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cord of the world, to work the philosophers' ferry-boat till they can build a bridge, such residuary Theism appears to us to lose almost all religious value, as well as all permanent security. We are the more surprised at our author's materialistic hypothesis, because, in a subsequent discussion of the question of Liberty and Necessity, he gives his verdict in favour of Freewill. It is not easy to conceive how the contingencies of freedom should issue from the necessary developments of organized matter. Such a combination of doctrines is certainly peculiar, and deserves from our author a few pages of further exposition and defence.
“The principal object of the writer," however, “is to place in somewhat new light the evidences of a future life, without which hope even the existence of an intelligent Governor of the universe would be, to most minds, no more than a high, but barren speculation.”—Preface, p. iv. This object is attempted, mainly, by so balancing the cases of preponderant suffering and the oppressive mass of moral evil in the world against the counteracting evidences of divine justice and goodness, that the hypothesis of a future
а life shall step in to turn the scale, and transfer the whole weight of phenomena to the side of positive faith. We sincerely admire and envy that openness of heart to hope and trust, which, from the very deformities and wickedness of men, from the bitterest anguish of the world, from the brutal scenes where childhood is spoiled and woman loses her nature and all human capacity is turned into corruption, can evolve the august belief in immortality. But the argument, that without a second life the arrangements of the first would be too bad to admit of any defence, is one on which, we must confess, we can never dwell without anxiety. The spectacle of sunk and degraded humanity, instead of leading the imagination from the failure of the present to the promise of an hereafter, is apt to oppress and overwhelm the faith in a divine future. It is not from the dark anomalies, but from the clear glories of this world that we are inspired with hope of another; and did all men exhibit the soul of a Pascal and the life of a Howard, every formidable plea of doubt would be removed. And the rule holds, we think, not merely of the moral deformi. ties, but also of the external inequalities, of men. Those
who are least sensitive as to these inequalities, who are prone to no complaint for themselves or others, who are the last to interpret the mysteries of suffering in to the semblance of injury, are just the persons most susceptible of the everlasting hope. They whose world would look best without it are precisely the souls most sure to live with it. They would not recognise the premiss from which our author's reasoning proceeds,-that every being has a right to a certain preponderance of enjoyment from his Creator; nor, if they did, would they admit that happiness, especially that of a free and spiritual nature, was any sort of objective quantity, dealt out upon the person ab extra, and capable of estimate as the graduated measure of the Divine character. We do not indeed deny that, under certain conditions, the argument from the anomalies of life may acquire a just force. Where (as in the extreme case of Christ) the divinest excellence coalesces with the saddest lot,—the lot which threatens to render the excellence abortive,—the human heart seems incapable of resting in a catastrophe so mournful, and through its own best sympathies obtains insight into the ulterior purposes of God. The argument however requires, we think, delicate handling; and will avail only when the compassionate and the reverential affections centre upon the same object.
When our author quits this grouud, and contends that within our human nature itself are comprised faculties obviously prospective, when he traces in Conscience and the religious Affections a clearly prophetic attitude, all our hesitation vanishes, and we give him hearty assent. Features like these, which are too good for this world only, give us an assurance which we could never derive from those which are too bad. Both alike may be scientifically out of fit with the system in which they appear: but the evidence depends not on this character of incongruity, but on that of inherent excellence and beauty. Of this excellence and beauty we are assured by our own self-consciousness; and in carrying the appeal thither we reach the genuine sources of devout faith. It may be doubted whether criticism of the external universe and life, by rules of scientific judgment, can ever be made to yield any true religious belief. Such a process, though ultimately indispensable for every open-minded man, is in its proper place only when subsidiary to an original personal faith subjectively evolved from the Conscience and Affections. Hence the qualified and uneasy assent which alone we can give to the Analogy of Butler, the Theology of Paley, and the Short Conclusions from the Light of Nature. The truths of religion appear to us to possess a higher certainty than that trembling balance of probabilities which the method of these treatises allows: and accordingly most readers, we believe, rise from such works with a feeling of disappointment that their faith cannot take higher ground, and has to plead for its existence with so ingenious a caution. Where however the attack is so various as in the present
find a welcome and a use : and we shall be glad to meet again,—and for a longer intercourse,—the sensible and benevolent author of the volume which has called forth these remarks.
age, defence of
ART. VII.-POPULAR CHRISTIANITY.
Letter from the
Popular Christianity. By F. J. Foxton.
Author to the Editors.
To the Editors of the “ Prospective Review."
GENTLEMEN, My reviewer, in the last Number of the " Prospective Review," has mistaken both my meaning and my position, in supposing either that I recommend a dishonest adherence to the establishment, to those who are convinced of its vital corruption, or that I am myself in a position of such degrading compliance. I resigned my preferment in the Church more than two years ago, nor should I have considered it decent to have assailed the Church whilst I was wearing her livery.
From those who entertain the opinions expressed in my book, common honesty, of course, requires immediate secession, but there are many of the clergy of the establishment whose heterodoxy is far less pronounced than mine, and who seem to believe that “ new wine” may yet“ be put into old bottles.” From such I have required that they should at least protest against what they believe to be false or obsolete in the doctrine and discipline of the Church, even whilst they continue within her pale. In perfect strictness there is no clergyman in the Church who does not in some way or other violate his oath of ecclesiastical obedience, either in regard to doctrine or discipline, and a further extension of this notorious laxity would involve no fresh violation of principle or consistency. Both the doctrinal system and the discipline of the Church are in such a chaotic condition that it has become extremely difficult to decide as to what is real and what only nominal, in the province of ecclesiastical authority
Without doubt, there are at the present moment within the Church those conflicting elements of opinion that will insure its ultimate dissolution, and an honest expression of them is assuredly far more desirable that their suppression. I have only to add, that desiring as I do the dissolution of the Established Church, I would still prefer that it should perish by exhaustion and natural decay, rather than by a sudden and violent death.
I trust you will indulge me so far as to find a place for my letter (or the substance of it) in the forthcoming Number of the “ Prospective Review.” Your treatment of the literary character of my very imperfect book was only too indulgent-my present purpose is, solely, the vindication of its moral bearings.
I am, gentlemen,
FRED. J. FOXTON. Cheltenham, Dec. 8, 1849.
We are happy to receive from Mr. Foxton this statement of his views on the morality of Opinion; though we can look with no satisfaction, and no hope, on a further extension of a notorious laxity," which “would involve no fresh violation of principle or consistency.” We think this application of the rule,' he that offends in one point is guilty of all,' very much like the letting out of water. We desire, however, to permit Mr. Foxton to speak for himself, and have no wish to re-cite the passages from his book which seemed to us to require grave expostulation. The ground of that expostulation was not the supposition of his own continued adhesion to the Church of England, but the advice he offers to heretical clergymen, which any one, who pleases, may see on page 497 of our last Number.