Obrazy na stronie

which we now have as divine, and testifying to its satisfaction of the religious feelings and deepest needs of mankind; the other unequivocally affirming its uniform and unmatched influence for good upon the individual and society.

There is, fourthly and conclusively, the testimony of the Spirit of God to the intelligence and heart of the individual believer and to the mind of the organized body of believers, in all countries and ages, removing doubts, illuminating saving truth, and assuring the soul and the church of their possession of the “word of God” written. This is the argument from experience so suggestively illustrated by R. W. Dale. “True faith sees in the letter of the documents of Revelation the religious content brought to an immutable objectivity, which is able to attest itself as truth by the divine Spirit, which can at once warm and quicken the letter in order to place the living God-man before the eyes of the believer.” “Thus the canon explains and judges itself; it needs no foreign standard.”? This is not weak, nerveless mysticism. It is simply confidingly claiming the ascension promise of the great Head of the church of that Agent who should lead his people into all truth.

It may be objected that whilst all this may be true of the Bible as a whole, it does not apply to the individual books. What, it may be asked, is there in the Books of Esther or 2 John to commend them to the Christian church of to-day? A detailed technical discussion of this and similar particular problems being impossible here, it is sufficient to reply with a simple but effective illustration, the idea of an organism:

“ The Bible may be conceived of as an organic body of writings, in which every particular book has its proper place and function. But in every living organism some organs are vital and some are not. There are parts of the body which to lose is to die ; there are others which we may lose without dying, or even materially suffering in health. *Some members of the body,' writes Dr. Hodge, "are more important than others, and some books of the Bible could be better spared than others. There may be as great a difference between John's Gospel and the Book of Chronicles as between a man's brain and the hair of his head; nevertheless, the life of the body is as truly in the hair as in the brain.' Dr. Hodge's point is that even unimportant books may be inspired. But the observa

1 The Lioing Christ and the Four Gospels. 1890.
2 System of Christian Doctrine. Dorner, II., p. 229.

tion quoted serves our purpose equally well, which is to show that there may be doubts about certain books of the Bible without vital consequence to the faith ensuing. The hair of the head is a part of the body, yet a man can live comfortably enough without it. In like manner it may happen to a man to be in doubt about this or the other book of Scripture, yet he may derive from the sacred writings the benefit they were designed to confer. It is not insinuated that all the books of the Bible whose canonicity has been doubted are as unimportant to the organism of Scripture as the hair of the head is to the body. Who would say this of the Epistle to the Hebrews, concerning which the early church for a season stood in doubt? The purpose is merely to throw out general reflection that may be helpful in perplexity, not to pronounce invidious judgments on individual books.” 1

Our space utterly forbids the elaboration of the propositions above named, but it must be evident, from all that has been said, that along the lines indicated in them can we alone approximate certainty about this problem of the canon. We have had no miraculous attestation of the New Testament, either in whole or in part. None, indeed, is needed, nor can we put our finger upon the birthplace and time of its completed authoritative canon. The same must be said of the Old Testament. But there need not, therefore, be any doubt whether or no the church is now in possession of the will of God. If God ever revealed himself to his creatures, the record of such revelation is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, or it does not now exist at all. We may confidently continue to abide in the things which we have learned, knowing that the sacred writings are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

WILLIAM W. ELWANG. Orlando, Fla.

1 Apologetics. A. B. Bruce, 1892, p. 314.


THE defects of our uncritical thought result mainly from our slowness and unwillingness to leave the sphere and influence of mere external and finite relations. The methods of the logical understanding and categories of thought, on the other hand, have the advantage of discovering to us those latent contradictions which frequently pass without suspicion in popular language and exposition. But even these methods, when applied to religious ideas, in order to permanent results, require a regulative principle which is not contained in them. Otherwise, a movement which promised well, and was begun hopefully with the purpose of giving greater clearness to our conceptions, ends, more likely, in the confusion of simple faith, and fails also to satisfy reason itself. There is no other way to prove our knowledge than to bring it to the test of the category of necessity. Propositions which borrow nothing from the contingent contain this a priori element. Without this element they must await the slow process of empirical testimony, or be acted upon without verification as untried experiments. In the ordinary affairs of life no such standard is possible. Probability, not necessity, is the rule of life. But in morality and religion the empirical standard is a needless, fallible, and offensive thing. In presenting the speculative or discursive view of faith, we must not forget to provide some unconditional test of validity, else we shall be apt to share the fate of the man who hastily sets to work without foundation for his opinions, only to see his structure displaced by other opinions, and those, perhaps, equally groundless. We might suppose that the understanding, wearied with its unsuccessful efforts, would confess its incompetence and leave the field. Such is by no means the case. Refusing an unconditional prius, it continues its Sisyphus-like labors with unabated zeal and with a sublimity of confidence bordering on the grotesque. Between the arrogance of reason on the one hand, and utter skepticism on the other, may there not be a middle course—a view not wholly independent of the common organon


