Sermon 14. Wisdom, as Contrasted with Faith and with Bigotry

"He that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." 1 Cor. ii. 15.

{278} THE gift to which this high characteristic is ascribed by the Apostle is Christian Wisdom, and the Giver is God the Holy Ghost. "We speak wisdom," he says, shortly before the text, "among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world ... but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom." And after making mention of the heavenly truths which Wisdom contemplates, he adds: "God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit ... we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God."

2. In a former verse St. Paul contrasts this divine Wisdom with Faith. "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in {279} the power of God. Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." Faith, then, and Wisdom, are distinct, or even opposite gifts. Wisdom belongs to the perfect, and more especially to preachers of the Gospel; and Faith is the elementary grace which is required of all, especially of hearers. The two are introduced again in a later chapter of the same Epistle: "To one is given by the Spirit the word of Wisdom, to another the word of Knowledge by the same Spirit, to another Faith by the same Spirit." Such are the two gifts which will be found to lie at the beginning and at the end of our new life, both intellectual in their nature, and both divinely imparted; Faith being an exercise of the Reason, so spontaneous, unconscious, and unargumentative, as to seem at first sight even to be a moral act, and Wisdom being that orderly and mature development of thought, which in earthly language goes by the name of science and philosophy.

3. In like manner, in the Services of this sacred Season, both these spiritual gifts are intimated, and both referred to the same heavenly source. The Collect virtually speaks of Faith, when it makes mention of Almighty God's "teaching the hearts of His faithful people by the sending to them the light of His Holy Spirit;" and of the Wisdom of the perfect, when it prays God, that "by the same Spirit" we may "have a right judgment in all things."

4. Again, in the Gospel for Whitsunday, the gift of Wisdom is surely implied in Christ's promise, that the Comforter should teach the Apostles "all things," and "bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever He {280} had said unto them;" and in St. Paul's exhortation, which we read yesterday, "In malice be children, but in understanding be men." Again, a cultivation of the reasoning faculty, near akin to Philosophy or Wisdom, is surely implied in the precepts, of which we have heard, or shall hear, from the same Apostle and St. John today, about "proving all things," and "holding fast that which is good," and about "trying the spirits whether they are of God."

5. Again, other parts of our Whitsun Services speak of exercises of Reason more akin to Faith, as being independent of processes of investigation or discussion. In Sunday's Gospel our Lord tells us, "He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him ... If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him." This manifestation is doubtless made to us through our natural faculties; but who will maintain that even so far as it is addressed to our Reason, it comes to us in forms of argument? Again, in the Gospel for yesterday, "He that doeth truth cometh to the light," and on the contrary, "Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil; for every one that doeth evil hateth the light." Men do not choose light or darkness without Reason, but by an instinctive Reason, which is prior to argument and proof. And in the Gospel for today, "The sheep hear His voice, and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. The sheep follow Him, for they know His voice, and a {281} stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers." The sheep could not tell how they knew the Good Shepherd; they had not analyzed their own impressions or cleared the grounds of their knowledge, yet doubtless grounds there were: they, however, acted spontaneously on a loving Faith.

6. In proceeding, then, as I shall now do, to inquire into the nature of Christian Wisdom, as a habit or faculty of mind distinct from Faith, the mature fruit of Reason, and nearly answering to what is meant by Philosophy, it must not be supposed that I am denying its spiritual nature or its divine origin. Almighty God influences us and works in us, through our minds, not without them or in spite of them; as at the fall we did not become other beings than we had been, but forfeited gifts which had been added to us on our creation, so under the Gospel we do not lose any part of the nature in which we are born, but regain what we have lost. We are what we were, and something more. And what is true of God's dealings with our minds generally, is true in particular as regards our reasoning powers. His grace does not supersede, but uses them, and renews them by using. We gain Truth by reasoning, whether implicit or explicit, in a state of nature: we gain it in the same way in a state of grace. Both Faith and Wisdom, the elementary and the perfecting gift of the Holy Spirit, are intellectual habits, and involve the exercise of Reason, and may be examined and defined as any other power of the mind, and are subject to perversion and error, and may be fortified by rules, just as if they were not instruments in the hands of {282} the Most High. It is no derogation, then, from the divine origin of Christian Wisdom, to treat it in its human aspect, to show what it consists in, and what are its counterfeits and perversions; to determine, for instance, that it is much the same as Philosophy, and that its perversions are such as love of system, theorizing, fancifulness, dogmatism, and bigotry,—as we shall be led to do. And now to enter upon our subject.

7. The words philosophy, a philosophical spirit, enlargement or expansion of mind, enlightened ideas, a wise and comprehensive view of things, and the like, are, I need hardly say, of frequent occurrence in the literature of this day, and are taken to mean very much the same thing. That they are always used with a definite meaning, or with any meaning at all, will be maintained by no one; that so many persons, and many of them men of great ability, should use them absolutely with no meaning whatever, and yet should lay such stress and rest so much upon them, is, on the other hand, not to be supposed. Yet their meaning certainly requires drawing out and illustrating. Perhaps it will be best ascertained by setting down some cases, which are commonly understood, or will be claimed, as instances of this process of mental growth or enlargement, in the sense in which the words are at present used.

