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application of it to functions of which it is essentially incapable : as, for instance, if we should attempt to explain the article of Redemption, " in relation to the Redeemer's act, as the efficient cause and condition of Redemption.” Its grossest form is that which sets up the natural understanding as the standard and measure of divine truth, which rejects as incredible all that is not comprehensible. Nevertheless, the soul of man cannot properly become religious, or possessed of a true and living faith, or be spiritually influenced and changed from evil to good, without the concurrence of the understanding in every stage of the process.
To Mr. Gladstone's merits as a writer and logician, Mrs. Coleridge pays the deepest reverence. The arguments she is opposing, she states, that she had never yet found so systematically set forth as in the chapter on Rationalism, in Mr. Gladstone's “Church Principles considered in their Results.”
In venturing to oppose the line of argument, or at least to except against the ambiguity of expression, in this particular chapter, she must be allowed to express her strong sense of the great general merit of the work. Indeed, she would have avoided expressing dissent from one whose tone is so Christian, and whose teaching is for the most part so pure and true, if she did not feel it necessary to give a reality and substance to the subject of her remarks, by showing that the sort of language to which she adverts has been used by an author of note; that the unscriptural view which it seems to set up is that to which a certain theory of Sacraments has conducted a most thoughtful and gifted writer; that she has not encountered a chimæra, nor commented on the random sayings of superficial men, who have no character for profundity or logical acumen, nor stand conspicuous in a nation's eye among the teachers of their school. And she adds, that she does not need to be reminded, that the ultimate aim of those who thus express themselves, is not the depreciation of the human mind, but the exaltation of divine grace as conveyed by Baptism and the Supper of the Lord; and this through the confutation of teachers who represent the Word, written or spoken, as the principal means of grace; either leaving Sacraments out of their scheme altogether, or describing them as useful but not essential ministrations; that is, treating them just as they themselves seem inclined to treat the teaching of the truth as it is in Jesus, or, in other words, the inculcation of orthodox doctrine.
In the sense of Mr. Gladstone, and others of the nonjuring school, it is Rationalism to say that spiritual illumination is accompanied by a “consciously reflective process.” If so, St. Paul was a rationalist, since he requires that faith should come by hearing: if through the sense, then through the understanding. The Scriptures, too, are generally rationalistic, since they also insist on eyes to see, and ears to hear, and ascribe the alienation of the Gentiles to ignorance as its cause. The Psalmist requires understanding, in order to his observing the law, and the Proverbialist is continually recommending the expediency of instruction. No man can become religious without some kind of intellectual knowledge.
"Religion," writes Mrs. Coleridge, “as an attribute of the soul, is light as well as life; and this light can only be realised within us by the faculty of thought, which first
renders us conscious of possessing it, and brings it forward as a determinant of the will. It is only in thinking, a function of the intellect, that we enter into the use of reason; it is only when reason comes into play that the will, the constituent of humanity, begins to act or be actualised; it is only in willing conformably to right reason, when that has been potentiated from above, that man commences a religious course, a walking in the Spirit: in this process understanding is necessary, but not more so than the faculty of sense; a higher station we may assign it from its contiguity to the higher powers of the soul, but its office is not higher in kind than that of the sensitive faculty, or even that of the outward organ; for it is strictly ministrative and subordinate: only, as pertaining to the mind, though connected with our corporeal part, it is capable of being expanded and refined by the spiritual objects presented to it, and thus of partaking in the general renovation of the soul. To be religious is a coming to God, and he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. The ideas to which revelation refers are irrepresentable in the forms of the human understanding, but the words and conceptions by means of which those ideas are brought to light within us are objects of that faculty. Before the will can be renewed, and the affections purified and sanctified, there must be a hearing of divine truth, or, at all events, a reception of it by the percipient and concipient mind,* either from the written or spoken word, or from the face of the visible creation. Even the ministration of the Spirit supersedes not the work of the understanding; but it is plain from Scripture, that the knowledge of the truth by the eye and ear, and the thinking mind, has ever been the way to righteousness through the gift of God.
