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- Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit etc. - 10/22 -


infirmity within him and around him, can find his own state brought before him, and, as it were, antedated, in writings reverend even for their antiquity and enduring permanence, and far more and more abundantly consecrated by the reverence, love, and grateful testimonies of good men, through the long succession of ages, in every generation, and under all states of minds and circumstances of fortune, that no man, I say, can recognise his own inward experiences in such writings, and not find an objectiveness, a confirming and assuring outwardness, and all the main characters of reality reflected therefrom on the spirit, working in himself and in his own thoughts, emotions, and aspirations, warring against sin and the motions of sin. The unsubstantial, insulated self passes away as a stream; but these are the shadows and reflections of the Rock of Ages, and of the Tree of Life that starts forth from its side.

On the other hand, as much of reality, as much of objective truth, as the Scriptures communicate to the subjective experiences of the believer, so much of present life, of living and effective import, do these experiences give to the letter of these Scriptures. In the one THE SPIRIT ITSELF BEARETH WITNESS WITH OUR SPIRIT, that we have received the SPIRIT OF ADOPTION; in the other our spirit bears witness to the power of the Word, that it is indeed the Spirit that proceedeth from God. If in the holy men thus actuated all imperfection of knowledge, all participation in the mistakes and limits of their several ages had been excluded, how could these writings be or become the history and example, the echo and more lustrous image of the work and warfare of the sanctifying principle in us? If after all this, and in spite of all this, some captious litigator should lay hold of a text here or there--St. Paul's CLOAK LEFT AT TROAS WITH CARPUS, or a verse from the Canticles, and ask, "Of what spiritual use is this?"--the answer is ready:- It proves to us that nothing can be so trifling, as not to supply an evil heart with a pretext for unbelief.

Archbishop Leighton has observed that the Church has its extensive and intensive states, and that they seldom fall together. Certain it is, that since kings have been her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers, our theologians seem to act in the spirit of fear rather than in that of faith; and too often, instead of inquiring after the truth in the confidence that whatever is truth must be fruitful of good to all who ARE IN HIM THAT IS TRUE, they seek with vain precautions to GUARD AGAINST THE POSSIBLE INFERENCES which perverse and distempered minds may pretend, whose whole Christianity- -do what we will--is and will remain nothing but a pretence.

You have now my entire mind on this momentous question, the grounds on which it rests, and the motives which induce me to make it known; and I now conclude by repeating my request: Correct me, or confirm me.

Farewell.

ESSAY ON FAITH.

Faith may be defined as fidelity to our own being, so far as such being is not and cannot become an object of the senses; and hence, by clear inference or implication to being generally, as far as the same is not the object of the senses; and again to whatever is affirmed or understood as the condition, or concomitant, or consequence of the same. This will be best explained by an instance or example. That I am conscious of something within me peremptorily commanding me to do unto others as I would they should do unto me; in other words a categorical (that is, primary and unconditional) imperative; that the maxim (regula maxima, or supreme rule) of my actions, both inward and outward, should be such as I could, without any contradiction arising therefrom, will to be the law of all moral and rational beings. This, I say, is a fact of which I am no less conscious (though in a different way), nor less assured, than I am of any appearance presented by my outward senses. Nor is this all; but in the very act of being conscious of this in my own nature, I know that it is a fact of which all men either are or ought to be conscious; a fact, the ignorance of which constitutes either the non-personality of the ignorant, or the guilt; in which latter case the ignorance is equivalent to knowledge wilfully darkened. I know that I possess this knowledge as a man, and not as Samuel Taylor Coleridge; hence, knowing that consciousness of this fact is the root of all other consciousness, and the only practical contradistinction of man from the brutes, we name it the conscience, by the natural absence or presumed presence of which the law, both Divine and human, determines whether X Y Z be a thing or a person; the conscience being that which never to have had places the objects in the same order of things as the brutes, for example, idiots, and to have lost which implies either insanity or apostasy. Well, this we have affirmed is a fact of which every honest man is as fully assured as of his seeing, hearing, or smelling. But though the former assurance does not differ from the latter in the degree, it is altogether diverse in the kind; the senses being morally passive, while the conscience is essentially connected with the will, though not always, nor indeed in any case, except after frequent attempts and aversions of will dependent on the choice. Thence we call the presentations of the senses impressions, those of the conscience commands or dictates. In the senses we find our receptivity, and as far as our personal being is concerned, we are passive, but in the fact of the conscience we are not only agents, but it is by this alone that we know ourselves to be such--nay, that our very passiveness in this latter is an act of passiveness, and that we are patient (patientes), not, as in the other case, SIMPLY passive.