8. I suppose that, when a person whose experience has hitherto been confined to our own calm and unpretending scenery, goes for the first time into parts where {283} physical nature puts on her wilder and more awful forms, whether at home or abroad, as especially into mountainous districts,—or when one who has ever lived in a quiet village comes for the first time to a great metropolis,— he will have a sensation of mental enlargement, as having gained a range of thoughts to which he was before a stranger.

9. Again, the view of the heavens, which the telescope opens upon us, fills and possesses the mind, and is called an enlargement, whatever is meant by the term.

10. Again, the sight of an assemblage of beasts of prey and other foreign animals, their strangeness and startling novelty, the originality (if I may use the term) and mysteriousness of their forms, and gestures, and habits, and their variety and independence of one another, expand the mind, not without its own consciousness; as if knowledge were a real opening, and as if an addition to the external objects presented before it were an addition to its inward powers.

11. Hence physical science, generally, in all its departments, as bringing before us the exuberant riches, the active principles, yet the orderly course of the universe, is often set forth even as the only true philosophy, and will be allowed by all persons to have a certain power of elevating and exciting the mind, and yet to exercise a tranquillizing influence upon it.

12. Again, the knowledge of history, and again, the knowledge of books generally—in a word, what is meant by education, is commonly said to enlighten and enlarge the mind, whereas ignorance is felt to {284} involve a narrow range and a feeble exercise of its powers.

13. Again, what is called seeing the world, entering into active life, going into society, travelling, acquaintance with the various classes of the community, coming into contact with the principles and modes of thought of separate parties, interests, or nations, their opinions, views, aims, habits, and manners, their religious creeds and forms of worship,—all this exerts a perceptible effect upon the mind, which it is impossible to mistake, be it good or be it bad, and which is popularly called its enlargement or enlightenment.

14. Again, when a person for the first time hears the arguments and speculations of unbelievers, and feels what a very novel light they cast upon what he has hitherto accounted most sacred, it cannot be denied that, unless he is shocked and closes his ears and heart to them, he will have a sense of expansion and elevation.

15. Again, sin brings with it its own enlargement of mind, which Eve was tempted to covet, and of which she made proof. This, perhaps, in the instance of some sins, to which the young are especially tempted, is their great attraction and their great recompense. They excite the curiosity of the innocent, and they intoxicate the imagination of their miserable victims, whose eyes seem opened upon a new world, from which they look back upon their state of innocence with a sort of pity and contempt, as if it were below the dignity of men.

16. On the other hand, religion has its own enlargement. {285} It is often remarked of uneducated persons, who hitherto have lived without seriousness, that on their turning to God, looking into themselves, regulating their hearts, reforming their conduct, and studying the inspired Word, they seem to become, in point of intellect, different beings from what they were before. Before, they took things as they came, and thought no more of one thing than of another. But now every event has a meaning; they form their own estimate of whatever occurs; they recollect times and seasons; and the world, instead of being like the stream which the countryman gazed on, ever in motion and never in progress, is a various and complicated drama, with parts and with an object.

17. Again, those who, being used to nothing better than the divinity of what is historically known as the nonconformist school,—or, again, of the latitudinarian,—are introduced to the theology of the early Church, will often have a vivid sense of enlargement, and will feel they have gained something, as becoming aware of the existence of doctrines, opinions, trains of thought, principles, aims, to which hitherto they have been strangers.

18. And again, such works as treat of the Ministry of the Prophets under the various divine Dispensations, of its nature and characteristics, why it was instituted and what it has effected; the matter, the order, the growth of its disclosures; the views of divine Providence, of the divine counsels and attributes which it was the means of suggesting; and its contrast with the pretences to prophetical knowledge which the {286} world furnishes in mere political partisans or popular fortune-tellers; such treatises, as all will admit, may fitly be said to enlarge the mind.

19. Once more, such works as Bishop Butler's Analogy, which carry on the characteristic lineaments of the Gospel Dispensation into the visible course of things, and, as it were, root its doctrines into nature and society, not only present before the mind a large view of the matters handled, but will be commonly said, and surely, as all will feel, with a true meaning, to enlarge the mind itself which is put in possession of them.

20. These instances show beyond all question that what is called Philosophy, Wisdom, or Enlargement of mind, has some intimate dependence upon the acquisition of Knowledge; and Scripture seems to say the same thing. "God gave Solomon," says the inspired writer, "wisdom and understanding, exceeding much, and largeness of heart even as the sand that is on the sea shore ... And he spake three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spake also of beasts and of fowl, and of creeping things and of fishes." And again, when the Queen of Sheba came, "Solomon told her all her questions; there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not." And in like manner St. Paul, after speaking of the Wisdom of the perfect, calls it a revelation, a knowledge, of the things of God, such as the natural man "discerneth" not. And in another {287} Epistle, evidently speaking of the same Wisdom, he prays that his brethren may be given to "comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fulness of God."

