Obrazy na stronie

accommodating character belonging to the theological part of his volume ;-that is to say, it is, in itself, sufficiently distinct and precise—but, in another sense, that theory may be described as an accommodation to an accommodation. We are persuaded that the necessities presented by the theology gave rise, in this instance, to the philosophy. That philosophy stands in a forced, not a natural, connection with the principles which are made answerable for it; and its true origin is to be sought for rather in the practical conclusions with which alone it harmonizes, than in the abstractions to which it vainly appeals for support.

Its theory of religion is, however, by far the most important part of the book before us; and, being obliged to select some limited portion of that book for examination, we have decided upon confining our present notice to the form of principle in which this theory is set. All that we consider erroneous in the development of the theory will be shaken, and may easily be removed, by any hand, when its foundations are destroyed.

It is the third chapter of the work-On the Peculiar Essence of Religion — to which we desire to direct particular attention. The two preceding chapters are on the Faculties of the Human Mind, and the Distinction between the Logical and the Intuitional Consciousness; and the remainder of the volume is occupied with a discussion of questions relating to the Essence of Christianity, Revelation, Inspiration, Theology, Religious Fellowship, and some other subordinate points to which these are allied.

From the chapter to which we have specially referred, we shall immediately proceed to extract a few passages embracing together a connected view of the philosophy whose character we propose to estimate. Those passages are the following:

“The sense of dependence, accompanying all our mental operations, gives them the peculiar hue of piety..... It is this peculiar mode of feeling pervading all our powers, faculties and inward phenomena, which gives them a religious character; so that we may correctly say that the essence of religion lies exactly here."*

“Let the relation of subject and object in the economy of our emotions become such, that the whole independent energy of the former merges into the latter as its prime cause and present sustainer; let the subject become as nothing-not, indeed, from its intrinsic insignificance or incapacity of moral action, but by virtue of the infinity of the object to which it stands consciously opposed; and the feeling of dependence must become absolute ; for all finite power is as nothing in relation to the Infinite.”+ “The essential germ of the religious life is concentrated in the absolute feeling of dependence.”I

"Admitting that the co-operation of the logical understanding is necessary to the full development of the inward religious life, yet there may be some other state of consciousness in which it essentially consists, and which we ought to understand aright in order to find the starting-point of our whole theory. If religion can exist at all without the co-operation of logical thinking, properly so called, then its essential germ must be looked for in some other region of our mental constitution."S Although the co-operation of knowledge may be necessary to the perfection of our religious life, yea, and in a subordinate sense, to its very existence, yet there is some phenomenon, lying without the region of what we may term intellectual activity, in which religion is really


* P. 78.

† P. 76.

| P. 77.

Ś P. 68.

cradled, and the measure of which shall exactly determine the measure of our piety towards God."*

“The absolute feeling of dependence arises in connection with that state of the emotional consciousness in which our subjective self stands opposed to an absolute object; and what object is or can be absolute but the Infinite Being himself-God—the self-existent, self-dependent, and eternal? Such a feeling of dependence, therefore, as we have described, involves in it virtually the sense of Deity." + "The moment our consciousness attains that elevation in which our finite self becomes nothing in the presence of infinity, eternity, and omnipotence, the accompanying state of emotion is one which involves an absolute object; and such an emotion must be equivalent to a sense of Deity." I

“We have developed two conclusions, each of them highly important towards the full comprehension of the nature of religion. We have shewn, first, that the germ of religion lies in feeling,—and that the absolute feeling of dependence. And then, secondly, we have shewn that the absolute feeling of dependence, seeking its object through all the different stages of the human consciousness, is driven onwards from one resting-place to another, until, in the region of faith, it finds the absolute Being, of which it had ever dreamed, to whose existence it had ever tacitly pointed, and united to which, it gives the highest and the purest intensity to all the activities of the human mind."S

We have given a larger amount of quotation than was necessary to our purpose, because we wish to do full justice to Mr. Morell's sentiments; and we have now to express our own sense of the meaning of what we have quoted. That sense is comprised in these propositions —that the essence of religion consists in a feeling of dependence—that in order to fulfil this essential relation, the feeling of dependence must be absolute—that religion exists independently of knowledge, even in the form of pure intellectual activity-and that the feeling of absolute dependence produces a sense of Deity. To each of these propositions we are opposed; and we proceed, by a separate examination of them, to exhibit the grounds of our opposition.

We have, in the first place, then, to do with the doctrine—that the essence of religion consists in a feeling of dependence.

