The Protestant Reformation marked an era both in life and thought for the modern world. It ushered in a revolution in Europe. It established distinctions and initiated tendencies which are still significant. These distinctions have been significant not for Europe alone. They have had influence also upon those continents which since the Reformation have come under the dominion of Europeans. Yet few would now regard the Reformation as epoch-making in the sense in which that pre-eminence has been claimed. No one now esteems that it separates the modern from the mediaeval and ancient world in the manner once supposed. The perspective of history makes it evident that large areas of life and thought remained then untouched by the new spirit. Assumptions which had their origin in feudal or even in classical culture continued unquestioned. More than this, impulses in rational life and in the interpretation of religion, which showed themselves with clearness in one and another of the reformers themselves, were lost sight of, if not actually repudiated, by their successors. It is possible to view many things in the intellectual and religious life of the nineteenth century, even some which Protestants have passionately reprobated, as but the taking up again of clues which the reformers had let fall, the carrying out of purposes of their movement which were partly hidden from themselves.
Men have asserted that the Renaissance inaugurated a period of paganism. They have gloried that there supervened upon this paganism the religious revival which the Reformation was. Even these men will, however, not deny that it was the intellectual rejuvenation which made the religious reformation possible or, at all events, effective. Nor can it be denied that after the Revolution, in the Protestant communities the intellectual element was thrust into the background. The practical and devotional prevailed. Humanism was for a time shut out. There was more room for it in the Roman Church than among Protestants. Again, the Renaissance itself had been not so much an era of discovery of a new intellectual and spiritual world. It had been, rather, the rediscovery of valid principles of life in an ancient culture and civilisation. That thorough-going review of the principles at the basis of all relations of the life of man, which once seemed possible to Renaissance and Reformation, was postponed to a much later date. When it did take place, it was under far different auspices.
There is a remarkable unity in the history of Protestant thought in the period from the Reformation to the end of the eighteenth century. There is a still more surprising unity of Protestant thought in this period with the thought of the mediaeval and ancient Church. The basis and methods are the same. Upon many points the conclusions are identical. There was nothing of which the Protestant scholastics were more proud than of their agreement with the Fathers of the early Church. They did not perceive in how large degree they were at one with Christian thinkers of the Roman communion as well. Few seem to have realised how largely Catholic in principle Protestant thought has been. The fundamental principles at the basis of the reasoning have been the same. The notions of revelation and inspiration were identical. The idea of authority was common to both, only the instance in which that authority is lodged was different. The thoughts of God and man, of the world, of creation, of providence and prayer, of the nature and means of salvation, are similar. Newman was right in discovering that from the first he had thought, only and always, in what he called Catholic terms. It was veiled from him that many of those who ardently opposed him thought in those same terms.
It is impossible to write upon the theme which this book sets itself without using the terms Catholic and Protestant in the conventional sense. The words stand for certain historic magnitudes. It is equally impossible to conceal from ourselves how misleading the language often is. The line between that which has been happily called the religion of authority and the religion of the spirit does not run between Catholic and Protestant. It runs through the middle of many Protestant bodies, through the border only of some, and who will say that the Roman Church knows nothing of this contrast? The sole use of recurrence here to the historic distinction is to emphasise the fact that this distinction stands for less than has commonly been supposed. In a large way the history of Christian thought, from earliest times to the end of the eighteenth century, presents a very striking unity.
In contrast with this, that modern reflection which has taken the phenomenon known as religion and, specifically, that historic form of religion known as Christianity, as its object, has indeed also slowly revealed the fact that it is in possession of certain principles. Furthermore, these principles, as they have emerged, have been felt to be new and distinctive principles. They are essentially modern principles. They are the principles which, taken together, differentiate the thinker of the nineteenth century from all who have ever been before him. They are principles which unite all thinkers at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, in practically every portion of the world, as they think of all subjects except religion. It comes more and more to be felt that these principles must be reckoned with in our thought concerning religion as well.
One of these principles is, for example, that of dealing in true critical fashion with problems of history and literature. Long before the end of the age of rationalism, this principle had been applied to literature and history, other than those called sacred. The thorough going application of this scientific method to the literatures and history of the Old and New Testaments is almost wholly an achievement of the nineteenth century. It has completely altered the view of revelation and inspiration. The altered view of the nature of the documents of revelation has had immeasurable consequences for dogma.
Another of these elements is the new view of nature and of man's relation to nature. Certain notable discoveries in physics and astronomy had proved possible of combination with traditional religion, as in the case of Newton. Or again, they had proved impossible of combination with any religion, as in the case of Laplace. The review of the religious and Christian problem in the light of the ever increasing volume of scientific discoveries -- this is the new thing in the period which we have undertaken to describe. A theory of nature as a totality, in which man, not merely as physical, but even also as social and moral and religious being, has place in a series which suggests no break, has affected the doctrines of God and of man in a way which neither those who revered nor those who repudiated religion at the beginning of the nineteenth century could have imagined.
Another leading principle grows out of Kant's distinction of two worlds and two orders of reason. That distinction issued in a new theory of knowledge. It laid a new foundation for an idealistic construing of the universe. In one way it was the answer of a profoundly religious nature to the triviality and effrontery into which the great rationalistic movement had run out. By it the philosopher gave standing forever to much that prophets and mystics in every age had felt to be true, yet had never been able to prove by any method which the ordered reasoning of man had provided. Religion as feeling regained its place. Ethics was set once more in the light of the eternal. The soul of man became the object of a scientific study.
There have been thus indicated three, at least, of the larger factors which enter into an interpretation of Christianity which may fairly be said to be new in the nineteenth century. They are new in a sense in which the intellectual elements entering into the reconsideration of Christianity in the age of the Reformation were not new. They are characteristic of the nineteenth century. They would naturally issue in an interpretation of Christianity in the general context of the life and thought of that century. The philosophical revolution inaugurated by Kant, with the general drift toward monism in the interpretation of the universe, separates from their forebears men who have lived since Kant, by a greater interval than that which divided Kant from Plato. The evolutionary view of nature, as developed from Schelling and Comte through Darwin to Bergson, divides men now living from the contemporaries of Kant in his youthful studies of nature, as those men were not divided from the followers of Aristotle.
Of purpose, the phrase Christian thought has been interpreted as thought concerning Christianity. The problem which this book essays is that of an outline of the history of the thought which has been devoted, during this period of marvellous progress, to that particular object in consciousness and history which is known as Christianity. Christianity, as object of the philosophical, critical, and scientific reflection of the age -- this it is which we propose to consider. Our religion as affected in its interpretation by principles of thought which are already widespread, and bid fair to become universal among educated men -- this it is which in this little volume we aim to discuss. The term religious thought has not always had this significance. Philosophy of religion has signified, often, a philosophising of which religion was, so to say, the atmosphere. We cannot wonder if, in these circumstances, to the minds of some, the atmosphere has seemed to hinder clearness of vision. The whole subject of the philosophy of religion has within the last few decades undergone a revival, since it has been accepted that the aim is not to philosophise upon things in general in a religious spirit. On the contrary, the aim is to consider religion itself, with the best aid which current philosophy and science afford. In this sense only can we give the study of religion and Christianity a place among the sciences.