“With such a principle as that against which I contend—the principle that righteousness may be engendered within us by spiritual agency previously to intellectual apprehension of religious truth-the philosophy of Coleridge has no connexion, though the animated language in which he denounces the usurpations of the mere earthly intellect, considered as it is in itself, not as irradiated by divine light, may have seemed to countenance it. His warnings are directed against the insulation of the understanding :' he never denies or forgets that, as an instrumental faculty, it is necessary to the acquisition of saving knowledge, and consequently to the rise and progress of religion in the soul."
It may be asked, “Is a mere assent of the understanding to Gospel truths—a bare reception of the word according to the letter and notion
—all that is required ?” To this we answer, No! But in every operation, in and by which the soul is brought to God, the understanding subordinately co-operates. The faculty of thought is an indispensable instrument to the conversion of the soul.
“ The notion, however, that grace enters the soul by the affections before the understanding has been excited, is supposed to hew out and prepare the way for a certain doctrine of Sacraments; that, namely, which teaches that the grace they minister is conveyed into the soul before its acceptance by the will, antecedently to living faith, and not concurrently with it, eren in those who are the conscious subjects of spiritual operations and graces. But how is this? If it is not through the 'intelligent self,' the conscious mind, that the grace of Sacraments operates, their efficacy has no more to do with divine influence received through the heart, than with the reception of Christianity through the understanding; for the latter belongs not more manifestly to the will than the former; and where the intellect is incapable of acting, the affections can do nothing toward sanctifying the spirit. Though in one
* “Perhaps the safer use of the term understanding, for general purposes, is to take it as the mind, or rather as the man himself considered as a concipient as well as percipient being, and reason as a power supervening. Statesman's Manual, Appendix B, p. 264."
sense a man was born into the world when the infant saw the light, yet was there a heart in that new-born man to feel the goodness of his Maker, any more than a tongue to sound his praise? Without the outward senses the soul must remain for ever in an infantine state; time could not educate it without that external ministry; but neither could the senses awaken the slumbering spirit except in conjunction with the faculty of thought."
The reader is now in possession of the difference between the late Mr. Coleridge and the present Mr. Gladstone : the former rests the validity of the Church's sacraments on an intelligent acceptance; the latter insists on a blind unreasoning obedience, the affections having been prompted by some authorised priest as their spiritual guide, and the feelings excited by superstitious rites. As material intuitions require their connecting form from the intellect, so in like manner spiritual cognitions remain formless and blind but for the plastic agency of the understanding. Doubtless, such spiritual cognitions are required, and are only to be spiritually discerned; but the intervention of the understanding and the consent of the will are equally required, before we can render to God a reasonable service.
