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OF

THE RISE AND PROGRESS

66

OF

CHRISTIANITY.

BY

ROBERT WILLIAM MACKAY, M.A.,

AUTHOR OF

THE PROGRESS OF THE INTELLECT, AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE RELIGIOUS
DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREEKS AND HEBREWS.

WILLIAMS AND NORGATE,

14, HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON;
AND 20, SOUTH FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH.

MDCCCLIV.

LONDON: PRINTED BY WOODFALL AND KINDER, ANGEL COURT, SKINNER STREET.

7-25-39 MA

6.26-39

PREFACE.

THE treatment of Christian Theology has hitherto oscillated between church authority and individual impulse and feeling. Reason has throughout played only an incidental and secondary part. The early misapplication of it in the endeavour to determine, by way of speculative inference, the essential nature of the Deity, could end only in discomfiture. The Trinitarian controversy of the first centuries was a hopeless entanglement, in which the mind, driven from point to point by its own ingenuity, eventually registered the utterances of its torture and despair in the unintelligible jargon of the Athanasian Creed. Reawakening after a long interval, it returned once more to grapple with the "Creed" or established articles of dogma which had obtained undisputed possession of the Christian mind during the middle ages. But this new attempt turned out as unfortunately as the former one; and, so far from establishing a satisfactory alliance between faith and reason, produced their formal, and, it would seem, final separation. The only remaining alternative was that of an unmitigated dogmatism, or, if individual judgment were appealed to, an appeal strictly limited to Scripture and to feeling. A mystical coalition between the received dogma and the internal sentiments was still possible; if a man could not prove the truth of his position, he might at least feel himself to be in the right; the dogma might be arbitrarily limited to meet the feeling, or the feeling enlarged to comprehend the mysteries of the dogma. This was the ground taken by the early reformers, the medi

æval mystics, the school of Schleiermacher, and evangelical theology generally. The immediate aim of reform was not theoretical but practical; it contemplated not speculative change, but a better assurance of salvation. Evangelism, or, as it has been called, "pectoral theology," finds its infallible oracle in the spontaneous instincts of the soul; it denounces science as atheistic, and decries the unholy "propensions" of literary criticism. But a higher principle was tacitly implied in the Reformation. The rejection of church authority, the substitution of a scriptural criterium for an ecclesiastical one, and the arbitrary sifting and reconstruction of doctrine, presupposed the rights of cultivated judgment and progressive thought. The appeal to Scripture challenged inquiry in regard to its canonicity and interpretation; and, in particular, if the Reformation were to be a revival of primitive Christianity, it was before all things necessary to determine what primitive Christianity really was. The question is an historical one; and its importance must excuse the large, but still inadequate, space devoted to it in the following pages. It may be answered with more certainty now than at any former period, in consequence of the more searching investigations made since the time of Eichhorn into the Christian literature of the first two centuries; investigations which have been studiously withheld by those whose duty it is to inform the public mind, but who prefer to live upon its "child-like simplicity" or ignorance. The inquiry, it is true, should be rather with a view to comparison than imitation, since Protestantism gains little by copying an absolute precedent, and indeed cannot be retrogressive without abdicating its nature. Yet in reverting to the past it is impossible to help wondering how it is that Christianity should have dwindled down to the "drivelling, feeble, desultory thing" which it now appears to be; a distorted burlesque of the original, exhibiting itself chiefly in Sabbatarian absurdities and a crazy infatuation about the prophecies. If Protestantism be really

1 See the "Times" of October 26, 1854.

destitute of any distinct intellectual principle, if it be only a pretext for sectarian discord, or a name for the many anomalous professions of dissent from the dogmas and discipline of Rome, it were better at once to recognise the fact of its failure, and, for the sake of peace, to accept the despotic rule which is sure to be the last refuge of mental imbecility.

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