It remains true, now as always, that the majority, at all events, of those who have thought profoundly concerning Christianity will be found to have been Christian men. Religion is a form of consciousness. It will be those who have had experience to which that consciousness corresponds, whose judgments can be supposed to have weight. That remark is true, for example, of aesthetic matters as well. To be a good judge of music one must have musical feeling and experience. To speak with any deeper reasonableness concerning faith, one must have faith. To think profoundly concerning Christianity one needs to have had the Christian experience. But this is very different from saying that to speak worthily of the Christian religion, one must needs have made his own the statements of religion which men of a former generation may have found serviceable. The distinction between religion itself, on the one hand, and the expression of religion in doctrines and rites, or the application of religion through institutions, on the other hand, is in itself one of the great achievements of the nineteenth century. It is one which separates us from Christian men in previous centuries as markedly as it does any other. It is a simple implication of the Kantian theory of knowledge. The evidence for its validity has come through the application of historical criticism to all the creeds. Mystics of all ages have seen the truth from far. The fact that we may assume the prevalence of this distinction among Christian men, and lay it at the base of the discussion we propose, is assuredly one of the gains which the nineteenth century has to record.
It follows that not all of the thinkers with whom we have to deal will have been, in their own time, of the number of avowedly Christian men. Some who have greatly furthered movements which in the end proved fruitful for Christian thought, have been men who in their own time alienated from professed and official religion. In the retrospect we must often feel that their opposition to that which they took to be religion was justifiable. Yet their identification of that with religion itself, and their frank declaration of what they called their own irreligion, was often a mistake. It was a mistake to which both they and their opponents in due proportion contributed. A still larger class of those with whom we have to do have indeed asserted for themselves a personal adherence to Christianity. But their identification with Christianity, or with a particular Christian Church, has been often bitterly denied by those who bore official responsibility in the Church. The heresy of one generation is the orthodoxy of the next. There is something perverse in Gottfried Arnold's maxim, that the true Church, in any age, is to be found with those who have just been excommunicated from the actual Church. However, the maxim points in the direction of a truth. By far the larger part of those with whom we have to do have had acknowledged relation to the Christian tradition and institution. They were Christians and, at the same time, true children of the intellectual life of their own age. They esteemed it not merely their privilege, but also their duty, to endeavour to ponder anew the religious and Christian problem, and to state that which they thought in a manner congruous with the thoughts which the men of the age would naturally have concerning other themes.
It has been to most of these men axiomatic that doctrine has only relative truth. Doctrine is but a composite of the content of the religious consciousness with materials which the intellect of a given man or age or nation in the total view of life affords. As such, doctrine is necessary and inevitable for all those who in any measure live the life of the mind. But the condition of doctrine is its mobile, its fluid and changing character. It is the combination of a more or less stable and characteristic experience, with a reflection which, exactly in proportion as it is genuine, is transformed from age to age, is modified by qualities of race and, in the last analysis, differs with individual men. Dogma is that portion of doctrine which has been elevated by decree of ecclesiastical authority, or even only by common consent, into an absoluteness which is altogether foreign to its nature. It is that part of doctrine concerning which men have forgotten that it had a history, and have decided that it shall have no more. In its very notion dogma confounds a statement of truth, which must of necessity be human, with the truth itself, which is divine. In its identification of statement and truth it demands credence instead of faith. Men have confounded doctrine and dogma; they have been taught so to do. They have felt the history of Christian doctrine to be an unfruitful and uninteresting theme. But the history of Christian thought would seek to set forth the series of interpretations put, by successive generations, upon the greatest of all human experiences, the experience of the communion of men with God. These interpretations ray out at all edges into the general intellectual life of the age. They draw one whole set of their formative impulses from the general intellectual life of the age. It is this relation of the progress of doctrine to the general history of thought in the nineteenth century, which the writer designed to emphasise in choosing the title of this work.
As was indicated in the closing paragraphs of the preceding volume of this series, the issue of the age of rationalism had been for the cause of religion on the whole a distressing one. The majority of those who were resolved to follow reason were agreed in abjuring religion. That they had, as it seems to us, but a meagre understanding of what religion is, made little difference in their conclusion. Bishop Butler complains in his Analogy that religion was in his time hardly considered a subject for discussion among reasonable men. Schleiermacher in the very title of his Discourses makes it plain that in Germany the situation was not different. If the reasonable eschewed religious protests in Germany, evangelicals in England, the men of the great revivals in America, many of them, took up a corresponding position as towards the life of reason, especially toward the use of reason in religion. The sinister cast which the word rationalism bears in much of the popular speech is evidence of this fact. To many minds it appeared as if one could not be an adherent both of reason and of faith. That was a contradiction which Kant, first of all in his own experience, and then through his system of thought, did much to transcend. The deliverance which he wrought has been compared to the deliverance which Luther in his time achieved for those who had been in bondage to scholasticism in the Roman Church. Although Kant has been dead a hundred years, both the defence of religion and the assertion of the right of reason are still, with many, on the ancient lines. There is no such strife between rationality and belief as has been supposed. But the confidence of that fact is still far from being shared by all Christians at the beginning of the twentieth century. The course in reinterpretation and readjustment of Christianity, which that calm conviction would imply, is still far from being the one taken by all of those who bear the Christian name. If it is permissible in the writing of a book like this to have an aim besides that of the most objective delineation, the author may perhaps be permitted to say that he writes with the earnest hope that in some measure he may contribute also to the establishment of an understanding upon which so much both for the Church and the world depends.
We should say a word at this point as to the general relation of religion and philosophy. We realise the evil which Kant first in clearness pointed out. It was the evil of an apprehension which made the study of religion a department of metaphysics. The tendency of that apprehension was to do but scant justice to the historical content of Christianity. Religion is an historical phenomenon. Especially is this true of Christianity. It is a fact, or rather, a vast complex of facts. It is a positive religion. It is connected with personalities, above all with one transcendent personality, that of Jesus. It sprang out of another religion which had already emerged into the light of world-history. It has been associated for two thousand years with portions of the race which have made achievements in culture and left record of those achievements. It is the function of speculation to interpret this phenomenon. When speculation is tempted to spin by its own processes something which it would set beside this historic magnitude or put in place of it, and still call that Christianity, we must disallow the claim. It was the licence of its speculative endeavour, and the identification of these endeavours with Christianity, which finally discredited Hegelianism with religious men. Nor can it be denied that theologians themselves have been sinners in this respect. The disposition to regard Christianity as a revealed and divinely authoritative metaphysic began early and continued long. When the theologians also set out to interpret Christianity and end in offering us a substitute, which, if it were acknowledged as absolute truth, would do away with Christianity as historic fact, as little can we allow the claim.
Again, Christianity exists not merely as a matter of history. It exists also as a fact in living consciousness. It is the function of psychology to investigate that consciousness. We must say that, accurately speaking, there is no such thing as Christian philosophy. There are philosophies, good or bad, current or obsolete. These are Christian only in being applied to the history of Christianity and the content of the Christian consciousness. There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as Christian consciousness. There is the human consciousness, operating with and operated upon by the impulse of Christianity. It is the great human experience from which we single out for investigation that part which is concerned with religion, and call that the religious experience. It is essential, therefore, that those general investigations of human consciousness and experience, as such, which are being carried on all about us should be reckoned with, if our Christian life and thought are not altogether to fall out of touch with advancing knowledge. For this reason we have misgiving about the position of some followers of Ritschl. Their opinion, pushed to the limit, seems to mean that we have nothing to do with philosophy, or with the advance of science. Religion is a feeling of which he alone who possesses it can give account. He alone who has it can appreciate such an account when given. We acknowledge that religion is in part a feeling. But that feeling must have rational justification. It must also have rational guidance if it is to be saved from degenerating into fanaticism.