“ All the conversions recorded in the New Testament bear witness to the truth that vital influences of religion are not admitted to the heart till a way has been opened to them by the understanding. The Keeper of the prison spoken of in the sixteenth chapter of the Acts seems to have adopted the Christian faith as suddenly as any whose case is on record; yet it would be easy to show that he was brought to believe savingly by the medium of his understanding as truly as any other man. The earthquake might have terrified a mind in which no thought of religion had ever been entertained; but this terror could not have led to a search after spiritual safety, had it not been for its connexion with that evangelical teaching on account of which Paul and Silas were then in custody. And when he fell on his knees, asking, What shall I do to be saved ? did the Apostles tell him that he was fit for baptism in right of his shapeless emotions and indefinite religious apprehensions ? Were they content to make him a member of the Church at once, while he was stretching out his hands in the dark, to find the rock of salvation? It does not appear so. Their answer is, that he must believe. Did they expect him to believe without instruction ? Did they intimate that intellectual apprehension was no necessary precondition of the awakening of spiritual life in the soul? On the contrary, the sacred historian tells us that they spake unto him the words of the Lord, and unto all that were in the house, that is to say, they set orthodox doctrine before his mind as a preparation for baptism. Questionless, they who in those days were brought into the way of life had not the whole scheme of doctrine unfolded to them, as learned theologians now expound it to their pupils in successive lectures. The question only is, were they converted by an impression made upon their hearts without any activity on the part of their understandings; were not their reason and moral sense appealed to by means of the faculty of thought? The disciples at Ephesus, who had not so much as heard if there be any Holy Ghost, are generally cited as instances of very simple believers; though, as Pearson observes, they could not be supposed ignorant of the Holy Ghost, but only of the special gift of the Spirit attendant on Christian baptism. In respect of these, however, is it not plainly implied in the sacred narrative, that St. Paul removed this ignorance of theirs, before he united them to the Christian body? We need not suppose, indeed, that the apostles discoursed to the Ephesian converts upon the nature and office of the Holy Spirit, elaborately and scientifically displaying the subject in the whole length and breadth that it can occupy in the intellectual region of the human mind. But is it not something like fighting with shadows, to set about to establish the contrary; for who maintains the inculcation of Christian doctrine, as an indispensable preliminary to the work of grace, in any such sense as this?”
In opposition to such arguments Mr. Gladstone asserts that “it is rationalistic to maintain that intellectual apprehension is a necessary or invariable precondition of spiritual agency upon the soul”—that “the natural entry of grace into the soul of man is by the affections, and anterior to the action of the understanding upon the subject" that “spiritual life can be initiated otherwise than through an intellectual process”— that “an antecedent spiritual influence is necessary to enable us to appreciate moral truth”—and that a “consciously reflective process is not necessarily the medium through which right feelings are engendered in the heart.”
To this, Mrs. Coleridge replies, that “To intellectualise upon religion, and to receive it by means of the understanding, are two different things, and the common exertion of this faculty should of course be distinguished from that special use of it, in which one man differs from another, by reason of stronger original powers of mind, or greater improvement of them by exercise.
* A simple peasant might have understood that Henry or Edward was King of England, and played the part of a loyal subject, who was quite unable to write an essay, or deliver a speech on the monarchical constitution of this realm. Even so a man may believe savingly all the articles of the Apostle's creed, who could not write like Bishop Pearson on the subject, or even understand all that Bishop Pearson has written. What Leighton remarks on the ability of the preacher, applies equally to that of the hearer. In this spiritual work, to revive a soul, to beget it anew, the influence of Heaven is the main thing requisite. All instruments are alike in an Almighty hand.'"
It is not required that a man should have mastered divinity as a system of doctrines; but if, on the other hand, a man may become godly and righteous without any exertion of thought, then, indeed, Mrs. Coleridge adds, “he may be made a new creature, from whom all old things are passed away, while all the higher powers and faculties of his soul are still and silent, as the mill, with the apparatus of its wheels and machinery, at dead of night.” Such an one would begin to sin as soon as he began to think. Such is the doctrine of Rome ; and thus she forbids thinking. Well may Mrs. Coleridge characterise Mr. Gladstone's reasonings as being of that class which are in spirit opposed to the spirit that produced the Reformation.
The true doctrine is this : Christ by his Spirit cleanses those who know and believe in him. There are, however, certain ordinances whereby he has promised in an especial manner to bestow the blessing.
" Sacraments are an essential part of the visible Church system as truly as the ministry of the word, though in this respect I hold them subordinate, that they depend wholly upon the latter for their efficacy, faith wrought mediately by the knowledge of the truth being the condition upon which the grace annexed to them is received; since, even in the case of infant baptism, it must be present in those who bring the child to the font: whereas it would be too bold a thing to say that the word can in no case regenerate, as an instrument, unless the sacrament of regeneration be duly administered. It is not ordinarily the will of God to bestow spiritual life without both, or rather it is ordinarily his will to bestow it by means of hoth; yet' there may be in divers cases life by virtue of inward baptism, even where outward is not found ;'* but baptism never bestows its vital blessings except where the teaching of the word prepares the way for its due administration and reception."