21. However, a very little consideration will make it plain also, that knowledge itself, though a condition of the mind's enlargement, yet, whatever be its range, is not that very thing which enlarges it. Rather the foregoing instances show that this enlargement consists in the comparison of the subjects of knowledge one with another. We feel ourselves to be ranging freely, when we not only learn something, but when we also refer it to what we knew before. It is not the mere addition to our knowledge which is the enlargement, but the change of place, the movement onwards, of that moral centre, to which what we know and what we have been acquiring, the whole mass of our knowledge, as it were, gravitates. And therefore a philosophical cast of thought, or a comprehensive mind, or wisdom in conduct or policy, implies a connected view of the old with the new; an insight into the bearing and influence of each part upon every other; without which there is no whole, and could be no centre. It is the knowledge, not only of things, but of their mutual relations. It is organized, and therefore living knowledge.

22. A number of instances might readily be supplied in which knowledge is found apart from this analytical {288} treatment of the matter of it, and in which it is never associated with Philosophy, or considered to open, enlarge, and enlighten the mind.

23. For instance, a great memory is never made synonymous with Wisdom, any more than a dictionary would be called a treatise. There are men who contemplate things both in the mass and individually, but not correlatively, who accumulate facts without forming judgments, who are satisfied with deep learning or extensive information. They may be linguists, antiquarians, annalists, biographers, or naturalists; but, whatever their merits, which are often very great, they have no claim to be considered philosophers.

24. To the same class belong persons, in other respects very different, who have seen much of the world, and of the men who, in their own day, have played a conspicuous part in it, who are full of information, curious and entertaining, about men and things, but who having lived under the influence of no very clear or settled principles, speak of every one and every thing as mere facts of history, not attempting to illustrate opinions, measures, aims, or policy,—not discussing or teaching, but conversing.

25. Or take, what is again a very different instance, the case of persons of little intellect, and no education, who perhaps have seen much of foreign countries, and who receive in a passive, otiose, unfruitful way, the various facts which are forced upon them. Seafaring men, for example, range from one end of the earth to the other; but the multiplicity of phenomena which they have encountered, forms no harmonious and consistent {289} picture upon their imagination: they see, as it were, the tapestry of human life on the wrong side of it. They sleep, and they rise up, and they find themselves now in Europe, now in Asia; they see visions of great cities and wild regions; they are in the marts of commerce, or amid the islands of the ocean; they gaze on the Andes, or they are ice-bound; and nothing which meets them carries them on to any idea beyond itself. Nothing has a meaning, nothing has a history, nothing has relations. Every thing stands by itself, and comes and goes in its turn, like the shifting sights of a show, leaving the beholder where he was. Or, again, under other circumstances, every thing seems to such persons strange, monstrous, miraculous, and awful; as in fable, to Ulysses and his companions in their wanderings.

26. Or, again, the censure often passed on what is called undigested reading, shows us that knowledge without system is not Philosophy. Students who store themselves so amply with literature or science, that no room is left for determining the respective relations which exist between their acquisitions, one by one, are rather said to load their minds than to enlarge them.

27. Scepticism, in religious matters, affords another instance in point. Those who deliberately refuse to form a judgment upon the most momentous of all subjects; who are content to pass through life in ignorance, why it is given, or by whom, or to what it leads; and who bear to be without tests of truth and error in conduct, without rule and measure for the principles, persons, and events, which they encounter daily,—these men, {290} though they often claim, will not by any Christian be granted, the name of philosophers.

28. All this is more than enough to show that some analytical process, some sort of systematizing, some insight into the mutual relations of things, is essential to that enlargement of mind or philosophical temper, which is commonly attributed to the acquisition of knowledge. In other words, Philosophy is Reason exercised upon Knowledge; for, from the nature of the case, where the facts are given, as is here supposed, Reason is synonymous with analysis, having no office beyond that of ascertaining the relations existing between them. Reason is the power of proceeding to new ideas by means of given ones. Where but one main idea is given, it can employ itself in developing this into its consequences. Thus, from scanty data, it often draws out a whole system, each part with its ascertained relations, collateral or lineal, towards the rest, and all consistent together, because all derived from one and the same origin. And should means be found of ascertaining directly some of the facts which it has been deducing by this abstract process, then their coincidence with its à priori judgments will serve to prove the accuracy of its deductions. Where, however, the facts or doctrines in question are all known from the first, there, instead of advancing from idea to idea, Reason does but connect fact with fact; instead of discovering, it does but analyze; and what was, in the former case, the tracing out of inferences, becomes a laying down of relations.

