THESE volumes represent the Gifford Lectures delivered at Edinburgh in 1904 and 1905. With some hesitation I have decided to retain the lecture form in which they were given. But they have been rearranged with more regard to unity of subject and less to uniformity of length, and considerable additions have been made. Thus the first series of ten lectures condenses into nine, while the second, also of ten, is expanded into seventeen.
The plan of the work and the point of view taken are set forth in the first Lecture, so that I need add nothing here. As regards the many omissions that will be found in it, there are two things to be said. Though I have found the restrictions of a Gifford Lecturer distinctly helpful in the examination of some religious beliefs, they have obliged me to leave others undiscussed. If I have drawn the line too narrowly, it was better to do this than to overpass my limits. Besides this, the entire work is no more than an outline of a great subject. All that could be done within reasonable compass was to state the main positions and trace the main course of the development; and this is all that I have attempted to do.
Among books which have appeared since the relevant parts of this work were in type, a high place must be given to Mr. Storr's Development and Divine Purpose; but perhaps Dr. Ferries’ Growth, of Christian Faith (just published) will prove the most important. So suggestive a book needs more than one reading; but I think we need his teaching that the knowledge of God in the man of our time must commonly be a quiet evolution of an initial love of right and truth; and that a good deal of moral training (more than we commonly suppose) is needed before we can gain help from some facts of religion.
For other reasons, Dr. McTaggart's Some Dogmas of Religion cannot be left unnoticed. Much that he says is excellent, and many things are admirably stated. But generally, the land he shows us is a very dreamland of
“Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimæras dire.”
He reduces everything to metaphysics, rejecting “ethical arguments” as worthless, and seems to think one theory as good as another, if there is no metaphysical demonstration of its untruth. He argues freely from physical evil to moral evil; as if there were no serious difference between results of the system which are unpleasant to ourselves and the disturbance of it by wrong action. Were this distinction admitted, the inference of design would be much stronger than Dr. McTaggart allows; and he could not safely argue that a God who permits “the smallest pang of toothache” may be telling us lies wholesale, perhaps because it is the best thing lie can do for us. Other questions we must pass by; but to his “ultimate” theory that the universe may be a harmonious system of persons with a tendency to improvement, I have no objection; only two comments. 1. Any theory is impregnable if it can be presented as ultimate, namely,—as one we have no faculties to discuss further. But while the action of a single will is confessedly such a theory, the harmonious action of many wills (including our own) seems eminently a subject for further investigation. If the theory is true, it cannot be ultimate. 2. If it is not ultimate, the unity of things postulated by thought and verified by science (of which Dr. McTaggart takes no account) forces us to the conclusion that one of those wills belongs to an all-sovereign1 Ruler.
A few sentences are repeated from earlier works. I have not thought it worth while to rewrite them simply for the sake of novelty; but they have always been revised.
My obligations are too many and too various for full enumeration. It may suffice here to say that the most pervasive influences are those of Professor Campbell Fraser and Bishop Westcott; and in particular chapters I owe much to (amongst others) Professors Jevons of Durham and Allen of Cambridge, Mass., to Dr. Harnack, and to the Master of Balliol. My best thanks are due for oral criticism to Miss F. M. Stawell, the late Forbes Robinson, and Miss Edith Harington; and also to my wife for looking over the proofs. I have also taken careful account of the criticism of certain Jesuits in Scotland, and the resulting changes are sometimes in the desired direction.
Easter Eve, 1906.
Nicene Creed and N.T. παντοκράτορα, not παντνδύναμον,—a favourite point of Westcott's. In any case God is limited by every attribute we ascribe to him. An omnipotent God, in Dr. McTaggart's sense, is an absurdity not worth his elaborate refutation.