To say that we have nothing to do with philosophy ends in our having to do with a bad philosophy. In that case we have a philosophy with which we operate without having investigated it, instead of having one with which we operate because we have investigated it. The philosophy of which we are aware we have. The philosophy of which we are not aware has us. No doubt, we may have religion without philosophy, but we cannot formulate it even in the rudest way to ourselves, we cannot communicate it in any way whatsoever to others, except in the terms of a philosophy. In the general sense in which every man has a philosophy, this is merely the deposit of the regnant notions of the time. It may be amended or superseded, and our theology with it. Yet while it lasts it is our one possible vehicle of expression. It is the interpreter and the critique of what we have experienced. It is not open to a man to retreat within himself and say, I am a Christian, I feel thus, I think so, these thoughts are the content of Christianity. The consequence of that position is that we make the religious experience to be no part of the normal human experience. If we contend that the being a Christian is the great human experience, that the religious life is the true human life, we must pursue the opposite course. We must make the religious life coherent with all the other phases and elements of life. If we would contend that religious thought is the truest and deepest thought, we must begin at this very point. We must make it conform absolutely to the laws of all other thought. To contend for its isolation, as an area by itself and a process subject only to its own laws, is to court the judgment of men, that in its zeal to be Christian it has ceased to be thought.
Our most profitable mode of procedure would seem to be this. We shall seek to follow, as we may, those few main movements of thought marking the nineteenth century which have immediate bearing upon our theme. We shall try to register the effect which these movements have had upon religious conceptions. It will not be possible at any point to do more than to select typical examples. Perhaps the true method is that we should go back to the beginnings of each one of these movements. We should mark the emergence of a few great ideas. It is the emergence of an idea which is dramatically interesting. It is the moment of emergence in which that which is characteristic appears. Our subject is far too complicated to permit that the ramifications of these influences should be followed in detail. Modifications, subtractions, additions, the reader must make for himself.
These main movements of thought are, as has been said, three in number. We shall take them in their chronological order. There is first the philosophical revolution which is commonly associated with the name of Kant. If we were to seek with arbitrary exactitude to fix a date for the beginning of this movement, this might be the year of the publication of his first great work, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, in 1781. Kant was indeed himself, both intellectually and spiritually, the product of tendencies which had long been gathering strength. He was the exponent of ideas which in fragmentary way had been expressed by others, but he gathered into himself in amazing fashion the impulses of his age. Out from some portion of his works lead almost all the paths which philosophical thinkers since his time have trod. One cannot say even of his work, Der Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, 1793, that it is the sole source, or even the greatest source, of his influence upon religious thinking. But from the body of his work as a whole, there came a new theory of knowledge which has changed completely the notion of revelation. There came also a view of the universe as an ideal unity which, especially as elaborated by Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, has radically altered the traditional ideas of God, of man, of nature and of their relations, the one to the other.
[Footnote 1: In the text the titles of books which are discussed are given for the first time in the language in which they are written. Books which are merely alluded to are mentioned in English.]
We shall have then, secondly, to note the historical and critical movement. It is the effort to apply consistently and without fear the maxims of historical and literary criticism to the documents of the Old and New Testaments. With still greater arbitrariness, and yet with appreciation of the significance of Strauss' endeavour, we might set as the date of the full impact of this movement upon cherished religious convictions, that of the publication of his Leben Jesu, 1835. This movement has supported with abundant evidence the insight of the philosophers as to the nature of revelation. It has shown that that which we actually have in the Scriptures is just that which Kant, with his reverence for the freedom of the human mind, had indicated that we must have, if revelation is to be believed in at all. With this changed view has come an altered attitude toward many statements which devout men had held that they must accept as true, because these were found in Scripture. With this changed view the whole history, whether of the Jewish people or of Jesus and the origins of the Christian Church, has been set in a new light.
In the third place, we shall have to deal with the influence of the sciences of nature and of society, as these have been developed throughout the whole course of the nineteenth century. If one must have a date for an outstanding event in this portion of the history, perhaps that of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, 1859, would serve as well as any other. The principles of these sciences have come to underlie in a great measure all the reflection of cultivated men in our time. In amazing degree they have percolated, through elementary instruction, through popular literature, and through the newspapers, to the masses of mankind. They are recognised as the basis of a triumphant material civilisation, which has made everything pertaining to the inner and spiritual life seem remote. Through the social sciences there has come an impulse to the transfer of emphasis from the individual to society, the disposition to see everything in its social bearing, to do everything in the light of its social antecedents and of its social consequences. Here again we have to note the profoundest influence upon religious conceptions. The very notion connected with the words redemption and salvation appears to have been changed.
In the case of each of these particular movements the church, as the organ of Christianity, has passed through a period of antagonism to these influences, of fear of their consequences, of resistance to their progress. In large portions of the church at the present moment the protest is renewed. The substance of these modern teachings, which yet seem to be the very warp and woof of the intellectual life of the modern man, is repudiated and denounced. It is held to imperil the salvation of the soul. It is pronounced impossible of combination with belief in a divinely revealed truth concerning the universe and a saving faith for men. In other churches, outside the churches, the forms in which men hold their Christianity have been in large measure adjusted to the results of these great movements of thought. They have, as these men themselves believe, been immensely strengthened and made sure by those very influences which were once considered dangerous.
In connection with this indication of the nature of our materials, we have sought to say something of the time of emergence of the salient elements. It may be in point also to give some intimation of the place of their origins, that is to say, of the participation of the various nationalities in this common task of the modern Christian world. That international quality of scholarship which seems to us natural, is a thing of very recent date. That a discovery should within a reasonable interval become the property of all educated men, that scholars of one nation should profit by that which the learned of another land have done, appears to us a thing to be assumed. It has not always been so, especially not in matters of religious faith. The Roman Church and the Latin language gave to medieval Christian thought a certain international character. Again the Renaissance and Reformation had a certain world wide quality. The relations of the English Church in the reigns of the last Tudors to Germany, Switzerland, and France are not to be forgotten. But the life of the Protestant national churches in the eighteenth century shows little of this trait. The barriers of language counted for something. The provincialism of national churches and denominational predilections counted for more.
In the philosophical movement we must begin with the Germans. The movement of English thought known as deism was a distinct forerunner of the rationalist movement, within the particular area of the discussion of religion. However, it ran into the sand. The rationalist movement, considered in its other aspects, never attained in England in the eighteenth century the proportions which it assumed in France and Germany. In France that movement ran its full course, both among the learned and, equally, as a radical and revolutionary influence among the unlearned. It had momentous practical consequences. In no sphere was it more radical than in that of religion. Not in vain had Voltaire for years cried, 'Ecrasez l'infame,' and Rousseau preached that the youth would all be wise and pure, if only the kind of education which he had had in the religious schools were made impossible. There was for many minds no alternative between clericalism and atheism. Quite logically, therefore, after the downfall of the Republic and of the Empire there set in a great reaction. Still it was simply a reversion to the absolute religion of the Roman Catholic Church as set forth by the Jesuit party. There was no real transcending of the rationalist movement in France in the interest of religion. There has been no great constructive movement in religious thought in France in the nineteenth century. There is relatively little literature of our subject in the French language until recent years.
