Adam Storey Farrar.

A critical history of Free Thought in reference to the Christian religion : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXII .. online

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Online LibraryAdam Storey FarrarA critical history of Free Thought in reference to the Christian religion : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXII .. → online text (page 1 of 52)
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BR 45 .B35 1862"
Bampton lectures
















[The rigid 0/ Translation is reserved.]






" I give and bequeath my Lands and Estates to the

" Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of
" Oxford for ever, to have and to hold all and singular the
" said Lands or Estates upon trust, and to the intents and
1 ' purposes hereinafter mentioned ; that is to say, I will and
" appoint that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ox-
" ford for the time being shall take and receive all the rents,
" issues, and profits thereof, and (after all taxes, reparations,
" and necessary deductions made) that he pay all the re-
" mainder to the endowment of eight Divinity Lecture Ser-
" mons, to be established for ever in the said University, and
" to be performed in the manner following :

" I direct and appoint, that, upon the first Tuesday in
" Easter Term, a Lecturer be yearly chosen by the Heads
" of Colleges only, and by no others, in the room adjoining
" to the Printing- House, between the hours of ten in the


- morning and fcwo in the afternoon, to preach eight Divinity
" [jecture Sermons, the year following, at St. Mary's in Ox-
« ford, between the commencement of the last month in Lent
« Term, and the end of the third week in Act Term.

"Also I «lii' .1 and appoint, that the eight Divinity Lecture
" Sermons shall be preached upon either of the following Sub-
ejects — to confirm and establish the Christian Faith, and to
" confute all heretics and schismatics — upon the divine au-
u thority of the holy Scriptures — upon the authority of the
n writings of the primitive Fathers, as to the faith and prac-
u tice of the primitive Church — upon the Divinity of our Lord
" and Saviour Jesus Christ — upon the Divinity of the Holy
" Ghost — upon the Articles of the Christian Faith, as compre-
" hended in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

" Also I direct, that thirty copies of the eight Divinity Lec-
" ture Sermons shall be always printed, within two months
" alter they are preached; and one copy shall be given to the
" Chancellor of the University, and one copy to the Head of
" every College, and one copy to the Mayor of the city of
" Oxford, and one copy to be put into the Bodleian Library;
" and the expense of printing them shall be paid out of the
n revenue of the Land or Estates given for establishing the
" Divinity Lecture Sermons ; and the Preacher shall not be
" paid, nor be entitled to the revenue, before they are printed.

" Also I direct and appoint, that no person shall be quali-
u Bed to preach the Divinity Lecture Sermons, unless he hath
" taken the degree of Master of Arts at least, in one of the
1 fcwo Universities of Oxford or Cambridge; and that the
11 same person shall never preach the Divinity Lecture Ser-
" mons twice."


_L HE object of this Preface is to explain the design of the
following Lectures, and to enumerate the sources on which
they are founded.

What is the province and mode of inquiry intended in a
" Critical History of Free Thought" a ? What are the causes
which led the author into this line of study b ? What the
object proposed by the work c ? What the sources from
which it is drawn d ? — these probably are the questions which
will at once suggest themselves to the reader. The answers
to most of them are so fully given in the work e , that it will
only be necessary here to touch upon them briefly.

The word " free thought" is now commonly used, at least
in foreign literature f , to express the result of the revolt of the
mind against the pressure of external authority in any de-
partment of life or speculation. Information concerning the
history of the term is given elsewhere °. It will be sufficient
now to state, that the cognate term, free thinking, was appro-
priated by Collins early in the last century h to express

a Pref. pp. vii-xii. b Id. pp. xiii-xv. c Id. pp. xvi-xviii.

d Id. pp. xix. e Lect. I. : andLect. VIII. p. 479 seq.

f E. g. in the French expression la librepensee. % In Note 21. p. 588.
h In 1713.


Deism. It differs from the modern term free thought, both
in being restricted to religion, and in conveying the idea
rather of the method than of its result, the freedom of the
mode of inquiry rather than the character of the conclusions
attained; but the same fundamental idea of independence
and freedom fmm authority is implied in the modern term.

