Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
Philosophy and Revelation
By Henry Longueville Mansel (18201871)
From The Limits of Religious Thought Examined
THESE be thy gods, O Philosophy: these are the metaphysics of salvation. This is that knowledge of things divine and human, which we are called upon to substitute for the revealed doctrine of the Incarnation of the eternal Son in the fulness of time. It is for this philosophical idea, so superior to all history and fact,this necessary process of the unconscious and impersonal infinite,that we are to sacrifice that blessed miracle of Divine love and mercy, by which the Son of God of His own free act and will, took mans nature upon Him for mans redemption. It is for this that we are to obliterate from our faith that touching picture of the pure and holy Jesus, to which mankind for eighteen centuries has ever turned, with the devotion of man to God rendered only more heartfelt by the sympathy of love between man and man: which from generation to generation has nurtured the first seeds of religion in the opening mind of childhood, by the image of that Divine Child who was cradled in the manger of Bethlehem, and was subject to his parents at Nazareth: which has checked the fiery temptations of youth, by the thought of Him who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin: which has consoled the man struggling with poverty and sorrow, by the pathetic remembrance of Him who on earth had not where to lay His head: which has blended into one brotherhood the rich and the poor, the mighty and the mean among mankind, by the example of Him who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor; though he was equal with God, yet took upon Him the form of a servant: which has given to the highest and purest precepts of morality an additional weight and sanction, by the records of that life in which the marvellous and the familiar are so strangely yet so perfectly united;that life so natural in its human virtue, so supernatural in its divine power: which has robbed death of its sting, and the grave of its victory, by faith in Him who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification: which has ennobled and sanctified even the wants and weaknesses of our mortal nature, by the memory of Him who was an hungered in the wilderness and athirst upon the cross; who mourned over the destruction of Jerusalem, and wept at the grave of Lazarus.
Let philosophy say what she will, the fact remains unshaken. It is the consciousness of the deep wants of our human nature that first awakens Gods presence in the soul: it is by adapting His revelation to those wants that God graciously condescends to satisfy them. The time may indeed come, though not in this life, when these various manifestations of God, at sundry times and in divers manners, may be seen to be but different sides and partial representations of one and the same Divine reality;when the light which now gleams in restless flashes from the ruffled waters of the human soul, will settle into the stedfast image of Gods face shining on its unbroken surface. But ere this shall be, that which is perfect must come, and that which is in part must be done away. But as regards the human wisdom which would lead us to this consummation now, there is but one lesson which it can teach us; and that it teaches in spite of itself. It teaches the lesson which the wise king of Israel learned from his own experience: I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. And if ever the time should come to any of us, when, in the bitter conviction of that vanity and vexation, we, who would be as gods in knowledge, wake up only to the consciousness of our own nakedness, happy shall we be, if then we may still hear, ringing in our ears and piercing to our hearts, an echo from that personal life of Jesus which our philosophy has striven in vain to pervert or to destroy: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.