We do not by any means deny that such a feeling forms one of the essential elements of religion; but it shares this character with various other things equally essential with itself. What we deny is, that in any exclusive sense we may correctly say that the essence of religion lies exactly here.” That essence lies, just as exactly, elsewhere as it does here; and one of the cardinal faults of Mr. Morell's representation is, that it pretends to a simplicity of definition which does not and cannot answer to the facts of his case. Religion is a much more complex and varied matter than he considers it to be; and his attempt to resolve it into one principle of feeling, instead of proving the superior acuteness of which it assumes the appearance, really betrays an incompetency to deal with the question according to its true merits.

Nothing can be clearer than the proof which may be urged against the exclusiveness, in this instance, contended for.

Surely every one who thinks for a moment on the point, must perceive that the feeling of duty is quite as essential to religion as the feeling of dependence. Religion could not exist without the former, any more than it could exist without the latter. But that is not all. Though the feeling of dependence be essential to religion, it does not

* P. 69.

† P. 76.

I P. 77.

P. 89.

embrace the peculiar essence of the subject, as the feeling of duty does. It is the sense of duty which supplies the moral element of the case; whereas the sense of dependence may exist without any moral quality whatever. Mere want and weakness in the presence of superior power may produce dependence, and the dependence exercised under such circumstances will be in idea complete. Will any one say, however, that under these circumstances alone the idea of religion will be complete ? Considerations of right and wrong, as justifying the dependence, are necessary to raise it to a religious elevation; and thus the sense of duty by which such considerations are apprehended, is--so far forth as religion is concerned—the essence of that essence with which dependence is identified. The sense of duty necessarily includes within itself the feeling of dependence; but the converse is not true—the feeling of dependence does not necessarily include the sense of duty; and therefore to connect the essence of religion with dependence alone, is to deprive religion of moral basis. It is in effect to say that moral feeling is not essential to religion,-a position which has this one recommendation in our eyes—that its danger is balanced by its absurdity.

If we were not able thus to point to another feeling equally essential to religion with dependence, and much more characteristic of it, we could shew from an examination of the nature of religious dependence itself, that it is altogether improper to represent this feeling as, in contradistinction to every other, the essence of religion. Dependence, to be religious, must be united with and regulated by independence. It ceases to be religious, in any proper application of that term, when it is not built upon grounds which, by their appeal to our reason, make it an act of freedom as well of submission. Religious dependence is submission to a power which is believed to be worthy of the reliance placed upon it. The idea of such worthiness is necessary to give to it a religious character; and therefore to regard the feeling it includes only in its dependent relation, is to contemplate that feeling but in one of its phases, shutting out from view a whole class of truths concerning it, without which it presents a false conception to the mind. The lowest possible form of religion expresses more than mere dependence -seeking, in the object of its worship, something to satisfy the confidence it exercises. As religion becomes more pure and exalted, it aspires after this satisfaction with greater earnestness and warmer hope. While the submission becomes more entire, the freedom with which it is accompanied becomes more energetic too; and the increase of light which produces a stronger willingness, contributes also to a deeper devotion. The process of religious improvement is thus almost the opposite of that which Mr. Morell's theory would indicate; for though it be true that, in the course of such improvement, our sense of depend

the Divine Being is extended, the extension takes place, not from any additional merit we discover in the simple principle of dependence itself, but from the clearer and fuller perception we have of all that goes to establish the wisdom and necessity of dependence in this particular case.

We come now to the second of the propositions by which we have expressed the theory of religion under our notice that in order to fulfil the essential relation assigned to it, the feeling of dependence must be absolute.

ence upon

We do not clearly understand what Mr. Morell means by absolute dependence. If he himself understands his meaning, he has given no intelligible definition of it. Such phrases as-"let the subject become as nothing—“ all finite power is as nothing in relation to the Infinite” -though metaphorically allowable, are not philosophically correct. They cannot, without manifest absurdity, be taken in a literal sense; and we must be permitted to conjecture, that this rhetorical mode of statement was adopted to avoid the difficulty or inconvenience which would have attached to precision. We are told that “while an absolute sense of freedom is to a finite creature impossible, yet an absolute sense of dependence is strictly in accordance with man's being and relations in the universe :'* but this comparison, instead of helping the case, only confuses it the more. The sense of freedom may be just as absolute as the sense of dependence can be. Moral action, as far as it is moral, is entirely free; and though it may be urged, that the freedom is always limited by necessities which press upon our moral choice, it can be conclusively replied, that the most absolute dependence of which we are capable is similarly limited by our consciousness of personal independence. We believe that this absolute sense of dependence is little better than non-sense; but our objections to the position it is made to sustain in the instance before us will go upon the ground of its possessing a consistency which does not appear.