29. Philosophy, then, is Reason exercised upon {291} Knowledge; or the Knowledge not merely of things in general, but of things in their relations to one another. It is the power of referring every thing to its true place in the universal system,—of understanding the various aspects of each of its parts,—of comprehending the exact value of each,—of tracing each backwards to its beginning, and forward to its end,—of anticipating the separate tendencies of each, and their respective checks or counteractions; and thus of accounting for anomalies, answering objections, supplying deficiencies, making allowance for errors, and meeting emergencies. It never views any part of the extended subject-matter of knowledge, without recollecting that it is but a part, or without the associations which spring from this recollection. It makes every thing lead to every thing else; it communicates the image of the whole body to every separate member, till the whole becomes in imagination like a spirit, every where pervading and penetrating its component parts, and giving them their one definite meaning. Just as our bodily organs, when mentioned, recall to mind their function in the body, as the word creation suggests the idea of a Creator, as subjects that of a sovereign, so in the mind of a philosopher, the elements of the physical and moral world, sciences, arts, pursuits, ranks, offices, events, opinions, individualities, are all viewed, not in themselves, but as relative terms, suggesting a multitude of correlatives, and gradually, by successive combinations, converging one and all to their true centre. Men, whose minds are possessed by some one object, take exaggerated views of its importance, are feverish in their {292} pursuit of it, and are startled or downcast on finding obstacles in the way of it; they are ever in alarm or in transport. And they, on the contrary, who have no firm grasp of principles, are perplexed and lose their way every fresh step they take; they do not know what to think or say of new phenomena which meet them, of whatever kind; they have no view, as it may be called, concerning persons, or occurrences, or facts, which come upon them suddenly; they cannot form a judgment, or determine on a course of action; and they ask the opinion or advice of others as a relief to their minds. But Philosophy cannot be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetuous, cannot be surprised, cannot fear, cannot lose its balance, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the whole in each part, the end in each beginning, the worth of each interruption, the measure of each delay, because it always knows where it is, and how its path lies from one point to another. There are men who, when in difficulties, by the force of genius, originate at the moment vast ideas or dazzling projects; who, under the impulse of excitement, are able to cast a light, almost as if from inspiration, on a subject or course of action which comes before them; who have a sudden presence of mind equal to any emergency, rising with the occasion, and an undaunted heroic bearing, and an energy and keenness, which is but sharpened by opposition. Faith is a gift analogous to this thus far, that it acts promptly and boldly on the occasion, on slender evidence, as if guessing and reaching forward to the {293} truth, amid darkness or confusion; but such is not the Wisdom of the perfect. Wisdom is the clear, calm, accurate vision, and comprehension of the whole course, the whole work of God; and though there is none who has it in its fulness but He who "searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of" the Creator, yet "by that Spirit" they are, in a measure, "revealed unto us." And thus, according to that measure, is the text fulfilled, that "he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged by no man." Others understand him not, master not his ideas, fail to combine, harmonize, or make consistent, those distinct views and principles which come to him from the Infinite Light, and are inspirations of the breath of God. He, on the contrary, compasses others, and locates them, and anticipates their acts, and fathoms their thoughts, for, in the Apostle's language, he "hath the mind of Christ," and all things are his, "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world or life, or death, or things present, or things to come." Such is the marvellousness of the Pentecostal gift, whereby we "have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things."

30. Now, this view of the nature of Philosophy leads to the following remark: that, whereas no arguments in favour of Religion are of much account but such as rest on a philosophical basis, Evidences of Religion, as they are called, which are truly such, must consist mainly in such investigations into the relation of idea to idea, and such developments of system, as have been described, if Philosophy be in these abstract exercises of Reason. Such, for instance, is the argument from {294} analogy, or from the structure of prophecy, or from the needs of human nature; or from the establishment and history of the Catholic Church. From which it follows, first, that what may be called the rhetorical or forensic Evidences,—I mean those which are content with the proof of certain facts, motives, and the like, such as, that a certain miracle must have taken place, or a certain prophecy must have been both written before, and fulfilled in, a certain event; these, whatever their merits, which I have no wish to disparage, are not philosophical. And next, it follows that Evidences in general are not the essential groundwork of Faith, but its reward; since Wisdom is the last gift of the Spirit, and Faith the first.

31. In the foregoing observations I have, in fact, been showing,—in prosecution of a line of thought to which I have before now drawn attention,—what is the true office, and what the legitimate bounds, of those abstract exercises of Reason which may best be described by the name of systematizing. They are in their highest and most honourable place, when they are employed upon the vast field of Knowledge, not in conjecturing unknown truths, but in comparing, adjusting, connecting, explaining facts and doctrines ascertained. Such a use of Reason is Philosophy; such employment was it to which the reason of Newton dedicated itself; and the reason of Butler; and the reason of those ancient Catholic Divines, nay, in their measure, of those illustrious thinkers of the middle ages, who have treated of the Christian Faith on system, Athanasius, {295} Augustine, Aquinas. But where the exercise of Reason much outstrips our Knowledge; where Knowledge is limited, and Reason active; where ascertained truths are scanty, and courses of thought abound; there indulgence of system is unsafe, and may be dangerous. In such cases there is much need of wariness, jealousy of self, and habitual dread of presumption, paradox, and unreality, to preserve our deductions within the bounds of sobriety, and our guesses from assuming the character of discoveries. System, which is the very soul, or, to speak more precisely, the formal cause of Philosophy, when exercised upon adequate knowledge, does but make, or tend to make, theorists, dogmatists, philosophists, and sectarians, when or so far as Knowledge is limited or incomplete.

