MR. ARNOLD ON CHRISTIANITY" [SECOND NOTICE.]
WE gave last weeek our reasons for feeling profoundly bewildered with Mr. Arnold's simplification of the religious teaching of the Bible. His doctrine of God, as "a stream of tendency, not our- selves, which makes for righteousness," is intended to redeem this doctrine from "the unprofitable jargon "of metaphysics, and to relieve it from all the difficulties of attributing to God, thought, love, and personality. In fact, however, as we showed, Mr. Arnold no sooner begins to use in his own name language which resem- bles the language of the Bible, than he assumes in God the very qualities for attributing which to him he has been ridiculing the Literature and Dogma. An Essay towards a better Apprehension of the Bible, By Matthew Arnold, D.C.L. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1873.
narrow imagination of Christians, and speaks of this "stream of tendency" as "protecting even to tenderness." Now does he use that language literally or metaphorically ? When he appeals to 1Vordsworth's poetic exaltation of Duty,—
" Nor know we anything so fair As is the smile upon thy face,"
and intimates that it is in a like impersonal sense that the prophets and Christ spoke of the tenderness of God, he forgets to remind us that Wordsworth derived his feeling of the grandeur and sweetness of Duty directly from his belief that it is inspired by the living Spirit of God, and regarded it, therefore, as an effluence from the divine life :—
"Stern Lawgiver yet thou float wear The Godhead's most benignant grace; Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face."
To Wordsworth, as to the Hebrew prophets, however, duty was not God, but the way to God, and borrowed all its beauty and light from God. If therefore Mr. Arnold really holds that to talk of God personally, that is, as really loving men, and answering the cry of their hearts, is unprofitable jargon of metaphysical origin, we would ask him how it is that he is himself forced to use such an expression of his "stream of tendency" as "protecting even to tenderness." What we mean by 'a person' is one with whom we can hold real converse, from whom we can ask what we crave, and receive in answer to our entreaty what is the best satisfaction for these cravings,—sarely not a metaphysical jargon, unless it be equally metaphysical jargon in Mr .
Arnold to say that the tendency which makes for righteous-
ness is "protecting even to tenderness." In one passage he likens the divine spirit to the Muse of Hesiod, and says the poetic influence which Hesiod calls a Muse was a real influence, and that
is all we need know about it :—and the only difference between it and the spirit promised by Jesus, is that while Hesiod's Muse was a" Muse of art and science;" the Paraclete that Jesus promised was the "Muse of Righteousness." But would Hesiod have dreamt of using, concerning his Muse, language which implied a living trust even for the purposes of Art and Science ? Could he possibly have substituted a personal word like 'Father,' and attributed to it a personal influence like 'Jove,' in relation to the Arts and Sciences? And if not, what is it that even compels Mr. Arnold himself to make these substitutions for his "Muse of Righteousness," in spite of his acorn for the narrowing assumption of a personal life in God ? We press these questions, because Mr. Arnold lays claim to having thrown an immense illumination on the Bible by dispelling the metaphysical dreams which have
sprung up around its language' and we are so far from profiting by his help, that we do not ev6iunderstand what he would be at. He seems to us to bring back, by the help of a false passport made out under the name of Emotion,' all that he was going to banish under the name of Metaphysics,' and to take full credit both for the decree of exile and the evasion of that decree by which he
defeats its whole meaning and drift.
