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Ал 10.16.45 53490
TO THE THIRD EDITION.
Soon after the publication of the first edition of this book, the author was asked by a friend, whether he thought that the opinions which characterized the volume could be regarded as “ ultimate.” As no one can foresee the future changes of his own mind, he answered with an affirmative. But the expression remained in his memory; and now that he is obliged to re-open his half-forgotten work after the lapse of so many years, he is struck with the pertinence of the question, and sees how much more sagaciously a man may be interpreted by his critics than by himself. In fact, it is not without hesitation that he has consented to re-issue a book, of whose faults he has acquired so profound a sense, and in which few topics are presented in the manner that now seems to him the best.
On reflection, however, he is convinced that the preparation of this new edition is an act not in any way unfaithful
to truth, but only humiliating to himself. For, the alteration in his point of view which somewhat estranges him from this volume, consists not in the reversal, but in the further unfolding and prosecution, of its judgments ; and in the acquisition of other views so related to these, as to form their complement, and greatly to diminish their apparent magnitude. The path which he has indicated, through the controversies and sophistries of the day, he still believes to be a right one; and though well aware how small a way it leads, he leaves it open for those to whose doubtful feet it may afford true, though temporary, guidance.
The same considerations which have prevailed with the author to re-issue this book, have induced him to leave it without material alteration. Had it contained opinions which he deemed false, and arguments which he perceived to be unsound, the duty would have been imperative, and the difficulty trivial, of recanting the opinions and refuting the arguments. But to render the volume an expression of his present modes of thought would have required much less than this in one way, and much more in another; without involving the recal of any important statement, it would have demanded such a recast of the whole construction, and such a change in the complexion of the sentiment and language, as could not have been made without destroying the identity of the book. Other occasions either have arisen, or may arise, for supplying what is most defective, and limiting what is too absolute, here. Every one whose mind goes through any thing like a history, must be content either to remain silent, or to say one thing at a time.
There is, however, one opinion maintained in the preface to the second edition, and omitted in this, which it would be disingenuous to pass without a word. The name Christian is there denied to the class of persons usually called Antisupernaturalists ; and for that denial reasons are given which the Author does not now think to be conclusive in their whole extent. He was not at that time acquainted with any form of Antisupernaturalism but one : that which professes to account for Christ and Christianity, and to discern the system of second causes to which all the characteristics of the religion and its author may be referred. To this scheme of belief he still thinks it improper to apply the term Christian. Those who hold it may entertain opinions concurrent with the views of Christ; but perceiving clearly, as they imagine, how he came by them, they regard him, at best, not as the Master of their faith, but as fellow-pupil with them of the same arguments. Whoever sees in Christ, not an original source of truth and goodness, but only a product of something else, is destitute of the attitude of mind constituting religious discipleship; which implies, not that we have been convinced by the reasoning of an equal, but that we have been subdued by the authority, and possessed by the intuitions of a higher mind. To take something on trust, to feel its self-evidence, to bend before its
vealer as above ourselves—human indeed as he speaks to our consciousness, divine as he transcends our analysis-appears to be essential to the disciple, and to constitute the difference between scientific agreement and religious faith. This state of mind, however, which recognizes what is beyond nature in Christ, and owns a divine and “supernatural'
authority in bis religion, may co-exist with doubt, or even disbelief, in the miracles recorded in the Scriptures. Such scepticism may arise in an enquirer's mind without altering in any way his religious classification. Nothing more is implied in it than simply a new estimate of certain historical testimony, a new conception of the manner in which the early Christian literature assumed its present form, without the slightest change of reverential posture towards the great Object which this medium presents. This species of doubt constitutes, therefore, no disqualification for discipleship; and those who are possessed by it may be as truly Christian as the stoutest believer in the plagues of Egypt and the demons in the swine.
There is a broad distinction to be drawn between philosophical anti-supernaturalism, which regards a niracle as per se incredible, and disowns whatever is irreducible to necessary causation, and historical anti-supernaturalism, which, from a critical estimate of testimony, questions certain particular miracles, without any abatement of the preternatural claims of the religion in whose records they appear. The former wholly excludes the idea of revelation, and gets rid of every thing that presents itself as an object of wonder and worship; it is, therefore, in the author's opinion, essentially irreligious, and is prevented, only by the want of logical strength and clearness in those who hold it, from lapsing into materialistic Atheisin. The latter in no way interferes with the persuasion of an inspiration from the living God; it rather shifts the ground than lessens the amount of supernatural belief, and transfers to the soul of Christ whatever wonder has been lost