32. This statement, which will not be questioned, perhaps, in the abstract, requires to be illustrated in detail, and that at a length inconsistent with my present limits. At the risk, however, of exceeding them, I will attempt so much as this,—to show that Faith, distinct as it is from argument, discussion, investigation, philosophy, nay, from Reason altogether, in the popular sense of the word, is at the same time perfectly distinct also from narrowness of mind in all its shapes, though sometimes accidentally connected with it in particular persons. I am led to give attention to this point from its connexion with subjects, of which I have already treated on former occasions.

Topic - Bigotry and Prejudice 33. It is as if a law of the human mind, ever to do things in one and the same way. It does not vary in its modes of action, except by an effort; but, if left to {296} itself, it becomes almost mechanical, as a matter of course. Its doing a thing in a certain way today, is the cause of its doing it in the same way tomorrow. The order of the day perpetuates itself. This is, in fact, only saying that habits arise out of acts, and that character is inseparable from our moral nature. Not only do our features and make remain the same day after day, but we speak in the same tone, adopt the same phrases and turns of thought, fall into the same expressions of countenance, and walk with the same gait as yesterday. And, besides, we have an instinctive love of order and arrangement; we think and act by rule, not only unconsciously, but of set purpose. Method approves itself to us, and aids us in various ways, and to a certain point is pleasant, and in some respects absolutely necessary. Even sceptics cannot proceed without elementary principles, though they would fain dispense with every yoke and bond. Even the uneducated have their own rude modes of classifying, not the less really such, because fantastic or absurd; children too, amid their awe at all that meets them, yet in their own thoughts unconsciously subject these wonders to a law. Poets, while they disown philosophy, frame an ideal system of their own; and naturalists invent, if they do not find, orders and genera, to assist the memory. Latitudinarians, again, while they profess charity towards all doctrines, nevertheless count it heresy to oppose the principle of latitude. Those who condemn persecution for religious opinions, in self-defence persecute those who advocate it. Few of those who maintain that the exercise of private judgment {297} upon Scripture leads to the attainment of Gospel truth, can tolerate the Socinian and Pelagian, who in their own inquiries have taken pains to conform to this rule. Thus, what is invidiously called dogmatism and system, in one shape or other, in one degree or another, is, I may say, necessary to the human mind; we cannot reason, feel, or act, without it; it forms the stamina of thought, which, when it is removed, languishes, and droops. Sooner than dispense with principles, the mind will take them at the hand of others, will put up with such as are faulty or uncertain;—and thus much Wisdom, Bigotry, and Faith, have in common. Principle is the life of them all; but Wisdom is the application of adequate principles to the state of things as we find them, Bigotry is the application of inadequate or narrow principles, while Faith is the maintenance of principles, without caring to apply or adjust them. Thus they differ; and this distinction will serve to enable us to contrast Bigotry and Faith with Wisdom, as I proposed.

34. Now, certainly, Faith may be confused with Bigotry, with dogmatism, positiveness, and kindred habits of mind, on several plausible grounds; for, what is Faith but a reaching forth after truth amid darkness, upon the warrant of certain antecedent notions or spontaneous feelings? It is a presumption about matters of fact, upon principle rather than on knowledge; and what is Bigotry also but this? And, further still, its grounds being thus conditional, what does it issue in? in the absolute acceptance of a certain message or doctrine as divine; that is, it starts from probabilities, yet {298} it ends in peremptory statements, if so be, mysterious, or at least beyond experience. It believes an informant amid doubt, yet accepts his information without doubt. Such is the primà facie resemblance between two habits of mind, which nevertheless are as little to be confused as the Apostles with their Jewish persecutors, as a few words may suffice to show.

35. Now, in the first place, though Faith be a presumption of facts under defective knowledge, yet, be it observed, it is altogether a practical principle. It judges and decides because it cannot help doing so, for the sake of the man himself, who exercises it—not in the way of opinion, not as aiming at mere abstract truth, not as teaching some theory or view. It is the act of a mind feeling that it is its duty any how, under its particular circumstances, to judge and to act, whether its light be greater or less, and wishing to make the most of that light and acting for the best. Its knowledge, then, though defective, is not insufficient for the purpose for which it uses it, for this plain reason, because (such is God's will) it has no more. The servant who hid his Lord's money was punished; and we, since we did not make our circumstances, but were placed in them, shall be judged, not by them, but by our use of them. A view of duty, such as this, may lead us to wrong acts, but not to act wrongly. Christians have sometimes inflicted death from a zeal not according to knowledge; and sometimes they have been eager for the toleration of heresy from an ill-instructed charity. Under such circumstances a man's error may be more acceptable to God than his truth; for his truth, it may be, but evidences {299} clearness of intellect, whereas his error proceeds from conscientiousness; though whence it proceeds, and what it evidences, in a particular case, must be left to the Searcher of hearts.

36. Faith, then, though a presumption, has this peculiarity, that it is exercised under a sense of personal responsibility. It is when our presumptions take a wide range, when they affect to be systematical and philosophical, when they are indulged in matters of speculation, not of conduct, not in reference to self, but to others, then it is that they deserve the name of bigotry and dogmatism. For in such a case we make a wrong use of such light as is given us, and mistake what is "a lantern unto our feet" for the sun in the heavens.

