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God as towards the world. . . . Each soul stands close to the omnipresent God; may feel his beautiful presence, and have familiar access to the All-Father; get truth at the first hand from its Author. Wisdom, Righteousness, and Love, are the Spirit of God in the soul of man; wherever these are, and just in proportion to their power, there is inspiration from God."* He continues; not, we think, with the same just discrimination.
“ It is plain from the nature of things that there can be but one kind of Inspiration, as of Truth, Faith, or Love: it is the direct and intuitive perception of some truth, either of thought or of sentiment. There can be but one mode of Inspiration : it is the action of the Highest within the Soul, the divine presence imparting light; this presence, as Truth, Justice, Holiness, Love, infusing itself into the soul, giving it new life; the breathing-in of Deity; the in-come of God to the soul, in the form of Truth through the Reason, of Right through the Conscience, of Love and Faith through the Affections and Religious Sentiment. Is Inspiration confined to theological matters alone? Most surely not. Is Newton less inspired than Simon Peter ?"
The concluding instance indicates the error which pervades the foregoing passage. What is the specific relation of the normal action of the highest human faculties, or of that rare and peculiar exercise of them which constitutes genius, to the Great Source of all mind, we need not here attempt to discuss. It is sufficient to see that, practically, a wide difference subsists between scientific or artistic genius, and the inspiration which we associate with the influence and working of religion. Given their data and materials, the philosopher and the poet produce their results by mental processes which can be tested and verified, and are amenable to the laws of a universal logic; which can be controlled and directed by the will, and rendered more effective and complete by industry and cultivation. But in every form of religious inspiration there is an element of the transcendental which comes and goes independent of the will, which eludes the grasp of empirical rules, and carries us into a world beyond the reach of sensible experience. Men come to know God and understand their relation to him by a deep inward feeling, which is less clearly expressed by words than in the spirit of a life and character, and must be imparted to others more by sympathy than by instruction. This apprehension of the spiritual is latent indeed in all men, and its manifestations are subject to the general laws of the mental and material world; so that, in this general sense, we may say with Theodore Parker that “Inspiration, like God's omnipresence, is co-extensive with
* Discourse, &c. book ii. ch, viii.
the race.” But it will not be denied that this power of seizing spiritual truth, this susceptibility of religious impression, exists with a very marked diversity of clearness and intensity in different minds, and that the degree in which it exists bears no uniform proportion, as in the case of scientific or artistic genius, to a general development of intellectual faculty, but is found rather in connection with a certain type of moral qualities--humility, simplicity, purity, reverence, warm affections, childlike trust, and a straightforward adherence to the sense of right. It is by minds of this description that the presence of God is most profoundly realised, and an intuitive insight into his moral relations with the soul most distinctly possessed. Through their own strong faith they open glimpses into the invisible world, and bring out of it flashes of unsuspected light, which minds of far higher intellectual development would never have caught for themselves, although, when the revelation is once communicated, they recognise the truth which it transmitted, and deposit it henceforth among the unquestioned elements of their future belief. How many such elements have been thrown by the prophet into the world of mind, which the mere philosopher would never have detected, but which he imbibes with his mental atmosphere and mingles unconsciously with all his trains of thought! How differently would Bacon and Descartes and Spinoza have reasoned, if Jesus of Nazareth had never lived! Yet they were probably not aware of any direct obligation to him. The inspirations of religion constitute by their nature phenomena of a very peculiar kind, if not absolutely sui generis, in the history of our race, which have never yet been made the subject of such thorough comprehension and unprejudiced study as their vast influence on human action and happiness deserve. Dispassionate inquiry in this field might possibly yield results that would help to solve some of our most perplexing theological problems, if it were wide enough to embrace all religions, and took in such apparently abnormal cases as those of Jacob Böhme and Swedenborg: It shows a misapprehension of the point at issue, to institute a comparison between a philosopher like Newton and a simple missionary like Simon Peter. They belong to a different class of human phenomena; and we can only ascribe it to Mr. Parker's love of system, and his eagerness to uphold the uniformity of law, that he should have thought of bringing them within the limits of the same category: That both classes are ultimately reducible to some law, we do not doubt.
