hinder than promote religion. Yet, because one writes, and another preaches without taste, we do not, therefore, charge them with want of religious feeling. With all their religion they have no feeling for the beautifnl; a clear proof that there is a difference between the two.

Are, then, religious and moral feeling the same? They certainly approach, touch, and pervade each other. But as religion and morality may be looked at separately, so may the feelings which answer to them. Moral feeling has action for its substratum ; its work is to impel or restrain. Religious feeling reposes on itself, is satisfied from itself. It is the holy ground within us, the holy of holies' in the soul, where all intercourse with earthly things, all contention between desire and aversion, come to an end. No mortal footstep is heard there; we hear but the beating of the clock which indicates eternity, and by the light of an ever-burning lamp, the symbol of the light of eternity, we hail the infant, in whom are slumbering full of promise the germs of a life, in which, eventually, the divine and human will appear most intimately combined. This inner sanctuary, which is only open to him who enters into himself, which fills him both with virgin modesty and manly energy, both humbles and exalts him; this heaven within the breast, from which the stars of faith, hope, and love, shine upon us in our midnight darkness; this anchor reaching to the ground by which all must be secured, or they will perish in the rapid and everflowing torrent of time—this is religious feeling.

We define it more precisely as the feeling of dependence-namely, of dependence on God, the Eternal. To this it is objected, dogs, too,

6

have the feeling of dependence;' an objection which can be easily set aside by referring to such passages as Matt. vii. 6, and xv. 21—28, and Isaiah i. 3. Dependence, it is said, suggests always the thought of servility, in forgetfulness of the words of Jansen, The service of God is true freedom;' and Christ's own words, the truth shall make you free. There are, indeed, two different effects produced by religious feeling—it casts down, and it raises up. But in their root these two are one. We must first have the feeling of freedom, of communion with God; and when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,' this proceeds as much from the feeling of dependence, as when Christ says, 'without me ye can do nothing.'

Having thus analyzed the religious feeling, in order to show its nature as clearly as possible, we have only now, by way of synthesis (reconstruction), to show its connexion with all the powers of the soul, in which and by which it makes itself known. This theory of feeling is not only opposed by those who mistake the sense in which we use the word; but by those who draw from it the false conclusion, that if religion is a matter of feeling, it must end in feeling; and that knowledge and action are excluded from the sphere of religion, because they are not the immediate seat and organs of piety. Life, indeed, would not be without danger and uncertainty, if religion were confined to feeling, and could never venture from the sanctuary to the light of knowledge, and the fresh air of active life. But as the impulse to growth already exists in the germ, so there cannot be a healthy religious life without the disposition to seek clearness on the one hand, and stability and firmness on the other. The infant in the manger grows, and becomes the light and salvation of the world. The feeling unites with knowledge, and arrives at clearness; it joins with the power of the will, and thus attains to firmness and stability. The knowledge which has its roots in the religious feeling is faith. The moral power which has its roots in religious feeling, shows itself in the form of conscience, shapes itself in growth into a moral character, into firm, religious, moral principles, and reaches at last that certainty in action, and that perfect moral taste, which is the bloom of perfect freedom.

Religious feeling must be one of consciousness. The religious feeling calls up religious ideas, and these, undoubtedly, the fancy helps to clothe in imagery. It is the artist preparing earthly vessels for the heavenly treasure. The understanding has also its part to perform : as the servant of the imagination, it arranges and forms into a system these symbolical representations; these a childlike simplicity has cast into systems of mythology and rude symbolism ; and the more the first freshness and vigour die away, and logical deductions gain the upper hand, the less able do these systems become to satisfy the demands of reason. And in the service of reason the understanding performs a useful part, serving as a critical test to separate the idea from the symbol. But it is the reason alone which sees through the form, and recognises that what has originated in the feeling is not finite, but eternal. And though the reason is not the source of religion, it is the pure mirror which reflects that which first announced itself in feeling. It does not create the religious life, but tends it, as it ought to tend all the feelings

[blocks in formation]

and impulses of the soul. Thus, though we no more speak of a religion of reason, than of a poetry of reason; we require both rational poetry and rational religion also. True reason cannot oppose religious feeling; but, on the contrary, it is through the reason that the feeling first attains to perfect consciousness. Religious feeling, then, is the root of religious life. The healthier the root remains, the more verdant will the leaves appear, the more beautifully will the top unfold itself ; for as feeling is the beginning and source of all religious life in man, so is it the mark of perfection also.

And the religious feeling must become firm and lasting. As it assumes the form of clear conviction, it must also assume that of a settled character. The relation of religion to conscience has been already shown. As faith results from religious feeling on the side of knowledge, so conscience is its practical and moral side. As the religious conceptions are arranged into a system by the understanding, so here moral precepts and warnings spring up, which fix themselves into the form of law. But as knowledge may become petrified into a lifeless creed, so may these into lifeless statutes. Here, too, it is only the Spirit that giveth life.

In conclusion, we may truly say, that religion embraces the whole inward man, whilst its centre is the feeling of dependence. Religion, when healthy,' says a learned theologian,' exerts its power over every moment and event of life. It is the heart, the quiet pulse, of the whole existence. There is nothing too insignificant to be consecrated and transformed by it-nothing too ambitious and lofty for it to regulate ; the consciousness of God enters, bringing peace and holiness, not only into scenes where the heart is elevated and glad, but also into those of depression and the deepest sorrow.'

Jurrease of Places of Worship in Englaud and Wales.

In the current number of the “Quarterly Journal of the Statistical Society of London, there is reprinted a brief but interesting paper read before that society, on the 15th December last, by the Rev. E. Wyatt-Edgell,* a member of the council.

The object of this article (the writer states) is to show, first, the number of churches or chapels belonging to each denomination of Christians in England and Wales at the present time; and, secondly, how, in each denomination, they have increased during the last quarter of a century. And the authorities from which it is compiled are the various Yearbooks, Manuals, Almanacks, and Magazines, of the different denominations of Protestants, the Roman Catholic Directory, and the evidence given by E. Baines, Esq., before the Church-rate Committee of the House of Commons in 1851.

On the Statistics of Places of Worship in England and Wales, founded on a Table compiled by the Rev. T. Blisse. By Rev. E. Wyatt-Edgell,

« PreviousContinue »