The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 665 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.
of poets and essayists represented by Coleridge and Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb, De Quincey, and we may add Blake, were in many respects separated by a wider gulf, except only in time, from the authors of twenty years before, than they were from the writers of the Elizabethan age.  New hopes and aspirations as to the capabilities of human life, new and more spiritual aspects of nature, of art, of poetry, of history, made it impossible for those who felt these influences in all the freshness of their new life to look with the same eyes as their fathers on those questions above all others which related to the intellectual and spiritual faculties of the soul.  It was a worthy aim for a poet-philosopher such as Coleridge was—­a mystic and enthusiast in one aspect of his mind, a devoted ‘friend of reason’ in another—­to analyse reason and unite its sublimer powers with conscience as a divinely given ‘inner light,’ to combine in one the highest exercise of the intellectual and the moral faculties.  Emotional religion had exhibited on a large scale alike its powers and deficiencies.  Thoughtful and religious men could scarcely do better than set themselves to restore the balance where it was unequal.  They had to teach that faith must be based, not only upon feeling and undefined impulse, but on solid intellectual apprehension.  They had to urge with no less earnestness that religious truth has to be not only outwardly apprehended, but inwardly appropriated before it can become possessed of true spiritual efficacy.  It is most true that vague ideas of some inward illumination are but a miserable substitute for a sound historical faith, but it is no less true that a so-called historical faith has not become faith at all until the soul has received it into itself, and made of it an inward light.  In the eighteenth century, as in every other, mystics and enthusiasts have insisted only on inward illuminations and spiritual experiences, while of men of a very different cast of mind some have perpetually harped upon authority and some upon reason and reasonableness.  It may be hoped that our own century may be more successful in the difficult but not discouraging task of investigating and harmonising their respective claims.

C.J.A.

FOOTNOTES: 

[Footnote 468:  Or to a painter’s imagination.  The Idler, not however without some fear of ‘its wild extravagances’ even in this sphere, allows that ’one may very safely recommend a little more enthusiasm to the modern painters; too much is certainly not the vice of the present age.’—­No. 79.]

[Footnote 469:  Henry More, Enthus.  Triumphatus, Sec. 4.]

[Footnote 470:  Quarterly Review, xxviii 37.]

[Footnote 471:  H. More, On the Immortality of the Soul, b. iii. ch. 12; and the whole treatise, especially the third and fourth books.]

[Footnote 472:  H. More, Phil.  Works, General Preface, Sec. 6; and Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, Sec. 52.]

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