Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/32

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32

MODERN RATIONALISM.

of his Deity; indeed, he is taught that such will be his mental condition in the abode of bliss that he will look down with complacency on the fearful fate of his dearest friends. (3) It predisposes to persecution; the terrible example of the divine chastiser sanctions the minor terrestrial persecutions of the Inquisition, and of every period and section of Christianity.

On the other hand, the efforts of rationalizing theologians to explain away the pellucid teaching of Christ on the subject are painfully ingenious. Maurice drew a distinction between eternal and everlasting which is difficult to less subtle minds. H. Ward-Beecher says: "I doubt whether in the days of the Old Testament, or in the Jewish mind at the time of our Saviour, the sharp, metaphysically-accurate idea of time and duration existed. I believe that what they meant by eternal was a vague and nebulous period of time, and that it was not used in a scientific sense, but in a poetic." When Canon Farrar preached his famous five sermons on the subject in Westminster Abbey, he said, after describing the traditional belief: "Though texts may be quoted which give prima facie plausibility to such modes of teaching, yet, to say nothing of the fact that the light and love which God himself has kindled within us recoil from them, these texts are, in the first place, alien to the broad, unifying principles of Scripture. That, in the next place, they are founded on interpretations demonstrably groundless; and, in the third place, that for every one so quoted two can be adduced to the contrary." And he concludes: "Thus, then, finding neither in Scripture nor anywhere anything to prove that the fate of every man is at death irrevocably determined, I shake off the hideous incubus of atrocious conceptions attached by false theology to the doctrine of final retribution." With such words, spoken by the first preacher in the first temple of the English Church, the "hideous incubus" may be dismissed for ever.

So universal and emphatic is the rejection of this treasured doctrine of nineteen centuries of Christendom that antipathy to it has actually penetrated into the Church of Rome—so aptly compared by Dr. Jessopp to the Celestial Empire. In the Irish Ecclesiastical Record there had appeared an article extenuating the harsh features of the dogma, and