37. Again, it is true that Faith as well as Bigotry maintains dogmatic statements which go beyond its knowledge. It uses words, phrases, propositions, it accepts doctrines and practices, which it but partially understands, or not at all. Now, so far indeed as these statements do not relate to matters of this world, but to heavenly things, of course they are no evidence of Bigotry. As the widest experience of life would not tend to remove the mysteriousness of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, so even the narrowest does not deprive us of the right of asserting it. Much knowledge and little knowledge leave us very much as we were, in a matter of this kind. But the case is very different when positions are in question of a social or moral character, which claim to be rules or maxims for political combination or conduct, for the well-being of the world, or for the guidance of public opinion. Yet {300} many such positions Faith certainly does accept; and thus it seems to place the persons who act upon it in the very position of the bigoted, theoretical, and unreal; who use words beyond their depth, or avow sentiments to which they have no right, or enunciate general principles on defective knowledge. Questions, for instance, about the theory of government, national duties, the establishment of Religion, its relations to the State, the treatment of the poor, and the nature of the Christian Church: these, and other such, may, it cannot be denied, be peremptorily settled, on religious grounds, by persons whose qualifications are manifestly unequal to so great an undertaking, who have not the knowledge, penetration, subtlety, calmness, or experience, which are a claim upon our attention, and who in consequence are, at first sight, to say the least, very like bigots and partisans.

38. Now that Faith may run into Bigotry, or may be mixed with Bigotry in matter of fact in this instance or that, of course I do not deny; at the same time the two habits of mind, whatever be their resemblance, differ in their dogmatism, in this:—Bigotry professes to understand what it maintains, though it does not; it argues and infers, it disowns Faith, and makes a show of Reason instead of it. It persists, not in abandoning argument, but in arguing only in one way. It takes up, not a religious, but a philosophical position; it lays claim to Wisdom, whereas Faith from the first makes men willing, with the Apostle, to be fools for Christ's sake. Faith sets out with putting reasoning aside as out of place, and proposes instead simple {301} obedience to a revealed command. Its disciples represent that they are neither statesmen nor philosophers; that they are not developing principles or evolving systems; that their ultimate end is not persuasion, popularity, or success; that they are but doing God's will, and desiring His glory. They profess a sincere belief that certain views which engage their minds come from God; that they know well that they are beyond them; that they are not able to enter into them, or to apply them as others may do; that, understanding them but partially themselves, they are not sanguine about impressing them on others; that a divine blessing alone can carry them forward; that they look for that blessing; that they feel that God will maintain His own cause; that that belongs to Him, not to them [Note]; that if their cause is God's cause, it will be blessed, in His time and way; that if it be not, it will come to nought; that they securely wait the issue; that they leave it to the generation to come; that they can bear to seem to fail, but cannot bear to be "disobedient to a heavenly vision;" that they think that God has taught them and put a word in their mouths; that they speak to acquit their own souls; that they protest in order to be on the side of God's host, of the glorious company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, in order to be separate from the congregation of His enemies. "Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the {302} scornful." They desire to gain this blessedness; and though they have not the capacity of mind to embrace, nor the keenness to penetrate and analyze the contents of this vast world, nor the comprehensive faculty which resolves all things into their true principles, and connects them in one system, though they can neither answer objections made to their doctrines, nor say for certain whither they are leading them, yet profess them they can and must. Embrace them they can, and go out, not knowing whither they go. Faith, at least, they may have; Wisdom, if so be, they have not; but Faith fits them to be the instruments and organs, the voice and the hands and the feet of Him who is invisible, the Divine Wisdom in the Church,—who knows what they know not, understands their words, for they are His own, and directs their efforts to His own issues, though they see them not, because they dutifully place themselves upon His path. This is what they will be found to profess; and their state is that of the multitude of Christians in every age, nay even in the Apostolic, when, for all the supernatural illumination of such as St. Paul, "God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which were mighty, and base things of the world, and things which were despised, yea, and things which were not, to bring to nought things that were, that no flesh should glory in His presence."

39. Such a view of things is not of a nature to be affected by what is external to it. It did not grow out of knowledge, and an increase or loss of knowledge {303} cannot touch it. The revolution of kingdoms, the rise or the fall of parties, the growth of society, the discoveries of science, leave it as they found it. On God's word does it depend; that word alone can alter it. And thus we are introduced to a distinct peculiarity of Faith; for considering that Almighty God often speaks, nay is ever speaking in one way or another, if we would watch for His voice, Faith, while it is so stable, is necessarily a principle of mental growth also, in an especial way; according, that is, as God sees fit to employ it. "I will stand upon my watch," says the prophet, "and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me;" and though since Christ came no new revelation has been given, yet much even in the latter days has been added in the way of explaining and applying what was given once for all. As the world around varies, so varies also, not the principles of the doctrine of Christ, but the outward shape and colour which they assume. And as Wisdom only can apply or dispense the Truth in a change of circumstances, so Faith alone is able to accept it as one and the same under all its forms. And thus Faith is ever the means of learning something new, and in this respect differs from Bigotry, which has no element of advance in it, and is under a practical persuasion that it has nothing to learn. To the narrow-minded and the bigoted the history of the Church for eighteen centuries is unintelligible and useless; but where there is Faith, it is full of sacred principles, ever the same in substance, ever varying in accidentals, and is a continual lesson of "the manifold Wisdom of God." {304}