* “ Eccl. Pol. book v. ch. lx. 5."
" To deny the grace of Sacraments because it is unintelligible, would indeed be rationalism ; but I believe it is a mistake to suppose that the unorthodox notions which have crept in upon this subject, and which prevail so much in the masses of the people, originate in any over-high estimate of the rational understanding, or any dislike to mystery in matters of faith. That the intellectual faculty has but a subordinate function in religion, procuring salvation mediately as the minister of the Spirit through whose agency the soul is brought to behold the things that concern her eternal welfare; that the word has no power to save, as furnishing the head with doctrine, but as enabling men to substantiate things hoped for and to behold things unseen with the bodily eye, is, I believe, very generally felt by those who dwell upon the necessity and power of sound teaching, whether they have correct views of sacraments or incorrect ones. Can we believe that the very numerous and influential body who are characterised positively by special fervour in showing the necessity of faith and the spiritual mind, and negatively by a comparative indifference to sacraments, are tainted to the core with Pelagianism; or can they fairly be accused of leading others to adopt it ?*
* "As a specimen of the way in which the mere dwelling on the power of the word is supposed to indicate rationalistic and Pelagianising tendencies, I give the following note from one of the Tracts for the Times. Hence' (that is, from extolling the efficacy of certain motives, when faithfully set forth to move and win men's affections') 'the unconscious tendency to rationalism among many of our evidencewriters, who set forth the inherent efficacy of the great Christian doctrines, and thereby teach others to substitute the doctrines of the Gospel for the operations of the Holy Spirit. To take a passage of this kind from a popular American work :
A knowledge of the death of Christ, with the explanation of it, given in the Scriptures, touches men's hearts; it shows the nature and tendencies of sin; it produces fear of God's displeasure, and resolution to return to duty; and thus produces effects by which justice is satisfied.' (Mr Abbott's Corner-Stone, p. 174.)' Tracts for the Times, vol. ii. part ii. p. 92. Pelagianism may be taught in two ways, either positively or negatively; positively, by certain assertions concerning man's power to will or to do, without special aid from above; or negatively, by a studious exaltation of the means of grace apart from all mention of grace itself. That The Corner-Stone' errs in the first article, is not asserted; neither can it be truly said that it errs in the second, for it repeatedly declares the necessity of divine influence, and that in strong and distinct language, such as cannot possibly be misunderstood.* Nay, more; the tendency of its teaching is decidedly Anti-Pelagian, for several of its homely but vivid illustrations are devoted to the express purpose of showing how utterly ineffective all outward teaching of religion too frequently becomes.t But perhaps the passage cited is incorrect in
* "Allusions to divine influence are scattered throughout. The Corner-Stone,' but it is more particularly treated at the end of the first chapter, at the end of the fourth, in the seventh and tenth. In the ninth, too, on the means of spreading the gospel, the author expresses himself thus: · The work which we have to do, is to touch the heart, not to pour cold light on the mind. Now, to awaken warm feeling in the heart is unquestionably the province of the Spirit of God. We cannot effect it alone, but we may adapt our efforts to this design; and, at all events, we may so manage them as not to thwart or oppose it.' So afterwards : · The Holy Spirit can operate any. where and with any means-to-day he gives meaning and power to the Scriptures ; to-morrow he indites a prayer, or gives to reflections which have been utterly unable to affect the heart, power to overwhelm it with emotion. There is much more in the little volume to the same effect : but as the author's aim plainly is to incite men to set about the business of religion, rather than to improve them in theology, he very naturally dwells a good deal on the human means and methods by which we may be labourers together with God (1 Cor. iii. 9,) (if without offence I may use a phrase of Scripture,) on what we are to do in working out our own salvation.”
+ “ There are several examples of this kind in chapter iii.”