And so with regard to his interpretation of Christ's special contribution to revelation,—while there is much of beauty and force in his manner of putting it, he appears to us either to rob Christ's teaching of its very heart, or to be pretendineto do what he does not really wish to do, and actually undoes in the very moment in which he affects to be doing it. His main teaching as to Christ's revelation is this : that he came " to restore the intuition" which formerly identified the permanent or Eternal in conduct with righteousness, and which had always regarded righteousness as the source of blessedness. The Jews, says Mr. Arnold very truly, had lost their hold of this in- tuition of their prophets. They were full of dreams of ex- ternal rescue, by a King who should have supernatural power and come in the clouds of Heaven, but whose reign was to have no
definite relation to the only source of what is permanent safety in human things, righteous conduct. Jesus came to restore this intui- tion. He did this by the help of a Method and a Secret. The Method
was to turn the minds of his disciples away from what was external in conduct to the springs of conduct in inward motive. "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." The Secret was that by giving up what seemed most necessary and desirable, that
to which the heart clung most, a stream of joy was poured through an inward and deeper self, which made what seemed like death a
new fountain of life. Repentance, or rather change of heart,' was the word of the Method ; life through death,' or 'peace in
Jesus Christ,' was the word of the Secret. But in describing the Method, Mr. Arnold forgets to state that "forgiveness" was the tnaater-key which led to "change of heart," and that for- giveness implies a living being to whom a prayer for forgiveness can be addressed. Again, faith in Jesus Christ was necessary to the application of the Secret, but according to Mr. Arnold, faith means nothing but inward attention and the result of that attention the recognition of the inwardness of righteousness, and of the joy and peace in dying to live again in Christ, i.e., the recognition of the blessings to be gained by using Christ's Secret that joy comes not of gratifying the wants of our outward self, but in renouncing those wants in obedience to the higher impulse of our inward self :— " His ' method ' directed the disciple's eye inward and set his con- sciousness to work ; and the first thing his consciousness told him was, that he had two solves pulling him different ways. Till we attend, till the method is set at work, it seems as if the wishes of the flesh and of the current thoughts' were to be followed as a matter of course ; as if an impulse to do a thing means that we should do it. But when we attend, we find that an impulse to do a thing is really in itself no reason at all why we should do it; because impulses proceed from two sources, quite different, and of quite different degrees of authority. St. Paid contrasts them as the inward man, and the man in our members ; the mind of the flesh, and the spiritual mind. Jesus contrasts them as life, properly so named, and life in this world. And the moment we seriously attend to conscience, to the suggestions which concern prac- tice and conduct, we can see plainly enough from which source a suggestion comes, and that the suggestions from one source are to overrule those from the other."
"No one has more insisted on this opposition between faith and reason than a writer whom we can never name but with respect, —Dr. Newman. 'The moral trial involved in faith,' he says,
lies in the submission of the reason to external realities par- tially disclosed.' And again Faith is, in its very nature, the acceptance of what our reason cannot reach, simply and absolutely upon testimony.' But surely faith is, in its very nature, (with all respect be it spoken!) nothing of the kind ; else how could Christ say to the Jews : 'If I tell you the truth, why do ye not believe me ?' Surely this implies that faith, instead of being a submission of the reason to what puzzles it, is rather a recognition of what is perfectly clear, if we will attend to it. We cannot always attend, all of us ; and here is the not ourselves in the matter, 'the grace of God.' But atten- tion, cleaving, attaching oneself fast to what is undeniably true,—this is what the faith of Scripture, 'in its very nature,' is ; and not the sub- mission of the reason to what puzzles it, or the acceptance, simply and absolutely upon testimony, of what our reason cannot reach. And all that the Bible says of bringing to nought the wisdom of the wise, and of receiving the kingdom of God as a little child, has nothing whatever to do with the believer's acceptance of some dogma that perplexes the reason ; it is aimed at those who sophisticate a very simple thing, religion, by importing into it a so-called science with which it has nothing to do. Jewish theological learning, the system of divinity of the Jewish hierarchy, who did not know how simple a thing righteous- ness really was, and who, when simple souls saw it in Christ and were drawn to it, cried out, This people that knoweth not the law are cursed!' it was at these, and at whatever resembles these. that Christ aimed the words about receiving the kingdom of God as a little child."