40. Moreover, though Faith has not the gift of tracing out and connecting one thing with another, which Wisdom has, and Bigotry professes to have, but is an isolated act of Reason upon any matter in hand, as it comes; yet on this very account it has as wide a range as Wisdom, and a far wider one than can belong to any narrow principle or partial theory, and is able to take discursive views, though not systematic. There is no subject which Faith working by Love may not include in its province, on which it may not have a judgment, and to which it may not do justice, though it views each point by itself, and not as portions of a whole. Hence, unable as Faith is to analyze its grounds, or to show the consistency of one of its judgments with another, yet every one of these has its own place, and corresponds to some doctrine or precept in the philosophical system of the Gospel, for they are all the instincts of a pure mind, which steps forward truly and boldly, and is never at fault. Whatever be the subject-matter and the point in question, sacred or profane, Faith has a true view of it, and Wisdom can have no more; nor does it become truer because it is held in connexion with other opinions, or less true because it is not. And thus, since Faith is the characteristic of all Christians, a peasant may take the same view of human affairs in detail as a philosopher; and we are often perplexed whether to say that such persons are intellectually gifted or not. They have clear and distinct opinions; they know what they are saying; they have something to say about any subject; they do not confuse points of primary with those of secondary importance; {305} they never contradict themselves: on the other hand they are not aware that there is any thing extraordinary about their judgments; they do not connect any two judgments together; they do not recognize any common principles running through them; they forget the opinions they have expressed, together with the occasion; they cannot defend themselves; they are easily perplexed and silenced; and, if they set themselves to reason, they use arguments which appear to be faulty, as being but types and shadows of those which they really feel, and attempts to analyze that vast system of thought which is their life, but not their instrument.

41. It is the peculiarity, then, of Faith, that it forms its judgment under a sense of duty and responsibility, with a view to personal conduct, according to revealed directions, with a confession of ignorance, with a carelessness about consequences, in a teachable and humble spirit, yet upon a range of subjects which Philosophy itself cannot surpass. In all these respects it is contrasted with Bigotry. Men of narrow minds, far from confessing ignorance and maintaining Truth mainly as a duty, profess, as I observed just now, to understand the subjects which they take up and the principles which they apply to them. They do not see difficulties. They consider that they hold their doctrines, whatever they are, at least as much upon Reason as upon Faith; and they expect to be able to argue others into a belief of them, and are impatient when they cannot. They consider that the premisses with which they start just prove the conclusions which they draw, and nothing else. They think that their own views are exactly fitted {306} to solve all the facts which are to be accounted for, to satisfy all objections, and to moderate and arbitrate between all parties. They conceive that they profess just the truth which makes all things easy. They have their one idea or their favourite notion, which occurs to them on every occasion. They have their one or two topics, which they are continually obtruding, with a sort of pedantry, being unable to discuss, in a natural unconstrained way, or to let their thoughts take their course, in the confidence that they will come safe home at the last. Perhaps they have discovered, as they think, the leading idea, or simple view, or sum and substance of the Gospel; and they insist upon this or that isolated tenet, selected by themselves or by others not better qualified, to the disparagement of the rest of the revealed scheme. They have, moreover, clear and decisive explanations always ready of the sacred mysteries of Faith; they may deny those mysteries or retain them, but in either case they think their own to be the rational view and the natural explanation of them, and all minds feeble or warped or disordered which do not acknowledge this. They profess that the inspired writers were precisely of their particular creed, be it a creed of today, or yesterday, or of a hundred years since; and they do not shrink from appealing to the common sense of mankind at large to decide this point. Then their proof of doctrines is as meagre as their statement of them. They are ready with the very places of Scripture,—one, two, or three,—where it is to be found; they profess to say just what each passage and verse means, what it cannot mean, and what it must mean. {307} To see in it less than they see is, in their judgment, to explain away; to see more, is to gloss over. To proceed to other parts of Scripture than those which they happen to select, is, they think, superfluous, since they have already adduced the very arguments sufficient for a clear proof; and if so, why go beyond them? And again, they have their own terms and names for every thing; and these must not be touched any more than the things which they stand for. Words of parties or politics, of recent date and unsatisfactory origin, are as much a portion of the Truth in their eyes, as if they were the voice of Scripture or of Holy Church. And they have their forms, ordinances, and usages, which are as sacred to them as the very Sacraments given us from heaven.

