Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/38

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38

MODERN RATIONALISM.

And simultaneously with this cessation of belief in the merit of faith there has spread a refusal to admit the demerit of unbelief as such. This attitude is more particularly a result of nineteenth-century evolution, for the Reformers were as ready to burn the unbeliever as their predecessors. With the multiplication of sects a more lenient view of theological error was inevitable, and even Chillingworth admitted "the absolute innocence of error." Yet this leniency was only extended to the absolute unbeliever with much unwillingness, and under a kind of moral compulsion. We have seen how, in the early years of this century, even the Deism of Paine was grievously persecuted; and even the illustrious De Maistre believed that infidels always died of horrible diseases with special names. Truth, however, has prevailed; in face of the glorious list of "unbelieving" Englishmen of the nineteenth century—a veritable legion of honour—quoted in the Introduction, no one who has not had the perverse training of a Roman Catholic, or who does not live in the emotional atmosphere of the lower Evangelical school, can sustain the "pestilent doctrine" of the sinfulness of scepticism. Yet the doctrine is still embodied in the formularies of the Anglican Church. As Stanley pointed out to Arch bishop Tait, according to the Athanasian creed (contained in the Prayer-book to which the clergyman subscribes) all the Greeks are hopelessly damned, since they do not admit that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son; yet he quotes, with warm approval, the words of a "great prelate": "I never met with a single clergyman who believed this in the literal sense of the words." Again, the 18th article runs: "They also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved."

With this compare the following words from one of the Rev. A. Momerie's sermons: "Many so-called infidels and atheists are among the most zealous servants of God." And even bishops have endorsed that panegyric of the avowed "infidel"—Charles Darwin. However, this question will recur in the last chapter.

The doctrine of Predestination has also been profoundly