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FROM what has been already said it must be sufficiently clear that life is beset by mysteries and to strive to banish these mysteries from thought is to impoverish our whole existence. They form the solemn background of all experience; and the exclusion of every religious theory from our view of life will not in fact make life plain and intelligible. On the contrary the fuller apprehension of the character of the mysteries which necessarily attend our being, impels us more forcibly to seek for some solution of the practical problems which they present, for such a solution as religion claims to bring. What shall we say of the complex and disordered constitution of man, of the issues of sin, of the confident expectation with which we look forward to a life after

44 Men seek to solve the problems of life. [CHAP.

death? What shall we say of the relation of the individual to the race and to the world in which he is placed? What shall we say of the possibility of a knowledge of GOD?

No questions can be asked which have a more momentous significance than these, and all experience shews the importunate eagerness with which men, in proportion as they have grown in knowledge, have sought answers to them. The history of metaphysics is a continuous witness to the irresistible attraction which they have exercised upon the most profound thinkers; and whatever opinion may be entertained as to the purely metaphysical answers which have been rendered to them, the fact that such answers have found a welcome in all ages indicates the direction of human desire. This desire embodies itself in some shape or other by what appears to be a necessity of our nature; and even those students who have endeavoured to confine themselves to physical research-who have sought to obtain an understanding of the world from without and not from within-have unconsciously extended their theories beyond their assumed limits. It cannot be otherwise. For these final problems, which lie at the root of Christian Doctrine, meet us in whichever direction we turn. They stand in the



The problems are unavoidable. closest relation to life. They must be dealt with in some way or other. The kind of treatment which they receive cannot but have an important bearing upon conduct. They correspond with the development of one side of man's multiform nature. The problems, in other words, are unavoidable: they are practical: they are educational. The consideration of them enters into all thought: it has a power to direct and stimulate action: it is effective in moulding character.

i. The problems are unavoidable. We cannot, that is, escape from the necessity of dealing with the questions suggested by a consideration of these final existences, self, the world, GOD; and, this being so, the duty of investigating them is laid upon those for whom it is possible, because, with or without reflection, we must accept and act upon some decision concerning them. This is unquestionable. Every action on our part involves a judgment of some kind or other upon controversies which have been maintained and are still maintained as to our responsibility, our powers, our destiny.

The theory which sways our conduct, whether we know it or not, has taken shape with our own growth and become in a true sense part of ourselves. It may be simply the result of the

moral atmosphere which we breathe: it may be the fruit of sustained and arduous effort. But in either case the influence of the theory of life which we hold implicitly or avowedly is real and it is effective. However indifferent we may be to independent speculation, the average opinion, if the phrase may be used, which we share represents the issues of long and vehement controversies. It expresses fairly, if on a low level, what has been ascertained in the past from the interpretation of consciousness in the light of history—including all that is contained in the Bible-as to our freedom, and as to our relation to the finite and the infinite. And this popular Creed is never stationary. The inner and outer boundaries of knowledge are ever advanced without cessation or break. It is as true in metaphysics as it is in physics that the goal of yesterday is the starting-post of to-day, though the repetition of identical terms in the former case may suggest the simple recurrence of ideas. But no such literal recurrence is possible. Each fresh discovery as to the relations of the complex elements which go to form our personality; or as to the limits of variation to which our powers and faculties are open under given circumstances; or as to the dependence of thought upon external conditions; or as to the most general formulae under which the phenomena of being can be


growth of new opinions.


grouped; or as to the ultimate connexion and unity of life: must sooner or later pass into the universal heritage of men; and when the results of science thus become, as they do become, with more or less delay, an element in the circumstances under which men think and move, they are continuously effective as moral forces. The incorporation of such physical and historical and moral discoveries or revelations, as we may prefer to call them, into the common Creed, must take place, but it may take place in different ways, silently so that indifferent spectators are unaware of the change which is going on about them, or by a sharp crisis of conflict which shakes faith to its foundations. The true Theologian therefore will look with vigilant sympathy in every direction for each fragment which can be added to his treasure. Those who are called upon to teach the study of Theology will acknowledge that it is their office to prepare the way for the admission of new aspects of Truth into the current estimate of life, and to provide against the misconceptions of impatient controversy, and the waste of sectarianism. And those students of Theology who have the opportunity will strive from the first and with glad willingness to assimilate the acquisitions of inquiry. In some way or other both teacher and student must acknowledge in time the power

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