42. Narrow minds have no power of throwing themselves into the minds of others. They have stiffened in one position, as limbs of the body subjected to confinement, or as our organs of speech, which after a while cannot learn new tones and inflections. They have already parcelled out to their own satisfaction the whole world of knowledge; they have drawn their lines, and formed their classes, and given to each opinion, argument, principle, and party, its own locality; they profess to know where to find every thing; and they cannot learn any other disposition. They are vexed at new principles of arrangement, and grow giddy amid cross divisions; and, even if they make the effort, cannot master them. They think that any one truth excludes another which is distinct from it, and that every opinion is contrary to their own opinions which is not included {308} in them. They cannot separate words from their own ideas, and ideas from their own associations; and if they attain any new view of a subject, it is but for a moment. They catch it one moment, and let it go the next; and then impute to subtlety in it, or obscurity in its expression, what really arises from their own want of elasticity or vigour. And when they attempt to describe it in their own language, their nearest approximation to it is a mistake; not from any purpose to be unjust, but because they are expressing the ideas of another mind, as it were, in translation.

43. It is scarcely necessary to observe upon the misconceptions which such persons form of foreign habits of thought, or again of ancient faith or philosophy; and the more so because they are unsuspicious of their own deficiency. Thus we hear the Greek Fathers, for instance, sometimes called Arminians, and St. Augustine Calvinistic; and that not analogously, but as if each party really answered to the title given to it. And again an inquiry is made whether Christians in those early days held this or that point of doctrine, which may be in repute in particular sects or schools now; as, for instance, whether they upheld the union of Church and State, or the doctrine of assurance. It is plain that to answer either in the affirmative or negative would be to misrepresent them; yet the persons in question do not contemplate more than such an absolute alternative.

44. Nor is it only in censure and opposition that narrowness of view is shown; it lies quite as often in approval and partisanship. None are so easily deceived {309} by others as they who are preoccupied with their own notions. They are soon persuaded that another agrees with them, if he disagrees with their opponents. They resolve his ideas into their own, and, whatever words he may use to clear his meaning, even the most distinct and forcible, these fail to convey to them any new view, or to open to them his mind.

45. Again, if those principles are narrow which claim to interpret and subject the whole world of knowledge, without being adequate to the task, one of the most striking characteristics of such principles will be the helplessness which they exhibit, when new materials or fields of thought are opened upon them. True philosophy admits of being carried out to any extent; it is its very test, that no knowledge can be submitted to it with which it is not commensurate, and which it cannot annex to its territory. But the theory of the narrow or bigoted has already run out within short limits, and a vast and anxious region lies beyond, unoccupied and in rebellion. Their "bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower, than that he can wrap himself in it." And then what is to be done with these unreclaimed wastes?—the exploring of them must in consequence be forbidden, or even the existence denied. Thus, in the present day, there are new sciences, especially physical, which we all look at with anxiety, feeling that our views, as we at present hold them, are unequal to them, yet feeling also that no truth can really exist external to Christianity. Another striking proof of narrowness of mind among us may be drawn from the alteration of {310} feeling with which we often regard members of this or that communion, before we know them and after. If our theory and our view of facts agreed together, they could not lead to opposite impressions about the same matters. And another instance occurs daily: true Catholicity is commensurate with the wants of the human mind; but persons are often to be found who are surprised that they cannot persuade all men to follow them, and cannot destroy dissent, by preaching a portion of the Divine system, instead of the whole of it.

46. Under these circumstances, it is not wonderful that persons of narrow views are often perplexed, and sometimes startled and unsettled, by the difficulties of their position. What they did not know, or what they knew but had not weighed, suddenly presses upon their notice. Then they become impatient that they cannot make their proofs clear, and try to make a forcible riddance of objections. They look about for new arguments, and put violence on Scripture or on history. They show a secret misgiving about the truth of their principles, by shrinking from the appearance of defeat or from occasional doubt within. They become alarmists, and they forget that the issue of all things, and the success of their own cause (if it be what they think it), is sealed and secured by Divine promise; and sometimes, in this conflict between broad fact and narrow principle, the hard material breaks their tools; they are obliged to give up their principles. A state of uncertainty and distress follows, and, in the end, perhaps, bigotry is supplanted by general scepticism. They who thought their own ideas could measure all {311} things, end in thinking that even a Divine Oracle is unequal to the task.

47. In these remarks, it will be observed that I have been contrasting Faith and Bigotry as habits of mind entirely distinct from each other. They are so; but it must not be forgotten, as indeed I have already observed, that, though distinct in themselves, they may and do exist together in the same person. No one so imbued with a loving Faith but has somewhat, perhaps, of Bigotry to unlearn; no one so narrow-minded, and full of self, but is influenced, it is to be hoped, in his degree, by the spirit of Faith.

48. Let us ever make it our prayer and our endeavour, that we may know the whole counsel of God and grow unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that all prejudice, and self-confidence, and hollowness, and unreality, and positiveness, and partisanship, may be put away from us under the light of Wisdom, and the fire of Faith and Love; till we see things as God sees them, with the judgment of His Spirit, and according to the mind of Christ. Topics - Bigotry and Prejudice

(Preached on Whit-Tuesday Morning, June 1, 1841, by appointment of Mr. Pritchard, Fellow of Oriel.)

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Dan. iii. 17, 18.
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