Within the sphere of its application to the Christian
religion, free thought is generally used to denote three dif-
ferent systems; viz. Protestantism, scepticism, and unbelief.
Its application to the first of these is unfair i. It is true that
all three agree in resisting the dogmatism of any earthly
authority; but Protestantism reposes implicitly on what it
believes to be the divine authority of the inspired writers of
the books of holy scripture; whereas the other two forms
acknowledge no authority external to the mind, no communi-
cation superior to reason and science. Thus, though Pro-
testantism by its attitude of independence seems similar to
the other two systems, it is really separated by a difference of
kind, and not merely of degree k . The present history is
restricted accordingly to the treatment of the two latter
species of free thought, — the resistance of the human mind to
the Christian religion as communicated through revelation,
cither in part or in whole, either the scepticism which disin-
tegrates it, or the unbelief which rejects it: the former
• liiveting itself especially against Christianity, the latter
against the idea of revelation, or even of the supernatural

An analogous reason to that which excludes the history of
Protestantism, excludes also that of the opposition made to

Many of the modern French protestant critics so employ it ; e. g. A.. Re-
ville, Rev. des Deux Mondcs, Parker, Oct. 1861.
k ( fr - pp. '3 and 139.


Christianity by heresy, and by rival religions ] : inasmuch as
they repose on authorities, however false, and do not profess
to resort to an unassisted study of nature and truth.

This account of the province included under free thought
will prepare the way for the explanation of the mode in
which the subject is treated.

It is clear that the history, in order to rise above a
chronicle, must inquire into the causes which have made
freedom of inquiry develope into unbelief. The causes
have usually been regarded by theologians to be of two kinds,
viz. either superhuman or human; and, if of the latter kind,
to be either moral or intellectual. Bishop Van Mildert, in his
History of Infidelity, restricted himself entirely to the former m .
Holding strongly that the existence of evil in the world was
attributable, not only indirectly and originally, but directly
and perpetually, to the operation of the evil spirit, he re-
garded every form of heresy and unbelief to be the attempt
of an invisible evil agent to thwart the truth of God ; and
viewed the history of infidelity as the study of the results of
the operation of this cause in destroying the kingdom of
righteousness. Such a view invests human life and history
with a very solemn character, and is not without practical
value; but it will be obvious that an analysis of this kind
must be strictly theological, and removes the inquiry from
the province of human science. Even when completed, it
leaves unexplored the whole field in which such an evil prin-
ciple operates, and the agencies which he employs as his

The majority of writers on unbelief accordingly have treated

1 Cfr. p. 1 7, and Notes 4, 5, and 6.

m Boyle Lectures (1802-4). See note, p. 487.



the subject from a less elevated point of view, and have
limited their inquiry to the sphere of the operation of human
causes, the media axiomata as it were", which express the
motives and agencies which have been manifested on the
theatre of the world, and visible in actual history. It will be
clear thai within this sphere the causes are specially of two
kinds; \iz. those which have their source in the will, and
arise from the antagonism of feeling, which wishes revelation
untrue, and those which manifest themselves in the intellect,
and are exhibited under the form of difficulties which beset
the mind, or doubts which mislead it, in respect to the evi-
dence on which revelation reposes. The former, it may be
feared, are generally the ground of unbelief; the latter the
basis of doubt. Christian writers, in the wish to refer unbelief
to the source of efficient causation in the human will, with a
view of enforcing on the doubter the moral lesson of respon-
sibility, have generally restricted themselves to the former of
these two classes; and by doing so have omitted to explore
the interesting field of inquiry presented in the natural history
of the variety of forms assumed by scepticism, and their
relation to the general causes which have operated in parti-
cular ages:— a subject most important, if the intellectual
;n decedents thus discovered be regarded as causes of doubt;
and not less interesting, if, instead of being causes, they are
merely considered to be instruments and conditions made
use of by the emotional powers.

