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799
MARTINEAU, JAMES


to the defence of Unitarian doctrine, which had been assailed by certain Liverpool clergymen, of whom Fielding Ould was the most active and Hugh McNeill the most famous. As his share in the controversy, Martineau published five discourses, in which he discussed “ the Bible as the great autobiography of human nature from its infancy to its perfection, " “ the Deity of Christ, " “ Vicarious Redemption, " “ Evil, ” and “ Christianity without Priest and without Ritual."1 He remained to the end a keen and vigilant apologist of the school in which he had been nursed. But the questions proper to the new day came swiftly upon his quick and susceptible mind-enlarged, deepened and developed it. Within his own fold new light was breaking. To W. E. Channing (q.v.), whom Martineau had called “ the inspirer of his youth, " Theodore Parker had succeeded, introducing more radical ideas as to religion and a more drastic criticism of sacred history. Blanco White, “ the rationalist A'Kempis, ” who had dared to appear as “ a religious sceptic in God's presence, " had found a biographer and interpreter in artineau's friend and colleague, John Hami ton Thom. Within the English Church men with whom he had both personal and religious sympathy rose-Whately, of whom he said, “ We know no living writer who has proved so little and disproved so much ”; and Thomas Arnold, “ a man who could be a hero without romance ";“ F. D. Maurice, whose character, marked by “religious realism, " sought in the past “ the witness to eternal truths, the manifestation by time-samples of infinite realities and unchanging relations"; and Charles Kingsley, “ a great teacher, " though one “certain to go astray the moment he becomes didactic."' Beside these may be placed men like E. B. Pusey and ]. H. Newman, whose mind Martineau said was “ critical, not prophetic, since without immediateness of religious vision, ” and whose faith is “ an escape from an alternative scepticism, which receives the veto not of his reason but of his will, "° as men for whose teachings and methods he had a potent and stimulating antipathy. The philosophic principles and religious deductions of Dean Mansel he disliked as much as those of Newman, but he res ected his arguments more. Apart from the Churches, men like Carlyle and Matthew Arnold-with whom he had much in common—influenced him; while Herbert Spencer in England and Comte in France afforded the antithesis needful to the dialectical development of his own views. He came to know German philosophy and criticism, especially the criticism of Baur and the Tilbingen school, which affected profoundly his construction of Christian history. And these were strengthened by French influences, notably those of Renan and the Strassburg theologians. The rise of evolution, and the new scientific way of looking at nature and her creative methods, compelled him to rethink and reformulate his theistic principles and conclusions, especially as to the forms under which the relation of God to the world and' His action within it could be conceived. Under the impulses which came from these various sides Martineau's mind lived and moved, and as they successively rose he promptly, by appreciation pr criticism, responded to the dialectical issues which they raised.

In the discussion of these questions the periodical press supplied him with the opportunity of taking an effective part. At first his literary activity was limited to sectional publications, and he addressed his public, now as editor and now as leading contributor, in the Monthly Repository, the Christian Reformer, the Prospective, the Westminster and the National Review. Later, especially when scientific speculation had made the theistic problem urgent, he was a frequent contributor to the literary monthlies. And when in 1890 he began to gather together the miscellaneous essays and papers written during a period of sixty years, he expressed the hope that, though “ they could lay no claim to logical consistency, " they might yet show “ beneath the varying complexion of their thought some intelligible moral continuity, ” “ leading in the end to a view of life more coherent and less defective than was presented at the beginning." And though it is a proud as well as a modest hope; no one cou d call it unjustified. For his essays are fine examp es of permanent literature appearing in an ephemeral medium, and represent work which has solid worth for later thought as well as for the speculation of their own time. There is hardly a name or a movement in the religious history of the century which he did not touch and illuminate. It was in this form that he criticized the “ atheistic mesmerism " to which his sister Harriet had committed herself, and she never forgave his criticism. But his course was always singularly independent, and, though one of the most affectionate and most sensitive of men, yet it was his fortune to be so fastidious in thought and so conscientious in judgment as often to give pffenice or create alarm in those he deeply respected or tenderly ove .

The theological and philosophical discussions which thus appeared he later described as “the tentatives which gradually prepared the way for the more systematic expositions of the Types of Ethical They stand as Lectures ii., v., vi., xi., xii. in the volume Unitariamsm Defended, 1839.