In Germany, on the other hand, the rationalist movement had always had over against it the great foil and counterpoise of the pietist movement. Rationalism ran a much soberer course than in France. It was never a revolutionary and destructive movement as in France. It was not a dilettante and aristocratic movement as deism had been in England. It was far more creative and constructive than elsewhere. Here also before the end of the century it had run its course. Yet here the men who transcended the rationalist movement and shaped the spiritual revival in the beginning of the nineteenth century were men who had themselves been trained in the bosom of the rationalist movement. They had appropriated the benefits of it. They did not represent a violent reaction against it, but a natural and inevitable progress within and beyond it. This it was which gave to the Germans their leadership at the beginning of the nineteenth century in the sphere of the intellectual life. It is worthy of note that the great heroes of the intellectual life in Germany, in the period of which we speak, were most of them deeply interested in the problem of religion. The first man to bring to England the leaven of this new spirit, and therewith to transcend the old philosophical standpoint of Locke and Hume, was Coleridge with his Aids to Reflection, published in 1825. But even after this impulse of Coleridge the movement remained in England a sporadic and uncertain one. It had nothing of the volume and conservativeness which belonged to it in Germany.
Coleridge left among his literary remains a work published in 1840 under the title of Confessions of an Enquiring Spirit. What is here written is largely upon the basis of intuition and forecast like that of Remarus and Lessing a half-century earlier in Germany. Strauss and others were already at work in Germany upon the problem of the New Testament, Vatke and Reuss upon that of the Old. This was a different kind of labour, and destined to have immeasurably greater significance. George Eliot's maiden literary labour was the translation into English of Strauss' first edition. But the results of that criticism were only slowly appropriated by the English. The ostensible results were at first radical and subversive in the extreme. They were fiercely repudiated in Strauss' own country. Yet in the main there was acknowledgement of the correctness of the principle for which Strauss had stood. Hardly before the decade of the sixties was that method accepted in England in any wider way, and hardly before the decade of the seventies in America. Ronan was the first to set forth, in 1863, the historical and critical problem in the new spirit, in a way that the wide public which read French understood.
When we come to speak of the scientific movement it is not easy to say where the leadership lay. Many Englishmen were in the first rank of investigators and accumulators of material. The first attempt at a systematisation of the results of the modern sciences was that of Auguste Comte in his Philosophie Positive. This philosophy, however, under its name of Positivism, exerted a far greater influence, both in Comte's time and subsequently, in England than it did in France. Herbert Spencer, after the middle of the decade of the sixties, essayed to do something of the sort which Comte had attempted. He had far greater advantages for the solution of the problem. Comte's foil in all of his discussions of religion was the Catholicism of the south of France. None the less, the religion which in his later years he created, bears striking resemblance to that which in his earlier years he had sought to destroy. Spencer's attitude toward religion was in his earlier work one of more pronounced antagonism or, at least, of more complete agnosticism than in later days he found requisite to the maintenance of his scientific freedom and conscientiousness. Both of these men represent the effort to construe the world, including man, from the point of view of the natural and also of the social sciences, and to define the place of religion in that view of the world which is thus set forth. The fact that there had been no such philosophical readjustment in Great Britain as in Germany, made the acceptance of the evolutionary theory of the universe, which more and more the sciences enforced, slower and more difficult. The period of resistance on the part of those interested in religion extended far into the decade of the seventies.
A word may be added concerning America. The early settlers had been proud of their connection with the English universities. An extraordinary number of them, in Massachusetts at least, had been Cambridge men. Yet a tradition of learning was later developed, which was not without the traits of isolation natural in the circumstances. The residence, for a time, even of a man like Berkeley in this country, altered that but little. The clergy remained in singular degree the educated and highly influential class. The churches had developed, in consonance with their Puritan character, a theology and philosophy so portentous in their conclusions, that we can without difficulty understand the reaction which was brought about. Wesleyanism had modified it in some portions of the country, but intensified it in others. Deism apparently had had no great influence. When the rationalist movement of the old world began to make itself felt, it was at first largely through the influence of France. The religious life of the country at the beginning of the nineteenth century was at a low ebb. Men like Belaham and Priestley were known as apostles of a freer spirit in the treatment of the problem of religion. Priestley came to Pennsylvania in his exile. In the large, however, one may say that the New England liberal movement, which came by and by to be called Unitarian, was as truly American as was the orthodoxy to which it was opposed. Channing reminds one often of Schleiermacher. There is no evidence that he had learned from Schleiermacher. The liberal movement by its very impetuosity gave a new lease of life to an orthodoxy which, without that antagonism, would sooner have waned. The great revivals, which were a benediction to the life of the country, were thought to have closer relation to the theology of those who participated in them than they had. The breach between the liberal and conservative tendencies of religious thought in this country came at a time when the philosophical reconstruction was already well under way in Europe. The debate continued until long after the biblical-critical movement was in progress. The controversy was conducted upon both sides in practically total ignorance of these facts. There are traces upon both sides of that insight which makes the mystic a discoverer in religion, before the logic known to him will sustain the conclusion which he draws. There will always be interest in the literature of a discussion conducted by reverent and, in their own way, learned and original men. Yet there is a pathos about the sturdy originality of good men expended upon a problem which had been already solved. The men in either camp proceeded from assumptions which are now impossible to the men of both. It was not until after the Civil War that American students of theology began in numbers to study in Germany. It is a much more recent thing that one may assume the immediate reading of foreign books, or boast of current contribution from American scholars to the labour of the world's thought upon these themes.
We should make a great mistake if we supposed that the progress has been an unceasing forward movement. Quite the contrary, in every aspect of it the life of the early part of the nineteenth century presents the spectacle of a great reaction. The resurgence of old ideas and forces seems almost incredible. In the political world we are wont to attribute this fact to the disillusionment which the French Revolution had wrought, and the suffering which the Napoleonic Empire had entailed. The reaction in the world of thought, and particularly of religious thought, was, moreover, as marked as that in the world of deeds. The Roman Church profited by this swing of the pendulum in the minds of men as much as did the absolute State. Almost the first act of Pius VII. after his return to Rome in 1814, was the revival of the Society of Jesus, which had been after long agony in 1773 dissolved by the papacy itself. 'Altar and throne' became the watchword of an ardent attempt at restoration of all of that which millions had given their lives to do away. All too easily, one who writes in sympathy with that which is conventionally called progress may give the impression that our period is one in which movement has been all in one direction. That is far from being true. One whose very ideal of progress is that of movement in directions opposite to those we have described may well say that the nineteenth century has had its gifts for him as well. The life of mankind is too complex that one should write of it with one exclusive standard as to loss and gain. And whatever be one's standard the facts cannot be ignored.
The France of the thirties and the forties saw a liberal movement within the Roman Church. The names of Lamennais, of Lacordaire, of Montalembert and Ozanam, the title l'Avenir occur to men's minds at once. Perhaps there has never been in France a party more truly Catholic, more devout, refined and tolerant, more fitted to heal the breach between the cultivated and the Church. However, before the Second Empire, an end had been made of that. It cannot be said that the French Church exactly favoured the infallibility. It certainly did not stand against the decree as in the old days it would have done. The decree of infallibility is itself the greatest witness of the steady progress of reaction in the Roman Church. That action, theoretically at least, does away with even that measure of popular constitution in the Church to which the end of the Middle Age had held fast without wavering, which the mightiest of popes had not been able to abolish and the council of Trent had not dared earnestly to debate. Whether the decree of 1870 is viewed in the light of the Syllabus of Errors of 1864, and again of the Encyclical of 1907, or whether the encyclicals are viewed in the light of the decree, the fact remains that a power has been given to the Curia against what has come to be called Modernism such as Innocent never wielded against the heresies of his day. Meantime, so hostile are exactly those peoples among whom Roman Catholicism has had full sway, that it would almost appear that the hope of the Roman Church is in those countries in which, in the sequence of the Reformation, a religious tolerance obtains, which the Roman Church would have done everything in its power to prevent.