A history of free thought seems to point especially to the
study of the latter class. A biographical history of free
thinkers would imply the former; the investigation of the
moral history of the individuals, the play of their will and

n Bacon's Nov. Org. lib. i. Anh. 104.


feelings and character ; but the history of free thought points
to that which has been the product of their characters, the
doctrines which they have taught. Science however no less
than piety would decline entirely to separate the two ° ; piety,
because, though admitting the possibility that a judgment
may be formed in the abstract on free thought, it would feel
itself constantly drawn into the inquiry of the moral respon-
sibility of the freethinker in judging of the concrete cases; — ■
science, because, even in an intellectual point of view, the
analysis of a work of art is defective if it be studied apart
from the personality of the mental and moral character of the
artist who produces it. If even the inquiry be restricted to
the analysis of intellectual causes, a biographic treatment of
the subject, which would allow for the existence of the emo-
tional, would be requisite P.

The province of the following work accordingly is, the ex-
amination of this neglected branch in the analysis of unbelief.
While admitting most fully and unhesitatingly the operation
of emotional causes, and the absolute necessity, scientific as well
as practical, of allowing for their operation, it is proposed to
analyse the forms of doubt or unbelief in reference mainly to
the intellectual element which has entered into them, and the
discovery of the intellectual causes which have produced or
modified them. Thus the history, while not ceasing to belong
to church history, becomes also a chapter in the history of
philosophy, a page in the history of the human mind.

The enumeration of the causes into which the intellectual
elements of doubt are resolvable, is furnished in the text
of the first Lecture q. If the nature of some of them be
obscure, and the reader be unaccustomed to the philosophical

° Cfr. pp. 19-27. p Pp. 45-48. q PP. 33-44-



stuch Decessary for fully understanding them; information
musl be sou-lit in the books to which references are elsewhere
given', as the subject is too large to be developed in the
Limited space of this Preface.

The work however professes to be not merely a narrative,
but a " critical history ." The idea of criticism in a history
imparts to it an ethical aspect. For criticism does not rest
colli cnl with ideas, viewed as facts, but as realities. It seeks
to pass above the relative, and attain the absolute; to deter-
mine either what is right or what is true. It may make this
determination by means of two different standards. It may
be either independent or dogmatic; — independent if it enters
upon a new field candidly and without prepossessions, and rests
< i intent with the inferences which the study suggests; — dog-
matic, when it approaches a subject with views derived from
other sources, and pronounces on right or wrong, truth or
falsehood, by reference to them.

It is hoped that the reader will not be unduly prejudiced,
if the confession be frankly made, that the criticism in these
Lectures is of the latter kind. This indeed might be expected
from their very character. The Bampton Lecture is an
establishment for producing apologetic treatises. The authors
are supposed to assume the truth of Christianity, and to seek
to repel attacks upon it. They are defenders, not investigators.
The reader has a right to demand fairness, but not inde-
pendence; truth in the facts, but not hesitation in the
inferences. While however the writer of these Lectures takes
a definite line in the controversy, and one not adopted pro-
fessionally, but with cordial assent and heartfelt conviction,
he has nevertheless considered that it is due to the cause of
scientific truth to intermingle his own opinions as little as

r pp. .10, 34, 35.


possible with the facts of the history. A history without
inferences is ethically and religiously worthless : it is a
chronicle, not a philosophical narrative. But a history
distorted to suit the inferences is not only worthless, but
harmful. It is for the reader to judge how far the author has
succeeded in the result ; but his aim has been not to allow his
opinions to warp his view of the facts. History ought to be
written with the same spirit of cold analysis which belongs to
science. Caricature must not be substituted for portrait, nor
vituperation for descriptions.

