Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/15

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Chapter I.


"The surrender to infidelity by the so-called Christian minister is the most alarming feature of the hour" are words which an eminent American preacher of the Evangelical school addressed to his congregation a few years ago. The words are true, with an apology for the crudity of the expression, not only of America, but of England, Germany, Holland, France, and Switzerland. Though it is scarcely correct to speak of this Rationalistic tendency as merely a feature of the present hour: it is one of the most interesting features of the century as a whole, and has, in our days, come to be accepted as a permanent phenomenon. There were, it is true, occasional indications of the same spirit in the preceding century. Dr. Berkeley constructed a philosophical system, which, if fully evolved, would have grave theological consequences; and Dr. Clarke even called himself humorously "a freethinking anti-Freethinker." Still, there was no evidence of a systematic effort to elevate reason or conscience to the dignity of arbiter of all truth, including revealed, and to deliberately modify or reject under its influence some of the most essential points of Christian doctrine. But at the very commencement of the nineteenth century that spirit reveals its operation. A powerful school is formed within the Church under its inspiration which makes such rapid progress that, in 1833, the thoughtful and anxious Newman, in the van of the opposing Tractarian movement, declared that "the nation was on its way to give up revealed truth." Since that date