Again, we should deceive ourselves if we supposed that the reaction had been felt only in Roman Catholic lands. A minister of Prussia forbade Kant to speak concerning religion. The Prussia of Frederick William III. and of Frederick William IV. was almost as reactionary as if Metternich had ruled in Berlin as well as in Vienna. The history of the censorship of the press and of the repression of free thought in Germany until the year 1848 is a sad chapter. The ruling influences in the Lutheran Church in that era, practically throughout Germany, were reactionary. The universities did indeed in large measure retain their ancient freedom. But the church in which Hengstenberg could be a leader, and in which staunch seventeenth-century Lutheranism could be effectively sustained, was almost doomed to further that alienation between the life of piety and the life of learning which is so much to be deplored. In the Church the conservatives have to this moment largely triumphed. In the theological faculties of the universities the liberals in the main have held their own. The fact that both Church and faculties are functionaries of the State is often cited as sure in the end to bring about a solution of this unhappy state of things. For such a solution, it must be owned, we wait.
The England of the period after 1815 had indeed no such cause for reaction as obtained in France or even in Germany. The nation having had its Revolution in the seventeenth century escaped that of the eighteenth. Still the country was exhausted in the conflict against Napoleon. Commercial, industrial and social problems agitated it. The Church slumbered. For a time the liberal thought of England found utterance mainly through the poets. By the decade of the thirties movement had begun. The opinions of the Noetics in Oriel College, Oxford, now seem distinctly mild. They were sufficient to awaken Newman and Pusey, Froude, Keble, and the rest. Then followed the most significant ecclesiastical movement which the Church of England in the nineteenth century has seen, the Oxford or Tractarian movement, as it has been called. There was conscious recurrence of a mind like that of Newman to the Catholic position. He had never been able to conceive religion in any other terms than those of dogma, or the Christian assurance on any other basis than that of external authority. Nothing could be franker than the antagonism of the movement, from its inception, to the liberal spirit of the age. By inner logic Newman found himself at last in the Roman Church. Yet the Anglo-Catholic movement is to-day overwhelmingly in the ascendant in the English Church. The Broad Churchmen of the middle of the century have had few successors. It is the High Church which stands over against the great mass of the dissenting churches which, taken in the large, can hardly be said to be theologically more liberal than itself. It is the High Church which has showed Franciscanlike devotion in the problems of social readjustment which England to-day presents. It has shown in some part of its constituency a power of assimilation of new philosophical, critical and scientific views, which makes all comparison of it with the Roman Church misleading. And yet it remains in its own consciousness Catholic to the core.
In America also the vigour of onset of the liberalising forces at the beginning of this century tended to provoke reaction. The alarm with which the defection of so considerable a portion of the Puritan Church was viewed gave coherence to the opposition. There were those who devoutly held that the hope of religion lay in its further liberalisation. Equally there were those who deeply felt that the deliverance lay in resistance to liberalisation. One of the concrete effects of the division of the churches was the separation of the education of the clergy from the universities, the entrusting it to isolated theological schools under denominational control. The system has done less harm than might have been expected. Yet at present there would appear to be a general movement of recurrence to the elder tradition. The maintenance of the religious life is to some extent a matter of nurture and observances, of religious habit and practice. This truth is one which liberals, in their emphasis upon liberty and the individual, are always in danger of overlooking. The great revivals of religion in this century, like those of the century previous, have been connected with a form of religious thought pronouncedly pietistic. The building up of religious institutions in the new regions of the West, and the participation of the churches of the country in missions, wear predominantly this cast. Antecedently, one might have said that the lack of ecclesiastical cohesion among the Christians of the land, the ease with which a small group might split off for the furtherance of its own particular view, would tend to liberalisation. It is doubtful whether this is true. Isolation is not necessarily a condition of progress. The emphasis upon trivial differences becomes rather a condition of their permanence. The middle of the nineteenth century in the United States was a period of intense denominationalism. That is synonymous with a period of the stagnation of Christian thought. The religion of a people absorbed in the practical is likely to be one which they at least suppose to be a practical religion. In one age the most practical thing will appear to men to be to escape hell, in another to further socialism. The need of adjustment of religion to the great intellectual life of the world comes with contact with that life. What strikes one in the survey of the religious thought of the country, by and large, for a century and a quarter, is not so much that it has been reactionary, as that it has been stationary. Almost every other aspect of the life of our country, including even that of religious life as distinguished from religious thought, has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. This it is which in a measure has created the tension which we feel.
B. THE BACKGROUND
In England before the end of the Civil War a movement for the rationalisation of religion had begun to make itself felt. It was in full force in the time of the Revolution of 1688. It had not altogether spent itself by the middle of the eighteenth century. The movement has borne the name of Deism. In so far as it had one watchword, this came to be 'natural religion.' The antithesis had in mind was that to revealed religion, as this had been set forth in the tradition of the Church, and particularly under the bibliolatry of the Puritans. It is a witness to the liberty of speech enjoyed by Englishmen in that day and to their interest in religion, that such a movement could have arisen largely among laymen who were often men of rank. It is an honour to the English race that, in the period of the rising might of the rational spirit throughout the western world, men should have sought at once to utilise that force for the restatement of religion. Yet one may say quite simply that this undertaking of the deists was premature. The time was not ripe for the endeavour. The rationalist movement itself needed greater breadth and deeper understanding of itself. Above all, it needed the salutary correction of opposing principles before it could avail for this delicate and difficult task. Religion is the most conservative of human interests. Rationalism would be successful in establishing a new interpretation of religion only after it had been successful in many other fields. The arguments of the deists were never successfully refuted. On the contrary, the striking thing is that their opponents, the militant divines and writings of numberless volumes of 'Evidences for Christianity,' had come to the same rational basis with the deists. They referred even the most subtle questions to the pure reason, as no one now would do. The deistical movement was not really defeated. It largely compelled its opponents to adopt its methods. It left a deposit which is more nearly rated at its worth at the present than it was in its own time. But it ceased to command confidence, or even interest. Samuel Johnson said, as to the publication of Bolingbroke's work by his executor, three years after the author's death: 'It was a rusty old blunderbuss, which he need not have been afraid to discharge himself, instead of leaving a half-crown to a Scotchman to let it off after his death.'
It is a great mistake, however, in describing the influence of rationalism upon Christian thought to deal mainly with deism. English deism made itself felt in France, as one may see in the case of Voltaire. Kant was at one time deeply moved by some English writers who would be assigned to this class. In a sense Kant showed traces of the deistical view to the last. The centre of the rationalistic movement had, however, long since passed from England to the Continent. The religious problem was no longer its central problem. We quite fail to appreciate what the nineteenth century owes to the eighteenth and to the rationalist movement in general, unless we view this latter in a far greater way.
