Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/13

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INTRODUCTION.

merely destructive, but teaches also elevated social and ethical ideals to humanity. Once the spirit of criticism had successfully attacked the evidences of supernatural religion, it turned its attention to the evidences of natural religion, or pure Theism, which the older Rationalists had respected. The century opens with a development of the empirical philosophy which rapidly produces its most negative results. Coleridge introduces the transcendental philosophy from Germany, which he has learned from Kant's followers, and the first efforts of Biblical criticism from Lessing and Semler. In the course of the century the empirical philosophy developes into pure Agnosticism and Positivism, evokes a brilliant series of exponents from James Mill to Spencer, and obtains a wide acceptance from the gradually-educated country. German philosophy runs its course into Hegelian Pantheism, and its moral anxiety, in virtue of which it still clung to Theism, finds a relief in the rise and rapid growth of a system of purely rational ethics. Biblical criticism, availing itself of the growing effectiveness of philology and archaeology, works a revolution in the educated and the popular view of the Bible. Physical science makes gigantic progress throughout the century, rising like a flood over the successive entrenchments of retreating theologians, and constructing a new view of man and his material environment, which induces a profound modification of the earlier theological teaching. History throws new and wondrous light upon the origin and nature and ethical contents of non-Christian religions, and the strange analogy of their myths to Christian dogmas. Education is improved and secularized; the spirit of inquiry pervades the masses. By the end of the century a sceptical Rationalism "absolutely over-rides our age,"[1] and "is found in every able book" which we open. The list of ardent Rationalists in England

  1. Lecky's "History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism."