I HAVE had one main purpose before me throughout this course of lectures. It is that of awakening and fostering the spirit of research in questions of religious faith.
If I read our times aright, there are many thousands of thoughtful men in this country whose interest in religion is sincere, but who can neither accept the ordinary teaching of the Church, nor subject themselves to its dogmatic ways. I would fain demonstrate to these men, both by example and by precept, that the enquiry which makes the fullest use of the severe intellectual methods, supports those beliefs upon which a religion that is worth having rests. Let man seek God by the way of pure reason, and he will find him.
As to the Churches, I could wish them no better fate than that henceforth they shall regard the articles of their creeds, not as authoritative dogmas, but as objects of unsparing intellectual enquiry. Enquiry not only establishes the truth of the main elements of the doctrines which the Churches inculcate, it transmutes and enriches their meaning. Enquiry is the way of Evolution; His “Kingdom will come” pari passu with the development of the more secular forces on which the well-being of mankind depends. And, I believe, that our spiritual knowledge and practice, both individual and social, is so crude and rudimentary that we cannot even imagine the splendour of the results which an enquiring religious faith can bring to man.
I hope that the Church will accept my service of its greater ends in the spirit in which it is offered.
I have received from Principal Hetherington, of Exeter University College, and from Mr. Knox White, Mr. Alexander Macbeath and Mr. Idris Phillips most valuable help in the way of the correction of proofs, and take this opportunity of expressing my indebtedness to them. And I wish especially to thank Professor Kemp Smith, of the University of Edinburgh, for the minuteness and fullness of his helpful care. It is the expression of the affection of the earliest of my pupils, who has attained philosophical eminence.