Mr. Parker rejects all miraculous attestation of religion. He denies the possibility of miracles, and treats every record of them as fictitious. This idea pervades all his writings, and is inherent in his theological system.* Considering the positive and unqualified tone of his language, it might have been expected of him that he should define with a little more precision the particular form of the doctrine which he is combating. Miracle is a vague term, and variously understood. But he throws all who are opposed to his own theory into one class, and supposes them to hold the same view; and then attacks a position which many of them do not pretend to occupy. It is not reasonable to pass in this way at once from one extreme of opinion to another, as if there were no tenable ground between them. Besides, as a consistent interpreter of the New Testament, he ought to be able to show how the marvellous element, inwrought into its very texture, can be wholly eliminated and leave any historical substance behind. This is a critical as well as a philosophical question, and on its philological side has difficulties which cannot be escaped. We should be the last to deny the general difficulty of the whole question. We feel it strongly, and protest against absolute dogmatism on either side. To Mr. Parker's fundamental assumption that God always acts according to law-in other words, that the infinite perfection of his națure excludes the idea of all caprice, uncertainty, and contradiction in his modes of action—we can take no exception. But it does not follow that the laws already within our intellectual ken must embrace all possible laws. There are probably laws within laws only unfolded by degrees to human view; stratifications, as it were, of spiritual agency, one underlying the other, the deepest and widest of which may only crop out now and then on the outer surface of human affairs. To deny this seems to us a narrow dogmatism, which presumes to arrest at a certain point the development of man's acquaintance with the ways of God, and ties up by the results of a limited experience the possibilities of future knowledge. Mr. Parker's own religious philosophy, so comprehensive and spiritual, recognising God as immanent in all things, and regarding all phenomena as the continuous effect of his omnipresent and unceasing energy, should have withheld him from sanctioning even in appearance a doctrine which would limit the divine free agency. Phenomena are but the expanding manifestations of a free and everactive life. The universe, so far as we can trace its order, seems to be a progressive development; and whether its progress result from successive crises of new creations, or from the gradual evolution through immense spaces of time of a few rudimental types into higher forms of existence, there is in either case change, transition, advance, and the introduction of new ele
* See in particular Theism, Atheism, and the Popular Theology, p. 113 ; Additional Speeches, Addresses, fc. p. 312,
ments into the cycle of phenomena, sufficiently marked and positive to exclude the idea of that absolute immobility in nature's order, which is sometimes assumed as a ground for denying à priori the possibility of any deviation from established law. In regard to every thing spiritual, extra-phenomenal, we are especially ignorant. There may be a spiritual order of things coexisting with the physical order; but of their mutual relations and inter-agencies we do not at present know enough to justify any positive denial or affirmation respecting them. We can only say that there come forth at times mysterious influences from the unseen world on the minds of men, which we cannot refer to any laws as yet accessible to us, but which permanently leave behind them influences of most powerful effect on the moral advancement of the race. Two circumstances have contributed to perplex and darken this subject: modes of thought acquired by the study of the physical sciences, and transferred at once, without any allowance for the change, to the very different region of the spiritual world; and a natural reaction against the hard, narrow, and mechanical idea of miracle peculiar to the old orthodoxy, Mr. Parker's wide range of study and spiritual philosophy should have protected him from the first of these influences; and with regard to the second, the various modifications of the miraculous theory put forth, among others, , by his countrymen Furness and Bushnell, should have reminded him that there were more than two parties in this controversy, and that he might have found something worthier to grapple with than a vulgar and worn-out superstition. Indeed, he almost concedes in one passage as much as many sincere believers in Christianity would demand of him. “No man can say there was not something at the bottom of the Christian · Miracles,' and of witchcrafts and possessions; I doubt not, something not yet fully understood."**
This leaves the question open for serious and devout inquiry. Religion, which makes its appeal to the soul, is not involved in the issue.
One fact is well deserving of notice—that wherever in history we observe a new outbreak of religious life, it is almost always accompanied by a report of phenomena akin to the miraculous.
Mr. Parker's view of Inspiration and Miracle, and his intellectual apprehension of the Idea of God, affect, of course, his treatment of Scripture. We think that he exaggerates its deficiencies and its contradictions; and though constantly dwelling on the law of progress, does not sufficiently take it into account in explanation of those formal inconsistencies, which may always be found by those who look for them, between different
• Discourse, &c. p. 262.
stages in the historical development of an idea radically one and the same. Keeping this principle of development in view, and distinguishing between a fundamental belief and its doctrinal forms adapted to different periods of social advancement, we see no ground for the assertion that “one half the Bible repeals the other half; that the Gospel annihilates the Law; and that if Christianity and Judaism be not the same thing, there must be hostility between the Old Testament and the New Testament.” In some instances he omits to consider, as he ought to do, the historical influences under which the books of the New Testament were written, and which no man more thoroughly comprehends than he; and then apparently tries them by a standard which he would not allow an orthodox believer to assume. No man knows better than Mr. Parker, that these books, the extemporised product of a great spiritual crisis, cannot be directly applied to questions of modern date. The following passage strikes us as exaggerated and unjust:
“ The degradation of women is obvious in all forms of religion; it is terribly apparent in the Christian Church. The first three Gospels, -the last is an exception,—the writings of Paul and Peter, the book of Revelation, have small respect for women, little regard for marriage. ... The Bible makes woman the inferior of man; his instrument of comfort, his medium of posterity. . . . Marriage in the New Testament-in the first three Gospels at least —is only for a time: 'In the kingdom of heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage.' It is a low condition here; celibacy is the better of the two."*
It is true that an expectation of the approaching conversion of heaven into earth overshadowed for some generations the natural interest in secular relationships, and that reaction against the appalling sensuality of the old civilisation gave an undue value, through many centuries, to a self-denying life of celibacy. But it is not true that any record of Christ's teachings, or any reliable transmission of his spirit, has been unfriendly to the social condition of woman. On the contrary, the relations of husband and wife, of parent and child, acquired a sanctity and a tenderness unknown to any previous religion under the peculiar influence of the Gospel. The feelings in which marriage has its origin are ripened by it into a holy spiritual affection, not unmeet for transference to the heavenly world. Nay, the Virgin Saint, under fitting circumstances, has a beauty and significance of her own. The higher sentiment of chivalry, imperfect as it was, drew its inspiration from Christianity, and furnished the transition-process to that more respectful and intelligent devotion to woman as the counterpart and equal
* Theism, Atheism, &c. p. 135.