Such a mode of treatment in the present instance was the
more possible, from the circumstance that the writer, when
studying the subject for his private information, without
any design to write upon it, had endeavoured to bring his
own principles and views perpetually to the test; and to
reconsider them candidly by the light of the new sug-
gestions which were brought before him. Instead of ap-
proaching the inquiry with a spirit of hostility, he had inves-
tigated it as a student, not as a partisan. It may perhaps be
permitted him without egotism to explain the causes which
led him to the study. He had taken holy orders, cordially
and heartily believing the truths taught by the church of
which he is privileged to be an humble minister. Before doing
so, he had read thoughtfully the great works of evidences
of the last century, and knew directly or indirectly the
character of the deist doubts against which they were di-
rected. His own faith was one of the head as well as the
heart; founded on the study of the evidences, as well as on the
religious training of early years. But he perceived in the
English church earnest men who held a different view; and.

s Cfr. p. 488.



o„ becoming acquainted with contemporary theology, he
found the theological literature of a whole people, the Ger-
mans, constructed on another baftis; a literature which was
acknowledged to be so Pull of learning, that contemporary
English writers of theology not only perpetually referred to
it, l»nt largely borrowed their materials from German sources.
He wished therefore fully to understand the character of these
uew forms of doubt, and the causes which had produced
them. He may confess that, reposing on the affirmative
verities of the Christian faith, as gathered from the scriptures
and embodied in the immemorial teaching of Christ's church,
be did not anticipate that he should discover that which would
overt li row or even materially modify his own faith; but he
wished, while exploring this field, and gratifying intellectual
curiosity, to re-examine his opinions at each point by the
Light of those with which he might meet in the inquiry.
The serious wish also to fulfil his duty in the sphere in
which he might move, made him desire to understand these
new views; that if false, he might know how to refute them
when they came before him, and not be first made aware of
their existence from the harsh satire of sceptical critics. His
own studies were accordingly conducted in a spirit of fairness
— the fairness of the inquirer, not of the doubter; and a habit
of mind formed by the study of the history of philosophy,
was brought to bear upon the investigation of this chapter in
church history : first, of modem forms of doubt, and after-
wards the consecutive history of unbelief generally. Accord-
ing, while lie hopes that he has taken care to leave the
student in no case unguided, who may accompany him in
these pages through the history, he has wished to place him,
as he -trove to place himself, in the position to see the sub-
jed in its true Light before drawing the inferences; to under-


stand each topic to a certain extent, as it appears when seen
from the opposite point of view, as well as when seen from
the Christian. And when this has been effected, he has cri-
ticised each by a comparison with those principles which form
his standard for testing them, the truth of which the study
has confirmed to the writer's own mind. The criticism there-
fore does not profess to be independent, but dogmatic ; but it
is hoped that the definite character of the results will not be
found to have prevented fairness in the method of inquiry.
If the student has the facts correctly, he can form his own
judgment on the inferences.

The standard of truth here adopted, as the point of view
in criticism, is the teaching of Scripture as expressed in the
dogmatic teaching of the creeds of the church ; or, if it will
facilitate clearness to be more definite, three great truths may
be specified, which present themselves to the writer's mind as
the very foundation of the Christian religion: (i) the doctrine
of the reality of the vicarious atonement provided by the pas-
sion of our blessed Lord ; (2) the supernatural and miracu-
lous character of the religious revelation in the book of God ;
and (3) the direct operation of the Holy Ghost in converting
and communing with the human soul. Lacking the first of
these, Christianity appears to him to be a religion without a
system of redemption ; lacking the second, a doctrine without
authority ; lacking the third, a system of ethics without spi-
ritual power. These three principles accordingly are the mea-
sure, by agreement with which the truth and falsehood of
systems of free thought are ultimately tested 55 .

The above remarks, together with those which occur in the
text, where fuller explanation is afforded, will illustrate the

s See especially Lect. VIII. p. 504 seq.


province of il>«' inquiry, and the spirit in which it is con-
ducted : .

