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Lincoln may turn his own great powers to the task, of which he so vividly sees the need, and the lines of which he has so truly laid down by contrast in the masterly picture he has drawn of an unsuccessful rationalism. Its main subject is the anti-deistical writers of 1720 — 1750. The acceptance of reason as the supreme judge of the matter as well as the evidence of revelation, is the main feature in the picture drawn of them. Without attempting to settle the true bounds of the functions of reason in religious subjects, or to define differing degrees of excess in the matter, an extreme view of the subject is laid to the charge of the school of wri- ters above named as a whole, including names emi- nent not only then but for all time.
There can be no doubt that the eighteenth century was a rationalistic age.
And the tone of the time infected the Church as well as its opponents. But then rationalism appears in Church writers in the form of a concession, under continual protest, and carefully shackled by all possible limita- tions. Of the writers named in the Essay, even Sogers talks of "inevident" propositions in religion.
And Tillotson denies that " the finite can comprehend the infinite," or that human similitudes can fully explain divine mysteries. And Prideaux qualifies his own broad principle, in the end of the Tract from which the Essay quotes. And of others we shall see below, that a denial of the supremacy of reason is really more THEIR METAPHYSICAL SHALLOWNESS.
Conceding then (as we must) the name, and the essay writing on customer service fact, so far as they indicate a difference between particular schools of English theology, it is clearly unfair to reckon these divines and their opponents as alike rationalists.
And the result of so indiscriminate a statement is simply to leave the impression that the Christian reasoners in that controversy did precisely the opposite of what they really did.
Indisputably, however, the school was unduly ra- tionalistic. And every one familiar with their writings must admit the general truth of the masterly analysis given in the Essay, of their line of argument. That religious faith ought to be the issue of a purely intellectual process, is maintained by them in a far too unguarded way.
While admitting that in point of fact it can hardly be the actual case with any, their ideal of a Christian belief was yet that of a state of mind which, starting from pure impartiality, had admitted no influences to build it up save those which reach the heart through the understanding. So far the Essayist has not done them injustice, and has sup- plied to ourselves a powerful and profound criticism upon a position too common still to render that cri- ticism unpractical, and too much mixed up with truth to allow it custom written research paper to be useless. It is one prominent in the unmetaphysical pages of Bishop Butler. And though intimations may be found of the deeper view in the writings of eighteenth cen- tury divines, — and the celebrated work of Bishop Browne is a proof that the formal speculations of even theologians tended sometimes, wisely or unwisely, in a like direction, — yet the general tone of speculation on the subject tended to custom written research paper the encouragement of undue rationalism, by omitting to mark distinctly the exist- ence of those deeper truths before which reason fails in its own intrinsic powers. Further still, the Hanoverian divines of the last age, though the Essayist only notes this incidentally, paid little attention to the custom written research paper authority of the Church, in any sense of the phrase.
They threw individuals too nakedly upon their own bare reason, and bade them make a creed for themselves with too little of safeguard in respect to the Creeds of the Church. For to talk of Church authority to deistical opponents would have been waste need someone write my paper of words. And the theory at least of "the use and value of ecclesiastical anti- quity" cannot be said to have been wholly forgotten or denied in the age that produced Cave and Waterland. Again, there is of course a sense in which reason is supreme.
It is a common fallacy which shifts the real burden of the private judgment question to an irrele- vant issue. The information supplied by faith must perforce be cast in the mould of the human reason in order to obtain access to the human mind at all.
We must perforce argue on the assumption of the forms of the reason. And reason itself must settle, for us, how far these forms are to be trusted as suffi- cient equivalents for the ideas represented under them. And in particular of the primary axioms of the moral reason. Surely nothing can be made out re- specting the doctrines of a particular school from ad- missions of the independence and supremacy of the simplest moral ideas. Morality must not be set up as something overruling God from with- out Him. But if we are to have any real meaning in our words, the proposition that God is good must needs contain something more than that He is any- thing whatsoever that He has pleased to be. And every one who would argue on moral subjects, must needs have distinct and substantive principles on which to argue.
It is no " rationalism," then, in any specific sense, to maintain that elementary moral truth is as axiomatic as the bare forms of the reason themselves. So far, then, the imputation of rationalism to the eighteenth century is very far from being an untrue imputation.
But the Essay imputes to them a much more extreme rationalism than this. It represents them as claiming or admitting a " verifying faculty" in the largest sense. Eeason, in their use of it, is described as u proving instead of evolving, arguing upon instead of appropriating, the eternal verities. The comparison of the early anti-deistical writers to Coleridge sufficiently shews EXTREME RATIONALISM IMPUTED TO THE SCHOOL. Xow nothing is easier than to shew that the leading divines of that age were so far from accepting, that they dis- tinctly rejected, the supremacy of reason in this sense and to this extent. That as a rule they did not appeal simply to authority, whether of the Church or of the Fathers or of primitive tradition, but to reason, and to authority, if at all, only as entirely subordinate to rea- son, is perfectly true.
Partly it did not harmonize with their own tone of thought or doctrine to do otherwise.
Partly they were compelled by the necessities of argu- ment to take ground which their opponents would ad- mit.