Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

with the Finite ;-though we know not how such a coëxistence is possible. We cannot be conscious of the Infinite; but we can be and are conscious of the limits of our own powers of thought; and therefore we know that the possibility or impossibility of conception is no test of the possibility or impossibility of existence. We know that, unless we admit the existence of the Infinite, the existence of the Finite is inexplicable and self-contradictory; and yet we know that the conception of the Infinite itself appears to involve contradictions no less inexplicable. In this impotence of Reason, we are compelled to take refuge in Faith, and to believe that an Infinite Being exists, though we know not how; and that He is the same with that Being who is made known in consciousness as our Sustainer and our Lawgiver. For to deny that an Infinite Being exists, because we cannot comprehend the manner of His existence, is, of two equally inconceivable alternatives, to accept the one which renders that very inconceivability itself inexplicable. If the Finite is the universe of existence, there is no reason why that universe itself should not be as conceivable as the several parts of which it is composed. Whence comes it then that our whole consciousness is compassed about with restrictions, which we are ever striving to pass, and ever failing in the effort ? Whence comes it that the Finite cannot measure the Finite? The very consciousness of our own limitations of thought bears witness to the existence of the Unlimited, who is beyond thought. The shadow of the Infinite still broods over the consciousness of the finite ; and we wake up at last from the dream of absolute wisdom, to confess, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.'” pp. 126, 127, 128.

In short, the knowledge which we possess of God, whether it be derived from the light of nature or communicated in the Bible, is relative to our finite capacity. It is, therefore, imperfect, consisting of symbols, by which the Supreme Being teaches us, not what He is—such a revelation would be impossible—but how he wills that we should conceive of Him. But let Mr. Mansel speak for himself.

“The result of the preceding considerations may be summed up as follows. There are two modes in which we may endeavor to contemplate the Deity: the one negative, based on a vain attempt to transcend the conditions of human thought, and to expand the religious consciousness to the infinity of its Divine Object; the other positive, which keeps within its proper limits, and views the object in a manner accommodated to the finite capacities of the human thinker. The first aspires to behold God in His absolute nature : the second is content to view Him in those relations in which he has been pleased to manifest Himself to his creatures. The first aims at a speculative knowledge of God as He is; but bound by the conditions of finite thought, even in the attempt to transgress them, obtains nothing more than a tissue of ambitious self-contradictions, which indicate only what He is not. The second, abandoning the speculative knowledge of the infinite, as only possible to the Infinite Intelligence itself, is content with those regulative ideas of the Deity, which are sufficient to guide our practice, but not to satisfy our intellect; which tell us, not what God is in himself, but how He wills that we should think of Him. In renouncing all knowledge of the Absolute, it renounces at the same time all attempts to construct a priori scheines of God's Providence as it ought to be : it does not seek to reconcile this or that phenomenon, whether in nature or in revelation, with the absolute attributes of Deity ; but confines itself to the actual course of that Providence as manifested in the world; and seeks no higher internal criterion of the truth of a religion, than may be derived from its analogy to other parts of the Divine Gov. ernment. Guided by this, the only true Philosophy of Religion, man is content to practise where he is unable to speculate. He acts, as one who must give an account of his conduct; he prays, believing that his prayer will be answered. He does not seek to reconcile this belief with any theory of the Infinite ; for he does not even know how the Infinite and the Finite can exist together. But he feels that his several duties rest upon the same basis : he knows that, if human action is not incompatible with Infinite Power, neither is human worship with Infinite Wisdom and Goodness; though it is not as the Infinite that God reveals Himself in His moral government; nor is it as the Infinite that He promises to answer prayer.” pp. 131, 132.

The advantages of the philosophy of religion which Mr. Mansel has so well expounded are obvious. It shows that the pretensions of Pantheism are without foundation, and that the objections which the Pantheist brings to the doctrine of a personal God return upon himself with destructive force. No theist can follow the merciless logic with which Hamilton in his review of Cousin tears to shreds the systems of the Absolute in their different forms, without profound satisfaction. Because he cannot conceive of the Absolute as personal, the Pantheist dogmatically affirms that the Absoluto is impersonal, not seeing that the doctrine to which he retreats is attended with, to say the least, as many contradictions. Moreover, in order to sink himself in these contradictions, he is obliged to identify evil with good, to attribute both to the Supreme Being, and to give the to man's moral nature, which asserts his freedom and responsibility. On this philosophy, the Necessitarian is put to silence, for while a free act is admitted to be inconceivable, being an absolute beginning, a new existence,-necessity is shown to be equally inconceivable and self-contradictory. And our faith in freedom is carried by the practical conviction we have of the fact, and by the otherwise insoluble feelings of remorse and self-approbation.

But is Hamilton's doctrine of the inconceivability of the infinite, true? Will the corner stone on which this whole edifice is erected keep its place? We are by no means certain that the antinomies either of Kant or of Hamilton are made out to exist. It may be the fact that absolutely bounded space is unthinkable because it is the opposite of a known and necessary reality, while infinite space cannot be represented to the mind for another reason which does not interfere with our belief in its objective existence. We admit the impossibility of bounded space, we do not admit the impossibility of infinite space. It is asserted that the infinite cannot be conceived as having attributes, because it is thus made relative. But is it not more than a weakness of thought that leads us to characterize the Infinite? Is it not an intuitive truth that the infinite cannot exist without attributes that an entity, divested of attributes, is reduced to zero ? that if the infinite has no characteristics, it is nothing? And does not this philosophy in effect obliterate the infinite itself as well as our conception of it?

