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notion of God necessarily implies a false standard of morality. And if some among us have been tempted to make a losing compromise with the infidelity of the age by surrendering essential features of the revealed character of God, I fear we shall soon see the effect of their error in a moral deterioration, if not in themselves, yet certainly and speedily in their followers and the heirs of their doctrine.

But besides this, there are circumstances, unhappily notorious, which seemed to me to make such a statement necessary at the present time. There has never indeed been a time at which Christianity has not been assailed from one side or the other: and a plain declaration of the truth, as far as God has enabled us to receive it, is never without its value.

Just now, however, the assault seems to come from such a quarter, and in such a form, as to make it a peculiar and pressing danger for that class of hearers especially to whom these Sermons were addressed. The candidates for confirmation in a School Chapel consist in large part of boys who are about to pass in a short time to one of our great Universities; that is to say, they will very soon be in a position to have the most difficult and important questions affecting their faith as Christians brought before them as subjects of ordinary


discussion. In one at least of the Universities, it may be said, the regular course of study, admirable as it is for the purpose of intellectual training, is open to this objection, that it encourages the habit of free speculation at an age when the mind is evidently unprepared for so severe a trial.

It surely cannot be thought premature or inappropriate, if I have taken advantage of a time of serious reflection, to set before my pupils a simple view of the general grounds on which the Christianity of the Church of England claims their allegiance.

And it is desirable at the same time that educated men who have children to bring up and desire to see them established in the truth, should carefully consider the direction of that current of thought, which is strongly bearing on the minds of students at this time; that they should know, too, to what extent it has already carried some of the most eminent and authoritative teachers in our own communion.

The direction of the current has indeed been apparent for some time past. Any one who will take the pains to review the principal theological works of the last twenty years, may trace its progress. We have seen during that period in the writings of powerful and popular


authors, an open denial of the doctrines of Atonement and of Eternal Punishment: a rejection of Miracles as an evidence of Revelation, and an avowed purpose of demolishing what they have termed Bibliolatry, that is, an exaggerated respect for the Bible: a feeling which they deplore as a fruitful source of error. And this last purpose has been pushed to the extent of throwing doubts on the special inspiration of the Bible, and consequently on the reality of all external Revelation.

The collection of “Essays and Reviews, which has lately attracted very general notice, can hardly be said to have contributed anything new to the movement.

It has only summed up the progress made in this direction to the present time, and given a more explicit indication of the end to which the movement is tending.

Indeed, the publication of this particular volume will have rendered a great service to the cause of truth, if it only rouses us to the apprehension of what is really going on in men's minds about us. It declares, with great boldness and plainness of speech, that the very foundations of the Christian faith are in question. It is no longer the precise form of a doctrine or the wording of an article that is under discussion; but whether Christianity may




not be a delusion or an imposture, whether we have received a revelation from God at all. It certainly seems to me to be an opinion common to most of the writers who have contributed to this remarkable volume, that the Bible is in no special and distinctive sense such a revelation.

The attitude of fixed attention, and eager inquiry into which the Church of England has been startled by this publication, may be regarded as a promise of lasting benefit to be derived from a temporary disquietude.

On the other hand, it is doubtless an indication of a real and a serious danger. These writers, and others of the same school, have greatly extended the latitude generally and fairly allowed in our Church to inquiry and discussion. And thus they are in a position to propagate their opinions more widely and with greater authority than others who have hitherto considered their doubts on these same subjects an insuperable bar to a position in the Church.

It is not to be supposed that those who hold these opinions can long maintain their present position. In fact, it is not permanence but movement which they aim at, for the present at least.

Already the early leaders of the school have been displaced and thrown

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into shade by bolder and abler speculators. And these in turn will have to endure the fate which awaits all revolutionary leaders. They will either be pushed forward to conclusions before which they now falter; or other men, with stouter hearts and more logical minds will put them aside and their


without them. They have stated the premisses clearly enough; if they shrink from drawing the conclusion, others will draw it for themselves : they have worked up the piece to the very close, and other hands will be found—already one giant hand has been put forth—to strike the last chord. They have surrendered the principal doctrines of Christianity: they have repudiated the evidence to which its Founder and His followers invariably appealed; surely there is not much left to them, as Christians, worth contending for.

In the meantime we may learn one or two useful lessons from a consideration of this controversy, and the opinions and statements which have been brought out in its progress.

1. I think it warns us never again, as perhaps we have been tempted to do, wilfully to shut our eyes to the real difficulties of our belief. This class of writers will have done

* See “ Westminster Review," Oct. 1860.

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