An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant.
great beauty of personal character and piety.  Yet it was completely cut off from any living relation to the thought of the age.  There was among its representatives no spirit of theological inquiry.  There was, if anything, less probability of theological reconstruction, from this quarter, than from the circles of the older German pietism, with which this English evangelicalism of the time of the later Georges had not a little in common.  There had been a great enthusiasm for humanity at the opening of the period of the French Revolution, but the excesses and atrocities of the Revolution had profoundly shocked the English mind.  There was abroad something of the same sense for the return to nature, and of the greatness of man, which moved Schiller and Goethe.  The exponents of it were, however, almost exclusively the poets, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Byron.  There was nothing which combined these various elements as parts of a great whole.  Britain had stood outside the area of the Revolution, and yet had put forth stupendous efforts, ultimately successful, to make an end of the revolutionary era and of the Napoleonic despotism.  This tended perhaps to give to Britons some natural satisfaction in the British Constitution and the established Church which flourished under it.  Finally, while men on the Continent were devising holy alliances and other chimeras of the sort, England was precipitated into the earlier acute stages of the industrial revolution in which she has led the European nations and still leads.  This fact explains a certain preoccupation of the British mind with questions remote from theological reconstruction or religious speculation.

THE POETS

It may now sound like a contradiction if we assert that the years from 1780 to 1830 constitute the era of the noblest English poetry since the times of great Elizabeth.  The social direction of the new theology of the present day, with its cry against every kind of injustice, with its claim of an equal opportunity for a happy life for every man—­this was the forecast of Cowper, as it had been of Blake.  To Blake all outward infallible authority of books or churches was iniquitous.  He was at daggers drawn with every doctrine which set limit to the freedom of all men to love God, or which could doubt that God had loved all men.  Jesus alone had seen the true thing.  God was a father, every man his child.  Long before 1789, Burns was filled with the new ideas of the freedom and brotherhood of man, with zeal for the overthrow of unjust privilege.  He had spoken in imperishable words of the holiness of the common life.  He had come into contact with the most dreadful consequences of Calvinism.  He has pilloried these mercilessly in his ‘Holy Tulzie’ and in his ’Holy Willie’s Prayer.’  Such poems must have shaken Calvinism more than a thousand liberal sermons could have done.  What Coleridge might have done in this field, had he not

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An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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