Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/203

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

fairly stated? If revelation is thought of as God’s personal word, and redemption as his personal deed, is it reasonable to view them either as open to a sort of scientific prediction or as capricious and unintelligible? Even in the middle ages there were not wanting those—the St Victors, Bonaventura—who sought to vindicate mystical if not moral redemption as the central thought of Christianity.

V. Earlier Modern Period.—It will be seen that apologetics by no means reissued unchanged from the long period of authority. The compromise of Aquinas, though not unchallenged, holds the field and that even with Protestants. G. W. Leibnitz devotes an introductory chapter in his Théodicée, 1710 (as against Pierre Bayle), to faith and reason. He is a good enough Lutheran to quote as a “mystery” the Eucharist no less than the Trinity, while he insists that truths above are not against reason. Stated thus baldly, has the distinction any meaning? The more celebrated and central thesis of the book—this finite universe, the best of all such that are possible—also restates positions of Augustine and Aquinas.

Before modern philosophy began its career, there was a great revival of ancient philosophy at the Renaissance; sometimes anti-Christian, sometimes pro-Christian. The latter furnishes apologies by Marsilio Ficino, Agostino Steuco, J. L. Vives.

Early in the modern period occurs the great name of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). A staunch Roman Catholic, but belonging to a school of Augustinian enthusiasts (the Jansenists), whom the Church put down as heretics, he stands pretty much apart from the general currents. His Pensées, published posthumously, seems to have been meant for a systematic treatise, but it has come to us in fragments. Once again, a lay apologist! A layman’s work may have the advantage of originality or the drawback of imperfect knowledge. Pascal’s work exhibits both characters. It has the originality of rare genius, but it borrows its material (as industrious editors have shown) from very few sources—the Pugio Fidei, M. de Montaigne, P. Charron. Ideas as well as learning are largely Montaigne’s. The latter’s cheerful man-of-the-world scepticism is transfigured in Pascal to a deep distrust of human reason, in part, perhaps, from anti-Protestant motives. But this attitude, while not without parallels both earlier (Ghazali, Jehuda Halevi) and later (H. L. Mansel), has peculiarities in Pascal. It is fallen man whom he pursues with his fierce scorn; his view of man’s nature—intellect as well as character—is to be read in the light of his unflinching Augustinianism. Again, Pascal, unlike most apologists, belongs to the small company of saintly souls. This philosophical sceptic is full of humble joy in salvation, of deep love for the Saviour.

Another French Roman Catholic apologist, P. D. Huet (1630-1721)—within the conditions of his age a prodigy of learning (in apologetics see his Demonstratio Evangelica)—is not uninfluenced by Pascal (Traité de la faiblesse de l’esprit humaine).

As we might expect, Protestant lands are more busily occupied with apologetics. Intolerant reliance upon force presents greater difficulties to them; soon it grows quite obsolete. Benedict Spinoza, the eminent Jewish pantheist (1632-1677), to whom miracle is impossible, revelation a phrase, and who renews pioneer work in Old Testament criticism, finds at least a fair measure of liberty and comfort in Holland (his birth-land). Bayle, the historical sceptic, lectured and published his learned Dictionnaire (1696) at Rotterdam. From Holland, earlier, had proceeded an apologetic work by a man of European fame. Hugo Grotius’s De Veritate Christianae Religionis (1627) is partly the medieval tradition:—Oppose Mahommedans and Jews! It is partly practical:—Arm Christian sailors against religious danger! But in its cool spirit it forecasts the coming age, whose master is John Locke. His Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) is the thesis of “a whole century” of theologians. And his Essay on the Human Understanding (1690) is almost a Bible to men of education during the same period; its lightest word treasured. Locke does not break with the compromise of Aquinas. But he transfers attention from contents to proof. Reason proves that a revelation has been made—and then submits. Leibnitz has to supplement rather than correct Locke on this point.

In such an atmosphere, deism readily uttered its protest against mysterious revelation. Deism is, in fact, the Thomist natural theology (more clearly distinguished from dogmatic theology than in the middle ages, alike by Protestants and by the post-Tridentine Church of Rome) now dissolving partnership with dogmatic and starting in business for itself. Or it is the doctrine of unfallen man’s “natural state”—a doctrine intensified in Protestantism—separating itself from the theologians’ grave doctrine of sin. If Socinianism had challenged natural theology—Christ, according to it, was the prophet who first revealed the way to eternal life—it had glorified the natural powers of man; and the learning of the Arminian divines (friends of Grotius and Locke) had helped to modernize Christian apologetics upon rational lines. Deism now taught that reason, or “the light of nature,” was all-sufficient.

Not to dwell upon earlier continental “Deists” (mentioned by Viret as quoted first in Bayle’s Dictionary and again in the introduction to Leland’s View of the Deistical Writers), Lord Herbert of Cherbury (De Veritate, 1624; De Religione Gentilium, 1645?—according to J. G. Walch’s Bibliotheca Theologica (1757) not published complete until 1663) was universally understood as hinting conclusions hostile to Christianity (cf. also T. Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, ch. xxxi.; Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670, ch. xiv.). Professedly, Herbert’s contention merely is that non-Christians feeling after the “supreme God” and the law of righteousness must have a chance of salvation. Herbert was also epoch-making for the whole 18th century in teaching that priests had corrupted this primitive faith. During the 18th century deism spread widely, though its leaders were “irrepressible men like Toland, men of mediocre culture and ability like Anthony Collins, vulgar men like Chubb, irritated and disagreeable men like Matthew Tindal, who conformed that he might enjoy his Oxford fellowship and wrote anonymously that he might relieve his conscience” (A. M. Fairbairn). More distinguished sympathizers are Edward Gibbon, who has the deistic spirit, and David Hume, the historian and philosophical sceptic, who has at least the letter of the deistic creed (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion), and who uses Pascal’s appeal to “faith” in a spirit of mockery (Essay on Miracles). In France the new school found powerful speaking-trumpets, especially Voltaire, the idol of his age—a great denier and scoffer, but always sincerely a believer in the God of reason—and the deeper but wilder spirit of J. J. Rousseau. Others in France developed still more startling conclusions from Locke’s principles, E. B. Condillac’s sensationalism—Locke’s philosophy purged of its more ideal if less logical elements—leading on to materialism in J. O. de la Mettrie; and at least one of the Encyclopedists (P. H. von Holbach) capped materialism with confessed atheism.

In Germany the parallel movement of “illumination” (H. S. Reimarus; J. S. Semler, pioneer in N.T. criticism; and a layman, the great Lessing) took the form of “rationalism” within the church—interpreting Bible texts by main force in a way which the age thought “enlightened” (H. E. G. Paulus, 1761-1851, &c.).

Among the innumerable English anti-deistic writers (see W. Law, The Case of Reason; R. Bentley, or “Phileleutherus Lipsiensis”; &c., &c.), three are of chief importance. Nathaniel Lardner (Arian, 1684-1768) stands in the front rank of the scholarship of his time, and uses his vast knowledge to maintain the genuineness of all books of the New Testament and the perfect accuracy of its history. Joseph Butler, a very original, careful and honest thinker, lifts controversy with deists from details to principles in his Analogy of Religion both Natural and Revealed to the Constitution and Course of Nature (1736). This title introduces us to a new conception. Deists and orthodox in those days agreed in recognizing not merely natural theology but natural religion—“essential religion,” Butler more than once styles it; the expression shows how near he stood intellectually to those he criticized. But morally he stood aloof. In part i.—on Natural Religion—he defends a moral or punishing Deity against the sentimental softness of the age. The God of Nature, whom deists confess does punish in time, if they will