In 1784 Kant wrote a tractate entitled, Was ist Aufklaerung? He said: 'Aufklaerung is the advance of man beyond the stage of voluntary immaturity. By immaturity is meant a man's inability to use his understanding except under the guidance of another. The immaturity is voluntary when the cause is not want of intelligence but of resolution. Sapere aude! |Dare to use thine own understanding,| is therefore the motto of free thought. If it be asked, |Do we live in a free-thinking age?| the answer is, |No, but we live in an age of free thought.| As things are at present, men in general are very far from possessing, or even from being able to acquire, the power of making a sure and right use of their own understanding without the guidance of others. On the other hand, we have clear indications that the field now lies, nevertheless, open before them, to which they can freely make their way and that the hindrances to general freedom of thought are gradually becoming less. And again he says: 'If we wish to insure the true use of the understanding by a method which is universally valid, we must first critically examine the laws which are involved in the very nature of the understanding itself. For the knowledge of a truth which is valid for everyone is possible only when based on laws which are involved in the nature of the human mind, as such, and have not been imported into it from without through facts of experience, which must always be accidental and conditional.'
There speaks, of course, the prophet of the new age which was to transcend the old rationalist movement. Men had come to harp in complacency upon reason. They had never inquired into the nature and laws of action of the reason itself. Kant, though in fullest sympathy with its fundamental principles, was yet aware of the excesses and weaknesses in which the rationalist movement was running out. No man was ever more truly a child of rationalism. No man has ever written, to whom the human reason was more divine and inviolable. Yet no man ever had greater reserves within himself which rationalism, as it had been, had never touched. It was he, therefore, who could lay the foundations for a new and nobler philosophy for the future. The word Aufklaerung, which the speech of the Fatherland furnished him, is a better word than ours. It is a better word than the French l'Illuminisme, the Enlightenment. Still we are apparently committed to the term Rationalism, although it is not an altogether fortunate designation which the English-speaking race has given to a tendency practically universal in the thinking of Europe, from about 1650 to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Historically, the rationalistic movement was the necessary preliminary for the modern period of European civilization as distinguished from the ecclesiastically and theologically determined culture which had prevailed up to that time. It marks the great cleft between the ancient and mediaeval world of culture on the one hand and the modern world on the other. The Reformation had but pushed ajar the door to the modern world and then seemed in surprise and fear about to close it again. The thread of the Renaissance was taken up again only in the Enlightenment. The stream flowed underground which was yet to fertilise the modern world.
We are here mainly concerned to note the breadth and universality of the movement. It was a transformation of culture, a change in the principles underlying civilisation, in all departments of life. It had indeed, as one of its most general traits, the antagonism to ecclesiastical and theological authority. Whatever it was doing, it was never without a sidelong glance at religion. That was because the alleged divine right of churches and states was the one might which it seemed everywhere necessary to break. The conflict with ecclesiasticism, however, was taken up also by Pietism, the other great spiritual force of the age. This was in spite of the fact that the Pietists' view of religion was the opposite of the rationalist view. Rationalism was characterised by thorough-going antagonism to supernaturalism with all its consequences. This arose from its zeal for the natural and the human, in a day when all men, defenders and assailants of religion alike, accepted the dictum that what was human could not be divine, the divine must necessarily be the opposite of the human. In reality this general trait of opposition to religion deceives us. It is superficial. In large part the rationalists were willing to leave the question of religion on one side if the ecclesiastics would let them alone. This is true in spite of the fact that the pot-house rationalism of Germany and France in the eighteenth century found the main butt of its ridicule in the priesthood and the Church. On its sober side, in the studies of scholars, in the bureaux of statesmen, in the laboratories of discoverers, it found more solid work. It accomplished results which that other trivial aspect must not hide from us.
Troeltsch first in our own day has given us a satisfactory account of the vast achievement of the movement in every department of human life. It annihilated the theological notion of the State. In the period after the Thirty Years' War men began to question what had been the purpose of it all. Diplomacy freed itself from Jesuitical and papal notions. It turned preponderantly to commercial and economic aims. A secular view of the purpose of God in history began to prevail in all classes of society. The Grand Monarque was ready to proclaim the divine right of the State which was himself. Still, not until the period of his dotage did that claim bear any relation to what even he would have called religion. Publicists, both Catholic and Protestant, sought to recur to the lex naturae in contradistinction with the old lex divina. The natural rights of man, the rights of the people, the rationally conditioned rights of the State, a natural, prudential, utilitarian morality interested men. One of the consequences of this theory of the State was a complete alteration in the thought of the relation of State and Church. The nature of the Church itself as an empirical institution in the midst of human society was subjected to the same criticism with the State. Men saw the Church in a new light. As the State was viewed as a kind of contract in men's social interest, so the Church was regarded as but a voluntary association to care for their religious interests. It was to be judged according to the practical success with which it performed this function.
[Footnote 2: Troeltsch, Art. 'Aufklaerung' in Herzog-Hauck, Realencylopaedie, 3 Aufl., Bd. ii., s.225 f.]
Then also, in the economic and social field the rational spirit made itself felt. Commerce and the growth of colonies, the extension of the middle class, the redistribution of wealth, the growth of cities, the dependence in relations of trade of one nation upon another, all these things shook the ancient organisation of society. The industrial system grew up upon the basis of a naturalistic theory of all economic relations. Unlimited freedom in labour and in the use of capital were claimed. There came a great revolution in public opinion upon all matters of morals. The ferocity of religious wars, the cruelty of religious controversies, the bigotry of the confessional, these all, which, only a generation earlier, had been taken by long-suffering humanity as if they had been matters of course, were now viewed with contrition by the more exalted spirits and with contempt and embitterment by the rest. Men said, if religion can give us not better morality than this, it is high time we looked to the natural basis of morality. Natural morality came to be the phrase ever on the lips of the leading spirits. Too frequently they had come to look askance at the morality of those who alleged a supernatural sanction for that which they at least enjoined upon others. We come in this field also, as in others, upon the assertion of the human as nobler and more beautiful than that which had by the theologians been alleged to be divine. The assertion came indeed to be made in ribald and blasphemous forms, but it was not without a great measure of provocation.
Then there was the altered view of nature which came through the scientific discoveries of the age. Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Gassendi, Newton, are the fathers of the modern sciences. These are the men who brought new worlds to our knowledge and new methods to our use. That the sun does not move about the earth, that the earth is but a speck in space, that heaven cannot be above nor hell beneath, these are thoughts which have consequences. Instead of the old deductive method, that of the mediaeval Aristotelianism, which had been worse than fruitless in the study of nature, men now set out with a great enthusiasm to study facts, and to observe their laws. Modern optics, acoustics, chemistry, geology, zoology, psychology and medicine, took their rises within the period of which we speak. The influence was indescribable. Newton might maintain his own simple piety side by side, so to say, with his character, as a scientific man, though even he did not escape the accusation of being a Unitarian. In the resistance which official religion offered at every step to the advance of the sciences, it is small wonder if natures less placid found the maintenance of their ancestral faith too difficult. Natural science was deistic with Locke and Voltaire, it was pantheistic in the antique sense with Shaftesbury, it was pantheistic-mystical with Spinoza, spiritualistic with Descartes, theistic with Leibnitz, materialistic with the men of the Encyclopaedia. It was orthodox with nobody. The miracle as traditionally defined became impossible. At all events it became the millstone around the neck of the apologists. The movement went to an extreme. All the evils of excess upon this side from which we since have suffered were forecast. They were in a measure called out by the evils and errors which had so long reigned upon the other side.
Again, in the field of the writing of history and of the critique of ancient literatures, the principles of rational criticism were worked out and applied in all seriousness. Then these maxims began to be applied, sometimes timidly and sometimes in scorn and shallowness, to the sacred history and literature as well. To claim, as the defenders of the faith were fain to do, that this one department of history was exempt, was only to tempt historians to say that this was equivalent to confession that we have not here to do with history at all.
