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and taught us to understand what should all along have been the 'true revelation of death;' and by
'His resurrection, whose reality is testified by its marvellous effect on His disciples, He encourages us to look upon the future existence of the spirits of the blessed dead, not as a mere diffused subjective presence in the hearts of the survivors, but as an everlasting and individual life in the bosom of God the Father, of which higher life the life of earthly influence is nothing but an inferior emblem.'
It is manifest how objectionable the connexion in which this laborious examination of the claims of Jesus is found really is; and that in spite of the good intentions of the writer. For at the end of a long list of illusions is placed, as we see, the Worship of Christ! Is that, then, an illusion too? The connexion suggests that it is: and the danger is that the mind may insensibly receive what the connexion suggests, and so may pass on to class the Incarnation among other outgrown, or to be outgrown, illusions by which in past time the human race has been educated.
Another warning must here be given. The claims of Jesus to worship are rested upon inadequate grounds. Every one of these services, which the Saviour is rightly represented as having rendered to humanity, is a claim to honour, to gratitude, to reverence—but not one of these amounts to a rightful claim to WORSHIP. That must rest now, as ever, upon His essential Godhead, and upon that alone. We fear that this verity may be somewhat obscured in the book before us.
The work then closes with three chapters on the worship of Christ-in the past, the present, and the future-in which, after tracing some of the illusions of the Medieval Church, necessary in their day but now outgrown, Dr. Abbott suggests, with a boldness very characteristic of him, but at the same time, as we think, somewhat in excess, some of the points in which a later age may see the illusions of the Church of to-day, and sketches what the worship of Christ may one day be for a generation more completely disillusioned.
'The man whose faith in Christ, though it may have been nourished and preserved by historical illusions, has grown hardy and strong enough to dispense with any props liable to be shaken by science and criticism, and who can fight all doubts in the strength of his trust in the human personality of Christ-he, and he alone, can feel confident, in these days, that his faith will remain unmoved. So far from trembling at science, such a believer will echo the grand saying of Edward Irving, that every creature, from the archangel in heaven to the worm that crawleth on the ground, doth bear witness unto
Christ. The infinite past revealed by geology and history, the millions of years possibly spent in collecting and hardening this planetary globe of ours, the millions more required for furnishing it with vegetable and animal life, and for elaborating that life up to the level of humanity, the dreary ages of supposed savage or semihuman existence, the collisions of conflicting nations, tending to eliminate inferior races, and to develop the higher qualities of humanity—all these will seem to the spiritual believer in Christ to indicate, not too long nor too grand a preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God. Calmly reviewing the past, he will look forward to the future with equal calmness; for if so many thousands or millions of years were required to prepare the field for the seed of God, well may a few thousands or millions more be required before that seed shall have had time to germinate and fructify.'
This third part of the book, however, necessarily labours under a difficulty from which the other two were free—the difficulty, namely, which must ever attend the attempt, whether in literature or art, to present the life of our Lord in its human aspect only. Dr. Abbott has been especially careful to guard against misconception, by stating in his introduction his full belief in the divinity of Christ; but he is debarred from using this as a premiss, by the very nature of his argument, which is addressed especially to those who will admit no supernatural presuppositions. Such an abstraction of the Divinity, for the purposes of argument, though exceedingly difficult, and sometimes the reverse of wise, is of course justifiable in its place. But in the present case it is complicated and hampered by what, in our opinion, is a grave philosophical error-philosophical we prefer to call it rather than theological, because its real root is in the speculative, and not the dogmatic region. The author lapses at times into that kind of idealism for which matter has no reality, or if not speculatively unreal is at least practically of no importance. But such idealism, though it has still a stronghold among certain theologians, in the face of modern science must be for ever a thing of the past. We are far too familiar now-a-days with the interdependence of mind and matter ever again to be satisfied with a canon of reality in which 'matter' has no place; and the attempt, therefore, to conciliate a generation trained in science to any view of Christianity which regards 'matter' as immaterial is of too reactionary a nature to command permanent success. Consequently, when Dr. Abbott professes himself ready to abandon, if need be, the physical element in the miracles of the Incarnation and Resurrection, and more than ready to regard the physical
concomitants of many other miracles as historical accretions, as well as in his general attitude towards a sacramental system, we cannot but think he is abandoning the philosophically stronger for the philosophically weaker of two positions, and granting a major premiss which would, in the end, prove fatally destructive of his own belief in the 'spiritual' reality of the Incarnation. It is right to add that Dr. Abbott is careful to explain that he is in some cases going beyond his own personal convictions in the concessions he is willing to make for the conciliation of adverse opinion; and in the appendix on miracles he asks those to whom the traditionary belief presents no obstacles to abstain from reading further. On the other hand, we cannot but feel that such cautions are practically futile, if not absolutely harmful; and with all admiration for the writer's chivalrous intentions, we feel that he is attempting to conciliate a spurious idealism, at the risk of causing fresh and needless difficulties to the far more extensive, and in many respects far healthier, materialism of the present day. Surely so able a writer as Dr. Abbott would himself be the first to recognise the impossibility of avoiding error in the attempt to illustrate at all widely the principle of the world's education through illusion; and it seems to us that in the present case he has looked for illusion in the wrong direction; nay that he has himself become an illustration of his own principle; and that he would have been more consistent with his own main argument if he had looked upon the Incarnation in accordance with the Scotist opinion, so increasingly prevalent among modern theologians, not only as the climax of human history, but as the predestined end and object of the universe of 'matter;' and, therefore, involving of necessity new phenomena in the material region. Science and sacramentalism are nearer kindred than they seem; and it may be that the last of those illusions from which the truth shall set us free will be the illusion which from the dawn of philosophy has been vainly striving to put asunder that matter and that spirit which God has joined together.