Now, Mr. Arnold's exposition both of the Method and the Secret of Jesus seems to us both true and finely expressed. We cannot, however, attach the least value to his extraordinary exposition of the meaning of "belief." "Attaching oneself fast to what is un- deniably true," is not only not, as it seems to us, the " faith " of our Lord's language, but if you try our Lord's most characteristic uses of the word "faith," by Mr. Arnold's standard, you make non- sense of them. Let us try. Jesus says in one place, after the wither- ing of the fig-tree, "have faith in God, for verily I say unto you, whosoever shall say unto this mountain,"—the mountain, no doubt, on which Jerusalem stood,—" 'Be thou removed and cast into the sea,' and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatever be saith : "—by which we suppose our Lord to have been alluding to the complete uprooting of the local worship which his Gospel was to accomplish, in the same sense as when he said to the woman of Samaria in St. John's Gospel, "The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father ;" and we suppose St. Paul to have been referring to this saying when he spoke of " all faith, so that I could remove mountains." We under- stand Christ to have meant, then, that as that which he was teaching was practically to remove the foundations of the Jewish Temple, and cast it into the sea, so any one of his disciples who could feel the same absolute trust in God that he did, should be able, by the help of that trust, to remove obstacles apparently as gigantic. But let us try Mr. Arnold's gloss, and substitute for trust "close attachment" or "attention," and consequently for " doubt " deviation, wandering, loss of hold,--" Attach yourself fast to the source of righteousness, for verily I say unto you that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and cast into the sea, and shall not in his heart loosen his hold ton righteousness], but shall attach himself fast' to these things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith." That is meaningless. The use of the word " belief " or "trust" in rela- tion to the future here, sufficiently shows that it is not a mere 'self-contained inward act, but has reference to a will outside the mind of the believer, in whose breast the executive power which is to verify his faith, lies. Or if that is too peculiar a passage, take that in which Christ praises the centurion who would not let him come to his house, but begged him to speak the word, and his ser- vant should be healed, on which our Lord says, " I have notiound so great faith, no not in Israel." Is it possible here to substitute, "I have not found so much fast attachment, no, not in Israel ? Or take Christ's rebuke to his disciples for their fear in the boat on the lake of Galilee, " Why are ye fearful, 0 ye of little faith ?" Is it conceivable that in cases such as this the word "faith" is to be explained not as "trust," not as the reliance on a living being who held their fate in his hand, but as "fast attachment
or attention" to the inward power of righteousness ? Can the disciples have been reproached for showing a want of tenacity in holding to the truth of their inward life? Such explanations are not interpretations, but evasions. It seems to us perfectly clear that faith is always used by Christ in the sense of trust,—trust in the power of Him who numbers the hairs of the head, and lets not a sparrow fall without his will, and that every attempt to get rid of this living act of reliance on a divine power outside human nature, is an attempt to empty Christ's language of its simplest and also deepest significance.
And here it is, then, that we find ?Jr. Arnold's fine exposition of the "Method" and of the "Secret" of Christ, spoiled by his attempt to explain away the living spiritual act on which Christ relied both for the new inwardness and for the new joy he earner to bring. Trust in the aid of a living power was the spell by which motive was to be purified, and by which alone it could be purified of its weakness and of its presumption, of its cowardice and of its vanity. Trust in the aid of a living power was the-apell also by which the joy came through sorrow, the life through death The" Method " was useless without trust, for though you might get at the very roots of evil motive, yet without falling back on a life- of purity that was not in themselves at all, Christ's disciples could not have exorcised those evil motives. Without trust in that "forgiveness" which was as much the word of the Method as repentance itself, there would have been no power to "go and sin no more." Again, without the same trust, the secret was no- secret. It is poor reasoning that because happiness might have followed self-renunciation in one or two instances, it would £10' so always, unless there be a permanent divine will to trust to, by whose living spirit the law of connection is made. Mr. Arnold's 'verification of experience' is no verification at all. Have we not all known that the happy emotion of one day was wanting the next, with no visible reason for its deficiency ?' If we may trust a living Will to bring us ultimately blessedness ma the fruit of duty, we may rely upon the Secret even when there is no 'verifying' experience. But if not,—if we have nothing better- to "attach ourselves fast" to, than a "tendency which makes for righteousness," and of which it is "unprofitable jargon" to think as a being who lives and loves and sustains us through death, then the secret is but an ambiguous riddle, after all, with more than one answer,—an answer varying with time and circumstance.
We have said nothing of Mr. Arnold's negative criticism on the historical narratives of the Gospels, because that is not the original, nor is it the strong, part of his book. But keeping to its strictly literary interpretations of the Hebrew and Christian revelation, we fear we must say, that with much that is true, delicate, and spiritual in its incidental touches, the great object of the book is, if we have not utterly misapprehended its drift, to cut away from the Old and New Testaments the very foundation of their faith, to give us a Christianity ' iu the air,'—a subtilised morality adrift. from the only anchor of the human affections,—a living God.