The explanation also of the further question concerning the
objecl which the writer proposed to effect, by the treatment
ach a subject in a course of Bampton Lectures, is given
so fully elsewhere, that a few words may here suffice in refer-
ence to it". Experience of the wants of students in this time
of (loul)i and transition, which those who are practically ac-
quainted with the subject will best understand, as well as ob-
m nation of the tone of thought expressed in our sceptical
literature, led him to believe that a history, natural as well
as literary, of doubt; an analysis of the forms and a statement
of the intellectual causes of it, would have a value, direct and
indirect, in many ways. His desire, he is willing to confess,
was to guide the student, rather than to refute the unbe-
liever. He did not expect to furnish the combatant with
ready-made weapons, which would make him omnipotent in
conflict; but he hoped to give him some suggestions in re-
ference to the tactics for conducting the contest. The Lectures
have a polemical aspect, but they seek to obtain their end by
11 irans of the educational. The writer has aimed at assisting
the student, in the struggle with his doubts, in the inquiry
for truth, in the quiet meditative search for light and know-
ledge, preparatory to ministering to others. The survey of a
new region, which ordinary works on the history of infidelity
rarely touch, may lay bare unsuspected or undetected causes
of unbelief; and thus indirectly offer a refutation of it; for
intellectual error is refuted, when the origin of it is referred
to false \ sinus of thought. The anatomy of error is the first
p to its cure.

valuable remarks on the proper balance of the mind in study are con-
tain, h! in a Bermon, TJu Nemesis of Excess, recently preached at Oxford, by

Bp .lacks,,,,. u pp 49 _ 51


In another point of view, independently of the value of the
line of inquiry generally, and the special suitability of it to
individual minds, there is a further use, which in the present
day belongs to it in common with all inquiries into the his-
tory of thought.

It is hard to persuade the students of a past generation
that the historic mode of approaching any problem is the first
step toward its successful solution. Yet a little reflection may
at least make the meaning of the assertion understood. If we
view the literary characteristic of the present, in comparison
with that of past ages, we are perhaps right in stating, that its
peculiar feature is the prevalence of the method of historical
criticism. If the four centuries since the Renaissance be con-
sidered, the critical peculiarity of the sixteenth and seventeenth
will be found to be the investigation of ancient literature ; in
the former directed to words, in the latter to things. The
eighteenth century broke away from the past, and, emanci-
pating itself from authority, tried to rebuild truth from its
foundations from present materials, independent of the judg-
ment formed by past ages. The nineteenth century unites
both methods. It ventures not to explore the universe, un-
guided by the experience of the past; but, while reuniting
itself to the past, it does not bow to it. It accepts it as a
fact, not as an authority. The seventeenth century wor-
shipped the past ; the eighteenth despised it : the nineteenth
mediates, by means of criticism. Accordingly, in literary in-
vestigations at present, each question is approached from the
historic side, with the belief that the historico-critical inquiry
not only gratifies curiosity, but actually contributes to the
solution of the problem. Some indeed assert x this, because

x Cfr. pp. 43 note, 483 ; and Note 9. pp. 560-63.


xviii PREFACE.

(li.\ think that the historic study of philosophy is the whole
of philosophy ; and, believing- that all truth is relative to its
age, are hopeless of attaining the absolute and unaltering
solution of any problem. We, on the other hand, are content
to believe that the history of philosophy is only the entrance
to philosophy. But in either case, truth is sought by means
of a philosophical history of the past; which, tracking the
progress of truth and error in any particular department, lays
bare the natural as well as the literary history ; the causes
of the past, as well as its form. Truth and error are thus dis-
covered, not by breaking with the past, and using abstract
speculations on original data, but by tracing the growth
of thought, gathering the harvest of past investigations, and
learning by experience to escape error.

These considerations bear upon the present subject in this
manner : they show not only the special adaptation to the
passing tastes of the age, of an historic mode of approaching
a subject, but exhibit also that the mode of proof and of refu-
tation must be sought, not on abstract grounds, but historic.
The position of an enemy is not to be forced, but turned ; his
premises to be refuted, not his conclusions; the antecedent
reasons which led him into his opinion to be exhibited, not

Online LibraryAdam Storey FarrarA critical history of Free Thought in reference to the Christian religion : eight lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the year MDCCCLXII .. → online text (page 1 of 52)