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Our task is to compare the ways in which certain representative thinkers of the nineteenth century have set out to find the Seat of Authority in Religion; and our object is to reach by this means a conception, as satisfying as possible, of what is the true and permanent basis of religious belief.
In order to carry through such an inquiry with any success, four main "rules of criticism ” must be understood. The conflict between the old and the new in religious belief is really a Development, in which the old is changing its form. This development has of necessity a negative and a positive side; the spirit of the age is “unmaking to remake" (first rule). Con
flict of opinion over religious and other similar questions arises from the nature of the case; for, in such matters, language is not in a sufficiently advanced state to provide a proper expression for thought (second rule); and usually our minds cannot fully grasp those thoughts and feelings which have been the real grounds of our conclusions. The reason of this familiar fact is one which cuts deep; much may be present and active in the mind, of which the mind itself is only vaguely aware (third rule). This is true for the mind of a community or an age, as well as for that of an individual. A historical illustration
may be found in the "Age of the Revolution”; a more significant one, in the “Transition from Paganism to Christianity," We must analyse this transition, and briefly inquire into the intellectual and moral disintegration of the ancient world.
Our fourth rule of criticism is this. The mutual strife among current beliefs is attended by many evils; but it is one of the most important means by which truer beliefs are suggested, developed out of the prevailing ones, and confirmed,—especially in the case of ideas which, when compared, are seen to be opposite and equally onesided. Hence we may see the importance of the negative and critical element in the development of Truth.
We observe at the beginning of the century a general spiritual awakening and reaction against deistic and mechanical views. A special form which this reaction took was led by Newman. We begin, therefore, by contrasting Newman and Martineau, as representing two theological standpoints in polar opposition.
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON, in one of his suggestive parables, tells us of a certain man who rode forth into the world to find
“the touchstone of the trial of truth,” the stone in whose light “the seeming goes, and the being shows.” Wherever he came to a place of habitation he would ask the men if they had heard of it. And in every place the men answered, “Not only have we heard of it, but we alone of all men possess the thing itself, and it hangs by the side of our chimney to this day.” And then the man would be glad, and beg for a sight of it. Sometimes it would be a piece of a mirror that showed the seeming of things; and they said to him, “ What more do
you want ? There is no truth but the plain truth." And then he would say,
“ This can never be, for there should be more than the seeming." And sometimes it would be a piece of coal, which showed nothing; and then he would say, “ This
never be, for at least there is the seeming.” And sometimes it would be a touchstone indeed, beautiful in hue, the light dwelling in its sides; and when he found this he would beg the thing, and the persons of that place would give it