2 Essays, Reviews and Addresses, ii. IO.

° Ibid. i. 46. 4 Ibid. i. 258, 262.

5 Ibid. ii. 285. ° Ibid. i. 233.

Essays, Reviews and Addresses, i., iii.

Theory and The Study of Religion, and, in some measure, of The Seat o Authority in Religion.” These books expressed his mature thoug t, and may be said to contain, in what he conceived as a final form, the speculative achievements of his life. They appeared respectively in' 1885, 1888 and 1890, and were without doubt remarkable feats to be performed by a man who had passed his eightieth year. Their literary and speculative qualities are indeed exceptionally brilliant; they are splendid in diction, elaborate in argument, cogent yet reverent, keen while fearless in criticism. But they have also most obvious defects: they are unquestionably the books of an old man who had thought much as well as spoken and written often on the themes he discusses, yet who had finally put his material together in haste at a time when his mind had lost, if not its dialectic vigour, yet its freshness and its sense of proportion; and who had been so accustomed to amplifyithe single stages of his argument that he had forgotten how much they needed to be reduced to scale and to be built into an organic whole. In the first of these books his nomenclature is unfortunate; his division of ethical theories into the “ psychological, " “ idiopsychological, " and the “ hetero-psychological, ” is incapable of historical justification; his exposition of single ethical systems is, though always interesting and suggestive, often arbitrary and inadequate, being governed by dialectical exigencies rather than historical order and perspective. In the second of the above books his idea of religion is somewhat of an anachronism; as he himself confessed, he “ used the word in the sense which it invariably bore half a century ago, " as denoting “ belief in an ever-living God, a divine mind and will ruling the universe and holding moral relations with mankind." As thus used, it was a term which governed the problems of speculative theism rather than those connected with the historical origin, the evolution and the organization of religion. And these are the questions which are now to the front. These criticisms mean that his most elaborate discussions came forty years too late, for they were concerned with problems which agitated the middle rather than the end of the 19th century. But if we pass from this criticism of form to the actual contents of the two books, we arebound to confess that they constitute a wonderfully cogent and persuasive theistic argument. That argument may be described as a criticism of man and his world used as a basis for the construction of a reasoned idea of nature and being. Man and nature, thought and being, fitted each other. What was implicit in nature had become explicit in man; the problem of the individual was one with the problem of universal experience. The interpretation of man was therefore the interpretation of his universe. Emphasis was made to fall on the reason, the conscience and the will of the finite personality; and just as these were found to be native in him they were held to be immanent in the cause of his universe. What lived in time belonged to eternity; the microcosm was the epitome of the macrocosm the reason which reigned in man interpreted the law that was revealed in conscience and the power which governed human destiny, while the freedom which man realized was the direct negation both of necessity and of the operation of any fortuitous cause in the cosmos.

It was not possible, however, that the theistic idea could be discussed in relation to nature only. It was necessary that it should be applied to history and to the forces and personalities active within it. And of these the greatest was of course the Person that aad created the Christian religion. What did Jesus signify? W at authority belonged to Him and to the books that contain His history and interpret His person? This was the problem which Martineau attempted to deal with in The Seat of Authority in Religion. The workmanship of the book is unequal: historical and literary criticism had never been Martineau's strongest point, although he had almost continuously maintained an amount of New Testament study, as his note-books show. In its speculative parts the book is quite equal to those that had gone before, but in its literary and historical parts there are indications of a mind in which a long practised logic had become a rooted habit. While a comparison of his expositions of the Pauline and Iohannine Christologies with the earlier Unitarian exegesis in which he had been trained shows how wide is the interval, the work does not represent a mind that had throughout its history lived and worked in the delicate and judicial investigations he here tried to conduct.

Martineau's theory of the religious society or church was that of an idealist rather than of a statesman or practical politician. He stood equally remote from the old Voluntary principle, that “ the State had nothing to do with religion, ” and from the sacerdotal position that the clergy stood in an apostolic succession, and either constituted the Church or were the persons into whose hands its guidance had been committed. He hated two things intensely, a sacrosanct priesthood and an enforced uniformity. He may be said to have believed in the sanity and sanctity of the 'state rather than of the Church. Statesmen he could trust as he would not trust ecclesiastics. And so he even propounded a scheme, which fell still-born, that would have B Ibid. iii.. pref., p. vi.