of knowledge, nor wholly dependent upon its common methods ? Let us assume that there is such a course, and let us attempt within this sphere to exhibit the grounds and function of faith. As to the grounds, we shall decide in advance that faith is intelligible only on the presupposition of knowledge. The cpposite view seems to be held by many eminent authorities, as Rothe, Jacobi, Dorner, and others, apparently defending the scholastic maxim, crede ut intelligas. But the discussion has really hung upon the use and meaning of terms rather than the psychological fact. Both Abelard and Anselm would agree that faith must be rational. This is all that is necessary to settle. Faith must somehow legitimate itself. It must obtain authority from some source. Then, in turn, the source itself must be rationalized. This authority must be settled by reason, and the reason, it would appear, must have the last word. But this is not the meaning of rationality. If it were, no place could be found for faith, though we sought for it with tears. Reason believes in itself, but reason neither comprehends itself as an absolute whole, nor its own concepts. To demand a comprehension of all the objects of faith would, therefore, be itself irrational. Faith may accept what has been demonstrated, and if it possessed no wider field, then faith and knowledge would embrace each other. But faith does not stop with positivism. Faith is wider. It comprehends its own instruments—the very ground of its existence--much that reason cannot demonstrate. But it must not attempt to embrace contradictories. Here is the principal function of philosophy, both in pure reason and in religion. It is to try the doctrines, to see whether they be of reason or of themselves, comparing doctrine with doctrine. Neither should doctrines collide with the laws of thought as universally recognized, and the accepted laws of evidence. So we say again, whatever is not rational is not of faith, and where there is no ground for faith there is no faith.

As to the function of faith and the obligation of faith in God there is much to be said, or rather much that ought to be said, by teachers of ethics in opposition to the inveterate tendency of the times to construct a morality independent of religion. There is great demand for faith, but it is for the most part, in philosophy, limited to phenomena. Philosophic speculation, both in morals and in religion, makes less and less demand upon our faith in God, while scientific inquiry in the physical world makes a bold demand for faith in a great multitude of abstractions, such as law, order, system, adjustinent, and many other impersonal objects, in increasing numbers.

The Psychology of Faith.—Something should be said about the psychology of faith. On this point authorities have been unable to agree. Some have made faith to depend upon the intellect, others upon the sensibilities, others upon the will, while still others have invented a faith-faculty. The consensus of opinion would probably be expressed by the late Professor T. H. Green, of Oxford: “In different relations reason is the source alike of faith and knowledge. God is not wisely trusted when declared unintelligible.” If we turn to the New Testament many passages seem to predicate faith of the reason as its source, while an equal number may be found which seem to posit faith in the will, but never in mere feeling. Faith is truly a mighty stimulus to feeling, but it follows rather than precedes it. I am persuaded that faith is capable of a deeper psychological treatment than has hitherto been accorded to it. It is unnecessary here to point out the proposed course of thought, but only to indicate a few results which it seems quite easy to establish, viz., (a), Faith is the synthetic unity of rational perceptions concerning the attributes of God; (b), Faith is the substance and evidence of that knowledge which is most intimately connected with human happiness; (c), It is not philosophical to divorce faith from knowledge.

Belief and Knowledge.--A cloud of obscurities has at times rested upon the relation of faith and knowledge. A schism between reason and belief seemed at one time inevitable on philosophical grounds. For more than a decade the doctrine of the Unknowable, as proclaimed by IIamilton, followed by Mansel, seemed supreme. Specnlative thought was brought to a standstill or became fatally misleading. We were taught that the Infinite is the Unknowable, and yet that the “Infinite is, must, and ought to be believed in.” When reason began to recover itself it was seen

« PoprzedniaDalej »