We ask then, on this supposition, what the idea of absolute can properly have to do with the essence of religion? The essence of a thing is a matter of principle, not of degree, and absolute can only have respect to degree. It is in the notion of dependence that the principle of the case must lie; and to add the term absolute to dependence is not at all to increase the essential force which the dependence itself may possess. By the use of this term Mr. Morell tacitly confesses that the dependence alone would not serve his turn, and he merely deceives himself when he imagines that he can alter or improve the essential quality of his subject by extending its operation. If the essence of religion be not dependence—which it is not and cannot be-neither can that essence be absolute dependence.

When, however, we step out of the region of pure theory into that of fact, the inconsistency of this absolute representation will still more plainly appear. It is not a fact that religion as such—religion in all its forms-expresses an absolute dependence. It is a mere assumption, and, in some of its applications, a most ridiculous assumption. Religious dependence is not always absolute.

Let us look at heathenism in this light. “The ignorant heathen,” says our author, “makes his idol the absolute power, and trusts implicitly to it.”+ How is this proved ? It cannot be proved, and it is not attempted to be proved. It is a simple assertion, made to the pattern of the hypothesis it is brought forward to support. Then, again—"An absolute feeling of dependence upon nature will clearly give rise to a form of religious consciousness, in which man will idolize visible objects or phenomena, and concentrate upon them his highest confidence.” I Does such a form of religious consciousness arise in this way? We have no right to say it does, if another way can be pointed out in which it may just as consistently arise. Now, it may arise from regarding natural objects as the representatives of divine power, without, quite as well as with, "an absolute feeling of dependence upon nature." All this philosophical conjecturing is, moreover, swept away by a single historical circumstance lying upon the very face of the subject. Men have at the same time worshiped many gods, to whom they have attributed not only different but opposite qualities. They have worshiped them because of this opposition, balancing their adoration of the principle of good by a similar adoration of the principle of evil. How, in this state of things, can a feeling of absolute dependence be predicated of the religion exercised? What absolute dependence could have been placed upon deities whose very numbers and distinctions indicate the limita. tions under which they were regarded, and the contrariety of whose characters and actions necessarily drew forth feelings which stood in direct antagonism to each other?' Absolute is almost the last word we should have thought of applying to a dependence which had to be squared to the facts of Polytheism and Manichæism.

* P. 76.

† P. 79.

# P. 81.

If we turn to the religious cultivation which is experienced under the purer influence of Christianity, we shall not find, even there, any support to this doctrine of the essential character of an absolute feeling of dependence. One of the passages we have quoted thus expands itself into a description of that feeling: “The essential germ of the religious life is concentrated in the absolute feeling of dependence-a feeling which implies nothing abject, but, on the contrary, a high and hallowed sense of our being inseparably related to Deity-of our being parts of his great plan-of our being held-up in his vast embrace-of our being formed for some specific destiny, which, even amidst the subor. dinate and finite pursuits of life, must ever be kept in view as the goal of our whole being.' There are other passages that give an equally or a more elevated view of “ this essential germ of the religious life.” Now, we may appeal to every one's experience against all this being included in any thing of the nature of an essential germ” of religion. Religion may not only be possessed, but may be exemplified with considerable energy, though it does not reach to the height which is here declared to be its necessary condition. In the great mass of favourable instances it is only an approach to that height; whereas Mr. Morell's philosophy, which makes religion natural to the human heart, requires that this exalted standard should be universally attained to by mankind. By this foolish attempt to prove too much, nothing is, in reality, proved; and all the landmarks proper to the case are, by such an attempt, sacrificed to a reckless spirit of generalization. Religion, in its most perfect form, is but an endeavour to apprehend the absolute excellence on which it fixes its regard; and though it may eternally approach nearer to the point at which it aims, it will never realize the vain and presumptuous hope of an "immediate contact of the finite with the infinite.”+

The third proposition demanding our notice is—that religion exists independently of knowledge, even in the form of pure intellectual activity.

We would be careful not in the slightest degree to misrepresent Mr. Morell's sentiments on this point; and therefore we direct attention to that part of one of our preceding extracts which declares that “ know

* P. 77.

+ P. 88.

« PoprzedniaDalej »