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lieve, came to my help, for the thought struck me to read back from the fifth to the first verse, and run the risk; and I did so, with all the boldness I, under the circumstances, could muster, and what was the result? Why, I got my license, with the compliment, that I was the best IIebrew scholar who had for some time come before the Presbytery. Now, that is my experience of an examination, so, you see, you have no great cause for alarm."
If these members of Presbytery are to be regarded as samples of Carlyle's men of better birth and higher erudition, what must the residuum have been ?
ARTICLE VI.—THE CONFLICT WITH SKEPTICISM AND UNBELIEF. First ARTICLE:-THE QUESTIONS AT Issu E.
We purpose, in several Articles, to examine the foundations of the Christian faith, with particular reference to some of the leading theories of unbelief which are in vogue at the present day. It will aid us in performing the work we have taken in hand, if we present, at the outset, a stateinent of what we conceive to be the real question or questions, with which the controversy of Revealed Religion with Skepticism, in our day, is chiefly concerned. This discrimination seems important on account of the multiplicity of controverted points relating to the subject, which are brought into popular discussion. Physical science, historical study, metaphysical speculation, has each its own inquiries to raise and doubts to suggest, and the effect of the simultaneous agitation of so many different topics, none of them unimportant to a Christian believer, is, doubtless, to breed confusion. We shall do a service, there. fore, as we hope, to some of our readers, if we stop amid the " confused noise" of the battle, survey the field where so many are running to and fro, and direct attention to the really essential points which are threatened, though not, as we trust, imperiled, by the assault.
We shall not delay long for the purpose of characterizing the prevailing tone of the existing skepticism and unbelief, as contrasted with similar phenomena at other periods in the past. Yet not to leave this. interesting topic altogether untouched, we extract a passage from the last volume of Bampton Lectures, in which the peculiarity of the present development of skepticism is well enough ontlined. “The unbelief of the present day," writes the author, "differs from that of the last century in tone and character; and in many respects shares the traits already noticed in the modern intellectualism of Germany, and the eclecticism of France. It is not disgraced
by ribaldry; hardly at all by political agitation against the religion which it disbelieves: it is marked by a show of fairness, and professes a wish not to ignore facts nor to leave them unexplained. Conceding the existence of spiritual and relig. ious elements in human nature, it admits that their subjective existence as facts of consciousness, no less than their objective expression in the history of religion, demands explanation, and cannot be hastily set aside, as was thought in the last century in France, by the vulgar theory that the one is factitious, and the other the result of priestly contrivance. The writers are men whose characters and lives forbid the idea that their unbelief is intended as an excuse for licentiousness. Denying revealed religion, they cling the more tenaciously to the moral instincts: their tone is one of earnestness; their inquiries are marked by a profound conviction of the possibility of finding truth: not content with destroying, their aim is to reconstruct. Their opinions are variously manifested. Some of them appear 'in treatises of philosophy; others insinuate themselves indirectly in literature : some of them relate to Christian doctrines; others to the criticism of Christian documents : but in all cases their authors either leave a residuum which they profess will satisfy the longings of human nature, or confess with deep pain that their conclusions are in direct conflict with human aspirations; and, instead of reveling in the ruin which they have made, deplore with a tone of sadness the impossibility of solving the great enigma, It is clear that writers like these offer a wholly different appearance from those of the last century. The deeper appreciation manifested by them of the systems which they disbelieve, and the more delicate learning of which they are able to avail themselves, constitute features formerly lacking in the works of even the most seriousminded deists, * and require a difference in the spirit, if not the mode, in which Christians must seek to refute them.”+ A general description like the foregoing is, of course, liable to much exception and qnalification when it is applied to particu
* Such as Herbert and Morgan.
lar individuals. Yet the drift of it will be recognized as correct by those who regard with a penetrative eye the skeptical literature of the day. In contrast with the past, unbelief is oftener now an infection than a willful attack. There are more at present who can truly be said to be afflicted with doubt. In the refinement and learning exhibited by the antagonists of Revelation, an incomparable superiority belongs to the present. Just place Paine's Age of Reason by the side of Renan's newly published Life of Christ! The difference of the old infidelity from the new, is instantly felt by the dullest observer. The spirit of the one is coarse and bitterly hostile to Christianity; the dependence is more on railing than reasoning; and the warfare is waged without the aid of historical knowledge. The Deistical writers were, to be sure, frequently abore Paine in the character of the weapons they employed, and in the temper with which they wielded them; and yet the name of Paine fairly suggests the general character of the movement, especially in its later stages. The work of Renan is the production of a scholar possessed of abundant philological and historical learning; it is dedicated to a departed sister who aided in its composition ; it abounds in expressions of graceful sentiment; it knows how to value much that is sacred to the Christian believer; it is founded upon laborious studies and upon travels in the land of the Bible. Skepticism has without doubt improved immensely in its general tone. And yet the sketch which we have quoted above, in order to be full, would require the fact to be mentioned that there is witnessed on the side of skeptical writers of the more refined school, in our own times, the occasional development of an animosity towards the Christian faith, which ill accords with their habitual tone, and seems to imply that after all there lies deep down in the heart an unwholesome fountain of bitter feeling with reference to the doctrines and restraints of religion.
For the reason that the peculiar traits of the modern skepticism, and the peculiar character of the class who are affected by it, are not clearly discerned, the comparative strength of the infidel party in our times is undervalued by not a few even
of Christian teachers. When the present is compared with the past, they begin at once to take a census of the known or avowed opposers of Christianity, and to put the result of this count of heads by the side of a similar reckoning made for an earlier epoch. They are not awake to the subtler form which skepticism has assumed. They fail to see that though it be often less tangible and pugnacious, it is more diffused like an atmosphere. They are not aware how widely the seeds of unbelief are scattered through books and journals which find a hospitable reception even in Christian families. And they do not appreciate the significance of the fact that so large a number of the leaders of opinion on matters outside of the sphere of religion, are adherents, more or less outspoken, of the skeptical school. Infidelity appears in better dress and in better company than of old; it takes on the function of the educator and social reformer: it prefers a compromise with Christianity to a noisy crusade against it; but the half friendly attitude it assumes may render the task of exposing and withstanding it all the more difficult. This ambiguous, fluctuating tone of the skepticism of our day, renders the analysis of its fundamental position the more incumbent; and this we attempt in the present Article.
We begin with remarking that the principal question at issue is not the Inspiration of the Scriptures. There is one point of view, as we shall shortly explain, from which the importance of this question is not exaggerated. But the mere question of the relation of human agency to divine agency in the production of the Scriptures is, in itself considered, of not so great moment. The fact of Inspiration is chiefly important as containing a guaranty for the authority of the Bible. If the Bible were exclusively the work of men, and yet came to us attended with a divine attestation to the truth of its contents, the main end for which Inspiration is desired and thought necessary, would be attained. The authority of the Scriptures as a Rule of Faith and Practice is the doctrine of prime value; and Inspiration is required as a shield against the liabilities to hurtful error, which pertain to every exertion of the human mind