Nor can we overlook the fact that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed a great philosophical revival. Here again it is the rationalist principle which is everywhere at work. The observations upon nature, the new feeling concerning man, the vast complex of facts and impulses which we have been able in these few words to suggest, demanded a new philosophical treatment. The philosophy which now took its rise was no longer the servant of theology. It was, at most, the friend, and even possibly the enemy, of theology. Before the end of the rationalist period it was the master of theology, though often wholly indifferent to theology, exactly because of its sense of mastery. The great philosophers of the eighteenth century, Hume, Berkeley, and Kant, belong with a part only of their work and tendency to the rationalist movement. Still their work rested upon that which had already been done by Spinoza and Malebranche, by Hobbes and Leibnitz, by Descartes and Bayle, by Locke and Wolff, by Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists. With all of the contrasts among these men there are common elements. There is an ever increasing antipathy to the thought of original sin and of supernatural revelation, there is the confidence of human reason, the trust in the will of man, the enthusiasm for the simple, the natural, the intelligible and practical, the hatred of what was scholastic and, above all, the repudiation of authority.
All these elements led, toward the end of the period, to the effort at the construction of a really rational theology. Leibnitz and Lessing both worked at that problem. However, not until after the labours of Kant was it possible to utilise the results of the rationalist movement for the reconstruction of theology. If evidence for this statement were wanting, it could be abundantly given from the work of Herder. He was younger than Kant, yet the latter seems to have exerted but slight influence upon him. He earnestly desired to reinterpret Christianity in the new light of his time, yet perhaps no part of his work is so futile.
Allusion has been made to pietism. We have no need to set forth its own achievements. We must recur to it merely as one of the influences which made the transition from the century of rationalism to bear, in Germany, an aspect different from that which it bore in any other land. Pietism had at first much in common with rationalism. It shared with the latter its opposition to the whole administration of religion established by the State, its antagonism to the social distinctions which prevailed, its individualism, its emphasis upon the practical. It was part of a general religious reaction against ecclesiasticism, as were also Jansenism in France, and Methodism in England, and the Whitefieldian revival in America. But, through the character of Spener, and through the peculiarity of German social relations, it gained an influence over the educated classes, such as Methodism never had in England, nor, on the whole, the Great Awakening in America. In virtue of this, German pietism was able, among influential persons, to present victorious opposition to the merely secular tendencies of the rationalistic movement. In no small measure it breathed into that movement a religious quality which in other lands was utterly lacking. It gave to it an ethical seriousness from which in other places it had too often set itself free.
In England there had followed upon the age of the great religious conflict one of astounding ebb of spiritual interest. Men turned with all energy to the political and economic interests of a wholly modern civilisation. They retained, after a short period of friction, a smug and latitudinarian orthodoxy, which Methodism did little to change. In France not only was the Huguenot Church annihilated, but the Jansenist movement was savagely suppressed. The tyranny of the Bourbon State and the corruption of the Gallican Church which was so deeply identified with it caused the rationalist movement to bear the trait of a passionate opposition to religion. In the time of Pascal, Jansenism had a moment when it bade fair to be to France what pietism was to Germany. Later, in the anguish and isolation of the conflict the movement lost its poise and intellectual quality. In Germany, even after the temporary alliance of pietism and rationalism against the Church had been transcended, and the length and breadth of their mutual antagonism had been revealed, there remained a deep mutual respect and salutary interaction. Obscurantists and sentimentalists might denounce rationalism. Vulgar ranters like Dippel and Barth might defame religion. That had little weight as compared with the fact that Klopstock, Hamann and Herder, Jacobi, Goethe and Jean Paul, had all passed at some time under the influence of pietism. Lessing learned from the Moravians the undogmatic essence of religion. Schleiermacher was bred among the devoted followers of Zinzendorf. Even the radicalism of Kant retained from the teaching of his pietistic youth the stringency of its ethic, the sense of the radical evil of human nature and of the categorical imperative of duty. It would be hard to find anything to surpass his testimony to the purity of character and spirit of his parents, or the beauty of the home life in which he was bred. Such facts as these made themselves felt both in the philosophy and in the poetry of the age. The rationalist movement itself came to have an ethical and spiritual trait. The triviality, the morbidness and superstition of pietism received their just condemnation. But among the leaders of the nation in every walk of life were some who felt the drawing to deal with ethical and religious problems in the untrammelled fashion which the century had taught.
We may be permitted to try to show the meaning of pietism by a concrete example. No one can read the correspondence between the youthful Schleiermacher and his loving but mistaken father, or again, the lifelong correspondence of Schleiermacher with his sister, without receiving, if he has any religion of his own, a touching impression of what the pietistic religion meant. The father had long before, unknown to the son, passed through the torments of the rational assault upon a faith which was sacred to him. He had preached, through years, in the misery of contradiction with himself. He had rescued his drowning soul in the ark of the most intolerant confessional orthodoxy. In the crisis of his son's life he pitiably concealed these facts. They should have been the bond of sympathy. The son, a sorrowful little motherless boy, was sent to the Moravian school at Niesky, and then to Barby. He was to escape the contamination of the universities, and the woes through which his father had passed. Even there the spirit of the age pursued him. The precocious lad, in his loneliness, raised every question which the race was wrestling with. He long concealed these facts, dreading to wound the man he so revered. Then in a burst of filial candour, he threw himself upon his father's mercy, only to be abused and measurelessly condemned. He had his way. He resorted to Halle, turned his back on sacred things, worked in titanic fashion at everything but the problem of religion. At least he kept his life clean and his soul sensitive among the flagrantly immoral who were all about him, even in the pietists' own university. He laid the foundations for his future philosophical construction. He bathed in the sentiments and sympathies, poetic, artistic and humanitarian, of the romanticist movement. In his early Berlin period he was almost swept from his feet by its flood. He rescued himself, however, by his rationalism and romanticism into a breadth and power of faith which made him the prophet of the new age. By him, for a generation, men like-minded saved their souls. As one reads, one realises that it was the pietists' religion which saved him, and which, in another sense, he saved. His recollections of his instruction among the Herrnhuter are full of beauty and pathos. His sister never advanced a step upon the long road which he travelled. Yet his sympathy with her remained unimpaired. The two poles of the life of the age are visible here. The episode, full of exquisite personal charm, is a veritable miniature of the first fifty years of the movement which we have to record. No one did for England or for France what Schleiermacher had done for the Fatherland.
Besides pietism, the Germany of the end of the eighteenth century possessed still another foil and counterpoise to its decadent rationalism. This was the so-called aesthetic-idealistic movement, which shades off into romanticism. The debt of Schleiermacher to that movement has been already hinted at. It was the revolt of those who had this in common with the pietists, that they hated and despised the outworn rationalism. They thought they wanted no religion. It is open to us to say that they misunderstood religion. It was this misunderstanding which Schleiermacher sought to bring home to them. What religion they understood, ecclesiasticism, Roman or Lutheran, or again, the banalities and fanaticisms of middle-class pietism, they despised. Their war with rationalism was not because it had deprived man of religion. It had been equally destructive of another side of the life of feeling, the aesthetic. Their war was not on behalf of the good, it was in the name of the beautiful. Rationalism had starved the soul, it had minimised and derided feeling. It had suppressed emotion. It had been fatal to art. It was barren of poetry. It had had no sympathy with history and no understanding of history. It had reduced everything to the process by which two and two make four. The pietists said that the frenzy for reason had made man oblivious of the element of the divine. The aesthetic idealists said that it had been fatal to the element of the human. From this point of view their movement has been called the new humanism. The glamour of life was gone, they said. Mystery had vanished. And mystery is the womb of every art. Rationalism had been absolutely uncreative, only and always destructive. Rousseau had earlier uttered this wail in France, and had greatly influenced certain minds in Germany. Shelley and Keats were saying something of the sort in England. Even as to Wordsworth, it may be an open question if his religion was not mainly romanticism. All these men used language which had been conventionally associated with religion, to describe this other emotion.
