Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/30

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modern champions of the Church, are decided Rationalists; the latter two decided sceptics. Of the poets who have influenced the nineteenth century, Wordsworth, Southey, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Browning, Tennyson, G. Eliot, A. Clough, Swinburne, Arnold—how few can honestly be said to have remained in the Church? The list is a perfect gradation of stages of the Rationalistic spirit—from Wordsworth to Shelley. We can only say that, on perusing a list of the secular writers of the century, especially of the present day, in poetry, fiction, history, science, ethics, and philosophy, the majority are found to be at least anti-dogmatic and anti-sacerdotal, and to take no more than a moral interest in the Established Church.

Such, then, has been the evolution of the Rationalistic spirit in the Church itself since the beginning of the century. The century opens with the apparent triumph of theologians over the Deistic school, the last embodiment of Rationalistic inquiry. A storm of vituperation greets the appearance of "The Age of Reason." By the middle of the century a book, virtually containing the same principles, is published by a group of professed theologians at Oxford, acclaimed by half the nation, and sanctioned by the highest tribunal of the land. The end of the century is in a fair way to accept even the conclusions of Paine on dogma and Scripture. A similar progress is seen in every other land that is freed from the ignorance and sacerdotal tyranny of the past; but the limits of this sketch confine our attention to England. Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland, and the United States can boast a similar history. Now, however, for the clearer analysis of that progress which has been historically described, we have to consider the particular dogmas of traditional theology which have been modified or rejected, and the influences which effected that remarkable expansion.

One of the most potent influences at work in the direction of Rationalism has been the system of Biblical criticism which has attained such curious results and adopted so subversive a tone in the present century. This will demand special treatment in the next chapter. A third chapter will estimate the important effect of recent discoveries in comparative religion; and the influence of science and philosophy will be separately considered. At present we are concerned with an influence which is not a result of the