Page:Modern Rationalism (1897).djvu/40

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MODERN RATIONALISM.

of darkness. The wide acceptance of a modern work of fiction in which Satan's character is completely revolutionized must be taken as a symptom of the decay of the dogma.

Of the points of doctrine which have suffered from criticism of a purely intellectual nature the most conspicuous is the belief in miracles. Christendom seems to have been a perpetual theatre of miraculous events until the Reformation, when they suddenly cease, and faith looks back for their occurrence to the early ages of the Church and to Scripture. Early in the century the patristic miracles are disregarded, and attention confined to those enumerated in Scripture. As the Rationalistic spirit gains strength it boldly attacks the miracles of Scripture; for, says Mr. Lecky, "the first work of Rationalism is an attempt to explain away the miracles of Scripture." Julius Hare, with a presentiment of the fatal results of German criticism, prepares the attack by teaching that too much importance had been attached to the Scripture miracles; the real and enduring basis of Christianity is its fulfilment of the moral necessities of mankind—miracles are a superfluous adornment of its structure. Baden Powell, in "Essays and Reviews," makes a direct attack upon the very abstract idea of a miracle. Stanley also is liberal on the point. The author of "Supernatural Religion," in 1874, takes as his formal object the task of proving that the miraculous element in Christianity is a delusion. He maintains (1) that miracles are not only highly improbable, but antecedently incredible, so that no amount of testimony would avail, as Hume held and Voltaire denied; and (2) that the actual witnesses to the New Testament miracles, the writers of the Gospels and Epistles, are not entitled to credence. Matthew Arnold is conspicuously anti-miraculous. On the whole, the objection, or at least indifference, to them which is now so common arises, not so much from a belief in their intrinsic impossibility (as the Deists held), or the fallibility of testimony (as Hume held), as from the fact, so clearly enunciated by Huxley, that we are absolutely ignorant of the capabilities of "nature," and therefore illogical in introducing super natural forces to explain phenomena. Among miracles, of course, the resurrection of the body must be included, and there has been a decay of belief in that scriptural doctrine.