Rationalism had ended in proving deadly to ideals. This was true. But men forgot for the moment how glorious an ideal it had once been to be rational and to assert the rationality of the universe. Still the time had come when, in Germany at all events, the great cry was, 'back to the ideal.' It is curious that men always cry 'back' when they mean 'forward.' For it was not the old idealism, either religious or aesthetic, which they were seeking. It was a new one in which the sober fruits of rationalism should find place. Still, for the moment, as we have seen, the air was full of the cry, 'back to the State by divine right, back to the Church, back to the Middle Age, back to the beauty of classical antiquity.' The poetry, the romance, the artistic criticism of this movement set themselves free at a stroke from theological bondage and from the externality of conventional ethics. It shook off the dust of the doctrinaires. It ridiculed the petty utilitarianism which had been the vogue. It had such an horizon as men had never dreamed before. It owed that horizon to the rationalism it despised. From its new elevation it surveyed all the great elements of the life of man. It saw morals and religion, language and society, along with art and itself, as the free and unconscious product through the ages, of the vitality of the human spirit. It must be said that it neither solved nor put away the ancient questions. Especially through its one-sided aestheticism it veiled that element of dualism in the world which Kant clearly saw, and we now see again, after a century which has sometimes leaned to easy pantheism. However, it led to a study of the human soul and of all its activities, which came closer to living nature than anything which the world had yet seen.
To this group of aesthetic idealists belong, not to mention lesser names, Lessing and Hamann and Winckelmann, but above all Herder and Goethe. Herder was surely the finest spirit among the elder contemporaries of Goethe. Bitterly hostile to the rationalists, he had been moved by Rousseau to enthusiasm for the free creative life of the human spirit. With Lessing he felt the worth of every art in and for itself, and the greatness of life in its own fulfilment. He sets out from the analysis of the poetic and artistic powers, the appreciation of which seemed to him to be the key to the understanding of the spiritual world. Then first he approaches the analysis of the ethical and religious feeling. All the knowledge and insight thus gained he gathers together into a history of the spiritual life of mankind. This life of the human spirit comes forth everywhere from nature, is bound to nature. It constitutes one whole with a nature which the devout soul calls God, and apprehends within itself as the secret of all that it is and does. Even in the period in which he had become passionately Christian, Herder never was able to attain to a scientific establishing of his Christianity, or to any sense of the specific aim of its development. He felt himself to be separated from Kant by an impassable gulf. All the sharp antinomies among which Kant moved, contrasts of that which is sensuous with that which is reasonable, of experience with pure conception, of substance and form in thought, of nature and freedom, of inclination and duty, seemed to Herder grossly exaggerated, if not absolutely false. Sometimes Herder speaks as if the end of life were simply the happiness which a man gets out of the use of all his powers and out of the mere fact of existence. Deeper is Kant's contention, that the true aim of life can be only moral culture, even independent of happiness, or rather one must find his noblest happiness in that moral culture.
At a period in his life when Herder had undergone conversion to court orthodoxy at Bueckeburg and threatened to throw away that for which his life had stood, he was greatly helped by Goethe. The identification of Herder with Christianity continued to be more deep and direct than that of Goethe ever became, yet Goethe has also his measure of significance for our theme. If he steadied Herder in his religious experience, he steadied others in their poetical emotionalism and artistic sentimentality, which were fast becoming vices of the time. The classic repose of his spirit, his apparently unconscious illustration of the ancient maxim, 'nothing too much,' was the more remarkable, because there were few influences in the whole gamut of human life to which he did not sooner or later surrender himself, few experiences which he did not seek, few areas of thought upon which he did not enter. Systems and theories were never much to his mind. A fact, even if it were inexplicable, interested him much more. To the evolution of formal thought in his age he held himself receptive rather than directing. He kept, to the last, his own manner of brooding and creating, within the limits of a poetic impressionableness which instinctively viewed the material world and the life of the soul in substantially similar fashion. There is something almost humorous in the way in which he eagerly appropriated the results of the philosophising of his time, in so far as he could use these to sustain his own positions, and caustically rejected those which he could not thus use. He soon got by heart the negative lessons of Voltaire and found, to use the words which he puts into the mouth of Faust, that while it freed him from his superstitions, at the same time it made the world empty and dismal beyond endurance. In the mechanical philosophy which presented itself in the Systeme de la Nature as a positive substitute for his lost faith, he found only that which filled his poet's soul with horror. 'It appeared to us,' he says, 'so grey, so cimmerian and so dead that we shuddered at it as at a ghost. We thought it the very quintessence of old age. All was said to be necessary, and therefore there was no God. Why not a necessity for a God to take its place among the other necessities!' On the other hand, the ordinary teleological theology, with its external architect of the world and its externally determined designs, could not seem to Goethe more satisfactory than the mechanical philosophy. He joined for a time in Rousseau's cry for the return to nature. But Goethe was far too well balanced not to perceive that such a cry may be the expression of a very artificial and sophisticated state of mind. It begins indeed in the desire to throw off that which is really oppressive. It ends in a fretful and reckless revolt against the most necessary conditions of human life. Goethe lived long enough to see in France that dissolution of all authority, whether of State or Church, for which Rousseau had pined. He saw it result in the return of a portion of mankind to what we now believe to have been their primitive state, a state in which they were 'red in tooth and claw.' It was not that paradisaic state of love and innocence, which, curiously enough, both Rousseau and the theologians seem to have imagined was the primitive state.
The thought of the discipline and renunciation of our lower nature in order to the realisation of a higher nature of mankind is written upon the very face of the second part of Faust. Certain passages in Dichtung and Wahrheit are even more familiar. 'Our physical as well as our social life, morality, custom, knowledge of the world, philosophy, religion, even many an accidental occurrence in our daily life, all tell us that we must renounce.' 'Renunciation, once for all, in view of the eternal,' that was the lesson which he said made him feel an atmosphere of peace breathed upon him. He perceived the supreme moral prominence of certain Christian ideas, especially that of the atonement as he interpreted it. 'It is altogether strange to me,' he writes to Jacobi, 'that I, an old heathen, should see the cross planted in my own garden, and hear Christ's blood preached without its offending me.'
Goethe's quarrel with Christianity was due to two causes. In the first place, it was due to his viewing Christianity as mainly, if not exclusively, a religion of the other world, as it has been called, a religion whose God is not the principle of all life and nature and for which nature and life are not divine. In the second place, it was due to the prominence of the negative or ascetic element in Christianity as commonly presented, to the fact that in that presentation the law of self-sacrifice bore no relation to the law of self-realisation. In both of these respects he would have found himself much more at home with the apprehension of Christianity which we have inherited from the nineteenth century. The programme of charity which he outlines in the Wanderjahre as a substitute for religion would be taken to-day, so far as it goes, as a rather moderate expression of the very spirit of the Christian religion.