The result is the consciousness of responsibility, and the proof is afforded by the inward experience of the diversity between regret and remorse.

If I have sound ears, and my companion speaks to me with a due proportion of voice, I may persuade him that I did not hear, but cannot deceive myself. But when my conscience speaks to me, I can by repeated efforts render myself finally insensible; to which add this other difference, namely, that to make myself deaf is one and the same thing with making my conscience dumb, till at length I became unconscious of my conscience. Frequent are the instances in which it is suspended, and, as it were, drowned in the inundation of the appetites, passions, and imaginations to which I have resigned myself, making use of my will in order to abandon my free-will; and there are not, I fear, examples wanting of the conscience being utterly destroyed, or of the passage of wickedness into madness; that species of madness, namely, in which the reason is lost. For so long as the reason continues, so long must the conscience exist, either as a good conscience or as a bad conscience.

It appears, then, that even the very first step--that the initiation of the process, the becoming conscious of a conscience--partakes of the nature of an act. It is an act in and by which we take upon ourselves an allegiance, and consequently the obligation of fealty; and this fealty or fidelity implying the power of being unfaithful, it is the first and fundamental sense of faith. It is likewise the commencement of experience, and the result of all other experience. In other words, conscience in this its simplest form, must be supposed in order to consciousness, that is, to human consciousness. Brutes may be and are scions, but those beings only who have an I, scire possunt hoc vel illud una cum seipsis; that is, conscire vel scire aliquid mecum, or to know a thing in relation to myself, and in the act of knowing myself as acted upon by that something.

Now the third person could never have been distinguished from the first but by means of the second. There can be no He without a previous Thou. Much less could an I exist for us except as it exists during the suspension of the will, as in dreams; and the nature of brutes may be best understood by considering them as somnambulists. This is a deep meditation, though the position is capable of the strictest proof, namely, that there can be no I without a Thou, and that a Thou is only possible by an equation in which I is taken as equal to Thou, and yet not the same. And this, again, is only possible by putting them in opposition as correspondent opposites, or correlatives. In order to this, a something must be affirmed in the one which is rejected in the other, and this something is the will. I do not will to consider myself as equal to myself, for in the very act of constructing myself _I_, I take it as the same, and therefore as incapable of comparison, that is, of any application of the will. If, then, I MINUS the will be the THESIS, Thou, PLUS will, must be the ANTITHESIS, but the equation of Thou with I, by means of a free act, negativing the sameness in order to establish the equality, is the true definition of conscience. But as without a Thou there can be no You, so without a You no They, These, or Those; and as all these conjointly form the materials and subjects of consciousness and the conditions of experience, it is evident that conscience is the root of all consciousness--a fortiori, the precondition of all experience--and that the conscience cannot have been in its first revelation deduced from experience.

Soon, however, experience comes into play. We learn that there are other impulses beside the dictates of conscience, that there are powers within us and without us ready to usurp the throne of conscience, and busy in tempting us to transfer our allegiance. We learn that there are many things contrary to conscience, and therefore to be rejected and utterly excluded, and many that can coexist with its supremacy only by being subjugated as beasts of burthen; and others again, as for instance the social tendernesses and affections, and the faculties and excitations of the intellect, which must be at least subordinated. The preservation of our loyalty and fealty under these trials, and against these rivals, constitutes the second sense of faith; and we shall need but one more point of view to complete its full import. This is the consideration of what is presupposed in the human conscience. The answer is ready. As in the equation of the correlative I and Thou, one of the twin constituents is to be taken as PLUS will, the other as MINUS will, so is it here; and it is obvious that the reason or SUPER-individual of each man, whereby he is a man, is the factor we are to take as MINUS will, and that the individual will or personalising principle of free agency ("arbitrement" is Milton's word) is the factor marked PLUS will; and again, that as the identity or co-inherence of the absolute will and the reason, is the peculiar character of God, so is the SYNTHESIS of the individual will and the common reason, by the subordination of the former to the latter, the only possible likeness or image of the PROTHESIS or identity, and therefore the required proper character of man. Conscience, then, is a witness respecting the identity of the will and the reason, effected by the self- subordination of the will or self to the reason, as equal to or representing the will of God. But the personal will is a factor in other moral SYNTHESIS, for example, appetite PLUS personal will = sensuality; lust of power, PLUS personal will = ambition, and so on, equally as in the SYNTHESIS on which the conscience is grounded. Not this, therefore, but the other SYNTHESIS, must supply the specific character of the conscience, and we must enter into an analysis of reason. Such as the nature and objects of the reason are, such must be the functions and objects of the conscience. And the former we shall best learn by recapitulating those constituents of the total man which are either contrary to or disparate from the reason.


Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit etc. - 10/22

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