Not to pursue these questions, we content ourselves at this time with avowing the opinion that Mr. Mansel goes too far in his concessions. He grants to the opponent of Christian theism more ground than he can lawfully claim. He is brought in consequence to the adoption of some false and dangerous sentiments which tend to skepticism. We think him wrong in the statement that personality cannot, without contradiction, be attributed to the infinite and the absolute, that to our reason the personal and the unconditioned are incompatible notions. If his proposition on this point be true, there is indeed an end to theology. What we have to say of his work in the way of adverse criticism may as well begin with this all-important topic.

We deny, then, that to affirm personality of the Infinite Being involves contradiction. The question has been discussed in a very able manner by Dr. Julius Müller, in his work on the Christian Doctrine of Sin, a work than which none more valuable (or worse translated) has been added to the theological literature of the present age. In the course of his work, which we have found a veritable mine of valuable thought and apposite erudition, Müller has occasion to handle this ques. tion; and he undertakes to show that the limitations which are admitted to exist in the case of man, are not essential to personality itself, and do not belong to God, who can be personal at the same time that He is absolute.

Man is limited by his relation to God and by his relation to the race, as an individual member. God has the ground of His being in Himself. He is not without attributes; but in

; His self-consciousness there is an undisturbed, perfect harmony and an infinite fullness; and hence He is absolute.* Dr. Müller shows that the infinite not only cannot be conceived of as not characterized, but cannot exist uncharacterized. He maintains that indetermination would make the absolute finite, but that the absolute may have attributes and still be infinite. His reasoning, we may add, demonstrates that the trinitarian hypothesis is more rational and more convenient to theism than the unitarian theory. The Divine love has an object within the Godhead, and the imagined necessity for a world to give reality to the divine affections, (which would bring God into the sphere of the conditioned,) is removed: “ Thou lovedst me," said the Son, before the foundation of the world."

The arguments of Dr. Müller are of such a nature that no abridgment can do them justice, or even make them intelligi. ble to our readers. They conduct us into the most abstruse regions of metaphysical inquiry. But into these regions the Pantheist has made it necessary for us to go, and we rejoice that men are found who are competent to explore them, and to expose the fallacies of unbeliet .

The personality of God, in the strict sense, is a truth of so vital moment, and one so necessary to be asserted at the present day, that we dislike to see any semblance of indecision in respect to it. Mr. Mansel indeed declares that we are bound to believe that God is both infinite and personal, although we are unable to see how these attributes can possibly coexist. Yet there are passages in his book which teach that even His personality is a symbol, is language accommodated to our weakness, is relative, is so far froin representing Him as He is, that we have no right to found reasonings upon it. We earnestly protest against these passages as inconsistent with the author's declaration that we are bound to believe God to be in reality personal; as unwarranted deductions from his own position, and as casting uncertainty upon our religious faith. We are not only obliged to regard Him as a personal Being, He is a personal Being. And we have as much right to make use of this truth as we have to make use of any other fact in the compass of our knowledge.

*“Gott is der Unendliche, weil die Fülle seines Wesens von aussen unbegrenzt und in sich selbst ungestörte, vollkommne Harmonie ist, in welcher ein Element das andre nicht negirt sondern bestätigt."— Müller Lehre von der Sünde, B. II. S. 168.

Mr. Mansel would throw a similar doubt over our conception of God's justice and other moral perfections. It is an old, familiar truth in theology that our relations to other beings do not adequately or fully represent the relations of God to His creatures and his universal kingdom, and that the expressions of justice are modified by peculiarity of relations. It is another old truth, that the dispensations of God are often inscrutable and that man may be unable to see how a given act of the Most High is dictated by justice, while our confidence in His character forbids us to doubt it. These two considerations have been always deemed sufficient to obviate objections against the dealings of Divine Providence as made known in Natural and Revealed Religion. But Mr. Mansel does not stop with them. He argues that the principle of justice in man is so imperfect and untrustworthy an image of the principle of justice in God, or of what we call the Divine Jug. tice, that the suggestion of difficulties or objections in regard to His dispensations, is wholly illogical and out of place. So he would defend the Christian doctrine of Atonement, and such events as the slaughter of the Canaanites by the Divine command. How do we know what justice in God is? And if we do not know, what right have we to think that anything which He does is unjust? And what right have we, our author might have added, to think that anything which He does, is just ? As far as Mr. Mansel goes in this direction, he is the involuntary advocate of skepticism. There is, according to this idea, an element of error as well as of ignorance, in our adoration of God as just. We know not what we mean when we predicate justice of Him ; at least, we know not that what we mean is true. Well may our author think that he is aiming a death-blow at dogmatic theology. In destroying theol

a

« ПредишнаНапред »