With these considerable qualifications, we commit to our readers' careful attention Through Nature to Christ. The beauty of its style, its tender feeling and its perfect sympathy, the originality and suggestiveness of many of its thoughts, would of themselves go far to recommend it. But far besides this, it has a certain value in its bold, comprehensive, trenchant method of apology, and in the adroitness with which it turns the flank of the many modern fallacies that
caricature in order to condemn Christianity. Its entire argument, however, it must be remembered, is, as the author expressly states, calculated for unbelievers, and is therefore pitched in key consistent with that intention. Doubtless also this is the reason why many of its assumptions are such as no believer would make on his own account. But there are many roads to truth, and not less various than numerous. Christians have need to remember, and to remember penitentially, how many of the complications between religious and secular thought are due to the negligences and ignorances of the Church in ages past. Yet while confessing with humility the sins of themselves and their forefathers, they are bound to claim, with all the confidence exhibited in Dr. Abbott's book, every fresh discovery of science, every fresh truth of philosophy, every fresh achievement of art, as not only their own, but primarily and pre-eminently their own; 'whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are theirs, and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
ART. VIII.—ON THE PRESENT CONDITION AND PROSPECTS OF THE CHURCH OF IRELAND. Report of Proceedings of the Representative Body, laid before the General Synod of the Church of Ireland at its Seventh ordinary Session, 1877. 8vo. (Dublin, 1877.)
The Irish Church Directory for 1877. 8vo. (Dublin, 1877-) SEVEN years have elapsed since that momentous change in the constitution of the Church of Ireland, which different persons will characterize in very different terms, some looking upon the legislation of 1869 as a righteous retribution, and an act of national justice too long deferred, or in the figurative language of the prime agent of that exploit, the uprooting of the deadly Upas tree which had long poisoned the ecclesiastical horizon in Ireland; while others, no doubt, consider it an act of injustice greatly to be deplored, or, to speak plainly, a deed of downright robbery and confiscation, the consequences of which can scarcely at present be estimated, though they may not be unmixed with some good effect to the Church even of our own day, and may lead to future benefit and improvement in time to come.
But, although seven years have passed since the disendow
ment and disestablishment of the Irish Church, it is obvious that that is far too limited a period to enable us with any certainty to prognosticate what may be her future course. Those seven years have been years of great inquietude, of constant agitation and excitement, not only as regards the temporal interests of the Church, but the much more important subjects relating to the Revision of the Prayer-Book, which have been discussed in successive Synods, not without considerable ability, but causing, nevertheless, much pain and distress to faithful Churchmen, whether members of the Synods or not, who were liable to hear, or read, from day to day, almost every Catholic doctrine of the Church in turn fiercely attacked, though eventually it may be triumphantly vindicated.
We propose, therefore, in this paper to consider, as far as our present information will permit, what is the existing condition and what are the prospects of the Church of Ireland? and to this end it will be well to take into account, first, the state of the ecclesiastical buildings, the cathedrals, churches, and glebe-houses; next, the union of benefices as altered since the Act of 1869; thirdly, the nomination system; fourthly, the revision movement; fifthly, whether the Romish hierarchy and priesthood have been more or less aggressive since the disendowment and disestablishment of the Church; and, lastly, what effect that event has had upon vital religion in Ireland, with a glance towards the future prospects of the Church.
1. Ecclesiastical Buildings.- Now, were we to gauge the prosperity of the Irish Church solely by the state of its ecclesiastical buildings, we should take a favourable view of the subject, for it cannot be doubted that there has been, during the last seven years, a steady and general progress in this respect throughout the greater part of Ireland, many cathedrals and churches having been rebuilt and restored from the foundations, and glebe-houses generally improved and put in good order; but before we come to particulars it will be well to remember that the commencement of this general improvement dates back from the last twenty or thirty years, and may be traced to the slow but certain development of good taste, founded upon the general enlightenment on the subject of Church architecture, or Ecclesiology, as we now term it, which, beginning in England about the time of the 'Oxford Tracts,' has caused a general restoration of churches and chapels throughout the British Empire.
But to give a very hasty sketch of what has been done